Nyamoana’s Present — Charms — Manenko’s pedestrian Powers — An Idol — Balonda Arms — Rain — Hunger — Palisades — Dense Forests — Artificial Beehives — Mushrooms — Villagers lend the Roofs of their Houses — Divination and Idols — Manenko’s Whims — A night Alarm — Shinte’s Messengers and Present — The proper Way to approach a Village — A Merman — Enter Shinte’s Town: its Appearance — Meet two half-caste Slave-traders — The Makololo scorn them — The Balonda real Negroes — Grand Reception from Shinte — His Kotla — Ceremony of Introduction — The Orators — Women — Musicians and Musical Instruments — A disagreeable Request — Private Interviews with Shinte — Give him an Ox — Fertility of Soil — Manenko’s new Hut — Conversation with Shinte — Kolimbota’s Proposal — Balonda’s Punctiliousness — Selling Children — Kidnapping — Shinte’s Offer of a Slave — Magic Lantern — Alarm of Women — Delay — Sambanza returns intoxicated — The last and greatest Proof of Shinte’s Friendship.
11TH OF JANUARY, 1854. On starting this morning, Samoana (or rather Nyamoana, for the ladies are the chiefs here) presented a string of beads, and a shell highly valued among them, as an atonement for having assisted Manenko, as they thought, to vex me the day before. They seemed anxious to avert any evil which might arise from my displeasure; but having replied that I never kept my anger up all night, they were much pleased to see me satisfied. We had to cross, in a canoe, a stream which flows past the village of Nyamoana. Manenko’s doctor waved some charms over her, and she took some in her hand and on her body before she ventured upon the water. One of my men spoke rather loudly when near the doctor’s basket of medicines. The doctor reproved him, and always spoke in a whisper himself, glancing back to the basket as if afraid of being heard by something therein. So much superstition is quite unknown in the south, and is mentioned here to show the difference in the feelings of this new people, and the comparative want of reverence on these points among Caffres and Bechuanas.
Manenko was accompanied by her husband and her drummer; the latter continued to thump most vigorously until a heavy, drizzling mist set in and compelled him to desist. Her husband used various incantations and vociferations to drive away the rain, but down it poured incessantly, and on our Amazon went, in the very lightest marching order, and at a pace that few of the men could keep up with. Being on ox-back, I kept pretty close to our leader, and asked her why she did not clothe herself during the rain, and learned that it is not considered proper for a chief to appear effeminate. He or she must always wear the appearance of robust youth, and bear vicissitudes without wincing. My men, in admiration of her pedestrian powers, every now and then remarked, “Manenko is a soldier;” and thoroughly wet and cold, we were all glad when she proposed a halt to prepare our night’s lodging on the banks of a stream.
The country through which we were passing was the same succession of forest and open lawns as formerly mentioned: the trees were nearly all evergreens, and of good, though not very gigantic size. The lawns were covered with grass, which, in thickness of crop, looked like ordinary English hay. We passed two small hamlets surrounded by gardens of maize and manioc, and near each of these I observed, for the first time, an ugly idol common in Londa — the figure of an animal, resembling an alligator, made of clay. It is formed of grass, plastered over with soft clay; two cowrie-shells are inserted as eyes, and numbers of the bristles from the tail of an elephant are stuck in about the neck. It is called a lion, though, if one were not told so, he would conclude it to be an alligator. It stood in a shed, and the Balonda pray and beat drums before it all night in cases of sickness.
Some of the men of Manenko’s train had shields made of reeds, neatly woven into a square shape, about five feet long and three broad. With these, and short broadswords and sheaves of iron-headed arrows, they appeared rather ferocious. But the constant habit of wearing arms is probably only a substitute for the courage they do not possess. We always deposited our fire-arms and spears outside a village before entering it, while the Balonda, on visiting us at our encampment, always came fully armed, until we ordered them either to lay down their weapons or be off. Next day we passed through a piece of forest so dense that no one could have penetrated it without an axe. It was flooded, not by the river, but by the heavy rains which poured down every day, and kept those who had clothing constantly wet. I observed, in this piece of forest, a very strong smell of sulphureted hydrogen. This I had observed repeatedly in other parts before. I had attacks of fever of the intermittent type again and again, in consequence of repeated drenchings in these unhealthy spots.
