Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries, by David Livingstone

Chapter V.

Magnificent scenery — Method of marching — Hippopotamus killed — Lions and buffalo — Sequasha the ivory-trader.

Sandia gave us two guides; and on the 4th of June we left the Elephant valley, taking a westerly course; and, after crossing a few ridges, entered the Chingerere or Paguruguru valley, through which, in the rainy season, runs the streamlet Pajodze. The mountains on our left, between us and the Zambesi, our guides told us have the same name as the valley, but that at the confluence of the Pajodze is called Morumbwa. We struck the river at less than half a mile to the north of the cataract Morumbwa. On climbing up the base of this mountain at Pajodze, we found that we were distant only the diameter of the mountain from the cataract. In measuring the cataract we formerly stood on its southern flank; now we were perched on its northern flank, and at once recognized the onion-shaped mountain, here called Zakavuma, whose smooth convex surface overlooks the broken water. Its bearing by compass was l80 degrees from the spot to which we had climbed, and 700 or 800 yards distant. We now, from this standing-point, therefore, completed our inspection of all Kebrabasa, and saw what, as a whole, was never before seen by Europeans so far as any records show.

The remainder of the Kebrabasa path, on to Chicova, was close to the compressed and rocky river. Ranges of lofty tree-covered mountains, with deep narrow valleys, in which are dry watercourses, or flowing rivulets, stretch from the north-west, and are prolonged on the opposite side of the river in a south-easterly direction. Looking back, the mountain scenery in Kebrabasa was magnificent; conspicuous from their form and steep sides, are the two gigantic portals of the cataract; the vast forests still wore their many brilliant autumnal-coloured tints of green, yellow, red, purple, and brown, thrown into relief by the grey bark of the trunks in the background. Among these variegated trees were some conspicuous for their new livery of fresh light-green leaves, as though the winter of others was their spring. The bright sunshine in these mountain forests, and the ever-changing forms of the cloud shadows, gliding over portions of the surface, added fresh charms to scenes already surpassingly beautiful.

From what we have seen of the Kebrabasa rocks and rapids, it appears too evident that they must always form a barrier to navigation at the ordinary low water of the river; but the rise of the water in this gorge being as much as eighty feet perpendicularly, it is probable that a steamer might be taken up at high flood, when all the rapids are smoothed over, to run on the Upper Zambesi. The most formidable cataract in it, Morumbwa, has only about twenty feet of fall, in a distance of thirty yards, and it must entirely disappear when the water stands eighty feet higher. Those of the Makololo who worked on board the ship were not sorry at the steamer being left below, as they had become heartily tired of cutting the wood that the insatiable furnace of the “Asthmatic” required. Mbia, who was a bit of a wag, laughingly exclaimed in broken English, “Oh, Kebrabasa good, very good; no let shippee up to Sekeletu, too muchee work, cuttee woodyee, cuttee woodyee: Kebrabasa good.” It is currently reported, and commonly believed, that once upon a time a Portuguese named Jose Pedra — by the natives called Nyamatimbira — chief, or capitao mor, of Zumbo, a man of large enterprise and small humanity,- -being anxious to ascertain if Kebrabasa could be navigated, made two slaves fast to a canoe, and launched it from Chicova into Kebrabasa, in order to see if it would come out at the other end. As neither slaves nor canoe ever appeared again, his Excellency concluded that Kebrabasa was unnavigable. A trader had a large canoe swept away by a sudden rise of the river, and it was found without damage below; but the most satisfactory information was that of old Sandia, who asserted that in flood all Kebrabasa became quite smooth, and he had often seen it so.

We emerged from the thirty-five or forty miles of Kebrabasa hills into the Chicova plains on the 7th of June, 1860, having made short marches all the way. The cold nights caused some of our men to cough badly, and colds in this country almost invariably become fever. The Zambesi suddenly expands at Chicova, and assumes the size and appearance it has at Tette. Near this point we found a large seam of coal exposed in the left bank.

We met with native travellers occasionally. Those on a long journey carry with them a sleeping-mat and wooden pillow, cooking-pot and bag of meal, pipe and tobacco-pouch, a knife, bow, and arrows, and two small sticks, of from two to three feet in length, for making fire, when obliged to sleep away from human habitations. Dry wood is always abundant, and they get fire by the following method. A notch is cut in one of the sticks, which, with a close-grained outside, has a small core of pith, and this notched stick is laid horizontally on a knife-blade on the ground; the operator squatting, places his great toes on each end to keep all steady, and taking the other wand which is of very hard wood cut to a blunt point, fits it into the notch at right angles; the upright wand is made to spin rapidly backwards and forwards between the palms of the hands, drill fashion, and at the same time is pressed downwards; the friction, in the course of a minute or so, ignites portions of the pith of the notched stick, which, rolling over like live charcoal on to the knife-blade, are lifted into a handful of fine dry grass, and carefully blown, by waving backwards and forwards in the air. It is hard work for the hands to procure fire by this process, as the vigorous drilling and downward pressure requisite soon blister soft palms.

