Guides prepaid — Bark Canoes — Deserted by Guides — Mistakes respecting the Coanza — Feelings of freed Slaves — Gardens and Villages — Native Traders — A Grave — Valley of the Quango — Bamboo — White Larvae used as Food — Bashinje Insolence — A posing Question — The Chief Sansawe — His Hostility — Pass him safely — The River Quango — Chief’s mode of dressing his Hair — Opposition — Opportune Aid by Cypriano — His generous Hospitality — Ability of Half-castes to read and write — Books and Images — Marauding Party burned in the Grass — Arrive at Cassange — A good Supper — Kindness of Captain Neves — Portuguese Curiosity and Questions — Anniversary of the Resurrection — No Prejudice against Color — Country around Cassange — Sell Sekeletu’s Ivory — Makololo’s Surprise at the high Price obtained — Proposal to return Home, and Reasons — Soldier-guide — Hill Kasala — Tala Mungongo, Village of — Civility of Basongo — True Negroes — A Field of Wheat — Carriers — Sleeping-places — Fever — Enter District of Ambaca — Good Fruits of Jesuit Teaching — The ‘Tampan’; its Bite — Universal Hospitality of the Portuguese — A Tale of the Mambari — Exhilarating Effects of Highland Scenery — District of Golungo Alto — Want of good Roads — Fertility — Forests of gigantic Timber — Native Carpenters — Coffee Estate — Sterility of Country near the Coast — Mosquitoes — Fears of the Makololo — Welcome by Mr. Gabriel to Loanda.
24TH. Ionga Panza’s sons agreed to act as guides into the territory of the Portuguese if I would give them the shell given by Shinte. I was strongly averse to this, and especially to give it beforehand, but yielded to the entreaty of my people to appear as if showing confidence in these hopeful youths. They urged that they wished to leave the shell with their wives, as a sort of payment to them for enduring their husbands’ absence so long. Having delivered the precious shell, we went west-by-north to the River Chikapa, which here (lat. 10° 22’ S.) is forty or fifty yards wide, and at present was deep; it was seen flowing over a rocky, broken cataract with great noise about half a mile above our ford. We were ferried over in a canoe, made out of a single piece of bark sewed together at the ends, and having sticks placed in it at different parts to act as ribs. The word Chikapa means bark or skin; and as this is the only river in which we saw this kind of canoe used, and we heard that this stream is so low during most of the year as to be easily fordable, it probably derives its name from the use made of the bark canoes when it is in flood. We now felt the loss of our pontoon, for the people to whom the canoe belonged made us pay once when we began to cross, then a second time when half of us were over, and a third time when all were over but my principal man Pitsane and myself. Loyanke took off his cloth and paid my passage with it. The Makololo always ferried their visitors over rivers without pay, and now began to remark that they must in future fleece the Mambari as these Chiboque had done to us; they had all been loud in condemnation of the meanness, and when I asked if they could descend to be equally mean, I was answered that they would only do it in revenge. They like to have a plausible excuse for meanness.
Next morning our guides went only about a mile, and then told us they would return home. I expected this when paying them beforehand, in accordance with the entreaties of the Makololo, who are rather ignorant of the world. Very energetic remonstrances were addressed to the guides, but they slipped off one by one in the thick forest through which we were passing, and I was glad to hear my companions coming to the conclusion that, as we were now in parts visited by traders, we did not require the guides, whose chief use had been to prevent misapprehension of our objects in the minds of the villagers. The country was somewhat more undulating now than it had been, and several fine small streams flowed in deep woody dells. The trees are very tall and straight, and the forests gloomy and damp; the ground in these solitudes is quite covered with yellow and brown mosses, and light-colored lichens clothe all the trees. The soil is extremely fertile, being generally a black loam covered with a thick crop of tall grasses. We passed several villages too. The head man of a large one scolded us well for passing, when he intended to give us food. Where slave-traders have been in the habit of coming, they present food, then demand three or four times its value as a custom. We were now rather glad to get past villages without intercourse with the inhabitants.
We were traveling W.N.W., and all the rivulets we here crossed had a northerly course, and were reported to fall into the Kasai or Loke; most of them had the peculiar boggy banks of the country. As we were now in the alleged latitude of the Coanza, I was much astonished at the entire absence of any knowledge of that river among the natives of this quarter. But I was then ignorant of the fact that the Coanza rises considerably to the west of this, and has a comparatively short course from its source to the sea.
The famous Dr. Lacerda seems to have labored under the same mistake as myself, for he recommended the government of Angola to establish a chain of forts along the banks of that river, with a view to communication with the opposite coast. As a chain of forts along its course would lead southward instead of eastward, we may infer that the geographical data within reach of that eminent man were no better than those according to which I had directed my course to the Coanza where it does not exist.
26TH. We spent Sunday on the banks of the Quilo or Kweelo, here a stream of about ten yards wide. It runs in a deep glen, the sides of which are almost five hundred yards of slope, and rocky, the rocks being hardened calcareous tufa lying on clay shale and sandstone below, with a capping of ferruginous conglomerate. The scenery would have been very pleasing, but fever took away much of the joy of life, and severe daily intermittents rendered me very weak and always glad to recline.
As we were now in the slave-market, it struck me that the sense of insecurity felt by the natives might account for the circumstance that those who have been sold as slaves and freed again, when questioned, profess to like the new state better than their primitive one. They lived on rich, fertile plains, which seldom inspire that love of country which the mountains do. If they had been mountaineers, they would have pined for home. To one who has observed the hard toil of the poor in old civilized countries, the state in which the inhabitants here live is one of glorious ease. The country is full of little villages. Food abounds, and very little labor is required for its cultivation; the soil is so rich that no manure is required; when a garden becomes too poor for good crops of maize, millet, etc., the owner removes a little farther into the forest, applies fire round the roots of the larger trees to kill them, cuts down the smaller, and a new, rich garden is ready for the seed. The gardens usually present the appearance of a large number of tall, dead trees standing without bark, and maize growing between them. The old gardens continue to yield manioc for years after the owners have removed to other spots for the sake of millet and maize. But, while vegetable aliment is abundant, there is a want of salt and animal food, so that numberless traps are seen, set for mice, in all the forests of Londa. The vegetable diet leaves great craving for flesh, and I have no doubt but that, when an ordinary quantity of mixed food is supplied to freed slaves, they actually do feel more comfortable than they did at home. Their assertions, however, mean but little, for they always try to give an answer to please, and if one showed them a nugget of gold, they would generally say that these abounded in their country.
One could detect, in passing, the variety of character found among the owners of gardens and villages. Some villages were the pictures of neatness. We entered others enveloped in a wilderness of weeds, so high that, when sitting on ox-back in the middle of the village, we could only see the tops of the huts. If we entered at midday, the owners would come lazily forth, pipe in hand, and leisurely puff away in dreamy indifference. In some villages weeds are not allowed to grow; cotton, tobacco, and different plants used as relishes are planted round the huts; fowls are kept in cages, and the gardens present the pleasant spectacle of different kinds of grain and pulse at various periods of their growth. I sometimes admired the one class, and at times wished I could have taken the world easy for a time like the other. Every village swarms with children, who turn out to see the white man pass, and run along with strange cries and antics; some run up trees to get a good view: all are agile climbers throughout Londa. At friendly villages they have scampered alongside our party for miles at a time. We usually made a little hedge around our sheds; crowds of women came to the entrance of it, with children on their backs, and long pipes in their mouths, gazing at us for hours. The men, rather than disturb them, crawled through a hole in the hedge, and it was common to hear a man in running off say to them, “I am going to tell my mamma to come and see the white man’s oxen.”
In continuing our W.N.W. course, we met many parties of native traders, each carrying some pieces of cloth and salt, with a few beads to barter for bees’-wax. They are all armed with Portuguese guns, and have cartridges with iron balls. When we meet we usually stand a few minutes. They present a little salt, and we give a bit of ox-hide, or some other trifle, and then part with mutual good wishes. The hide of the oxen we slaughtered had been a valuable addition to our resources, for we found it in so great repute for girdles all through Loanda that we cut up every skin into strips about two inches broad, and sold them for meal and manioc as we went along. As we came nearer Angola we found them of less value, as the people there possess cattle themselves.
