We arrived at Zumbo, at the mouth of the Loangwa, on the 1st of November. The water being scarcely up to the knee, our land party waded this river with ease. A buffalo was shot on an island opposite Pangola’s, the ball lodging in the spleen. It was found to have been wounded in the same organ previously, for an iron bullet was imbedded in it, and the wound entirely healed. A great deal of the plant Pistia stratiotes was seen floating in the river. Many people inhabit the right bank about this part, yet the game is very abundant.
As we were taking our breakfast on the morning of the 2nd, the Mambo Kazai, of whom we knew nothing, and his men came with their muskets and large powder-horns to levy a fine, and obtain payment for the wood we used in cooking. But on our replying to his demand that we were English, “Oh! are you?” he said; “I thought you were Bazungu (Portuguese). They are the people I take payments from:” and he apologized for his mistake. Bazungu, or Azungu, is a term applied to all foreigners of a light colour, and to Arabs; even to trading slaves if clothed; it probably means foreigners, or visitors — from zunga, to visit or wander — and the Portuguese were the only foreigners these men had ever seen. As we had no desire to pass for people of that nation — quite the contrary — we usually made a broad line of demarcation by saying that we were English, and the English neither bought, sold, nor held black people as slaves, but wished to put a stop to the slave-trade altogether.
We called upon our friend, Mpende, in passing. He provided a hut for us, with new mats spread on the floor. Having told him that we were hurrying on because the rains were near, “Are they near?” eagerly inquired an old counsellor, “and are we to have plenty of rain this year?” We could only say that it was about the usual time for the rains to commence; and that there were the usual indications in great abundance of clouds floating westwards, but that we knew nothing more than they did themselves.
The hippopotami are more wary here than higher up, as the natives hunt them with guns. Having shot one on a shallow sandbank, our men undertook to bring it over to the left bank, in order to cut it up with greater ease. It was a fine fat one, and all rejoiced in the hope of eating the fat for butter, with our hard dry cakes of native meal. Our cook was sent over to cut a choice piece for dinner, but returned with the astonishing intelligence that the carcass was gone. They had been hoodwinked, and were very much ashamed of themselves. A number of Banyai came to assist in rolling it ashore, and asserted that it was all shallow water. They rolled it over and over towards the land, and, finding the rope we had made fast to it, as they said, an encumbrance, it was unloosed. All were shouting and talking as loud as they could bawl, when suddenly our expected feast plumped into a deep hole, as the Banyai intended it should do. When sinking, all the Makololo jumped in after it. One caught frantically at the tail; another grasped a foot; a third seized the hip; “but, by Sebituane, it would go down in spite of all that we could do.” Instead of a fat hippopotamus we had only a lean fowl for dinner, and were glad enough to get even that. The hippopotamus, however, floated during the night, and was found about a mile below. The Banyai then assembled on the bank, and disputed our right to the beast: “It might have been shot by somebody else.” Our men took a little of it and then left it, rather than come into collision with them.
A fine waterbuck was shot in the Kakolole narrows, at Mount Manyerere; it dropped beside the creek where it was feeding; an enormous crocodile, that had been watching it at the moment, seized and dragged it into the water, which was not very deep. The mortally wounded animal made a desperate plunge, and hauling the crocodile several yards tore itself out of the hideous jaws. To escape the hunter, the waterbuck jumped into the river, and was swimming across, when another crocodile gave chase, but a ball soon sent it to the bottom. The waterbuck swam a little longer, the fine head dropped, the body turned over, and one of the canoes dragged it ashore. Below Kakolole, and still at the base of Manyerere mountain, several coal-seams, not noticed on our ascent, were now seen to crop out on the right bank of the Zambesi.
Chitora, of Chicova, treated us with his former hospitality. Our men were all much pleased with his kindness, and certainly did not look upon it as a proof of weakness. They meant to return his friendliness when they came this way on a marauding expedition to eat the sheep of the Banyai, for insulting them in the affair of the hippopotamus; they would then send word to Chitora not to run away, for they, being his friends, would do such a good-hearted man no harm.
We entered Kebrabasa rapids, at the east end of Chicova, in the canoes, and went down a number of miles, until the river narrowed into a groove of fifty or sixty yards wide, of which we have already spoken in describing the flood-bed and channel of low water. The navigation then became difficult and dangerous. A fifteen feet fall of the water in our absence had developed many cataracts. Two of our canoes passed safely down a narrow channel, which, bifurcating, had an ugly whirlpool at the rocky partition between the two branches, the deep hole in the whirls at times opening and then shutting. The Doctor’s canoe came next, and seemed to be drifting broadside into the open vortex, in spite of the utmost exertions of the paddlers. The rest were expecting to have to pull to the rescue; the men saying, “Look where these people are going! — look, look!”— when a loud crash burst on our ears. Dr. Kirk’s canoe was dashed on a projection of the perpendicular rocks, by a sudden and mysterious boiling up of the river, which occurs at irregular intervals. Dr. Kirk was seen resisting the sucking-down action of the water, which must have been fifteen fathoms deep, and raising himself by his arms on to the ledge, while his steersman, holding on to the same rocks, saved the canoe; but nearly all its contents were swept away down the stream. Dr. Livingstone’s canoe, meanwhile, which had distracted the men’s attention, was saved by the cavity in the whirlpool filling up as the frightful eddy was reached. A few of the things in Dr. Kirk’s canoe were left; but all that was valuable, including a chronometer, a barometer, and, to our great sorrow, his notes of the journey and botanical drawings of the fruit-trees of the interior, perished.
