An Elephant-hunt — Offering and Prayers to the Barimo for Success — Native Mode of Expression — Working of Game-laws — A Feast — Laughing Hyaenas — Numerous Insects — Curious Notes of Birds of Song — Caterpillars — Butterflies — Silica — The Fruit Makoronga and Elephants — Rhinoceros Adventure — Korwe Bird — Its Nest — A real Confinement — Honey and Beeswax — Superstitious Reverence for the Lion — Slow Traveling — Grapes — The Ue — Monina’s Village — Native Names — Government of the Banyai — Electing a Chief — Youths instructed in “Bonyai” — Suspected of Falsehood — War-dance — Insanity and Disappearance of Monahin — Fruitless Search — Monina’s Sympathy — The Sand-river Tangwe — The Ordeal Muavi: its Victims — An unreasonable Man — “Woman’s Rights” — Presents — Temperance — A winding Course to shun Villages — Banyai Complexion and Hair — Mushrooms — The Tubers, Mokuri — The Tree Shekabakadzi — Face of the Country — Pot-holes — Pursued by a Party of Natives — Unpleasant Threat — Aroused by a Company of Soldiers — A civilized Breakfast — Arrival at Tete.
14TH. We left Nyampungo this morning. The path wound up the Molinge, another sand-river which flows into the Nake. When we got clear of the tangled jungle which covers the banks of these rivulets, we entered the Mopane country, where we could walk with comfort. When we had gone on a few hours, my men espied an elephant, and were soon in full pursuit. They were in want of meat, having tasted nothing but grain for several days. The desire for animal food made them all eager to slay him, and, though an old bull, he was soon killed. The people of Nyampungo had never seen such desperadoes before. One rushed up and hamstrung the beast, while still standing, by a blow with an axe. Some Banyai elephant-hunters happened to be present when my men were fighting with him. One of them took out his snuff-box, and poured out all its contents at the root of a tree as an offering to the Barimo for success. As soon as the animal fell, the whole of my party engaged in a wild, savage dance round the body, which quite frightened the Banyai, and he who made the offering said to me, “I see you are traveling with people who don’t know how to pray: I therefore offered the only thing I had in their behalf, and the elephant soon fell.” One of Nyampungo’s men, who remained with me, ran a little forward, when an opening in the trees gave us a view of the chase, and uttered loud prayers for success in the combat. I admired the devout belief they all possessed in the actual existence of unseen beings, and prayed that they might yet know that benignant One who views us all as his own. My own people, who are rather a degraded lot, remarked to me as I came up, “God gave it to us. He said to the old beast, ‘Go up there; men are come who will kill and eat you.’” These remarks are quoted to give the reader an idea of the native mode of expression.
As we were now in the country of stringent game-laws, we were obliged to send all the way back to Nyampungo, to give information to a certain person who had been left there by the real owner of this district to watch over his property, the owner himself living near the Zambesi. The side upon which the elephant fell had a short, broken tusk; the upper one, which was ours, was large and thick. The Banyai remarked on our good luck. The men sent to give notice came back late in the afternoon of the following day. They brought a basket of corn, a fowl, and a few strings of handsome beads, as a sort of thank-offering for our having killed it on their land, and said they had thanked the Barimo besides for our success, adding, “There it is; eat it and be glad.” Had we begun to cut it up before we got this permission, we should have lost the whole. They had brought a large party to eat their half, and they divided it with us in a friendly way. My men were delighted with the feast, though, by lying unopened a whole day, the carcass was pretty far gone. An astonishing number of hyaenas collected round, and kept up a loud laughter for two whole nights. Some of them do make a very good imitation of a laugh. I asked my men what the hyaenas were laughing at, as they usually give animals credit for a share of intelligence. They said that they were laughing because we could not take the whole, and that they would have plenty to eat as well as we.
On coming to the part where the elephant was slain, we passed through grass so tall that it reminded me of that in the valley of Cassange. Insects are very numerous after the rains commence. While waiting by the elephant, I observed a great number of insects, like grains of fine sand, moving on my boxes. On examination with a glass, four species were apparent; one of green and gold preening its wings, which glanced in the sun with metallic lustre; another clear as crystal; a third of the color of vermilion; and a fourth black. These are probably some of those which consume the seeds of every plant that grows. Almost every kind has its own peculiar insect, and when the rains are over very few seeds remain untouched. The rankest poisons, as the Kongwhane and Euphorbia, are soon devoured; the former has a scarlet insect; and even the fiery bird’s-eye pepper, which will keep off many others from their own seeds, is itself devoured by a maggot. I observed here, what I had often seen before, that certain districts abound in centipedes. Here they have light reddish bodies and blue legs; great myriapedes are seen crawling every where. Although they do no harm, they excite in man a feeling of loathing. Perhaps our appearance produces a similar feeling in the elephant and other large animals. Where they have been much disturbed, they certainly look upon us with great distrust, as the horrid biped that ruins their peace. In the quietest parts of the forest there is heard a faint but distinct hum, which tells of insect joy. One may see many whisking about in the clear sunshine in patches among the green glancing leaves; but there are invisible myriads working with never-tiring mandibles on leaves, and stalks, and beneath the soil. They are all brimful of enjoyment. Indeed, the universality of organic life may be called a mantle of happy existence encircling the world, and imparts the idea of its being caused by the consciousness of our benignant Father’s smile on all the works of His hands.
