Colony of Birds called Linkololo — The Village of Chitlane — Murder of Mpololo’s Daughter — Execution of the Murderer and his Wife — My Companions find that their Wives have married other Husbands — Sunday — A Party from Masiko — Freedom of Speech — Canoe struck by a Hippopotamus — Gonye — Appearance of Trees at the end of Winter — Murky Atmosphere — Surprising Amount of organic Life — Hornets — The Packages forwarded by Mr. Moffat — Makololo Suspicions and Reply to the Matebele who brought them — Convey the Goods to an Island and build a Hut over them — Ascertain that Sir R. Murchison had recognized the true Form of African Continent — Arrival at Linyanti — A grand Picho — Shrewd Inquiry — Sekeletu in his Uniform — A Trading-party sent to Loanda with Ivory — Mr. Gabriel’s Kindness to them — Difficulties in Trading — Two Makololo Forays during our Absence — Report of the Country to the N.E. — Death of influential Men — The Makololo desire to be nearer the Market — Opinions upon a Change of Residence — Climate of Barotse Valley — Diseases — Author’s Fevers not a fair Criterion in the Matter — The Interior an inviting Field for the Philanthropist — Consultations about a Path to the East Coast — Decide on descending North Bank of Zambesi — Wait for the Rainy Season — Native way of spending Time during the period of greatest Heat — Favorable Opening for Missionary Enterprise — Ben Habib wishes to marry — A Maiden’s Choice — Sekeletu’s Hospitality — Sulphureted Hydrogen and Malaria — Conversations with Makololo — Their moral Character and Conduct — Sekeletu wishes to purchase a Sugar-mill, etc. — The Donkeys — Influence among the Natives — “Food fit for a Chief” — Parting Words of Mamire — Motibe’s Excuses.
On the 31st of July we parted with our kind Libonta friends. We planted some of our palm-tree seeds in different villages of this valley. They began to sprout even while we were there, but, unfortunately, they were always destroyed by the mice which swarm in every hut.
At Chitlane’s village we collected the young of a colony of the linkololo (‘Anastomus lamalligerus’), a black, long-legged bird, somewhat larger than a crow, which lives on shellfish (‘Ampullaria’), and breeds in society at certain localities among the reeds. These places are well known, as they continue there from year to year, and belong to the chiefs, who at particular times of the year gather most of the young. The produce of this “harvest”, as they call it, which was presented to me, was a hundred and seventy-five unfledged birds. They had been rather late in collecting them, in consequence of waiting for the arrival of Mpololo, who acts the part of chief, but gave them to me, knowing that this would be pleasing to him, otherwise this colony would have yielded double the amount. The old ones appear along the Leeambye in vast flocks, and look lean and scraggy. The young are very fat, and, when roasted, are esteemed one of the dainties of the Barotse valley. In presents of this kind, as well as of oxen, it is a sort of feast of joy, the person to whom they are presented having the honor of distributing the materials of the feast. We generally slaughtered every ox at the village where it was presented, and then our friends and we rejoiced together.
The village of Chitlane is situated, like all others in the Barotse valley, on an eminence, over which floods do not rise; but this last year the water approached nearer to an entire submergence of the whole valley than has been known in the memory of man. Great numbers of people were now suffering from sickness, which always prevails when the waters are drying up, and I found much demand for the medicines I had brought from Loanda. The great variation of the temperature each day must have a trying effect upon the health. At this village there is a real Indian banian-tree, which has spread itself over a considerable space by means of roots from its branches; it has been termed, in consequence, “the tree with legs” (more oa maotu). It is curious that trees of this family are looked upon with veneration, and all the way from the Barotse to Loanda are thought to be preservatives from evil.
On reaching Naliele on the 1st of August we found Mpololo in great affliction on account of the death of his daughter and her child. She had been lately confined; and her father naturally remembered her when an ox was slaughtered, or when the tribute of other food, which he receives in lieu of Sekeletu, came in his way, and sent frequent presents to her. This moved the envy of one of the Makololo who hated Mpololo, and, wishing to vex him, he entered the daughter’s hut by night, and strangled both her and her child. He then tried to make fire in the hut and burn it, so that the murder might not be known; but the squeaking noise of rubbing the sticks awakened a servant, and the murderer was detected. Both he and his wife were thrown into the river; the latter having “known of her husband’s intentions, and not revealing them.” She declared she had dissuaded him from the crime, and, had any one interposed a word, she might have been spared.