The village on the Kweelo, at which we spent Sunday, was that of a civil, lively old man, called Sakandala, who offered no objections to our progress. We found we should soon enter on the territory of the Bashinje (Chinge of the Portuguese), who are mixed with another tribe, named Bangala, which have been at war with the Babindele or Portuguese. Rains and fever, as usual, helped to impede our progress until we were put on the path which leads from Cassange and Bihe to Matiamvo, by a head man named Kamboela. This was a well-beaten footpath, and soon after entering upon it we met a party of half-caste traders from Bihe, who confirmed the information we had already got of this path leading straight to Cassange, through which they had come on their way from Bihe to Cabango. They kindly presented my men with some tobacco, and marveled greatly when they found that I had never been able to teach myself to smoke. On parting with them we came to a trader’s grave. This was marked by a huge cone of sticks placed in the form of the roof of a hut, with a palisade around it. At an opening on the western side an ugly idol was placed: several strings of beads and bits of cloth were hung around. We learned that he had been a half-caste, who had died on his way back from Matiamvo.
As we were now alone, and sure of being on the way to the abodes of civilization, we went on briskly.
On the 30th we came to a sudden descent from the high land, indented by deep, narrow valleys, over which we had lately been traveling. It is generally so steep that it can only be descended at particular points, and even there I was obliged to dismount, though so weak that I had to be led by my companions to prevent my toppling over in walking down. It was annoying to feel myself so helpless, for I never liked to see a man, either sick or well, giving in effeminately. Below us lay the valley of the Quango. If you sit on the spot where Mary Queen of Scots viewed the battle of Langside, and look down on the vale of Clyde, you may see in miniature the glorious sight which a much greater and richer valley presented to our view. It is about a hundred miles broad, clothed with dark forest, except where the light green grass covers meadow-lands on the Quango, which here and there glances out in the sun as it wends its way to the north. The opposite side of this great valley appears like a range of lofty mountains, and the descent into it about a mile, which, measured perpendicularly, may be from a thousand to twelve hundred feet. Emerging from the gloomy forests of Londa, this magnificent prospect made us all feel as if a weight had been lifted off our eyelids. A cloud was passing across the middle of the valley, from which rolling thunder pealed, while above all was glorious sunlight; and when we went down to the part where we saw it passing, we found that a very heavy thunder-shower had fallen under the path of the cloud; and the bottom of the valley, which from above seemed quite smooth, we discovered to be intersected and furrowed by great numbers of deep-cut streams. Looking back from below, the descent appears as the edge of a table-land, with numerous indented dells and spurs jutting out all along, giving it a serrated appearance. Both the top and sides of the sierra are covered with trees, but large patches of the more perpendicular parts are bare, and exhibit the red soil, which is general over the region we have now entered.
The hollow affords a section of this part of the country; and we find that the uppermost stratum is the ferruginous conglomerate already mentioned. The matrix is rust of iron (or hydrous peroxide of iron and hematite), and in it are imbedded water-worn pebbles of sandstone and quartz. As this is the rock underlying the soil of a large part of Londa, its formation must have preceded the work of denudation by an arm of the sea, which washed away the enormous mass of matter required before the valley of Cassange could assume its present form. The strata under the conglomerate are all of red clay shale of different degrees of hardness, the most indurated being at the bottom. This red clay shale is named “keele” in Scotland, and has always been considered as an indication of gold; but the only thing we discovered was that it had given rise to a very slippery clay soil, so different from that which we had just left that Mashauana, who always prided himself on being an adept at balancing himself in the canoe on water, and so sure of foot on land that he could afford to express contempt for any one less gifted, came down in a very sudden and undignified manner, to the delight of all whom he had previously scolded for falling.
Here we met with the bamboo as thick as a man’s arm, and many new trees. Others, which we had lost sight of since leaving Shinte, now reappeared; but nothing struck us more than the comparative scragginess of the trees in this hollow. Those on the high lands we had left were tall and straight; here they were stunted, and not by any means so closely planted together. The only way I could account for this was by supposing, as the trees were of different species, that the greater altitude suited the nature of those above better than the lower altitude did the other species below.
SUNDAY, APRIL 2D. We rested beside a small stream, and our hunger being now very severe, from having lived on manioc alone since leaving Ionza Panza’s, we slaughtered one of our four remaining oxen. The people of this district seem to feel the craving for animal food as much as we did, for they spend much energy in digging large white larvae out of the damp soil adjacent to their streams, and use them as a relish to their vegetable diet. The Bashinje refused to sell any food for the poor old ornaments my men had now to offer. We could get neither meal nor manioc, but should have been comfortable had not the Bashinje chief Sansawe pestered us for the customary present. The native traders informed us that a display of force was often necessary before they could pass this man.
Sansawe, the chief of a portion of the Bashinje, having sent the usual formal demand for a man, an ox, or a tusk, spoke very contemptuously of the poor things we offered him instead. We told his messengers that the tusks were Sekeletu’s: every thing was gone except my instruments, which could be of no use to them whatever. One of them begged some meat, and, when it was refused, said to my men, “You may as well give it, for we shall take all after we have killed you to-morrow.” The more humbly we spoke, the more insolent the Bashinje became, till at last we were all feeling savage and sulky, but continued to speak as civilly as we could. They are fond of argument, and when I denied their right to demand tribute from a white man, who did not trade in slaves, an old white-headed negro put rather a posing question: “You know that God has placed chiefs among us whom we ought to support. How is it that you, who have a book that tells you about him, do not come forward at once to pay this chief tribute like every one else?” I replied by asking, “How could I know that this was a chief, who had allowed me to remain a day and a half near him without giving me any thing to eat?” This, which to the uninitiated may seem sophistry, was to the Central Africans quite a rational question, for he at once admitted that food ought to have been sent, and added that probably his chief was only making it ready for me, and that it would come soon.
After being wearied by talking all day to different parties sent by Sansawe, we were honored by a visit from himself: he is quite a young man, and of rather a pleasing countenance. There can not have been much intercourse between real Portuguese and these people even here, so close to the Quango, for Sansawe asked me to show him my hair, on the ground that, though he had heard of it, and some white men had even passed through his country, he had never seen straight hair before. This is quite possible, as most of the slave-traders are not Portuguese, but half-castes. The difference between their wool and our hair caused him to burst into a laugh, and the contrast between the exposed and unexposed parts of my skin, when exhibited in evidence of our all being made of one stock originally, and the children of one Maker, seemed to strike him with wonder. I then showed him my watch, and wished to win my way into his confidence by conversation; but, when about to exhibit my pocket compass, he desired me to desist, as he was afraid of my wonderful things. I told him, if he knew my aims as the tribes in the interior did, and as I hoped he would yet know them and me, he would be glad to stay, and see also the pictures of the magic lantern; but, as it was now getting dark, he had evidently got enough of my witchery, and began to use some charms to dispel any kindly feelings he might have found stealing round his heart. He asked leave to go, and when his party moved off a little way, he sent for my spokesman, and told him that, “if we did not add a red jacket and a man to our gift of a few copper rings and a few pounds of meat, we must return by the way we had come.” I said in reply “that we should certainly go forward next day, and if he commenced hostilities, the blame before God would be that of Sansawe;” and my man added of his own accord, “How many white men have you killed in this path?” which might be interpreted into, “You have never killed any white man, and you will find ours more difficult to manage than you imagine.” It expressed a determination, which we had often repeated to each other, to die rather than yield one of our party to be a slave.