The birds of the tropics have been described as generally wanting in power of song. I was decidedly of opinion that this was not applicable to many parts in Londa, though birds there are remarkably scarce. Here the chorus, or body of song, was not much smaller in volume than it is in England. It was not so harmonious, and sounded always as if the birds were singing in a foreign tongue. Some resemble the lark, and, indeed, there are several of that family; two have notes not unlike those of the thrush. One brought the chaffinch to my mind, and another the robin; but their songs are intermixed with several curious abrupt notes unlike any thing English. One utters deliberately “peek, pak, pok”; another has a single note like a stroke on a violin-string. The mokwa reza gives forth a screaming set of notes like our blackbird when disturbed, then concludes with what the natives say is “pula, pula” (rain, rain), but more like “weep, weep, weep”. Then we have the loud cry of francolins, the “pumpuru, pumpuru” of turtle-doves, and the “chiken, chiken, chik, churr, churr” of the honey-guide. Occasionally, near villages, we have a kind of mocking-bird, imitating the calls of domestic fowls. These African birds have not been wanting in song; they have only lacked poets to sing their praises, which ours have had from the time of Aristophanes downward. Ours have both a classic and a modern interest to enhance their fame. In hot, dry weather, or at midday when the sun is fierce, all are still: let, however, a good shower fall, and all burst forth at once into merry lays and loving courtship. The early mornings and the cool evenings are their favorite times for singing. There are comparatively few with gaudy plumage, being totally unlike, in this respect, the birds of the Brazils. The majority have decidedly a sober dress, though collectors, having generally selected the gaudiest as the most valuable, have conveyed the idea that the birds of the tropics for the most part possess gorgeous plumage.
15TH. Several of my men have been bitten by spiders and other insects, but no effect except pain has followed. A large caterpillar is frequently seen, called lezuntabuea. It is covered with long gray hairs, and, the body being dark, it resembles a porcupine in miniature. If one touches it, the hairs run into the pores of the skin, and remain there, giving sharp pricks. There are others which have a similar means of defense; and when the hand is drawn across them, as in passing a bush on which they happen to be, the contact resembles the stinging of nettles. From the great number of caterpillars seen, we have a considerable variety of butterflies. One particular kind flies more like a swallow than a butterfly. They are not remarkable for the gaudiness of their colors.
In passing along we crossed the hills Vungue or Mvungwe, which we found to be composed of various eruptive rocks. At one part we have breccia of altered marl or slate in quartz, and various amygdaloids. It is curious to observe the different forms which silica assumes. We have it in claystone porphyry here, in minute round globules, no larger than turnip-seed, dotted thickly over the matrix; or crystallized round the walls of cavities, once filled with air or other elastic fluid; or it may appear in similar cavities as tufts of yellow asbestos, or as red, yellow, or green crystals, or in laminae so arranged as to appear like fossil wood. Vungue forms the watershed between those sand rivulets which run to the N.E., and others which flow southward, as the Kapopo, Ue, and Due, which run into the Luia.
We found that many elephants had been feeding on the fruit called Mokoronga. This is a black-colored plum, having purple juice. We all ate it in large quantities, as we found it delicious. The only defect it has is the great size of the seed in comparison with the pulp. This is the chief fault of all uncultivated wild fruits. The Mokoronga exists throughout this part of the country most abundantly, and the natives eagerly devour it, as it is said to be perfectly wholesome, or, as they express it, “It is pure fat,” and fat is by them considered the best of food. Though only a little larger than a cherry, we found that the elephants had stood picking them off patiently by the hour. We observed the footprints of a black rhinoceros (‘Rhinoceros bicornis’, Linn.) and her calf. We saw other footprints among the hills of Semalembue, but the black rhinoceros is remarkably scarce in all the country north of the Zambesi. The white rhinoceros (‘Rhinoceros simus’ of Burchell), or Mohohu of the Bechuanas, is quite extinct here, and will soon become unknown in the country to the south. It feeds almost entirely on grasses, and is of a timid, unsuspecting disposition: this renders it an easy prey, and they are slaughtered without mercy on the introduction of fire-arms. The black possesses a more savage nature, and, like the ill-natured in general, is never found with an ounce of fat in its body. From its greater fierceness and wariness, it holds its place in a district much longer than its more timid and better-conditioned neighbor. Mr. Oswell was once stalking two of these beasts, and, as they came slowly to him, he, knowing that there is but little chance of hitting the small brain of this animal by a shot in the head, lay expecting one of them to give his shoulder till he was within a few yards. The hunter then thought that by making a rush to his side he might succeed in escaping, but the rhinoceros, too quick for that, turned upon him, and, though he discharged his gun close to the animal’s head, he was tossed in the air. My friend was insensible for some time, and, on recovering, found large wounds on the thigh and body: I saw that on the former part still open, and five inches long. The