Never before in Africa have we seen anything like the dense population on the shores of Lake Nyassa. In the southern part there was an almost unbroken chain of villages. On the beach of wellnigh of every little sandy bay, dark crowds were standing, gazing at the novel sight of a boat under sail; and wherever we landed we were surrounded in a few seconds by hundreds of men, women, and children, who hastened to have a stare at the “chirombo” (wild animals).
During a portion of the year, the northern dwellers on the lake have a harvest which furnishes a singular sort of food. As we approached our limit in that direction, clouds, as of smoke rising from miles of burning grass, were observed bending in a south-easterly direction, and we thought that the unseen land on the opposite side was closing in, and that we were near the end of the lake. But next morning we sailed through one of the clouds on our own side, and discovered that it was neither smoke nor haze, but countless millions of minute midges called “kungo” (a cloud or fog). They filled the air to an immense height, and swarmed upon the water, too light to sink in it. Eyes and mouth had to be kept closed while passing through this living cloud: they struck upon the face like fine drifting snow. Thousands lay in the boat when she emerged from the cloud of midges. The people gather these minute insects by night, and boil them into thick cakes, to be used as a relish — millions of midges in a cake. A kungo cake, an inch thick, and as large as the blue bonnet of a Scotch ploughman, was offered to us; it was very dark in colour, and tasted not unlike caviare, or salted locusts.
Abundance of excellent fish is found in the lake, and nearly all were new to us. The mpasa, or sanjika, found by Dr. Kirk to be a kind of carp, was running up the rivers to spawn, like our salmon at home: the largest we saw was over two feet in length; it is a splendid fish, and the best we have ever eaten in Africa. They were ascending the rivers in August and September, and furnished active and profitable employment to many fishermen, who did not mind their being out of season. Weirs were constructed full of sluices, in each of which was set a large basket-trap, through whose single tortuous opening the fish once in has but small chance of escape. A short distance below the weir, nets are stretched across from bank to bank, so that it seemed a marvel how the most sagacious sanjika could get up at all without being taken. Possibly a passage up the river is found at night; but this is not the country of Sundays or “close times” for either men or fish. The lake fish are caught chiefly in nets, although men, and even women with babies on their backs, are occasionally seen fishing from the rocks with hooks.
A net with small meshes is used for catching the young fry of a silvery kind like pickerel, when they are about two inches long; thousands are often taken in a single haul. We had a present of a large bucketful one day for dinner: they tasted as if they had been cooked with a little quinine, probably from their gall-bladders being left in. In deep water, some sorts are taken by lowering fish-baskets attached by a long cord to a float, around which is often tied a mass of grass or weeds, as an alluring shade for the deep-sea fish. Fleets of fine canoes are engaged in the fisheries. The men have long paddles, and stand erect while using them. They sometimes venture out when a considerable sea is running. Our Makololo acknowledge that, in handling canoes, the Lake men beat them; they were unwilling to cross the Zambesi even, when the wind blew fresh.
Though there are many crocodiles in the lake, and some of an extraordinary size, the fishermen say that it is a rare thing for any one to be carried off by these reptiles. When crocodiles can easily obtain abundance of fish — their natural food — they seldom attack men; but when unable to see to catch their prey, from the muddiness of the water in floods, they are very dangerous.
Many men and boys are employed in gathering the buaze, in preparing the fibre, and in making it into long nets. The knot of the net is different from ours, for they invariably use what sailors call the reef knot, but they net with a needle like that we use. From the amount of native cotton cloth worn in many of the southern villages, it is evident that a great number of hands and heads must be employed in the cultivation of cotton, and in the various slow processes through which it has to pass, before the web is finished in the native loom. In addition to this branch of industry, an extensive manufacture of cloth, from the inner bark of an undescribed tree, of the botanical group, Caesalpineae, is ever going on, from one end of the lake to the other; and both toil and time are required to procure the bark, and to prepare it by pounding and steeping it to render it soft and pliable. The prodigious amount of the bark clothing worn indicates the destruction of an immense number of trees every year; yet the adjacent heights seem still well covered with timber.
The Lake people are by no means handsome: the women are VERY plain; and really make themselves hideous by the means they adopt to render themselves attractive. The pelele, or ornament for the upper lip, is universally worn by the ladies; the most valuable is of pure tin, hammered into the shape of a small dish; some are made of white quartz, and give the wearer the appearance of having an inch or more of one of Price’s patent candles thrust through the lip, and projecting beyond the tip of the nose.
