Captain Wilson arrived at Shupanga on the 11th of March, having been three weeks on the Shire. On the 15th the "Pioneer" steamed down to the Kongone. The "Gorgon" had been driven out to sea in a gale, and had gone to Johanna for provisions, and it was the 2nd of April before she returned. It was fortunate for us that she had obtained a supply, as our provisions were exhausted, and we had to buy some from the master of the brig. The "Gorgon" left for the Cape on the 4th, taking all, except one, of the Mission party who had come in January. We take this opportunity of expressing our heartfelt gratitude to the gallant Captain I. C. Wilson and his officers for innumerable acts of kindness and hearty co-operation. Our warmest thanks are also due to Captain R. B. Oldfield and the other officers from the Admiral downwards, and we beg to assure them that nothing could be more encouraging to us in our difficulties and trials, than the knowledge that we possessed their friendship and sympathy in our labours.
The Rev. James Stewart, of the Free Church of Scotland, arrived in the "Gorgon." He had wisely come out to inspect the country, before deciding on the formation of a Mission in the interior. To this object he devoted many months of earnest labour. This Mission was intended to embrace both the industrial and the religious element; and as the route by the Zambesi and Shire forms the only one at present known, with but a couple of days' land journey to the highlands, which stretch to an unknown distance into the continent, and as no jealousy was likely to be excited in the mind of a man of Bishop Mackenzie's enlarged views—there being moreover room for hundreds of Missions—we gladly extended the little aid in our power to an envoy from the energetic body above mentioned, but recommended him to examine the field with his own eyes.
During our subsequent detention at Shupanga, he proceeded as far up the Shire as the Upper Cataracts, and saw the mere remnants of that dense population, which we at first had found living in peace and plenty, but which was now scattered and destroyed by famine and slave-hunting. The land, which both before and after we found so fair and fruitful, was burned up by a severe drought; in fact, it was at its very worst. With most praiseworthy energy, and in spite of occasional attacks of fever, he then ascended the Zambesi as far as Kebrabasa; and, what may be of interest to some, compared it, in parts, to the Danube. His estimate of the highlands would naturally be lower than ours. The main drawbacks in his opinion, however, were the slave-trade, and the power allowed the effete Portuguese of shutting up the country from all except a few convicts of their own nation. The time of his coming was inopportune; the disasters which, from inexperience, had befallen the Mission of the Universities, had a depressing effect on the minds of many at home, and rendered a new attempt unadvisable; though, had the Scotch perseverance and energy been introduced, it is highly probable that they would have reacted, most beneficially, on the zeal of our English brethren, and desertion would never have been heard of. After examining the country, Mr. Stewart descended the Zambesi in the beginning of the following year, and proceeded homewards with his report, by Mosambique and the Cape.
On the 7th of April we had only one man fit for duty; all the rest were down with fever, or with the vile spirit secretly sold to them by the Portuguese officer of customs, in spite of our earnest request to him to refrain from the pernicious traffic.
We started on the 11th for Shupanga with another load of the "Lady Nyassa." As we steamed up the delta, we observed many of the natives wearing strips of palm-leaf, the signs of sickness and mourning; for they too suffer from fever. This is the unhealthy season; the rains are over, and the hot sun draws up malaria from the decayed vegetation; disease seemed peculiarly severe this year. On our way up we met Mr. Waller, who had come from Magomero for provisions; the missionaries were suffering severely from want of food; the liberated people were starving, and dying of diarrhoea, and loathsome sores. The Ajawa, stimulated in their slave raids by supplies of ammunition and cloth from the Portuguese, had destroyed the large crops of the past year; a drought had followed, and little or no food could be bought. With his usual energy, Mr. Waller hired canoes, loaded them with stores, and took them up the long weary way to Chibisa's. Before he arrived he was informed that the Mission of the Universities, now deprived of its brave leader, had retired from the highlands down to the Low Shire Valley. This appeared to us, who knew the danger of leading a sedentary life, the greatest mistake they could have made, and was the result of no other counsel or responsibility than their own. Waller would have reascended at once to the higher altitude, but various objections stood in the way. The loss of poor Scudamore and Dickinson, in this low-lying situation, but added to the regret that the highlands had not received a fair trial.
When the news of the Bishop's unfortunate collisions with the natives, and of his untimely end, reached England, much blame was imputed to him. The policy, which with the formal sanction of all his companions he had adopted, being directly contrary to the advice which Dr. Livingstone tendered, and to the assurances of the peaceable nature of the Mission which the Doctor had given to the natives, a friendly disapproval of a bishop's engaging in war was ventured on, when we met him at Chibisa's in November. But when we found his conduct regarded with so much bitterness in England, whether from a disposition to "stand by the down man," or from having an intimate knowledge of the peculiar circumstances of the country in which he was placed, or from the thorough confidence which intimacy caused us to repose in his genuine piety, and devout service of God, we came to think much more leniently of his proceedings, than his assailants did. He never seemed to doubt but that he had done his duty; and throughout he had always been supported by his associates.
The question whether a Bishop, in the event of his flock being torn from his bosom, may make war to rescue them, requires serious consideration. It seems to narrow itself into whether a Christian man may lawfully use the civil power or the sword at all in defensive war, as police or otherwise. We would do almost anything to avoid a collision with degraded natives; but in case of an invasion—our blood boils at the very thought of our wives, daughters, or sisters being touched—we, as men with human feelings, would unhesitatingly fight to the death, with all the fury in our power.
The good Bishop was as intensely averse to using arms, before he met the slave-hunters, as any man in England. In the course he pursued he may have made a mistake, but it is a mistake which very few Englishmen on meeting bands of helpless captives, or members of his family in bonds, would have failed to commit likewise.
During unhealthy April, the fever was more severe in Shupanga and Mazaro than usual. We had several cases on board—they were quickly cured, but, from our being in the delta, as quickly returned. About the middle of the month Mrs. Livingstone was prostrated by this disease; and it was accompanied by obstinate vomiting. Nothing is yet known that can allay this distressing symptom, which of course renders medicine of no avail, as it is instantly rejected. She received whatever medical aid could be rendered from Dr. Kirk, but became unconscious, and her eyes were closed in the sleep of death as the sunset on the evening of the Christian Sabbath, the 27th April, 1862. A coffin was made during the night, a grave was dug next day under the branches of the great baobab-tree, and with sympathizing hearts the little band of his countrymen assisted the bereaved husband in burying his dead. At his request, the Rev. James Stewart read the burial-service; and the seamen kindly volunteered to mount guard for some nights at the spot where her body rests in hope. Those who are not aware how this brave, good, English wife made a delightful home at Kolobeng, a thousand miles inland from the Cape, and as the daughter of Moffat and a Christian lady exercised most beneficial influence over the rude tribes of the interior, may wonder that she should have braved the dangers and toils of this down-trodden land. She knew them all, and, in the disinterested and dutiful attempt to renew her labours, was called to her rest instead. "Fiat, Domine, voluntas tua!"
On the 5th of May Dr. Kirk and Charles Livingstone started in the boat for Tette, in order to see the property of the Expedition brought down in canoes. They took four Mazaro canoe-men to manage the boat, and a white sailor to cook for them; but, unfortunately, he caught fever the very day after leaving the ship, and was ill most of the trip; so they had to cook for themselves, and to take care of him besides.
We now proceeded with preparations for the launch of the "Lady Nyassa." Ground was levelled on the bank at Shupanga, for the purpose of arranging the compartments in order: she was placed on palm-trees which were brought from a place lower down the river for ways, and the engineer and his assistants were soon busily engaged; about a fortnight after they were all brought from Kongone, the sections were screwed together. The blacks are more addicted to stealing where slavery exists than elsewhere. We were annoyed by thieves who carried off the iron screw-bolts, but were gratified to find that strychnine saved us from the man-thief as well as the hyena-thief. A hyena was killed by it, and after the natives saw the dead animal and knew how we had destroyed it, they concluded that it was not safe to steal from men who possessed a medicine so powerful. The half-caste, who kept Shupanga-house, said he wished to have some to give to the Zulus, of whom he was mortally afraid, and to whom he had to pay an unwilling tribute.
