I have heard, that his desire for travelling in Africa, arose from a romantic notion, that had entered his head when a boy, of seeking for his father in the interior of that country, to ascertain whether he was alive and in slavery, or had lost his life by sickness, or violence. This filial enthusiasm continued to haunt him until a short time before he left England, when he abandoned the fond hope of recovering his father, whose death was confirmed by a variety of coincident circumstances, but still he resolved to persevere in his long-cherished scheme of visiting the interior of Africa. Impelled, perhaps, by the name he inherited, and a latent passion to emulate the deeds of his father, on the same field of action, he embarked in this hazardous and unfortunate enterprise. But mark the difference of character and qualifications. The father, a man of mature judgment, whose experience in the world gave him considerable advantages; was also of an age and temperament that rendered him less liable to the endemic diseases of such a climate, while his patience, perseverance, and medical skill, enabled him to surmount difficulties which a younger man, by his rashness, would only increase. The son, a young sailor, just entering life, full of enthusiastic ardour, and, perhaps, of confidence, from the information he had collected from books, little thinking that theoretical knowledge is of no avail in comparison with the practical study of human nature, particularly amongst savage tribes, which time and experience alone can give, was, of all persons, the worst qualified for such an undertaking. He possessed no knowledge whatever of the country, or the people, and had not a single individual to hold council with, amongst a variety of savage nations, where he would, occasionally, meet with some of the most cunning and intriguing people in the world. I, of course, allude to the Arabs; who alone possess any influence, or can be supposed to be secure amongst the Africans of the interior, cut off, as they are, from all European nations on the coast:—the Mahommedan religion is the only one that is generally known, and the only written one amongst these people, the rest being mere superstitious forms and customs: which, however, do not vary, in any great degree, in the whole country. The Arabs are very jealous of the ascendancy they possess over the various nations of the continent of Africa, and studiously endeavour to prevent strangers from traversing the interior, from the fear of losing the influence they have acquired over this poor, ignorant, and superstitious people.
It appears singular, that there should have been no rain at Accra, where their crops were failing for the want of it, although it rained every day at Cape Coast. There were several heaps of shells on the beach at Accra, principally consisting of the common cowrie, and the large muscle. They had been collected for the purpose of undergoing the process of calcination. In the absence of limestone, they are used as a substitute, and are considered to produce a finer and stronger lime.
About sun-set we embarked in the same large canoe from which I landed, and immediately after our arrival on board, the Eden got under weigh, when we shaped our course for our ultimate destination, the Island of Fernando Po, a distance of 530 miles, bearing about E. by S. 1/4 S. while H.M.S. Esk, left Accra roads for Cape Coast.
Friday, 26th.—After a four days' passage across the Gulf of Guinea, at seven o'clock this morning, we saw the island of Fernando Po, bearing S.E. This island can be seen from a considerable distance, being distinguished by some very high peaks. At four in the afternoon, the wind fell away nearly to a calm, when we found ourselves close in with the land, and a current carrying us still closer; however, fortunately, a light breeze sprung up, when we were glad to stand off for the night. On the following morning (Saturday, 27th) we made towards the land, sailing along the coast, which presented the most picturesque, scenery that could well be imagined, until we anchored in Maidstone Bay, at half past three in the afternoon, 12 fathoms water—black mud.
The island of Fernando Po, situated off the western coast of Africa, in the Gulf or Bight of Biafra, between 3 deg. and 4 deg. N. latitude, and 8 deg. and 9 deg. E. longitude, is about one hundred and twenty miles in circumference. It is generally believed to have been discovered in the year 1471, by a Portuguese navigator, who gave it the name of Ilha Formosa, or the Beautiful Isle, afterwards changed for that of its discoverer, which it now retains. The Portuguese first established a settlement upon it which they, however, abandoned, and subsequently transferred the right of possession to Spain, receiving in exchange the Island of Trinidad, off the coast of Brazil.
In the year 1764, a new settlement was founded by Spain, which, after a lapse of eighteen years, was also abandoned, for causes which have not been satisfactorily explained, although it is generally believed that a series of misunderstandings with the natives took place, which principally produced that result.
Since this period the island has been left to its native inhabitants, excepting that various European, and particularly English vessels, have occasionally touched at it for the purpose of procuring water and yams; the latter of which it grows the finest in the world, and which the natives were accustomed to barter for pieces of iron.
At length, a variety of considerations determined the British Government to attempt a new settlement on this island; these it may be proper briefly to state.
In the first place, the convenient situation of the island, at the distance of only twenty miles from the main-land of Africa, and in the immediate neighbourhood of the mouths of the many large rivers which pour their waters into the Gulf of Biafra, appeared to afford a most eligible point for checking the slave-trade, of which this position may be considered the very centre.
Secondly, it, was imagined,—and the consideration reflects the highest honour on the humanity of our Government,—that the adoption of the measure would tend materially to diminish the sufferings of the miserable objects of human traffic—the unfortunate slaves—who too frequently sank under the confinement and disease incidental to a protracted voyage to Sierra Leone, before their liberation could be legally accomplished.
In the third place, it was hoped that the greater salubrity of the new colony would lead to the eventual abandonment of the settlements of Sierra Leone and Cape Coast Castle, the direful effects of whose climates upon European life have long been proverbial. The Insular position of Fernando Po, and the nature of its climate and localities, appeared to offer an earnest that it would not abound with those, destructive malaria which have proved, on the neighbouring continent, so fatal to our brave countrymen.
I might also advert to the facilities which the situation of Fernando Po, at the estuaries of so many great rivers, together with its insularity, holds out for extending and protecting our commercial relations with Central Africa, and probably extending the blessings of civilization amongst its inhabitants; these, however, although important, were minor considerations with the British Government.