In character, the Lake tribes are very much like other people; there are decent men among them, while a good many are no better than they should be. They are open-handed enough: if one of us, as was often the case, went to see a net drawn, a fish was always offered. Sailing one day past a number of men, who had just dragged their nets ashore, at one of the fine fisheries at Pamalombe, we were hailed and asked to stop, and received a liberal donation of beautiful fish. Arriving late one afternoon at a small village on the lake, a number of the inhabitants manned two canoes, took out their seine, dragged it, and made us a present of the entire haul. The northern chief, Marenga, a tall handsome man, with a fine aquiline nose, whom we found living in his stockade in a forest about twenty miles north of the mountain Kowirwe, behaved like a gentleman to us. His land extended from Dambo to the north of Makuza hill. He was specially generous, and gave us bountiful presents of food and beer. “Do they wear such things in your country?” he asked, pointing to his iron bracelet, which was studded with copper, and highly prized. The Doctor said he had never seen such in his country, whereupon Marenga instantly took it off, and presented it to him, and his wife also did the same with hers. On our return south from the mountains near the north end of the lake, we reached Marenga’s on the 7th October. When he could not prevail upon us to forego the advantage of a fair wind for his invitation to “spend the whole day drinking his beer, which was,” he said, “quite ready,” he loaded us with provisions, all of which he sent for before we gave him any present. In allusion to the boat’s sail, his people said that they had no Bazimo, or none worth having, seeing they had never invented the like for them. The chief, Mankambira, likewise treated us with kindness; but wherever the slave-trade is carried on, the people are dishonest and uncivil; that invariably leaves a blight and a curse in its path. The first question put to us at the lake crossing-places, was, “Have you come to buy slaves?” On hearing that we were English, and never purchased slaves, the questioners put on a supercilious air, and sometimes refused to sell us food. This want of respect to us may have been owing to the impressions conveyed to them by the Arabs, whose dhows have sometimes been taken by English cruisers when engaged in lawful trade. Much foreign cloth, beads, and brass-wire were worn by these ferrymen — and some had muskets.
By Chitanda, near one of the slave crossing-places, we were robbed for the first time in Africa, and learned by experience that these people, like more civilized nations, have expert thieves among them. It might be only a coincidence; but we never suffered from impudence, loss of property, or were endangered, unless among people familiar with slaving. We had such a general sense of security, that never, save when we suspected treachery, did we set a watch at night. Our native companions had, on this occasion, been carousing on beer, and had removed to a distance of some thirty yards, that we might not overhear their free and easy after-dinner remarks, and two of us had a slight touch of fever; between three and four o’clock in the morning some thieves came, while we slept ingloriously — rifles and revolvers all ready — and relieved us of most of our goods. The boat’s sail, under which we slept, was open all around, so the feat was easy.
Awaking as honest men do, at the usual hour, the loss of one was announced by “My bag is gone — with all my clothes; and my boots too!” “And mine!” responded a second. “And mine also!” chimed in the third, “with the bag of beads, and the rice!” “Is the cloth taken?” was the eager inquiry, as that would have been equivalent to all our money. It had been used for a pillow that night, and thus saved. The rogues left on the beach, close to our beds, the Aneroid Barometer and a pair of boots, thinking possibly that they might be of use to us, or, at least, that they could be of none to them. They shoved back some dried plants and fishes into one bag, but carried off many other specimens we had collected; some of our notes also, and nearly all our clothing.
We could not suspect the people of the village near which we lay. We had probably been followed for days by the thieves watching for an opportunity. And our suspicions fell on some persons who had come from the East Coast; but having no evidence, and expecting to hear if our goods were exposed for sale in the vicinity, we made no fuss about it, and began to make new clothing. That our rifles and revolvers were left untouched was greatly to our advantage: yet we felt it was most humiliating for armed men to have been so thoroughly fleeced by a few black rascals.
Some of the best fisheries appear to be private property. We found shelter from a storm one morning in a spacious lagoon, which communicated with the lake by a narrow passage. Across this strait stakes were driven in, leaving only spaces for the basket fish-traps. A score of men were busily engaged in taking out the fish. We tried to purchase some, but they refused to sell. The fish did not belong to them, they would send for the proprietor of the place. The proprietor arrived in a short time, and readily sold what we wanted.