The "Pioneer" made several trips to the Kongone, and returned with the last load on the 12th of June. On the 23rd the "Lady Nyassa" was safely launched, the work of putting her together having been interrupted by fever and dysentery, and many other causes which it would only weary the reader to narrate in detail. Natives from all parts of the country came to see the launch, most of them quite certain that, being made of iron, she must go to the bottom as soon as she entered the water. Earnest discussions had taken place among them with regard to the propriety of using iron for ship-building. The majority affirmed that it would never answer. They said, "If we put a hoe into the water, or the smallest bit of iron, it sinks immediately. How then can such a mass of iron float? it must go to the bottom." The minority answered that this might be true with them, but white men had medicine for everything. "They could even make a woman, all except the speaking; look at that one on the figure- head of the vessel." The unbelievers were astonished, and could hardly believe their eyes, when they saw the ship float lightly and gracefully on the river, instead of going to the bottom, as they so confidently predicted. "Truly," they said, "these men have powerful medicine."
Birds are numerous on the Shupanga estate. Some kinds remain all the year round, while many others are there only for a few months. Flocks of green pigeons come in April to feed on the young fruit of the wild fig- trees, which is also eaten by a large species of bat in the evenings. The pretty little black weaver, with yellow shoulders, appears to enjoy life intensely after assuming his wooing dress. A hearty breakfast is eaten in the mornings and then come the hours for making merry. A select party of three or four perch on the bushes which skirt a small grassy plain, and cheer themselves with the music of their own quiet and self-complacent song. A playful performance on the wind succeeds. Expanding his soft velvet-like plumage, one glides with quivering pinions to the centre of the open space, singing as he flies, then turns with a rapid whirring sound from his wings—somewhat like a child's rattle—and returns to his place again. One by one the others perform the same feat, and continue the sport for hours, striving which can produce the loudest brattle while turning. These games are only played during the season of courting and of the gay feathers; the merriment seems never to be thought of while the bird wears his winter suit of sober brown.
We received two mules from the Cape to aid us in transporting the pieces of the "Lady Nyassa" past the cataracts and landed them at Shupanga, but they soon perished. A Portuguese gentleman kindly informed us, after both the mules were dead, that he knew they would die; for the land there had been often tried, and nothing would live on it—not even a pig. He said he had not told us so before, because he did not like to appear officious!
By the time everything had been placed on board the "Lady Nyassa," the waters of the Zambesi and the Shire had fallen so low that it was useless to attempt taking her up to the cataracts before the rains in December. Draught oxen and provisions also were required, and could not be obtained nearer than the Island of Johanna. The Portuguese, without refusing positively to let trade enter the Zambesi, threw impediments in the way; they only wanted a small duty! They were about to establish a river police, and rearrange the Crown lands, which have long since become Zulu lands; meanwhile they were making the Zambesi, by slaving, of no value to any one.
The Rovuma, which was reported to come from Lake Nyassa, being out of their claims and a free river, we determined to explore it in our boats immediately on our return from Johanna, for which place, after some delay at the Kongone, in repairing engines, paddle-wheel, and rudder, we sailed on the 6th of August. A store of naval provisions had been formed on a hulk in Pomone Bay of that island for the supply of the cruisers, and was in charge of Mr. Sunley, the Consul, from whom we always received the kindest attentions and assistance. He now obliged us by parting with six oxen, trained for his own use in sugar-making. Though sadly hampered in his undertaking by being obliged to employ slave labour, he has by indomitable energy overcome obstacles under which most persons would have sunk. He has done all that under the circumstances could be done to infuse a desire for freedom, by paying regular wages; and has established a large factory, and brought 300 acres of rich soil under cultivation with sugar-cane. We trust he will realize the fortune which he so well deserves to earn. Had Mr. Sunley performed the same experiment on the mainland, where people would have flocked to him for the wages he now gives, he would certainly have inaugurated a new era on the East Coast of Africa. On a small island where the slaveholders have complete power over the slaves, and where there is no free soil such as is everywhere met with in Africa, the experiment ought not to be repeated. Were Mr. Sunley commencing again, it should neither be in Zanzibar nor Johanna, but on African soil, where, if even a slave is ill-treated, he can easily by flight become free. On an island under native rule a joint manufacture by Arabs and Englishmen might only mean that the latter were to escape the odium of flogging the slaves.
On leaving Johanna and our oxen for a time, H.M.S. "Orestes" towed us thence to the mouth of the Rovuma at the beginning of September. Captain Gardner, her commander, and several of his officers, accompanied us up the river for two days in the gig and cutter. The water was unusually low, and it was rather dull work for a few hours in the morning; but the scene became livelier and more animated when the breeze began to blow. Our four boats they swept on under full sail, the men on the look out in the gig and cutter calling, "Port, sir!" "Starboard, sir!" "As you go, sir!" while the black men in the bows of the others shouted the practical equivalents, "Pagombe! Pagombe!" "Enda quete!" "Berane! Berane!" Presently the leading-boat touches on a sandbank; down comes the fluttering sail; the men jump out to shove her off, and the other boats, shunning the obstruction, shoot on ahead to be brought up each in its turn by mistaking a sandbank for the channel, which had often but a very little depth of water.
A drowsy herd of hippopotami were suddenly startled by a score of rifle- shots, and stared in amazement at the strange objects which had invaded their peaceful domains, until a few more bullets compelled them to seek refuge at the bottom of the deep pool, near which they had been quietly reposing. On our return, one of the herd retaliated. He followed the boat, came up under it, and twice tried to tear the bottom out of it; but fortunately it was too flat for his jaws to get a good grip, so he merely damaged one of the planks with his tusks, though he lifted the boat right up, with ten men and a ton of ebony in it.
We slept, one of the two nights Captain Gardner was with us, opposite the lakelet Chidia, which is connected with the river in flood time, and is nearly surrounded by hills some 500 or 600 feet high, dotted over with trees. A few small groups of huts stood on the hill-sides, with gardens off which the usual native produce had been reaped. The people did not seem much alarmed by the presence of the large party which had drawn up on the sandbanks below their dwellings. There is abundance of large ebony in the neighbourhood. The pretty little antelope (Cephalophus caeruleus), about the size of a hare, seemed to abound, as many of their skins were offered for sale. Neat figured date-leaf mats of various colours are woven here, the different dyes being obtained from the barks of trees. Cattle could not live on the banks of the Rovuma on account of the tsetse, which are found from near the mouth, up as far as we could take the boats. The navigation did not improve as we ascended; snags, brought down by the floods, were common, and left in the channel on the sudden subsidence of the water. In many places, where the river divided into two or three channels, there was not water enough in any of them for a boat drawing three feet, so we had to drag ours over the shoals; but we saw the river at its very lowest, and it may be years before it is so dried up again.
The valley of the Rovuma, bounded on each side by a range of highlands, is from two to four miles in width, and comes in a pretty straight course from the W.S.W.; but the channel of the river is winding, and now at its lowest zigzagged so perversely, that frequently the boats had to pass over three miles to make one in a straight line. With a full stream it must of course be much easier work. Few natives were seen during the first week. Their villages are concealed in the thick jungle on the hill- sides, for protection from marauding slave-parties. Not much of interest was observed on this part of the silent and shallow river. Though feeling convinced that it was unfit for navigation, except for eight months of the year, we pushed on, resolved to see if, further inland, the accounts we had received from different naval officers of its great capabilities would prove correct; or if, by communication with Lake Nyassa, even the upper part could be turned to account. Our exploration showed us that the greatest precaution is required in those who visit new countries.
The reports we received from gentlemen, who had entered the river and were well qualified to judge, were that the Rovuma was infinitely superior to the Zambesi, in the absence of any bar at its mouth, in its greater volume of water, and in the beauty of the adjacent lands. We probably came at a different season from that in which they visited it, and our account ought to be taken with theirs to arrive at the truth. It might be available as a highway for commerce during three quarters of each year; but casual visitors, like ourselves and others, are all ill able to decide. The absence of animal life was remarkable. Occasionally we saw pairs of the stately jabirus, or adjutant-looking marabouts, wading among the shoals, and spur-winged geese, and other water-fowl, but there was scarcely a crocodile or a hippopotamus to be seen.