Having now entered a country where lions were numerous, our men began to pay greater attention to the arrangements of the camp at night. As they are accustomed to do with their chiefs, they place the white men in the centre; Kanyata, his men, and the two donkeys, camp on our right; Tuba Mokoro’s party of Bashubia are in front; Masakasa, and Sininyane’s body of Batoka, on the left; and in the rear six Tette men have their fires. In placing their fires they are careful to put them where the smoke will not blow in our faces. Soon after we halt, the spot for the English is selected, and all regulate their places accordingly, and deposit their burdens. The men take it by turns to cut some of the tall dry grass, and spread it for our beds on a spot, either naturally level, or smoothed by the hoe; some, appointed to carry our bedding, then bring our rugs and karosses, and place the three rugs in a row on the grass; Dr. Livingstone’s being in the middle, Dr. Kirk’s on the right, and Charles Livingstone’s on the left. Our bags, rifles, and revolvers are carefully placed at our heads, and a fire made near our feet. We have no tent nor covering of any kind except the branches of the tree under which we may happen to lie; and it is a pretty sight to look up and see every branch, leaf, and twig of the tree stand out, reflected against the clear star-spangled and moonlit sky. The stars of the first magnitude have names which convey the same meaning over very wide tracts of country. Here when Venus comes out in the evenings, she is called Ntanda, the eldest or first-born, and Manjika, the first-born of morning, at other times: she has so much radiance when shining alone, that she casts a shadow. Sirius is named Kuewa usiko, “drawer of night,” because supposed to draw the whole night after it. The moon has no evil influence in this country, so far as we know. We have lain and looked up at her, till sweet sleep closed our eyes, unharmed. Four or five of our men were affected with moon-blindness at Tette; though they had not slept out of doors there, they became so blind that their comrades had to guide their hands to the general dish of food; the affection is unknown in their own country. When our posterity shall have discovered what it is which, distinct from foul smells, causes fever, and what, apart from the moon, causes men to be moon-struck, they will pity our dulness of perception.

The men cut a very small quantity of grass for themselves, and sleep in fumbas or sleeping-bags, which are double mats of palm-leaf, six feet long by four wide, and sewn together round three parts of the square, and left open only on one side. They are used as a protection from the cold, wet, and mosquitoes, and are entered as we should get into our beds, were the blankets nailed to the top, bottom, and one side of the bedstead.

A dozen fires are nightly kindled in the camp; and these, being replenished from time to time by the men who are awakened by the cold, are kept burning until daylight. Abundance of dry hard wood is obtained with little trouble; and burns beautifully. After the great business of cooking and eating is over, all sit round the camp-fires, and engage in talking or singing. Every evening one of the Batoka plays his “sansa,” and continues at it until far into the night; he accompanies it with an extempore song, in which he rehearses their deeds ever since they left their own country. At times animated political discussions spring up, and the amount of eloquence expended on these occasions is amazing. The whole camp is aroused, and the men shout to one another from the different fires; whilst some, whose tongues are never heard on any other subject, burst forth into impassioned speech.

As a specimen of our mode of marching, we rise about five, or as soon as dawn appears, take a cup of tea and a bit of biscuit; the servants fold up the blankets and stow them away in the bags they carry; the others tie their fumbas and cooking-pots to each end of their carrying-sticks, which are borne on the shoulder; the cook secures the dishes, and all are on the path by sunrise. If a convenient spot can be found we halt for breakfast about nine a.m. To save time, this meal is generally cooked the night before, and has only to be warmed. We continue the march after breakfast, rest a little in the middle of the day, and break off early in the afternoon. We average from two to two-and-a-half miles an hour in a straight line, or as the crow flies, and seldom have more than five or six hours a day of actual travel. This in a hot climate is as much as a man can accomplish without being oppressed; and we always tried to make our progress more a pleasure than a toil. To hurry over the ground, abuse, and look ferocious at one’s native companions, merely for the foolish vanity of boasting how quickly a distance was accomplished, is a combination of silliness with absurdity quite odious; while kindly consideration for the feelings of even blacks, the pleasure of observing scenery and everything new as one moves on at an ordinary pace, and the participation in the most delicious rest with our fellows, render travelling delightful. Though not given to over haste, we were a little surprised to find that we could tire our men out; and even the headman, who carried but little more than we did, and never, as we often had to do, hunted in the afternoon, was no better than his comrades. Our experience tends to prove that the European constitution has a power of endurance, even in the tropics, greater than that of the hardiest of the meat-eating Africans.