Some of the burying-grounds are very well arranged, and well cared for; this was noticed at Chitanda, and more particularly at a village on the southern shore of the fine harbour at Cape Maclear. Wide and neat paths were made in the burying-ground on its eastern and southern sides. A grand old fig-tree stood at the north-east corner, and its wide-spreading branches threw their kindly shade over the last resting-place of the dead. Several other magnificent trees grew around the hallowed spot. Mounds were raised as they are at home, but all lay north and south, the heads apparently north. The graves of the sexes were distinguished by the various implements which the buried dead had used in their different employments during life; but they were all broken, as if to be employed no more. A piece of fishing-net and a broken paddle told where a fisherman lay. The graves of the women had the wooden mortar, and the heavy pestle used in pounding the corn, and the basket in which the meal is sifted, while all had numerous broken calabashes and pots arranged around them. The idea that the future life is like the present does not appear to prevail; yet a banana-tree had been carefully planted at the head of several of the graves; the fruit might be considered an offering to those who still possess human tastes. The people of the neighbouring villages were friendly and obliging, and willingly brought us food for sale.
Pursuing our exploration, we found that the northern part of the lake was the abode of lawlessness and bloodshed. The Mazite, or Mazitu, live on the highlands, and make sudden swoops on the villages of the plains. They are Zulus who came originally from the south, inland of Sofalla and Inhambane; and are of the same family as those who levy annual tribute from the Portuguese on the Zambesi. All the villages north of Mankambira’s (lat. 11 degrees 44 minutes south) had been recently destroyed by these terrible marauders, but they were foiled in their attacks upon that chief and Marenga. The thickets and stockades round their villages enabled the bowmen to pick off the Mazitu in security, while they were afraid to venture near any place where they could not use their shields. Beyond Mankambira’s we saw burned villages, and the putrid bodies of many who had fallen by Mazitu spears only a few days before. Our land party were afraid to go further. This reluctance to proceed without the presence of a white man was very natural, because bands of the enemy who had ravaged the country were supposed to be still roaming about; and if these marauders saw none but men of their own colour, our party might forthwith be attacked. Compliance with their request led to an event which might have been attended by very serious consequences. Dr. Livingstone got separated from the party in the boat for four days. Having taken the first morning’s journey along with them, and directing the boat to call for him in a bay in sight, both parties proceeded north. In an hour Dr. Livingstone and his party struck inland, on approaching the foot of the mountains which rise abruptly from the lake. Supposing that they had heard of a path behind the high range which there forms the shore, those in the boat held on their course; but it soon began to blow so fresh that they had to run ashore for safety. While delayed a couple of hours, two men were sent up the hills to look for the land party, but they could see nothing of them, and the boat party sailed as soon as it was safe to put to sea, with the conviction that the missing ones would regain the lake in front.
In a short time a small island or mass of rocks was passed, on which were a number of armed Mazitu with some young women, apparently their wives. The headman said that he had been wounded in the foot by Mankambira, and that they were staying there till he could walk to his chief, who lived over the hills. They had several large canoes, and it was evident that this was a nest of lake pirates, who sallied out by night to kill and plunder. They reported a path behind the hills, and, the crew being reassured, the boat sailed on. A few miles further, another and still larger band of pirates were fallen in with, and hundreds of crows and kites hovered over and round the rocks on which they lived. Dr. Kirk and Charles Livingstone, though ordered in a voice of authority to come ashore, kept on their course. A number of canoes then shot out from the rocks and chased them. One with nine strong paddlers persevered for some time after all the others gave up the chase. A good breeze, however, enabled the gig to get away from them with ease. After sailing twelve or fifteen miles, north of the point where Dr. Livingstone had left them, it was decided that he must be behind; but no sooner had the boat’s head been turned south, than another gale compelled her to seek shelter in a bay. Here a number of wretched fugitives from the slave-trade on the opposite shore of the lake were found; the original inhabitants of the place had all been swept off the year before by the Mazitu. In the deserted gardens beautiful cotton was seen growing, much of it had the staple an inch and a half long, and of very fine quality. Some of the plants were uncommonly large, deserving to be ranked with trees.
On their trying to purchase food, the natives had nothing to sell except a little dried cassava-root, and a few fish: and they demanded two yards of calico for the head only of a large fish. When the gale admitted of their return, their former pursuers tried to draw them ashore by asserting that they had quantities of ivory for sale. Owing to a succession of gales, it was the fourth day from parting that the boat was found by Dr. Livingstone, who was coming on in search of it with only two of his companions.
