Leave Tete and proceed down the River — Pass the Stockade of Bonga — Gorge of Lupata — “Spine of the World” — Width of River — Islands — War Drum at Shiramba — Canoe Navigation — Reach Senna — Its ruinous State — Landeens levy Fines upon the Inhabitants — Cowardice of native Militia — State of the Revenue — No direct Trade with Portugal — Attempts to revive the Trade of Eastern Africa — Country round Senna — Gorongozo, a Jesuit Station — Manica, the best Gold Region in Eastern Africa — Boat-building at Senna — Our Departure — Capture of a Rebel Stockade — Plants Alfacinya and Njefu at the Confluence of the Shire — Landeen Opinion of the Whites — Mazaro, the point reached by Captain Parker — His Opinion respecting the Navigation of the River from this to the Ocean — Lieutenant Hoskins’ Remarks on the same subject — Fever, its Effects — Kindly received into the House of Colonel Nunes at Kilimane — Forethought of Captain Nolloth and Dr. Walsh — Joy imbittered — Deep Obligations to the Earl of Clarendon, etc. — On developing Resources of the Interior — Desirableness of Missionary Societies selecting healthy Stations — Arrangements on leaving my Men — Retrospect — Probable Influence of the Discoveries on Slavery — Supply of Cotton, Sugar, etc., by Free Labor — Commercial Stations — Development of the Resources of Africa a Work of Time — Site of Kilimane — Unhealthiness — Death of a shipwrecked Crew from Fever — The Captain saved by Quinine — Arrival of H. M. Brig “Frolic” — Anxiety of one of my Men to go to England — Rough Passage in the Boats to the Ship — Sekwebu’s Alarm — Sail for Mauritius — Sekwebu on board; he becomes insane; drowns himself — Kindness of Major–General C. M. Hay — Escape Shipwreck — Reach Home.
We left Tete at noon on the 22d, and in the afternoon arrived at the garden of Senhor A. Manoel de Gomez, son-in-law and nephew of Bonga. The Commandant of Tete had sent a letter to the rebel Bonga, stating that he ought to treat me kindly, and he had deputed his son-in-law to be my host. Bonga is not at all equal to his father Nyaude, who was a man of great ability. He is also in bad odor with the Portuguese, because he receives all runaway slaves and criminals. He does not trust the Portuguese, and is reported to be excessively superstitious. I found his son-in-law, Manoel, extremely friendly, and able to converse in a very intelligent manner. He was in his garden when we arrived, but soon dressed himself respectably, and gave us a good tea and dinner. After a breakfast of tea, roasted eggs, and biscuits next morning, he presented six fowls and three goats as provisions for the journey. When we parted from him we passed the stockade of Bonga at the confluence of the Luenya, but did not go near it, as he is said to be very suspicious. The Portuguese advised me not to take any observation, as the instruments might awaken fears in Bonga’s mind, but Manoel said I might do so if I wished; his garden, however, being above the confluence, could not avail as a geographical point. There are some good houses in the stockade. The trees of which it is composed seemed to me to be living, and could not be burned. It was strange to see a stockade menacing the whole commerce of the river in a situation where the guns of a vessel would have full play on it, but it is a formidable affair for those who have only muskets. On one occasion, when Nyaude was attacked by Kisaka, they fought for weeks; and though Nyaude was reduced to cutting up his copper anklets for balls, his enemies were not able to enter the stockade.
On the 24th we sailed only about three hours, as we had done the day before; but having come to a small island at the western entrance of the gorge of Lupata, where Dr. Lacerda is said to have taken an astronomical observation, and called it the island of Mozambique, because it was believed to be in the same latitude, or 15° 1’, I wished to verify his position, and remained over night: my informants must have been mistaken, for I found the island of Mozambique here to be lat. 16° 34’ 46” S.
Respecting this range, to which the gorge has given a name, some Portuguese writers have stated it to be so high that snow lies on it during the whole year, and that it is composed of marble. It is not so high in appearance as the Campsie Hills when seen from the Vale of Clyde. The western side is the most abrupt, and gives the idea of the greatest height, as it rises up perpendicularly from the water six or seven hundred feet. As seen from this island, it is certainly no higher than Arthur’s Seat appears from Prince’s Street, Edinburgh. The rock is compact silicious schist of a slightly reddish color, and in thin strata; the island on which we slept looks as if torn off from the opposite side of the gorge, for the strata are twisted and torn in every direction. The eastern side of the range is much more sloping than the western, covered with trees, and does not give the idea of altitude so much as the western. It extends a considerable way into the Maganja country in the north, and then bends round toward the river again, and ends in the lofty mountain Morumbala, opposite Senna. On the other or southern side it is straighter, but is said to end in Gorongozo, a mountain west of the same point. The person who called this Lupata “the spine of the world” evidently did not mean to say that it was a translation of the word, for it means a defile or gorge having perpendicular walls. This range does not deserve the name of either Cordillera or Spine, unless we are willing to believe that the world has a very small and very crooked “back-bone”.
We passed through the gorge in two hours, and found it rather tortuous, and between 200 and 300 yards wide. The river is said to be here always excessively deep; it seemed to me that a steamer could pass through it at full speed. At the eastern entrance of Lupata stand two conical hills; they are composed of porphyry, having large square crystals therein. These hills are called Moenda en Goma, which means a footprint of a wild beast. Another conical hill on the opposite bank is named Kasisi (priest), from having a bald top. We sailed on quickly with the current of the river, and found that it spread out to more than two miles in breadth; it is, however, full of islands, which are generally covered with reeds, and which, previous to the war, were inhabited, and yielded vast quantities of grain. We usually landed to cook breakfast, and then went on quickly. The breadth of water between the islands was now quite sufficient for a sailing vessel to tack, and work her sails in; the prevailing winds would blow her up the stream; but I regretted that I had not come when the river was at its lowest rather than at its highest. The testimony, however, of Captain Parker and Lieutenant Hoskins, hereafter to be noticed, may be considered conclusive as to the capabilities of this river for commercial purposes. The Portuguese state that there is high water during five months of the year, and when it is low there is always a channel of deep water. But this is very winding; and as the river wears away some of the islands and forms others, the course of the channel is often altered. I suppose that an accurate chart of it made in one year would not be very reliable the next; but I believe, from all that I can learn, that the river could be navigated in a small flat-bottomed steamer during the whole year as far as Tete. At this time a steamer of large size could have floated easily. The river was measured at the latter place by the Portuguese, and found by them to be 1050 yards broad. The body of water flowing past when I was there was very great, and the breadth it occupied when among the islands had a most imposing effect. I could not get a glimpse of either shore. All the right bank beyond Lupata is low and flat: on the north, the ranges of hills and dark lines below them are seen, but from the boat it is impossible to see the shore. I only guess the breadth of the river to be two miles; it is probably more. Next day we landed at Shiramba for breakfast, having sailed 8–1/2 hours from Lupata. This was once the residence of a Portuguese brigadier, who spent large sums of money in embellishing his house and gardens: these we found in entire ruin, as his half-caste son had destroyed all, and then rebelled against the Portuguese, but with less success than either Nyaude or Kisaka, for he had been seized and sent a prisoner to Mozambique a short time before our visit. All the southern shore has been ravaged by the Caffres, who are here named Landeens, and most of the inhabitants who remain acknowledge the authority of Bonga, and not of the Portuguese. When at breakfast, the people of Shiramba commenced beating the drum of war. Lieutenant Miranda, who was well acquainted with the customs of the country, immediately started to his feet, and got all the soldiers of our party under arms; he then demanded of the natives why the drum was beaten while we were there. They gave an evasive reply; and, as they employ this means of collecting their neighbors when they intend to rob canoes, our watchfulness may have prevented their proceeding farther.