On the 11th and 12th we were detained by incessant rains, and so heavy I never saw the like in the south. I had a little tapioca and a small quantity of Libonta meal, which I still reserved for worse times. The patience of my men under hunger was admirable; the actual want of the present is never so painful as the thought of getting nothing in the future. We thought the people of some large hamlets very niggardly and very independent of their chiefs, for they gave us and Manenko nothing, though they had large fields of maize in an eatable state around them. When she went and kindly begged some for me, they gave her five ears only. They were subjects of her uncle; and, had they been Makololo, would have been lavish in their gifts to the niece of their chief. I suspected that they were dependents of some of Shinte’s principal men, and had no power to part with the maize of their masters.
Each house of these hamlets has a palisade of thick stakes around it, and the door is made to resemble the rest of the stockade; the door is never seen open; when the owner wishes to enter, he removes a stake or two, squeezes his body in, then plants them again in their places, so that an enemy coming in the night would find it difficult to discover the entrance. These palisades seem to indicate a sense of insecurity in regard to their fellow-men, for there are no wild beasts to disturb them; the bows and arrows have been nearly as efficacious in clearing the country here as guns have in the country farther south. This was a disappointment to us, for we expected a continuance of the abundance of game in the north which we found when we first came up to the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye.
A species of the silver-tree of the Cape (‘Leucodendron argenteum’) is found in abundance in the parts through which we have traveled since leaving Samoana’s. As it grows at a height of between two and three thousand feet above the level of the sea, on the Cape Table Mountain, and again on the northern slope of the Cashan Mountains, and here at considerably greater heights (four thousand feet), the difference of climate prevents the botanical range being considered as affording a good approximation to the altitude. The rapid flow of the Leeambye, which once seemed to me evidence of much elevation of the country from which it comes, I now found, by the boiling point of water, was fallacious.30
30 On examining this subject when I returned to Linyanti, I found that, according to Dr. Arnott, a declivity of three inches per mile gives a velocity in a smooth, straight channel of three miles an hour. The general velocity of the Zambesi is three miles and three quarters per hour, though in the rocky parts it is sometimes as much as four and a half. If, however, we make allowances for roughness of bottom, bendings of channel, and sudden descents at cataracts, and say the declivity is even seven inches per mile, those 800 miles between the east coast and the great falls would require less than 500 feet to give the observed velocity, and the additional distance to this point would require but 150 feet of altitude more. If my observation of this altitude may be depended on, we have a steeper declivity for the Zambesi than for some other great rivers. The Ganges, for instance, is said to be at 1800 miles from its mouth only 800 feet above the level of the sea, and water requires a month to come that distance. But there are so many modifying circumstances, it is difficult to draw any reliable conclusion from the currents. The Chobe is sometimes heard of as flooded, about 40 miles above Linyanti, a fortnight before the inundation reaches that point, but it is very tortuous. The great river Magdalena falls only 500 feet in a thousand miles; other rivers much more.
The forests became more dense as we went north. We traveled much more in the deep gloom of the forest than in open sunlight. No passage existed on either side of the narrow path made by the axe. Large climbing plants entwined themselves around the trunks and branches of gigantic trees like boa constrictors, and they often do constrict the trees by which they rise, and, killing them, stand erect themselves. The bark of a fine tree found in abundance here, and called “motuia”, is used by the Barotse for making fish-lines and nets, and the “molompi”, so well adapted for paddles by its lightness and flexibility, was abundant. There were other trees quite new to my companions; many of them ran up to a height of fifty feet of one thickness, and without branches.
In these forests we first encountered the artificial beehives so commonly met with all the way from this to Angola. They consist of about five feet of the bark of a tree fifteen or eighteen inches in diameter. Two incisions are made right round the tree at points five feet apart, then one longitudinal slit from one of these to the other; the workman next lifts up the bark on each side of this slit, and detaches it from the trunk, taking care not to break it, until the whole comes from the tree. The elasticity of the bark makes it assume the form it had before; the slit is sewed or pegged up with wooden pins, and ends made of coiled grass-rope are inserted, one of which has a hole for the ingress of the bees in the centre, and the hive is complete. These hives are placed in a horizontal position on high trees in different parts of the forest, and in this way all the wax exported from Benguela and Loanda is collected. It is all the produce of free labor. A “piece of medicine” is tied round the trunk of the tree, and proves sufficient protection against thieves. The natives seldom rob each other, for all believe that certain medicines can inflict disease and death; and though they consider that these are only known to a few, they act on the principle that it is best to let them all alone. The gloom of these forests strengthens the superstitious feelings of the people. In other quarters, where they are not subjected to this influence, I have heard the chiefs issue proclamations to the effect that real witchcraft medicines had been placed at certain gardens from which produce had been stolen, the thieves having risked the power of the ordinary charms previously placed there.