After proceeding a short distance up the path in which they had been lost sight of, they learned that it would take several days to go round the mountains, and rejoin the lake; and they therefore turned down to the bay, expecting to find the boat, but only saw it disappearing away to the north. They pushed on as briskly as possible after it, but the mountain flank which forms the coast proved excessively tedious and fatiguing; travelling all day, the distance made, in a straight line, was under five miles. As soon as day dawned, the march was resumed; and, after hearing at the first inhabited rock that their companions had passed it the day before, a goat was slaughtered out of the four which they had with them, when suddenly, to the evident consternation of the men, seven Mazitu appeared armed with spears and shields, with their heads dressed fantastically with feathers. To hold a parley, Dr. Livingstone and Moloka, a Makololo man who spoke Zulu, went unarmed to meet them. On Dr. Livingstone approaching them, they ordered him to stop, and sit down in the sun, while they sat in the shade. No, no!” was the reply, “if you sit in the shade, so will we.” They then rattled their shields with their clubs, a proceeding which usually inspires terror; but Moloka remarked, “It is not the first time we have heard shields rattled.” And all sat down together. They asked for a present, to show their chief that they had actually met strangers — something as evidence of having seen men who were not Arabs. And they were requested in turn to take these strangers to the boat, or to their chief. All the goods were in the boat, and to show that no present such as they wanted was in his pockets, Dr. Livingstone emptied them, turning out, among other things, a note-book: thinking it was a pistol they started up, and said, “Put that in again.” The younger men then became boisterous, and demanded a goat. That could not be spared, as they were the sole provisions. When they insisted, they were asked how many of the party they had killed, that they thus began to divide the spoil; this evidently made them ashamed. The elders were more reasonable; they dreaded treachery, and were as much afraid of Dr. Livingstone and his party as his men were of them; for on leaving they sped away up the hills like frightened deer. One of them, and probably the leader, was married, as seen by portions of his hair sewn into a ring; all were observed by their teeth to be people of the country, who had been incorporated into the Zulu tribe.
The way still led over a succession of steep ridges with ravines of from 500 to 1000 feet in depth; some of the sides had to be scaled on hands and knees, and no sooner was the top reached than the descent began again. Each ravine had a running stream; and the whole country, though so very rugged, had all been cultivated, and densely peopled. Many banana-trees, uncared for patches of corn, and Congo-bean bushes attested former cultivation. The population had all been swept away; ruined villages, broken utensils, and human skeletons, met with at every turn, told a sad tale. So numerous were the slain, that it was thought the inhabitants had been slaughtered in consequence of having made raids on the Zulus for cattle.
Continuing the journey that night as long as light served, they slept unconsciously on the edge of a deep precipice, without fire, lest the Mazitu should see it. Next morning most of the men were tired out, the dread of the apparition of the day before tending probably to increase the lameness of which they complained. When told, however, that all might return to Mankambira’s save two, Moloka and Charlie, they would not, till assured that the act would not be considered one of cowardice. Giving them one of the goats as provision, another was slaughtered for the remainder of the party who, having found on the rocks a canoe which had belonged to one of the deserted villages, determined to put to sea again; but the craft was very small, and the remaining goat, spite of many a threat of having its throat cut, jumped and rolled about so, as nearly to capsize it; so Dr. Livingstone took to the shore again, and after another night spent without fire, except just for cooking, was delighted to see the boat coming back.
We pulled that day to Mankambira’s, a distance that on shore, with the most heartbreaking toil, had taken three days to travel. This was the last latitude taken, 11 degrees 44 minutes S. The boat had gone about 24 minutes further to the north, the land party probably half that distance, but fever prevented the instruments being used. Dr. Kirk and Charles Livingstone were therefore furthest up the lake, and they saw about 20 minutes beyond their turning-point, say into the tenth degree of south latitude. From the heights of at least a thousand feet, over which the land party toiled, the dark mountain masses on both sides of the lake were seen closing in. At this elevation the view extended at least as far as that from the boats, and it is believed the end of the lake lies on the southern borders of 10 degrees, or the northern limits of 11 degrees south latitude.