Hunger has a powerful effect on the temper. When we had got a good meal of meat, we could all bear the petty annoyances of these borderers on the more civilized region in front with equanimity; but having suffered considerably of late, we were all rather soured in our feelings, and not unfrequently I overheard my companions remark in their own tongue, in answer to threats of attack, “That’s what we want: only begin then;” or with clenched teeth they would exclaim to each other, “These things have never traveled, and do not know what men are.” The worrying, of which I give only a slight sketch, had considerable influence on my own mind, and more especially as it was impossible to make any allowance for the Bashinje, such as I was willing to award to the Chiboque. They saw that we had nothing to give, nor would they be benefited in the least by enforcing the impudent order to return whence we had come. They were adding insult to injury, and this put us all into a fighting spirit, and, as nearly as we could judge, we expected to be obliged to cut our way through the Bashinje next morning.
3D APRIL. As soon as day dawned we were astir, and, setting off in a drizzling rain, passed close to the village. This rain probably damped the ardor of the robbers. We, however, expected to be fired upon from every clump of trees, or from some of the rocky hillocks among which we were passing; and it was only after two hours’ march that we began to breathe freely, and my men remarked, in thankfulness, “We are children of Jesus.” We continued our course, notwithstanding the rain, across the bottom of the Quango Valley, which we found broken by clay shale rocks jutting out, though lying nearly horizontally. The grass in all the hollows, at this time quite green, was about two feet higher than my head while sitting on ox-back. This grass, wetted by the rain, acted as a shower-bath on one side of our bodies; and some deep gullies, full of DISCOLORED water, completed the cooling process. We passed many villages during this drenching, one of which possessed a flock of sheep; and after six hours we came to a stand near the River Quango (lat. 9° 53’ S., long. 18° 37’ E.), which may be called the boundary of the Portuguese claims to territory on the west. As I had now no change of clothing, I was glad to cower under the shelter of my blanket, thankful to God for his goodness in bringing us so far without losing one of the party.
4TH APRIL. We were now on the banks of the Quango, a river one hundred and fifty yards wide, and very deep. The water was discolored — a circumstance which we had observed in no river in Londa or in the Makololo country. This fine river flows among extensive meadows clothed with gigantic grass and reeds, and in a direction nearly north.
The Quango is said by the natives to contain many venomous water-snakes, which congregate near the carcass of any hippopotamus that may be killed in it. If this is true, it may account for all the villages we saw being situated far from its banks. We were advised not to sleep near it; but, as we were anxious to cross to the western side, we tried to induce some of the Bashinje to lend us canoes for the purpose. This brought out the chief of these parts, who informed us that all the canoe-men were his children, and nothing could be done without his authority. He then made the usual demand for a man, an ox, or a gun, adding that otherwise we must return to the country from which we had come. As I did not believe that this man had any power over the canoes of the other side, and suspected that if I gave him my blanket — the only thing I now had in reserve — he might leave us in the lurch after all, I tried to persuade my men to go at once to the bank, about two miles off, and obtain possession of the canoes before we gave up the blanket; but they thought that this chief might attack us in the act of crossing, should we do so. The chief came himself to our encampment and made his demand again. My men stripped off the last of their copper rings and gave them; but he was still intent on a man. He thought, as others did, that my men were slaves. He was a young man, with his woolly hair elaborately dressed: that behind was made up into a cone, about eight inches in diameter at the base, carefully swathed round with red and black thread. As I resisted the proposal to deliver up my blanket until they had placed us on the western bank, this chief continued to worry us with his demands till I was tired. My little tent was now in tatters, and having a wider hole behind than the door in front, I tried in vain to lie down out of sight of our persecutors. We were on a reedy flat, and could not follow our usual plan of a small stockade, in which we had time to think over and concoct our plans. As I was trying to persuade my men to move on to the bank in spite of these people, a young half-caste Portuguese sergeant of militia, Cypriano di Abreu, made his appearance, and gave the same advice. He had come across the Quango in search of bees’-wax. When we moved off from the chief who had been plaguing us, his people opened a fire from our sheds, and continued to blaze away some time in the direction we were going, but none of the bullets reached us. It is probable that they expected a demonstration of the abundance of ammunition they possessed would make us run; but when we continued to move quietly to the ford, they proceeded no farther than our sleeping-place. Cypriano assisted us in making a more satisfactory arrangement with the ferrymen than parting with my blanket; and as soon as we reached the opposite bank we were in the territory of the Bangala, who are subjects of the Portuguese, and often spoken of as the Cassanges or Cassantse; and happily all our difficulties with the border tribes were at an end.
Passing with light hearts through the high grass by a narrow footpath for about three miles to the west of the river, we came to several neat square houses, with many cleanly-looking half-caste Portuguese standing in front of them to salute us. They are all enrolled in the militia, and our friend Cypriano is the commander of a division established here. The Bangala were very troublesome to the Portuguese traders, and at last proceeded so far as to kill one of them; the government of Angola then sent an expedition against them, which being successful, the Bangala were dispersed, and are now returning to their former abodes as vassals. The militia are quartered among them, and engage in trade and agriculture for their support, as no pay is given to this branch of the service by the government.
We came to the dwelling of Cypriano after dark, and I pitched my little tent in front of it for the night. We had the company of mosquitoes here. We never found them troublesome on the banks of the pure streams of Londa. On the morning of the 5th Cypriano generously supplied my men with pumpkins and maize, and then invited me to breakfast, which consisted of ground-nuts and roasted maize, then boiled manioc roots and ground-nuts, with guavas and honey as a dessert. I felt sincerely grateful for this magnificent breakfast.
At dinner Cypriano was equally bountiful, and several of his friends joined us in doing justice to his hospitality. Before eating, all had water poured on the hands by a female slave to wash them. One of the guests cut up a fowl with a knife and fork. Neither forks nor spoons were used in eating. The repast was partaken of with decency and good manners, and concluded by washing the hands as at first.
All of them could read and write with ease. I examined the books they possessed, and found a small work on medicine, a small cyclopaedia, and a Portuguese dictionary, in which the definition of a “priest” seemed strange to a Protestant, namely, “one who takes care of the conscience.” They had also a few tracts containing the Lives of the Saints, and Cypriano had three small wax images of saints in his room. One of these was St. Anthony, who, had he endured the privations he did in his cell in looking after these lost sheep, would have lived to better purpose. Neither Cypriano nor his companions knew what the Bible was, but they had relics in German-silver cases hung round their necks, to act as charms and save them from danger by land or by water, in the same way as the heathen have medicines. It is a pity that the Church to which they belong, when unable to attend to the wants of her children, does not give them the sacred writings in their own tongue; it would surely be better to see them good Protestants, if these would lead them to be so, than entirely ignorant of God’s message to man. For my part, I would much prefer to see the Africans good Roman Catholics than idolatrous heathen.
Much of the civility shown to us here was, no doubt, owing to the flattering letters of recommendation I carried from the Chevalier Du Prat, of Cape Town; but I am inclined to believe that my friend Cypriano was influenced, too, by feelings of genuine kindness, for he quite bared his garden in feeding us during the few days which I remained, anxiously expecting the clouds to disperse, so far as to allow of my taking observations for the determination of the position of the Quango. He slaughtered an ox for us, and furnished his mother and her maids with manioc roots, to prepare farina for the four or five days of our journey to Cassange, and never even hinted at payment. My wretched appearance must have excited his compassion. The farina is prepared by washing the roots well, then rasping them down to a pulp. Next, this is roasted slightly on a metal plate over a fire, and is then used with meat as a vegetable. It closely resembles wood-sawings, and on that account is named “wood-meal”. It is insipid, and employed to lick up any gravy remaining on one’s plate. Those who have become accustomed to it relish it even after they have returned to Europe.