We spent the night of the 26th on the island called Nkuesi, opposite a remarkable saddle-shaped mountain, and found that we were just on the 17th parallel of latitude. The sail down the river was very fine; the temperature becoming low, it was pleasant to the feelings; but the shores being flat and far from us, the scenery was uninteresting. We breakfasted on the 27th at Pita, and found some half-caste Portuguese had established themselves there, after fleeing from the opposite bank to escape Kisaka’s people, who were now ravaging all the Maganja country. On the afternoon of the 27th we arrived at Senna. (Commandant Isidore’s house, 300 yards S.W. of the mud fort on the banks of the river: lat. 17° 27’ 1” S., long. 35° 10’ E.) We found Senna to be twenty-three and a half hours’ sail from Tete. We had the current entirely in our favor, but met various parties in large canoes toiling laboriously against it. They use long ropes, and pull the boats from the shore. They usually take about twenty days to ascend the distance we had descended in about four. The wages paid to boatmen are considered high. Part of the men who had accompanied me gladly accepted employment from Lieutenant Miranda to take a load of goods in a canoe from Senna to Tete.
I thought the state of Tete quite lamentable, but that of Senna was ten times worse. At Tete there is some life; here every thing is in a state of stagnation and ruin. The fort, built of sun-dried bricks, has the grass growing over the walls, which have been patched in some places by paling. The Landeens visit the village periodically, and levy fines upon the inhabitants, as they consider the Portuguese a conquered tribe, and very rarely does a native come to trade. Senhor Isidore, the commandant, a man of considerable energy, had proposed to surround the whole village with palisades as a protection against the Landeens, and the villagers were to begin this work the day after I left. It was sad to look at the ruin manifest in every building, but the half-castes appear to be in league with the rebels and Landeens; for when any attempt is made by the Portuguese to coerce the enemy or defend themselves, information is conveyed at once to the Landeen camp, and, though the commandant prohibits the payment of tribute to the Landeens, on their approach the half-castes eagerly ransom themselves. When I was there, a party of Kisaka’s people were ravaging the fine country on the opposite shore. They came down with the prisoners they had captured, and forthwith the half-castes of Senna went over to buy slaves. Encouraged by this, Kisaka’s people came over into Senna fully armed and beating their drums, and were received into the house of a native Portuguese. They had the village at their mercy, yet could have been driven off by half a dozen policemen. The commandant could only look on with bitter sorrow. He had soldiers, it is true, but it is notorious that the native militia of both Senna and Kilimane never think of standing to fight, but invariably run away, and leave their officers to be killed. They are brave only among the peaceable inhabitants. One of them, sent from Kilimane with a packet of letters or expresses, arrived while I was at Senna. He had been charged to deliver them with all speed, but Senhor Isidore had in the mean time gone to Kilimane, remained there a fortnight, and reached Senna again before the courier came. He could not punish him. We gave him a passage in our boat, but he left us in the way to visit his wife, and, “on urgent private business,” probably gave up the service altogether, as he did not come to Kilimane all the time I was there. It is impossible to describe the miserable state of decay into which the Portuguese possessions here have sunk. The revenues are not equal to the expenses, and every officer I met told the same tale, that he had not received one farthing of pay for the last four years. They are all forced to engage in trade for the support of their families. Senhor Miranda had been actually engaged against the enemy during these four years, and had been highly lauded in the commandant’s dispatches to the home government, but when he applied to the Governor of Kilimane for part of his four years’ pay, he offered him twenty dollars only. Miranda resigned his commission in consequence. The common soldiers sent out from Portugal received some pay in calico. They all marry native women, and, the soil being very fertile, the wives find but little difficulty in supporting their husbands. There is no direct trade with Portugal. A considerable number of Banians, or natives of India, come annually in small vessels with cargoes of English and Indian goods from Bombay. It is not to be wondered at, then, that there have been attempts made of late years by speculative Portuguese in Lisbon to revive the trade of Eastern Africa by means of mercantile companies. One was formally proposed, which was modeled on the plan of our East India Company; and it was actually imagined that all the forts, harbors, lands, etc., might be delivered over to a company, which would bind itself to develop the resources of the country, build schools, make roads, improve harbors, etc., and, after all, leave the Portuguese the option of resuming possession.
Another effort has been made to attract commercial enterprise to this region by offering any mining company permission to search for the ores and work them. Such a company, however, would gain but little in the way of protection or aid from the government of Mozambique, as that can but barely maintain a hold on its own small possessions; the condition affixed of importing at the company’s own cost a certain number of Portuguese from the island of Madeira or the Azores, in order to increase the Portuguese population in Africa, is impolitic. Taxes would also be levied on the minerals exported. It is noticeable that all the companies which have been proposed in Portugal have this put prominently in the preamble, “and for the abolition of the inhuman slave-trade.” This shows either that the statesmen in Portugal are enlightened and philanthropic, or it may be meant as a trap for English capitalists; I incline to believe the former. If the Portuguese really wish to develop the resources of the rich country beyond their possessions, they ought to invite the co-operation of other nations on equal terms with themselves. Let the pathway into the interior be free to all; and, instead of wretched forts, with scarcely an acre of land around them which can be called their own, let real colonies be made. If, instead of military establishments, we had civil ones, and saw emigrants going out with their wives, plows, and seeds, rather than military convicts with bugles and kettle-drums, we might hope for a return of prosperity to Eastern Africa.