We now left the river, and proceeded on foot, sorry that we had not done so the day before. The men were thoroughly frightened, they had never seen such perilous navigation. They would carry all the loads, rather than risk Kebrabasa any longer; but the fatigue of a day’s march over the hot rocks and burning sand changed their tune before night; and then they regretted having left the canoes; they thought they should have dragged them past the dangerous places, and then launched them again. One of the two donkeys died from exhaustion near the Luia. Though the men eat zebras and quaggas, blood relations of the donkey, they were shocked at the idea of eating the ass; “it would be like eating man himself, because the donkey lives with man, and is his bosom companion.” We met two large trading parties of Tette slaves on their way to Zumbo, leading, to be sold for ivory, a number of Manganja women, with ropes round their necks, and all made fast to one long rope.
Panzo, the headman of the village east of Kebrabasa, received us with great kindness. After the usual salutation he went up the hill, and, in a loud voice, called across the valley to the women of several hamlets to cook supper for us. About eight in the evening he returned, followed by a procession of women, bringing the food. There were eight dishes of nsima, or porridge, six of different sorts of very good wild vegetables, with dishes of beans and fowls; all deliciously well cooked, and scrupulously clean. The wooden dishes were nearly as white as the meal itself: food also was brought for our men. Ripe mangoes, which usually indicate the vicinity of the Portuguese, were found on the 21st November; and we reached Tette early on the 23rd, having been absent a little over six months.
The two English sailors, left in charge of the steamer, were well, had behaved well, and had enjoyed excellent health all the time we were away. Their farm had been a failure. We left a few sheep, to be slaughtered when they wished for fresh meat, and two dozen fowls. Purchasing more, they soon had double the number of the latter, and anticipated a good supply of eggs; but they also bought two monkeys, and THEY ate all the eggs. A hippopotamus came up one night, and laid waste their vegetable garden; the sheep broke into their cotton patch, when it was in flower, and ate it all, except the stems; then the crocodiles carried off the sheep, and the natives stole the fowls. Nor were they more successful as gun-smiths: a Portuguese trader, having an exalted opinion of the ingenuity of English sailors, showed them a double-barrelled rifle, and inquired if they could put on the BROWNING, which had rusted off. “I think I knows how,” said one, whose father was a blacksmith, “it’s very easy; you have only to put the barrels in the fire.” A great fire of wood was made on shore, and the unlucky barrels put over it, to secure the handsome rifle colour. To Jack’s utter amazement the barrels came asunder. To get out of the scrape, his companion and he stuck the pieces together with resin, and sent it to the owner, with the message, “It was all they could do for it, and they would not charge him anything for the job!” They had also invented an original mode of settling a bargain; having ascertained the market price of provisions, they paid that, but no more. If the traders refused to leave the ship till the price was increased, a chameleon, of which the natives have a mortal dread, was brought out of the cabin; and the moment the natives saw the creature, they at once sprang overboard. The chameleon settled every dispute in a twinkling.
But besides their good-humoured intercourse, they showed humanity worthy of English sailors. A terrible scream roused them up one night, and they pushed off in a boat to the rescue. A crocodile had caught a woman, and was dragging her across a shallow sandbank. Just as they came up to her, she gave a fearful shriek: the horrid reptile had snapped off her leg at the knee. They took her on board, bandaged the limb as well as they could, and, not thinking of any better way of showing their sympathy, gave her a glass of rum, and carried her to a hut in the village. Next morning they found the bandages torn off, and the unfortunate creature left to die. “I believe,” remarked Rowe, one of the sailors, “her master was angry with us for saving her life, seeing as how she had lost her leg.”
The Zambesi being unusually low, we remained at Tette till it rose a little, and then left on the 3rd of December for the Kongone. It was hard work to keep the vessel afloat; indeed, we never expected her to remain above water. New leaks broke out every day; the engine pump gave way; the bridge broke down; three compartments filled at night; except the cabin and front compartment all was flooded; and in a few days we were assured by Rowe that “she can’t be worse than she is, sir.” He and Hutchins had spent much of their time, while we were away, in patching her bottom, puddling it with clay, and shoring it, and it was chiefly to please them that we again attempted to make use of her. We had long been fully convinced that the steel plates were thoroughly unsuitable. On the morning of the 21st the uncomfortable “Asthmatic” grounded on a sandbank and filled. She could neither be emptied nor got off. The river rose during the night, and all that was visible of the worn-out craft next day was about six feet of her two masts. Most of the property we had on board was saved; and we spent the Christmas of 1860 encamped on the island of Chimba. Canoes were sent for from Senna; and we reached it on the 27th, to be again hospitably entertained by our friend, Senhor Ferrao.
We reached the Kongone on the 4th of January, 1861. A flagstaff and a Custom-house had been erected during our absence; a hut, also, for a black lance-corporal and three privates. By the kind permission of the lance-corporal, who came to see us as soon as he had got into his trousers and shirt, we took up our quarters in the Custom-house, which, like the other buildings, is a small square floorless hut of mangrove stakes overlaid with reeds. The soldiers complained of hunger, they had nothing to eat but a little mapira, and were making palm wine to deaden their cravings. While waiting for a ship, we had leisure to read the newspapers and periodicals we found in the mail which was waiting our arrival at Tette. Several were a year and a half old.
Our provisions began to run short; and towards the end of the month there was nothing left but a little bad biscuit and a few ounces of sugar. Coffee and tea were expended, but scarcely missed, as our sailors discovered a pretty good substitute in roasted mapira. Fresh meat was obtained in abundance from our antelope preserves on the large island made by a creek between the Kongone and East Luabo.
In this focus of decaying vegetation, nothing is so much to be dreaded as inactivity. We had, therefore, to find what exercise and amusement we could, when hunting was not required, in peering about in the fetid swamps; to have gone mooning about, in listless idleness, would have ensured fever in its worst form, and probably with fatal results.