Elephants are numerous on the borders of the lake, and surprisingly tame, being often found close to the villages. Hippopotami swarm very much at their ease in the creeks and lagoons, and herds are sometimes seen in the lake itself. Their tameness arises from the fact that poisoned arrows have no effect on either elephant or hippopotamus. Five of each were shot for food during our journey. Two of the elephants were females, and had only a single tusk apiece, and were each killed by the first shot. It is always a case of famine or satiety when depending on the rifle for food — a glut of meat or none at all. Most frequently it is scanty fare, except when game is abundant, as it is far up the Zambesi. We had one morning two hippopotami and an elephant, perhaps in all some eight tons of meat, and two days after the last of a few sardines only for dinner.
One morning when sailing past a pretty thickly-inhabited part, we were surprised at seeing nine large bull-elephants standing near the beach quietly flapping their gigantic ears. Glad of an opportunity of getting some fresh meat, we landed and fired into one. They all retreated into a marshy piece of ground between two villages. Our men gave chase, and fired into the herd. Standing on a sand hummock, we could see the bleeding animals throwing showers of water with their trunks over their backs. The herd was soon driven back upon us, and a wounded one turned to bay. Yet neither this one, nor any of the others, ever attempted to charge. Having broken his legs with a rifle-ball, we fired into him at forty yards as rapidly as we could load and discharge the rifles. He simply shook his head at each shot, and received at least sixty Enfield balls before he fell. Our excellent sailor from the north of Ireland happened to fire the last, and, as soon as he saw the animal fall, he turned with an air of triumph to the Doctor and exclaimed, “It was MY shot that done it, sir!”
In a few minutes upwards of a thousand natives were round the prostrate king of beasts; and, after our men had taken all they wanted, an invitation was given to the villagers to take the remainder. They rushed at it like hungry hyenas, and in an incredibly short time every inch of it was carried off. It was only by knowing that the meat would all be used that we felt justified in the slaughter of this noble creature. The tusks weighed 62 lbs. each. A large amount of ivory might be obtained from the people of Nyassa, and we were frequently told of their having it in their huts.
While detained by a storm on the 17th October at the mouth of the Kaombe, we were visited by several men belonging to an Arab who had been for fourteen years in the interior at Katanga’s, south of Cazembe’s. They had just brought down ivory, malachite, copper rings, and slaves to exchange for cloth at the lake. The malachite was said to be dug out of a large vein on the side of a hill near Katanga’s. They knew Lake Tanganyika well, but had not heard of the Zambesi. They spoke quite positively, saying that the water of Lake Tanganyika flowed out by the opposite end to that of Nyassa. As they had seen neither of the overflows, we took it simply as a piece of Arab geography. We passed their establishment of long sheds next day, and were satisfied that the Arabs must be driving a good trade.
The Lake slave-trade was going on at a terrible rate. Two enterprising Arabs had built a dhow, and were running her, crowded with slaves, regularly across the Lake. We were told she sailed the day before we reached their head-quarters. This establishment is in the latitude of the Portuguese slave-exporting town of Iboe, and partly supplies that vile market; but the greater number of the slaves go to Kilwa. We did not see much evidence of a wish to barter. Some ivory was offered for sale; but the chief traffic was in human chattels. Would that we could give a comprehensive account of the horrors of the slave-trade, with an approximation to the number of lives it yearly destroys! for we feel sure that were even half the truth told and recognized, the feelings of men would be so thoroughly roused, that this devilish traffic in human flesh would be put down at all risks; but neither we, nor any one else, have the statistics necessary for a work of this kind. Let us state what we do know of one portion of Africa, and then every reader who believes our tale can apply the ratio of the known misery to find out the unknown. We were informed by Colonel Rigby, late H.M. Political Agent, and Consul at Zanzibar, that 19,000 slaves from this Nyassa country alone pass annually through the Custom-house of that island. This is exclusive of course of those sent to Portuguese slave-ports. Let it not be supposed for an instant that this number, 19,000, represents all the victims. Those taken out of the country are but a very small section of the sufferers. We never realized the atrocious nature of the traffic, until we saw it at the fountain-head. There truly “Satan has his seat.” Besides those actually captured, thousands are killed and die of their wounds and famine, driven from their villages by the slave raid proper. Thousands perish in internecine war waged for slaves with their own clansmen and neighbours, slain by the lust of gain, which is stimulated, be it remembered always, by the slave purchasers of Cuba and elsewhere. The many skeletons we have seen, amongst rocks and woods, by the little pools, and along the paths of the wilderness, attest the awful sacrifice of human life, which must be attributed, directly or indirectly, to this trade of hell. We would ask our countrymen to believe us when we say, as we conscientiously can, that it is our deliberate opinion, from what we know and have seen, that not one-fifth of the victims of the slave-trade ever become slaves. Taking the Shire Valley as an average, we should say not even one-tenth arrive at their destination. As the system, therefore, involves such an awful waste of human life — or shall we say of human labour? — and moreover tends directly to perpetuate the barbarism of those who remain in the country, the argument for the continuance of this wasteful course because, forsooth, a fraction of the enslaved may find good masters, seems of no great value. This reasoning, if not the result of ignorance, may be of maudlin philanthropy. A small armed steamer on Lake Nyassa could easily, by exercising a control, and furnishing goods in exchange for ivory and other products, break the neck of this infamous traffic in that quarter; for nearly all must cross the Lake or the Upper Shire.