The village of Senna stands on the right bank of the Zambesi. There are many reedy islands in front of it, and there is much bush in the country adjacent. The soil is fertile, but the village, being in a state of ruin, and having several pools of stagnant water, is very unhealthy. The bottom rock is the akose of Brongniart, or granitic grit, and several conical hills of trap have burst through it. One standing about half a mile west of the village is called Baramuana, which has another behind it; hence the name, which means “carry a child on the back”. It is 300 or 400 feet high, and on the top lie two dismounted cannon, which were used to frighten away the Landeens, who, in one attack upon Senna, killed 150 of the inhabitants. The prospect from Baramuana is very fine; below, on the eastward, lies the Zambesi, with the village of Senna; and some twenty or thirty miles beyond stands the lofty mountain Morumbala, probably 3000 or 4000 feet high. It is of an oblong shape, and from its physiognomy, which can be distinctly seen when the sun is in the west, is evidently igneous. On the northern end there is a hot sulphurous fountain, which my Portuguese friends refused to allow me to visit, because the mountain is well peopled, and the mountaineers are at present not friendly with the Portuguese. They have plenty of garden-ground and running water on its summit. My friends at Senna declined the responsibility of taking me into danger. To the north of Morumbala we have a fine view of the mountains of the Maganja; they here come close to the river, and terminate in Morumbala. Many of them are conical, and the Shire is reported to flow among them, and to run on the Senna side of Morumbala before joining the Zambesi. On seeing the confluence afterward, close to a low range of hills beyond Morumbala, I felt inclined to doubt the report, as the Shire must then flow parallel with the Zambesi, from which Morumbala seems distant only twenty or thirty miles. All around to the southeast the country is flat, and covered with forest, but near Senna a number of little abrupt conical hills diversify the scenery. To the west and north the country is also flat forest, which gives it a sombre appearance; but just in the haze of the horizon southwest by south, there rises a mountain range equal in height to Morumbala, and called Nyamonga. In a clear day another range beyond this may be seen, which is Gorongozo, once a station of the Jesuits. Gorongozo is famed for its clear cold waters and healthiness, and there are some inscriptions engraved on large square slabs on the top of the mountain, which have probably been the work of the fathers. As this lies in the direction of a district between Manica and Sofala, which has been conjectured to be the Ophir of King Solomon, the idea that first sprang up in my mind was, that these monuments might be more ancient than the Portuguese; but, on questioning some persons who had seen them, I found that they were in Roman characters, and did not deserve a journey of six days to see them.
Manica lies three days northwest of Gorongozo, and is the best gold country known in Eastern Africa. The only evidence the Portuguese have of its being the ancient Ophir is, that at Sofala, its nearest port, pieces of wrought gold have been dug up near the fort and in the gardens. They also report the existence of hewn stones in the neighborhood, but these can not have been abundant, for all the stones of the fort of Sofala are said to have been brought from Portugal. Natives whom I met in the country of Sekeletu, from Manica, or Manoa, as they call it, state that there are several caves in the country, and walls of hewn stones, which they believe to have been made by their ancestors; and there is, according to the Portuguese, a small tribe of Arabs there, who have become completely like the other natives. Two rivers, the Motirikwe and Sabia, or Sabe, run through their country into the sea. The Portuguese were driven out of the country by the Landeens, but now talk of reoccupying Manica.
The most pleasant sight I witnessed at Senna was the negroes of Senhor Isidore building boats after the European model, without any one to superintend their operations. They had been instructed by a European master, but now go into the forest and cut down the motondo-trees, lay down the keel, fit in the ribs, and make very neat boats and launches, valued at from £20 to £100. Senhor Isidore had some of them instructed also in carpentry at Rio Janeiro, and they constructed for him the handsomest house in Kilimane, the woodwork being all of country trees, some of which are capable of a fine polish, and very durable. A medical opinion having been asked by the commandant respecting a better site for the village, which, lying on the low bank of the Zambesi, is very unhealthy, I recommended imitation of the Jesuits, who had chosen the high, healthy mountain of Gorongozo, and to select a new site on Morumbala, which is perfectly healthy, well watered, and where the Shire is deep enough for the purpose of navigation at its base. As the next resource, I proposed removal to the harbor of Mitilone, which is at one of the mouths of the Zambesi, a much better port than Kilimane, and where, if they must have the fever, they would be in the way of doing more good to themselves and the country than they can do in their present situation. Had the Portuguese possessed this territory as a real colony, this important point would not have been left unoccupied; as it is, there is not even a native village placed at the entrance of this splendid river to show the way in.
On the 9th of May sixteen of my men were employed to carry government goods in canoes up to Tete. They were much pleased at getting this work. On the 11th the whole of the inhabitants of Senna, with the commandant, accompanied us to the boats. A venerable old man, son of a judge, said they were in much sorrow on account of the miserable state of decay into which they had sunk, and of the insolent conduct of the people of Kisaka now in the village. We were abundantly supplied with provisions by the commandant and Senhor Ferrao, and sailed pleasantly down the broad river. About thirty miles below Senna we passed the mouth of the River Zangwe on our right, which farther up goes by the name of Pungwe; and about five miles farther on our left, close to the end of a low range into which Morumbala merges, we crossed the mouth of the Shire, which seemed to be about 200 yards broad. A little inland from the confluence there is another rebel stockade, which was attacked by Ensign Rebeiro with three European soldiers, and captured; they disarmed the rebels and threw the guns into the water. This ensign and Miranda volunteered to disperse the people of Kisaka who were riding roughshod over the inhabitants of Senna; but the offer was declined, the few real Portuguese fearing the disloyal half-castes among whom they dwelt. Slavery and immorality have here done their work; nowhere else does the European name stand at so low an ebb; but what can be expected? Few Portuguese women are ever taken to the colonies, and here I did not observe that honorable regard for the offspring which I noticed in Angola. The son of a late governor of Tete was pointed out to me in the condition and habit of a slave. There is neither priest nor school at Senna, though there are ruins of churches and convents.
On passing the Shire we observed great quantities of the plant Alfacinya, already mentioned, floating down into the Zambesi. It is probably the ‘Pistia stratiotes’, a gigantic “duck-weed”. It was mixed with quantities of another aquatic plant, which the Barotse named “Njefu”, containing in the petiole of the leaf a pleasant-tasted nut. This was so esteemed by Sebituane that he made it part of his tribute from the subjected tribes. Dr. Hooker kindly informs me that the njefu “is probably a species of ‘Trapa’, the nuts of which are eaten in the south of Europe and in India. Government derives a large revenue from them in Kashmir, amounting to £12,000 per annum for 128,000 ass-loads! The ancient Thracians are said to have eaten them largely. In the south of France they are called water-chestnuts.” The existence of these plants in such abundance in the Shire may show that it flows from large collections of still water. We found them growing in all the still branches and lagoons of the Leeambye in the far north, and there also we met a beautiful little floating plant, the ‘Azolla Nilotica’, which is found in the upper Nile. They are seldom seen in flowing streams.
A few miles beyond the Shire we left the hills entirely, and sailed between extensive flats. The banks seen in the distance are covered with trees. We slept on a large inhabited island, and then came to the entrance of the River Mutu (latitude 18° 3’ 37” S., longitude 35° 46’ E.): the point of departure is called Mazaro, or “mouth of the Mutu”. The people who live on the north are called Baroro, and their country Bororo. The whole of the right bank is in subjection to the Landeens, who, it was imagined, would levy a tribute upon us, for this they are accustomed to do to passengers. I regret that we did not meet them, for, though they are named Caffres, I am not sure whether they are of the Zulu family or of the Mashona. I should have liked to form their acquaintance, and to learn what they really think of white men. I understood from Sekwebu, and from one of Changamera’s people who lives at Linyanti, and was present at the attack on Senna, that they consider the whites as a conquered tribe.
The Zambesi at Mazaro is a magnificent river, more than half a mile wide, and without islands. The opposite bank is covered with forests of fine timber; but the delta which begins here is only an immense flat, covered with high, coarse grass and reeds, with here and there a few mango and cocoanut trees. This was the point which was reached by the late lamented Captain Parker, who fell at the Sulina mouth of the Danube. I had a strong desire to follow the Zambesi farther, and ascertain where this enormous body of water found its way into the sea; but on hearing from the Portuguese that he had ascended to this point, and had been highly pleased with the capabilities of the river, I felt sure that his valuable opinion must be in possession of the Admiralty. On my arrival in England I applied to Captain Washington, Hydrographer to the Admiralty, and he promptly furnished the document for publication by the Royal Geographical Society.