A curious little blenny-fish swarms in the numerous creeks which intersect the mangrove topes. When alarmed, it hurries across the surface of the water in a series of leaps. It may be considered amphibious, as it lives as much out of the water as in it, and its most busy time is during low water. Then it appears on the sand or mud, near the little pools left by the retiring tide; it raises itself on its pectoral fins into something of a standing attitude, and with its large projecting eyes keeps a sharp look-out for the light-coloured fly, on which it feeds. Should the fly alight at too great a distance for even a second leap, the blenny moves slowly towards it like a cat to its prey, or like a jumping spider; and, as soon as it gets within two or three inches of the insect, by a sudden spring contrives to pop its underset mouth directly over the unlucky victim. He is, moreover, a pugnacious little fellow; and rather prolonged fights may be observed between him and his brethren. One, in fleeing from an apparent danger, jumped into a pool a foot square, which the other evidently regarded as his by right of prior discovery; in a twinkling the owner, with eyes flashing fury, and with dorsal fin bristling up in rage, dashed at the intruding foe. The fight waxed furious, no tempest in a teapot ever equalled the storm of that miniature sea. The warriors were now in the water, and anon out of it, for the battle raged on sea and shore. They struck hard, they bit each other; until, becoming exhausted, they seized each other by the jaws like two bull-dogs, then paused for breath, and at it again as fiercely as before, until the combat ended by the precipitate retreat of the invader.
The muddy ground under the mangrove-trees is covered with soldier-crabs, which quickly slink into their holes on any symptom of danger. When the ebbing tide retires, myriads of minute crabs emerge from their underground quarters, and begin to work like so many busy bees. Soon many miles of the smooth sand become rough with the results of their labour. They are toiling for their daily bread: a round bit of moist sand appears at the little labourer’s mouth, and is quickly brushed off by one of the claws; a second bit follows the first; and another, and still another come as fast as they can be laid aside. As these pellets accumulate, the crab moves sideways, and the work continues. The first impression one receives is, that the little creature has swallowed a great deal of sand, and is getting rid of it as speedily as possible: a habit he indulges in of darting into his hole at intervals, as if for fresh supplies, tends to strengthen this idea; but the size of the heaps formed in a few seconds shows that this cannot be the case, and leads to the impression that, although not readily seen, at the distance at which he chooses to keep the observer, yet that possibly he raises the sand to his mouth, where whatever animalcule it may contain is sifted out of it, and the remainder rejected in the manner described. At times the larger species of crabs perform a sort of concert; and from each subterranean abode strange sounds arise, as if, in imitation of the songsters of the groves, for very joy they sang!
We found some natives pounding the woody stems of a poisonous climbing-plant (Dirca palustris) called Busungu, or poison, which grows abundantly in the swamps. When a good quantity was bruised, it was tied up in bundles. The stream above and below was obstructed with bushes, and with a sort of rinsing motion the poison was diffused through the water. Many fish were soon affected, swain in shore, and died, others were only stupefied. The plant has pink, pea-shaped blossoms, and smooth, pointed, glossy leaves, and the brown bark is covered with minute white points. The knowledge of it might prove of use to a shipwrecked party by enabling them to catch the fish.
The poison is said to be deleterious to man if the water is drunk; but not when the fish is cooked. The Busungu is repulsive to some insects, and is smeared round the shoots of the palm-trees to prevent the ants from getting into the palm wine while it is dropping from the tops of the palm-trees into the little pots suspended to collect it.
We were in the habit of walking from our beds into the salt water at sunrise, for a bath, till a large crocodile appeared at the bathing-place, and from that time forth we took our dip in the sea, away from the harbour, about midday. This is said to be unwholesome, but we did not find it so. It is certainly better not to bathe in the mornings, when the air is colder than the water — for then, on returning to the cooler air, one is apt to get a chill and fever. In the mouth of the river, many saw-fish are found. Rowe saw one while bathing — caught it by the tail, and shoved it, “snout on,” ashore. The saw is from a foot to eighteen inches long. We never heard of any one being wounded by this fish; nor, though it goes hundreds of miles up the river in fresh water, could we learn that it was eaten by the people. The hippopotami delighted to spend the day among the breakers, and seemed to enjoy the fun as much as we did.
Severe gales occurred during our stay on the Coast, and many small sea-birds (Prion Banksii, Smith) perished: the beach was strewn with their dead bodies, and some were found hundreds of yards inland; many were so emaciated as to dry up without putrefying. We were plagued with myriads of mosquitoes, and had some touches of fever; the men we brought from malarious regions of the interior suffered almost as much from it here as we did ourselves. This gives strength to the idea that the civilized withstand the evil influences of strange climates better than the uncivilized. When negroes return to their own country from healthy lands, they suffer as severely as foreigners ever do.
On the 31st of January, 1861, our new ship, the “Pioneer,” arrived from England, and anchored outside the bar; but the weather was stormy, and she did not venture in till the 4th of February.
Two of H.M. cruisers came at the same time, bringing Bishop Mackenzie, and the Oxford and Cambridge Mission to the tribes of the Shire and Lake Nyassa. The Mission consisted of six Englishmen, and five coloured men from the Cape. It was a puzzle to know what to do with so many men. The estimable Bishop, anxious to commence his work without delay, wished the “Pioneer” to carry the Mission up the Shire, as far as Chibisa’s, and there leave them. But there were grave objections to this. The “Pioneer” was under orders to explore the Rovuma, as the Portuguese Government had refused to open the Zambesi to the ships of other nations, and their officials were very effectually pursuing a system, which, by abstracting the labour, was rendering the country of no value either to foreigners or to themselves. She was already two months behind her time, and the rainy season was half over. Then, if the party were taken to Chibisa’s, the Mission would he left without a medical attendant, in an unhealthy region, at the beginning of the most sickly season of the year, and without means of reaching the healthy highlands, or of returning to the sea. We dreaded that, in the absence of medical aid and all knowledge of the treatment of fever, there might be a repetition of the sorrowful fate which befell the similar non-medical Mission at Linyanti.