Mpololo exerted himself in every way to supply us with other canoes, and we left Shinte’s with him. The Mambowe were well received, and departed with friendly messages to their chief Masiko. My men were exceedingly delighted with the cordial reception we met with every where; but a source of annoyance was found where it was not expected. Many of their wives had married other men during our two years’ absence. Mashauana’s wife, who had borne him two children, was among the number. He wished to appear not to feel it much, saying, “Why, wives are as plentiful as grass, and I can get another: she may go;” but he would add, “If I had that fellow, I would open his ears for him.” As most of them had more wives than one, I tried to console them by saying that they had still more than I had, and that they had enough yet; but they felt the reflection to be galling, that while they were toiling, another had been devouring their corn. Some of their wives came with very young infants in their arms. This excited no discontent; and for some I had to speak to the chief to order the men, who had married the only wives some of my companions ever had, to restore them.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 5TH. A large audience listened most attentively to my morning address. Surely some will remember the ideas conveyed, and pray to our merciful Father, who would never have thought of Him but for this visit. The invariably kind and respectful treatment I have received from these, and many other heathen tribes in this central country, together with the attentive observations of many years, have led me to the belief that, if one exerts himself for their good, he will never be ill treated. There may be opposition to his doctrine, but none to the man himself.
While still at Naliele, a party which had been sent after me by Masiko arrived. He was much disappointed because I had not visited him. They brought an elephant’s tusk, two calabashes of honey, two baskets of maize, and one of ground-nuts, as a present. Masiko wished to say that he had followed the injunction which I had given as the will of God, and lived in peace until his brother Limboa came, captured his women as they went to their gardens, and then appeared before his stockade. Masiko offered to lead his men out; but they objected, saying, “Let us servants be killed, you must not be slain.” Those who said this were young Barotse who had been drilled to fighting by Sebituane, and used shields of ox-hide. They beat off the party of Limboa, ten being wounded, and ten slain in the engagement. Limboa subsequently sent three slaves as a self-imposed fine to Masiko for attacking him. I succeeded in getting the Makololo to treat the messengers of Masiko well, though, as they regarded them as rebels, it was somewhat against the grain at first to speak civilly to them.
Mpololo, attempting to justify an opposite line of conduct, told me how they had fled from Sebituane, even though he had given them numbers of cattle after their subjection by his arms, and was rather surprised to find that I was disposed to think more highly of them for having asserted their independence, even at the loss of milk. For this food, all who have been accustomed to it from infancy in Africa have an excessive longing. I pointed out how they might be mutually beneficial to each other by the exchange of canoes and cattle.
There are some very old Barotse living here who were the companions of the old chief Santuru. These men, protected by their age, were very free in their comments on the “upstart” Makololo. One of them, for instance, interrupted my conversation one day with some Makololo gentlemen with the advice “not to believe them, for they were only a set of thieves;” and it was taken in quite a good-natured way. It is remarkable that none of the ancients here had any tradition of an earthquake having occurred in this region. Their quick perception of events recognizable by the senses, and retentiveness of memory, render it probable that no perceptible movement of the earth has taken place between 7° and 27° S. in the centre of the continent during the last two centuries at least. There is no appearance of recent fracture or disturbance of rocks to be seen in the central country, except the falls of Gonye; nor is there any evidence or tradition of hurricanes.
I left Naliele on the 13th of August, and, when proceeding along the shore at midday, a hippopotamus struck the canoe with her forehead, lifting one half of it quite out of the water, so as nearly to overturn it. The force of the butt she gave tilted Mashauana out into the river; the rest of us sprang to the shore, which was only about ten yards off. Glancing back, I saw her come to the surface a short way off, and look to the canoe, as if to see if she had done much mischief. It was a female, whose young one had been speared the day before. No damage was done except wetting person and goods. This is so unusual an occurrence, when the precaution is taken to coast along the shore, that my men exclaimed, “Is the beast mad?” There were eight of us in the canoe at the time, and the shake it received shows the immense power of this animal in the water.
On reaching Gonye, Mokwala, the head man, having presented me with a tusk, I gave it to Pitsane, as he was eagerly collecting ivory for the Loanda market. The rocks of Gonye are reddish gray sandstone, nearly horizontal, and perforated by madrepores, the holes showing the course of the insect in different directions. The rock itself has been impregnated with iron, and that hardened, forms a glaze on the surface — an appearance common to many of the rocks of this country.
AUGUST 22D. This is the end of winter. The trees which line the banks begin to bud and blossom, and there is some show of the influence of the new sap, which will soon end in buds that push off the old foliage by assuming a very bright orange color. This orange is so bright that I mistook it for masses of yellow blossom. There is every variety of shade in the leaves — yellow, purple, copper, liver-color, and even inky black.
Having got the loan of other canoes from Mpololo, and three oxen as provision for the way, which made the number we had been presented with in the Barotse valley amount to thirteen, we proceeded down the river toward Sesheke, and were as much struck as formerly with the noble river. The whole scenery is lovely, though the atmosphere is murky in consequence of the continuance of the smoky tinge of winter.
This peculiar tinge of the atmosphere was observed every winter at Kolobeng, but it was not so observable in Londa as in the south, though I had always considered that it was owing to the extensive burnings of the grass, in which hundreds of miles of pasturage are annually consumed. As the quantity burned in the north is very much greater than in the south, and the smoky tinge of winter was not observed, some other explanation than these burnings must be sought for. I have sometimes imagined that the lowering of the temperature in the winter rendered the vapor in the upper current of air visible, and imparted this hazy appearance.