At the end of the first week, an old man called at our camp, and said he would send a present from his village, which was up among the hills. He appeared next morning with a number of his people, bringing meal, cassava- root, and yams. The language differs considerably from that on the Zambesi, but it is of the same family. The people are Makonde, and are on friendly terms with the Mabiha, and the Makoa, who live south of the Rovuma. When taking a walk up the slopes of the north bank, we found a great variety of trees we had seen nowhere else. Those usually met with far inland seem here to approach the coast. African ebony, generally named mpingu, is abundant within eight miles of the sea; it attains a larger size, and has more of the interior black wood than usual. A good timber tree called mosoko is also found; and we saw half-caste Arabs near the coast cutting up a large log of it into planks. Before reaching the top of the rise we were in a forest of bamboos. On the plateau above, large patches were cleared and cultivated. A man invited us to take a cup of beer; on our complying with his request, the fear previously shown by the bystanders vanished. Our Mazaro men could hardly understand what they said. Some of them waded in the river and caught a curious fish in holes in the claybank. Its ventral fin is peculiar, being unusually large, and of a circular shape, like boys' playthings called "suckers." We were told that this fish is found also in the Zambesi, and is called Chirire. Though all its fins are large, it is asserted that it rarely ventures out into the stream, but remains near its hole, where it is readily caught by the hand.
The Zambesi men thoroughly understood the characteristic marks of deep or shallow water, and showed great skill in finding out the proper channel. The Molimo is the steersman at the helm, the Mokadamo is the head canoe- man, and he stands erect on the bows with a long pole in his hands, and directs the steersman where to go, aiding the rudder, if necessary, with his pole. The others preferred to stand and punt our boat, rather than row with our long oars, being able to shove her ahead faster than they could pull her. They are accustomed to short paddles. Our Mokadamo was affected with moon-blindness, and could not see at all at night. His comrades then led him about, and handed him his food. They thought that it was only because his eyes rested all night, that he could see the channel so well by day. At difficult places the Mokadamo sometimes, however, made mistakes, and ran us aground; and the others, evidently imbued with the spirit of resistance to constituted authority, and led by Joao an aspirant for the office, jeered him for his stupidity. "Was he asleep? Why did he allow the boat to come there? Could he not see the channel was somewhere else?" At last the Mokadamo threw down the pole in disgust, and told Joao he might be a Mokadamo himself. The office was accepted with alacrity; but in a few minutes he too ran us into a worse difficulty than his predecessor ever did, and was at once disrated amidst the derision of his comrades.
On the 16th September, we arrived at the inhabited island of Kichokomane. The usual way of approaching an unknown people is to call out in a cheerful tone "Malonda!" Things for sale, or do you want to sell anything? If we can obtain a man from the last village, he is employed, though only useful in explaining to the next that we come in a friendly way. The people here were shy of us at first, and could not be induced to sell any food; until a woman, more adventurous than the rest, sold us a fowl. This opened the market, and crowds came with fowls and meal, far beyond our wants. The women are as ugly as those on Lake Nyassa, for who can be handsome wearing the pelele, or upper-lip ring, of large dimensions? We were once surprised to see young men wearing the pelele, and were told that in the tribe of the Mabiha, on the south bank, men as well as women wore them.
Along the left bank, above Kichokomane, is an exceedingly fertile plain, nearly two miles broad, and studded with a number of deserted villages. The inhabitants were living in temporary huts on low naked sandbanks; and we found this to be the case as far as we went. They leave most of their property and food behind, because they are not afraid of these being stolen, but only fear being stolen themselves. The great slave-route from Nyassa to Kilwa passes to N.E. from S.W., just beyond them; and it is dangerous to remain in their villages at this time of year, when the kidnappers are abroad. In one of the temporary villages, we saw, in passing, two human heads lying on the ground. We slept a couple of miles above this village.
Before sunrise next morning, a large party armed with bows and arrows and muskets came to the camp, two or three of them having a fowl each, which we refused to purchase, having bought enough the day before. They followed us all the morning, and after breakfast those on the left bank swam across and joined the main party on the other side. It was evidently their intention to attack us at a chosen spot, where we had to pass close to a high bank, but their plan was frustrated by a stiff breeze sweeping the boat past, before the majority could get to the place. They disappeared then, but came out again ahead of us, on a high wooded bank, walking rapidly to the bend, near which we were obliged to sail. An arrow was shot at the foremost boat; and seeing the force at the bend, we pushed out from the side, as far as the shoal water would permit, and tried to bring them to a parley, by declaring that we had not come to fight, but to see the river. "Why did you fire a gun, a little while ago?" they asked. "We shot a large puff-adder, to prevent it from killing men; you may see it lying dead on the beach." With great courage, our Mokadamo waded to within thirty yards of the bank, and spoke with much earnestness, assuring them that we were a peaceable party, and had not come for war, but to see the river. We were friends, and our countrymen bought cotton and ivory, and wished to come and trade with them. All we wanted was to go up quietly to look at the river, and then return to the sea. While he was talking with those on the shore, the old rogue, who appeared to be the ringleader, stole up the bank, and with a dozen others, waded across to the island, near which the boats lay, and came down behind us. Wild with excitement, they rushed into the water, and danced in our rear, with drawn bows, taking aim, and making various savage gesticulations. Their leader urged them to get behind some snags, and then shoot at us. The party on the bank in front had many muskets—and those of them, who had bows, held them with arrows ready set in the bowstrings. They had a mass of thick bush and trees behind them, into which they could in a moment dart, after discharging their muskets and arrows, and be completely hidden from our sight; a circumstance that always gives people who use bows and arrows the greatest confidence. Notwithstanding these demonstrations, we were exceedingly loath to come to blows. We spent a full half-hour exposed at any moment to be struck by a bullet or poisoned arrow. We explained that we were better armed than they were, and had plenty of ammunition, the suspected want of which often inspires them with courage, but that we did not wish to shed the blood of the children of the same Great Father with ourselves; that if we must fight, the guilt would be all theirs.
This being a common mode of expostulation among themselves, we so far succeeded, that with great persuasion the leader and others laid down their arms, and waded over from the bank to the boats to talk the matter over. "This was their river; they did not allow white men to use it. We must pay toll for leave to pass." It was somewhat humiliating to do so, but it was pay or fight; and, rather than fight, we submitted to the humiliation of paying for their friendship, and gave them thirty yards of cloth. They pledged themselves to be our friends ever afterwards, and said they would have food cooked for us on our return. We then hoisted sail, and proceeded, glad that the affair had been amicably settled. Those on shore walked up to the bend above to look at the boat, as we supposed; but the moment she was abreast of them, they gave us a volley of musket-balls and poisoned arrows, without a word of warning. Fortunately we were so near, that all the arrows passed clear over us, but four musket-balls went through the sail just above our heads. All our assailants bolted into the bushes and long grass the instant after firing, save two, one of whom was about to discharge a musket and the other an arrow, when arrested by the fire of the second boat. Not one of them showed their faces again, till we were a thousand yards away. A few shots were then fired over their heads, to give them an idea of the range of our rifles, and they all fled into the woods. Those on the sandbank rushed off too, with the utmost speed; but as they had not shot at us, we did not molest them, and they went off safely with their cloth. They probably expected to kill one of our number, and in the confusion rob the boats. It is only where the people are slavers that the natives of this part of Africa are bloodthirsty.
These people have a bad name in the country in front, even among their own tribe. A slave-trading Arab we met above, thinking we were then on our way down the river, advised us not to land at the villages, but to stay in the boats, as the inhabitants were treacherous, and attacked at once, without any warning or provocation. Our experience of their conduct fully confirmed the truth of what he said. There was no trade on the river where they lived, but beyond that part there was a brisk canoe- trade in rice and salt; those further in the interior cultivating rice, and sending it down the river to be exchanged for salt, which is extracted from the earth in certain places on the banks. Our assailants hardly anticipated resistance, and told a neighbouring chief that, if they had known who we were, they would not have attacked English, who can "bite hard." They offered no molestations on our way down, though we were an hour in passing their village. Our canoe-men plucked up courage on finding that we had come off unhurt. One of them, named Chiku, acknowledging that he had been terribly frightened, said. "His fear was not the kind which makes a man jump overboard and run away; but that which brings the heart up to the mouth, and renders the man powerless, and no more able to fight than a woman."