The river between Mazaro and the sea must therefore be judged of from the testimony of one more competent to decide on its merits than a mere landsman like myself.
“The Luabo is the main outlet of the Great Zambesi. In the rainy season — January and February principally — the whole country is overflowed, and the water escapes by the different rivers as far up as Quilimane; but in the dry season neither Quilimane nor Olinda communicates with it. The position of the river is rather incorrect in the Admiralty chart, being six miles too much to the southward, and also considerably to the westward. Indeed, the coast from here up to Tongamiara seems too far to the westward. The entrance to the Luabo River is about two miles broad, and is easily distinguishable, when abreast of it, by a bluff (if I may so term it) of high, straight trees, very close together, on the western side of the entrance. The bar may be said to be formed by two series of sand-banks; that running from the eastern point runs diagonally across (opposite?) the entrance and nearly across it. Its western extremity is about two miles outside the west point.
“The bank running out from the west point projects to the southward three miles and a half, passing not one quarter of a mile from the eastern or cross bank. This narrow passage is the BAR PASSAGE. It breaks completely across at low water, except under very extraordinary circumstances. At this time — low water — a great portion of the banks are uncovered; in some places they are seven or eight feet above water.
“On these banks there is a break at all times, but in fine weather, at high water, a boat may cross near the east point. There is very little water, and, in places, a nasty race and bubble, so that caution is requisite. The best directions for going in over the regular bar passage, according to my experience, are as follows: Steer down well to the eastward of the bar passage, so as to avoid the outer part of the western shoals, on which there is usually a bad sea. When you get near the CROSS-BAR, keep along it till the bluff of trees on the west side of the entrance bears N.E.; you may then steer straight for it. This will clear the end of the CROSS-BAR, and, directly you are within that, the water is smooth. The worst sea is generally just without the bar passage.
“Within the points the river widens at first and then contracts again. About three miles from the Tree Bluff is an island; the passage up the river is the right-hand side of it, and deep. The plan will best explain it. The rise and fall of the tide at the entrance of the river being at springs twenty feet, any vessel can get in at that time, but, with all these conveniences for traffic, there is none here at present. The water in the river is fresh down to the bar with the ebb tide, and in the rainy season it is fresh at the surface quite outside. In the rainy season, at the full and change of the moon, the Zambesi frequently overflows its banks, making the country for an immense distance one great lake, with only a few small eminences above the water. On the banks of the river the huts are built on piles, and at these times the communication is only in canoes; but the waters do not remain up more than three or four days at a time. The first village is about eight miles up the river, on the western bank, and is opposite to another branch of the river called ‘Muselo’, which discharges itself into the sea about five miles to the eastward.
“The village is extensive, and about it there is a very large quantity of land in cultivation; calavances, or beans, of different sorts, rice, and pumpkins, are the principal things. I saw also about here some wild cotton, apparently of very good quality, but none is cultivated. The land is so fertile as to produce almost any (thing?) without much trouble.
“At this village is a very large house, mud-built, with a court-yard. I believe it to have been used as a barracoon for slaves, several large cargoes having been exported from this river. I proceeded up the river as far as its junction with the Quilimane River, called ‘Boca do Rio’, by my computation between 70 and 80 miles from the entrance. The influence of the tides is felt about 25 or 30 miles up the river. Above that, the stream, in the dry season, runs from 1–1/2 to 2–1/2 miles an hour, but in the rains much stronger. The banks of the river, for the first 30 miles, are generally thickly clothed with trees, with occasional open glades. There are many huts and villages on both sides, and a great deal of cultivation. At one village, about 17 miles up on the eastern bank, and distinguished by being surrounded by an immense number of bananas and plantain-trees, a great quantity of excellent peas are cultivated; also cabbages, tomatoes, onions, etc. Above this there are not many inhabitants on the left or west bank, although it is much the finest country, being higher, and abounding in cocoanut palms, the eastern bank being sandy and barren. The reason is, that some years back the Landeens, or Caffres, ravaged all this country, killing the men and taking the women as slaves, but they have never crossed the river; hence the natives are afraid to settle on the west bank, and the Portuguese owners of the different ‘prasos’ have virtually lost them. The banks of the river continue mostly sandy, with few trees, except some cocoanut palms, until the southern end of the large plantation of Nyangue, formed by the river about 20 miles from Maruru. Here the country is more populous and better cultivated, the natives a finer race, and the huts larger and better constructed. Maruru belongs to Senor Asevedo, of Quilimane, well known to all English officers on the east coast for his hospitality.
“The climate here is much cooler than nearer the sea, and Asevedo has successfully cultivated most European as well as tropical vegetables. The sugar-cane thrives, as also coffee and cotton, and indigo is a weed. Cattle here are beautiful, and some of them might show with credit in England. The natives are intelligent, and under a good government this fine country might become very valuable. Three miles from Maruru is Mesan, a very pretty village among palm and mango trees. There is here a good house belonging to a Senor Ferrao; close by is the canal (Mutu) of communication between the Quilimane and Zambesi rivers, which in the rainy season is navigable (?). I visited it in the month of October, which is about the dryest time of the year; it was then a dry canal, about 30 or 40 yards wide, overgrown with trees and grass, and, at the bottom, at least 16 or 17 feet above the level of the Zambesi, which was running beneath. In the rains, by the marks I saw, the entrance rise of the river must be very nearly 30 feet, and the volume of water discharged by it (the Zambesi) enormous.
“Above Maruru the country begins to become more hilly, and the high mountains of Boruru are in sight; the first view of these is obtained below Nyangue, and they must be of considerable height, as from this they are distant above 40 miles. They are reported to contain great mineral wealth; gold and copper being found in the range, as also COAL (?). The natives (Landeens) are a bold, independent race, who do not acknowledge the Portuguese authority, and even make them pay for leave to pass unmolested. Throughout the whole course of the river hippopotami were very abundant, and at one village a chase by the natives was witnessed. They harpoon the animal with a barbed lance, to which is attached, by a cord 3 or 4 fathoms long, an inflated bladder. The natives follow in their canoes, and look out to fix more harpoons as the animal rises to blow, and, when exhausted, dispatch him with their lances. It is, in fact, nearly similar to a whale-hunt. Elephants and lions are also abundant on the western side; the latter destroy many of the blacks annually, and are much feared by them. Alligators are said to be numerous, but I did not see any.
“The voyage up to Maruru occupied seven days, as I did not work the men at the oar, but it might be done in four; we returned to the bar in two and a half days.
“There is another mouth of the Zambesi seven miles to the westward of Luabo, which was visited by the ‘Castor’s pinnace’; and I was assured by Lieutenant Hoskins that the bar was better than the one I visited.”