To carry the proposed object into effect, an expedition was fitted oat in the early part of the summer of 1827, under the command of Captain William Fitzwilliam Owen, of His Majesty's ship Eden, who received the appointment of superintendent of the colony, and than whom no one could be better adapted to fulfil the important duties which were to devolve upon him; Captain Harrison, a highly meritorious and indefatigable officer, received the chief civil appointment under him. A number of appropriate artificers, with an abundant supply of the requisite stores, including several framed wooden houses ready for immediate erection, were embarked in a transport; and it was arranged that a body of troops, with an additional number of workmen and labourers from Sierra Leone, should be attached to the expedition on its arrival at that settlement.
On first approaching the island, its mountains were shrouded from view by heavy clouds and a hazy atmosphere; which, however, gradually dispersed as we neared the shore, and revealed to the eyes of my companions a magnificent display of mountain scenery, closely studded with large trees, and thick with underwood, whose luxuriant foliage of various tints and hues, blending with the scarcely ruffled bosom of the ocean, and the retiring clouds, making the sky each moment become more lucid and transparent, formed such a variegated picture of natural beauty, that we unanimously hailed it as the land of promise.
It was not long before the scene began to assume an aspect of animation, the immediate consequence of our arrival; for, in less than half an hour after we anchored, a number of canoes, with several natives in each, who had already been trafficking with the Diadem, approached us for the purpose of bartering the productions of their island, namely, yams, fowls, palm-wine in calabashes, fish, some boxes made of split cane, monkey and snake skins, with other trifling articles; for pieces of iron hoop, a few inches long, which we afterwards found they made into two-edged knives, by beating them between stones, until they succeeded, in shaping the blade to their purpose, when they fitted it into a wooden handle, from four to six inches in length. In the first instance, however, they evinced considerable doubt and timidity, as they did riot venture to come alongside, but kept the stern of their canoes directed towards us, to be ready to paddle away on the first show of hostility, while a man remained in the forepart to carry on the barter. We in vain attempted to induce them to come on board, for, pointing in reply to their Fetish, they gave us to understand that this was either prohibited or imprudent. It was easy to perceive that the natives were fine-looking, active, middle-sized men, with an agreeable and animated expression of countenance. The natural colour of their skin was not ascertainable, the whole body being painted, or rather daubed over with a composition of clay, or ochre, mixed up with palm-oil. The prevailing colour was red, which seems to belong more exclusively to the lower classes: some few, however, had used a yellow, and others a grey pigment, probably as a mark of distinction, and which we afterwards found appropriated to the kings, or chief men. The faces were much seamed or scarified, while other parts of the body, and particularly the abdomen, were more or less tattoed. It is curious to remark, among the African savages, the variety of delineations on their skin, tattoed in lines, figures, or tropes, by way of ornament, fashion, or distinction, in nation and rank, which, perhaps, cannot be better described than in the words of the poet:—
Prince Giolo and his royal sisters, Scarr'd with ten thousand comely blisters, The marks remaining on the skin, To tell the quality within: Distinguish'd flashes deck the great, As each excels in birth or state; His oylet-holes are more and ampler; The king's own body was a sampler.
Their weapons were wooden well-barbed spears, with their points hardened by fire, each individual being provided with three or four. We afterwards, however, found that these were not the only means of defence, as they are possessed of slings, in the use of which they acquire no inconsiderable expertness. The canoes appeared to be from 15 to 30 feet in length, and each capable of carrying from three to twelve persons; these were provided with sails made of a kind of split rattan matting, of an oblong square form, the longer side placed perpendicularly, and some of them had a staff erected in the bow, with a bunch of feathers at the top of it.
When our muskets were fired at sunset, the whole immediately shoved off, being evidently much alarmed at the report; and most of them, hoisting their sails, endeavoured to reach the shore with all possible celerity.
Sunday, October 28.—Notwithstanding it rained heavily this morning, a great number of the natives came off to us at an early hour for the purpose of renewing their barter, to exchange their articles for pieces of iron, a metal which they appear to hold in the highest estimation, and which became the almost exclusive medium of our traffic with them. This metal they wisely prefer, nay, almost worship, for its usefulness; knives, hatchets, and iron-hoop, rank first in their good opinion, scissors and razors holding a secondary place; for they deem six inches in length of old iron-hoop, a quantity which would purchase half-a-dozen yams, varying from six to twelve pounds each in weight, far more valuable than the best razor you can present them with; in short, the ferri sacra fames may here be well substituted for the auri fames of more civilized nations. We may safely aver, that in our intercourse with these people, we have the 'love of iron' the chief exciting principle of their more generous, as well as malignant passions,—an opinion which many subsequent anecdotes in this narrative will prove.
The natives had to-day gained an evident accession of confidence, as some of them ventured on board, not, however, without many symptoms of timidity. A boy of twelve years old allowed himself to be conducted over the ship, and was shewn a variety of articles, of course entirely novel to him. With these he was, as may be supposed, exceedingly astonished, but more particularly with a looking-glass, and by the ringing of a small bell.
In the course of the day, Captain Owen landed at various points for the purpose of investigating the localities of the neighbourhood, and with a view of selecting the most eligible situation for our intended establishment. Lieutenant Robinson also went on shore to take sights for comparing the chronometers. Several natives approached the latter gentleman, offering him yams in barter, but were careful not to come too near, so long as his men remained armed with muskets. As it was evident from their signs that they wished these to be laid aside, Lieutenant Robinson, in order to inspire them with confidence, directed his party to ground arms, while he and Mr. Jeffery advanced towards them. Satisfied with this demonstration, their whole anxiety now appeared to be, how to dispose of their yams, which they professed, by signs, and with affectation of fatigue, to have brought from a great distance. They were not a little disappointed that our party, being unprovided with the necessary medium for payment, hoop-iron, were unable to effect the purchase.
Monday, Oct. 29.—The natives, who have visited us in great numbers to-day, are evidently increasing their stock of confidence, and, indeed, beginning to be, not a little troublesome, as we have no small difficulty in preventing them from coming on board. At seven o'clock in the morning we changed our anchorage to the opposite side of the bay, near the Adelaide islets, and close to Point William. A party went on shore for wood and water, in the procuring of which they were assisted by the natives.