In the country of Chonga Michi, about 80 or 90 miles up the river, we found decent people, though of the same tribe, who treated strangers with civility. A body of Makoa had come from their own country in the south, and settled here. The Makoa are known by a cicatrice in the forehead shaped like the new moon with the horns turned downwards. The tribe possesses all the country west of Mosambique; and they will not allow any of the Portuguese to pass into their country more than two hours' distance from the fort. A hill some ten or twelve miles distant, called Pau, has been visited during the present generation only by one Portuguese and one English officer, and this visit was accomplished only by the influence of the private friendship of a chief for this Portuguese gentleman. Our allies have occupied the Fort of Mosambique for three hundred years, but in this, as in all other cases, have no power further than they can see from a gun-carriage.
The Makoa chief, Matingula, was hospitable and communicative, telling us all he knew of the river and country beyond. He had been once to Iboe and once at Mosambique with slaves. Our men understood his language easily. A useless musket he had bought at one of the above places was offered us for a little cloth. Having received a present of food from him, a railway rug was handed to him: he looked at it—had never seen cloth like that before—did not approve of it, and would rather have cotton cloth. "But this will keep you warm at night."—"Oh, I do not wish to be kept warm at night."—We gave him a bit of cotton cloth, not one-third the value of the rug, but it was more highly prized. His people refused to sell their fowls for our splendid prints and drab cloths. They had probably been taken in with gaudy-patterned sham prints before. They preferred a very cheap, plain, blue stuff of which they had experience. A great quantity of excellent honey is collected all along the river, by bark hives being placed for the bees on the high trees on both banks. Large pots of it, very good and clear, were offered in exchange for a very little cloth. No wax was brought for sale; there being no market for this commodity, it is probably thrown away as useless.
At Michi we lose the tableland which, up to this point, bounds the view on both sides of the river, as it were, with ranges of flat-topped hills, 600 or 800 feet high; and to this plateau a level fertile plain succeeds, on which stand detached granite hills. That portion of the tableland on the right bank seems to bend away to the south, still preserving the appearance of a hill range. The height opposite extends a few miles further west, and then branches off in a northerly direction. A few small pieces of coal were picked up on the sandbanks, showing that this useful mineral exists on the Rovuma, or on some of its tributaries: the natives know that it will burn. At the lakelet Chidia, we noticed the same sandstone rock, with fossil wood on it, which we have on the Zambesi, and knew to be a sure evidence of coal beneath. We mentioned this at the time to Captain Gardner, and our finding coal now seemed a verification of what we then said; the coal-field probably extends from the Zambesi to the Rovuma, if not beyond it. Some of the rocks lower down have the permanent water-line three feet above the present height of the water.
A few miles west of the Makoa of Matingula, we came again among the Makonde, but now of good repute. War and slavery have driven them to seek refuge on the sand-banks. A venerable-looking old man hailed us as we passed, and asked us if we were going by without speaking. We landed, and he laid down his gun and came to us; he was accompanied by his brother, who shook hands with every one in the boat, as he had seen people do at Kilwa. "Then you have seen white men before?" we said. "Yes," replied the polite African, "but never people of your quality." These men were very black, and wore but little clothing. A young woman, dressed in the highest style of Makonde fashion, punting as dexterously as a man could, brought a canoe full of girls to see us. She wore an ornamental head-dress of red beads tied to her hair on one side of her head, a necklace of fine beads of various colours, two bright figured brass bracelets on her left arm, and scarcely a farthing's worth of cloth, though it was at its cheapest.
As we pushed on westwards, we found that the river makes a little southing, and some reaches were deeper than any near the sea; but when we had ascended about 140 miles by the river's course from the sea, soft tufa rocks began to appear; ten miles beyond, the river became more narrow and rocky, and when, according to our measurement, we had ascended 156 miles, our further progress was arrested. We were rather less than two degrees in a straight line from the Coast. The incidents worth noticing were but few: seven canoes with loads of salt and rice kept company with us for some days, and the further we went inland, the more civil the people became.
When we came to a stand, just below the island of Nyamatolo, Long. 38 degrees 36 minutes E., and Lat. 11 degrees 53 minutes, the river was narrow, and full of rocks. Near the island there is a rocky rapid with narrow passages fit only for native canoes; the fall is small, and the banks quite low; but these rocks were an effectual barrier to all further progress in boats. Previous reports represented the navigable part of this river as extending to the distance of a month's sail from its mouth; we found that, at the ordinary heights of the water, a boat might reach the obstructions which seem peculiar to all African rivers in six or eight days. The Rovuma is remarkable for the high lands that flank it for some eighty miles from the ocean. The cataracts of other rivers occur in mountains, those of the Rovuma are found in a level part, with hills only in the distance. Far away in the west and north we could see high blue heights, probably of igneous origin from their forms, rising out of a plain.
The distance from Ngomano, a spot thirty miles further up, to the Arab crossing-places of Lake Nyassa Tsenga or Kotakota was said to be twelve days. The way we had discovered to Lake Nyassa by Murchison's Cataracts had so much less land carriage, that we considered it best to take our steamer thither, by the route in which we were well known, instead of working where we were strangers; and accordingly we made up our minds to return.
The natives reported a worse place above our turning-point—the passage being still narrower than this. An Arab, they said, once built a boat above the rapids, and sent it down full of slaves; but it was broken to pieces in these upper narrows. Many still maintained that the Rovuma came from Nyassa, and that it is very narrow as it issues out of the lake. One man declared that he had seen it with his own eyes as it left the lake, and seemed displeased at being cross-questioned, as if we doubted his veracity.
More satisfactory information, as it appeared to us, was obtained from others. Two days, or thirty miles, beyond where we turned back, the Rovuma is joined by the Liende, which, coming from the south-west, rises in the mountains on the east side of Nyassa. The great slave route to Kilwa runs up the banks of this river, which is only ankle-deep at the dry season of the year. The Rovuma itself comes from the W.N.W., and after the traveller passes the confluence of the Liende at Ngomano or "meeting-place," the chief of which part is named Ndonde, he finds the river narrow, and the people Ajawa.
Crocodiles in the Rovuma have a sorry time of it. Never before were reptiles so persecuted and snubbed. They are hunted with spears, and spring traps are set for them. If one of them enters an inviting pool after fish, he soon finds a fence thrown round it, and a spring trap set in the only path out of the enclosure. Their flesh is eaten, and relished. The banks, on which the female lays her eggs by night, are carefully searched by day, and all the eggs dug out and devoured. The fish-hawk makes havoc among the few young ones that escape their other enemies. Our men were constantly on the look-out for crocodiles' nests. One was found containing thirty-five newly-laid eggs, and they declared that the crocodile would lay as many more the second night in another place. The eggs were a foot deep in the sand on the top of a bank ten feet high. The animal digs a hole with its foot, covers the eggs, and leaves them till the river rises over the nest in about three months afterwards, when she comes back, and assists the young ones out. We once saw opposite Tette young crocodiles in December, swimming beside an island in company with an old one. The yolk of the egg is nearly as white as the real white. In taste they resemble hen's eggs with perhaps a smack of custard, and would be as highly relished by whites as by blacks, were it not for their unsavoury origin in men-eaters.
Hunting the Senze (Aulacodus Swindernianus), an animal the size of a large cat, but in shape more like a pig, was the chief business of men and boys as we passed the reedy banks and low islands. They set fire to a mass of reeds, and, armed with sticks, spears, bows and arrows, stand in groups guarding the outlets through which the seared Senze may run from the approaching flames. Dark dense volumes of impenetrable smoke now roll over on the lee side of the islet, and shroud the hunters. At times vast sheets of lurid flames bursting forth, roaring, crackling and exploding, leap wildly far above the tall reeds. Out rush the terrified animals, and amid the smoke are seen the excited hunters dancing about with frantic gesticulations, and hurling stick, spear, and arrow at their burned out victims. Kites hover over the smoke, ready to pounce on the mantis and locusts as they spring from the fire. Small crows and hundreds of swallows are on eager wing, darting into the smoke and out again, seizing fugitive flies. Scores of insects, in their haste to escape from the fire, jump into the river, and the active fish enjoy a rare feast.
We returned to the "Pioneer" on the 9th of October, having been away one month. The ship's company had used distilled water, a condenser having been sent out from England; and there had not been a single case of sickness on board since we left, though there were so many cases of fever the few days she lay in the same spot last year. Our boat party drank the water of the river, and the three white sailors, who had never been in an African river before, had some slight attacks of fever.