white, however, is not always quite safe, for one, even after it was mortally wounded, attacked Mr. Oswell’s horse, and thrust the horn through to the saddle, tossing at the time both horse and rider. I once saw a white rhinoceros give a buffalo, which was gazing intently at myself, a poke in the chest, but it did not wound it, and seemed only a hint to get out of the way. Four varieties of the rhinoceros are enumerated by naturalists, but my observation led me to conclude that there are but two, and that the extra species have been formed from differences in their sizes, ages, and the direction of the horns, as if we should reckon the short-horned cattle a different species from the Alderneys or the Highland breed. I was led to this from having once seen a black rhinoceros with a horn bent downward like that of the kuabaoba, and also because the animals of the two great varieties differ very much in appearance at different stages of their growth. I find, however, that Dr. Smith, the best judge in these matters, is quite decided as to the propriety of the subdivision into three or four species. For common readers, it is sufficient to remember that there are two well-defined species, that differ entirely in appearance and food. The absence of both these rhinoceroses among the reticulated rivers in the central valley may easily be accounted for, they would be such an easy prey to the natives in their canoes at the periods of inundation; but one can not so readily account for the total absence of the giraffe and ostrich on the high open lands of the Batoka, north of the Zambesi, unless we give credence to the native report which bounds the country still farther north by another network of waters near Lake Shuia, and suppose that it also prevented their progress southward. The Batoka have no name for the giraffe or the ostrich in their language; yet, as the former exists in considerable numbers in the angle formed by the Leeambye and Chobe, they may have come from the north along the western ridge. The Chobe would seem to have been too narrow to act as an obstacle to the giraffe, supposing it to have come into that district from the south; but the broad river into which that stream flows seems always to have presented an impassable barrier to both the giraffe and the ostrich, though they abound on its southern border, both in the Kalahari Desert and the country of Mashona.
We passed through large tracts of Mopane country, and my men caught a great many of the birds called Korwe (‘Tockus erythrorhynchus’) in their breeding-places, which were in holes in the mopane-trees. On the 19th we passed the nest of a korwe just ready for the female to enter; the orifice was plastered on both sides, but a space was left of a heart shape, and exactly the size of the bird’s body. The hole in the tree was in every case found to be prolonged some distance upward above the opening, and thither the korwe always fled to escape being caught. In another nest we found that one white egg, much like that of a pigeon, was laid, and the bird dropped another when captured. She had four besides in the ovarium. The first time that I saw this bird was at Kolobeng, where I had gone to the forest for some timber. Standing by a tree, a native looked behind me and exclaimed, “There is the nest of a korwe.” I saw a slit only, about half an inch wide and three or four inches long, in a slight hollow of the tree. Thinking the word korwe denoted some small animal, I waited with interest to see what he would extract; he broke the clay which surrounded the slit, put his arm into the hole, and brought out a ‘Tockus’, or ‘red-beaked hornbill’, which he killed. He informed me that, when the female enters her nest, she submits to a real confinement. The male plasters up the entrance, leaving only a narrow slit by which to feed his mate, and which exactly suits the form of his beak. The female makes a nest of her own feathers, lays her eggs, hatches them, and remains with the young till they are fully fledged. During all this time, which is stated to be two or three months, the male continues to feed her and the young family. The prisoner generally becomes quite fat, and is esteemed a very dainty morsel by the natives, while the poor slave of a husband gets so lean that, on the sudden lowering of the temperature which sometimes happens after a fall of rain, he is benumbed, falls down, and dies. I never had an opportunity of ascertaining the actual length of the confinement, but on passing the same tree at Kolobeng about eight days afterward the hole was plastered up again, as if, in the short time that had elapsed, the disconsolate husband had secured another wife. We did not disturb her, and my duties prevented me from returning to the spot. This is the month in which the female enters the nest. We had seen one of these, as before mentioned, with the plastering not quite finished; we saw many completed; and we received the very same account here that we did at Kolobeng, that the bird comes forth when the young are fully fledged, at the period when the corn is ripe; indeed, her appearance abroad with her young is one of the signs they have for knowing when it ought to be so. As that is about the end of April, the time is between two and three months. She is said sometimes to hatch two eggs, and, when the young of these are full-fledged, other two are just out of the egg-shells: she then leaves the nest with the two elder, the orifice is again plastered up, and both male and female attend to the wants of the young which are left. On several occasions I observed a branch bearing the marks of the male having often sat upon it when feeding his mate, and the excreta had been expelled a full yard from the orifice, and often proved a means of discovering the retreat.