After pitching our camp, one or two of us usually go off to hunt, more as a matter of necessity than of pleasure, for the men, as well as ourselves, must have meat. We prefer to take a man with us to carry home the game, or lead the others to where it lies; but as they frequently grumble and complain of being tired, we do not particularly object to going alone, except that it involves the extra labour of our making a second trip to show the men where the animal that has been shot is to be found. When it is a couple of miles off it is rather fatiguing to have to go twice; more especially on the days when it is solely to supply their wants that, instead of resting ourselves, we go at all. Like those who perform benevolent deeds at home, the tired hunter, though trying hard to live in charity with all men, is strongly tempted to give it up by bringing only sufficient meat for the three whites and leaving the rest; thus sending the “idle ungrateful poor” supperless to bed. And yet it is only by continuance in well-doing, even to the length of what the worldly-wise call weakness, that the conviction is produced anywhere, that our motives are high enough to secure sincere respect.

A jungle of mimosa, ebony, and “wait-a-bit” thorn lies between the Chicova flats and the cultivated plain, on which stand the villages of the chief, Chitora. He brought us a present of food and drink, because, as he, with the innate politeness of an African, said, he “did not wish us to sleep hungry: he had heard of the Doctor when he passed down, and had a great desire to see and converse with him; but he was a child then, and could not speak in the presence of great men. He was glad that he had seen the English now, and was sorry that his people were away, or he should have made them cook for us.” All his subsequent conduct showed him to be sincere.

Many of the African women are particular about the water they use for drinking and cooking, and prefer that which is filtered through sand. To secure this, they scrape holes in the sandbanks beside the stream, and scoop up the water, which slowly filters through, rather than take it from the equally clear and limpid river. This practice is common in the Zambesi, the Rovuma, and Lake Nyassa; and some of the Portuguese at Tette have adopted the native custom, and send canoes to a low island in the middle of the river for water. Chitora’s people also obtained their supply from shallow wells in the sandy bed of a small rivulet close to the village. The habit may have arisen from observing the unhealthiness of the main stream at certain seasons. During nearly nine months in the year, ordure is deposited around countless villages along the thousands of miles drained by the Zambesi. When the heavy rains come down, and sweep the vast fetid accumulation into the torrents, the water is polluted with filth; and, but for the precaution mentioned, the natives would prove themselves as little fastidious as those in London who drink the abomination poured into the Thames by Reading and Oxford. It is no wonder that sailors suffered so much from fever after drinking African river water, before the present admirable system of condensing it was adopted in our navy.

The scent of man is excessively terrible to game of all kinds, much more so, probably, than the sight of him. A herd of antelopes, a hundred yards off, gazed at us as we moved along the winding path, and timidly stood their ground until half our line had passed, but darted off the instant they “got the wind,” or caught the flavour of those who had gone by. The sport is all up with the hunter who gets to the windward of the African beast, as it cannot stand even the distant aroma of the human race, so much dreaded by all wild animals. Is this the fear and the dread of man, which the Almighty said to Noah was to be upon every beast of the field? A lion may, while lying in wait for his prey, leap on a human being as he would on any other animal, save a rhinoceros or an elephant, that happened to pass; or a lioness, when she has cubs, might attack a man, who, passing “up the wind of her,” had unconsciously, by his scent, alarmed her for the safety of her whelps; or buffaloes, amid other animals, might rush at a line of travellers, in apprehension of being surrounded by them; but neither beast nor snake will, as a general rule, turn on man except when wounded, or by mistake. If gorillas, unwounded, advance to do battle with him, and beat their breasts in defiance, they are an exception to all wild beasts known to us. From the way an elephant runs at the first glance of man, it is inferred that this huge brute, though really king of beasts, would run even from a child.

Our two donkeys caused as much admiration as the three white men. Great was the astonishment when one of the donkeys began to bray. The timid jumped more than if a lion had roared beside them. All were startled, and stared in mute amazement at the harsh-voiced one, till the last broken note was uttered; then, on being assured that nothing in particular was meant, they looked at each other, and burst into a loud laugh at their common surprise. When one donkey stimulated the other to try his vocal powers, the interest felt by the startled visitors, must have equalled that of the Londoners, when they first crowded to see the famous hippopotamus.

