The Watershed between the northern and southern Rivers — A deep Valley — Rustic Bridge — Fountains on the Slopes of the Valleys — Village of Kabinje — Good Effects of the Belief in the Power of Charms — Demand for Gunpowder and English Calico — The Kasai — Vexatious Trick — Want of Food — No Game — Katende’s unreasonable Demand — A grave Offense — Toll-bridge Keeper — Greedy Guides — Flooded Valleys — Swim the Nyuana Loke — Prompt Kindness of my Men — Makololo Remarks on the rich uncultivated Valleys — Difference in the Color of Africans — Reach a Village of the Chiboque — The Head Man’s impudent Message — Surrounds our Encampment with his Warriors — The Pretense — Their Demand — Prospect of a Fight — Way in which it was averted — Change our Path — Summer — Fever — Beehives and the Honey-guide — Instinct of Trees — Climbers — The Ox Sinbad — Absence of Thorns in the Forests — Plant peculiar to a forsaken Garden — Bad Guides — Insubordination suppressed — Beset by Enemies — A Robber Party — More Troubles — Detained by Ionga Panza — His Village — Annoyed by Bangala Traders — My Men discouraged — Their Determination and Precaution.
24TH OF FEBRUARY. On reaching unflooded lands beyond the plain, we found the villages there acknowledged the authority of the chief named Katende, and we discovered, also, to our surprise, that the almost level plain we had passed forms the watershed between the southern and northern rivers, for we had now entered a district in which the rivers flowed in a northerly direction into the Kasai or Loke, near to which we now were, while the rivers we had hitherto crossed were all running southward. Having met with kind treatment and aid at the first village, Katema’s guides returned, and we were led to the N.N.W. by the inhabitants, and descended into the very first really deep valley we had seen since leaving Kolobeng. A stream ran along the bottom of a slope of three or four hundred yards from the plains above.
We crossed this by a rustic bridge at present submerged thigh-deep by the rains. The trees growing along the stream of this lovely valley were thickly planted and very high. Many had sixty or eighty feet of clean straight trunk, and beautiful flowers adorned the ground beneath them. Ascending the opposite side, we came, in two hours’ time, to another valley, equally beautiful, and with a stream also in its centre. It may seem mere trifling to note such an unimportant thing as the occurrence of a valley, there being so many in every country under the sun; but as these were branches of that in which the Kasai or Loke flows, and both that river and its feeders derive their water in a singular manner from the valley sides, I may be excused for calling particular attention to the more furrowed nature of the country.
At different points on the slopes of these valleys which we now for the first time entered, there are oozing fountains, surrounded by clumps of the same evergreen, straight, large-leaved trees we have noticed along the streams. These spots are generally covered with a mat of grassy vegetation, and possess more the character of bogs than of fountains. They slowly discharge into the stream below, and are so numerous along both banks as to give a peculiar character to the landscape. These groups of sylvan vegetation are generally of a rounded form, and the trunks of the trees are tall and straight, while those on the level plains above are low and scraggy in their growth. There can be little doubt but that the water, which stands for months on the plains, soaks in, and finds its way into the rivers and rivulets by percolating through the soil, and out by these oozing bogs; and the difference between the growth of these trees, though they be of different species, may be a proof that the stuntedness of those on the plains is owing to being, in the course of each year, more subjected to drought than moisture.
Reaching the village of Kabinje, in the evening he sent us a present of tobacco, Mutokuane or “bang” (‘Cannabis sativa’), and maize, by the man who went forward to announce our arrival, and a message expressing satisfaction at the prospect of having trade with the coast. The westing we were making brought us among people who are frequently visited by the Mambari as slave-dealers. This trade causes bloodshed; for when a poor family is selected as the victims, it is necessary to get rid of the older members of it, because they are supposed to be able to give annoyance to the chief afterward by means of enchantments. The belief in the power of charms for good or evil produces not only honesty, but a great amount of gentle dealing. The powerful are often restrained in their despotism from a fear that the weak and helpless may injure them by their medical knowledge. They have many fears. A man at one of the villages we came to showed us the grave of his child, and, with much apparent feeling, told us she had been burned to death in her hut. He had come with all his family, and built huts around it in order to weep for her. He thought, if the grave were left unwatched, the witches would come and bewitch them by putting medicines on the body. They have a more decided belief in the continued existence of departed spirits than any of the more southerly tribes. Even the Barotse possess it in a strong degree, for one of my men of that tribe, on experiencing headache, said, with a sad and thoughtful countenance, “My father is scolding me because I do not give him any of the food I eat.” I asked where his father was. “Among the Barimo,” was the reply.
When we wished to move on, Kabinje refused a guide to the next village because he was at war with it; but, after much persuasion, he consented, provided that the guide should be allowed to return as soon as he came in sight of the enemy’s village. This we felt to be a misfortune, as the people all suspect a man who comes telling his own tale; but there being no help for it, we went on, and found the head man of a village on the rivulet Kalomba, called Kangenke, a very different man from what his enemy represented. We found, too, that the idea of buying and selling took the place of giving for friendship. As I had nothing with which to purchase food except a parcel of beads which were preserved for worse times, I began to fear that we should soon be compelled to suffer more from hunger than we had done. The people demanded gunpowder for every thing. If we had possessed any quantity of that article, we should have got on well, for here it is of great value. On our return, near this spot we found a good-sized fowl was sold for a single charge of gunpowder. Next to that, English calico was in great demand, and so were beads; but money was of no value whatever. Gold is quite unknown; it is thought to be brass; trade is carried on by barter alone. The people know nothing of money. A purse-proud person would here feel the ground move from beneath his feet. Occasionally a large piece of copper, in the shape of a St. Andrew’s cross, is offered for sale.