The manioc cultivated here is of the sweet variety; the bitter, to which we were accustomed in Londa, is not to be found very extensively in this fertile valley. May is the beginning of winter, yet many of the inhabitants were busy planting maize; that which we were now eating was planted in the beginning of February. The soil is exceedingly fertile, of a dark red color, and covered with such a dense, heavy crop of coarse grass, that when a marauding party of Ambonda once came for plunder while it was in a dried state, the Bangala encircled the common enemy with a fire which completely destroyed them. This, which is related on the authority of Portuguese who were then in the country, I can easily believe to be true, for the stalks of the grass are generally as thick as goose-quills, and no flight could be made through the mass of grass in any direction where a footpath does not exist. Probably, in the case mentioned, the direction of the wind was such as to drive the flames across the paths, and prevent escape along them. On one occasion I nearly lost my wagon by fire, in a valley where the grass was only about three feet high. We were roused by the roar, as of a torrent, made by the fire coming from the windward. I immediately set fire to that on our leeward, and had just time to drag the wagon on to the bare space there before the windward flames reached the place where it had stood.
We were detained by rains and a desire to ascertain our geographical position till Monday, the 10th, and only got the latitude 9° 50’ S.; and, after three days’ pretty hard traveling through the long grass, reached Cassange, the farthest inland station of the Portuguese in Western Africa. We crossed several fine little streams running into the Quango; and as the grass continued to tower about two feet over our heads, it generally obstructed our view of the adjacent country, and sometimes hung over the path, making one side of the body wet with the dew every morning, or, when it rained, kept me wet during the whole day. I made my entrance in a somewhat forlorn state as to clothing among our Portuguese allies. The first gentleman I met in the village asked if I had a passport, and said it was necessary to take me before the authorities. As I was in the same state of mind in which individuals are who commit a petty depredation in order to obtain the shelter and food of a prison, I gladly accompanied him to the house of the commandant or Chefe, Senhor de Silva Rego. Having shown my passport to this gentleman, he politely asked me to supper, and, as we had eaten nothing except the farina of Cypriano from the Quango to this, I suspect I appeared particularly ravenous to the other gentlemen around the table. They seemed, however, to understand my position pretty well, from having all traveled extensively themselves; had they not been present, I might have put some in my pocket to eat by night; for, after fever, the appetite is excessively keen, and manioc is one of the most unsatisfying kinds of food. Captain Antonio Rodrigues Neves then kindly invited me to take up my abode in his house. Next morning this generous man arrayed me in decent clothing, and continued during the whole period of my stay to treat me as if I had been his brother. I feel deeply grateful to him for his disinterested kindness. He not only attended to my wants, but also furnished food for my famishing party free of charge.
The village of Cassange (pronounced Kassanje) is composed of thirty or forty traders’ houses, scattered about without any regularity, on an elevated flat spot in the great Quango or Cassange valley. They are built of wattle and daub, and surrounded by plantations of manioc, maize, etc. Behind them there are usually kitchen gardens, in which the common European vegetables, as potatoes, peas, cabbages, onions, tomatoes, etc., etc., grow. Guavas and bananas appear, from the size and abundance of the trees, to have been introduced many years ago, while the land was still in the possession of the natives; but pine-apples, orange, fig, and cashew trees have but lately been tried. There are about forty Portuguese traders in this district, all of whom are officers in the militia, and many of them have become rich from adopting the plan of sending out Pombeiros, or native traders, with large quantities of goods, to trade in the more remote parts of the country. Some of the governors of Loanda, the capital of this, the kingdom of Angola, have insisted on the observance of a law which, from motives of humanity, forbids the Portuguese themselves from passing beyond the boundary. They seem to have taken it for granted that, in cases where the white trader was killed, the aggression had been made by him, and they wished to avoid the necessity of punishing those who had been provoked to shed Portuguese blood. This indicates a much greater impartiality than has obtained in our own dealings with the Caffres, for we have engaged in most expensive wars with them without once inquiring whether any of the fault lay with our frontier colonists. The Cassange traders seem inclined to spread along the Quango, in spite of the desire of their government to keep them on one spot, for mutual protection in case of war. If I might judge from the week of feasting I passed among them, they are generally prosperous.
As I always preferred to appear in my own proper character, I was an object of curiosity to these hospitable Portuguese. They evidently looked upon me as an agent of the English government, engaged in some new movement for the suppression of slavery. They could not divine what a “missionario” had to do with the latitudes and longitudes, which I was intent on observing. When we became a little familiar, the questions put were rather amusing: “Is it common for missionaries to be doctors?” “Are you a doctor of medicine and a ‘doutor mathematico’ too? You must be more than a missionary to know how to calculate the longitude! Come, tell us at once what rank you hold in the English army.” They may have given credit to my reason for wearing the mustache, as that explains why men have beards and women have none; but that which puzzled many besides my Cassange friends was the anomaly of my being a “sacerdote”, with a wife and four children! I usually got rid of the last question by putting another: “Is it not better to have children with a wife, than to have children without a wife?” But all were most kind and hospitable; and as one of their festivals was near, they invited me to partake of the feast.
The anniversary of the Resurrection of our Savior was observed on the 16th of April as a day of rejoicing, though the Portuguese have no priests at Cassange. The colored population dressed up a figure intended to represent Judas Iscariot, and paraded him on a riding-ox about the village; sneers and maledictions were freely bestowed on the poor wretch thus represented. The slaves and free colored population, dressed in their gayest clothing, made visits to all the principal merchants, and wishing them “a good feast”, expected a present in return. This, though frequently granted in the shape of pieces of calico to make new dresses, was occasionally refused, but the rebuff did not much affect the petitioner.
At ten A.M. we went to the residence of the commandant, and on a signal being given, two of the four brass guns belonging to the government commenced firing, and continued some time, to the great admiration of my men, whose ideas of the power of a cannon are very exalted. The Portuguese flag was hoisted and trumpets sounded, as an expression of joy at the resurrection of our Lord. Captain Neves invited all the principal inhabitants of the place, and did what he could to feast them in a princely style. All manner of foreign preserved fruits and wine from Portugal, biscuits from America, butter from Cork, and beer from England, were displayed, and no expense spared in rendering the entertainment joyous. After the feast was over they sat down to the common amusement of card-playing, which continued till eleven o’clock at night. As far as a mere traveler could judge, they seemed to be polite and willing to aid each other. They live in a febrile district, and many of them had enlarged spleens. They have neither doctor, apothecary, school, nor priest, and, when taken ill, trust to each other and to Providence. As men left in such circumstances must think for themselves, they have all a good idea of what ought to be done in the common diseases of the country, and what they have of either medicine or skill they freely impart to each other.
None of these gentlemen had Portuguese wives. They usually come to Africa in order to make a little money, and return to Lisbon. Hence they seldom bring their wives with them, and never can be successful colonists in consequence. It is common for them to have families by native women. It was particularly gratifying to me, who had been familiar with the stupid prejudice against color, entertained only by those who are themselves becoming tawny, to view the liberality with which people of color were treated by the Portuguese. Instances, so common in the South, in which half-caste children are abandoned, are here extremely rare. They are acknowledged at table, and provided for by their fathers as if European. The colored clerks of the merchants sit at the same table with their employers without any embarrassment. The civil manners of superiors to inferiors is probably the result of the position they occupy — a few whites among thousands of blacks; but nowhere else in Africa is there so much good-will between Europeans and natives as here. If some border colonists had the absolute certainty of our government declining to bear them out in their arrogance, we should probably hear less of Caffre insolence. It is insolence which begets insolence.
From the village of Cassange we have a good view of the surrounding country: it is a gently undulating plain, covered with grass and patches of forest. The western edge of the Quango valley appears, about twenty miles off, as if it were a range of lofty mountains, and passes by the name of Tala Mungongo, “Behold the Range”. In the old Portuguese map, to which I had been trusting in planning my route, it is indicated as Talla Mugongo, or “Castle of Rocks!” and the Coanza is put down as rising therefrom; but here I was assured that the Coanza had its source near Bihe, far to the southwest of this, and we should not see that river till we came near Pungo Andonga. It is somewhat remarkable that more accurate information about this country has not been published. Captain Neves and others had a correct idea of the courses of the rivers, and communicated their knowledge freely; yet about this time maps were sent to Europe from Angola representing the Quango and Coanza as the same river, and Cassange placed about one hundred miles from its true position. The frequent recurrence of the same name has probably helped to increase the confusion. I have crossed several Quangos, but all insignificant, except that which drains this valley. The repetition of the favorite names of chiefs, as Catende, is also perplexing, as one Catende may be mistaken for another. To avoid this confusion as much as possible, I have refrained from introducing many names. Numerous villages are studded all over the valley; but these possess no permanence, and many more existed previous to the Portuguese expedition of 1850 to punish the Bangala.