This being the rainy season, great quantities of mushrooms were met with, and were eagerly devoured by my companions: the edible variety is always found growing out of ant-hills, and attains the diameter of the crown of a hat; they are quite white, and very good, even when eaten raw; they occupy an extensive region of the interior; some, not edible, are of a brilliant red, and others are of the same light blue as the paper used by apothecaries to put up their medicines.
There was a considerable pleasure, in spite of rain and fever, in this new scenery. The deep gloom contrasted strongly with the shadeless glare of the Kalahari, which had left an indelible impression on my memory. Though drenched day by day at this time, and for months afterward, it was long before I could believe that we were getting too much of a good thing. Nor could I look at water being thrown away without a slight, quick impression flitting across the mind that we were guilty of wasting it. Every now and then we emerged from the deep gloom into a pretty little valley, having a damp portion in the middle; which, though now filled with water, at other times contains moisture enough for wells only. These wells have shades put over them in the form of little huts.
We crossed, in canoes, a little never-failing stream, which passes by the name of Lefuje, or “the rapid”. It comes from a goodly high mountain, called Monakadzi (the woman), which gladdened our eyes as it rose to our sight about twenty or thirty miles to the east of our course. It is of an oblong shape, and seemed at least eight hundred feet above the plains. The Lefuje probably derives its name from the rapid descent of the short course it has to flow from Monakadzi to the Leeba.
The number of little villages seemed about equal to the number of valleys. At some we stopped and rested, the people becoming more liberal as we advanced. Others we found deserted, a sudden panic having seized the inhabitants, though the drum of Manenko was kept beaten pretty constantly, in order to give notice of the approach of great people. When we had decided to remain for the night at any village, the inhabitants lent us the roofs of their huts, which in form resemble those of the Makololo, or a Chinaman’s hat, and can be taken off the walls at pleasure. They lifted them off, and brought them to the spot we had selected as our lodging, and, when my men had propped them up with stakes, they were then safely housed for the night. Every one who comes to salute either Manenko or ourselves rubs the upper parts of the arms and chest with ashes; those who wish to show profounder reverence put some also on the face.
We found that every village had its idols near it. This is the case all through the country of the Balonda, so that, when we came to an idol in the woods, we always knew that we were within a quarter of an hour of human habitations. One very ugly idol we passed rested on a horizontal beam placed on two upright posts. This beam was furnished with two loops of cord, as of a chain, to suspend offerings before it. On remarking to my companions that these idols had ears, but that they heard not, etc., I learned that the Balonda, and even the Barotse, believe that divination may be performed by means of these blocks of wood and clay; and though the wood itself could not hear, the owners had medicines by which it could be made to hear and give responses, so that if an enemy were approaching they would have full information. Manenko having brought us to a stand on account of slight indisposition and a desire to send forward notice of our approach to her uncle, I asked why it was necessary to send forward information of our movements, if Shinte had idols who could tell him every thing. “She did it only,”31 was the reply. It is seldom of much use to show one who worships idols the folly of idolatry without giving something else as an object of adoration instead. They do not love them. They fear them, and betake themselves to their idols only when in perplexity and danger.
31 This is a curious African idiom, by which a person implies he had no particular reason for his act.
While delayed, by Manenko’s management, among the Balonda villages, a little to the south of the town of Shinte, we were well supplied by the villagers with sweet potatoes and green maize; Sambanza went to his mother’s village for supplies of other food. I was laboring under fever, and did not find it very difficult to exercise patience with her whims; but it being Saturday, I thought we might as well go to the town for Sunday (15th). “No; her messenger must return from her uncle first.” Being sure that the answer of the uncle would be favorable, I thought we might go on at once, and not lose two days in the same spot. “No, it is our custom;” and every thing else I could urge was answered in the genuine pertinacious lady style. She ground some meal for me with her own hands, and when she brought it told me she had actually gone to a village and begged corn for the purpose. She said this with an air as if the inference must be drawn by even a stupid white man: “I know how to manage, don’t I?” It was refreshing to get food which could be eaten without producing the unpleasantness described by the Rev. John Newton, of St. Mary’s, Woolnoth, London, when obliged to eat the same roots while a slave in the West Indies. The day (January 14th), for a wonder, was fair, and the sun shone, so as to allow us to dry our clothing and other goods, many of which were mouldy and rotten from the long-continued damp. The guns rusted, in spite of being oiled every evening.