FEBRUARY 27TH. Kangenke promptly furnished guides this morning, so we went briskly on a short distance, and came to a part of the Kasye, Kasai, or Loke, where he had appointed two canoes to convey us across. This is a most beautiful river, and very much like the Clyde in Scotland. The slope of the valley down to the stream is about five hundred yards, and finely wooded. It is, perhaps, one hundred yards broad, and was winding slowly from side to side in the beautiful green glen, in a course to the north and northeast. In both the directions from which it came and to which it went it seemed to be alternately embowered in sylvan vegetation, or rich meadows covered with tall grass. The men pointed out its course, and said, “Though you sail along it for months, you will turn without seeing the end of it.”
While at the ford of the Kasai we were subjected to a trick, of which we had been forewarned by the people of Shinte. A knife had been dropped by one of Kangenke’s people in order to entrap my men; it was put down near our encampment, as if lost, the owner in the mean time watching till one of my men picked it up. Nothing was said until our party was divided, one half on this, and the other on that bank of the river. Then the charge was made to me that one of my men had stolen a knife. Certain of my people’s honesty, I desired the man, who was making a great noise, to search the luggage for it; the unlucky lad who had taken the bait then came forward and confessed that he had the knife in a basket, which was already taken over the river. When it was returned, the owner would not receive it back unless accompanied with a fine. The lad offered beads, but these were refused with scorn. A shell hanging round his neck, similar to that which Shinte had given me, was the object demanded, and the victim of the trick, as we all knew it to be, was obliged to part with his costly ornament. I could not save him from the loss, as all had been forewarned; and it is the universal custom among the Makololo and many other tribes to show whatever they may find to the chief person of their company, and make a sort of offer of it to him. This lad ought to have done so to me; the rest of the party always observed this custom. I felt annoyed at the imposition, but the order we invariably followed in crossing a river forced me to submit. The head of the party remained to be ferried over last; so, if I had not come to terms, I would have been, as I always was in crossing rivers which we could not swim, completely in the power of the enemy. It was but rarely we could get a head man so witless as to cross a river with us, and remain on the opposite bank in a convenient position to be seized as a hostage in case of my being caught.
This trick is but one of a number equally dishonorable which are practiced by tribes that lie adjacent to the more civilized settlements. The Balonda farther east told us, by way of warning, that many parties of the more central tribes had at various periods set out, in order to trade with the white men themselves, instead of through the Mambari, but had always been obliged to return without reaching their destination, in consequence of so many pretexts being invented by the tribes encountered in the way for fining them of their ivory.
This ford was in 11° 15’ 47” S. latitude, but the weather was so excessively cloudy we got no observation for longitude.
We were now in want of food, for, to the great surprise of my companions, the people of Kangenke gave nothing except by way of sale, and charged the most exorbitant prices for the little meal and manioc they brought. The only article of barter my men had was a little fat saved from the ox we slaughtered at Katema’s, so I was obliged to give them a portion of the stock of beads. One day (29th) of westing brought us from the Kasai to near the village of Katende, and we saw that we were in a land where no hope could be entertained of getting supplies of animal food, for one of our guides caught a light-blue colored mole and two mice for his supper. The care with which he wrapped them up in a leaf and slung them on his spear told that we could not hope to enjoy any larger game. We saw no evidence of any animals besides; and, on coming to the villages beyond this, we often saw boys and girls engaged in digging up these tiny quadrupeds.
Katende sent for me on the day following our arrival, and, being quite willing to visit him, I walked, for this purpose, about three miles from our encampment. When we approached the village we were desired to enter a hut, and, as it was raining at the time, we did so. After a long time spent in giving and receiving messages from the great man, we were told that he wanted either a man, a tusk, beads, copper rings, or a shell, as payment for leave to pass through his country. No one, we were assured, was allowed that liberty, or even to behold him, without something of the sort being presented. Having humbly explained our circumstances, and that he could not expect to “catch a humble cow by the horns” — a proverb similar to ours that “you can’t draw milk out of a stone” — we were told to go home, and he would speak again to us next day. I could not avoid a hearty laugh at the cool impudence of the savage, and made the best of my way home in the still pouring rain. My men were rather nettled at this want of hospitality, but, after talking over the matter with one of Katende’s servants, he proposed that some small article should be given, and an attempt made to please Katende. I turned out my shirts, and selected the worst one as a sop for him, and invited Katende to come and choose any thing else I had, but added that, when I should reach my own chief naked, and was asked what I had done with my clothes, I should be obliged to confess that I had left them with Katende. The shirt was dispatched to him, and some of my people went along with the servant; they soon returned, saying that the shirt had been accepted, and guides and food too would be sent to us next day. The chief had, moreover, expressed a hope to see me on my return. He is reported to be very corpulent. The traders who have come here seem to have been very timid, yielding to every demand made on the most frivolous pretenses. One of my men, seeing another much like an acquaintance at home, addressed him by the name of the latter in sport, telling him, at the same time, why he did so; this was pronounced to be a grave offense, and a large fine demanded; when the case came before me I could see no harm in what had been done, and told my people not to answer the young fellow. The latter felt himself disarmed, for it is chiefly in a brawl they have power; then words are spoken in anger which rouse the passions of the complainant’s friends. In this case, after vociferating some time, the would-be offended party came and said to my man that, if they exchanged some small gift, all would be right, but, my man taking no notice of him, he went off rather crestfallen.
My men were as much astonished as myself at the demand for payment for leave to pass, and the almost entire neglect of the rules of hospitality. Katende gave us only a little meal and manioc, and a fowl. Being detained two days by heavy rains, we felt that a good stock of patience was necessary in traveling through this country in the rainy season.