This valley, as I have before remarked, is all fertile in the extreme. My men could never cease admiring its capability for raising their corn (‘Holcus sorghum’), and despising the comparatively limited cultivation of the inhabitants. The Portuguese informed me that no manure is ever needed, but that, the more the ground is tilled, the better it yields. Virgin soil does not give such a heavy crop as an old garden, and, judging from the size of the maize and manioc in the latter, I can readily believe the statement. Cattle do well, too. Viewing the valley as a whole, it may be said that its agricultural and pastoral riches are lying waste. Both the Portuguese and their descendants turn their attention almost exclusively to trade in wax and ivory, and though the country would yield any amount of corn and dairy produce, the native Portuguese live chiefly on manioc, and the Europeans purchase their flour, bread, butter, and cheese from the Americans.
As the traders of Cassange were the first white men we had come to, we sold the tusks belonging to Sekeletu, which had been brought to test the difference of prices in the Makololo and white men’s country. The result was highly satisfactory to my companions, as the Portuguese give much larger prices for ivory than traders from the Cape can possibly give, who labor under the disadvantage of considerable overland expenses and ruinous restrictions. Two muskets, three small barrels of gunpowder, and English calico and baize sufficient to clothe my whole party, with large bunches of beads, all for one tusk, were quite delightful for those who had been accustomed to give two tusks for one gun. With another tusk we procured calico, which here is the chief currency, to pay our way down to the coast. The remaining two were sold for money to purchase a horse for Sekeletu at Loanda.
The superiority of this new market was quite astounding to the Makololo, and they began to abuse the traders by whom they had, while in their own country, been visited, and, as they now declared, “cheated”. They had no idea of the value of time and carriage, and it was somewhat difficult for me to convince them that the reason of the difference of prices lay entirely in what they themselves had done in coming here, and that, if the Portuguese should carry goods to their country, they would by no means be so liberal in their prices. They imagined that, if the Cassange traders came to Linyanti, they would continue to vend their goods at Cassange prices. I believe I gave them at last a clear idea of the manner in which prices were regulated by the expenses incurred; and when we went to Loanda, and saw goods delivered at a still cheaper rate, they concluded that it would be better for them to come to that city, than to turn homeward at Cassange.
It was interesting for me to observe the effects of the restrictive policy pursued by the Cape government toward the Bechuanas. Like all other restrictions on trade, the law of preventing friendly tribes from purchasing arms and ammunition only injures the men who enforce it. The Cape government, as already observed, in order to gratify a company of independent Boers, whose well-known predilection for the practice of slavery caused them to stipulate that a number of peaceable, honest tribes should be kept defenseless, agreed to allow free trade in arms and ammunition to the Boers, and prevent the same trade to the Bechuanas. The Cape government thereby unintentionally aided, and continues to aid, the Boers to enslave the natives. But arms and ammunition flow in on all sides by new channels, and where formerly the price of a large tusk procured but one musket, one tusk of the same size now brings ten. The profits are reaped by other nations, and the only persons really the losers, in the long run, are our own Cape merchants, and a few defenseless tribes of Bechuanas on our immediate frontier.
Mr. Rego, the commandant, very handsomely offered me a soldier as a guard to Ambaca. My men told me that they had been thinking it would be better to turn back here, as they had been informed by the people of color at Cassange that I was leading them down to the sea-coast only to sell them, and they would be taken on board ship, fattened, and eaten, as the white men were cannibals. I asked if they had ever heard of an Englishman buying or selling people; if I had not refused to take a slave when she was offered to me by Shinte; but, as I had always behaved as an English teacher, if they now doubted my intentions, they had better not go to the coast; I, however, who expected to meet some of my countrymen there, was determined to go on. They replied that they only thought it right to tell me what had been told to them, but they did not intend to leave me, and would follow wherever I should lead the way. This affair being disposed of for the time, the commandant gave them an ox, and me a friendly dinner before parting. All the merchants of Cassange accompanied us, in their hammocks carried by slaves, to the edge of the plateau on which their village stands, and we parted with the feeling in my mind that I should never forget their disinterested kindness. They not only did every thing they could to make my men and me comfortable during our stay; but, there being no hotels in Loanda, they furnished me with letters of recommendation to their friends in that city, requesting them to receive me into their houses, for without these a stranger might find himself a lodger in the streets. May God remember them in their day of need!
The latitude and longitude of Cassange, the most easterly station of the Portuguese in Western Africa, is lat. 9° 37’ 30” S., and long. 17° 49’ E.; consequently we had still about 300 miles to traverse before we could reach the coast. We had a black militia corporal as a guide. He was a native of Ambaca, and, like nearly all the inhabitants of that district, known by the name of Ambakistas, could both read and write. He had three slaves with him, and was carried by them in a “tipoia”, or hammock slung to a pole. His slaves were young, and unable to convey him far at a time, but he was considerate enough to walk except when we came near to a village. He then mounted his tipoia and entered the village in state; his departure was made in the same manner, and he continued in the hammock till the village was out of sight. It was interesting to observe the manners of our soldier-guide. Two slaves were always employed in carrying his tipoia, and the third carried a wooden box, about three feet long, containing his writing materials, dishes, and clothing. He was cleanly in all his ways, and, though quite black himself, when he scolded any one of his own color, abused him as a “negro”. When he wanted to purchase any article from a village, he would sit down, mix a little gunpowder as ink, and write a note in a neat hand to ask the price, addressing it to the shopkeeper with the rather pompous title, “Illustrissimo Senhor” (Most Illustrious Sir). This is the invariable mode of address throughout Angola. The answer returned would be in the same style, and, if satisfactory, another note followed to conclude the bargain. There is so much of this note correspondence carried on in Angola, that a very large quantity of paper is annually consumed. Some other peculiarities of our guide were not so pleasing. A land of slaves is a bad school for even the free; and I was sorry to find less truthfulness and honesty in him than in my own people. We were often cheated through his connivance with the sellers of food, and could perceive that he got a share of the plunder from them. The food is very cheap, but it was generally made dear enough, until I refused to allow him to come near the place where we were bargaining. But he took us safely down to Ambaca, and I was glad to see, on my return to Cassange, that he was promoted to be sergeant-major of a company of militia.
Having left Cassange on the 21st, we passed across the remaining portion of this excessively fertile valley to the foot of Tala Mungongo. We crossed a fine little stream called the Lui on the 22d, and another named the Luare on the 24th, then slept at the bottom of the height, which is from a thousand to fifteen hundred feet. The clouds came floating along the valley, and broke against the sides of the ascent, and the dripping rain on the tall grass made the slaps in the face it gave, when the hand or a stick was not held up before it, any thing but agreeable. This edge of the valley is exactly like the other; jutting spurs and defiles give the red ascent the same serrated appearance as that which we descended from the highlands of Londa. The whole of this vast valley has been removed by denudation, for pieces of the plateau which once filled the now vacant space stand in it, and present the same structure of red horizontal strata of equal altitudes with those of the acclivity which we are now about to ascend. One of these insulated masses, named Kasala, bore E.S.E. from the place where we made our exit from the valley, and about ten miles W.S.W. from the village of Cassange. It is remarkable for its perpendicular sides; even the natives find it extremely difficult, almost impossible, to reach its summit, though there is the temptation of marabou-nests and feathers, which are highly prized. There is a small lake reported to exist on its southern end, and, during the rainy season, a sort of natural moat is formed around the bottom. What an acquisition this would have been in feudal times in England! There is land sufficient for considerable cultivation on the top, with almost perpendicular sides more than a thousand feet in height.