Tuesday, Oct. 30.—Captain Owen, having now thoroughly investigated the vicinity of this place, determined upon the site of our future settlement. For this purpose, Maidstone Bay, in consequence of its capacity, (being about four miles and a half from Cape Bullen, its north-western limit, to Point William); the excellency of its anchorage, and the smoothness of its water, offered peculiar advantages; to which may be added, its reception of the waters of the Baracouta river, with other smaller streams, and the abundance of its fine fish of various kinds, including two or three species of turtle. On the south-eastern side, adjoining to coves which have received the respective names of Clarence and Cockburn Coves, two necks of land project into the bay, the one named Point Adelaide, with two small islands off it, bearing the same name; the other Point William. It was on the latter, constituting a kind of peninsula, projecting nearly six hundred yards into the sea, that Captain Owen decided upon fixing the infant settlement, which is probably destined to become the future emporium of the commerce, as well as the centre of civilization of this part of the globe,—giving it, out of compliment to His Royal Highness the Lord High Admiral, the name of Clarence. Besides the above named peninsula, the new settlement comprises other adjoining lands, which were afterwards respectively known by the appellations of Bushy Park, Longfield, Paradise, and New-lands, with some which have not yet received any name,—the whole constituting an elevated plain, lying between one and two hundred feet above the level of the sea, and at present thickly covered with timber and jungle. In Clarence Cove, there is an excellent spring of water issuing from a cliff, about sixty-six yards above low water-mark, well calculated to supply the exigencies of the settlement, and which it is intended to conduct, by means of shoots, down to the beach.
The above situation having been finally decided upon, Captain Owen determined to lose no time in commencing operations, and, in the course of the day, notwithstanding it proved rainy, a party of a hundred Kroomen and other black labourers, were landed, under the command of Mr. Vidal, the senior lieutenant, and immediately began to clear a road through the jungle, to the spot selected for the new town.
Accompanied by Mr. Morrison, I also went ashore at Baracouta, for the purpose of inviting the supposed king of the island, but who, we have since reason to believe, is only the chief of a tribe. His Majesty would have accepted our invitation, had not his attendants offered a strong opposition: all we could gain was a promise that he would visit us early on the following morning. Our interpreter was a black soldier of the Royal African Corps, named Anderson, who professed to have some acquaintance with the language of the islanders. We found afterwards, however, that his Fernandian vocabulary was scarcely more copious than a sensible parrot might acquire in a month: his knowledge of the English, at all events, was so exceedingly defective, as to make another interpreter necessary, to explain what he meant to express, in our language. This man was left to pass the night at the royal residence, in order that he might avail himself of opportunities to inspire his Majesty with confidence, and be ready to accompany him on his visit in the morning.
Wednesday, Oct. 31.—The steam-vessel (African) arrived to-day, and brought in two vessels under Brazilian colours, which Lieutenant Badgeley had boarded and detained, under strong suspicion of their being engaged in the slave-trade.
At nine o'clock, the King of Baracouta, accompanied by his brother and five or six other chiefs, came on board according to promise, and without betraying any symptoms of timidity. The party were immediately conducted to the captain's cabin, and entertained with wine and biscuit, which they appeared to partake of with considerable relish. His Majesty, however, had not come unprovided, his canoe having been stored with some calabashes of palm-wine, which he sent for and distributed freely. We partook of this wholesome beverage, but some of the natives mixed it with Madeira. I must not omit to mention that, whether as a point of etiquette, or intended as an expression of gratitude for the attentions they were receiving, the King, and his Chiefs, were particularly desirous of rubbing their long beards against those of our party who happened to be possessed of a similar ornament. Amongst other circumstances which gave them satisfaction, they were highly gratified by sitting on our chairs; and we have since learned, that, in their own residences, they are in the habit of using logs of wood for this purpose, a custom differing from many of the African nations.
A description of their dress, which was in the most fanciful savage taste, cannot fail to be interesting. In the first place, the body was completely smeared over with the kind of paint I have before described: His Majesty's colour, like that which distinguishes the imperial family of China, being yellow, while the livery of his attendants was dark red. The hair of the head was dressed in long small curls hanging down behind, and which, instead of hair powder and pomatum, were well stiffened with ochre and oil: in front, similar curls dividing from the forehead, hung down on each side below the ears, somewhat in the style of Vandyke's female portraits of the age of Charles I. The forehead was generally round, sufficiently elevated to give phrenological indications of a fair portion of intellect, and, perhaps, unusually well displayed by a custom which prevails of having the hair shorn in front an inch beyond the line of its natural growth, so as, in conjunction with the peculiar disposition of curls before described, to leave the part fully exposed. In some instances, seven or eight strings of beads, in imitation of the natural curls, were adjusted with much care over the forepart of the head, and conducted separately behind the ears, the end of each string reaching down to the shoulders. This singularly ornamental head-dress was surmounted by a flatfish low-crowned hat, with a narrow brim, the whole shape not a little resembling that of Mambrino's helmet; the frame-work, constructed of loosely wove split rattan, was covered over and ornamented with leaves, the bones of monkeys and other animals, and a few white, and occasionally red, feathers; the latter of which appeared to have been dyed in the blood of some animal. This hat was secured to the head by a skewer, which passed through the crown, and penetrated a tuft of hair collected above the vertex. The neck, arms, body above the hips, and the legs below the knee, were encircled by ornamental bands, in the form of bracelets, which were, for the most part, composed of strings of beads, or the vertebrae of small snakes; to the girdle, which thus surrounded the body, was appended, hanging down in front, the only article of covering which they can be said to wear, consisting of the skin of some animal, and which, in many instances, was decorated with a bunch of herbage. His Majesty, however, as a mark of distinction, wore also a similar covering behind.
After having been entertained in the cabin, we conducted the party along the main-deck, and shewed them our horses, oxen, pigs, &c., with the whole of which they were highly gratified, especially with the cow, whose tail was a source of ineffable delight to them, each of them handling it in succession, plucking out its hairs, and shaking it with every indication of astonishment. The band was directed to play for their amusement, and delighted them to such a degree, that they could not restrain themselves from running into the midst of it. The King's brother was so enraptured, that he capered about with excess of joy, making the most uncouth gestures in accordance with the music.