Passing onward without seeing Katende, we crossed a small rivulet, the Sengko, by which we had encamped, and after two hours came to another, the Totelo, which was somewhat larger, and had a bridge over it. At the farther end of this structure stood a negro, who demanded fees. He said the bridge was his; the path his; the guides were his children; and if we did not pay him he would prevent farther progress. This piece of civilization I was not prepared to meet, and stood a few seconds looking at our bold toll-keeper, when one of my men took off three copper bracelets, which paid for the whole party. The negro was a better man than he at first seemed, for he immediately went to his garden and brought us some leaves of tobacco as a present.
When we had got fairly away from the villages, the guides from Kangenke sat down and told us that there were three paths in front, and, if we did not at once present them with a cloth, they would leave us to take whichever we might like best. As I had pointed out the direction in which Loanda lay, and had only employed them for the sake of knowing the paths between villages which lay along our route, and always objected when they led us in any other than the Loanda direction, I wished my men now to go on without the guides, trusting to ourselves to choose the path which would seem to lead us in the direction we had always followed. But Mashauana, fearing lest we might wander, asked leave to give his own cloth, and when the guides saw that, they came forward shouting “Averie, Averie!”
In the afternoon of this day we came to a valley about a mile wide, filled with clear, fast-flowing water. The men on foot were chin deep in crossing, and we three on ox-back got wet to the middle, the weight of the animals preventing them from swimming. A thunder-shower descending completed the partial drenching of the plain, and gave a cold, uncomfortable “packing in a wet blanket” that night. Next day we found another flooded valley about half a mile wide, with a small and now deep rivulet in its middle, flowing rapidly to the S.S.E., or toward the Kasai. The middle part of this flood, being the bed of what at other times is the rivulet, was so rapid that we crossed by holding on to the oxen, and the current soon dashed them to the opposite bank; we then jumped off, and, the oxen being relieved of their burdens, we could pull them on to the shallower part. The rest of the valley was thigh deep and boggy, but holding on by the belt which fastened the blanket to the ox, we each floundered through the nasty slough as well as we could. These boggy parts, lying parallel to the stream, were the most extensive we had come to: those mentioned already were mere circumscribed patches; these extended for miles along each bank; but even here, though the rapidity of the current was very considerable, the thick sward of grass was “laid” flat along the sides of the stream, and the soil was not abraded so much as to discolor the flood. When we came to the opposite side of this valley, some pieces of the ferruginous conglomerate, which forms the capping to all other rocks in a large district around and north of this, cropped out, and the oxen bit at them as if surprised by the appearance of stone as much as we were; or it may have contained some mineral of which they stood in need. We had not met with a stone since leaving Shinte’s. The country is covered with deep alluvial soil of a dark color and very fertile.
In the afternoon we came to another stream, nyuana Loke (or child of Loke), with a bridge over it. The men had to swim off to each end of the bridge, and when on it were breast deep; some preferred holding on by the tails of the oxen the whole way across. I intended to do this too; but, riding to the deep part, before I could dismount and seize the helm the ox dashed off with his companions, and his body sank so deep that I failed in my attempt even to catch the blanket belt, and if I pulled the bridle the ox seemed as if he would come backward upon me, so I struck out for the opposite bank alone. My poor fellows were dreadfully alarmed when they saw me parted from the cattle, and about twenty of them made a simultaneous rush into the water for my rescue, and just as I reached the opposite bank one seized my arm, and another threw his around my body. When I stood up, it was most gratifying to see them all struggling toward me. Some had leaped off the bridge, and allowed their cloaks to float down the stream. Part of my goods, abandoned in the hurry, were brought up from the bottom after I was safe. Great was the pleasure expressed when they found that I could swim, like themselves, without the aid of a tail, and I did and do feel grateful to these poor heathens for the promptitude with which they dashed in to save, as they thought, my life. I found my clothes cumbersome in the water; they could swim quicker from being naked. They swim like dogs, not frog-fashion, as we do.
In the evening we crossed the small rivulet Lozeze, and came to some villages of the Kasabi, from whom we got some manioc in exchange for beads. They tried to frighten us by telling of the deep rivers we should have to cross in our way. I was drying my clothes by turning myself round and round before the fire. My men laughed at the idea of being frightened by rivers. “We can all swim: who carried the white man across the river but himself?” I felt proud of their praise.
SATURDAY, 4TH MARCH. Came to the outskirts of the territory of the Chiboque. We crossed the Konde and Kaluze rivulets. The former is a deep, small stream with a bridge, the latter insignificant; the valleys in which these rivulets run are beautifully fertile. My companions are continually lamenting over the uncultivated vales in such words as these: “What a fine country for cattle! My heart is sore to see such fruitful valleys for corn lying waste.” At the time these words were put down I had come to the belief that the reason why the inhabitants of this fine country possess no herds of cattle was owing to the despotic sway of their chiefs, and that the common people would not be allowed to keep any domestic animals, even supposing they could acquire them; but on musing on the subject since, I have been led to the conjecture that the rich, fertile country of Londa must formerly have been infested by the tsetse, but that, as the people killed off the game on which, in the absence of man, the tsetse must subsist, the insect was starved out of the country. It is now found only where wild animals abound, and the Balonda, by the possession of guns, having cleared most of the country of all the large game, we may have happened to come just when it was possible to admit of cattle. Hence the success of Katema, Shinte, and Matiamvo with their herds. It would not be surprising, though they know nothing of the circumstance; a tribe on the Zambesi, which I encountered, whose country was swarming with tsetse, believed that they could not keep any cattle, because “no one loved them well enough to give them the medicine of oxen;” and even the Portuguese at Loanda accounted for the death of the cattle brought from the interior to the sea-coast by the prejudicial influence of the sea air! One ox, which I took down to the sea from the interior, died at Loanda, with all the symptoms of the poison injected by tsetse, which I saw myself in a district a hundred miles from the coast.