Return to the Zambesi—Bishop Mackenzie's grave—Frightful scenes with crocodiles—Death of Mr. Thornton—African poisons—Recall of the Expedition.
We put to sea on the 18th of October, and, again touching at Johanna, obtained a crew of Johanna men and some oxen, and sailed for the Zambesi; but our fuel failing before we reached it, and the wind being contrary, we ran into Quillimane for wood.
Quillimane must have been built solely for the sake of carrying on the slave-trade, for no man in his senses would ever have dreamed of placing a village on such a low, muddy, fever-haunted, and mosquito-swarming site, had it not been for the facilities it afforded for slaving. The bar may at springs and floods be easily crossed by sailing-vessels, but, being far from the land, it is always dangerous for boats. Slaves, under the name of "free emigrants," have gone by thousands from Quillimane, during the last six years, to the ports a little to the south, particularly to Massangano. Some excellent brick-houses still stand in the place, and the owners are generous and hospitable: among them our good friend, Colonel Nunez. His disinterested kindness to us and to all our countrymen can never be forgotten. He is a noble example of what energy and uprightness may accomplish even here. He came out as a cabin- boy, and, without a single friend to help him, he has persevered in an honourable course until he is the richest man on the East Coast. When Dr. Livingstone came down the Zambesi in 1856, Colonel Nunez was the chief of the only four honourable, trustworthy men in the country. But while he has risen a whole herd has sunk, making loud lamentations, through puffs of cigar-smoke, over negro laziness; they might add, their own.
All agricultural enterprise is virtually discouraged by Quillimane Government. A man must purchase a permit from the Governor, when he wishes to visit his country farm; and this tax, in a country where labour is unpopular, causes the farms to be almost entirely left in the hands of a head slave, who makes returns to his master as interest or honesty prompts him. A passport must also be bought whenever a man wishes to go up the river to Mazaro, Senna, or Tette, or even to reside for a month at Quillimane. With a soil and a climate well suited for the growth of the cane, abundance of slave labour, and water communication to any market in the world, they have never made their own sugar. All they use is imported from Bombay. "The people of Quillimane have no enterprise," said a young European Portuguese, "they do nothing, and are always wasting their time in suffering, or in recovering from fever."
We entered the Zambesi about the end of November and found it unusually low, so we did not get up to Shupanga till the 19th of December. The friends of our Mazaro men, who had now become good sailors and very attentive servants, turned out and gave them a hearty welcome back from the perils of the sea: they had begun to fear that they would never return. We hired them at a sixteen-yard piece of cloth a month—about ten shillings' worth, the Portuguese market-price of the cloth being then sevenpence halfpenny a yard,—and paid them five pieces each, for four- and-a-half months' work. A merchant at the same time paid other Mazaro men three pieces for seven months, and they were with him in the interior. If the merchants do not prosper, it is not because labour is dear, but because it is scarce, and because they are so eager on every occasion to sell the workmen out of the country. Our men had also received quantities of good clothes from the sailors of the "Pioneer" and of the "Orestes," and were now regarded by their neighbours and by themselves as men of importance. Never before had they possessed so much wealth: they believed that they might settle in life, being now of sufficient standing to warrant their entering the married state; and a wife and a hut were among their first investments. Sixteen yards were paid to the wife's parents, and a hut cost four yards. We should have liked to have kept them in the ship, for they were well-behaved and had learned a great deal of the work required. Though they would not themselves go again, they engaged others for us; and brought twice as many as we could take, of their brothers and cousins, who were eager to join the ship and go with us up the Shire, or anywhere else. They all agreed to take half-pay until they too had learned to work; and we found no scarcity of labour, though all that could be exported is now out of the country.
There had been a drought of unusual severity during the past season in the country between Lupata and Kebrabasa, and it had extended north-east to the Manganja highlands. All the Tette slaves, except a very few household ones, had been driven away by hunger, and were now far off in the woods, and wherever wild fruit, or the prospect of obtaining anything whatever to keep the breath of life in them, was to be found. Their masters were said never to expect to see them again. There have been two years of great hunger at Tette since we have been in the country, and a famine like the present prevailed in 1854, when thousands died of starvation. If men like the Cape farmers owned this country, their energy and enterprise would soon render the crops independent of rain. There being plenty of slope or fall, the land could be easily irrigated from the Zambesi and its tributary streams. A Portuguese colony can never prosper: it is used as a penal settlement, and everything must be done military fashion. "What do I care for this country?" said the most enterprising of the Tette merchants, "all I want is to make money as soon possible, and then go to Bombay and enjoy it." All business at Tette was now suspended. Carriers could not be found to take the goods into the interior, and the merchants could barely obtain food for their own families. At Mazaro more rain had fallen, and a tolerable crop followed. The people of Shupanga were collecting and drying different wild fruits, nearly all of which are far from palatable to a European taste. The root of a small creeper called "bise" is dug up and eaten. In appearance it is not unlike the small white sweet potato, and has a little of the flavour of our potato. It would be very good, if it were only a little larger. From another tuber, called "ulanga," very good starch can be made. A few miles from Shupanga there is an abundance of large game, but the people here, though fond enough of meat, are not a hunting race, and seldom kill any.
The Shire having risen, we steamed off on the 10th of January, 1863, with the "Lady Nyassa" in tow. It was not long before we came upon the ravages of the notorious Mariano. The survivors of a small hamlet, at the foot of Morambala, were in a state of starvation, having lost their food by one of his marauding parties. The women were in the fields collecting insects, roots, wild fruits, and whatever could be eaten, in order to drag on their lives, if possible, till the next crop should be ripe. Two canoes passed us, that had been robbed by Mariano's band of everything they had in them; the owners were gathering palm-nuts for their subsistence. They wore palm-leaf aprons, as the robbers had stripped them of their clothing and ornaments. Dead bodies floated past us daily, and in the mornings the paddles had to be cleared of corpses, caught by the floats during the night. For scores of miles the entire population of the valley was swept away by this scourge Mariano, who is again, as he was before, the great Portuguese slave-agent. It made the heart ache to see the widespread desolation; the river-banks, once so populous, all silent; the villages burned down, and an oppressive stillness reigning where formerly crowds of eager sellers appeared with the various products of their industry. Here and there might be seen on the bank a small dreary deserted shed, where had sat, day after day, a starving fisherman, until the rising waters drove the fish from their wonted haunts, and left him to die. Tingane had been defeated; his people had been killed, kidnapped, and forced to flee from their villages. There were a few wretched survivors in a village above the Ruo; but the majority of the population was dead. The sight and smell of dead bodies was everywhere. Many skeletons lay beside the path, where in their weakness they had fallen and expired. Ghastly living forms of boys and girls, with dull dead eyes, were crouching beside some of the huts. A few more miserable days of their terrible hunger, and they would be with the dead.
Oppressed with the shocking scenes around, we visited the Bishop's grave; and though it matters little where a good Christian's ashes rest, yet it was with sadness that we thought over the hopes which had clustered around him, as he left the classic grounds of Cambridge, all now buried in this wild place. How it would have torn his kindly heart to witness the sights we now were forced to see!
In giving vent to the natural feelings of regret, that a man so eminently endowed and learned, as was Bishop Mackenzie, should have been so soon cut off, some have expressed an opinion that it was wrong to use an instrument so valuable merely to convert the heathen. If the attempt is to be made at all, it is "penny wise and pound foolish" to employ any but the very best men, and those who are specially educated for the work. An ordinary clergyman, however well suited for a parish, will not, without special training, make a Missionary; and as to their comparative usefulness, it is like that of the man who builds an hospital, as compared with that of the surgeon who in after years only administers for a time the remedies which the founder had provided in perpetuity. Had the Bishop succeeded in introducing Christianity, his converts might have been few, but they would have formed a continuous roll for all time to come.