Our exploration of the Lake extended from the 2nd September to the 27th October, 1861; and, having expended or lost most of the goods we had brought, it was necessary to go back to the ship. When near the southern end, on our return, we were told that a very large slave-party had just crossed to the eastern side. We heard the fire of three guns in the evening, and judged by the report that they must be at least six-pounders. They were said to belong to an Ajawa chief named Mukata.
In descending the Shire, we found concealed in the broad belt of papyrus round the lakelet Pamalombe, into which the river expands, a number of Manganja families who had been driven from their homes by the Ajawa raids. So thickly did the papyrus grow, that when beat down it supported their small temporary huts, though when they walked from one hut to another, it heaved and bent beneath their feet as thin ice does at home.
A dense and impenetrable forest of the papyrus was left standing between them and the land, and no one passing by on the same side would ever have suspected that human beings lived there. They came to this spot from the south by means of their canoes, which enabled them to obtain a living from the fine fish which abound in the lakelet. They had a large quantity of excellent salt sewed up in bark, some of which we bought, our own having run out. We anchored for the night off their floating camp, and were visited by myriads of mosquitoes. Some of the natives show a love of country quite surprising. We saw fugitives on the mountains, in the north of the lake, who were persisting in clinging to the haunts of their boyhood and youth, in spite of starvation and the continual danger of being put to death by the Mazitu.
A few miles below the lakelet is the last of the great slave-crossings. Since the Ajawa invasion the villages on the left bank had been abandoned, and the people, as we saw in our ascent, were living on the right or western bank.
As we were resting for a few minutes opposite the valuable fishery at Movunguti, a young effeminate-looking man from some sea-coast tribe came in great state to have a look at us. He walked under a large umbrella, and was followed by five handsome damsels gaily dressed and adorned with a view to attract purchasers. One was carrying his pipe for smoking bang, here called “chamba;” another his bow and arrows; a third his battle-axe; a fourth one of his robes; while the last was ready to take his umbrella when he felt tired. This show of his merchandise was to excite the cupidity of any chief who had ivory, and may be called the lawful way of carrying on the slave-trade. What proportion it bears to the other ways in which we have seen this traffic pursued, we never found means of forming a judgment. He sat and looked at us for a few minutes, the young ladies kneeling behind him; and having satisfied himself that we were not likely to be customers, he departed.
On our first trip we met, at the landing opposite this place, a middle-aged woman of considerable intelligence, and possessing more knowledge of the country than any of the men. Our first definite information about Lake Nyassa was obtained from her. Seeing us taking notes, she remarked that she had been to the sea, and had there seen white men writing. She had seen camels also, probably among the Arabs. She was the only Manganja woman we ever met who was ashamed of wearing the “pelele,” or lip-ring. She retired to her hut, took it out, and kept her hand before her mouth to hide the hideous hole in the lip while conversing with us. All the villagers respected her, and even the headmen took a secondary place in her presence. On inquiring for her now, we found that she was dead. We never obtained sufficient materials to estimate the relative mortality of the highlands and lowlands; but, from many very old white-headed blacks having been seen on the highlands, we think it probable that even native races are longer lived the higher their dwelling-places are.