We were now, when we crossed the boundary rivulet Nyamatarara, out of Chicova and amongst sandstone rocks, similar to those which prevail between Lupata and Kebrabasa. In the latter gorge, as already mentioned, igneous and syenitic masses have been acted on by some great fiery convulsion of nature; the strata are thrown into a huddled heap of confusion. The coal has of course disappeared in Kebrabasa, but is found again in Chicova. Tette grey sandstone is common about Sinjere, and wherever it is seen with fossil wood upon it, coal lies beneath; and here, as at Chicova, some seams crop out on the banks of the Zambesi. Looking southwards, the country is open plain and woodland, with detached hills and mountains in the distance; but the latter are too far off, the natives say, for them to know their names. The principal hills on our right, as we look up stream, are from six to twelve miles away, and occasionally they send down spurs to the river, with brooks flowing through their narrow valleys. The banks of the Zambesi show two well-defined terraces; the first, or lowest, being usually narrow, and of great fertility, while the upper one is a dry grassy plain, a thorny jungle, or a mopane (Bauhinia) forest. One of these plains, near the Kafue, is covered with the large stumps and trunks of a petrified forest. We halted a couple of days by the fine stream Sinjere, which comes from the Chiroby-roby hills, about eight miles to the north. Many lumps of coal, brought down by the rapid current, lie in its channel. The natives never seem to have discovered that coal would burn, and, when informed of the fact, shook their heads, smiled incredulously, and said “Kodi” (really), evidently regarding it as a mere traveller’s tale. They were astounded to see it burning freely on our fire of wood. They told us that plenty of it was seen among the hills; but, being long ago aware that we were now in an immense coalfield, we did not care to examine it further.

A dyke of black basaltic rock, called Kakolole, crosses the river near the mouth of the Sinjere; but it has two open gateways in it of from sixty to eighty yards in breadth, and the channel is very deep.

On a shallow sandbank, under the dyke, lay a herd of hippopotami in fancied security. The young ones were playing with each other like young puppies, climbing on the backs of their dams, trying to take hold of one another by the jaws and tumbling over into the water. Mbia, one of the Makololo, waded across to within a dozen yards of the drowsy beasts, and shot the father of the herd; who, being very fat, soon floated, and was secured at the village below. The headman of the village visited us while we were at breakfast. He wore a black “ife” wig and a printed shirt. After a short silence he said to Masakasa, “You are with the white people, so why do you not tell them to give me a cloth?” “We are strangers,” answered Masakasa, “why do you not bring us some food?” He took the plain hint, and brought us two fowls, in order that we should not report that in passing him we got nothing to eat; and, as usual, we gave a cloth in return. In reference to the hippopotamus he would make no demand, but said he would take what we chose to give him. The men gorged themselves with meat for two days, and cut large quantities into long narrow strips, which they half-dried and half-roasted on wooden frames over the fire. Much game is taken in this neighbourhood in pitfalls. Sharp-pointed stakes are set in the bottom, on which the game tumbles and gets impaled. The natives are careful to warn strangers of these traps, and also of the poisoned beams suspended on the tall trees for the purpose of killing elephants and hippopotami. It is not difficult to detect the pitfalls after one’s attention has been called to them; but in places where they are careful to carry the earth off to a distance, and a person is not thinking of such things, a sudden descent of nine feet is an experience not easily forgotten by the traveller. The sensations of one thus instantaneously swallowed up by the earth are peculiar. A momentary suspension of consciousness is followed by the rustling sound of a shower of sand and dry grass, and the half-bewildered thought of where he is, and how he came into darkness. Reason awakes to assure him that he must have come down through that small opening of daylight overhead, and that he is now where a hippopotamus ought to have been. The descent of a hippopotamus pitfall is easy, but to get out again into the upper air is a work of labour. The sides are smooth and treacherous, and the cross reeds, which support the covering, break in the attempt to get out by clutching them. A cry from the depths is unheard by those around, and it is only by repeated and most desperate efforts that the buried alive can regain the upper world. At Tette we are told of a white hunter, of unusually small stature, who plumped into a pit while stalking a guinea-fowl on a tree. It was the labour of an entire forenoon to get out; and he was congratulating himself on his escape, and brushing off the clay from his clothes, when down he went into a second pit, which happened, as is often the case, to be close beside the first, and it was evening before he could work himself out of THAT.

Elephants and buffaloes seldom return to the river by the same path on two successive nights, they become so apprehensive of danger from this human art. An old elephant will walk in advance of the herd, and uncover the pits with his trunk, that the others may see the openings and tread on firm ground. Female elephants are generally the victims: more timid by nature than the males, and very motherly in their anxiety for their calves, they carry their trunks up, trying every breeze for fancied danger, which often in reality lies at their feet. The tusker, fearing less, keeps his trunk down, and, warned in time by that exquisitely sensitive organ, takes heed to his ways.

Our camp on the Sinjere stood under a wide-spreading wild fig-tree. From the numbers of this family, of large size, dotted over the country, the fig or banyan species would seem to have been held sacred in Africa from the remotest times. The soil teemed with white ants, whose clay tunnels, formed to screen them from the eyes of birds, thread over the ground, up the trunks of trees, and along the branches, from which the little architects clear away all rotten or dead wood. Very often the exact shape of branches is left in tunnels on the ground and not a bit of the wood inside. The first night we passed here these destructive insects ate through our grass-beds, and attacked our blankets, and certain large red-headed ones even bit our flesh.