We had not yet got a clear idea of the nature of Tala Mungongo. A gentleman of Cassange described it as a range of very high mountains, which it would take four hours to climb; so, though the rain and grass had wetted us miserably, and I was suffering from an attack of fever got while observing by night for the position of Cassange, I eagerly commenced the ascent. The path was steep and slippery; deep gorges appear on each side of it, leaving but a narrow path along certain spurs of the sierra for the traveler; but we accomplished the ascent in an hour, and when there, found we had just got on to a table-land similar to that we had left before we entered the great Quango valley. We had come among lofty trees again. One of these, bearing a fruit about the size of a thirty-two pounder, is named Mononga-zambi.
We took a glance back to this valley, which equals that of the Mississippi in fertility, and thought of the vast mass of material which had been scooped out and carried away in its formation. This naturally led to reflection on the countless ages required for the previous formation and deposition of that same material (clay shale), then of the rocks, whose abrasion formed THAT, until the mind grew giddy in attempting to ascend the steps which lead up through a portion of the eternity before man. The different epochs of geology are like landmarks in that otherwise shoreless sea. Our own epoch, or creation, is but another added to the number of that wonderful series which presents a grand display of the mighty power of God: every stage of progress in the earth and its habitants is such a display. So far from this science having any tendency to make men undervalue the power or love of God, it leads to the probability that the exhibition of mercy we have in the gift of his Son may possibly not be the only manifestation of grace which has taken place in the countless ages during which works of creation have been going on.
Situated a few miles from the edge of the descent, we found the village of Tala Mungongo, and were kindly accommodated with a house to sleep in, which was very welcome, as we were all both wet and cold. We found that the greater altitude and the approach of winter lowered the temperature so much that many of my men suffered severely from colds. At this, as at several other Portuguese stations, they have been provident enough to erect travelers’ houses on the same principle as khans or caravanserais of the East. They are built of the usual wattle and daub, and have benches of rods for the wayfarer to make his bed on; also chairs, and a table, and a large jar of water. These benches, though far from luxurious couches, were better than the ground under the rotten fragments of my gipsy-tent, for we had still showers occasionally, and the dews were very heavy. I continued to use them for the sake of the shelter they afforded, until I found that they were lodgings also for certain inconvenient bedfellows.
27TH. Five hours’ ride through a pleasant country of forest and meadow, like those of Londa, brought us to a village of Basongo, a tribe living in subjection to the Portuguese. We crossed several little streams, which were flowing in the westerly direction in which we were marching, and unite to form the Quize, a feeder of the Coanza. The Basongo were very civil, as indeed all the tribes were who had been conquered by the Portuguese. The Basongo and Bangala are yet only partially subdued. The farther west we go from this, the less independent we find the black population, until we reach the vicinity of Loanda, where the free natives are nearly identical in their feelings toward the government with the slaves. But the governors of Angola wisely accept the limited allegiance and tribute rendered by the more distant tribes as better than none.
All the inhabitants of this region, as well as those of Londa, may be called true negroes, if the limitations formerly made be borne in mind. The dark color, thick lips, heads elongated backward and upward and covered with wool, flat noses, with other negro peculiarities, are general; but, while these characteristics place them in the true negro family, the reader would imbibe a wrong idea if he supposed that all these features combined are often met with in one individual. All have a certain thickness and prominence of lip, but many are met with in every village in whom thickness and projection are not more marked than in Europeans. All are dark, but the color is shaded off in different individuals from deep black to light yellow. As we go westward, we observe the light color predominating over the dark, and then again, when we come within the influence of damp from the sea air, we find the shade deepen into the general blackness of the coast population. The shape of the head, with its woolly crop, though general, is not universal. The tribes on the eastern side of the continent, as the Caffres, have heads finely developed and strongly European. Instances of this kind are frequently seen, and after I became so familiar with the dark color as to forget it in viewing the countenance, I was struck by the strong resemblance some natives bore to certain of our own notabilities. The Bushmen and Hottentots are exceptions to these remarks, for both the shape of their heads and growth of wool are peculiar; the latter, for instance, springs from the scalp in tufts with bare spaces between, and when the crop is short, resembles a number of black pepper-corns stuck on the skin, and very unlike the thick frizzly masses which cover the heads of the Balonda and Maravi. With every disposition to pay due deference to the opinions of those who have made ethnology their special study, I have felt myself unable to believe that the exaggerated features usually put forth as those of the typical negro characterize the majority of any nation of south Central Africa. The monuments of the ancient Egyptians seem to me to embody the ideal of the inhabitants of Londa better than the figures of any work of ethnology I have met with.
Passing through a fine, fertile, and well-peopled country to Sanza, we found the Quize River again touching our path, and here we had the pleasure of seeing a field of wheat growing luxuriantly without irrigation. The ears were upward of four inches long, an object of great curiosity to my companions, because they had tasted my bread at Linyanti, but had never before seen wheat growing. This small field was cultivated by Mr. Miland, an agreeable Portuguese merchant. His garden was interesting, as showing what the land at this elevation is capable of yielding; for, besides wheat, we saw European vegetables in a flourishing condition, and we afterward discovered that the coffee-plant has propagated itself on certain spots of this same district. It may be seen on the heights of Tala Mungongo, or nearly 300 miles from the west coast, where it was first introduced by the Jesuit missionaries.
We spent Sunday, the 30th of April, at Ngio, close to the ford of the Quize as it crosses our path to fall into the Coanza. The country becomes more open, but is still abundantly fertile, with a thick crop of grass between two and three feet high. It is also well wooded and watered. Villages of Basongo are dotted over the landscape, and frequently a square house of wattle and daub, belonging to native Portuguese, is placed beside them for the purposes of trade. The people here possess both cattle and pigs. The different sleeping-places on our path, from eight to ten miles apart, are marked by a cluster of sheds made of sticks and grass. There is a constant stream of people going and returning to and from the coast. The goods are carried on the head, or on one shoulder, in a sort of basket attached to the extremities of two poles between five and six feet long, and called Motete. When the basket is placed on the head, the poles project forward horizontally, and when the carrier wishes to rest himself, he plants them on the ground and the burden against a tree, so he is not obliged to lift it up from the ground to the level of the head. It stands against the tree propped up by the poles at that level. The carrier frequently plants the poles on the ground, and stands holding the burden until he has taken breath, thus avoiding the trouble of placing the burden on the ground and lifting it up again.
When a company of these carriers, or our own party, arrives at one of these sleeping-places, immediate possession is taken of the sheds. Those who come late, and find all occupied, must then erect others for themselves; but this is not difficult, for there is no lack of long grass. No sooner do any strangers appear at the spot, than the women may be seen emerging from their villages bearing baskets of manioc-meal, roots, ground-nuts, yams, bird’s-eye pepper, and garlic for sale. Calico, of which we had brought some from Cassange, is the chief medium of exchange. We found them all civil, and it was evident, from the amount of talking and laughing in bargaining, that the ladies enjoyed their occupation. They must cultivate largely, in order to be able to supply the constant succession of strangers. Those, however, near to the great line of road, purchase also much of the food from the more distant villages for the sake of gain.
Pitsane and another of the men had violent attacks of fever, and it was no wonder, for the dampness and evaporation from the ground was excessive. When at any time I attempted to get an observation of a star, if the trough of mercury were placed on the ground, so much moisture was condensed on the inside of the glass roof over it that it was with difficulty the reflection of the star could be seen. When the trough was placed on a box to prevent the moisture entering from below, so much dew was deposited on the outside of the roof that it was soon necessary, for the sake of distinct vision, to wipe the glass. This would not have been of great consequence, but a short exposure to this dew was so sure to bring on a fresh fever, that I was obliged to give up observations by night altogether. The inside of the only covering I now had was not much better, but under the blanket one is not so liable to the chill which the dew produces.