The honey-guides were very assiduous in their friendly offices, and enabled my men to get a large quantity of honey. But, though bees abound, the wax of these parts forms no article of trade. In Londa it may be said to be fully cared for, as you find hives placed upon trees in the most lonesome forests. We often met strings of carriers laden with large blocks of this substance, each 80 or 100 lbs. in weight, and pieces were offered to us for sale at every village; but here we never saw a single artificial hive. The bees were always found in the natural cavities of mopane-trees. It is probable that the good market for wax afforded to Angola by the churches of Brazil led to the gradual development of that branch of commerce there. I saw even on the banks of the Quango as much as sixpence paid for a pound. In many parts of the Batoka country bees exist in vast numbers, and the tribute due to Sekeletu is often paid in large jars of honey; but, having no market nor use for the wax, it is thrown away. This was the case also with ivory at the Lake Ngami, at the period of its discovery. The reports brought by my other party from Loanda of the value of wax had induced some of my present companions to bring small quantities of it to Tete, but, not knowing the proper mode of preparing it, it was so dark colored that no one would purchase it; I afterward saw a little at Kilimane which had been procured from the natives somewhere in this region.
Though we are now approaching the Portuguese settlement, the country is still full of large game. My men killed six buffalo calves out of a herd we met. The abundance of these animals, and also of antelopes, shows the insufficiency of the bow and arrow to lessen their numbers. There are also a great many lions and hyaenas, and there is no check upon the increase of the former, for the people, believing that the souls of their chiefs enter into them, never attempt to kill them; they even believe that a chief may metamorphose himself into a lion, kill any one he chooses, and then return to the human form; therefore, when they see one, they commence clapping their hands, which is the usual mode of salutation here. The consequence is, that lions and hyaenas are so abundant that we see little huts made in the trees, indicating the places where some of the inhabitants have slept when benighted in the fields. As numbers of my men frequently left the line of march in order to take out the korwes from their nests, or follow the honey-guides, they excited the astonishment of our guides, who were constantly warning them of the danger they thereby incurred from lions. I was often considerably ahead of the main body of my men on this account, and was obliged to stop every hour or two; but, the sun being excessively hot by day, I was glad of the excuse for resting. We could make no such prodigious strides as officers in the Arctic regions are able to do. Ten or twelve miles a day were a good march for both the men and myself; and it was not the length of the marches, but continuing day after day to perform the same distance, that was so fatiguing. It was in this case much longer than appears on the map, because we kept out of the way of villages. I drank less than the natives when riding, but all my clothing was now constantly damp from the moisture which was imbibed in large quantities at every pond. One does not stay on these occasions to prepare water with alum or any thing else, but drinks any amount without fear. I never felt the atmosphere so steamy as on the low-lying lands of the Zambesi, and yet it was becoming cooler than it was on the highlands.
We crossed the rivulets Kapopo and Ue, now running, but usually dry. There are great numbers of wild grape-vines growing in this quarter; indeed, they abound every where along the banks of the Zambesi. In the Batoka country there is a variety which yields a black grape of considerable sweetness. The leaves are very large and harsh, as if capable of withstanding the rays of this hot sun; but the most common kinds — one with a round leaf and a greenish grape, and another with a leaf closely resembling that of the cultivated varieties, and with dark or purple fruit — have large seeds, which are strongly astringent, and render it a disagreeable fruit. The natives eat all the varieties; and I tasted vinegar made by a Portuguese from these grapes. Probably a country which yields the wild vines so very abundantly might be a fit one for the cultivated species. At this part of the journey so many of the vines had run across the little footpath we followed that one had to be constantly on the watch to avoid being tripped. The ground was covered with rounded shingle, which was not easily seen among the grass. Pedestrianism may be all very well for those whose obesity requires much exercise, but for one who was becoming as thin as a lath, through the constant perspiration caused by marching day after day in the hot sun, the only good I saw in it was that it gave an honest sort of man a vivid idea of the tread-mill.
Although the rains were not quite over, great numbers of pools were drying up, and the ground was in many parts covered with small green cryptogamous plants, which gave it a mouldy appearance and a strong smell. As we sometimes pushed aside the masses of rank vegetation which hung over our path, we felt a sort of hot blast on our faces. Every thing looked unwholesome, but we had no fever. The Ue flows between high banks of a soft red sandstone streaked with white, and pieces of tufa. The crumbling sandstone is evidently alluvial, and is cut into 12 feet deep. In this region, too, we met with pot-holes six feet deep and three or four in diameter. In some cases they form convenient wells; in others they are full of earth; and in others still the people have made them into graves for their chiefs.