The conclusions of Captain Parker are strengthened by those of Lieut. A. H. H. Hoskins, who was on the coast at the same time, and also visited this spot. Having applied to my friend for his deliberate opinion on the subject, he promptly furnished the following note in January last:
“The Zambesi appears to have five principal mouths, of which the Luabo is the most southern and most navigable; Cumana, and two whose names I do not know, not having myself visited it, lying between it and the Quilimane, and the rise and fall at spring tides on the bar of the Luabo is 22 feet; and as, in the passage, there is NEVER less than four feet (I having crossed it at dead low-water — springs), this would give an average depth sufficient for any commercial purposes. The rise and fall is six feet greater, the passages narrow and more defined, consequently deeper and more easily found than that of the Quilimane River. The river above the bar is very tortuous, but deep; and it is observable that the influence of the tide is felt much higher in this branch than in the others; for whereas in the Catrina and Cumana I have obtained drinkable water a very short distance from the mouth, in the Luabo I have ascended seventy miles without finding the saltness perceptibly diminished. This would facilitate navigation, and I have no hesitation in saying that little difficulty would be experienced in conveying a steam-vessel of the size and capabilities of the gunboat I lately commanded as high as the branching off of the Quilimane River (Mazaro), which, in the dry season, is observed many yards above the Luabo (main stream); though I have been told by the Portuguese that the freshes which come down in December and March fill it temporarily. These freshes deepen the river considerably at that time of the year, and freshen the water many miles from the coast. The population of the delta, except in the immediate neighborhood of the Portuguese, appeared to be very sparse. Antelopes and hippopotami were plentiful; the former tame and easily shot. I inquired frequently of both natives and Portuguese if slavers were in the habit of entering there to ship their cargoes, but could not ascertain that they have ever done so in any except the Quilimane. With common precaution the rivers are not unhealthy; for, during the whole time I was employed in them (off and on during eighteen months), in open boats and at all times of the year, frequently absent from the ship for a month or six weeks at a time, I had not, in my boat’s crew of fourteen men, more than two, and those mild, cases of fever. Too much importance can not be ascribed to the use of quinine, to which I attribute our comparative immunity, and with which our judicious commander, Commodore Wyvill, kept us amply supplied. I hope these few remarks may be of some little use in confirming your views of the utility of that magnificent river.
A. H. H. Hoskins.”
It ought to be remembered that the testimony of these gentlemen is all the more valuable, because they visited the river when the water was at its lowest, and the surface of the Zambesi was not, as it was now, on a level with and flowing into the Mutu, but sixteen feet beneath its bed. The Mutu, at the point of departure, was only ten or twelve yards broad, shallow, and filled with aquatic plants. Trees and reeds along the banks overhang it so much, that, though we had brought canoes and a boat from Tete, we were unable to enter the Mutu with them, and left them at Mazaro. During most of the year this part of the Mutu is dry, and we were even now obliged to carry all our luggage by land for about fifteen miles. As Kilimane is called, in all the Portuguese documents, the capital of the rivers of Senna, it seemed strange to me that the capital should be built at a point where there was no direct water conveyance to the magnificent river whose name it bore; and, on inquiry, I was informed that the whole of the Mutu was large in days of yore, and admitted of the free passage of great launches from Kilimane all the year round, but that now this part of the Mutu had been filled up.
I was seized by a severe tertian fever at Mazaro, but went along the right bank of the Mutu to the N.N.E. and E. for about fifteen miles. We then found that it was made navigable by a river called the Pangazi, which comes into it from the north. Another river, flowing from the same direction, called the Luare, swells it still more; and, last of all, the Likuare, with the tide, make up the river of Kilimane. The Mutu at Mazaro is simply a connecting link, such as is so often seen in Africa, and neither its flow nor stoppage affects the river of Kilimane. The waters of the Pangazi were quite clear compared with those of the Zambesi.54
54 I owe the following information, of a much later date, also to the politeness of Captain Washington. H. M. sloop “Grecian” visited the coast in 1852–3, and the master remarks that “the entrance to the Luabo is in lat. 18° 51’ S., long. 36° 12’ E., and may be known by a range of hummocks on its eastern side, and very low land to the S.W. The entrance is narrow, and, as with all the rivers on this coast, is fronted by a bar, which renders the navigation, particularly for boats, very dangerous with the wind to the south of east or west. Our boats proceeded twenty miles up this river, 2 fathoms on the bar, then 2–1/2 — 5 — 6 — 7 fathoms. It was navigable farther up, but they did not proceed. It is quite possible for a moderate-sized vessel to cross the bar at spring tides, and be perfectly landlocked and hidden among the trees.
“The Maiudo, in 18° 52’ S., 36° 12’ E., IS NOT MENTIONED IN HORSBURGH, NOR LAID DOWN IN THE ADMIRALTY CHART, but is, nevertheless, one of some importance, and appears to be one of the principal stations for shipping slaves, as the boats found two barracoons, about 20 miles up, bearing every indication of having been very recently occupied, and which had good presumptive evidence that the ‘Cauraigo’, a brig under American colors, had embarked a cargo from thence but a short time before. The river is fronted by a portion of the Elephant Shoals, at the distance of three or four miles outside. The eastern bank is formed by level sea-cliffs (as seen from the ship it has that appearance), high for this part of the coast, and conspicuous. The western side is composed of thick trees, and terminates in dead wood, from which we called it ‘Dead-wood Point’. After crossing the bar it branches off in a W. and N.W. direction, the latter being the principal arm, up which the boats went some 30 miles, or about 10 beyond the barracoon. Fresh water can be obtained almost immediately inside the entrance, as the stream runs down very rapidly with the ebb tide. The least water crossing the bar (low-water — springs) was 1–1/2 fathom, one cast only therefrom from 2 to 5 fathoms, another 7 fathoms nearly the whole way up.
“The Catrina, latitude 18° 50’ south, longitude 36° 24’ east. The external appearance of this river is precisely similar to that of the Maiudo, so much so that it is difficult to distinguish them by any feature of the land. The longitude is the best guide, or, in the absence of observation, perhaps the angles contained by the extremes of land will be serviceable. Thus, at nine miles off the Maiudo the angle contained by the above was seven points, the bearing being N.E. W. of N.W. (?); while off the Catrina, at the same distance from shore (about nine miles), the angle was only 3–1/2 to 4 points, being N. to N.W. As we did not send the boats up this river, no information was obtained.”
My fever became excessively severe in consequence of traveling in the hot sun, and the long grass blocking up the narrow path so as to exclude the air. The pulse beat with amazing force, and felt as if thumping against the crown of the head. The stomach and spleen swelled enormously, giving me, for the first time, an appearance which I had been disposed to laugh at among the Portuguese. At Interra we met Senhor Asevedo, a man who is well known by all who ever visited Kilimane, and who was presented with a gold chronometer watch by the Admiralty for his attentions to English officers. He immediately tendered his large sailing launch, which had a house in the stern. This was greatly in my favor, for it anchored in the middle of the stream, and gave me some rest from the mosquitoes, which in the whole of the delta are something frightful. Sailing comfortably in this commodious launch along the river of Kilimane, we reached that village (latitude 17° 53’ 8” S., longitude 36° 40’ E.) on the 20th of May, 1856, which wanted only a few days of being four years since I started from Cape Town. Here I was received into the house of Colonel Galdino Jose Nunes, one of the best men in the country. I had been three years without hearing from my family; letters having frequently been sent, but somehow or other, with but a single exception, they never reached me. I received, however, a letter from Admiral Trotter, conveying information of their welfare, and some newspapers, which were a treat indeed. Her majesty’s brig the “Frolic” had called to inquire for me in the November previous, and Captain Nolluth, of that ship, had most considerately left a case of wine; and his surgeon, Dr. James Walsh, divining what I should need most, left an ounce of quinine. These gifts made my heart overflow. I had not tasted any liquor whatever during the time I had been in Africa; but when reduced in Angola to extreme weakness, I found much benefit from a little wine, and took from Loanda one bottle of brandy in my medicine chest, intending to use it if it were again required; but the boy who carried it whirled the box upside down, and smashed the bottle, so I can not give my testimony either in favor of or against the brandy.