While at the villages of the Kasabi we saw no evidences of want of food among the people. Our beads were very valuable, but cotton cloth would have been still more so; as we traveled along, men, women, and children came running after us, with meal and fowls for sale, which we would gladly have purchased had we possessed any English manufactures. When they heard that we had no cloth, they turned back much disappointed.
The amount of population in the central parts of the country may be called large only as compared with the Cape Colony or the Bechuana country. The cultivated land is as nothing compared with what might be brought under the plow. There are flowing streams in abundance, which, were it necessary, could be turned to the purpose of irrigation with but little labor. Miles of fruitful country are now lying absolutely waste, for there is not even game to eat off the fine pasturage, and to recline under the evergreen, shady groves which we are ever passing in our progress. The people who inhabit the central region are not all quite black in color. Many incline to that of bronze, and others are as light in hue as the Bushmen, who, it may be remembered, afford a proof that heat alone does not cause blackness, but that heat and moisture combined do very materially deepen the color. Wherever we find people who have continued for ages in a hot, humid district, they are deep black, but to this apparent law there are exceptions, caused by the migrations of both tribes and individuals; the Makololo, for instance, among the tribes of the humid central basin, appear of a sickly sallow hue when compared with the aboriginal inhabitants; the Batoka also, who lived in an elevated region, are, when seen in company with the Batoka of the rivers, so much lighter in color, they might be taken for another tribe; but their language, and the very marked custom of knocking out the upper front teeth, leave no room for doubt that they are one people.
Apart from the influences of elevation, heat, humidity, and degradation, I have imagined that the lighter and darker colors observed in the native population run in five longitudinal bands along the southern portion of the continent. Those on the seaboard of both the east and west are very dark; then two bands of lighter color lie about three hundred miles from each coast, of which the westerly one, bending round, embraces the Kalahari Desert and Bechuana countries; and then the central basin is very dark again. This opinion is not given with any degree of positiveness. It is stated just as it struck my mind in passing across the country, and if incorrect, it is singular that the dialects spoken by the different tribes have arranged themselves in a fashion which seems to indicate migration along the lines of color. The dialects spoken in the extreme south, whether Hottentot or Caffre, bear a close affinity to those of the tribes living immediately on their northern borders; one glides into the other, and their affinities are so easily detected that they are at once recognized to be cognate. If the dialects of extreme points are compared, as that of the Caffres and the tribes near the equator, it is more difficult to recognize the fact, which is really the case, that all the dialects belong to but two families of languages. Examination of the roots of the words of the dialects, arranged in geographical order, shows that they merge into each other, and there is not nearly so much difference between the extremes of east and west as between those of north and south, the dialect spoken at Tete resembling closely that in Angola.
Having, on the afore-mentioned date, reached the village of Njambi, one of the chiefs of the Chiboque, we intended to pass a quiet Sunday; and our provisions being quite spent, I ordered a tired riding-ox to be slaughtered. As we wished to be on good terms with all, we sent the hump and ribs to Njambi, with the explanation that this was the customary tribute to chiefs in the part from which we had come, and that we always honored men in his position. He returned thanks, and promised to send food. Next morning he sent an impudent message, with a very small present of meal; scorning the meat he had accepted, he demanded either a man, an ox, a gun, powder, cloth, or a shell; and in the event of refusal to comply with his demand, he intimated his intention to prevent our further progress. We replied, we should have thought ourselves fools if we had scorned his small present, and demanded other food instead; and even supposing we had possessed the articles named, no black man ought to impose a tribute on a party that did not trade in slaves. The servants who brought the message said that, when sent to the Mambari, they had always got a quantity of cloth from them for their master, and now expected the same, or something else as an equivalent, from me.
We heard some of the Chiboque remark, “They have only five guns;” and about midday, Njambi collected all his people, and surrounded our encampment. Their object was evidently to plunder us of every thing. My men seized their javelins, and stood on the defensive, while the young Chiboque had drawn their swords and brandished them with great fury. Some even pointed their guns at me, and nodded to each other, as much as to say, “This is the way we shall do with him.” I sat on my camp-stool, with my double-barreled gun across my knees, and invited the chief to be seated also. When he and his counselors had sat down on the ground in front of me, I asked what crime we had committed that he had come armed in that way. He replied that one of my men, Pitsane, while sitting at the fire that morning, had, in spitting, allowed a small quantity of the saliva to fall on the leg of one of his men, and this “guilt” he wanted to be settled by the fine of a man, ox, or gun. Pitsane admitted the fact of a little saliva having fallen on the Chiboque, and in proof of its being a pure accident, mentioned that he had given the man a piece of meat, by way of making friends, just before it happened, and wiped it off with his hand as soon as it fell. In reference to a man being given, I declared that we were all ready to die rather than give up one of our number to be a slave; that my men might as well give me as I give one of them, for we were all free men. “Then you can give the gun with which the ox was shot.” As we heard some of his people remarking even now that we had only “five guns”, we declined, on the ground that, as they were intent on plundering us, giving a gun would be helping them to do so.
This they denied, saying they wanted the customary tribute only. I asked what right they had to demand payment for leave to tread on the ground of God, our common Father. If we trod on their gardens, we would pay, but not for marching on land which was still God’s, and not theirs. They did not attempt to controvert this, because it is in accordance with their own ideas, but reverted again to the pretended crime of the saliva.
My men now entreated me to give something; and after asking the chief if he really thought the affair of the spitting a matter of guilt, and receiving an answer in the affirmative, I gave him one of my shirts. The young Chiboque were dissatisfied, and began shouting and brandishing their swords for a greater fine.