On the 20th we came to Monina’s village (close to the sand-river Tangwe, latitude 16° 13’ 38” south, longitude 32° 32’ east). This man is very popular among the tribes on account of his liberality. Boroma, Nyampungo, Monina, Jira, Katolosa (Monomotapa), and Susa, all acknowledge the supremacy of one called Nyatewe, who is reported to decide all disputes respecting land. This confederation is exactly similar to what we observed in Londa and other parts of Africa. Katolosa is “the Emperor Monomotapa” of history, but he is a chief of no great power, and acknowledges the supremacy of Nyatewe. The Portuguese formerly honored Monomotapa with a guard, to fire off numbers of guns on the occasion of any funeral, and he was also partially subsidized. The only evidence of greatness possessed by his successor is his having about a hundred wives. When he dies a disputed succession and much fighting are expected. In reference to the term Monomotapa, it is to be remembered that Mono, Moene, Mona, Mana, or Morena, mean simply ‘chief’, and considerable confusion has arisen from naming different people by making a plural of the chief’s name. The names Monomoizes, spelled also Monemuiges and Monomuizes, and Monomotapistas, when applied to these tribes, are exactly the same as if we should call the Scotch the Lord Douglases. Motape was the chief of the Bambiri, a tribe of the Banyai, and is now represented in the person of Katolosa. He was probably a man of greater energy than his successor, yet only an insignificant chief. Monomoizes was formed from Moiza or Muiza, the singular of the word Babisa or Aiza, the proper name of a large tribe to the north. In the transformation of this name the same error has been committed as in the others; and mistakes have occurred in many other names by inattention to the meaning, and predilection for the letter R. The River Loangwa, for instance, has been termed Arroangoa, and the Luenya the Ruanha. The Bazizulu, or Mashona, are spoken of as the Morururus.
The government of the Banyai is rather peculiar, being a sort of feudal republicanism. The chief is elected, and they choose the son of the deceased chief’s sister in preference to his own offspring. When dissatisfied with one candidate, they even go to a distant tribe for a successor, who is usually of the family of the late chief, a brother, or a sister’s son, but never his own son or daughter. When first spoken to on the subject, he answers as if he thought himself unequal to the task and unworthy of the honor; but, having accepted it, all the wives, goods, and children of his predecessor belong to him, and he takes care to keep them in a dependent position. When any one of them becomes tired of this state of vassalage and sets up his own village, it is not unusual for the elected chief to send a number of the young men, who congregate about himself, to visit him. If he does not receive them with the usual amount of clapping of hands and humility, they, in obedience to orders, at once burn his village. The children of the chief have fewer privileges than common free men. They may not be sold, but, rather than choose any one of them for a chief at any future time, the free men would prefer to elect one of themselves, who bore only a very distant relationship to the family. These free men are a distinct class who can never be sold; and under them there is a class of slaves whose appearance as well as position is very degraded. Monina had a great number of young men about him from twelve to fifteen years of age. These were all sons of free men, and bands of young men like them in the different districts leave their parents about the age of puberty, and live with such men as Monina for the sake of instruction. When I asked the nature of the instruction, I was told “Bonyai”, which I suppose may be understood as indicating manhood, for it sounds as if we should say, “to teach an American Americanism,” or “an Englishman to be English.” While here they are kept in subjection to rather stringent regulations. They must salute carefully by clapping their hands on approaching a superior, and when any cooked food is brought, the young men may not approach the dish, but an elder divides a portion to each. They remain unmarried until a fresh set of youths is ready to occupy their place under the same instruction. The parents send servants with their sons to cultivate gardens to supply them with food, and also tusks to Monina to purchase clothing for them. When the lads return to the village of their parents, a case is submitted to them for adjudication, and if they speak well on the point, the parents are highly gratified.
When we told Monina that we had nothing to present but some hoes, he replied that he was not in need of those articles, and that he had absolute power over the country in front, and if he prevented us from proceeding, no one would say any thing to him. His little boy Boromo having come to the encampment to look at us, I gave him a knife, and he went off and brought a pint of honey for me. The father came soon afterward, and I offered him a shirt. He remarked to his councilors, “It is evident that this man has nothing, for, if he had, his people would be buying provisions, but we don’t see them going about for that purpose.” His council did not agree in this. They evidently believed that we had goods, but kept them hid, and we felt it rather hard to be suspected of falsehood. It was probably at their suggestion that in the evening a wardance was got up about a hundred yards from our encampment, as if to put us in fear and force us to bring forth presents. Some of Monina’s young men had guns, but most were armed with large bows, arrows, and spears. They beat their drums furiously, and occasionally fired off a gun. As this sort of dance is never got up unless there is an intention to attack, my men expected an assault. We sat and looked at them for some time, and then, as it became dark, lay down, all ready to give them a warm reception. But an hour or two after dark the dance ceased, and, as we then saw no one approaching us, we went to sleep. During the night, one of my head men, Monahin, was seen to get up, look toward the village, and say to one who was half awake, “Don’t