On the 25th of February the “Pioneer” anchored in the mouth of the Rovuma, which, unlike most African rivers, has a magnificent bay and no bar. We wooded, and then waited for the Bishop till the 9th of March, when he came in the “Lyra.” On the 11th we proceeded up the river, and saw that it had fallen four or five feet during our detention. The scenery on the lower part of the Rovuma is superior to that on the Zambesi, for we can see the highlands from the sea. Eight miles from the mouth the mangroves are left behind, and a beautiful range of well-wooded hills on each bank begins. On these ridges the tree resembling African blackwood, of finer grain than ebony, grows abundantly, and attains a large size. Few people were seen, and those were of Arab breed, and did not appear to be very well off. The current of the Rovuma was now as strong as that of the Zambesi, but the volume of water is very much less. Several of the crossings had barely water enough for our ship, drawing five feet, to pass. When we were thirty miles up the river, the water fell suddenly seven inches in twenty-four hours. As the March flood is the last of the season, and it appeared to be expended, it was thought prudent to avoid the chance of a year’s detention, by getting the ship back to the sea without delay. Had the Expedition been alone, we would have pushed up in boats, or afoot, and done what we could towards the exploration of the river and upper end of the lake; but, though the Mission was a private one, and entirely distinct from our own, a public one, the objects of both being similar, we felt anxious to aid our countrymen in their noble enterprise; and, rather than follow our own inclination, decided to return to the Shire, see the Mission party settled safely, and afterwards explore Lake Nyassa and the Rovuma, from the Lake downwards. Fever broke out on board the “Pioneer,” at the mouth of the Rovuma, as we thought from our having anchored close to a creek coming out of the mangroves; and it remained in her until we completely isolated the engine-room from the rest of the ship. The coal-dust rotting sent out strong effluvia, and kept up the disease for more than a twelvemonth.
Soon after we started the fever put the “Pioneer” almost entirely into the hands of the original Zambesi Expedition, and not long afterwards the leader had to navigate the ocean as well as the river. The habit of finding the geographical positions on land renders it an easy task to steer a steamer with only three or four sails at sea; where, if one does not run ashore, no one follows to find out an error, and where a current affords a ready excuse for every blunder.
Touching at Mohilla, one of the Comoro Islands, on our return, we found a mixed race of Arabs, Africans, and their conquerors, the natives of Madagascar. Being Mahometans, they have mosques and schools, in which we were pleased to see girls as well as boys taught to read the Koran. The teacher said he was paid by the job, and received ten dollars for teaching each child to read. The clever ones learn in six months; but the dull ones take a couple of years. We next went over to Johanna for our friends; and, after a sojourn of a few days at the beautiful Comoro Islands, we sailed for the Kongone mouth of the Zambesi with Bishop Mackenzie and his party. We reached the coast in seven days, and passed up the Zambesi to the Shire.
The “Pioneer,” constructed under the skilful supervision of Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker and the late Admiral Washington, warm-hearted and highly esteemed friends of the Expedition, was a very superior vessel, and well suited for our work in every respect, except in her draught of water. Five feet were found to be too much for the navigation of the upper part of the Shire. Designed to draw three feet only, the weight necessary to impart extra strength, and fit her for the ocean, brought her down two feet more, and caused us a great deal of hard and vexatious work, in laying out anchors, and toiling at the capstan to get her off sandbanks. We should not have minded this much, but for the heavy loss of time which might have been more profitably, and infinitely more pleasantly, spent in intercourse with the people, exploring new regions, and otherwise carrying out the objects of the Expedition. Once we were a fortnight on a bank of soft yielding sand, having only two or three inches less water than the ship drew; this delay was occasioned by the anchors coming home, and the current swinging the ship broadside on the bank, which, immediately on our touching, always formed behind us. We did not like to leave the ship short of Chibisa’s, lest the crew should suffer from the malaria of the lowland around; and it would have been difficult to have got the Mission goods carried up. We were daily visited by crowds of natives, who brought us abundance of provisions far beyond our ability to consume. In hauling the “Pioneer” over the shallow places, the Bishop, with Horace Waller and Mr. Scudamore, were ever ready and anxious to lend a hand, and worked as hard as any on board. Had our fine little ship drawn but three feet, she could have run up and down the river at any time of the year with the greatest ease, but as it was, having once passed up over a few shallow banks, it was impossible to take her down again until the river rose in December. She could go up over a bank, but not come down over it, as a heap of sand always formed instantly astern, while the current washed it away from under her bows.
On at last reaching Chibisa’s, we heard that there was war in the Manganja country, and the slave-trade was going on briskly. A deputation from a chief near Mount Zomba had just passed on its way to Chibisa, who was in a distant village, to implore him to come himself, or send medicine, to drive off the Waiao, Waiau, or Ajawa, whose marauding parties were desolating the land. A large gang of recently enslaved Manganja crossed the river, on their way to Tette, a few days before we got the ship up. Chibisa’s deputy was civil, and readily gave us permission to hire as many men to carry the Bishop’s goods up to the hills as were willing to go. With a sufficient number, therefore, we started for the highlands on the 15th of July, to show the Bishop the country, which, from its altitude and coolness, was most suitable for a station. Our first day’s march was a long and fatiguing one. The few hamlets we passed were poor, and had no food for our men, and we were obliged to go on till 4 p.m., when we entered the small village of Chipindu. The inhabitants complained of hunger, and said they had no food to sell, and no hut for us to sleep in; but, if we would only go on a little further, we should come to a village where they had plenty to eat; but we had travelled far enough, and determined to remain where we were. Before sunset as much food was brought as we cared to purchase, and, as it threatened to rain, huts were provided for the whole party.