"So play'd Orpheus, and so danced the brutes."
Our more difficult task was yet to be encountered—the distribution of presents. His yellow Majesty was in the first place complimented with the whole of an iron hoop straightened out for the occasion, and also with half a dozen fishing-hooks; to his brother we gave half the quantity: while the minor chiefs received about a foot in length each. Some squabbling occurred during this arrangement, which was, at length, happily concluded, pretty much to the satisfaction of the whole party, and they left the ship in apparent good humour, evidently highly gratified with their visit.
Thursday, Nov. 1.—A heavy fall of rain disappointed us in an arrangement to visit the chiefs on shore.
Friday, Nov. 2.—Notwithstanding it continued to rain heavily at intervals, I went on shore in company with Messrs. Galler and Morrison, for the purpose of arranging with the King for the establishment of a market. On landing, we were surrounded by a number of natives, who treated us with more kindness than on our preceding visit, not forgetting, however, both male and female, from the youngest to the oldest, to importune us incessantly for iron; it was almost dangerous to take particular notice of any individual, for they immediately assumed it as an indication of a disposition to make them a present, and began to double their importunities. Not finding the King or his chiefs on the beach, we sent to announce our arrival, yet we had to wait two hours before they condescended to appear. During this time, Mr. Galler amused himself with shooting monkeys; which appeared to afford some interest and amusement to the natives, who assisted in pointing out the game, and laughed heartily whenever he missed his aim.
At length the King arrived, and we explained as well as we could the object of our visit, to which he listened with great attention, appearing to comprehend, so as finally to accede to our wishes. He then proposed, in order to preserve a mutual good understanding, that, in the event of any breach of faith on the part of their people, we should immediately communicate the same to the chiefs, who would take care to have the delinquent properly punished; while, on the other hand, if any of our people were guilty of improper conduct towards them, they would represent it to our chief. This proposal, after a deliberate discussion, was agreed to on both, sides, the contract confirmed by drinking palm-wine, and a mutual exchange of presents, as follows, we tendered an axe to the King, and he returned the compliment by presenting us with a fowl.
We now proposed to accompany his Majesty back to his village. With this he appeared perfectly acquiescent, taking me by the hand, and leading me forward, as if he were conducting me to the point proposed; but we soon found that his real intention was to lead us to our boats. We still, however, imagined that this was only with the view of taking us some nearer way home; but when we wished him to enter the boat, with the intention of coasting it to another part of the shore, he positively declined, giving us to understand that his house was not good enough to receive us, and that it contained nothing in the shape of refreshments sufficient to do honour to the visit. We were, however, predetermined, and, as our interpreter was acquainted with the way, proceeded with Captain Smith and Mr. Jeffery, in addition to our former party. When we arrived, we were ready to admit that his Majesty had some reason not to be over-anxious for our company: for neither was the road, nor the accommodations of his hut, calculated either for a visit of pleasure or ceremony; in many parts the path was not only slippery, but interrupted by roots of trees and pools of water; added to which, it lay through a thick jungle, which swarmed with myriads of ants. His Majesty's hut was a mere thatched roof, the eaves of which nearly reached to the ground, supported by posts, and with only one end protected from the weather; the chief articles of furniture were logs of wood, as substitutes for stools, and an inclined plane of wood, five feet in length, to serve the purpose of a bed, the pillow of which was a round bar, three or four inches in diameter, supported at the proper height by two brackets. The king's brother, who had arrived first, received us with much good humour, but regretted that he had nothing to entertain us with. In a short time, however, a calabash of stale palm-wine was handed in, which, having first tasted, according to the African custom, with a view of proving that it contained no poison, he presented to us. After resting a short time, we returned to our boats.
In order to prosecute the formation of the now colony with the greatest energy, every hand which could possibly be spared, was sent on shore. A better approach to Point William, the acclivity being more gentle, was discovered this morning, and a large party immediately employed in clearing away the timber and brushwood, for the purpose of making a broad road through it.
Saturday, Nov. 3.—The Eden was moved nearer to Point William and the Adelaide Islands, for the greater convenience of landing the working parties, stores, &c. The steam-vessel and her prizes also left their anchorage in the bay, and moved into Clarence Cove. Not a single canoe was visible on the water, and very few natives on the shore; we were informed by our interpreter, that they were occupied with the funeral of a chief, but suspect that the different tribes were assembled in council to discuss the subject of our arrival, and our evident intention to form a settlement among them.
Nov. 4.—Some native chiefs were much delighted with sitting in our chairs; but, when the Captain presented them with a few knives, small looking-glasses, and other trinkets, their delight was raised to rapture, expressed by clapping their hands and singing certain short sentences in a high tone of voice, at the same time bowing their heads, as if to indicate their readiness to admit our superiority. We were afterwards informed, that these songs were in our praise, and implied the following meaning:—"Truly you are come to do us good." We entertained them with palm-wine, Madeira, biscuit, fish, and yams; we found, however, on this, as on all other occasions, that these unsophisticated people preferred their native viands to our European delicacies. They appeared much interested with the three European females we had on board; but, whether they had sufficient taste to prefer them to their native beauties, I shall not pretend to determine. After remaining two hours on board, they took their leave, and returned to the shore.
Monday, November 5.—Anderson, who had been absent two days, returned this morning in a large canoe of seventeen paddles, accompanied by the same party of chiefs who had visited us yesterday, with, however, an addition of the king's son. Before coming alongside, they pulled round the ship, singing most loudly and merrily. Though Captain Owen was on shore, they were taken into the cabin, and entertained until his return, after which he gave a present to each of them. Notwithstanding this liberality, the principal chief fixed his covetous eye upon an axe, and expressed a most eager desire to become possessed of it. Captain Owen, however, notwithstanding his wish to conciliate the natives as much as possible, did not think proper to gratify his cupidity; but he promised, that it should be presented to the King at the next interview with him. In the afternoon, a tornado arose and drove most of the canoes away; the chiefs, however, remained on board until it was over, and then left us under an arrangement that the Captain should pay a visit to the King on the following Wednesday.