We landed below at Mikena’s and took observations for longitude, to verify those taken two years before. The village was deserted, Mikena and his people having fled to the other side of the river. A few had come across this morning to work in their old gardens. After completing the observations we had breakfast; and, as the last of the things were being carried into the boat, a Manganja man came running down to his canoe, crying out, “The Ajawa have just killed my comrade!” We shoved off, and in two minutes the advanced guard of a large marauding party were standing with their muskets on the spot where we had taken breakfast. They were evidently surprised at seeing us there, and halted; as did also the main body of perhaps a thousand men. “Kill them,” cried the Manganja; “they are going up to the hills to kill the English,” meaning the missionaries we had left at Magomero. But having no prospect of friendly communication with them, nor confidence in Manganja’s testimony, we proceeded down the river; leaving the Ajawa sitting under a large baobab, and the Manganja cursing them most energetically across the river.
On our way up, we had seen that the people of Zimika had taken refuge on a long island in the Shire, where they had placed stores of grain to prevent it falling into the hands of the Ajawa; supposing afterwards that the invasion and war were past, they had removed back again to the mainland on the east, and were living in fancied security. On approaching the chief’s village, which was built in the midst of a beautiful grove of lofty wild-fig and palm trees, sounds of revelry fell upon our ears. The people were having a merry time — drumming, dancing, and drinking beer — while a powerful enemy was close at hand, bringing death or slavery to every one in the village. One of our men called out to several who came to the bank to look at us, that the Ajawa were coming and were even now at Mikena’s village; but they were dazed with drinking, and took no notice of the warning.
Crowds of carriers offered their services after we left the river. Several sets of them placed so much confidence in us, as to decline receiving payment at the end of the first day; they wished to work another day, and so receive both days’ wages in one piece. The young headman of a new village himself came on with his men. The march was a pretty long one, and one of the men proposed to lay the burdens down beside a hut a mile or more from the next village. The headman scolded the fellow for his meanness in wishing to get rid of our goods where we could not procure carriers, and made him carry them on. The village, at the foot of the cataracts, had increased very much in size and wealth since we passed it on our way up. A number of large new huts had been built; and the people had a good stock of cloth and beads. We could not account for this sudden prosperity, until we saw some fine large canoes, instead of the two old, leaky things which lay there before. This had become a crossing-place for the slaves that the Portuguese agents were carrying to Tette, because they were afraid to take them across nearer to where the ship lay, about seven miles off. Nothing was more disheartening than this conduct of the Manganja, in profiting by the entire breaking up of their nation.
We reached the ship on the 8th of November, 1861, in a very weak condition, having suffered more from hunger than on any previous trip. Heavy rains commenced on the 9th, and continued several days; the river rose rapidly, and became highly discoloured. Bishop Mackenzie came down to the ship on the 14th, with some of the “Pioneer’s” men, who had been at Magomero for the benefit of their health, and also for the purpose of assisting the Mission. The Bishop appeared to be in excellent spirits, and thought that the future promised fair for peace and usefulness. The Ajawa having been defeated and driven off while we were on the Lake, had sent word that they desired to live at peace with the English. Many of the Manganja had settled round Magomero, in order to be under the protection of the Bishop; and it was hoped that the slave-trade would soon cease in the highlands, and the people be left in the secure enjoyment of their industry. The Mission, it was also anticipated, might soon become, to a considerable degree, self-supporting, and raise certain kinds of food, like the Portuguese of Senna and Quillimane. Mr. Burrup, an energetic young man, had arrived at Chibisa’s the day before the Bishop, having come up the Shire in a canoe. A surgeon and a lay brother followed behind in another canoe. The “Pioneer’s” draught being too much for the upper part of the Shire, it was not deemed advisable to bring her up, on the next trip, further than the Ruo; the Bishop, therefore, resolved to explore the country from Magomero to the mouth of that river, and to meet the ship with his sisters and Mrs. Burrup, in January. This was arranged before parting, and then the good Bishop and Burrup, whom we were never to meet again, left us; they gave and received three hearty English cheers as they went to the shore, and we steamed off.
The rains ceased on the 14th, and the waters of the Shire fell, even more rapidly than they had risen. A shoal, twenty miles below Chibisa’s, checked our further progress, and we lay there five weary weeks, till the permanent rise of the river took place. During this detention, with a large marsh on each side, the first death occurred in the Expedition which had now been three-and-a-half years in the country. The carpenter’s mate, a fine healthy young man, was seized with fever. The usual remedies had no effect; he died suddenly while we were at evening prayers, and was buried on shore. He came out in the “Pioneer,” and, with the exception of a slight touch of fever at the mouth of the Rovuma, had enjoyed perfect health all the time he had been with us. The Portuguese are of opinion that the European who has immunity from this disease for any length of time after he enters the country is more likely to be cut off by it when it does come, than the man who has it frequently at first.