But my joy on reaching the east coast was sadly imbittered by the news that Commander MacLune, of H. M. brigantine “Dart”, on coming in to Kilimane to pick me up, had, with Lieutenant Woodruffe and five men, been lost on the bar. I never felt more poignant sorrow. It seemed as if it would have been easier for me to have died for them, than that they should all be cut off from the joys of life in generously attempting to render me a service. I would here acknowledge my deep obligations to the Earl of Clarendon, to the admiral at the Cape, and others, for the kind interest they manifested in my safety; even the inquiries made were very much to my advantage. I also refer with feelings of gratitude to the Governor of Mozambique for offering me a passage in the schooner “Zambesi”, belonging to that province; and I shall never forget the generous hospitality of Colonel Nunes and his nephew, with whom I remained. One of the discoveries I have made is that there are vast numbers of good people in the world, and I do most devoutly tender my unfeigned thanks to that Gracious One who mercifully watched over me in every position, and influenced the hearts of both black and white to regard me with favor.
With the united testimony of Captain Parker and Lieutenant Hoskins, added to my own observation, there can be no reasonable doubt but that the real mouth of the Zambesi is available for the purposes of commerce. The delta is claimed by the Portuguese, and the southern bank of the Luabo, or Cuama, as this part of the Zambesi is sometimes called, is owned by independent natives of the Caffre family. The Portuguese are thus near the main entrance to the new central region; and as they have of late years shown, in an enlightened and liberal spirit, their desire to develop the resources of Eastern Africa by proclaiming Mozambique a free port, it is to be hoped that the same spirit will lead them to invite mercantile enterprise up the Zambesi, by offering facilities to those who may be led to push commerce into the regions lying far beyond their territory. Their wish to co-operate in the noble work of developing the resources of the rich country beyond could not be shown better than by placing a village with Zambesian pilots at the harbor of Mitilone, and erecting a light-house for the guidance of seafaring men. If this were done, no nation would be a greater gainer by it than the Portuguese themselves, and assuredly no other needs a resuscitation of its commerce more. Their kindness to me personally makes me wish for a return of their ancient prosperity; and the most liberal and generous act of the enlightened young king H. M. Don Pedro, in sending out orders to support my late companions at the public expense of the province of Mozambique until my return to claim them, leads me to hope for encouragement in every measure for either the development of commerce, the elevation of the natives, or abolition of the trade in slaves.
As far as I am myself concerned, the opening of the new central country is a matter for congratulation only in so far as it opens up a prospect for the elevation of the inhabitants. As I have elsewhere remarked, I view the end of the geographical feat as the beginning of the missionary enterprise. I take the latter term in its most extended signification, and include every effort made for the amelioration of our race, the promotion of all those means by which God in His providence is working, and bringing all His dealings with man to a glorious consummation. Each man in his sphere, either knowingly or unwittingly, is performing the will of our Father in heaven. Men of science, searching after hidden truths, which, when discovered, will, like the electric telegraph, bind men more closely together — soldiers battling for the right against tyranny — sailors rescuing the victims of oppression from the grasp of heartless men-stealers — merchants teaching the nations lessons of mutual dependence — and many others, as well as missionaries, all work in the same direction, and all efforts are overruled for one glorious end.
If the reader has accompanied me thus far, he may, perhaps, be disposed to take an interest in the objects I propose to myself, should God mercifully grant me the honor of doing something more for Africa. As the highlands on the borders of the central basin are comparatively healthy, the first object seems to be to secure a permanent path thither, in order that Europeans may pass as quickly as possible through the unhealthy region near the coast. The river has not been surveyed, but at the time I came down there was abundance of water for a large vessel, and this continues to be the case during four or five months of each year. The months of low water still admit of navigation by launches, and would permit small vessels equal to the Thames steamers to ply with ease in the deep channel. If a steamer were sent to examine the Zambesi, I would recommend one of the lightest draught, and the months of May, June, and July for passing through the delta; and this not so much for fear of want of water as the danger of being grounded on a sand or mud bank, and the health of the crew being endangered by the delay.
In the months referred to no obstruction would be incurred in the channel below Tete. Twenty or thirty miles above that point we have a small rapid, of which I regret my inability to speak, as (mentioned already) I did not visit it. But, taking the distance below this point, we have, in round numbers, 300 miles of navigable river. Above this rapid we have another reach of 300 miles, with sand, but no mud banks in it, which brings us to the foot of the eastern ridge. Let it not, however, be thought that a vessel by going thither would return laden with ivory and gold-dust. The Portuguese of Tete pick up all the merchandise of the tribes in their vicinity, and, though I came out by traversing the people with whom the Portuguese have been at war, it does not follow that it will be perfectly safe for others to go in whose goods may be a stronger temptation to cupidity than any thing I possessed. When we get beyond the hostile population mentioned, we reach a very different race. On the latter my chief hopes at present rest. All of them, however, are willing and anxious to engage in trade, and, while eager for this, none have ever been encouraged to cultivate the raw materials of commerce. Their country is well adapted for cotton; and I venture to entertain the hope that by distributing seeds of better kinds than that which is found indigenous, and stimulating the natives to cultivate it by affording them the certainty of a market for all they may produce, we may engender a feeling of mutual dependence between them and ourselves. I have a twofold object in view, and believe that, by guiding our missionary labors so as to benefit our own country, we shall thereby more effectually and permanently benefit the heathen. Seven years were spent at Kolobeng in instructing my friends there; but the country being incapable of raising materials for exportation, when the Boers made their murderous attack and scattered the tribe for a season, none sympathized except a few Christian friends. Had the people of Kolobeng been in the habit of raising the raw materials of English commerce, the outrage would have been felt in England; or, what is more likely to have been the case, the people would have raised themselves in the scale by barter, and have become, like the Basutos of Moshesh and people of Kuruman, possessed of fire-arms, and the Boers would never have made the attack at all. We ought to encourage the Africans to cultivate for our markets, as the most effectual means, next to the Gospel, of their elevation.
It is in the hope of working out this idea that I propose the formation of stations on the Zambesi beyond the Portuguese territory, but having communication through them with the coast. A chain of stations admitting of easy and speedy intercourse, such as might be formed along the flank of the eastern ridge, would be in a favorable position for carrying out the objects in view. The London Missionary Society has resolved to have a station among the Makololo on the north bank, and another on the south among the Matebele. The Church — Wesleyan, Baptist, and that most energetic body, the Free Church — could each find desirable locations among the Batoka and adjacent tribes. The country is so extensive there is no fear of clashing. All classes of Christians find that sectarian rancor soon dies out when they are working together among and for the real heathen. Only let the healthy locality be searched for and fixed upon, and then there will be free scope to work in the same cause in various directions, without that loss of men which the system of missions on the unhealthy coasts entails. While respectfully submitting the plan to these influential societies, I can positively state that, when fairly in the interior, there is perfect security for life and property among a people who will at least listen and reason.