On some days not a single white ant is to be seen abroad; and on others, and during certain hours, they appear out of doors in myriads, and work with extraordinary zeal and energy in carrying bits of dried grass down into their nests. During these busy reaping-fits the lizards and birds have a good time of it, and enjoy a rich feast at the expense of thousands of hapless workmen; and when they swarm they are caught in countless numbers by the natives, and their roasted bodies are spoken of in an unctuous manner as resembling grains of soft rice fried in delicious fresh oil.

A strong marauding party of large black ants attacked a nest of white ones near the camp: as the contest took place beneath the surface, we could not see the order of the battle; but it soon became apparent that the blacks had gained the day, and sacked the white town, for they returned in triumph, bearing off the eggs, and choice bits of the bodies of the vanquished. A gift, analogous to that of language, has not been withheld from ants: if part of their building is destroyed, an official is seen coming out to examine the damage; and, after a careful survey of the ruins, he chirrups a few clear and distinct notes, and a crowd of workers begin at once to repair the breach. When the work is completed, another order is given, and the workmen retire, as will appear on removing the soft freshly-built portion. We tried to sleep one rainy might in a native hut, but could not because of attacks by the fighting battalions of a very small species of formica, not more than one-sixteenth of an inch in length. It soon became obvious that they were under regular discipline, and even attempting to carry out the skilful plans and stratagems of some eminent leader. Our hands and necks were the first objects of attack. Large bodies of these little pests were massed in silence round the point to be assaulted. We could hear the sharp shrill word of command two or three times repeated, though until then we had not believed in the vocal power of an ant; the instant after we felt the storming hosts range over head and neck, biting the tender skin, clinging with a death-grip to the hair, and parting with their jaws rather than quit their hold. On our lying down again in the hope of their having been driven off, no sooner was the light out, and all still, than the manoeuvre was repeated. Clear and audible orders were issued, and the assault renewed. It was as hard to sleep in that hut as in the trenches before Sebastopol. The white ant, being a vegetable feeder, devours articles of vegetable origin only, and leather, which, by tanning, is imbued with a vegetable flavour. “A man may be rich today and poor tomorrow, from the ravages of white ants,” said a Portuguese merchant. “If he gets sick, and unable to look after his goods, his slaves neglect them, and they are soon destroyed by these insects.” The reddish ant, in the west called drivers, crossed our path daily, in solid columns an inch wide, and never did the pugnacity of either man or beast exceed theirs. It is a sufficient cause of war if you only approach them, even by accident. Some turn out of the ranks and stand with open mandibles, or, charging with extended jaws, bite with savage ferocity. When hunting, we lighted among them too often; while we were intent on the game, and without a thought of ants, they quietly covered us from head to foot, then all began to bite at the same instant; seizing a piece of the skin with their powerful pincers, they twisted themselves round with it, as if determined to tear it out. Their bites are so terribly sharp that the bravest must run, and then strip to pick off those that still cling with their hooked jaws, as with steel forceps. This kind abounds in damp places, and is usually met with on the banks of streams. We have not heard of their actually killing any animal except the Python, and that only when gorged and quite lethargic, but they soon clear away any dead animal matter; this appears to be their principal food, and their use in the economy of nature is clearly in the scavenger line.

We started from the Sinjere on the 12th of June, our men carrying with them bundles of hippopotamus meat for sale, and for future use. We rested for breakfast opposite the Kakolole dyke, which confines the channel, west of the Manyerere mountain. A rogue monkey, the largest by far that we ever saw, and very fat and tame, walked off leisurely from a garden as we approached. The monkey is a sacred animal in this region, and is never molested or killed, because the people believe devoutly that the souls of their ancestors now occupy these degraded forms, and anticipate that they themselves must, sooner or later, be transformed in like manner; a future as cheerless for the black as the spirit-rapper’s heaven is for the whites. The gardens are separated from each other by a single row of small stones, a few handfuls of grass, or a slight furrow made by the hoe. Some are enclosed by a reed fence of the flimsiest construction, yet sufficient to keep out the ever wary hippopotamus, who dreads a trap. His extreme caution is taken advantage of by the women, who hang, as a miniature trap-beam, a kigelia fruit with a bit of stick in the end. This protects the maize, of which he is excessively fond.

The quantity of hippopotamus meat eaten by our men made some of them ill, and our marches were necessarily short. After three hours’ travel on the 13th, we spent the remainder of the day at the village of Chasiribera, on a rivulet flowing through a beautiful valley to the north, which is bounded by magnificent mountain-ranges. Pinkwe, or Mbingwe, otherwise Moeu, forms the south-eastern angle of the range. On the 16th June we were at the flourishing village of Senga, under the headman Manyame, which lies at the foot of the mount Motemwa. Nearly all the mountains in this country are covered with open forest and grass, in colour, according to the season, green or yellow. Many are between 2000 and 3000 feet high, with the sky line fringed with trees; the rocks show just sufficiently for one to observe their stratification, or their granitic form, and though not covered with dense masses of climbing plants, like those in moister eastern climates, there is still the idea conveyed that most of the steep sides are fertile, and none give the impression of that barrenness which, in northern mountains, suggests the idea that the bones of the world are sticking through its skin.