During the night we were all awakened by a terrific shriek from one of Manenko’s ladies. She piped out so loud and long that we all imagined she had been seized by a lion, and my men snatched up their arms, which they always place so as to be ready at a moment’s notice, and ran to the rescue; but we found the alarm had been caused by one of the oxen thrusting his head into her hut and smelling her: she had put her hand on his cold, wet nose, and thought it was all over with her.
On Sunday afternoon messengers arrived from Shinte, expressing his approbation of the objects we had in view in our journey through the country, and that he was glad of the prospect of a way being opened by which white men might visit him, and allow him to purchase ornaments at pleasure. Manenko now threatened in sport to go on, and I soon afterward perceived that what now seemed to me the dilly-dallying way of this lady was the proper mode of making acquaintance with the Balonda; and much of the favor with which I was received in different places was owing to my sending forward messengers to state the object of our coming before entering each town and village. When we came in sight of a village we sat down under the shade of a tree and sent forward a man to give notice who we were and what were our objects. The head man of the village then sent out his principal men, as Shinte now did, to bid us welcome and show us a tree under which we might sleep. Before I had profited by the rather tedious teaching of Manenko, I sometimes entered a village and created unintentional alarm. The villagers would continue to look upon us with suspicion as long as we remained. Shinte sent us two large baskets of manioc and six dried fishes. His men had the skin of a monkey, called in their tongue “poluma” (‘Colobus guereza’), of a jet black color, except the long mane, which is pure white: it is said to be found in the north, in the country of Matiamvo, the paramount chief of all the Balonda. We learned from them that they are in the habit of praying to their idols when unsuccessful in killing game or in any other enterprise. They behaved with reverence at our religious services. This will appear important if the reader remembers the almost total want of prayer and reverence we encountered in the south.
Our friends informed us that Shinte would be highly honored by the presence of three white men in his town at once. Two others had sent forward notice of their approach from another quarter (the west); could it be Barth or Krapf? How pleasant to meet with Europeans in such an out-of-the-way region! The rush of thoughts made me almost forget my fever. Are they of the same color as I am? “Yes; exactly so.” And have the same hair? “Is that hair? we thought it was a wig; we never saw the like before; this white man must be of the sort that lives in the sea.” Henceforth my men took the hint, and always sounded my praises as a true specimen of the variety of white men who live in the sea. “Only look at his hair; it is made quite straight by the sea-water!”
I explained to them again and again that, when it was said we came out of the sea, it did not mean that we came from beneath the water; but the fiction has been widely spread in the interior by the Mambari that the real white men live in the sea, and the myth was too good not to be taken advantage of by my companions; so, notwithstanding my injunctions, I believe that, when I was out of hearing, my men always represented themselves as led by a genuine merman: “Just see his hair!” If I returned from walking to a little distance, they would remark of some to whom they had been holding forth, “These people want to see your hair.”
As the strangers had woolly hair like themselves, I had to give up the idea of meeting any thing more European than two half-caste Portuguese, engaged in trading for slaves, ivory, and bees’-wax.
16TH. After a short march we came to a most lovely valley about a mile and a half wide, and stretching away eastward up to a low prolongation of Monakadzi. A small stream meanders down the centre of this pleasant green glen; and on a little rill, which flows into it from the western side, stands the town of Kabompo, or, as he likes best to be called, Shinte. (Lat. 12° 37’ 35” S., long. 22° 47’ E.) When Manenko thought the sun was high enough for us to make a lucky entrance, we found the town embowered in banana and other tropical trees having great expansion of leaf; the streets are straight, and present a complete contrast to those of the Bechuanas, which are all very tortuous. Here, too, we first saw native huts with square walls and round roofs. The fences or walls of the courts which surround the huts are wonderfully straight, and made of upright poles a few inches apart, with strong grass or leafy bushes neatly woven between. In the courts were small plantations of tobacco, and a little solanaceous plant which the Balonda use as a relish; also sugar-cane and bananas. Many of the poles have grown again, and trees of the ‘Ficus Indica’ family have been planted around, in order to give to the inhabitants a grateful shade: they regard this tree with some sort of veneration as a medicine or charm. Goats were browsing about, and, when we made our appearance, a crowd of negroes, all fully armed, ran toward us as if they would eat us up; some had guns, but the manner in which they were held showed that the owners were more accustomed to bows and arrows than to white men’s weapons. After surrounding and staring at us for an hour, they began to disperse.