you hear what these people are saying? Go and listen.” He then walked off in the opposite direction, and never returned. We had no guard set, but every one lay with his spear in his hand. The man to whom he spoke appears to have been in a dreamy condition, for it did not strike him that he ought to give the alarm. Next morning I found to my sorrow that Monahin was gone, and not a trace of him could be discovered. He had an attack of pleuritis some weeks before, and had recovered, but latterly complained a little of his head. I observed him in good spirits on the way hither, and in crossing some of the streams, as I was careful not to wet my feet, he aided me, and several times joked at my becoming so light. In the evening he sat beside my tent until it was dark, and did not manifest any great alarm. It was probably either a sudden fit of insanity, or, having gone a little way out from the camp, he may have been carried off by a lion, as this part of the country is full of them. I incline to the former opinion, because sudden insanity occurs when there is any unusual strain upon their minds. Monahin was in command of the Batoka of Mokwine in my party, and he was looked upon with great dislike by all that chief’s subjects. The only difficulties I had with them arose in consequence of being obliged to give orders through him. They said Mokwine is reported to have been killed by the Makololo, but Monahin is the individual who put forth his hand and slew him. When one of these people kills in battle, he seems to have no compunction afterward; but when he makes a foray on his own responsibility, and kills a man of note, the common people make remarks to each other, which are reported to him, and bring the affair perpetually to his remembrance. This iteration on the conscience causes insanity, and when one runs away in a wide country like this, the fugitive is never heard of. Monahin had lately become afraid of his own party from overhearing their remarks, and said more than once to me, “They want to kill me.” I believe if he ran to any village they would take care of him. I felt his loss greatly, and spent three days in searching for him. He was a sensible and most obliging man. I sent in the morning to inform Monina of this sad event, and he at once sent to all the gardens around, desiring the people to look for him, and, should he come near, to bring him home. He evidently sympathized with us in our sorrow, and, afraid lest we might suspect him, added, “We never catch nor kidnap people here. It is not our custom. It is considered as guilt among all the tribes.” I gave him credit for truthfulness, and he allowed us to move on without farther molestation.
After leaving his village we marched in the bed of a sand-river a quarter of a mile broad, called Tangwe. Walking on this sand is as fatiguing as walking on snow. The country is flat, and covered with low trees, but we see high hills in the distance. A little to the south we have those of the Lobole. This region is very much infested by lions, and men never go any distance into the woods alone. Having turned aside on one occasion at midday, and gone a short distance among grass a little taller than myself, an animal sprung away from me which was certainly not an antelope, but I could not distinguish whether it was a lion or a hyaena. This abundance of carnivora made us lose all hope of Monahin. We saw footprints of many black rhinoceroses, buffaloes, and zebras.
After a few hours we reached the village of Nyakoba. Two men, who accompanied us from Monina to Nyakoba’s, would not believe us when we said that we had no beads. It is very trying to have one’s veracity doubted, but, on opening the boxes, and showing them that all I had was perfectly useless to them, they consented to receive some beads off Sekwebu’s waist, and I promised to send four yards of calico from Tete. As we came away from Monina’s village, a witch-doctor, who had been sent for, arrived, and all Monina’s wives went forth into the fields that morning fasting. There they would be compelled to drink an infusion of a plant named “goho”, which is used as an ordeal. This ceremony is called “muavi”, and is performed in this way. When a man suspects that any of his wives has bewitched him, he sends for the witch-doctor, and all the wives go forth into the field, and remain fasting till that person has made an infusion of the plant. They all drink it, each one holding up her hand to heaven in attestation of her innocency. Those who vomit it are considered innocent, while those whom it purges are pronounced guilty, and put to death by burning. The innocent return to their homes, and slaughter a cock as a thank-offering to their guardian spirits. The practice of ordeal is common among all the negro nations north of the Zambesi. This summary procedure excited my surprise, for my intercourse with the natives here had led me to believe that the women were held in so much estimation that the men would not dare to get rid of them thus. But the explanation I received was this. The slightest imputation makes them eagerly desire the test; they are conscious of being innocent, and have the fullest faith in the muavi detecting the guilty alone; hence they go willingly, and even eagerly, to drink it. When in Angola, a half-caste was pointed out to me who is one of the most successful merchants in that country; and the mother of this gentleman, who was perfectly free, went, of her own accord, all the way from Ambaca to Cassange, to be killed by the ordeal, her rich son making no objection. The same custom prevails among the Barotse, Bashubia, and Batoka, but with slight variations. The Barotse, for instance, pour the medicine down the throat of a cock or of a dog, and judge of the innocence or guilt of the person accused according to the vomiting or purging of the animal. I happened to mention to my own men the water-test for witches formerly in use in Scotland: the supposed witch, being bound hand and foot, was thrown into a pond; if she floated, she was considered guilty, taken out, and burned; but if she sank and was drowned, she was pronounced innocent. The wisdom of my ancestors excited as much wonder in their minds as their custom did in mine.