Next forenoon we halted at the village of our old friend Mbame, to obtain new carriers, because Chibisa’s men, never before having been hired, and not having yet learned to trust us, did not choose to go further. After resting a little, Mbame told us that a slave party on its way to Tette would presently pass through his village. “Shall we interfere?” we inquired of each other. We remembered that all our valuable private baggage was in Tette, which, if we freed the slaves, might, together with some Government property, be destroyed in retaliation; but this system of slave-hunters dogging us where previously they durst not venture, and, on pretence of being “our children,” setting one tribe against another, to furnish themselves with slaves, would so inevitably thwart all the efforts, for which we had the sanction of the Portuguese Government, that we resolved to run all risks, and put a stop, if possible, to the slave-trade, which had now followed on the footsteps of our discoveries. A few minutes after Mbame had spoken to us, the slave party, a long line of manacled men, women, and children, came wending their way round the hill and into the valley, on the side of which the village stood. The black drivers, armed with muskets, and bedecked with various articles of finery, marched jauntily in the front, middle, and rear of the line; some of them blowing exultant notes out of long tin horns. They seemed to feel that they were doing a very noble thing, and might proudly march with an air of triumph. But the instant the fellows caught a glimpse of the English, they darted off like mad into the forest; so fast, indeed, that we caught but a glimpse of their red caps and the soles of their feet. The chief of the party alone remained; and he, from being in front, had his hand tightly grasped by a Makololo! He proved to be a well-known slave of the late Commandant at Tette, and for some time our own attendant while there. On asking him how he obtained these captives, he replied he had bought them; but on our inquiring of the people themselves, all, save four, said they had been captured in war. While this inquiry was going on, he bolted too. The captives knelt down, and, in their way of expressing thanks, clapped their hands with great energy. They were thus left entirely on our hands, and knives were soon busy at work cutting the women and children loose. It was more difficult to cut the men adrift, as each had his neck in the fork of a stout stick, six or seven feet long, and was kept in by an iron rod which was riveted at both ends across the throat. With a saw, luckily in the Bishop’s baggage, one by one the men were sawn out into freedom. The women, on being told to take the meal they were carrying and cook breakfast for themselves and the children, seemed to consider the news too good to be true; but after a little coaxing went at it with alacrity, and made a capital fire by which to boil their pots with the slave sticks and bonds, their old acquaintances through many a sad night and weary day. Many were mere children about five years of age and under. One little boy, with the simplicity of childhood, said to our men, “The others tied and starved us, you cut the ropes and tell us to eat; what sort of people are you? — Where did you come from?” Two of the women had been shot the day before for attempting to untie the thongs. This, the rest were told, was to prevent them from attempting to escape. One woman had her infant’s brains knocked out, because she could not carry her load and it. And a man was dispatched with an axe, because he had broken down with fatigue. Self-interest would have set a watch over the whole rather than commit murder; but in this traffic we invariably find self-interest overcome by contempt of human life and by bloodthirstiness.
The Bishop was not present at this scene, having gone to bathe in a little stream below the village; but on his return he warmly approved of what had been done; he at first had doubts, but now felt that, had he been present, he would have joined us in the good work. Logic is out of place when the question with a true-hearted man is, whether his brother man is to be saved or not. Eighty-four, chiefly women and children, were liberated; and on being told that they were now free, and might go where they pleased, or remain with us, they all chose to stay; and the Bishop wisely attached them to his Mission, to be educated as members of a Christian family. In this way a great difficulty in the commencement of a Mission was overcome. Years are usually required before confidence is so far instilled into the natives’ mind as to induce them, young or old, to submit to the guidance of strangers professing to be actuated by motives the reverse of worldly wisdom, and inculcating customs strange and unknown to them and their fathers.
We proceeded next morning to Soche’s with our liberated party, the men cheerfully carrying the Bishop’s goods. As we had begun, it was of no use to do things by halves, so eight others were freed in a hamlet on our path; but a party of traders, with nearly a hundred slaves, fled from Soche’s on hearing of our proceedings. Dr. Kirk and four Makololo followed them with great energy, but they made clear off to Tette. Six more captives were liberated at Mongazi’s, and two slave-traders detained for the night, to prevent them from carrying information to a large party still in front. Of their own accord they volunteered the information that the Governor’s servants had charge of the next party; but we did not choose to be led by them, though they offered to guide us to his Excellency’s own agents. Two of the Bishop’s black men from the Cape, having once been slaves, were now zealous emancipators, and volunteered to guard the prisoners during the night. So anxious were our heroes to keep them safe, that instead of relieving each other, by keeping watch and watch, both kept watch together, till towards four o’clock in the morning, when sleep stole gently over them both; and the wakeful prisoners, seizing the opportunity, escaped: one of the guards, perceiving the loss, rushed out of the hut, shouting, “They are gone, the prisoners are off, and they have taken my rifle with them, and the women too! Fire! everybody fire!” The rifle and the women, however, were all safe enough, the slave-traders being only too glad to escape alone. Fifty more slaves were freed next day in another village; and, the whole party being stark-naked, cloth enough was left to clothe them, better probably than they had ever been clothed before. The head of this gang, whom we knew as the agent of one of the principal merchants of Tette, said that they had the license of the Governor for all they did. This we were fully aware of without his stating it. It is quite impossible for any enterprise to be undertaken there without the Governor’s knowledge and connivance.
The portion of the highlands which the Bishop wished to look at before deciding on a settlement belonged to Chiwawa, or Chibaba, the most manly and generous Manganja chief we had met with on our previous journey. On reaching Nsambo’s, near Mount Chiradzuru, we heard that Chibaba was dead, and that Chigunda was chief instead. Chigunda, apparently of his own accord, though possibly he may have learnt that the Bishop intended to settle somewhere in the country, asked him to come and live with him at Magomero, adding that there was room enough for both. This hearty and spontaneous invitation had considerable influence on the Bishop’s mind, and seemed to decide the question. A place nearer the Shire would have been chosen had he expected his supplies to come up that river; but the Portuguese, claiming the river Shire, though never occupying even its mouth, had closed it, as well as the Zambesi.