The two native Portuguese traders of whom we had heard had erected a little encampment opposite the place where ours was about to be made. One of them, whose spine had been injured in youth — a rare sight in this country — came and visited us. I returned the visit next morning. His tall companion had that sickly yellow hue which made him look fairer than myself, but his head was covered with a crop of unmistakable wool. They had a gang of young female slaves in a chain, hoeing the ground in front of their encampment to clear it of weeds and grass; these were purchased recently in Lobale, whence the traders had now come. There were many Mambari with them, and the establishment was conducted with that military order which pervades all the arrangements of the Portuguese colonists. A drum was beaten and trumpet sounded at certain hours, quite in military fashion. It was the first time most of my men had seen slaves in chains. “They are not men,” they exclaimed (meaning they are beasts), “who treat their children so.”
The Balonda are real negroes, having much more wool on their heads and bodies than any of the Bechuana or Caffre tribes. They are generally very dark in color, but several are to be seen of a lighter hue; many of the slaves who have been exported to Brazil have gone from this region; but while they have a general similarity to the typical negro, I never could, from my own observation, think that our ideal negro, as seen in tobacconists’ shops, is the true type. A large proportion of the Balonda, indeed, have heads somewhat elongated backward and upward, thick lips, flat noses, elongated ‘ossa calces’, etc., etc.; but there are also many good-looking, well-shaped heads and persons among them.
17TH, TUESDAY. We were honored with a grand reception by Shinte about eleven o’clock. Sambanza claimed the honor of presenting us, Manenko being slightly indisposed. The native Portuguese and Mambari went fully armed with guns, in order to give Shinte a salute; their drummer and trumpeter making all the noise that very old instruments would produce. The kotla, or place of audience, was about a hundred yards square, and two graceful specimens of a species of banian stood near one end; under one of these sat Shinte, on a sort of throne covered with a leopard’s skin. He had on a checked jacket, and a kilt of scarlet baize edged with green; many strings of large beads hung from his neck, and his limbs were covered with iron and copper armlets and bracelets; on his head he wore a helmet made of beads woven neatly together, and crowned with a great bunch of goose-feathers. Close to him sat three lads with large sheaves of arrows over their shoulders.
When we entered the kotla, the whole of Manenko’s party saluted Shinte by clapping their hands, and Sambanza did obeisance by rubbing his chest and arms with ashes. One of the trees being unoccupied, I retreated to it for the sake of the shade, and my whole party did the same. We were now about forty yards from the chief, and could see the whole ceremony. The different sections of the tribe came forward in the same way that we did, the head man of each making obeisance with ashes which he carried with him for the purpose; then came the soldiers, all armed to the teeth, running and shouting toward us, with their swords drawn, and their faces screwed up so as to appear as savage as possible, for the purpose, I thought, of trying whether they could not make us take to our heels. As we did not, they turned round toward Shinte and saluted him, then retired. When all had come and were seated, then began the curious capering usually seen in pichos. A man starts up, and imitates the most approved attitudes observed in actual fight, as throwing one javelin, receiving another on the shield, springing to one side to avoid a third, running backward or forward, leaping, etc. This over, Sambanza and the spokesman of Nyamoana stalked backward and forward in front of Shinte, and gave forth, in a loud voice, all they had been able to learn, either from myself or people, of my past history and connection with the Makololo; the return of the captives; the wish to open the country to trade; the Bible as a word from heaven; the white man’s desire for the tribes to live in peace: he ought to have taught the Makololo that first, for the Balonda never attacked them, yet they had assailed the Balonda: perhaps he is fibbing, perhaps not; they rather thought he was; but as the Balonda had good hearts, and Shinte had never done harm to any one, he had better receive the white man well, and send him on his way. Sambanza was gayly attired, and, besides a profusion of beads, had a cloth so long that a boy carried it after him as a train.
Behind Shinte sat about a hundred women, clothed in their best, which happened to be a profusion of red baize. The chief wife of Shinte, one of the Matebele or Zulus, sat in front with a curious red cap on her head. During the intervals between the speeches, these ladies burst forth into a sort of plaintive ditty; but it was impossible for any of us to catch whether it was in praise of the speaker, of Shinte, or of themselves. This was the first time I had ever seen females present in a public assembly. In the south the women are not permitted to enter the kotla; and even when invited to come to a religious service there, would not enter until ordered to do so by the chief; but here they expressed approbation by clapping their hands, and laughing to different speakers; and Shinte frequently turned round and spoke to them.
A party of musicians, consisting of three drummers and four performers on the piano, went round the kotla several times, regaling us with their music. Their drums are neatly carved from the trunk of a tree, and have a small hole in the side covered with a bit of spider’s web: the ends are covered with the skin of an antelope pegged on; and when they wish to tighten it, they hold it to the fire to make it contract: the instruments are beaten with the hands.