The amount of organic life is surprising. At the time the river begins to rise, the ‘Ibis religiosa’ comes down in flocks of fifties, with prodigious numbers of other water-fowl. Some of the sand-banks appear whitened during the day with flocks of pelicans — I once counted three hundred; others are brown with ducks (‘Anas histrionica’) — I got fourteen of these by one shot (‘Querquedula Hottentota’, Smith), and other kinds. Great numbers of gulls (‘Procellaria turtur’, Smith), and several others, float over the surface. The vast quantity of small birds, which feed on insects, show that the river teems also with specimens of minute organic life. In walking among bushes on the banks we are occasionally stung by a hornet, which makes its nest in form like that of our own wasp, and hangs it on the branches of trees. The breeding storgh42 is so strong in this insect that it pursues any one twenty or thirty yards who happens to brush too closely past its nest. The sting, which it tries to inflict near the eye, is more like a discharge of electricity from a powerful machine, or a violent blow, than aught else. It produces momentary insensibility, and is followed by the most pungent pain. Yet this insect is quite timid when away from its nest. It is named Murotuani by the Bechuanas.
42 (Greek) sigma-tau-omicron-rho-gamma-eta.
We have tsetse between Nameta and Sekhosi. An insect of prey, about an inch in length, long-legged and gaunt-looking, may be observed flying about and lighting upon the bare ground. It is a tiger in its way, for it springs upon tsetse and other flies, and, sucking out their blood, throws the bodies aside.
Long before reaching Sesheke we had been informed that a party of Matebele, the people of Mosilikatse, had brought some packages of goods for me to the south bank of the river, near the Victoria Falls, and, though they declared that they had been sent by Mr. Moffat, the Makololo had refused to credit the statement of their sworn enemies. They imagined that the parcels were directed to me as a mere trick, whereby to place witchcraft-medicine into the hands of the Makololo. When the Matebele on the south bank called to the Makololo on the north to come over in canoes and receive the goods sent by Moffat to “Nake”, the Makololo replied, “Go along with you, we know better than that; how could he tell Moffat to send his things here, he having gone away to the north?” The Matebele answered, “Here are the goods; we place them now before you, and if you leave them to perish the guilt will be yours.” When they had departed the Makololo thought better of it, and, after much divination, went over with fear and trembling, and carried the packages carefully to an island in the middle of the stream; then, building a hut over them to protect them from the weather, they left them; and there I found they had remained from September, 1854, till September, 1855, in perfect safety. Here, as I had often experienced before, I found the news was very old, and had lost much of its interest by keeping, but there were some good eatables from Mrs. Moffat. Among other things, I discovered that my friend, Sir Roderick Murchison, while in his study in London, had arrived at the same conclusion respecting the form of the African continent as I had lately come to on the spot (see note p. 512 [footnote to Chapter 24 Paragraph 7]); and that, from the attentive study of the geological map of Mr. Bain and other materials, some of which were furnished by the discoveries of Mr. Oswell and myself, he had not only clearly enunciated the peculiar configuration as an hypothesis in his discourse before the Geographical Society in 1852, but had even the assurance to send me out a copy for my information! There was not much use in nursing my chagrin at being thus fairly “cut out” by the man who had foretold the existence of the Australian gold before its discovery, for here it was in black and white. In his easy-chair he had forestalled me by three years, though I had been working hard through jungle, marsh, and fever, and, since the light dawned on my mind at Dilolo, had been cherishing the pleasing delusion that I should be the first to suggest the idea that the interior of Africa was a watery plateau of less elevation than flanking hilly ranges.
Having waited a few days at Sesheke till the horses which we had left at Linyanti should arrive, we proceeded to that town, and found the wagon, and every thing we had left in November, 1853, perfectly safe. A grand meeting of all the people was called to receive our report, and the articles which had been sent by the governor and merchants of Loanda. I explained that none of these were my property, but that they were sent to show the friendly feelings of the white men, and their eagerness to enter into commercial relations with the Makololo. I then requested my companions to give a true account of what they had seen. The wonderful things lost nothing in the telling, the climax always being that they had finished the whole world, and had turned only when there was no more land. One glib old gentleman asked, “Then you reached Ma Robert (Mrs. L.)?” They were obliged to confess that she lived a little beyond the world. The presents were received with expressions of great satisfaction and delight; and on Sunday, when Sekeletu made his appearance at church in his uniform, it attracted more attention than the sermon; and the kind expressions they made use of respecting myself were so very flattering that I felt inclined to shut my eyes. Their private opinion must have tallied with their public report, for I very soon received offers from volunteers to accompany me to the east coast. They said they wished to be able to return and relate strange things like my recent companions; and Sekeletu immediately made arrangements with the Arab Ben Habib to conduct a fresh party with a load of ivory to Loanda. These, he said, must go with him and learn to trade: they were not to have any thing to do in the disposal of the ivory, but simply look and learn. My companions were to remain and rest themselves, and then return to Loanda when the others had come home. Sekeletu consulted me as to sending presents back to the governor and merchants of Loanda, but, not possessing much confidence in this Arab, I advised him to send a present by Pitsane, as he knew who ought to receive it.