Our hopes were turned to the Rovuma, as a free highway into Lake Nyassa and the vast interior. A steamer was already ordered for the Lake, and the Bishop, seeing the advantageous nature of the highlands which stretch an immense way to the north, was more anxious to be near the Lake and the Rovuma, than the Shire. When he decided to settle at Magomero, it was thought desirable, to prevent the country from being depopulated, to visit the Ajawa chief, and to try and persuade him to give up his slaving and kidnapping courses, and turn the energies of his people to peaceful pursuits.
On the morning of the 22nd we were informed that the Ajawa were near, and were burning a village a few miles off. Leaving the rescued slaves, we moved off to seek an interview with these scourges of the country. On our way we met crowds of Manganja fleeing from the war in front. These poor fugitives from the slave hunt had, as usual, to leave all the food they possessed, except the little they could carry on their heads. We passed field after field of Indian corn or beans, standing ripe for harvesting, but the owners were away. The villages were all deserted: one where we breakfasted two years before, and saw a number of men peacefully weaving cloth, and, among ourselves, called it the “Paisley of the hills,” was burnt; the stores of corn were poured out in cartloads, and scattered all over the plain, and all along the paths, neither conquerors nor conquered having been able to convey it away. About two o’clock we saw the smoke of burning villages, and heard triumphant shouts, mingled with the wail of the Manganja women, lamenting over their slain. The Bishop then engaged us in fervent prayer; and, on rising from our knees, we saw a long line of Ajawa warriors, with their captives, coming round the hill-side. The first of the returning conquerors were entering their own village below, and we heard women welcoming them back with “lillilooings.” The Ajawa headman left the path on seeing us, and stood on an anthill to obtain a complete view of our party. We called out that we had come to have an interview with them, but some of the Manganja who followed us shouted “Our Chibisa is come:” Chibisa being well known as a great conjurer and general. The Ajawa ran off yelling and screaming, “Nkondo! Nkondo!” (War! War!) We heard the words of the Manganja, but they did not strike us at the moment as neutralizing all our assertions of peace. The captives threw down their loads on the path, and fled to the hills: and a large body of armed men came running up from the village, and in a few seconds they were all around us, though mostly concealed by the projecting rocks and long grass. In vain we protested that we had not come to fight, but to talk with them. They would not listen, having, as we remembered afterwards, good reason, in the cry of “Our Chibisa.” Flushed with recent victory over three villages, and confident of an easy triumph over a mere handful of men, they began to shoot their poisoned arrows, sending them with great force upwards of a hundred yards, and wounding one of our followers through the arm. Our retiring slowly up the ascent from the village only made them more eager to prevent our escape; and, in the belief that this retreat was evidence of fear, they closed upon us in bloodthirsty fury. Some came within fifty yards, dancing hideously; others having quite surrounded us, and availing themselves of the rocks and long grass hard by, were intent on cutting us off, while others made off with their women and a large body of slaves. Four were armed with muskets, and we were obliged in self-defence to return their fire and drive them off. When they saw the range of rifles, they very soon desisted, and ran away; but some shouted to us from the hills the consoling intimation, that they would follow, and kill us where we slept. Only two of the captives escaped to us, but probably most of those made prisoners that day fled elsewhere in the confusion. We returned to the village which we had left in the morning, after a hungry, fatiguing, and most unpleasant day.
Though we could not blame ourselves for the course we had followed, we felt sorry for what had happened. It was the first time we had ever been attacked by the natives or come into collision with them; though we had always taken it for granted that we might be called upon to act in self-defence, we were on this occasion less prepared than usual, no game having been expected here. The men had only a single round of cartridge each; their leader had no revolver, and the rifle he usually fired with was left at the ship to save it from the damp of the season. Had we known better the effect of slavery and murder on the temper of these bloodthirsty marauders, we should have tried messages and presents before going near them.
The old chief, Chinsunse, came on a visit to us next day, and pressed the Bishop to come and live with him. “Chigunda,” he said, “is but a child, and the Bishop ought to live with the father rather than with the child.” But the old man’s object was so evidently to have the Mission as a shield against the Ajawa, that his invitation was declined. While begging us to drive away the marauders, that he might live in peace, he adopted the stratagem of causing a number of his men to rush into the village, in breathless haste, with the news that the Ajawa were close upon us. And having been reminded that we never fought, unless attacked, as we were the day before, and that we had come among them for the purpose of promoting peace, and of teaching them to worship the Supreme, to give up selling His children, and to cultivate other objects for barter than each other, he replied, in a huff, “Then I am dead already.”
The Bishop, feeling, as most Englishmen would, at the prospect of the people now in his charge being swept off into slavery by hordes of men-stealers, proposed to go at once to the rescue of the captive Manganja, and drive the marauding Ajawa out of the country. All were warmly in favour of this, save Dr. Livingstone, who opposed it on the ground that it would be better for the Bishop to wait, and see the effect of the check the slave-hunters had just experienced. The Ajawa were evidently goaded on by Portuguese agents from Tette, and there was no bond of union among the Manganja on which to work. It was possible that the Ajawa might be persuaded to something better, though, from having long been in the habit of slaving for the Quillimane market, it was not very probable. But the Manganja could easily be overcome piecemeal by any enemy; old feuds made them glad to see calamities befall their next neighbours. We counselled them to unite against the common enemies of their country, and added distinctly that we English would on no account enter into their quarrels. On the Bishop inquiring whether, in the event of the Manganja again asking aid against the Ajawa, it would be his duty to accede to their request — “No,” replied Dr. Livingstone, “you will be oppressed by their importunities, but do not interfere in native quarrels.” This advice the good man honourably mentions in his journal. We have been rather minute in relating what occurred during the few days of our connection with the Mission of the English Universities, on the hills, because, the recorded advice having been discarded, blame was thrown on Dr. Livingstone’s shoulders, as if the missionaries had no individual responsibility for their subsequent conduct. This, unquestionably, good Bishop Mackenzie had too much manliness to have allowed. The connection of the members of the Zambesi Expedition, with the acts of the Bishop’s Mission, now ceased, for we returned to the ship and prepared for our journey to Lake Nyassa. We cheerfully, if necessary, will bear all responsibility up to this point; and if the Bishop afterwards made mistakes in certain collisions with the slavers, he had the votes of all his party with him, and those who best knew the peculiar circumstances, and the loving disposition of this good-hearted man, will blame him least. In this position, and in these circumstances, we left our friends at the Mission Station.