The person whom Nyakoba appointed to be our guide, having informed us of the decision, came and bargained that his services should be rewarded with a hoe. I had no objection to give it, and showed him the article; he was delighted with it, and went off to show it to his wife. He soon afterward returned, and said that, though he was perfectly willing to go, his wife would not let him. I said, “Then bring back the hoe;” but he replied, “I want it.” “Well, go with us, and you shall have it.” “But my wife won’t let me.” I remarked to my men, “Did you ever hear such a fool?” They answered, “Oh, that is the custom of these parts; the wives are the masters.” And Sekwebu informed me that he had gone to this man’s house, and heard him saying to his wife, “Do you think that I would ever leave you?” then, turning to Sekwebu, he asked, “Do you think I would leave this pretty woman? Is she not pretty?” Sekwebu had been making inquiries among the people, and had found that the women indeed possessed a great deal of influence. We questioned the guide whom we finally got from Nyakoba, an intelligent young man, who had much of the Arab features, and found the statements confirmed. When a young man takes a liking for a girl of another village, and the parents have no objection to the match, he is obliged to come and live at their village. He has to perform certain services for the mother-in-law, such as keeping her well supplied with firewood; and when he comes into her presence he is obliged to sit with his knees in a bent position, as putting out his feet toward the old lady would give her great offense. If he becomes tired of living in this state of vassalage, and wishes to return to his own family, he is obliged to leave all his children behind — they belong to the wife. This is only a more stringent enforcement of the law from which emanates the practice which prevails so very extensively in Africa, known to Europeans as “buying wives”. Such virtually it is, but it does not appear quite in that light to the actors. So many head of cattle or goats are given to the parents of the girl “to give her up”, as it is termed, i.e., to forego all claim on her offspring, and allow an entire transference of her and her seed into another family. If nothing is given, the family from which she has come can claim the children as part of itself: the payment is made to sever this bond. In the case supposed, the young man has not been able to advance any thing for that purpose; and, from the temptations placed here before my men, I have no doubt that some prefer to have their daughters married in that way, as it leads to the increase of their own village. My men excited the admiration of the Bambiri, who took them for a superior breed on account of their bravery in elephant-hunting, and wished to get them as sons-in-law on the conditions named, but none yielded to the temptation.
We were informed that there is a child belonging to a half-caste Portuguese in one of these tribes, and the father had tried in vain to get him from the mother’s parents. We saw several things to confirm the impression of the higher position which women hold here; and, being anxious to discover if I were not mistaken, when we came among the Portuguese I inquired of them, and was told that they had ascertained the same thing; and that, if they wished a man to perform any service for them, he would reply, “Well, I shall go and ask my wife.” If she consented, he would go, and perform his duty faithfully; but no amount of coaxing or bribery would induce him to do it if she refused. The Portuguese praised the appearance of the Banyai, and they certainly are a fine race.
We got on better with Nyakoba than we expected. He has been so much affected by the sesenda that he is quite decrepit, and requires to be fed. I at once showed his messenger that we had nothing whatever to give. Nyakoba was offended with him for not believing me, and he immediately sent a basket of maize and another of corn, saying that he believed my statement, and would send men with me to Tete who would not lead me to any other village.
The birds here sing very sweetly, and I thought I heard the canary, as in Londa. We had a heavy shower of rain, and I observed that the thermometer sank 14° in one hour afterward. From the beginning of February we experienced a sensible diminution of temperature. In January the lowest was 75°, and that at sunrise; the average at the same hour (sunrise) being 79°; at 3 P.M., 90°; and at sunset, 82° In February it fell as low as 70° in the course of the night, and the average height was 88° Only once did it rise to 94°, and a thunder-storm followed this; yet the sensation of heat was greater now than it had been at much higher temperatures on more elevated lands.
We passed several villages by going roundabout ways through the forest. We saw the remains of a lion that had been killed by a buffalo, and the horns of a putokwane (black antelope), the finest I had ever seen, which had met its death by a lion. The drums, beating all night in one village near which we slept, showed that some person in it had finished his course. On the occasion of the death of a chief, a trader is liable to be robbed, for the people consider themselves not amenable to law until a new one is elected. We continued a very winding course, in order to avoid the chief Katolosa, who is said to levy large sums upon those who fall into his hands. One of our guides was a fine, tall young man, the very image of Ben Habib the Arab. They were carrying dried buffalo’s meat to the market at Tete as a private speculation.
A great many of the Banyai are of a light coffee-and-milk color, and, indeed, this color is considered handsome throughout the whole country, a fair complexion being as much a test of beauty with them as with us. As they draw out their hair into small cords a foot in length, and entwine the inner bark of a certain tree round each separate cord, and dye this substance of a reddish color, many of them put me in mind of the ancient Egyptians. The great mass of dressed hair which they possess reaches to the shoulders, but when they intend to travel they draw it up to a bunch, and tie it on the top of the head. They are cleanly in their habits.