Since my arrival in England, information has been received from Mr. Gabriel that this party had arrived on the west coast, but that the ivory had been disposed of to some Portuguese merchants in the interior, and the men had been obliged to carry it down to Loanda. They had not been introduced to Mr. Gabriel, but that gentleman, having learned that they were in the city, went to them, and pronounced the names Pitsane, Mashauana, when all started up and crowded round him. When Mr. G. obtained an interpreter, he learned that they had been ordered by Sekeletu to be sure and go to my brother, as he termed him. Mr. G. behaved in the same liberal manner as he had done to my companions, and they departed for their distant home after bidding him a formal and affectionate adieu.
It was to be expected that they would be imposed upon in their first attempt at trading, but I believe that this could not be so easily repeated. It is, however, unfortunate that in dealing with the natives in the interior there is no attempt made at the establishment of fair prices. The trader shows a quantity of goods, the native asks for more, and more is given. The native, being ignorant of the value of the goods or of his ivory, tries what another demand will bring. After some haggling, an addition is made, and that bargain is concluded to the satisfaction of both parties. Another trader comes, and perhaps offers more than the first; the customary demand for an addition is made, and he yields. The natives by this time are beginning to believe that the more they ask the more they will get: they continue to urge, the trader bursts into a rage, and the trade is stopped, to be renewed next day by a higher offer. The natives naturally conclude that they were right the day before, and a most disagreeable commercial intercourse is established. A great amount of time is spent in concluding these bargains. In other parts, it is quite common to see the natives going from one trader to another till they have finished the whole village; and some give presents of brandy to tempt their custom. Much of this unpleasant state of feeling between natives and Europeans results from the commencements made by those who were ignorant of the language, and from the want of education being given at the same time.
During the time of our absence at Loanda, the Makololo had made two forays, and captured large herds of cattle. One, to the lake, was in order to punish Lechulatebe for the insolence he had manifested after procuring some fire-arms; and the other to Sebola Makwaia, a chief living far to the N.E. This was most unjustifiable, and had been condemned by all the influential Makololo. Ben Habib, however, had, in coming from Zanzibar, visited Sebola Makwaia, and found that the chief town was governed by an old woman of that name. She received him kindly, and gave him a large quantity of magnificent ivory, sufficient to set him up as a trader, at a very small cost; but, his party having discharged their guns, Ben Habib observed that the female chief and her people were extremely alarmed, and would have fled and left their cattle in a panic, had he not calmed their fears. Ben Habib informed the uncle of Sekeletu that he could easily guide him thither, and he might get a large number of cattle without any difficulty. This uncle advised Sekeletu to go; and, as the only greatness he knew was imitation of his father’s deeds, he went, but was not so successful as was anticipated. Sebola Makwaia had fled on hearing of the approach of the Makololo; and, as the country is marshy and intersected in every direction by rivers, they could not easily pursue her. They captured canoes, and, pursuing up different streams, came to a small lake called “Shuia”. Having entered the Loangwa, flowing to the eastward, they found it advisable to return, as the natives in those parts became more warlike the further they went in that direction. Before turning, the Arab pointed out an elevated ridge in the distance, and said to the Makololo, “When we see that, we always know that we are only ten or fifteen days from the sea.” On seeing him afterward, he informed me that on the same ridge, but much further to the north, the Banyassa lived, and that the rivers flowed from it toward the S.W. He also confirmed the other Arab’s account that the Loapula, which he had crossed at the town of Cazembe, flowed in the same direction, and into the Leeambye.
Several of the influential Makololo who had engaged in these marauding expeditions had died before our arrival, and Nokwane had succumbed to his strange disease. Ramosantane had perished through vomiting blood from over-fatigue in the march, and Lerimo was affected by a leprosy peculiar to the Barotse valley. In accordance with the advice of my Libonta friends, I did not fail to reprove “my child Sekeletu” for his marauding. This was not done in an angry manner, for no good is ever achieved by fierce denunciations. Motibe, his father-in-law, said to me, “Scold him much, but don’t let others hear you.”
The Makololo expressed great satisfaction with the route we had opened up to the west, and soon after our arrival a “picho” was called, in order to discuss the question of removal to the Barotse valley, so that they might be nearer the market. Some of the older men objected to abandoning the line of defense afforded by the rivers Chobe and Zambesi against their southern enemies the Matebele. The Makololo generally have an aversion to the Barotse valley, on account of the fevers which are annually engendered in it as the waters dry up. They prefer it only as a cattle station; for, though the herds are frequently thinned by an epidemic disease (peripneumonia), they breed so fast that the losses are soon made good. Wherever else the Makololo go, they always leave a portion of their stock in the charge of herdsmen in that prolific valley. Some of the younger men objected to removal, because the rankness of the grass at the Barotse did not allow of their running fast, and because there “it never becomes cool.”