Tuesday, Nov. 6.—We had a wet morning, succeeded by a fine day. Many canoes, full of natives, came alongside. About noon, a native was discovered, by the master-at-arms, to have stolen an axe, which he had secreted in a piece of canvas that he had picked up and tied round his waist in the manner of an apron. On taking it from him, he made a desperate attempt to escape, by running down the ship's side into a canoe, from whence he made his way over several others, with a view of reaching his own, but he was arrested in his progress. A warm discussion now arose among the chiefs present, as to the punishment he ought to be subjected to, having been taken flagrante delicto, under their own eyes. Captain Owen, to evidence his high displeasure at the transaction, cut the matter short, by ordering them all out of the ship. This gave rise to another commotion and discussion, the result of which was, that the culprit was assailed on all sides by his countrymen with their paddles; even a boy in the same canoe inflicted several blows, and he was finally severely injured about the head and body, when, with the blood streaming from various parts, he was compelled to leap into the sea, in order to wash it away, before they would allow him to re-enter his own boat. His punishment, however, did not terminate with the above discipline; for as he assisted in paddling his canoe ashore, his countrymen followed him with every denunciation of vengeance. On landing in the neighbourhood of our market, he was seized, conducted a short distance from the beach, and surrounded by an immense crowd of the natives. Mr. Jeffery, who happened to be near the spot, penetrated into the midst of them, with a view of ascertaining the nature of the affair, when, to his surprise, he was immediately laid hold of, and tied hand to hand with the bleeding prisoner. It may be imagined that this proceeding excited considerable alarm in Mr. Jeffery, who was led to infer that the wounds of the prisoner had been inflicted by our people, and that the natives were about to retaliate upon himself. A soldier, who was passing at the moment, lost no time in giving an alarm at the camp, when Capt. Harrison came with a party of soldiers to the assistance of our comrade; but Mr. Jeffery had, by this time, contrived to disengage his hand; and, our people appearing, the natives desisted from farther attempts upon him. It turned out that their object in offering this apparent violence, was merely to secure an evidence on our side of the final punishment of their countryman, which they now proceeded to carry into effect in the following extraordinary manner:—the poor wretch was, in the first place, tied hand and foot with his back to a tree, after which a discussion took place, between the chiefs and a man, whom we conceived to be a priest. This being finished, one of the chiefs, who, in consequence of the prominent part he played in this dramatic scene, was ever after known among us by the honourable name of Cut-throat, very coolly stepped up to the prisoner, the whole of the natives at the same time falling on their knees, and was proceeding with great deliberation to cut his throat, when Captain Harrison and Mr. Jeffery hastened forward, and prevented the perpetration of the act by holding back his arm, and making signs that our chief was coming. Fortunately, Capt. Owen was actually coming on shore at this juncture, and, having passed to the centre of the assembly, by means of signs succeeded in explaining that it was not his wish to have the man so severely punished. He then took him by the hand, led him through the crowd, and thus liberated him from the sanguinary vengeance of his own countrymen. During the whole of this trying occasion, the prisoner neither shrunk from the numerous and severe blows inflicted upon him in the earlier part of it; nor, in the latter part, did he indicate the slightest symptom of fear. This is one of the many traits we met with of either the great fortitude or little sensibility of these islanders.
We were much surprised at finding a Demi-John in the woods at the back of our encampment; it certainly indicates that we are not the first Europeans who have visited this spot.
Wednesday, November 7.—Anderson, accompanied by two chiefs, came on board at 9 A.M. to say, that the King was on the beach, waiting for our boat to fetch him off. At eleven, the Captain, accompanied by several of his officers, myself, the band, and a party of marines, with a variety of presents, went in three boats for the purpose of paying our intended visit to his Majesty. We landed at a small cove, three miles to the eastward of the ship, since known by the name of King-Cove, and were conducted by the chiefs to a small open place in the woods, at the distance of about a hundred yards from the rocky shore, where the natives had placed a number of stones in the water in such manner as to leave a channel for only one canoe to land at a time. When the Captain was seated, a small ram, and several calabashes of palm-wine, were brought forward. After waiting an hour, the King arrived, when the Captain, rising to receive him, ordered a red cloak to be thrown over his shoulders, and a velvet cap to be put on his head; as his Majesty wore his native hat, ornamented with a pair of ram's horns on the fore part of it, it became necessary to place the velvet one above it, and secure it in its position by means of a bone skewer, which, piercing both at the same time, fastened them effectually to the tuft of hair on the top of the head. The sight of our presents, but more particularly the quantity of iron, excited so uncontrollably the feelings of the royal party, that the good order previously observed, could now no longer be maintained; we were pressed upon on all sides, and with such an inconceivable clatter and confusion of tongues, that the bellowing of cattle would have been comparatively musical to our ears; however, to do them justice, notwithstanding this horrid din, they did not make the least attempt upon our persons or property. It was noticed that the King himself gave away several small pieces of iron to certain individuals, probably an act of policy, which, by leading others to expect a similar token of royal favour, would restrain them from attempting to help themselves, and thus diminish the quantum of his own presents. During this scene of confusion, we retired to the beach and entered our boats, the crowd following us to the shore, and many even into the water. On this occasion, we calculated that there could not have been less than two thousand natives assembled, including many women, but they were kept apart from the men. Mr. Galler spoke to some of them; but they were excessively timid, although the men endeavoured to encourage familiarity by placing some of the younger women's hands into his. One peculiarity was remarked on the present occasion, that many of the natives had lost one of their hands, and some both, indeed we found this so common in the island, that there was no doubt of the deprivation of this part of the body being resorted to as a punishment. Before returning to the ship, I went with Messrs. Galler and Jeffery to visit the works at Clarence, when we were informed that the men employed in clearing the jungle, had discovered the Indian-rubber tree, and one or two other indigenous plants which had not been previously noticed.