The piano, named “marimba”, consists of two bars of wood placed side by side, here quite straight, but, farther north, bent round so as to resemble half the tire of a carriage-wheel; across these are placed about fifteen wooden keys, each of which is two or three inches broad, and fifteen or eighteen inches long; their thickness is regulated according to the deepness of the note required: each of the keys has a calabash beneath it; from the upper part of each a portion is cut off to enable them to embrace the bars, and form hollow sounding-boards to the keys, which also are of different sizes, according to the note required; and little drumsticks elicit the music. Rapidity of execution seems much admired among them, and the music is pleasant to the ear. In Angola the Portuguese use the marimba in their dances.
When nine speakers had concluded their orations, Shinte stood up, and so did all the people. He had maintained true African dignity of manner all the while, but my people remarked that he scarcely ever took his eyes off me for a moment. About a thousand people were present, according to my calculation, and three hundred soldiers. The sun had now become hot; and the scene ended by the Mambari discharging their guns.
18TH. We were awakened during the night by a message from Shinte, requesting a visit at a very unseasonable hour. As I was just in the sweating stage of an intermittent, and the path to the town lay through a wet valley, I declined going. Kolimbota, who knows their customs best, urged me to go; but, independent of sickness, I hated words of the night and deeds of darkness. “I was neither a hyaena nor a witch.” Kolimbota thought that we ought to conform to their wishes in every thing: I thought we ought to have some choice in the matter as well, which put him into high dudgeon. However, at ten next morning we went, and were led into the courts of Shinte, the walls of which were woven rods, all very neat and high. Many trees stood within the inclosure and afforded a grateful shade. These had been planted, for we saw some recently put in, with grass wound round the trunk to protect them from the sun. The otherwise waste corners of the streets were planted with sugar-cane and bananas, which spread their large light leaves over the walls.
The Ficus Indica tree, under which we now sat, had very large leaves, but showed its relationship to the Indian banian by sending down shoots toward the ground. Shinte soon came, and appeared a man of upward of fifty-five years of age, of frank and open countenance, and about the middle height. He seemed in good humor, and said he had expected yesterday “that a man who came from the gods would have approached and talked to him.” That had been my own intention in going to the reception; but when we came and saw the formidable preparations, and all his own men keeping at least forty yards off from him, I yielded to the solicitations of my men, and remained by the tree opposite to that under which he sat. His remark confirmed my previous belief that a frank, open, fearless manner is the most winning with all these Africans. I stated the object of my journey and mission, and to all I advanced the old gentleman clapped his hands in approbation. He replied through a spokesman; then all the company joined in the response by clapping of hands too.
After the more serious business was over, I asked if he had ever seen a white man before. He replied, “Never; you are the very first I have seen with a white skin and straight hair; your clothing, too, is different from any we have ever seen.” They had been visited by native Portuguese and Mambari only.
On learning from some of the people that “Shinte’s mouth was bitter for want of tasting ox-flesh,” I presented him with an ox, to his great delight; and, as his country is so well adapted for cattle, I advised him to begin a trade in cows with the Makololo. He was pleased with the idea, and when we returned from Loanda, we found that he had profited by the hint, for he had got three, and one of them justified my opinion of the country, for it was more like a prize heifer for fatness than any we had seen in Africa. He soon afterward sent us a basket of green maize boiled, another of manioc-meal, and a small fowl. The maize shows by its size the fertility of the black soil of all the valleys here, and so does the manioc, though no manure is ever applied. We saw manioc attain a height of six feet and upward, and this is a plant which requires the very best soil.
During this time Manenko had been extremely busy with all her people in getting up a very pretty hut and court-yard, to be, as she said, her residence always when white men were brought by her along the same path. When she heard that we had given an ox to her uncle, she came forward to us with the air of one wronged, and explained that “this white man belonged to her; she had brought him here, and therefore the ox was hers, not Shinte’s.” She ordered her men to bring it, got it slaughtered by them, and presented her uncle with a leg only. Shinte did not seem at all annoyed at the occurrence.