Sekeletu at last stood up, and, addressing me, said, “I am perfectly satisfied as to the great advantages for trade of the path which you have opened, and think that we ought to go to the Barotse, in order to make the way from us to Loanda shorter; but with whom am I to live there? If you were coming with us, I would remove to-morrow; but now you are going to the white man’s country to bring Ma Robert, and when you return you will find me near to the spot on which you wish to dwell.” I had then no idea that any healthy spot existed in the country, and thought only of a convenient central situation, adapted for intercourse with the adjacent tribes and with the coast, such as that near to the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye.
The fever is certainly a drawback to this otherwise important missionary field. The great humidity produced by heavy rains and inundations, the exuberant vegetation caused by fervid heat in rich moist soil, and the prodigious amount of decaying vegetable matter annually exposed after the inundations to the rays of a torrid sun, with a flat surface often covered by forest through which the winds can not pass, all combine to render the climate far from salubrious for any portion of the human family. But the fever, thus caused and rendered virulent, is almost the only disease prevalent in it. There is no consumption or scrofula, and but little insanity. Smallpox and measles visited the country some thirty years ago and cut off many, but they have since made no return, although the former has been almost constantly in one part or another of the coast. Singularly enough, the people used inoculation for this disease; and in one village, where they seem to have chosen a malignant case from which to inoculate the rest, nearly the whole village was cut off. I have seen but one case of hydrocephalus, a few of epilepsy, none of cholera or cancer, and many diseases common in England are here quite unknown. It is true that I suffered severely from fever, but my experience can not be taken as a fair criterion in the matter. Compelled to sleep on the damp ground month after month, exposed to drenching showers, and getting the lower extremities wetted two or three times every day, living on native food (with the exception of sugarless coffee, during the journey to the north and the latter half of the return journey), and that food the manioc roots and meal, which contain so much uncombined starch that the eyes become affected (as in the case of animals fed for experiment on pure gluten or starch), and being exposed during many hours each day in comparative inaction to the direct rays of the sun, the thermometer standing above 96° in the shade — these constitute a more pitiful hygiene than any missionaries who may follow will ever have to endure. I do not mention these privations as if I considered them to be “sacrifices”, for I think that the word ought never to be applied to any thing we can do for Him who came down from heaven and died for us; but I suppose it is necessary to notice them, in order that no unfavorable opinion may be formed from my experience as to what that of others might be, if less exposed to the vicissitudes of the weather and change of diet.
I believe that the interior of this country presents a much more inviting field for the philanthropist than does the west coast, where missionaries of the Church Missionary, United Presbyterian, and other societies have long labored with most astonishing devotedness and never-flagging zeal. There the fevers are much more virulent and more speedily fatal than here, for from 8° south they almost invariably take the intermittent or least fatal type; and their effect being to enlarge the spleen, a complaint which is best treated by change of climate, we have the remedy at hand by passing the 20th parallel on our way south. But I am not to be understood as intimating that any of the numerous tribes are anxious for instruction: they are not the inquiring spirits we read of in other countries; they do not desire the Gospel, because they know nothing about either it or its benefits; but there is no impediment in the way of instruction. Every head man would be proud of a European visitor or resident in his territory, and there is perfect security for life and property all over the interior country. The great barriers which have kept Africa shut are the unhealthiness of the coast, and the exclusive, illiberal disposition of the border tribes. It has not within the historic period been cut into by deep arms of the sea, and only a small fringe of its population have come into contact with the rest of mankind. Race has much to do in the present circumstances of nations; yet it is probable that the unhealthy coast-climate has reacted on the people, and aided both in perpetuating their own degradation and preventing those more inland from having intercourse with the rest of the world. It is to be hoped that these obstacles will be overcome by the more rapid means of locomotion possessed in the present age, if a good highway can become available from the coast into the interior.
Having found it impracticable to open up a carriage-path to the west, it became a question as to which part of the east coast we should direct our steps. The Arabs had come from Zanzibar through a peaceful country. They assured me that the powerful chiefs beyond the Cazembe on the N.E., viz., Moatutu, Moaroro, and Mogogo, chiefs of the tribes Batutu, Baroro, and Bagogo, would have no objection to my passing through their country. They described the population there as located in small villages like the Balonda, and that no difficulty is experienced in traveling among them. They mentioned also that, at a distance of ten days beyond Cazembe, their path winds round the end of Lake Tanganyenka. But when they reach this lake, a little to the northwest of its southern extremity, they find no difficulty in obtaining canoes to carry them over. They sleep on islands, for it is said to require three days in crossing, and may thus be forty or fifty miles broad. Here they punt the canoes the whole way, showing that it is shallow. There are many small streams in the path, and three large rivers. This, then, appeared to me to be the safest; but my present object being a path admitting of water rather than land carriage, this route did not promise so much as that by way of the Zambesi or Leeambye. The Makololo knew all the country eastward as far as the Kafue, from having lived in former times near the confluence of that river with the Zambesi, and they all advised this path in preference to that by the way of Zanzibar. The only difficulty that they assured me of was that in the falls of Victoria. Some recommended my going to Sesheke, and crossing over in a N.E. direction to the Kafue, which is only six days distant, and descending that river to the Zambesi. Others recommended me to go on the south bank of the Zambesi until I had passed the falls, then get canoes and proceed farther down the river. All spoke strongly of the difficulties of traveling on the north bank, on account of the excessively broken and rocky nature of the country near the river on that side. And when Ponuane, who had lately headed a foray there, proposed that I should carry canoes along that side till we reached the spot where the Leeambye becomes broad and placid again, others declared that, from the difficulties he himself had experienced in forcing the men of his expedition to do this, they believed that mine would be sure to desert me if I attempted to impose such a task upon them. Another objection to traveling on either bank of the river was the prevalence of the tsetse, which is so abundant that the inhabitants can keep no domestic animals except goats.