Thursday, November 8th.—The importance of our acquiring a knowledge of the language of the natives of this island, must be obvious. In order to promote this object. Captain Owen selected an active and intelligent young man of the name of Elwood, who volunteered to reside for a week at a village in the interior of the island; and he left the ship this morning in pursuance of the plan. The Captain this day fixed upon a spot for the site of a house intended for his own residence: he also gave the name of Paradise to a portion of ground which had been cleared to form a garden for the use of the colony, and changed the appellation of Glover's Stairs for that of Jacob's Ladder. This consists of a flight of 150 steps, leading from the beach to the acclivity on which Clarence is situated that had been constructed, since our arrival, by Mr. Glover, and his body of English artificers.
Friday, 9.—During the night there had been much thunder and lightning, succeeded, in the morning, by heavy rains, which went off at eleven o'clock, and recommenced at two, accompanied by strong gusts of wind; at four, it cleared up again: scarcely a canoe or native was to be seen throughout the day.
Saturday, 10.—The weather is to-day extremely fine, and yet very few canoes or natives have been seen: and none have approached the ship. We apprehend that something has occurred to displease them—a suspicion afterwards confirmed. In the afternoon, at the time I happened to be on shore, a deputation of seven chiefs came to Mr. Jeffery, at Newmarket, with a complaint that our Kroomen had been cutting down the palm-trees for the leaves to thatch their huts with; and, also, that they were much annoyed by the frequent firing of muskets. In reply to the latter complaint, Mr. Jeffery explained to them, that the firing proceeded only from the attempts of our officers to shoot monkeys; to confirm which statement, the purser very opportunely came up at the instant with a large monkey and a small deer, which he had just shot. They did not, however, appear properly satisfied; for they shook their heads, and intimated that, if we persevered in cutting down the palms, it would not only deprive them of the advantages of that valuable tree, but, by diminishing the quantity of wood, extend the system of firing musketry farther into the interior of the country. At length, with a view of settling all grievances, and convincing them we had no intention of inflicting any injury, we took them a short distance beyond the points our men were occupied in clearing, and, placing a quantity of iron on the ground, gave them, by signs, to understand, that we would give them all that iron for the land contained within that boundary. The nature of this treaty for purchase, they appeared to understand well, and signified their assent by placing sticks, at equal distances from each other, in the line proposed. Mr. Jeffery, at the same time, marking a tree as an evidence of the agreement on our side. The quantity of land of which we had thus made a bona fide purchase, was equal to about a square mile in extent. The treaty was afterwards more fully ratified, and the property involved formally taken possession of by a public act, which will be duly noticed. Both parties being now satisfied, we returned to Newmarket, the natives accompanying us, and, sitting down in a row together, farther confirmed the bargain by plentiful libations of palm-wine.
Sunday, 11.—At half-past one divine service was performed by Captain Owen, when four of the natives attended, and behaved with great decorum; they also made signals to their companions in the canoes to avoid all noises which might disturb us.
Monday, 12.—A numerous deputation of chiefs, gaily dressed, came to our camp at Clarence, to conclude a definitive arrangement respecting the land we had purchased on Saturday. Captain Owen accompanied them to the boundary line, and marked an additional number of trees, to define the limits with more accuracy. He also promised them additional payments: after which he took four of the principal chiefs on board, drank palm-wine with them, and made them a variety of presents. Confidence was now fully restored, and great numbers of both sexes visited us before the day terminated.
Tuesday, 13.—We have additional proofs of the return of confidence on the part of the natives: a man and a boy insisted on remaining on board to sleep, probably induced by the anticipation of a present. There never were more harmless, inoffensive, or tractable people: for, when most troublesome, they may be led in any direction you choose, by taking hold of the hand, or even of a finger.
—————  Accra is a European corruption of the word Inkran which means an ant.
 The word Fetish is derived, I believe, from the Portuguese word Fatisa, or Phatisa, which means "a charm." It is used on all occasions by the natives, when they are asked any question which they do not understand, or which they do not wish to understand, particularly if it relate to their religion. Thus the sacrifice, the rocks, and the sacred groves where they imagine their deities dwell, are all called Fetish: also, their priests, or priestesses, when they are going through any antic ceremonies, are said to be making Fetish, and are consequently called Fetish men or Fetish women. Some have regarded the Fetish as an object of worship to the natives of Africa; it ought, however, more properly to be considered only as a charm, to which a superstitious and reverential feeling is paid; in which an implicit confidence is reposed. Whether it be intended to exercise a public or a private function, it consists of some body, either animate or inanimate, selected according to fancy, as a dog, cat, tiger, snake, an egg, the bone of a bird, a piece of wood, a feather, or any other substance: this is rendered sacred or endowed with its supposed virtues by peculiar ceremonies, and afterwards honoured with a species of worship, vows of abstinence from particular or occasional pleasures, and other services; in return, the party to which it belongs looks up to it for protection and assistance on all occasions—if successful, he attributes it to its intervention; if unlucky, to its displeasure.
 In my opinion, no man under thirty years of age, should think of travelling in an unhealthy country; before that age, the constitution is more liable to the infection of the endemic diseases of a hot climate than afterwards. Perhaps, between forty and fifty would be the best age—"ceteris paribus."
 The following extract from the letter-book of the late African Company, throws considerable light upon this subject:
'Cape Coast Castle, 30th January, 1783.