It would have afforded me pleasure to have cultivated a more intimate acquaintance with the inhabitants of this part of the country, but the vertigo produced by frequent fevers made it as much as I could do to stick on the ox and crawl along in misery. In crossing the Lombe, my ox Sinbad, in the indulgence of his propensity to strike out a new path for himself, plunged overhead into a deep hole, and so soused me that I was obliged to move on to dry my clothing, without calling on the Europeans who live on the bank. This I regretted, for all the Portuguese were very kind, and, like the Boers placed in similar circumstances, feel it a slight to be passed without a word of salutation. But we went on to a spot where orange-trees had been planted by the natives themselves, and where abundance of that refreshing fruit was exposed for sale.
On entering the district of Ambaca, we found the landscape enlivened by the appearance of lofty mountains in the distance, the grass comparatively short, and the whole country at this time looking gay and verdant. On our left we saw certain rocks of the same nature with those of Pungo Andongo, and which closely resemble the Stonehenge group on Salisbury Plain, only the stone pillars here are of gigantic size. This region is all wonderfully fertile, famed for raising cattle, and all kinds of agricultural produce, at a cheap rate. The soil contains sufficient ferruginous matter, to impart a red tinge to nearly the whole of it. It is supplied with a great number of little flowing streams which unite in the Lucalla. This river drains Ambaca, then falls into the Coanza to the southwest at Massangano. We crossed the Lucalla by means of a large canoe kept there by a man who farms the ferry from the government, and charges about a penny per head. A few miles beyond the Lucalla we came to the village of Ambaca, an important place in former times, but now a mere paltry village, beautifully situated on a little elevation in a plain surrounded on all hands by lofty mountains. It has a jail, and a good house for the commandant, but neither fort nor church, though the ruins of a place of worship are still standing.
We were most kindly received by the commandant of Ambaca, Arsenio de Carpo, who spoke a little English. He recommended wine for my debility, and here I took the first glass of that beverage I had taken in Africa. I felt much refreshed, and could then realize and meditate on the weakening effects of the fever. They were curious even to myself; for, though I had tried several times since we left Ngio to take lunar observations, I could not avoid confusion of time and distance, neither could I hold the instrument steady, nor perform a simple calculation; hence many of the positions of this part of the route were left till my return from Loanda. Often, on getting up in the mornings, I found my clothing as wet from perspiration as if it had been dipped in water. In vain had I tried to learn or collect words of the Bunda, or dialect spoken in Angola. I forgot the days of the week and the names of my companions, and, had I been asked, I probably could not have told my own. The complaint itself occupied many of my thoughts. One day I supposed that I had got the true theory of it, and would certainly cure the next attack, whether in myself or companions; but some new symptoms would appear, and scatter all the fine speculations which had sprung up, with extraordinary fertility, in one department of my brain.
This district is said to contain upward of 40,000 souls. Some ten or twelve miles to the north of the village of Ambaca there once stood the missionary station of Cahenda, and it is now quite astonishing to observe the great numbers who can read and write in this district. This is the fruit of the labors of the Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries, for they taught the people of Ambaca; and ever since the expulsion of the teachers by the Marquis of Pombal, the natives have continued to teach each other. These devoted men are still held in high estimation throughout the country to this day. All speak well of them (os padres Jesuitas); and, now that they are gone from this lower sphere, I could not help wishing that these our Roman Catholic fellow-Christians had felt it to be their duty to give the people the Bible, to be a light to their feet when the good men themselves were gone.
When sleeping in the house of the commandant, an insect, well known in the southern country by the name Tampan, bit my foot. It is a kind of tick, and chooses by preference the parts between the fingers or toes for inflicting its bite. It is seen from the size of a pin’s head to that of a pea, and is common in all the native huts in this country. It sucks the blood until quite full, and is then of a dark blue color, and its skin so tough and yielding that it is impossible to burst it by any amount of squeezing with the fingers. I had felt the effects of its bite in former years, and eschewed all native huts ever after; but as I was here again assailed in a European house, I shall detail the effects of the bite. These are a tingling sensation of mingled pain and itching, which commences ascending the limb until the poison imbibed reaches the abdomen, where it soon causes violent vomiting and purging. Where these effects do not follow, as we found afterward at Tete, fever sets in; and I was assured by intelligent Portuguese there that death has sometimes been the result of this fever. The anxiety my friends at Tete manifested to keep my men out of the reach of the tampans of the village made it evident that they had seen cause to dread this insignificant insect. The only inconvenience I afterward suffered from this bite was the continuance of the tingling sensation in the point bitten for about a week.
MAY 12TH. As we were about to start this morning, the commandant, Senhor Arsenio, provided bread and meat most bountifully for my use on the way to the next station, and sent two militia soldiers as guides, instead of our Cassange corporal, who left us here. About midday we asked for shelter from the sun in the house of Senhor Mellot, at Zangu, and, though I was unable to sit and engage in conversation, I found, on rising from his couch, that he had at once proceeded to cook a fowl for my use; and at parting he gave me a glass of wine, which prevented the violent fit of shivering I expected that afternoon. The universal hospitality of the Portuguese was most gratifying, as it was quite unexpected; and even now, as I copy my journal, I remember it all with a glow of gratitude.
We spent Sunday, the 14th of May, at Cabinda, which is one of the stations of the sub-commandants, who are placed at different points in each district of Angola as assistants of the head-commandant, or chefe. It is situated in a beautiful glen, and surrounded by plantations of bananas and manioc. The country was gradually becoming more picturesque the farther we proceeded west. The ranges of lofty blue mountains of Libollo, which, in coming toward Ambaca, we had seen thirty or forty miles to our south, were now shut from our view by others nearer at hand, and the gray ranges of Cahenda and Kiwe, which, while we were in Ambaca, stood clearly defined eight or ten miles off to the north, were now close upon our right. As we looked back toward the open pastoral country of Ambaca, the broad green gently undulating plains seemed in a hollow surrounded on all sides by rugged mountains, and as we went westward we were entering upon quite a wild-looking mountainous district, called Golungo Alto.
We met numbers of Mambari on their way back to Bihe. Some of them had belonged to the parties which had penetrated as far as Linyanti, and foolishly showed their displeasure at the prospect of the Makololo preferring to go to the coast markets themselves to intrusting them with their ivory. The Mambari repeated the tale of the mode in which the white men are said to trade. “The ivory is left on the shore in the evening, and next morning the seller finds a quantity of goods placed there in its stead by the white men who live in the sea.” “Now,” added they to my men, “how can you Makololo trade with these ‘Mermen’? Can you enter into the sea, and tell them to come ashore?” It was remarkable to hear this idea repeated so near the sea as we now were. My men replied that they only wanted to see for themselves; and, as they were now getting some light on the nature of the trade carried on by the Mambari, they were highly amused on perceiving the reasons why the Mambari would rather have met them on the Zambesi than so near the sea-coast.
There is something so exhilarating to one of Highland blood in being near or on high mountains, that I forgot my fever as we wended our way among the lofty tree-covered masses of mica schist which form the highlands around the romantic residence of the chefe of Golungo Alto. (Lat. 9° 8’ 30” S., long. 15° 2’ E.) The whole district is extremely beautiful. The hills are all bedecked with trees of various hues of foliage, and among them towers the graceful palm, which yields the oil of commerce for making our soaps, and the intoxicating toddy. Some clusters of hills look like the waves of the sea driven into a narrow open bay, and have assumed the same form as if, when all were chopping up perpendicularly, they had suddenly been congealed. The cottages of the natives, perched on the tops of many of the hillocks, looked as if the owners possessed an eye for the romantic, but they were probably influenced more by the desire to overlook their gardens, and keep their families out of the reach of the malaria, which is supposed to prevail most on the banks of the numerous little streams which run among the hills.