As Pitsane felt that he had been the cause of this disagreeable affair, he asked me to add something else. I gave a bunch of beads, but the counselors objected this time, so I added a large handkerchief. The more I yielded, the more unreasonable their demands became, and at every fresh demand a shout was raised by the armed party, and a rush made around us with brandishing of arms. One young man made a charge at my head from behind, but I quickly brought round the muzzle of my gun to his mouth, and he retreated. I pointed him out to the chief, and he ordered him to retire a little. I felt anxious to avoid the effusion of blood; and though sure of being able, with my Makololo, who had been drilled by Sebituane, to drive off twice the number of our assailants, though now a large body, and well armed with spears, swords, arrows, and guns, I strove to avoid actual collision. My men were quite unprepared for this exhibition, but behaved with admirable coolness. The chief and counselors, by accepting my invitation to be seated, had placed themselves in a trap, for my men very quietly surrounded them, and made them feel that there was no chance of escaping their spears. I then said that, as one thing after another had failed to satisfy them, it was evident that THEY wanted to fight, while WE only wanted to pass peaceably through the country; that they must begin first, and bear the guilt before God: we would not fight till they had struck the first blow. I then sat silent for some time. It was rather trying for me, because I knew that the Chiboque would aim at the white man first; but I was careful not to appear flurried, and, having four barrels ready for instant action, looked quietly at the savage scene around. The Chiboque countenance, by no means handsome, is not improved by the practice which they have adopted of filing the teeth to a point. The chief and counselors, seeing that they were in more danger than I, did not choose to follow our decision that they should begin by striking the first blow, and then see what we could do, and were perhaps influenced by seeing the air of cool preparation which some of my men displayed at the prospect of a work of blood.
The Chiboque at last put the matter before us in this way: “You come among us in a new way, and say you are quite friendly: how can we know it unless you give us some of your food, and you take some of ours? If you give us an ox, we will give you whatever you may wish, and then we shall be friends.” In accordance with the entreaties of my men, I gave an ox; and when asked what I should like in return, mentioned food as the thing which we most needed. In the evening Njambi sent us a very small basket of meal, and two or three pounds of the flesh of our own ox! with the apology that he had no fowls, and very little of any other food. It was impossible to avoid a laugh at the coolness of the generous creatures. I was truly thankful, nevertheless, that, though resolved to die rather than deliver up one of our number to be a slave, we had so far gained our point as to be allowed to pass on without having shed human blood.
In the midst of the commotion, several Chiboque stole pieces of meat out of the sheds of my people, and Mohorisi, one of the Makololo, went boldly into the crowd and took back a marrow-bone from one of them. A few of my Batoka seemed afraid, and would perhaps have fled had the affray actually begun, but, upon the whole, I thought my men behaved admirably. They lamented having left their shields at home by command of Sekeletu, who feared that, if they carried these, they might be more disposed to be overbearing in their demeanor to the tribes we should meet. We had proceeded on the principles of peace and conciliation, and the foregoing treatment shows in what light our conduct was viewed; in fact, we were taken for interlopers trying to cheat the revenue of the tribe. They had been accustomed to get a slave or two from every slave-trader who passed them, and now that we disputed the right, they viewed the infringement on what they considered lawfully due with most virtuous indignation.
MARCH 6TH. We were informed that the people on the west of the Chiboque of Njambi were familiar with the visits of slave-traders; and it was the opinion of our guides from Kangenke that so many of my companions would be demanded from me, in the same manner as the people of Njambi had done, that I should reach the coast without a single attendant; I therefore resolved to alter our course and strike away to the N.N.E., in the hope that at some point farther north I might find an exit to the Portuguese settlement of Cassange. We proceeded at first due north, with the Kasabi villages on our right, and the Kasau on our left. During the first twenty miles we crossed many small, but now swollen streams, having the usual boggy banks, and wherever the water had stood for any length of time it was discolored with rust of iron. We saw a “nakong” antelope one day, a rare sight in this quarter; and many new and pretty flowers adorned the valleys. We could observe the difference in the seasons in our northing in company with the sun. Summer was now nearly over at Kuruman, and far advanced at Linyanti, but here we were in the middle of it; fruits, which we had eaten ripe on the Leeambye, were here quite green; but we were coming into the region where the inhabitants are favored with two rainy seasons and two crops, i.e., when the sun is going south, and when he comes back on his way to the north, as was the case at present.
On the 8th, one of the men had left an ounce or two of powder at our sleeping-place, and went back several miles for it. My clothing being wet from crossing a stream, I was compelled to wait for him; had I been moving in the sun I should have felt no harm, but the inaction led to a violent fit of fever. The continuance of this attack was a source of much regret, for we went on next day to a small rivulet called Chihune, in a lovely valley, and had, for a wonder, a clear sky and a clear moon; but such was the confusion produced in my mind by the state of my body, that I could scarcely manage, after some hours’ trial, to get a lunar observation in which I could repose confidence. The Chihune flows into the Longe, and that into the Chihombo, a feeder of the Kasai. Those who know the difficulties of taking altitudes, times, and distances, and committing all of them to paper, will sympathize with me in this and many similar instances. While at Chihune, the men of a village brought wax for sale, and, on finding that we wished honey, went off and soon brought a hive. All the bees in the country are in possession of the natives, for they place hives sufficient for them all. After having ascertained this, we never attended the call of the honey-guide, for we were sure it would only lead us to a hive which we had no right to touch. The bird continues its habit of inviting attention to the honey, though its services in this district are never actually needed. My Makololo lamented that they never knew before that wax could be sold for any thing of value.