While pondering over these different paths, I could not help regretting my being alone. If I had enjoyed the company of my former companion, Mr. Oswell, one of us might have taken the Zambesi, and the other gone by way of Zanzibar. The latter route was decidedly the easiest, because all the inland tribes were friendly, while the tribes in the direction of the Zambesi were inimical, and I should now be obliged to lead a party, which the Batoka of that country view as hostile invaders, through an enemy’s land; but, as the prospect of permanent water-conveyance was good, I decided on going down the Zambesi, and keeping on the north bank, because, in the map given by Bowditch, Tete, the farthest inland station of the Portuguese, is erroneously placed on that side. Being near the end of September, the rains were expected daily; the clouds were collecting, and the wind blew strongly from the east, but it was excessively hot. All the Makololo urged me strongly to remain till the ground should be cooled by the rains; and as it was probable that I should get fever if I commenced my journey now, I resolved to wait. The parts of the country about 17° and 18° suffer from drought and become dusty. It is but the commencement of the humid region to the north, and partakes occasionally of the character of both the wet and dry regions. Some idea may be formed of the heat in October by the fact that the thermometer (protected) stood, in the shade of my wagon, at 100° through the day. It rose to 110° if unprotected from the wind; at dark it showed 89°; at 10 o’clock, 80°; and then gradually sunk till sunrise, when it was 70° That is usually the period of greatest cold in each twenty-four hours in this region. The natives, during the period of greatest heat, keep in their huts, which are always pleasantly cool by day, but close and suffocating by night. Those who are able to afford it sit guzzling beer or boyaloa. The perspiration produced by copious draughts seems to give enjoyment, the evaporation causing a feeling of coolness. The attendants of the chief, on these occasions, keep up a continuous roar of bantering, raillery, laughing, and swearing. The dance is kept up in the moonlight till past midnight. The women stand clapping their hands continuously, and the old men sit admiringly, and say, “It is really very fine.” As crowds came to see me, I employed much of my time in conversation, that being a good mode of conveying instruction. In the public meetings for worship the people listened very attentively, and behaved with more decorum than formerly. They really form a very inviting field for a missionary. Surely the oft-told tale of the goodness and love of our heavenly Father, in giving up his own Son to death for us sinners, will, by the power of his Holy Spirit, beget love in some of these heathen hearts.
1ST OCTOBER. Before Ben Habib started for Loanda, he asked the daughter of Sebituane in marriage. This is the plan the Arabs adopt for gaining influence in a tribe, and they have been known to proceed thus cautiously to form connections, and gradually gain so much influence as to draw all the tribe over to their religion. I never heard of any persecution, although the Arabs with whom I came in contact seemed much attached to their religion. This daughter of Sebituane, named Manchunyane, was about twelve years of age. As I was the bosom-friend of her father, I was supposed to have a voice in her disposal, and, on being asked, objected to her being taken away, we knew not whither, and where we might never see her again. As her name implies, she was only a little black, and, besides being as fair as any of the Arabs, had quite the Arab features; but I have no doubt that Ben Habib will renew his suit more successfully on some other occasion. In these cases of marriage, the consent of the young women is seldom asked. A maid-servant of Sekeletu, however, pronounced by the Makololo to be good-looking, was at this time sought in marriage by five young men. Sekeletu, happening to be at my wagon when one of these preferred his suit, very coolly ordered all five to stand in a row before the young woman, that she might make her choice. Two refused to stand, apparently, because they could not brook the idea of a repulse, although willing enough to take her if Sekeletu had acceded to their petition without reference to her will. Three dandified fellows stood forth, and she unhesitatingly decided on taking one who was really the best looking. It was amusing to see the mortification exhibited on the black faces of the unsuccessful candidates, while the spectators greeted them with a hearty laugh.