Eight of my men begged to be allowed to come as far as Kilimane, and, thinking that they would there see the ocean, I consented to their coming, though the food was so scarce in consequence of a dearth that they were compelled to suffer some hunger. They would fain have come farther; for when Sekeletu parted with them, his orders were that none of them should turn until they had reached Ma Robert and brought her back with them. On my explaining the difficulty of crossing the sea, he said, “Wherever you lead, they must follow.” As I did not know well how I should get home myself, I advised them to go back to Tete, where food was abundant, and there await my return. I bought a quantity of calico and brass wire with ten of the smaller tusks which we had in our charge, and sent the former back as clothing to those who remained at Tete. As there were still twenty tusks left, I deposited them with Colonel Nunes, that, in the event of any thing happening to prevent my return, the impression might not be produced in the country that I had made away with Sekeletu’s ivory. I instructed Colonel Nunes, in case of my death, to sell the tusks and deliver the proceeds to my men; but I intended, if my life should be prolonged, to purchase the goods ordered by Sekeletu in England with my own money, and pay myself on my return out of the price of the ivory. This I explained to the men fully, and they, understanding the matter, replied, “Nay, father, you will not die; you will return to take us back to Sekeletu.” They promised to wait till I came back, and, on my part, I assured them that nothing but death would prevent my return. This I said, though while waiting at Kilimane a letter came from the Directors of the London Missionary Society stating that “they were restricted in their power of aiding plans connected only remotely with the spread of the Gospel, and that the financial circumstances of the society were not such as to afford any ground of hope that it would be in a position, within any definite period, to enter upon untried, remote, and difficult fields of labor.” This has been explained since as an effusion caused by temporary financial depression; but, feeling perfect confidence in my Makololo friends, I was determined to return and trust to their generosity. The old love of independence, which I had so strongly before joining the society, again returned. It was roused by a mistaken view of what this letter meant; for the directors, immediately on my reaching home, saw the great importance of the opening, and entered with enlightened zeal on the work of sending the Gospel into the new field. It is to be hoped that their constituents will not only enable them to begin, but to carry out their plans, and that no material depression will ever again be permitted, nor appearance of spasmodic benevolence recur. While I hope to continue the same cordial co-operation and friendship which have always characterized our intercourse, various reasons induce me to withdraw from pecuniary dependence on any society. I have done something for the heathen, but for an aged mother, who has still more sacred claims than they, I have been able to do nothing, and a continuance of the connection would be a perpetuation of my inability to make any provision for her declining years. In addition to “clergyman’s sore throat”, which partially disabled me from the work, my father’s death imposed new obligations; and a fresh source of income having been opened to me without my asking, I had no hesitation in accepting what would enable me to fulfill my duty to my aged parent as well as to the heathen.
If the reader remembers the way in which I was led, while teaching the Bakwains, to commence exploration, he will, I think, recognize the hand of Providence. Anterior to that, when Mr. Moffat began to give the Bible — the Magna Charta of all the rights and privileges of modern civilization — to the Bechuanas, Sebituane went north, and spread the language into which he was translating the sacred oracles in a new region larger than France. Sebituane, at the same time, rooted out hordes of bloody savages, among whom no white man could have gone without leaving his skull to ornament some village. He opened up the way for me — let us hope also for the Bible. Then, again, while I was laboring at Kolobeng, seeing only a small arc of the cycle of Providence, I could not understand it, and felt inclined to ascribe our successive and prolonged droughts to the wicked one. But when forced by these and the Boers to become explorer, and open a new country in the north rather than set my face southward, where missionaries are not needed, the gracious Spirit of God influenced the minds of the heathen to regard me with favor; the Divine hand is again perceived. Then I turned away westward rather than in the opposite direction, chiefly from observing that some native Portuguese, though influenced by the hope of a reward from their government to cross the continent, had been obliged to return from the east without accomplishing their object. Had I gone at first in the eastern direction, which the course of the great Leeambye seemed to invite, I should have come among the belligerents near Tete when the war was raging at its height, instead of, as it happened, when all was over. And again, when enabled to reach Loanda, the resolution to do my duty by going back to Linyanti probably saved me from the fate of my papers in the “Forerunner”. And then, last of all, this new country is partially opened to the sympathies of Christendom, and I find that Sechele himself has, though unbidden by man, been teaching his own people. In fact, he has been doing all that I was prevented from doing, and I have been employed in exploring — a work I had no previous intention of performing. I think that I see the operation of the unseen hand in all this, and I humbly hope that it will still guide me to do good in my day and generation in Africa.
Viewing the success awarded to opening up the new country as a development of Divine Providence in relation to the African family, the mind naturally turns to the probable influence it may have on negro slavery, and more especially on the practice of it by a large portion of our own race. We now demand increased supplies of cotton and sugar, and then reprobate the means our American brethren adopt to supply our wants. We claim a right to speak about this evil, and also to act in reference to its removal, the more especially because we are of one blood. It is on the Anglo–American race that the hopes of the world for liberty and progress rest. Now it is very grievous to find one portion of this race practicing the gigantic evil, and the other aiding, by increased demands for the produce of slave labor, in perpetuating the enormous wrong. The Mauritius, a mere speck on the ocean, yields sugar, by means of guano, improved machinery, and free labor, equal in amount to one fourth part of the entire consumption of Great Britain. On that island land is excessively dear and far from rich: no crop can be raised except by means of guano, and labor has to be brought all the way from India. But in Africa the land is cheap, the soil good, and free labor is to be found on the spot. Our chief hopes rest with the natives themselves; and if the point to which I have given prominence, of healthy inland commercial stations, be realized, where all the produce raised may be collected, there is little doubt but that slavery among our kinsmen across the Atlantic will, in the course of some years, cease to assume the form of a necessity to even the slaveholders themselves. Natives alone can collect produce from the more distant hamlets, and bring it to the stations contemplated. This is the system pursued so successfully in Angola. If England had possessed that strip of land, by civilly declining to enrich her “frontier colonists” by “Caffre wars”, the inborn energy of English colonists would have developed its resources, and the exports would not have been £100,000 as now, but one million at least. The establishment of the necessary agency must be a work of time, and greater difficulty will be experienced on the eastern than on the western side of the continent, because in the one region we have a people who know none but slave-traders, while in the other we have tribes who have felt the influence of the coast missionaries and of the great Niger expedition; one invaluable benefit it conferred was the dissemination of the knowledge of English love of commerce and English hatred of slavery, and it therefore was no failure. But on the east there is a river which may become a good pathway to a central population who are friendly to the English; and if we can conciliate the less amicable people on the river, and introduce commerce, an effectual blow will be struck at the slave-trade in that quarter. By linking the Africans there to ourselves in the manner proposed, it is hoped that their elevation will eventually be the result. In this hope and proposed effort I am joined by my brother Charles, who has come from America, after seventeen years’ separation, for the purpose. We expect success through the influence of that Spirit who already aided the efforts to open the country, and who has since turned the public mind toward it. A failure may be experienced by sudden rash speculation overstocking the markets there, and raising the prices against ourselves. But I propose to spend some more years of labor, and shall be thankful if I see the system fairly begun in an open pathway which will eventually benefit both Africa and England.