As we traverse a succession of open lawns and deep forests, it is interesting to observe something like instinct developed even in trees. One which, when cut, emits a milky juice, if met with on the open lawns, grows as an ordinary umbrageous tree, and shows no disposition to be a climber; when planted in a forest it still takes the same form, then sends out a climbing branch, which twines round another tree until it rises thirty or forty feet, or to the level of the other trees, and there spreads out a second crown where it can enjoy a fair share of the sun’s rays. In parts of the forest still more dense than this, it assumes the form of a climber only, and at once avails itself of the assistance of a tall neighbor by winding vigorously round it, without attempting to form a lower head. It does not succeed so well as parasites proper, but where forced to contend for space it may be mistaken for one which is invariably a climber. The paths here were very narrow and very much encumbered with gigantic creepers, often as thick as a man’s leg. There must be some reason why they prefer, in some districts, to go up trees in the common form of the thread of a screw rather than in any other. On the one bank of the Chihune they appeared to a person standing opposite them to wind up from left to right, on the other bank from right to left. I imagined this was owing to the sun being at one season of the year on their north and at another on their south. But on the Leeambye I observed creepers winding up on opposite sides of the same reed, and making a figure like the lacings of a sandal.
In passing through these narrow paths I had an opportunity of observing the peculiarities of my ox “Sinbad”. He had a softer back than the others, but a much more intractable temper. His horns were bent downward and hung loosely, so he could do no harm with them; but as we wended our way slowly along the narrow path, he would suddenly dart aside. A string tied to a stick put through the cartilage of the nose serves instead of a bridle: if you jerk this back, it makes him run faster on; if you pull it to one side, he allows the nose and head to go, but keeps the opposite eye directed to the forbidden spot, and goes in spite of you. The only way he can be brought to a stand is by a stroke with a wand across the nose. When Sinbad ran in below a climber stretched over the path so low that I could not stoop under it, I was dragged off and came down on the crown of my head; and he never allowed an opportunity of the kind to pass without trying to inflict a kick, as if I neither had nor deserved his love.
A remarkable peculiarity in the forests of this country is the absence of thorns: there are but two exceptions; one a tree bearing a species of ‘nux vomica’, and a small shrub very like the plant of the sarsaparilla, bearing, in addition to its hooked thorns, bunches of yellow berries. The thornlessness of the vegetation is especially noticeable to those who have been in the south, where there is so great a variety of thorn-bearing plants and trees. We have thorns of every size and shape; thorns straight, thin and long, short and thick, or hooked, and so strong as to be able to cut even leather like a knife. Seed-vessels are scattered every where by these appendages. One lies flat as a shilling with two thorns in its centre, ready to run into the foot of any animal that treads upon it, and stick there for days together. Another (the ‘Uncaria procumbens’, or Grapple-plant) has so many hooked thorns as to cling most tenaciously to any animal to which it may become attached; when it happens to lay hold of the mouth of an ox, the animal stands and roars with pain and a sense of helplessness.
Whenever a part of the forest has been cleared for a garden, and afterward abandoned, a species of plant, with leaves like those of ginger, springs up, and contends for the possession of the soil with a great crop of ferns. This is the case all the way down to Angola, and shows the great difference of climate between this and the Bechuana country, where a fern, except one or two hardy species, is never seen. The plants above mentioned bear a pretty pink flower close to the ground, which is succeeded by a scarlet fruit full of seeds, yielding, as so many fruits in this country do, a pleasant acid juice, which, like the rest, is probably intended as a corrective to the fluids of the system in the hot climate.
On leaving the Chihune we crossed the Longe, and, as the day was cloudy, our guides wandered in a forest away to the west till we came to the River Chihombo, flowing to the E.N.E. My men depended so much on the sun for guidance that, having seen nothing of the luminary all day, they thought we had wandered back to the Chiboque, and, as often happens when bewildered, they disputed as to the point where the sun should rise next morning. As soon as the rains would allow next day, we went off to the N.E. It would have been better to have traveled by compass alone, for the guides took advantage of any fears expressed by my people, and threatened to return if presents were not made at once. But my men had never left their own country before except for rapine and murder. When they formerly came to a village they were in the habit of killing numbers of the inhabitants, and then taking a few young men to serve as guides to the next place. As this was their first attempt at an opposite line of conduct, and as they were without their shields, they felt defenseless among the greedy Chiboque, and some allowance must be made for them on that account.
SATURDAY, 11TH. Reached a small village on the banks of a narrow stream. I was too ill to go out of my little covering except to quell a mutiny which began to show itself among some of the Batoka and Ambonda of our party. They grumbled, as they often do against their chiefs, when they think them partial in their gifts, because they supposed that I had shown a preference in the distribution of the beads; but the beads I had given to my principal men were only sufficient to purchase a scanty meal, and I had hastened on to this village in order to slaughter a tired ox, and give them all a feast as well as a rest on Sunday, as preparation for the journey before us. I explained this to them, and thought their grumbling was allayed. I soon sank into a state of stupor, which the fever sometimes produced, and was oblivious to all their noise in slaughtering. On Sunday the mutineers were making a terrible din in preparing a skin they had procured. I requested them twice, by the man who attended me, to be more quiet, as the noise pained me; but as they paid no attention to this civil request, I put out my head, and, repeating it myself, was answered by an impudent laugh. Knowing that discipline would be at an end if this mutiny were not quelled, and that our lives depended on vigorously upholding authority, I seized a double-barreled pistol, and darted forth from the domicile, looking, I suppose, so savage as to put them to a precipitate flight. As some remained within hearing, I told them that I must maintain discipline, though at the expense of some of their limbs; so long as we traveled together they must remember that I was master, and not they. There being but little room to doubt my determination, they immediately became very obedient, and never afterward gave me any trouble, or imagined that they had any right to my property.