The villagers reported that we were on the footsteps of a Portuguese half-caste, who, at Senga, lately tried to purchase ivory, but, in consequence of his having murdered a chief near Zumbo and twenty of his men, the people declined to trade with him. He threatened to take the ivory by force, if they would not sell it; but that same night the ivory and the women were spirited out of the village, and only a large body of armed men remained. The trader, fearing that he might come off second best if it came to blows, immediately departed. Chikwanitsela, or Sekuanangila, is the paramount chief of some fifty miles of the northern bank of the Zambesi in this locality. He lives on the opposite, or southern side, and there his territory is still more extensive. We sent him a present from Senga, and were informed by a messenger next morning that he had a cough and could not come over to see us. “And has his present a cough too,” remarked one of our party, “that it does not come to us? Is this the way your chief treats strangers, receives their present, and sends them no food in return?” Our men thought Chikwanitsela an uncommonly stingy fellow; but, as it was possible that some of them might yet wish to return this way, they did not like to scold him more than this, which was sufficiently to the point.

Men and women were busily engaged in preparing the ground for the November planting. Large game was abundant; herds of elephants and buffaloes came down to the river in the night, but were a long way off by daylight. They soon adopt this habit in places where they are hunted.

The plains we travel over are constantly varying in breadth, according as the furrowed and wooded hills approach or recede from the river. On the southern side we see the hill Bungwe, and the long, level, wooded ridge Nyangombe, the first of a series bending from the S.E. to the N.W. past the Zambesi. We shot an old pallah on the 16th, and found that the poor animal had been visited with more than the usual share of animal afflictions. He was stone-blind in both eyes, had several tumours, and a broken leg, which showed no symptoms of ever having begun to heal. Wild animals sometimes suffer a great deal from disease, and wearily drag on a miserable existence before relieved of it by some ravenous beast. Once we drove off a maneless lion and lioness from a dead buffalo, which had been in the last stage of a decline. They had watched him staggering to the river to quench his thirst, and sprang on him as he was crawling up the bank. One had caught him by the throat, and the other by his high projecting backbone, which was broken by the lion’s powerful fangs. The struggle, if any, must have been short. They had only eaten the intestines when we frightened them off. It is curious that this is the part that wild animals always begin with, and that it is also the first choice of our men. Were it not a wise arrangement that only the strongest males should continue the breed, one could hardly help pitying the solitary buffalo expelled from the herd for some physical blemish, or on account of the weakness of approaching old age. Banished from female society, he naturally becomes morose and savage; the necessary watchfulness against enemies is now never shared by others; disgusted, he passes into a state of chronic war with all who enjoy life, and the sooner after his expulsion that he fills the lion’s or the wild-dog’s maw, the better for himself and for the peace of the country.

We encamped on the 20th of June at a spot where Dr. Livingstone, on his journey from the West to the East Coast, was formerly menaced by a chief named Mpende. No offence had been committed against him, but he had firearms, and, with the express object of showing his power, he threatened to attack the strangers. Mpende’s counsellors having, however, found out that Dr. Livingstone belonged to a tribe of whom they had heard that “they loved the black man and did not make slaves,” his conduct at once changed from enmity to kindness, and, as the place was one well selected for defence, it was perhaps quite as well for Mpende that he decided as he did. Three of his counsellors now visited us, and we gave them a handsome present for their chief, who came himself next morning and made us a present of a goat, a basket of boiled maize, and another of vetches. A few miles above this the headman, Chilondo of Nyamasusa, apologized for not formerly lending us canoes. “He was absent, and his children were to blame for not telling him when the Doctor passed; he did not refuse the canoes.” The sight of our men, now armed with muskets, had a great effect. Without any bullying, firearms command respect, and lead men to be reasonable who might otherwise feel disposed to be troublesome. Nothing, however, our fracas with Mpende excepted, could be more peaceful than our passage through this tract of country in 1856. We then had nothing to excite the cupidity of the people, and the men maintained themselves, either by selling elephant’s meat, or by exhibiting feats of foreign dancing. Most of the people were very generous and friendly; but the Banyai, nearer to Tette than this, stopped our march with a threatening war-dance. One of our party, terrified at this, ran away, as we thought, insane, and could not, after a painful search of three days, be found. The Banyai, evidently touched by our distress, allowed us to proceed. Through a man we left on an island a little below Mpende’s, we subsequently learned that poor Monaheng had fled thither, and had been murdered by the headman for no reason except that he was defenceless. This headman had since become odious to his countrymen, and had been put to death by them.