The rains became pretty general towards the close of December, and the Shire was in flood in the beginning of January, 1862. At our wooding-place, a mile above the Ruo, the water was three feet higher than it was when we were here in June; and on the night of the 6th it rose eighteen inches more, and swept down an immense amount of brushwood and logs which swarmed with beetles and the two kinds of shells which are common all over the African continent. Natives in canoes were busy spearing fish in the meadows and creeks, and appeared to be taking them in great numbers. Spur-winged geese, and others of the knob-nosed species, took advantage of the low gardens being flooded, and came to pilfer the beans. As we passed the Ruo, on the 7th, and saw nothing of the Bishop, we concluded that he had heard from his surgeon of our detention, and had deferred his journey. He arrived there five days after, on the 12th.
After paying our Senna men, as they wished to go home, we landed them here. All were keen traders, and had invested largely in native iron-hoes, axes, and ornaments. Many of the hoes and spears had been taken from the slaving parties whose captives we liberated; for on these occasions our Senna friends were always uncommonly zealous and active. The remainder had been purchased with the old clothes we had given them and their store of hippopotamus meat: they had no fear of losing them, or of being punished for aiding us. The system, in which they had been trained, had eradicated the idea of personal responsibility from their minds. The Portuguese slaveholders would blame the English alone, they said; they were our servants at the time. No white man on board could purchase so cheaply as these men could. Many a time had their eloquence persuaded a native trader to sell for a bit of dirty worn cloth things for which he had, but a little before, refused twice the amount of clean new calico. “Scissors” being troubled with a cough at night, received a present of a quilted coverlet, which had seen a good deal of service. A few days afterwards, a good chance of investing in hoes offering itself, he ripped off both sides, tore them into a dozen pieces, and purchased about a dozen hoes with them.
We entered the Zambesi on the 11th of January, and steamed down towards the coast, taking the side on which we had come up; but the channel had changed to the other side during the summer, as it sometimes does, and we soon grounded. A Portuguese gentleman, formerly a lieutenant in the army, and now living on Sangwisa, one of the islands of the Zambesi, came over with his slaves, to aid us in getting the ship off. He said frankly, that his people were all great thieves, and we must be on our guard not to leave anything about. He next made a short speech to his men, told them he knew what thieves they were, but implored them not to steal from us, as we would give them a present of cloth when the work was done. “The natives of this country,” he remarked to us, “think only of three things, what they shall eat and drink, how many wives they can have, and what they may steal from their master, if not how they may murder him.” He always slept with a loaded musket by his side. This opinion may apply to slaves, but decidedly does not in our experience apply to freemen. We paid his men for helping us, and believe that even they, being paid, stole nothing from us. Our friend farms pretty extensively the large island called Sangwisa — lent him for nothing by Senhor Ferrao — and raises large quantities of mapira and beans, and also beautiful white rice, grown from seed brought a few years ago from South Carolina. He furnished us with some, which was very acceptable; for though not in absolute want, we were living on beans, salt pork, and fowls, all the biscuit and flour on board having been expended.
We fully expected that the owners of the captives we had liberated would show their displeasure, at least by their tongues; but they seemed ashamed; only one ventured a remark, and he, in the course of common conversation, said, with a smile, “You took the Governor’s slaves, didn’t you?” “Yes, we did free several gangs that we met in the Manganja country.” The Portuguese of Tette, from the Governor downwards, were extensively engaged in slaving. The trade is partly internal and partly external: they send some of the captives, and those bought, into the interior, up the Zambesi: some of these we actually met on their way up the river. The young women were sold there for ivory: an ordinary-looking one brought two arrobas, sixty-four pounds weight, and an extra beauty brought twice that amount. The men and boys were kept as carriers, to take the ivory down from the interior to Tette, or were retained on farms on the Zambesi, ready for export if a slaver should call: of this last mode of slaving we were witnesses also. The slaves were sent down the river chained, and in large canoes. This went on openly at Tette, and more especially so while the French “Free Emigration” system was in full operation. This double mode of disposing of the captives pays better than the single system of sending them down to the coast for exportation. One merchant at Tette, with whom we were well acquainted, sent into the interior three hundred Manganja women to be sold for ivory, and another sent a hundred and fifty.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52