19TH. I was awakened at an early hour by a messenger from Shinte; but the thirst of a raging fever being just assuaged by the bursting forth of a copious perspiration, I declined going for a few hours. Violent action of the heart all the way to the town did not predispose me to be patient with the delay which then occurred, probably on account of the divination being unfavorable: “They could not find Shinte.” When I returned to bed, another message was received, “Shinte wished to say all he had to tell me at once.” This was too tempting an offer, so we went, and he had a fowl ready in his hand to present, also a basket of manioc-meal, and a calabash of mead. Referring to the constantly-recurring attacks of fever, he remarked that it was the only thing which would prevent a successful issue to my journey, for he had men to guide me who knew all the paths which led to the white men. He had himself traveled far when a young man. On asking what he would recommend for the fever, “Drink plenty of the mead, and as it gets in, it will drive the fever out.” It was rather strong, and I suspect he liked the remedy pretty well, even though he had no fever. He had always been a friend to Sebituane, and, now that his son Sekeletu was in his place, Shinte was not merely a friend, but a father to him; and if a son asks a favor, the father must give it. He was highly pleased with the large calabashes of clarified butter and fat which Sekeletu had sent him, and wished to detain Kolimbota, that he might send a present back to Sekeletu by his hands. This proposition we afterward discovered was Kolimbota’s own, as he had heard so much about the ferocity of the tribes through which we were to pass that he wished to save his skin. It will be seen farther on that he was the only one of our party who returned with a wound.
We were particularly struck, in passing through the village, with the punctiliousness of manners shown by the Balonda. The inferiors, on meeting their superiors in the street, at once drop on their knees and rub dust on their arms and chest; they continue the salutation of clapping the hands until the great ones have passed. Sambanza knelt down in this manner till the son of Shinte had passed him.
We several times saw the woman who occupies the office of drawer of water for Shinte; she rings a bell as she passes along to give warning to all to keep out of her way; it would be a grave offense for any one to come near her, and exercise an evil influence by his presence on the drink of the chief. I suspect that offenses of the slightest character among the poor are made the pretext for selling them or their children to the Mambari. A young man of Lobale had fled into the country of Shinte, and located himself without showing himself to the chief. This was considered an offense sufficient to warrant his being seized and offered for sale while we were there. He had not reported himself, so they did not know the reason of his running away from his own chief, and that chief might accuse them of receiving a criminal. It was curious to notice the effect of the slave-trade in blunting the moral susceptibility: no chief in the south would treat a fugitive in this way. My men were horrified at the act, even though old Shinte and his council had some show of reason on their side; and both the Barotse and the Makololo declared that, if the Balonda only knew of the policy pursued by them to fugitives, but few of the discontented would remain long with Shinte. My men excited the wonder of his people by stating that every one of them had one cow at least in his possession.
Another incident, which occurred while we were here, may be mentioned, as of a character totally unknown in the south. Two children, of seven and eight years old, went out to collect firewood a short distance from their parents’ home, which was a quarter of a mile from the village, and were kidnapped; the distracted parents could not find a trace of them. This happened so close to the town, where there are no beasts of prey, that we suspect some of the high men of Shinte’s court were the guilty parties: they can sell them by night. The Mambari erect large huts of a square shape to stow these stolen ones in; they are well fed, but aired by night only. The frequent kidnapping from outlying hamlets explains the stockades we saw around them; the parents have no redress, for even Shinte himself seems fond of working in the dark. One night he sent for me, though I always stated I liked all my dealings to be aboveboard. When I came he presented me with a slave girl about ten years old; he said he had always been in the habit of presenting his visitors with a child. On my thanking him, and saying that I thought it wrong to take away children from their parents, that I wished him to give up this system altogether, and trade in cattle, ivory, and bees’-wax, he urged that she was “to be a child” to bring me water, and that a great man ought to have a child for the purpose, yet I had none. As I replied that I had four children, and should be very sorry if my chief were to take my little girl and give her away, and that I would prefer this child to remain and carry water for her own mother, he thought I was dissatisfied with her size, and sent for one a head taller; after many explanations of our abhorrence of slavery, and how displeasing it must be to God to see his children selling one another, and giving each other so much grief as this child’s mother must feel, I declined her also. If I could have taken her into my family for the purpose of instruction, and then returned her as a free woman, according to a promise I should have made to the parents, I might have done so; but to take her away, and probably never be able to secure her return, would have produced no good effect on the minds of the Balonda; they would not then have seen evidence of our hatred to slavery, and the kind attentions of my friends would, as it almost always does in similar cases, have turned the poor thing’s head. The difference in position between them and us is as great as between the lowest and highest in England, and we know the effects of sudden elevation on wiser heads than hers, whose owners had not been born to it.