The Shire fell two feet, before we reached the shallow crossing where we had formerly such difficulty, and we had now two ships to take up. A hippopotamus was shot two miles above a bank on which the ship lay a fortnight: it floated in three hours. As the boat was towing it down, the crocodiles were attracted by the dead beast, and several shots had to be fired to keep them off. The bullet had not entered the brain of the animal, but driven a splinter of bone into it. A little moisture with some gas issued from the wound, and this was all that could tell the crocodiles down the stream of a dead hippopotamus; and yet they came up from miles below. Their sense of smell must be as acute as their hearing; both are quite extraordinary. Dozens fed on the meat we left. Our Krooman, Jumbo, used to assert that the crocodile never eats fresh meat, but always keeps it till it is high and tender—and the stronger it smells the better he likes it. There seems to be some truth in this. They can swallow but small pieces at a time, and find it difficult to tear fresh meat. In the act of swallowing, which is like that of a dog, the head is raised out of the water. We tried to catch some, and one was soon hooked; it required half-a-dozen hands to haul him up the river, and the shark-hook straightened, and he got away. A large iron hook was next made, but, as the creatures could not swallow it, their jaws soon pressed it straight—and our crocodile-fishing was a failure. As one might expect,—from the power even of a salmon—the tug of a crocodile was terribly strong.
The corpse of a boy floated past the ship; a monstrous crocodile rushed at it with the speed of a greyhound, caught it and shook it, as a terrier dog does a rat. Others dashed at the prey, each with his powerful tail causing the water to churn and froth, as he furiously tore off a piece. In a few seconds it was all gone. The sight was frightful to behold. The Shire swarmed with crocodiles; we counted sixty-seven of these repulsive reptiles on a single bank, but they are not as fierce as they are in some rivers. "Crocodiles," says Captain Tuckey, "are so plentiful in the Congo, near the rapids, and so frequently carry off the women, who at daylight go down to the river for water, that, while they are filling their calabashes, one of the party is usually employed in throwing large stones into the water outside." Here, either a calabash on a long pole is used in drawing water, or a fence is planted. The natives eat the crocodile, but to us the idea of tasting the musky-scented, fishy-looking flesh carried the idea of cannibalism. Humboldt remarks, that in South America the alligators of some rivers are more dangerous than in others. Alligators differ from crocodiles in the fourth or canine tooth going into a hole or socket in the upper jaw, while in the crocodile it fits into a notch. The forefoot of the crocodile has five toes not webbed, the hindfoot has four toes which are webbed; in the alligator the web is altogether wanting. They are so much alike that they would no doubt breed together.
One of the crocodiles which was shot had a piece snapped off the end of his tail, another had lost a forefoot in fighting; we saw actual leeches between the teeth, such as are mentioned by Herodotus, but we never witnessed the plover picking them out. Their greater fierceness in one part of the country than another is doubtless owing to a scarcity of fish; in fact, Captain Tuckey says, of that part of the Congo, mentioned above, "There are no fish here but catfish," and we found that the lake crocodiles, living in clear water, and with plenty of fish, scarcely ever attacked man. The Shire teems with fish of many different kinds. The only time, as already remarked, when its crocodiles are particularly to be dreaded, is when the river is in flood. Then the fish are driven from their usual haunts, and no game comes down to the river to drink, water being abundant in pools inland. Hunger now impels the crocodile to lie in wait for the women who come to draw water, and on the Zambesi numbers are carried off every year. The danger is not so great at other seasons; though it is never safe to bathe, or to stoop to drink, where one cannot see the bottom, especially in the evening. One of the Makololo ran down in the dusk of the river; and, as he was busy tossing the water to his mouth with his hand, in the manner peculiar to the natives, a crocodile rose suddenly from the bottom, and caught him by the hand. The limb of a tree was fortunately within reach, and he had presence of mind to lay hold of it. Both tugged and pulled; the crocodile for his dinner, and the man for dear life. For a time it appeared doubtful whether a dinner or a life was to be sacrificed; but the man held on, and the monster let the hand go, leaving the deep marks of his ugly teeth in it.
During our detention, in expectation of the permanent rise of the river in March, Dr. Kirk and Mr. C. Livingstone collected numbers of the wading- birds of the marshes—and made pleasant additions to our salted provisions, in geese, ducks, and hippopotamus flesh. One of the comb or knob-nosed geese, on being strangled in order to have its skin preserved without injury, continued to breathe audibly by the broken humerus, or wing-bone, and other means had to be adopted to put it out of pain. This was as if a man on the gallows were to continue to breathe by a broken armbone, and afforded us an illustration of the fact, that in birds, the vital air penetrates every part of the interior of their bodies. The breath passes through and round about the lungs—bathes the surfaces of the viscera, and enters the cavities of the bones; it even penetrates into some spaces between the muscles of the neck—and thus not only is the most perfect oxygenation of the blood secured, but, the temperature of the blood being very high, the air in every part is rarefied, and the great lightness and vigour provided for, that the habits of birds require. Several birds were found by Dr. Kirk to have marrow in the tibiae, though these bones are generally described as hollow.
During the period of our detention on the shallow part of the river in March, Mr. Thornton came up to us from Shupanga: he had, as before narrated, left the Expedition in 1859, and joined Baron van der Decken, in the journey to Kilimanjaro, when, by an ascent of the mountain to the height of 8000 feet, it was first proved to be covered with perpetual snow, and the previous information respecting it, given by the Church of England Missionaries, Krapf and Rebman, confirmed. It is now well known that the Baron subsequently ascended the Kilimanjaro to 14,000 feet, and ascertained its highest peak to be at least 20,000 feet above the sea. Mr. Thornton made the map of the first journey, at Shupanga, from materials collected when with the Baron; and when that work was accomplished, followed us. He was then directed to examine geologically the Cataract district, but not to expose himself to contact with the Ajawa until the feelings of that tribe should be ascertained.
The members of Bishop Mackenzie's party, on the loss of their head, fell back from Magomero on the highlands, to Chibisa's, in the low-lying Shire Valley; and Thornton, finding them suffering from want of animal food, kindly volunteered to go across thence to Tette, and bring a supply of goats and sheep. We were not aware of this step, to which the generosity of his nature prompted him, till two days after he had started. In addition to securing supplies for the Universities' Mission, he brought some for the Expedition, and took bearings, by which he hoped to connect his former work at Tette with the mountains in the Shire district. The toil of this journey was too much for his strength, as with the addition of great scarcity of water, it had been for that of Dr. Kirk and Rae, and he returned in a sadly haggard and exhausted condition; diarrhoea supervened, and that ended in dysentery and fever, which terminated fatally on the 21st of April, 1863. He received the unremitting attentions of Dr. Kirk, and Dr. Meller, surgeon of the "Pioneer," during the fortnight of his illness; and as he had suffered very little from fever, or any other disease, in Africa, we had entertained strong hopes that his youth and unimpaired constitution would have carried him through. During the night of the 20th his mind wandered so much, that we could not ascertain his last wishes; and on the morning of the 21st, to our great sorrow, he died. He was buried on the 22nd, near a large tree on the right bank of the Shire, about five hundred yards from the lowest of the Murchison Cataracts—and close to a rivulet, at which the "Lady Nyassa" and "Pioneer" lay.
No words can convey an adequate idea of the scene of widespread desolation which the once pleasant Shire Valley now presented. Instead of smiling villages and crowds of people coming with things for sale, scarcely a soul was to be seen; and, when by chance one lighted on a native, his frame bore the impress of hunger, and his countenance the look of a cringing broken-spiritedness. A drought had visited the land after the slave-hunting panic swept over it. Had it been possible to conceive the thorough depopulation which had ensued, we should have avoided coming up the river. Large masses of the people had fled down to the Shire, only anxious to get the river between them and their enemies. Most of the food had been left behind; and famine and starvation had cut off so many, that the remainder were too few to bury the dead. The corpses we saw floating down the river were only a remnant of those that had perished, whom their friends, from weakness, could not bury, nor over- gorged crocodiles devour. It is true that famine caused a great portion of this waste of human life: but the slave-trade must be deemed the chief agent in the ruin, because, as we were informed, in former droughts all the people flocked from the hills down to the marshes, which are capable of yielding crops of maize in less than three months, at any time of the year, and now they were afraid to do so. A few, encouraged by the Mission in the attempt to cultivate, had their little patches robbed as successive swarms of fugitives came from the hills. Who can blame these outcasts from house and home for stealing to save their wretched lives, or wonder that the owners protected the little all, on which their own lives depended, with club and spear? We were informed by Mr. Waller of the dreadful blight which had befallen the once smiling Shire Valley. His words, though strong, failed to impress us with the reality. In fact, they were received, as some may accept our own, as tinged with exaggeration; but when our eyes beheld the last mere driblets of this cup of woe, we for the first time felt that the enormous wrongs inflicted on our fellow-men by slaving are beyond exaggeration.