During the whole of my stay with the Makololo, Sekeletu supplied my wants abundantly, appointing some cows to furnish me with milk, and, when he went out to hunt, sent home orders for slaughtered oxen to be given. That the food was not given in a niggardly spirit may be inferred from the fact that, when I proposed to depart on the 20th of October, he protested against my going off in such a hot sun. “Only wait,” said he, “for the first shower, and then I will let you go.” This was reasonable, for the thermometer, placed upon a deal box in the sun, rose to 138° It stood at 108° in the shade by day, and 96° at sunset. If my experiments were correct, the blood of a European is of a higher temperature than that of an African. The bulb, held under my tongue, stood at 100°; under that of the natives, at 98° There was much sickness in the town, and no wonder, for part of the water left by the inundation still formed a large pond in the centre. Even the plains between Linyanti and Sesheke had not yet been freed from the waters of the inundation. They had risen higher than usual, and for a long time canoes passed from the one place to the other, a distance of upward of 120 miles, in nearly a straight line. We found many patches of stagnant water, which, when disturbed by our passing through them, evolved strong effluvia of sulphureted hydrogen. At other times these spots exhibit an efflorescence of the nitrate of soda; they also contain abundance of lime, probably from decaying vegetable matter, and from these may have emanated the malaria which caused the present sickness. I have often remarked this effluvium in sickly spots, and can not help believing but that it has some connection with fever, though I am quite aware of Dr. MacWilliams’s unsuccessful efforts to discover sulphureted hydrogen, by the most delicate tests, in the Niger expedition.
I had plenty of employment, for, besides attending to the severer cases, I had perpetual calls on my attention. The town contained at least 7000 inhabitants, and every one thought that he might come, and at least look at me. In talking with some of the more intelligent in the evenings, the conversation having turned from inquiries respecting eclipses of the sun and moon to that other world where Jesus reigns, they let me know that my attempts to enlighten them had not been without some small effect. “Many of the children,” said they, “talk about the strange things you bring to their ears, but the old men show a little opposition by saying, ‘Do we know what he is talking about?’” Ntlaria and others complain of treacherous memories, and say, “When we hear words about other things, we hold them fast; but when we hear you tell much more wonderful things than any we have ever heard before, we don’t know how it is, they run away from our hearts.” These are the more intelligent of my Makololo friends. On the majority the teaching produces no appreciable effect; they assent to the truth with the most perplexing indifference, adding, “But we don’t know,” or, “We do not understand.” My medical intercourse with them enabled me to ascertain their moral status better than a mere religious teacher could do. They do not attempt to hide the evil, as men often do, from their spiritual instructors; but I have found it difficult to come to a conclusion on their character. They sometimes perform actions remarkably good, and sometimes as strangely the opposite. I have been unable to ascertain the motive for the good, or account for the callousness of conscience with which they perpetrate the bad. After long observation, I came to the conclusion that they are just such a strange mixture of good and evil as men are every where else. There is not among them an approach to that constant stream of benevolence flowing from the rich to the poor which we have in England, nor yet the unostentatious attentions which we have among our own poor to each other. Yet there are frequent instances of genuine kindness and liberality, as well as actions of an opposite character. The rich show kindness to the poor in expectation of services, and a poor person who has no relatives will seldom be supplied even with water in illness, and, when dead, will be dragged out to be devoured by the hyaenas instead of being buried. Relatives alone will condescend to touch a dead body. It would be easy to enumerate instances of inhumanity which I have witnessed. An interesting-looking girl came to my wagon one day in a state of nudity, and almost a skeleton. She was a captive from another tribe, and had been neglected by the man who claimed her. Having supplied her wants, I made inquiry for him, and found that he had been unsuccessful in raising a crop of corn, and had no food to give her. I volunteered to take her; but he said he would allow me to feed her and make her fat, and then take her away. I protested against his heartlessness; and, as he said he could “not part with his child,” I was precluded from attending to her wants. In a day or two she was lost sight of. She had gone out a little way from the town, and, being too weak to return, had been cruelly left to perish. Another day I saw a poor boy going to the water to drink, apparently in a starving condition. This case I brought before the chief in council, and found that his emaciation was ascribed to disease and want combined. He was not one of the Makololo, but a member of a subdued tribe. I showed them that any one professing to claim a child, and refusing proper nutriment, would be guilty of his death. Sekeletu decided that the owner of this boy should give up his alleged right rather than destroy the child. When I took him he was so far gone as to be in the cold stage of starvation, but was soon brought round by a little milk given three or four times a day. On leaving Linyanti I handed him over to the charge of his chief, Sekeletu, who feeds his servants very well. On the other hand, I have seen instances in which both men and women have taken up little orphans and carefully reared them as their own children. By a selection of cases of either kind, it would not be difficult to make these people appear excessively good or uncommonly bad.