As we did not come near human habitations, and could only take short stages on account of the illness of one of my men, I had an opportunity of observing the expedients my party resorted to in order to supply their wants. Large white edible mushrooms are found on the ant-hills, and are very good. The mokuri, a tuber which abounds in the Mopane country, they discovered by percussing the ground with stones; and another tuber, about the size of a turnip, called “bonga”, is found in the same situations. It does not determine to the joints like the mokuri, and in winter has a sensible amount of salt in it. A fruit called “ndongo” by the Makololo, “dongolo” by the Bambiri, resembles in appearance a small plum, which becomes black when ripe, and is good food, as the seeds are small. Many trees are known by tradition, and one receives curious bits of information in asking about different fruits that are met with. A tree named “shekabakadzi” is superior to all others for making fire by friction. As its name implies, women may even readily make fire by it when benighted.
The country here is covered over with well-rounded shingle and gravel of granite, gneiss with much talc in it, mica schist, and other rocks which we saw ‘in situ’ between the Kafue and Loangwa. There are great mounds of soft red sand slightly coherent, which crumble in the hand with ease. The gravel and the sand drain away the water so effectually that the trees are exposed to the heat during a portion of the year without any moisture; hence they are not large, like those on the Zambesi, and are often scrubby. The rivers are all of the sandy kind, and we pass over large patches between this and Tete in which, in the dry season, no water is to be found. Close on our south, the hills of Lokole rise to a considerable height, and beyond them flows the Mazoe with its golden sands. The great numbers of pot-holes on the sides of sandstone ridges, when viewed in connection with the large banks of rolled shingle and washed sand which are met with on this side of the eastern ridge, may indicate that the sea in former times rolled its waves along its flanks. Many of the hills between the Kafue and Loangwa have their sides of the form seen in mud banks left by the tide. The pot-holes appear most abundant on low gray sandstone ridges here; and as the shingle is composed of the same rocks as the hills west of Zumbo, it looks as if a current had dashed along from the southeast in the line in which the pot-holes now appear; and if the current was deflected by those hills toward the Maravi country, north of Tete, it may have hollowed the rounded, water-worn caverns in which these people store their corn, and also hide themselves from their enemies. I could detect no terraces on the land, but, if I am right in my supposition, the form of this part of the continent must once have resembled the curves or indentations seen on the southern extremity of the American continent. In the indentation to the S.E., S., S.W., and W. of this, lie the principal gold-washings; and the line of the current, supposing it to have struck against the hills of Mburuma, shows the washings in the N. and N.E. of Tete.
We were tolerably successful in avoiding the villages, and slept one night on the flanks of the hill Zimika, where a great number of deep pot-holes afforded an abundant supply of good rain-water. Here, for the first time, we saw hills with bare, smooth, rocky tops, and we crossed over broad dikes of gneiss and syenitic porphyry: the directions in which they lay were N. and S. As we were now near to Tete, we were congratulating ourselves on having avoided those who would only have plagued us; but next morning some men saw us, and ran off to inform the neighboring villages of our passing. A party immediately pursued us, and, as they knew we were within call of Katolosa (Monomotapa), they threatened to send information to that chief of our offense, in passing through the country without leave. We were obliged to give them two small tusks; for, had they told Katolosa of our supposed offense, we should, in all probability, have lost the whole. We then went through a very rough, stony country without any path. Being pretty well tired out in the evening of the 2d of March, I remained at about eight miles distance from Tete, Tette, or Nyungwe. My men asked me to go on; I felt too fatigued to proceed, but sent forward to the commandant the letters of recommendation with which I had been favored in Angola by the bishop and others, and lay down to rest. Our food having been exhausted, my men had been subsisting for some time on roots and honey. About two o’clock in the morning of the 3d we were aroused by two officers and a company of soldiers, who had been sent with the materials for a civilized breakfast and a “masheela” to bring me to Tete. (Commandant’s house: lat. 16° 9’ 3” S., long. 33° 28’ E.) My companions thought that we were captured by the armed men, and called me in alarm. When I understood the errand on which they had come, and had partaken of a good breakfast, though I had just before been too tired to sleep, all my fatigue vanished. It was the most refreshing breakfast I ever partook of, and I walked the last eight miles without the least feeling of weariness, although the path was so rough that one of the officers remarked to me, “This is enough to tear a man’s life out of him.” The pleasure experienced in partaking of that breakfast was only equaled by the enjoyment of Mr. Gabriel’s bed on my arrival at Loanda. It was also enhanced by the news that Sebastopol had fallen and the war was finished.
Note. — Having neglected, in referring to the footprints of the rhinoceros, to mention what may be interesting to naturalists, I add it here in a note; that wherever the footprints are seen, there are also marks of the animal having plowed up the ground and bushes with his horn. This has been supposed to indicate that he is subject to “fits of ungovernable rage”; but, when seen, he appears rather to be rejoicing in his strength. He acts as a bull sometimes does when he gores the earth with his horns. The rhinoceros, in addition to this, stands on a clump of bushes, bends his back down, and scrapes the ground with his feet, throwing it out backward, as if to stretch and clean his toes, in the same way that a dog may be seen to do on a little grass: this is certainly not rage.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57