Wherever we took a walk, human skeletons were seen in every direction, and it was painfully interesting to observe the different postures in which the poor wretches had breathed their last. A whole heap had been thrown down a slope behind a village, where the fugitives often crossed the river from the east; and in one hut of the same village no fewer than twenty drums had been collected, probably the ferryman's fees. Many had ended their misery under shady trees—others under projecting crags in the hills—while others lay in their huts, with closed doors, which when opened disclosed the mouldering corpse with the poor rags round the loins—the skull fallen off the pillow—the little skeleton of the child, that had perished first, rolled up in a mat between two large skeletons. The sight of this desert, but eighteen months ago a well peopled valley, now literally strewn with human bones, forced the conviction upon us, that the destruction of human life in the middle passage, however great, constitutes but a small portion of the waste, and made us feel that unless the slave-trade—that monster iniquity, which has so long brooded over Africa—is put down, lawful commerce cannot be established.
We believed that, if it were possible to get a steamer upon the Lake, we could by her means put a check on the slavers from the East Coast; and aid more effectually still in the suppression of the slave-trade, by introducing, by way of the Rovuma, a lawful traffic in ivory. We therefore unscrewed the "Lady Nyassa" at a rivulet about five hundred yards below the first cataract, and began to make a road over the thirty- five or forty miles of land portage, by which to carry her up piecemeal. After mature consideration, we could not imagine a more noble work of benevolence, than thus to introduce light and liberty into a quarter of this fair earth, which human lust has converted into the nearest possible resemblance of what we conceive the infernal regions to be—and we sacrificed much of our private resources as an offering for the promotion of so good a cause.
The chief part of the labour of road-making consisted in cutting down trees and removing stones. The country being covered with open forest, a small tree had to be cut about every fifty or sixty yards. The land near the river was so very much intersected by ravines, that search had to be made, a mile from its banks, for more level ground. Experienced Hottentot drivers would have taken Cape wagons without any other trouble than that of occasionally cutting down a tree. No tsetse infested this district, and the cattle brought from Johanna flourished on the abundant pasture. The first half-mile of road led up, by a gradual slope, to an altitude of two hundred feet above the ship, and a sensible difference of climate was felt even there. For the remainder of the distance the height increased,—till, at the uppermost cataract, we were more than 1200 feet above the sea. The country here, having recovered from the effects of the drought, was bright with young green woodland, and mountains of the same refreshing hue. But the absence of the crowds, which had attended us as we carried up the boat, when the women followed us for miles with fine meal, vegetables, and fat fowls for sale, and the boys were ever ready for a little job—and the oppressive stillness bore heavily on our spirits. The Portuguese of Tette had very effectually removed our labourers. Not an ounce of fresh provisions could be obtained, except what could be shot, and even the food for our native crew had to be brought one hundred and fifty miles from the Zambesi.
The diet of salt provisions and preserved meats without vegetables, with the depression of spirits caused by seeing how effectually a few wretched convicts, aided by the connivance of officials, of whom better might have been hoped, could counteract our best efforts, and turn intended good to certain evil, brought on attacks of dysentery, which went the round of the Expedition—and, Dr. Kirk and Charles Livingstone having suffered most severely, it was deemed advisable that they should go home. This measure was necessary, though much to the regret of all—for having done so much, they were naturally anxious to be present, when, by the establishing ourselves on the Lake, all our efforts should be crowned with success. After it had been decided that these two officers, and all the whites who could be spared, should be sent down to the sea for a passage to England, Dr. Livingstone was seized in May with a severe attack of dysentery, which continued for a month, and reduced him to a shadow. Dr. Kirk kindly remained in attendance till the worst was passed. The parting took place on the 19th of May.
After a few miles of road were completed, and the oxen broken in, we resolved to try and render ourselves independent of the south for fresh provisions, by going in a boat up the Shire, above the Cataracts, to the tribes at the foot of Lake Nyassa, who were still untouched by the Ajawa invasion. In furtherance of this plan Dr. Livingstone and Mr. Rae determined to walk up to examine, and, if need be, mend the boat which had been left two seasons previously hung up to the limb of a large shady tree, before attempting to carry another past the Cataracts. The "Pioneer," which was to be left in charge of our active and most trustworthy gunner, Mr. Edward D. Young, R.N., was thoroughly roofed over with euphorbia branches and grass, so as completely to protect her decks from the sun: she also received daily a due amount of man-of-war scrubbing and washing; and, besides having everything put in shipshape fashion, was every evening swung out into the middle of the river, for the sake of the greater amount of air which circulated there. In addition to their daily routine work of the ship, the three stokers, one sailor, and one carpenter—now our complement—were encouraged to hunt for guinea-fowl, which in June, when the water inland is dried up, come in large flocks to the river's banks, and roost on the trees at night. Everything that can be done to keep mind and body employed tends to prevent fever.
While we were employed in these operations, some of the poor starved people about had been in the habit of crossing the river, and reaping the self-sown mapira, in the old gardens of their countrymen. In the afternoon of the 9th, a canoe came floating down empty, and shortly after a woman was seen swimming near the other side, which was about two hundred yards distant from us. Our native crew manned the boat, and rescued her; when brought on board, she was found to have an arrow-head, eight or ten inches long, in her back, below the ribs, and slanting up through the diaphragm and left lung, towards the heart—she had been shot from behind when stooping. Air was coming out of the wound, and, there being but an inch of the barbed arrow-head visible, it was thought better not to run the risk of her dying under the operation necessary for its removal; so we carried her up to her own hut. One of her relatives was less scrupulous, for he cut out the arrow and part of the lung. Mr. Young sent her occasionally portions of native corn, and strange to say found that she not only became well, but stout. The constitution of these people seems to have a wonderful power of self-repair—and it could be no slight privation which had cut off the many thousands that we saw dead around us.
We regretted that, in consequence of Dr. Meller having now sole medical charge, we could not have his company in our projected trip; but he found employment in botany and natural history, after the annual sickly season of March, April, and May was over; and his constant presence was not so much required at the ship. Later in the year, when he could be well spared, he went down the river to take up an appointment he had been offered in Madagascar; but unfortunately was so severely tried by illness while detained at the coast, that for nearly two years he was not able to turn his abilities as a naturalist to account by proceeding to that island. We have no doubt but he will yet distinguish himself in that untrodden field.
On the 16th of June we started for the Upper Cataracts, with a mule-cart, our road lying a distance of a mile west from the river. We saw many of the deserted dwellings of the people who formerly came to us; and were very much struck by the extent of land under cultivation, though that, compared with the whole country, is very small. Large patches of mapira continued to grow,—as it is said it does from the roots for three years. The mapira was mixed with tall bushes of the Congo-bean, castor-oil plants, and cotton. The largest patch of this kind we paced, and found it to be six hundred and thirty paces on one side—the rest were from one acre to three, and many not more than one-third of an acre. The cotton—of very superior quality—was now dropping off the bushes, to be left to rot—there was no one to gather what would have been of so much value in Lancashire. The huts, in the different villages we entered, were standing quite perfect. The mortars for pounding corn—the stones for grinding it—the water and beer pots—the empty corn-safes and kitchen utensils, were all untouched; and most of the doors were shut, as if the starving owners had gone out to wander in search of roots or fruits in the forest, and had never returned. When opened, several huts revealed a ghastly sight of human skeletons. Some were seen in such unnatural positions, as to give the idea that they had expired in a faint, when trying to reach something to allay the gnawings of hunger.