'Captain Lawson, who has been lately at the islands of Princes and St. Thomas, says that the Governor, who was inimical to the English, is returned to Portugal; he hired to the Spaniards at Fernando Po, one hundred soldiers to make reprisals on the English, in consequence of Captain Ragan having endeavoured to cut out of the island a Spanish packet, which was there in March and April last. Captain West of his Majesty's ship Champion, cruized off Fernando Po, two days in July last, in order to fall in with a frigate of thirty guns, and a sloop of fourteen, but, being both in the harbour, they would not come out. These two vessels remained in St. Thomas's in October last, where they had carried 200 troops, the only remains of 3000 that had originally been sent to Fernando Po, where the Spaniards had made a settlement, and landed a great quantity of brass cannon, and all kinds of military stores; but the natives were so disgusted with the Spanish Government, that they poisoned the water, which caused a great mortality and obliged the survivors to go away. However, previous to their departure, they dismounted and buried the cannon and all the stores; and, after they were gone, the natives demolished all the fortification, and threw the stones into the sea. A few Portuguese natives of St. Thomas's who for misdemeanors had been sold to the Spaniards by the Portuguese Government, are now remaining in the island ready to shew where the cannon and stores are buried; and, from what Captain Lawson has heard, the natives seem to wish that the English would come and settle among them, promising to render us every assistance in their power in erecting a settlement there. The importance of the trade carried on to Leeward having already been represented to you, I shall not add on the subject.'
—————  The Diadem arrived in the bay a few hours before us.
Native Simplicity—Resources of the Blind—Royal Village—Gathering of Natives—Native Priests—Royal Feast—Inhospitable Treatment— Uncomfortable Quarters—Vocabulary of the Native Language—Beauty of the Female Character—Women of Fernando Po—Anecdotes—Aspect of the Country—Productions—Preparations for the Settlement—Discovery of a Theft—Mimic War Customs—Native Chiefs—Female on Board—Monkey for Dinner—Flogging a Prisoner—Accident to a Sailor—A Voyage of Survey round the Island—River named after the Author—Geographical and Meteorological Observations—Insubordination—A Man Overboard—Deserter taken—Death of the Interpreter—Method of Fishing—Visitors from St. Thomas—Ceremony of taking Possession of Fernando Po—Interview with a Native Chief—Celebration Dinner—Indirect Roguery—Chief and his Wife—Hospital near Point William—The Guana—Mistake at Sea— Suggestions on the Slave-Trade—Fishing Stakes—Schooner on a Mud-flat
Thursday, Nov. 15.—Soon after landing this morning, I fell in with a party of natives, with whom I shook hands, as usual, when a young female, whom I had frequently met in the market-place, with her parents, perceiving that I did not immediately recognize her as an old acquaintance, with the most natural simplicity, placed my hand on her bosom, in the presence of her relations and countrymen, who all laughed heartily, and appeared to enjoy my astonishment very much. If, however, any of us had ventured upon such a liberty of our own accord, the men would have been highly indignant, for they were extremely jealous of their women, and did not like us to shew them any marked attention, by purchasing their articles first, or making them a present in preference to themselves:—such a distinction, in contradiction to the usages of civilized society, being considered derogatory by these savage lords of the creation.
Matthew Elwood, the young man who had been sent into the interior, returned to-day, and I am afraid without having derived much advantage from his journey. I expect, however, an opportunity of adverting more fully to its results at a future time. A quantity of bricks were landed for the purpose of constructing a forge. The natives soon found out that they possessed the property of sharpening their knives, and began to shew a very eager desire to become possessed of them.
Friday, 16.—The natives have crowded upon us in such numbers, that we have taken up the stakes which enclosed the market, with the intention of holding it in future without the boundary line. Several unpleasant occurrences have taken place, partly the fault of our own people, who have been criminal enough to sell their tools, and partly of the natives, who have been eager to purchase them. The following are, perhaps, the average terms on which our barter has been conducted: an axe would purchase a sheep, or a goat; and three or four inches of iron hoop, from two to four fowls, from eight to twelve yams, or two or three calabashes of palm-wine, each containing about one gallon.
Saturday, 17.—The number and confidence of the natives continued to increase, as well as the annoyance we experience from their importunities;—it had been found necessary to protect the market by a guard of soldiers. On returning from the market to-day, near the border of Hay river, a party were daring enough to snatch the sentinel's bayonet from out of its scabbard, and throw it into the river. The soldier, however, succeeded in recovering it, and, to deter them from proceeding to greater lengths, fired his musket over their heads. This alarmed them so excessively, that away they scampered like a flock of sheep, without daring to cast a look behind; indeed, such is their terror of fire-arms, that it is only with the greatest difficulty that they can be persuaded to touch a musket.
Monday, Nov. 19.—The young man, named Matthew Elwood, who had so recently returned from his visit in the interior, where he had been sent by Capt. Owen, with a view of acquiring some knowledge of their language, volunteered to repeat it, accompanied by another young man, and they had now been two days at the same village a few miles distant from the settlement, where the King resided. Anxious to lose no opportunity of obtaining information respecting the manners and customs of this singular people, I determined on joining the party, and fixed upon the present day for my journey. I have ever, throughout life, but perhaps more particularly since the loss of my sight, felt an intense interest in entering into association with human nature, and observing human character in its more primitive forms: this propensity I have previously had opportunities of enjoying, in some of the countries most remote from European knowledge, amidst the wilds of Tartary and the deserts of Siberia; and I can refer to the indulgence of it many of my more pleasurable sensations. I know that the world declaims against the absurdity of an individual, circumstanced like myself, professing to derive either pleasure or information from such sources, and maintains that travelling by the fireside would better suit those circumstances, and convey an equally gratifying interest. I answer confidently that this is not the case, and that I believe the intensity of my enjoyments under the system I have adopted, equals, if not surpasses, what other travellers experience who journey with their eyes open. It is true, I ascertain nothing visibly; but, thank God! I possess most exquisitely the other senses, which it has pleased Providence to leave me endowed with; and I have reason to believe that my deficiency of sight is to a considerable degree compensated, by a greater abundance of the power of imagination which presents me with facility to form ideal pictures from the description of others, which, as far as my experience goes, I have reason to believe constitute fair and correct representations of the objects they were originally derived from. It must be recollected that I have formerly enjoyed the power of vision; and, although my colourings may occasionally be too weak or too vivid, it is fair to infer that the recollections of my former experience are sufficient to prevent me from running into gross inaccuracies or incongruities. Place me, as some have suggested, in the situation of the man in the farce, and carry me in a limited circle around the same point, under the assurance that I was travelling to distant and ever-changing scenes, and support the stratagem by every circumstance calculated to give it the fullest effect; it would never impose upon me: for the tact which nature and experience have given me, and the inconceivable acuteness of perception I derive from it, would immediately detect inconsistencies scarcely appreciable by others, and at once overturn and expose the deception which was being practised.