On the 23rd of June we entered Pangola’s principal village, which is upwards of a mile from the river. The ruins of a mud wall showed that a rude attempt had been made to imitate the Portuguese style of building. We established ourselves under a stately wild fig-tree, round whose trunk witchcraft medicine had been tied, to protect from thieves the honey of the wild bees, which had their hive in one of the limbs. This is a common device. The charm, or the medicine, is purchased of the dice doctors, and consists of a strip of palm-leaf smeared with something, and adorned with a few bits of grass, wood, or roots. It is tied round the tree, and is believed to have the power of inflicting disease and death on the thief who climbs over it. Superstition is thus not without its uses in certain states of society; it prevents many crimes and misdemeanours, which would occur but for the salutary fear that it produces.

Pangola arrived, tipsy and talkative. —“We are friends, we are great friends; I have brought you a basket of green maize — here it is!” We thanked him, and handed him two fathoms of cotton cloth, four times the market-value of his present. No, he would not take so small a present; he wanted a double-barrelled rifle — one of Dixon’s best. “We are friends, you know; we are all friends together.” But although we were willing to admit that, we could not give him our best rifle, so he went off in high dudgeon. Early next morning, as we were commencing Divine service, Pangola returned, sober. We explained to him that we wished to worship God, and invited him to remain; he seemed frightened, and retired: but after service he again importuned us for the rifle. It was of no use telling him that we had a long journey before us, and needed it to kill game for ourselves. —“He too must obtain meat for himself and people, for they sometimes suffered from hunger.” He then got sulky, and his people refused to sell food except at extravagant prices. Knowing that we had nothing to eat, they felt sure of starving us into compliance. But two of our young men, having gone off at sunrise, shot a fine water-buck, and down came the provision market to the lower figure; they even became eager to sell, but our men were angry with them for trying compulsion, and would not buy. Black greed had outwitted itself, as happens often with white cupidity; and not only here did the traits of Africans remind us of Anglo–Saxons elsewhere: the notoriously ready world-wide disposition to take an unfair advantage of a man’s necessities shows that the same mean motives are pretty widely diffused among all races. It may not be granted that the same blood flows in all veins, or that all have descended from the same stock; but the traveller has no doubt that, practically, the white rogue and black are men and brothers.

Pangola is the child or vassal of Mpende. Sandia and Mpende are the only independent chiefs from Kebrabasa to Zumbo, and belong to the tribe Manganja. The country north of the mountains here in sight from the Zambesi is called Senga, and its inhabitants Asenga, or Basenga, but all appear to be of the same family as the rest of the Manganja and Maravi. Formerly all the Manganja were united under the government of their great chief, Undi, whose empire extended from Lake Shirwa to the River Loangwa; but after Undi’s death it fell to pieces, and a large portion of it on the Zambesi was absorbed by their powerful southern neighbours the Banyai. This has been the inevitable fate of every African empire from time immemorial. A chief of more than ordinary ability arises and, subduing all his less powerful neighbours, founds a kingdom, which he governs more or less wisely till he dies. His successor not having the talents of the conqueror cannot retain the dominion, and some of the abler under-chiefs set up for themselves, and, in a few years, the remembrance only of the empire remains. This, which may be considered as the normal state of African society, gives rise to frequent and desolating wars, and the people long in vain for a power able to make all dwell in peace. In this light, a European colony would be considered by the natives as an inestimable boon to intertropical Africa. Thousands of industrious natives would gladly settle round it, and engage in that peaceful pursuit of agriculture and trade of which they are so fond, and, undistracted by wars or rumours of wars, might listen to the purifying and ennobling truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Manganja on the Zambesi, like their countrymen on the Shire, are fond of agriculture; and, in addition to the usual varieties of food, cultivate tobacco and cotton in quantities more than equal to their wants. To the question, “Would they work for Europeans?” an affirmative answer may be given, if the Europeans belong to the class which can pay a reasonable price for labour, and not to that of adventurers who want employment for themselves. All were particularly well clothed from Sandia’s to Pangola’s; and it was noticed that all the cloth was of native manufacture, the product of their own looms. In Senga a great deal of iron is obtained from the ore and manufactured very cleverly.

As is customary when a party of armed strangers visits the village, Pangola took the precaution of sleeping in one of the outlying hamlets. No one ever knows, or at any rate will tell, where the chief sleeps. He came not next morning, so we went our way; but in a few moments we saw the rifle-loving chief approaching with some armed men. Before meeting us, he left the path and drew up his “following” under a tree, expecting us to halt, and give him a chance of bothering us again; but, having already had enough of that, we held right on: he seemed dumbfoundered, and could hardly believe his own eyes. For a few seconds he was speechless, but at last recovered so far as to be able to say, “You are passing Pangola. Do you not see Pangola?” Mbia was just going by at the time with the donkey, and, proud of every opportunity of airing his small stock of English, shouted in reply, “All right! then get on.” “Click, click, click.”