As a temporary measure the Bishop decided to place his Mission Station on a small promontory formed by the windings of the little, clear stream of Magomero, which was so cold that the limbs were quite benumbed by washing in it in the July mornings. The site chosen was a pleasant spot to the eye, and completely surrounded by stately, shady trees. It was expected to serve for a residence, till the Bishop had acquired an accurate knowledge of the adjacent country, and of the political relations of the people, and could select a healthy and commanding situation, as a permanent centre of Christian civilization. Everything promised fairly. The weather was delightful, resembling the pleasantest part of an English summer; provisions poured in very cheap and in great abundance. The Bishop, with characteristic ardour, commenced learning the language, Mr. Waller began building, and Mr. Scudamore improvised a sort of infant school for the children, than which there is no better means for acquiring an unwritten tongue.
On the 6th of August, 1861, a few days after returning from Magomero, Drs. Livingstone and Kirk, and Charles Livingstone started for Nyassa with a light four-oared gig, a white sailor, and a score of attendants. We hired people along the path to carry the boat past the forty miles of the Murchison Cataracts for a cubit of cotton cloth a day. This being deemed great wages, more than twice the men required eagerly offered their services. The chief difficulty was in limiting their numbers. Crowds followed us; and, had we not taken down in the morning the names of the porters engaged, in the evening claims would have been made by those who only helped during the last ten minutes of the journey. The men of one village carried the boat to the next, and all we had to do was to tell the headman that we wanted fresh men in the morning. He saw us pay the first party, and had his men ready at the time appointed, so there was no delay in waiting for carriers. They often make a loud noise when carrying heavy loads, but talking and bawling does not put them out of breath. The country was rough and with little soil on it, but covered with grass and open forest. A few small trees were cut down to clear a path for our shouting assistants, who were good enough to consider the boat as a certificate of peaceful intentions at least to them. Several small streams were passed, the largest of which were the Mukuru–Madse and Lesungwe. The inhabitants on both banks were now civil and obliging. Our possession of a boat, and consequent power of crossing independently of the canoes, helped to develop their good manners, which were not apparent on our previous visit.
There is often a surprising contrast between neighbouring villages. One is well off and thriving, having good huts, plenty of food, and native cloth; and its people are frank, trusty, generous, and eager to sell provisions; while in the next the inhabitants may be ill-housed, disobliging, suspicious, ill-fed, and scantily clad, and with nothing for sale, though the land around is as fertile as that of their wealthier neighbours. We followed the river for the most part to avail ourselves of the still reaches for sailing; but a comparatively smooth country lies further inland, over which a good road could be made. Some of the five main cataracts are very grand, the river falling 1200 feet in the 40 miles. After passing the last of the cataracts, we launched our boat for good on the broad and deep waters of the Upper Shire, and were virtually on the lake, for the gentle current shows but little difference of level. The bed is broad and deep, but the course is rather tortuous at first, and makes a long bend to the east till it comes within five or six miles of the base of Mount Zomba. The natives regarded the Upper Shire as a prolongation of Lake Nyassa; for where what we called the river approaches Lake Shirwa, a little north of the mountains, they said that the hippopotami, “which are great night travellers,” pass from ONE LAKE INTO THE OTHER. There the land is flat, and only a short land journey would be necessary. Seldom does the current here exceed a knot an hour, while that of the Lower Shire is from two to two-and-a-half knots. Our land party of Makololo accompanied us along the right bank, and passed thousands of Manganja fugitives living in temporary huts on that side, who had recently been driven from their villages on the opposite hills by the Ajawa.
The soil was dry and hard, and covered with mopane-trees; but some of the Manganja were busy hoeing the ground and planting the little corn they had brought with them. The effects of hunger were already visible on those whose food had been seized or burned by the Ajawa and Portuguese slave-traders. The spokesman or prime minister of one of the chiefs, named Kalonjere, was a humpbacked dwarf, a fluent speaker, who tried hard to make us go over and drive off the Ajawa; but he could not deny that by selling people Kalonjere had invited these slave-hunters to the country. This is the second humpbacked dwarf we have found occupying the like important post, the other was the prime minister of a Batonga chief on the Zambesi.
As we sailed along, we disturbed many white-breasted cormorants; we had seen the same species fishing between the cataracts. Here, with many other wild-fowls, they find subsistence on the smooth water by night, and sit sleepily on trees and in the reeds by day. Many hippopotami were seen in the river, and one of them stretched its wide jaws, as if to swallow the whole stern of the boat, close to Dr. Kirk’s back; the animal was so near that, in opening its mouth, it lashed a quantity of water on to the stern-sheets, but did no damage. To avoid large marauding parties of Ajawa, on the left bank of the Shire, we continued on the right, or western side, with our land party, along the shore of the small lake Pamalombe. This lakelet is ten or twelve miles in length, and five or six broad. It is nearly surrounded by a broad belt of papyrus, so dense that we could scarcely find an opening to the shore. The plants, ten or twelve feet high, grew so closely together that air was excluded, and so much sulphuretted hydrogen gas evolved that by one night’s exposure the bottom of the boat was blackened. Myriads of mosquitoes showed, as probably they always do, the presence of malaria.