13TH. We went forward some miles, but were brought to a stand by the severity of my fever on the banks of a branch of the Loajima, another tributary of the Kasai. I was in a state of partial coma until late at night, when it became necessary for me to go out; and I was surprised to find that my men had built a little stockade, and some of them took their spears and acted as a guard. I found that we were surrounded by enemies, and a party of Chiboque lay near the gateway, after having preferred the demand of “a man, an ox, a gun, or a tusk.” My men had prepared for defense in case of a night attack, and when the Chiboque wished to be shown where I lay sick, they very properly refused to point me out. In the morning I went out to the Chiboque, and found that they answered me civilly regarding my intentions in opening the country, teaching them, etc., etc. They admitted that their chiefs would be pleased with the prospect of friendship, and now only wished to exchange tokens of good-will with me, and offered three pigs, which they hoped I would accept. The people here are in the habit of making a present, and then demanding whatever they choose in return. We had been forewarned of this by our guides, so I tried to decline, by asking if they would eat one of the pigs in company with us. To this proposition they said that they durst not accede. I then accepted the present in the hope that the blame of deficient friendly feeling might not rest with me, and presented a razor, two bunches of beads, and twelve copper rings, contributed by my men from their arms. They went off to report to their chief; and as I was quite unable to move from excessive giddiness, we continued in the same spot on Tuesday evening, when they returned with a message couched in very plain terms, that a man, tusk, gun, or even an ox, alone would be acceptable; that he had every thing else in his possession but oxen, and that, whatever I should please to demand from him, he would gladly give it. As this was all said civilly, and there was no help for it if we refused but bloodshed, I gave a tired riding-ox. My late chief mutineer, an Ambonda man, was now over-loyal, for he armed himself and stood at the gateway. He would rather die than see his father imposed on; but I ordered Mosantu to take him out of the way, which he did promptly, and allowed the Chiboque to march off well pleased with their booty. I told my men that I esteemed one of their lives of more value than all the oxen we had, and that the only cause which could induce me to fight would be to save the lives and liberties of the majority. In the propriety of this they all agreed, and said that, if the Chiboque molested us who behaved so peaceably, the guilt would be on their heads. This is a favorite mode of expression throughout the whole country. All are anxious to give explanation of any acts they have performed, and conclude the narration with, “I have no guilt or blame” (“molatu”). “They have the guilt.” I never could be positive whether the idea in their minds is guilt in the sight of the Deity, or of mankind only.
Next morning the robber party came with about thirty yards of strong striped English calico, an axe, and two hoes for our acceptance, and returned the copper rings, as the chief was a great man, and did not need the ornaments of my men, but we noticed that they were taken back again. I divided the cloth among my men, and pleased them a little by thus compensating for the loss of the ox. I advised the chief, whose name we did not learn, as he did not deign to appear except under the alias Matiamvo, to get cattle for his own use, and expressed sorrow that I had none wherewith to enable him to make a commencement. Rains prevented our proceeding till Thursday morning, and then messengers appeared to tell us that their chief had learned that all the cloth sent by him had not been presented; that the copper rings had been secreted by the persons ordered to restore them to us, and that he had stripped the thievish emissaries of their property as a punishment. Our guides thought these were only spies of a larger party, concealed in the forest through which we were now about to pass. We prepared for defense by marching in a compact body, and allowing no one to straggle far behind the others. We marched through many miles of gloomy forest in gloomier silence, but nothing disturbed us. We came to a village, and found all the men absent, the guides thought, in the forest, with their countrymen. I was too ill to care much whether we were attacked or not. Though a pouring rain came on, as we were all anxious to get away out of a bad neighborhood, we proceeded. The thick atmosphere prevented my seeing the creeping plants in time to avoid them; so Pitsane, Mohorisi, and I, who alone were mounted, were often caught; and as there is no stopping the oxen when they have the prospect of giving the rider a tumble, we came frequently to the ground. In addition to these mishaps, Sinbad went off at a plunging gallop, the bridle broke, and I came down backward on the crown of my head. He gave me a kick on the thigh at the same time. I felt none the worse for this rough treatment, but would not recommend it to others as a palliative in cases of fever! This last attack of fever was so obstinate that it reduced me almost to a skeleton. The blanket which I used as a saddle on the back of the ox, being frequently wet, remained so beneath me even in the hot sun, and, aided by the heat of the ox, caused extensive abrasion of the skin, which was continually healing and getting sore again. To this inconvenience was now added the chafing of my projecting bones on the hard bed.
On Friday we came to a village of civil people on the banks of the Loajima itself, and we were wet all day in consequence of crossing it. The bridges over it, and another stream which we crossed at midday, were submerged, as we have hitherto invariably found, by a flood of perfectly clear water. At the second ford we were met by a hostile party who refused us further passage. I ordered my men to proceed in the same direction we had been pursuing, but our enemies spread themselves out in front of us with loud cries. Our numbers were about equal to theirs this time, so I moved on at the head of my men. Some ran off to other villages, or back to their own village, on pretense of getting ammunition; others called out that all traders came to them, and that we must do the same. As these people had plenty of iron-headed arrows and some guns, when we came to the edge of the forest I ordered my men to put the luggage in our centre; and, if our enemies did not fire, to cut down some young trees and make a screen as quickly as possible, but do nothing to them except in case of actual attack. I then dismounted, and, advancing a little toward our principal opponent, showed him how easily I could kill him, but pointed upward, saying, “I fear God.” He did the same, placing his hand on his heart, pointing upward, and saying, “I fear to kill; but come to our village; come — do come.” At this juncture, the old head man, Ionga Panza, a venerable negro, came up, and I invited him and all to be seated, that we might talk the matter over. Ionga Panza soon let us know that he thought himself very ill treated in being passed by. As most skirmishes arise from misunderstanding, this might have been a serious one; for, like all the tribes near the Portuguese settlements, people here imagine that they have a right to demand payment from every one who passes through the country; and now, though Ionga Panza was certainly no match for my men, yet they were determined not to forego their right without a struggle. I removed with my men to the vicinity of the village, thankful that no accident had as yet brought us into actual collision.