We were most kindly received by the commandant, Lieutenant Antonio Canto e Castro, a young gentleman whose whole subsequent conduct will ever make me regard him with great affection. Like every other person of intelligence whom I had met, he lamented deeply the neglect with which this fine country has been treated. This district contained by the last census 26,000 hearths or fires; and if to each hearth we reckon four souls, we have a population of 104,000. The number of carregadores (carriers) who may be ordered out at the pleasure of government to convey merchandise to the coast is in this district alone about 6000, yet there is no good road in existence. This system of compulsory carriage of merchandise was adopted in consequence of the increase in numbers and activity of our cruisers, which took place in 1845. Each trader who went, previous to that year, into the interior, in the pursuit of his calling, proceeded on the plan of purchasing ivory and beeswax, and a sufficient number of slaves to carry these commodities. The whole were intended for exportation as soon as the trader reached the coast. But when the more stringent measures of 1845 came into operation, and rendered the exportation of slaves almost impossible, there being no roads proper for the employment of wheel conveyances, this new system of compulsory carriage of ivory and beeswax to the coast was resorted to by the government of Loanda. A trader who requires two or three hundred carriers to convey his merchandise to the coast now applies to the general government for aid. An order is sent to the commandant of a district to furnish the number required. Each head man of the villages to whom the order is transmitted must furnish from five to twenty or thirty men, according to the proportion that his people bear to the entire population of the district. For this accommodation the trader must pay a tax to the government of 1000 reis, or about three shillings per load carried. The trader is obliged to pay the carrier also the sum of 50 reis, or about twopence a day, for his sustenance. And as a day’s journey is never more than from eight to ten miles, the expense which must be incurred for this compulsory labor is felt to be heavy by those who were accustomed to employ slave labor alone. Yet no effort has been made to form a great line of road for wheel carriages. The first great want of a country has not been attended to, and no development of its vast resources has taken place. The fact, however, of a change from one system of carriage to another, taken in connection with the great depreciation in the price of slaves near this coast, proves the effectiveness of our efforts at repressing the slave-trade on the ocean.
The latitude of Golungo Alto, as observed at the residence of the commandant, was 9° 8’ 30” S., longitude 15° 2’ E. A few days’ rest with this excellent young man enabled me to regain much of my strength, and I could look with pleasure on the luxuriant scenery before his door. We were quite shut in among green hills, many of which were cultivated up to their tops with manioc, coffee, cotton, ground-nuts, bananas, pine-apples, guavas, papaws, custard-apples, pitangas, and jambos, fruits brought from South America by the former missionaries. The high hills all around, with towering palms on many points, made this spot appear more like the Bay of Rio de Janeiro in miniature than any scene I ever saw; and all who have seen that confess it to be unequaled in the world beside. The fertility evident in every spot of this district was quite marvelous to behold, but I shall reserve further notices of this region till our return from Loanda.
We left Golungo Alto on the 24th of May, the winter in these parts. Every evening clouds come rolling in great masses over the mountains in the west, and pealing thunder accompanies the fall of rain during the night or early in the morning. The clouds generally remain on the hills till the morning is well spent, so that we become familiar with morning mists, a thing we never once saw at Kolobeng. The thermometer stands at 80° by day, but sinks as low as 76° by night.
In going westward we crossed several fine little gushing streams which never dry. They unite in the Luinha (pronounced Lueenya) and Lucalla. As they flow over many little cascades, they might easily be turned to good account, but they are all allowed to run on idly to the ocean. We passed through forests of gigantic timber, and at an open space named Cambondo, about eight miles from Golungo Alto, found numbers of carpenters converting these lofty trees into planks, in exactly the same manner as was followed by the illustrious Robinson Crusoe. A tree of three or four feet in diameter, and forty or fifty feet up to the nearest branches, was felled. It was then cut into lengths of a few feet, and split into thick junks, which again were reduced to planks an inch thick by persevering labor with the axe. The object of the carpenters was to make little chests, and they drive a constant trade in them at Cambondo. When finished with hinges, lock, and key, all of their own manufacture, one costs only a shilling and eightpence. My men were so delighted with them that they carried several of them on their heads all the way to Linyanti.
At Trombeta we were pleased to observe a great deal of taste displayed by the sub-commandant in the laying out of his ground and adornment of his house with flowers. This trifling incident was the more pleasing, as it was the first attempt at neatness I had seen since leaving the establishment of Mozinkwa in Londa. Rows of trees had been planted along each side of the road, with pine-apples and flowers between. This arrangement I had an opportunity of seeing in several other districts of this country, for there is no difficulty in raising any plant or tree if it is only kept from being choked by weeds.
This gentleman had now a fine estate, which but a few years ago was a forest, and cost him only £16. He had planted about 900 coffee-trees upon it, and as these begin to yield in three years from being planted, and in six attain their maximum, I have no doubt but that ere now his £16 yields him sixty fold. All sorts of fruit-trees and grape-vines yield their fruit twice in each year, without any labor or irrigation being bestowed on them. All grains and vegetables, if only sown, do the same; and if advantage is taken of the mists of winter, even three crops of pulse may be raised. Cotton was now standing in the pods in his fields, and he did not seem to care about it. I understood him to say that this last plant flourishes, but the wet of one of the two rainy seasons with which this country is favored sometimes proves troublesome to the grower. I am not aware whether wheat has ever been tried, but I saw both figs and grapes bearing well. The great complaint of all cultivators is the want of a good road to carry their produce to market. Here all kinds of food are remarkably cheap.
Farther on we left the mountainous country, and, as we descended toward the west coast, saw the lands assuming a more sterile, uninviting aspect. On our right ran the River Senza, which nearer the sea takes the name of Bengo. It is about fifty yards broad, and navigable for canoes. The low plains adjacent to its banks are protected from inundation by embankments, and the population is entirely occupied in raising food and fruits for exportation to Loanda by means of canoes. The banks are infested by myriads of the most ferocious mosquitoes I ever met. Not one of our party could get a snatch of sleep. I was taken into the house of a Portuguese, but was soon glad to make my escape and lie across the path on the lee side of the fire, where the smoke blew over my body. My host wondered at my want of taste, and I at his want of feeling; for, to our astonishment, he and the other inhabitants had actually become used to what was at least equal to a nail through the heel of one’s boot, or the tooth-ache.
As we were now drawing near to the sea, my companions were looking at every thing in a serious light. One of them asked me if we should all have an opportunity of watching each other at Loanda. “Suppose one went for water, would the others see if he were kidnapped?” I replied, “I see what you are driving at; and if you suspect me, you may return, for I am as ignorant of Loanda as you are; but nothing will happen to you but what happens to myself. We have stood by each other hitherto, and will do so to the last.” The plains adjacent to Loanda are somewhat elevated and comparatively sterile. On coming across these we first beheld the sea: my companions looked upon the boundless ocean with awe. On describing their feelings afterward, they remarked that “we marched along with our father, believing that what the ancients had always told us was true, that the world has no end; but all at once the world said to us, ‘I am finished; there is no more of me!’” They had always imagined that the world was one extended plain without limit.
They were now somewhat apprehensive of suffering want, and I was unable to allay their fears with any promise of supply, for my own mind was depressed by disease and care. The fever had induced a state of chronic dysentery, so troublesome that I could not remain on the ox more than ten minutes at a time; and as we came down the declivity above the city of Loanda on the 31st of May, I was laboring under great depression of spirits, as I understood that, in a population of twelve thousand souls, there was but one genuine English gentleman. I naturally felt anxious to know whether he were possessed of good-nature, or was one of those crusty mortals one would rather not meet at all.
This gentleman, Mr. Gabriel, our commissioner for the suppression of the slave-trade, had kindly forwarded an invitation to meet me on the way from Cassange, but, unfortunately, it crossed me on the road. When we entered his porch, I was delighted to see a number of flowers cultivated carefully, and inferred from this circumstance that he was, what I soon discovered him to be, a real whole-hearted Englishman.
Seeing me ill, he benevolently offered me his bed. Never shall I forget the luxurious pleasure I enjoyed in feeling myself again on a good English couch, after six months’ sleeping on the ground. I was soon asleep; and Mr. Gabriel, coming in almost immediately, rejoiced at the soundness of my repose.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52