Shinte was most anxious to see the pictures of the magic lantern; but fever had so weakening an effect, and I had such violent action of the heart, with buzzing in the ears, that I could not go for several days; when I did go for the purpose, he had his principal men and the same crowd of court beauties near him as at the reception. The first picture exhibited was Abraham about to slaughter his son Isaac; it was shown as large as life, and the uplifted knife was in the act of striking the lad; the Balonda men remarked that the picture was much more like a god than the things of wood or clay they worshiped. I explained that this man was the first of a race to whom God had given the Bible we now held, and that among his children our Savior appeared. The ladies listened with silent awe; but, when I moved the slide, the uplifted dagger moving toward them, they thought it was to be sheathed in their bodies instead of Isaac’s. “Mother! mother!” all shouted at once, and off they rushed helter-skelter, tumbling pell-mell over each other, and over the little idol-huts and tobacco-bushes: we could not get one of them back again. Shinte, however, sat bravely through the whole, and afterward examined the instrument with interest. An explanation was always added after each time of showing its powers, so that no one should imagine there was aught supernatural in it; and had Mr. Murray, who kindly brought it from England, seen its popularity among both Makololo and Balonda, he would have been gratified with the direction his generosity then took. It was the only mode of instruction I was ever pressed to repeat. The people came long distances for the express purpose of seeing the objects and hearing the explanations.
One can not get away quickly from these chiefs; they like to have the honor of strangers residing in their villages. Here we had an additional cause of delay in frequent rains; twenty-four hours never elapsed without heavy showers; every thing is affected by the dampness; surgical instruments become all rusty, clothing mildewed, and shoes mouldy; my little tent was now so rotten and so full of small holes that every smart shower caused a fine mist to descend on my blanket, and made me fain to cover the head with it. Heavy dews lay on every thing in the morning, even inside the tent; there is only a short time of sunshine in the afternoon, and even that is so interrupted by thunder-showers that we can not dry our bedding.
The winds coming from the north always bring heavy clouds and rain; in the south, the only heavy rains noticed are those which come from the northeast or east. The thermometer falls as low as 72° when there is no sunshine, though, when the weather is fair, the protected thermometer generally rises as high as 82°, even in the mornings and evenings.
24TH. We expected to have started to-day, but Sambanza, who had been sent off early in the morning for guides, returned at midday without them, and drunk. This was the first case of real babbling intoxication we had seen in this region. The boyaloa, or beer of the country, has more of a stupefying than exciting nature; hence the beer-bibbers are great sleepers; they may frequently be seen lying on their faces sound asleep. This peculiarity of posture was ascribed, by no less an authority than Aristotle, to wine, while those who were sent asleep by beer were believed “to lie upon their backs.”
Sambanza had got into a state of inebriation from indulging in mead, similar to that which Shinte presented to us, which is much more powerful than boyaloa. As far as we could collect from his incoherent sentences, Shinte had said the rain was too heavy for our departure, and the guides still required time for preparation. Shinte himself was busy getting some meal ready for my use in the journey. As it rained nearly all day, it was no sacrifice to submit to his advice and remain. Sambanza staggered to Manenko’s hut; she, however, who had never promised “to love, honor, and obey him,” had not been “nursing her wrath to keep it warm,” so she coolly bundled him into the hut, and put him to bed.
As the last proof of friendship, Shinte came into my tent, though it could scarcely contain more than one person, looked at all the curiosities, the quicksilver, the looking-glass, books, hair-brushes, comb, watch, etc., etc., with the greatest interest; then closing the tent, so that none of his own people might see the extravagance of which he was about to be guilty, he drew out from his clothing a string of beads, and the end of a conical shell, which is considered, in regions far from the sea, of as great value as the Lord Mayor’s badge is in London. He hung it round my neck, and said, “There, now you HAVE a proof of my friendship.”
My men informed me that these shells are so highly valued in this quarter, as evidences of distinction, that for two of them a slave might be bought, and five would be considered a handsome price for an elephant’s tusk worth ten pounds. At our last interview old Shinte pointed out our principal guide, Intemese, a man about fifty, who was, he said, ordered to remain by us till we should reach the sea; that I had now left Sekeletu far behind, and must henceforth look to Shinte alone for aid, and that it would always be most cheerfully rendered. This was only a polite way of expressing his wishes for my success. It was the good words only of the guides which were to aid me from the next chief, Katema, on to the sea; they were to turn back on reaching him; but he gave a good supply of food for the journey before us, and, after mentioning as a reason for letting us go even now that no one could say we had been driven away from the town, since we had been several days with him, he gave a most hearty salutation, and we parted with the wish that God might bless him.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10