The reason why the people have imbibed the idea so strongly that they have a right to demand payment for leave to pass through the country is probably this. They have seen no traders except those either engaged in purchasing slaves, or who have slaves in their employment. These slave-traders have always been very much at the mercy of the chiefs through whose country they have passed; for if they afforded a ready asylum for runaway slaves, the traders might be deserted at any moment, and stripped of their property altogether. They are thus obliged to curry favor with the chiefs, so as to get a safe conduct from them. The same system is adopted to induce the chiefs to part with their people, whom all feel to be the real source of their importance in the country. On the return of the traders from the interior with chains of slaves, it is so easy for a chief who may be so disposed to take away a chain of eight or ten unresisting slaves, that the merchant is fain to give any amount of presents in order to secure the good-will of the rulers. The independent chiefs, not knowing why their favor is so eagerly sought, become excessively proud and supercilious in their demands, and look upon white men with the greatest contempt. To such lengths did the Bangala, a tribe near to which we had now approached, proceed a few years ago, that they compelled the Portuguese traders to pay for water, wood, and even grass, and every possible pretext was invented for levying fines; and these were patiently submitted to so long as the slave-trade continued to flourish. We had unconsciously come in contact with a system which was quite unknown in the country from which my men had set out. An English trader may there hear a demand for payment of guides, but never, so far as I am aware, is he asked to pay for leave to traverse a country. The idea does not seem to have entered the native mind, except through slave-traders, for the aborigines all acknowledge that the untilled land, not needed for pasturage, belongs to God alone, and that no harm is done by people passing through it. I rather believe that, wherever the slave-trade has not penetrated, the visits of strangers are esteemed a real privilege.
The village of old Ionga Panza (lat. 10° 25’ S., long. 20° 15’ E.) is small, and embowered in lofty evergreen trees, which were hung around with fine festoons of creepers. He sent us food immediately, and soon afterward a goat, which was considered a handsome gift, there being but few domestic animals, though the country is well adapted for them. I suspect this, like the country of Shinte and Katema, must have been a tsetse district, and only recently rendered capable of supporting other domestic animals besides the goat, by the destruction of the game through the extensive introduction of fire-arms. We might all have been as ignorant of the existence of this insect plague as the Portuguese, had it not been for the numerous migrations of pastoral tribes which took place in the south in consequence of Zulu irruptions.
During these exciting scenes I always forgot my fever, but a terrible sense of sinking came back with the feeling of safety. The same demand of payment for leave to pass was made on the 20th by old Ionga Panza as by the other Chiboque. I offered the shell presented by Shinte, but Ionga Panza said he was too old for ornaments. We might have succeeded very well with him, for he was by no means unreasonable, and had but a very small village of supporters; but our two guides from Kangenke complicated our difficulties by sending for a body of Bangala traders, with a view to force us to sell the tusks of Sekeletu, and pay them with the price. We offered to pay them handsomely if they would perform their promise of guiding us to Cassange, but they knew no more of the paths than we did; and my men had paid them repeatedly, and tried to get rid of them, but could not. They now joined with our enemies, and so did the traders. Two guns and some beads belonging to the latter were standing in our encampment, and the guides seized them and ran off. As my men knew that we should be called upon to replace them, they gave chase, and when the guides saw that they would be caught, they threw down the guns, directed their flight to the village, and rushed into a hut. The doorway is not much higher than that of a dog’s kennel. One of the guides was reached by one of my men as he was in the act of stooping to get in, and a cut was inflicted on a projecting part of the body which would have made any one in that posture wince. The guns were restored, but the beads were lost in the flight. All I had remaining of my stock of beads could not replace those lost; and though we explained that we had no part in the guilt of the act, the traders replied that we had brought the thieves into the country; these were of the Bangala, who had been accustomed to plague the Portuguese in the most vexatious way. We were striving to get a passage through the country, and, feeling anxious that no crime whatever should be laid to our charge, tried the conciliatory plan here, though we were not, as in the other instances, likely to be overpowered by numbers.
My men offered all their ornaments, and I offered all my beads and shirts; but, though we had come to the village against our will, and the guides had also followed us contrary to our desire, and had even sent for the Bangala traders without our knowledge or consent, yet matters could not be arranged without our giving an ox and one of the tusks. We were all becoming disheartened, and could not wonder that native expeditions from the interior to the coast had generally failed to reach their destinations. My people were now so much discouraged that some proposed to return home; the prospect of being obliged to return when just on the threshold of the Portuguese settlements distressed me exceedingly. After using all my powers of persuasion, I declared to them that if they returned I would go on alone, and went into my little tent with the mind directed to Him who hears the sighing of the soul, and was soon followed by the head of Mohorisi, saying, “We will never leave you. Do not be disheartened. Wherever you lead we will follow. Our remarks were made only on account of the injustice of these people.” Others followed, and with the most artless simplicity of manner told me to be comforted — “they were all my children; they knew no one but Sekeletu and me, and they would die for me; they had not fought because I did not wish it; they had just spoken in the bitterness of their spirit, and when feeling that they could do nothing; but if these enemies begin you will see what we can do.” One of the oxen we offered to the Chiboque had been rejected because he had lost part of his tail, as they thought that it had been cut off and witchcraft medicine inserted; and some mirth was excited by my proposing to raise a similar objection to all the oxen we still had in our possession. The remaining four soon presented a singular shortness of their caudal extremities, and though no one ever asked whether they had medicine in the stumps or no, we were no more troubled by the demand for an ox! We now slaughtered another ox, that the spectacle might not be seen of the owners of the cattle fasting while the Chiboque were feasting.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57