On the 26th June we breakfasted at Zumbo, on the left bank of the Loangwa, near the ruins of some ancient Portuguese houses. The Loangwa was too deep to be forded, and there were no canoes on our side. Seeing two small ones on the opposite shore, near a few recently erected huts of two half-castes from Tette, we halted for the ferry-men to come over. From their movements it was evident that they were in a state of rollicking drunkenness. Having a waterproof cloak, which could be inflated into a tiny boat, we sent Mantlanyane across in it. Three half-intoxicated slaves then brought us the shaky canoes, which we lashed together and manned with our own canoe-men. Five men were all that we could carry over at a time; and after four trips had been made the slaves began to clamour for drink; not receiving any, as we had none to give, they grew more insolent, and declared that not another man should cross that day. Sininyane was remonstrating with them, when a loaded musket was presented at him by one of the trio. In an instant the gun was out of the rascal’s hands, a rattling shower of blows fell on his back, and he took an involuntary header into the river. He crawled up the bank a sad and sober man, and all three at once tumbled from the height of saucy swagger to a low depth of slavish abjectness. The musket was found to have an enormous charge, and might have blown our man to pieces, but for the promptitude with which his companions administered justice in a lawless land. We were all ferried safely across by 8 o’clock in the evening.

In illustration of what takes place where no government, or law exists, the two half-castes, to whom these men belonged, left Tette, with four hundred slaves, armed with the old Sepoy Brown Bess, to hunt elephants and trade in ivory. On our way up, we heard from natives of their lawless deeds, and again, on our way down, from several, who had been eyewitnesses of the principal crime, and all reports substantially agreed. The story is a sad one. After the traders reached Zumbo, one of them, called by the natives Sequasha, entered into a plot with the disaffected headman, Namakusuru, to kill his chief, Mpangwe, in order that Namakusuru might seize upon the chieftainship; and for the murder of Mpangwe the trader agreed to receive ten large tusks of ivory. Sequasha, with a picked party of armed slaves, went to visit Mpangwe who received him kindly, and treated him with all the honour and hospitality usually shown to distinguished strangers, and the women busied themselves in cooking the best of their provisions for the repast to be set before him. Of this, and also of the beer, the half-caste partook heartily. Mpangwe was then asked by Sequasha to allow his men to fire their guns in amusement. Innocent of any suspicion of treachery, and anxious to hear the report of firearms, Mpangwe at once gave his consent; and the slaves rose and poured a murderous volley into the merry group of unsuspecting spectators, instantly killing the chief and twenty of his people. The survivors fled in horror. The children and young women were seized as slaves, and the village sacked. Sequasha sent the message to Namakusuru: “I have killed the lion that troubled you; come and let us talk over the matter.” He came and brought the ivory. “No,” said the half-caste, “let us divide the land:” and he took the larger share for himself, and compelled the would-be usurper to deliver up his bracelets, in token of subjection on becoming the child or vassal of Sequasha. These were sent in triumph to the authorities at Tette. The governor of Quillimane had told us that he had received orders from Lisbon to take advantage of our passing to re-establish Zumbo; and accordingly these traders had built a small stockade on the rich plain of the right bank of Loangwa, a mile above the site of the ancient mission church of Zumbo, as part of the royal policy. The bloodshed was quite unnecessary, because, the land at Zumbo having of old been purchased, the natives would have always of their own accord acknowledged the right thus acquired; they pointed it out to Dr. Livingstone in 1856 that, though they were cultivating it, is was not theirs, but white man’s land. Sequasha and his mate had left their ivory in charge of some of their slaves, who, in the absence of their masters, were now having a gay time of it, and getting drunk every day with the produce of the sacked villages. The head slave came and begged for the musket of the delinquent ferryman, which was returned. He thought his master did perfectly right to kill Mpangwe, when asked to do it for the fee of ten tusks, and he even justified it thus: “If a man invites you to eat, will you not partake?”

We continued our journey on the 28th of June. Game was extremely abundant, and there were many lions. Mbia drove one off from his feast on a wild pig, and appropriated what remained of the pork to his own use. Lions are particularly fond of the flesh of wild pigs and zebras, and contrive to kill a large number of these animals. In the afternoon we arrived at the village of the female chief, Ma-mburuma, but she herself was now living on the opposite side of the river. Some of her people called, and said she had been frightened by seeing her son and other children killed by Sequasha, and had fled to the other bank; but when her heart was healed, she would return and live in her own village, and among her own people. She constantly inquired of the black traders, who came up the river, if they had any news of the white man who passed with the oxen. “He has gone down into the sea,” was their reply, “but we belong to the same people.” “Oh no; you need not tell me that; he takes no slaves, but wishes peace: you are not of his tribe.” This antislavery character excites such universal attention, that any missionary who winked at the gigantic evils involved in the slave-trade would certainly fail to produce any good impression on the native mind.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/livingstone/david/zambesi/chapter5.html

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