The village of Kilimane stands on a great mud bank, and is surrounded by extensive swamps and rice-grounds. The banks of the river are lined with mangrove bushes, the roots of which, and the slimy banks on which they grow, are alternately exposed to the tide and sun. The houses are well built of brick and lime, the latter from Mozambique. If one digs down two or three feet in any part of the site of the village, he comes to water; hence the walls built on this mud bank gradually subside; pieces are sometimes sawn off the doors below, because the walls in which they are fixed have descended into the ground, so as to leave the floors higher than the bottom of the doors. It is almost needless to say that Kilimane is very unhealthy. A man of plethoric temperament is sure to get fever, and concerning a stout person one may hear the remark, “Ah! he will not live long; he is sure to die.”
A Hamburgh vessel was lost near the bar before we came down. The men were much more regular in their habits than English sailors, so I had an opportunity of observing the fever acting as a slow poison. They felt “out of sorts” only, but gradually became pale, bloodless, and emaciated, then weaker and weaker, till at last they sank more like oxen bitten by tsetse than any disease I ever saw. The captain, a strong, robust young man, remained in perfect health for about three months, but was at last knocked down suddenly and made as helpless as a child by this terrible disease. He had imbibed a foolish prejudice against quinine, our sheet-anchor in the complaint. This is rather a professional subject, but I introduce it here in order to protest against the prejudice as almost entirely unfounded. Quinine is invaluable in fever, and never produces any unpleasant effects in any stage of the disease, IF EXHIBITED IN COMBINATION WITH AN APERIENT. The captain was saved by it, without his knowledge, and I was thankful that the mode of treatment, so efficacious among natives, promised so fair among Europeans.
After waiting about six weeks at this unhealthy spot, in which, however, by the kind attentions of Colonel Nunes and his nephew, I partially recovered from my tertian, H. M. brig “Frolic” arrived off Kilimane. As the village is twelve miles from the bar, and the weather was rough, she was at anchor ten days before we knew of her presence about seven miles from the entrance to the port. She brought abundant supplies for all my need, and £150 to pay my passage home, from my kind friend Mr. Thompson, the Society’s agent at the Cape. The admiral at the Cape kindly sent an offer of a passage to the Mauritius, which I thankfully accepted. Sekwebu and one attendant alone remained with me now. He was very intelligent, and had been of the greatest service to me; indeed, but for his good sense, tact, and command of the language of the tribes through which we passed, I believe we should scarcely have succeeded in reaching the coast. I naturally felt grateful to him; and as his chief wished ALL my companions to go to England with me, and would probably be disappointed if none went, I thought it would be beneficial for him to see the effects of civilization, and report them to his countrymen; I wished also to make some return for his very important services. Others had petitioned to come, but I explained the danger of a change of climate and food, and with difficulty restrained them. The only one who now remained begged so hard to come on board ship that I greatly regretted that the expense prevented my acceding to his wish to visit England. I said to him, “You will die if you go to such a cold country as mine.” “That is nothing,” he reiterated; “let me die at your feet.”
When we parted from our friends at Kilimane, the sea on the bar was frightful even to the seamen. This was the first time Sekwebu had seen the sea. Captain Peyton had sent two boats in case of accident. The waves were so high that, when the cutter was in one trough, and we in the pinnace in another, her mast was hid. We then mounted to the crest of the wave, rushed down the slope, and struck the water again with a blow which felt as if she had struck the bottom. Boats must be singularly well constructed to be able to stand these shocks. Three breakers swept over us. The men lift up their oars, and a wave comes sweeping over all, giving the impression that the boat is going down, but she only goes beneath the top of the wave, comes out on the other side, and swings down the slope, and a man bales out the water with a bucket. Poor Sekwebu looked at me when these terrible seas broke over, and said, “Is this the way you go? Is this the way you go?” I smiled and said, “Yes; don’t you see it is?” and tried to encourage him. He was well acquainted with canoes, but never had seen aught like this. When we reached the ship — a fine, large brig of sixteen guns and a crew of one hundred and thirty — she was rolling so that we could see a part of her bottom. It was quite impossible for landsmen to catch the ropes and climb up, so a chair was sent down, and we were hoisted in as ladies usually are, and received so hearty an English welcome from Captain Peyton and all on board that I felt myself at once at home in every thing except my own mother tongue. I seemed to know the language perfectly, but the words I wanted would not come at my call. When I left England I had no intention of returning, and directed my attention earnestly to the languages of Africa, paying none to English composition. With the exception of a short interval in Angola, I had been three and a half years without speaking English, and this, with thirteen years of previous partial disuse of my native tongue, made me feel sadly at a loss on board the “Frolic”.
We left Kilimane on the 12th of July, and reached the Mauritius on the 12th of August, 1856. Sekwebu was picking up English, and becoming a favorite with both men and officers. He seemed a little bewildered, every thing on board a man-of-war being so new and strange; but he remarked to me several times, “Your countrymen are very agreeable,” and, “What a strange country this is — all water together!” He also said that he now understood why I used the sextant. When we reached the Mauritius a steamer came out to tow us into the harbor. The constant strain on his untutored mind seemed now to reach a climax, for during the night he became insane. I thought at first that he was intoxicated. He had descended into a boat, and, when I attempted to go down and bring him into the ship, he ran to the stern and said, “No! no! it is enough that I die alone. You must not perish; if you come, I shall throw myself into the water.” Perceiving that his mind was affected, I said, “Now, Sekwebu, we are going to Ma Robert.” This struck a chord in his bosom, and he said, “Oh yes; where is she, and where is Robert?” and he seemed to recover. The officers proposed to secure him by putting him in irons; but, being a gentleman in his own country, I objected, knowing that the insane often retain an impression of ill treatment, and I could not bear to have it said in Sekeletu’s country that I had chained one of his principal men as they had seen slaves treated. I tried to get him on shore by day, but he refused. In the evening a fresh accession of insanity occurred; he tried to spear one of the crew, then leaped overboard, and, though he could swim well, pulled himself down hand under hand by the chain cable. We never found the body of poor Sekwebu.
At the Mauritius I was most hospitably received by Major General C. M. Hay, and he generously constrained me to remain with him till, by the influence of the good climate and quiet English comfort, I got rid of an enlarged spleen from African fever. In November I came up the Red Sea; escaped the danger of shipwreck through the admirable management of Captain Powell, of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Company’s ship “Candia”, and on the 12th of December was once more in dear old England. The Company most liberally refunded my passage-money. I have not mentioned half the favors bestowed, but I may just add that no one has cause for more abundant gratitude to his fellow-men and to his Maker than I have; and may God grant that the effect on my mind be such that I may be more humbly devoted to the service of the Author of all our mercies!
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52