I still possessed some of the coffee which I had brought from Angola, and some of the sugar which I had left in my wagon. So long as the sugar lasted, Sekeletu favored me with his company at meals; but the sugar soon came to a close. The Makololo, as formerly mentioned, were well acquainted with the sugar-cane, as it is cultivated by the Barotse, but never knew that sugar could be got from it. When I explained the process by which it was produced, Sekeletu asked if I could not buy him an apparatus for the purpose of making sugar. He said that he would plant the cane largely if he only had the means of making the sugar from it. I replied that I was unable to purchase a mill, when he instantly rejoined, “Why not take ivory to buy it?” As I had been living at his expense, I was glad of the opportunity to show my gratitude by serving him; and when he and his principal men understood that I was willing to execute a commission, Sekeletu gave me an order for a sugar-mill, and for all the different varieties of clothing that he had ever seen, especially a mohair coat, a good rifle, beads, brass-wire, etc., etc., and wound up by saying, “And any other beautiful thing you may see in your own country.” As to the quantity of ivory required to execute the commission, I said I feared that a large amount would be necessary. Both he and his councilors replied, “The ivory is all your own; if you leave any in the country it will be your own fault.” He was also anxious for horses. The two I had left with him when I went to Loanda were still living, and had been of great use to him in hunting the giraffe and eland, and he was now anxious to have a breed. This, I thought, might be obtained at the Portuguese settlements. All were very much delighted with the donkeys we had brought from Loanda. As we found that they were not affected by the bite of the tsetse, and there was a prospect of the breed being continued, it was gratifying to see the experiment of their introduction so far successful. The donkeys came as frisky as kids all the way from Loanda until we began to descend the Leeambye. There we came upon so many interlacing branches of the river, and were obliged to drag them through such masses of tangled aquatic plants, that we half drowned them, and were at last obliged to leave them somewhat exhausted at Naliele. They excited the unbounded admiration of my men by their knowledge of the different kinds of plants, which, as they remarked, “the animals had never before seen in their own country;” and when the donkeys indulged in their music, they startled the inhabitants more than if they had been lions. We never rode them, nor yet the horse which had been given by the bishop, for fear of hurting them by any work.
Although the Makololo were so confiding, the reader must not imagine that they would be so to every individual who might visit them. Much of my influence depended upon the good name given me by the Bakwains, and that I secured only through a long course of tolerably good conduct. No one ever gains much influence in this country without purity and uprightness. The acts of a stranger are keenly scrutinized by both young and old, and seldom is the judgment pronounced, even by the heathen, unfair or uncharitable. I have heard women speaking in admiration of a white man because he was pure, and never was guilty of any secret immorality. Had he been, they would have known it, and, untutored heathen though they be, would have despised him in consequence. Secret vice becomes known throughout the tribe; and while one, unacquainted with the language, may imagine a peccadillo to be hidden, it is as patent to all as it would be in London had he a placard on his back.
27TH OCTOBER, 1855. The first continuous rain of the season commenced during the night, the wind being from the N.E., as it always was on like occasions at Kolobeng. The rainy season was thus begun, and I made ready to go. The mother of Sekeletu prepared a bag of ground-nuts, by frying them in cream with a little salt, as a sort of sandwiches for my journey. This is considered food fit for a chief. Others ground the maize from my own garden into meal, and Sekeletu pointed out Sekwebu and Kanyata as the persons who should head the party intended to form my company. Sekwebu had been captured by the Matebele when a little boy, and the tribe in which he was a captive had migrated to the country near Tete; he had traveled along both banks of the Zambesi several times, and was intimately acquainted with the dialects spoken there. I found him to be a person of great prudence and sound judgment, and his subsequent loss at the Mauritius has been, ever since, a source of sincere regret. He at once recommended our keeping well away from the river, on account of the tsetse and rocky country, assigning also as a reason for it that the Leeambye beyond the falls turns round to the N.N.E. Mamire, who had married the mother of Sekeletu, on coming to bid me farewell before starting, said, “You are now going among people who can not be trusted because we have used them badly; but you go with a different message from any they ever heard before, and Jesus will be with you and help you, though among enemies; and if he carries you safely, and brings you and Ma Robert back again, I shall say he has bestowed a great favor upon me. May we obtain a path whereby we may visit and be visited by other tribes, and by white men!” On telling him my fears that he was still inclined to follow the old marauding system, which prevented intercourse, and that he, from his influential position, was especially guilty in the late forays, he acknowledged all rather too freely for my taste, but seemed quite aware that the old system was far from right. Mentioning my inability to pay the men who were to accompany me, he replied, “A man wishes, of course, to appear among his friends, after a long absence, with something of his own to show; the whole of the ivory in the country is yours, so you must take as much as you can, and Sekeletu will furnish men to carry it.” These remarks of Mamire are quoted literally, in order to show the state of mind of the most influential in the tribe. And as I wish to give the reader a fair idea of the other side of the question as well, it may be mentioned that Motibe parried the imputation of the guilt of marauding by every possible subterfuge. He would not admit that they had done wrong, and laid the guilt of the wars in which the Makololo had engaged on the Boers, the Matebele, and every other tribe except his own. When quite a youth, Motibe’s family had been attacked by a party of Boers; he hid himself in an ant-eater’s hole, but was drawn out and thrashed with a whip of hippopotamus hide. When enjoined to live in peace, he would reply, “Teach the Boers to lay down their arms first.” Yet Motibe, on other occasions, seemed to feel the difference between those who are Christians indeed and those who are so only in name. In all our discussions we parted good friends.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57