We hastened from this sickly spot, trying to take the attentions of the mosquitoes as hints to seek more pleasant quarters on the healthy shores of Lake Nyassa; and when we sailed into it, on the 2nd September, we felt refreshed by the greater coolness of the air off this large body of water. The depth was the first point of interest. This is indicated by the colour of the water, which, on a belt along the shore, varying from a quarter to half a mile in breadth, is light green, and this is met by the deep blue or indigo tint of the Indian Ocean, which is the colour of the great body of Nyassa. We found the Upper Shire from nine to fifteen feet in depth; but skirting the western side of the lake about a mile from the shore the water deepened from nine to fifteen fathoms; then, as we rounded the grand mountainous promontory, which we named Cape Maclear, after our excellent friend the Astronomer Royal at the Cape of Good Hope, we could get no bottom with our lead-line of thirty-five fathoms. We pulled along the western shore, which was a succession of bays, and found that where the bottom was sandy near the beach, and to a mile out, the depth varied from six to fourteen fathoms. In a rocky bay about latitude 11 degrees 40 minutes we had soundings at 100 fathoms, though outside the same bay we found none with a fishing-line of 116 fathoms; but this cast was unsatisfactory, as the line broke in coming up. According to our present knowledge, a ship could anchor only near the shore.
Looking back to the southern end of Lake Nyassa, the arm from which the Shire flows was found to be about thirty miles long and from ten to twelve broad. Rounding Cape Maclear, and looking to the south-west, we have another arm, which stretches some eighteen miles southward, and is from six to twelve miles in breadth. These arms give the southern end a forked appearance, and with the help of a little imagination it may be likened to the “boot-shape” of Italy. The narrowest part is about the ankle, eighteen or twenty miles. From this it widens to the north, and in the upper third or fourth it is fifty or sixty miles broad. The length is over 200 miles. The direction in which it lies is as near as possible due north and south. Nothing of the great bend to the west, shown in all the previous maps, could be detected by either compass or chronometer, and the watch we used was an excellent one. The season of the year was very unfavourable. The “smokes” filled the air with an impenetrable haze, and the equinoctial gales made it impossible for us to cross to the eastern side. When we caught a glimpse of the sun rising from behind the mountains to the east, we made sketches and bearings of them at different latitudes, which enabled us to secure approximate measurements of the width. These agreed with the times taken by the natives at the different crossing-places — as Tsenga and Molamba. About the beginning of the upper third the lake is crossed by taking advantage of the island Chizumara, which name in the native tongue means the “ending;” further north they go round the end instead, though that takes several days.
The lake appeared to be surrounded by mountains, but it was afterwards found that these beautiful tree-covered heights were, on the west, only the edges of high table-lands. Like all narrow seas encircled by highlands, it is visited by sudden and tremendous storms. We were on it in September and October, perhaps the stormiest season of the year, and were repeatedly detained by gales. At times, while sailing pleasantly over the blue water with a gentle breeze, suddenly and without any warning was heard the sound of a coming storm, roaring on with crowds of angry waves in its wake. We were caught one morning with the sea breaking all around us, and, unable either to advance or recede, anchored a mile from shore, in seven fathoms. The furious surf on the beach would have shivered our boat to atoms, had we tried to land. The waves most dreaded came rolling on in threes, with their crests, driven into spray, streaming behind them. A short lull followed each triple charge. Had one of these seas struck our boat, nothing could have saved us; for they came on with resistless force; seaward, in shore, and on either side of us, they broke in foam, but we escaped. For six weary hours we faced those terrible trios. A low, dark, detached, oddly shaped cloud came slowly from the mountains, and hung for hours directly over our heads. A flock of night-jars (Cometornis vexillarius), which on no other occasion come out by day, soared above us in the gale, like birds of evil omen. Our black crew became sea-sick and unable to sit up or keep the boat’s head to the sea. The natives and our land party stood on the high cliffs looking at us and exclaiming, as the waves seemed to swallow up the boat, “They are lost! they are all dead!” When at last the gale moderated and we got safely ashore, they saluted us warmly, as after a long absence. From this time we trusted implicitly to the opinions of our seaman, John Neil, who, having been a fisherman on the coast of Ireland, understood boating on a stormy coast, and by his advice we often sat cowering on the land for days together waiting for the surf to go down. He had never seen such waves before. We had to beach the boat every night to save her from being swamped at anchor; and, did we not believe the gales to be peculiar to one season of the year, would call Nyassa the “Lake of Storms.”
Distinct white marks on the rocks showed that, for some time during the rainy season, the water of the lake is three feet above the point to which it falls towards the close of the dry period of the year. The rains begin here in November, and the permanent rise of the Shire does not take place till January. The western side of Lake Nyassa, with the exception of the great harbour to the west of Cape Maclear, is, as has been said before, a succession of small bays of nearly similar form, each having an open sandy beach and pebbly shore, and being separated from its neighbour by a rocky headland, with detached rocks extending some distance out to sea. The great south-western bay referred to would form a magnificent harbour, the only really good one we saw to the west.
The land immediately adjacent to the lake is low and fertile, though in some places marshy and tenanted by large flocks of ducks, geese, herons, crowned cranes, and other birds. In the southern parts we have sometimes ten or a dozen miles of rich plains, bordered by what seem high ranges of well-wooded hills, running nearly parallel with the lake. Northwards the mountains become loftier and present some magnificent views, range towering beyond range, until the dim, lofty outlines projected against the sky bound the prospect. Still further north the plain becomes more narrow, until, near where we turned, it disappears altogether, and the mountains rise abruptly out of the lake, forming the north-east boundary of what was described to us as an extensive table-land; well suited for pasturage and agriculture, and now only partially occupied by a tribe of Zulus, who came from the south some years ago. These people own large herds of cattle, and are constantly increasing in numbers by annexing other tribes.
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