We took several of the men as far as the Mukuru-Madse for the sake of the change of air and for occupation, and also to secure for the ships a supply of buffalo meat—as those animals were reported to be in abundance on that stream. But though it was evident from the tracks that the report was true, it was impossible to get a glimpse of them. The grass being taller than we were, and pretty thickly planted, they always knew of our approach before we saw them. And the first intimation we had of their being near was the sound they made in rushing over the stones, breaking the branches, and knocking their horns against each other. Once, when seeking a ford for the cart, at sunrise, we saw a herd slowly wending up the hill-side from the water. Sending for a rifle, and stalking with intense eagerness for a fat beefsteak, instead of our usual fare of salted provisions, we got so near that we could hear the bulls uttering their hoarse deep low, but could see nothing except the mass of yellow grass in front; suddenly the buffalo-birds sounded their alarm- whistle, and away dashed the troop, and we got sight of neither birds nor beasts. This would be no country for a sportsman except when the grass is short. The animals are wary, from the dread they have of the poisoned arrows. Those of the natives who do hunt are deeply imbued with the hunting spirit, and follow the game with a stealthy perseverance and cunning, quite extraordinary. The arrow making no noise, the herd is followed up until the poison takes effect, and the wounded animal falls out. It is then patiently watched till it drops—a portion of meat round the wound is cut away, and all the rest eaten.
Poisoned arrows are made in two pieces. An iron barb is firmly fastened to one end of a small wand of wood, ten inches or a foot long, the other end of which, fined down to a long point, is nicely fitted, though not otherwise secured, in the hollow of the reed, which forms the arrow shaft. The wood immediately below the iron head is smeared with the poison. When the arrow is shot into an animal, the reed either falls to the ground at once, or is very soon brushed off by the bushes; but the iron barb and poisoned upper part of the wood remain in the wound. If made in one piece, the arrow would often be torn out, head and all, by the long shaft catching in the underwood, or striking against trees. The poison used here, and called kombi, is obtained from a species of strophanthus, and is very virulent. Dr. Kirk found by an accidental experiment on himself that it acts by lowering the pulse. In using his tooth-brush, which had been in a pocket containing a little of the poison, he noticed a bitter taste, but attributed it to his having sometimes used, the handle in taking quinine. Though the quantity was small, it immediately showed its power by lowering his pulse which at the time had been raised by a cold, and next day he was perfectly restored. Not much can be inferred from a single case of this kind, but it is possible that the kombi may turn out a valuable remedy; and as Professor Sharpey has conducted a series of experiments with this substance, we look with interest for the results. An alkaloid has been obtained from it similar to strychnine. There is no doubt that all kinds of wild animals die from the effects of poisoned arrows, except the elephant and hippopotamus. The amount of poison that this little weapon can convey into their systems being too small to kill those huge beasts, the hunters resort to the beam trap instead.
Another kind of poison was met with on Lake Nyassa, which was said to be used exclusively for killing men. It was put on small wooden arrow-heads, and carefully protected by a piece of maize-leaf tied round it. It caused numbness of the tongue when the smallest particle was tasted. The Bushmen of the northern part of the Kalahari were seen applying the entrails of a small caterpillar which they termed 'Nga to their arrows. This venom was declared to be so powerful in producing delirium, that a man in dying returned in imagination to a state of infancy, and would call for his mother's breast. Lions when shot with it are said to perish in agonies. The poisonous ingredient in this case may be derived from the plant on which the caterpillar feeds. It is difficult to conceive by what sort of experiments the properties of these poisons, known for generations, were proved. Probably the animal instincts, which have become so obtuse by civilization, that children in England eat the berries of the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) without suspicion, were in the early uncivilized state much more keen. In some points instinct is still retained among savages. It is related that in the celebrated voyage of the French navigator, Bougainville, a young lady, who had assumed the male attire, performed all the hard duties incident to the calling of a common sailor; and, even as servant to the geologist, carried a bag of stones and specimens over hills and dales without a complaint, and without having her sex suspected by her associates; but on landing among the savages of one of the South Sea Islands, she was instantly recognized as a female. They began to show their impressions in a way that compelled her to confess her sex, and throw herself on the protection of the commander, which of course was granted. In like manner, the earlier portions of the human family may have had their instincts as to plants more highly developed than any of their descendants—if indeed much more knowledge than we usually suppose be not the effect of direct revelation from above.
The Mukuru-Madse has a deep rocky bed. The water is generally about four feet deep, and fifteen or twenty yards broad. Before reaching it, we passed five or six gullies; but beyond it the country, for two or three miles from the river, was comparatively smooth. The long grass was overrunning all the native paths, and one species (sanu), which has a sharp barbed seed a quarter of an inch in length, enters every pore of woollen clothing and highly irritates the skin. From its hard, sharp point a series of minute barbs are laid back, and give the seed a hold wherever it enters: the slightest touch gives it an entering motion, and the little hooks prevent its working out. These seeds are so abundant in some spots, that the inside of the stocking becomes worse than the roughest hair shirt. It is, however, an excellent self-sower, and fine fodder; it rises to the height of common meadow-grass in England, and would be a capital plant for spreading over a new country not so abundantly supplied with grasses as this is.
We have sometimes noticed two or three leaves together pierced through by these seeds, and thus made, as it were, into wings to carry them to any soil suited to their growth.
We always follow the native paths, though they are generally not more than fifteen inches broad, and so often have deep little holes in them, made for the purpose of setting traps for small animals, and are so much obscured by the long grass, that one has to keep one's eyes on the ground more than is pleasant. In spite, however, of all drawbacks, it is vastly more easy to travel on these tracks than to go straight over uncultivated ground, or virgin forest. A path usually leads to some village, though sometimes it turns out to be a mere game track leading nowhere.
In going north, we came into a part called Mpemba where Chibisa was owned as chief, but the people did not know that he had been assassinated by the Portuguese Terera. A great deal of grain was lying round the hut, where we spent the night. Very large numbers of turtledoves feasted undisturbed on the tall stalked mapira ears, and we easily secured plenty of fine fat guinea-fowls—now allowed to feed leisurely in the deserted gardens. The reason assigned for all this listless improvidence was "There are no women to grind the corn—all are dead."
The cotton patches in all cases seemed to have been so well cared for, and kept so free of weeds formerly, that, though now untended, but few weeds had sprung up; and the bushes were thus preserved in the annual grass burnings. Many baobab-trees grow in different spots, and the few people seen were using the white pulp found between the seeds to make a pleasant subacid drink.
On passing Malango, near the uppermost cataract, not a soul was to be seen; but, as we rested opposite a beautiful tree-covered island, the merry voices of children at play fell on our ears—the parents had fled thither for protection from the slave-hunting Ajawa, still urged on by the occasional visits of the Portuguese agents from Tette. The Ajawa, instead of passing below the Cataracts, now avoided us, and crossed over to the east side near to the tree on which we had hung the boat. Those of the Manganja, to whom we could make ourselves known, readily came to us; but the majority had lost all confidence in themselves, in each other, and in every one else. The boat had been burned about three months previously, and the Manganja were very anxious that we should believe that this had been the act of the Ajawa; but on scanning the spot we saw that it was more likely to have caught fire in the grass-burning of the country. Had we intended to be so long in returning to it, we should have hoisted it bottom upwards; for, as it was, it is probable that a quantity of dried leaves lay inside, and a spark ignited the whole. All the trees within fifty yards were scorched and killed, and the nails, iron, and copper sheathing, all lay undisturbed beneath. Had the Ajawa done the deed, they would have taken away the copper and iron.
Our hopes of rendering ourselves independent of the south for provisions, by means of this boat, being thus disappointed, we turned back with the intention of carrying another up to the same spot; and, in order to find level ground for this, we passed across from the Shire at Malango to the upper part of the stream Lesungwe. A fine, active, intelligent fellow, called Pekila, guided us, and was remarkable as almost the only one of the population left with any spirit in him. The depressing effect which the slave-hunting scourge has upon the native mind, though little to be wondered at, is sad, very sad to witness. Musical instruments, mats, pillows, mortars for pounding meal, were lying about unused, and becoming the prey of the white ants. With all their little comforts destroyed, the survivors were thrown still further back into barbarism.
It is of little importance perhaps to any but travellers to notice that in occupying one night a well-built hut, which had been shut up for some time, the air inside at once gave us a chill, and an attack of fever; both of which vanished when the place was well-ventilated by means of a fire. We have frequently observed that lighting a fire early in the mornings, even in the hottest time of the year, gives freshness to the whole house, and removes that feeling of closeness and langour, which a hot climate induces.
On the night of the 1st July, 1863, several loud peals of thunder awoke us; the moon was shining brightly, and not a cloud to be seen. All the natives remarked on the clearness of the sky at the time, and next morning said, "We thought it was God" (Morungo).