At 3 o'clock in the afternoon I left the Eden for King Cove, at which place we found a few natives, who assembled on our landing. Anderson, the interpreter, had been appointed to conduct me, but Mr. Jeffery kindly accompanied me for the first half mile, in expectation of leaving me in the care of a chief of our acquaintance. However, before we had proceeded far, the assemblage of natives had become so great, and their importunities to purchase palm-wine and other commodities so annoying, that I was glad when he returned, under the expectation that his separation from me would prove, as it did, a diversion which, by drawing off a considerable part of the natives, would permit me to continue my journey with less interruption. I now advanced with Anderson as fast as the paths would admit, being anxious to arrive at our point of destination that evening; my companion, however, was desirous of passing the night at the hut of a chief in the neighbourhood of the beach, and endeavoured to dissuade me from prosecuting our journey this evening. I have already spoken of the qualifications of this man as an interpreter, and have now to observe, that he possessed others, which made him a useful medium of communication with the natives: for instance, he was a good-tempered fellow, could laugh heartily whenever they laughed, eat and drink whatever was placed before him, however repugnant to an European stomach; and, being somewhat of their own colour, i.e. not many shades darker, they were inclined to be particularly partial to him.
Our path was at first tolerably good, and lay through a level country, but, when we had proceeded about half way, became hilly, rugged, and slippery, particularly after passing the second of two streams which intercepted our road. A number of the natives, principally women, continued to follow, passing evidently a variety of jokes upon us, and laughing heartily at every false step I happened to make. Before we reached the end of our journey, the number had increased to many hundreds, who shouted, and halloed incessantly at the novelty of our appearance, similar to a European rabble, when following any extraordinary sight. To relieve Anderson, who had the luggage, I took hold, for a short time, of the arm of a native, who conducted me well, until we became surrounded by a crowd of his countrymen, and then, whether he felt compelled to answer their queries, or was proud of his charge, or anxious to exhibit the high confidence reposed in him, I found him a very troublesome guide; for he was constantly turning his head over my shoulder, and speaking or hallooing to those who were behind him.
At length we arrived at the royal village, where Elwood and his companion came to receive us at the hut that His Majesty had appointed for our accommodation. It was so late, that my countrymen were surprised to see us; and, the King having retired, we were obliged to relinquish the honour of an interview until morning. I therefore took tea, and was happy in lying down for repose, after my fatiguing journey. It was not without much concern I learned from Elwood, that, during the present visit, neither he nor his companion had met with the hospitable treatment or attention which they had expected; on the contrary, they had been compelled, immediately after their arrival, to expose the contents of their bags, and actually obliged to surrender up to the King one-half of the little stock of iron with which they had provided themselves for the purpose of barter. The consequence was, that, after paying three pieces to the natives who had conveyed their luggage, another for a couple of fowls, and presenting a fifth to Canning, (a chief who had been Elwood's principal friend on his former visit, and to whom he had given this distinguished name,) to secure his good services,—they had only one remaining for their future resources; and it was by no means satisfactory to be thrown upon the casual generosity of the natives. It is true, they had with them some salt beef and biscuit, and it was understood, when they quitted the ship, that Captain Owen had engaged to compensate the King for their protection and entertainment.
Tuesday, 20.—At daybreak we were visited by Canning, and several other chiefs, who brought with them a large yam, and some palm-wine intended for our breakfast. We were from time to time, in reply to our inquiries, assured that the King was coming; we waited, however, two hours in vain expectation, and at length sent Anderson to inquire into the cause of delay, when we were informed that His Majesty was busily occupied at his toilet, or, in other words, having his head dressed, in order, as I suppose, to enable him to appear with more dignity on this important occasion. About 8 o'clock he made his entree, accompanied by several of his chiefs. At first his manner was somewhat reserved, but, after a short conversation, which held out to him the prospect of receiving presents, confirmed by the actual gift of two large knives from myself, he became highly animated, loquacious, and agreeable. He now ordered a plentiful supply of palm-wine, which he caused to pass freely round; and, after staying with us about an hour, returned to his own residence, from whence he shortly after sent us half a dozen yams.
There was a native priest resident in our hut, probably placed there to observe our conduct, and who, for the whole morning, had been occupied in smearing himself with coloured clay. We noticed that this man, during our visit, performed every morning a few religious ceremonies, and repeated prayers, in which the natives appeared to join. After the King's departure, he began to exercise some of the more mysterious functions of his office. I know not what the occasion was, but the ceremony consisted in frequent repetitions of certain short sentences, in which the individual on whom he was operating occasionally joined; and, in the intervals between these sentences, he shook a bundle of rods over the head of the latter, making, at the same time, a noise which resembled the squeaking of a pig.
I am enabled to communicate but little respecting the religious sentiments of this people. The duties of the priests appear to be more surgical than clerical; of which opinion the following are illustrations: A female applied to one of the priests with an inflammatory tumour on the hand; after making an incision into the tumour, and squeezing it in a manner which made his patient grin with pain, he blew and spat upon the part. Upon another person, who had an abcess of the eye, with an accumulation of some white matter in it, he performed the following delicate operation: having first applied his mouth to the part, he began to suck it with great eagerness and perseverance, after which he ejected from his mouth a chalky-looking substance, which he appeared to have extracted from the diseased structure: this process he repeated several times, with a similar result. These were, at least, substantial duties.
Our priest had a sacred corner in the hut, with a particular seat which none else presumed to occupy; the former, a receptacle for dirt, the latter, formed of a large stone, with four smaller ones, which served for legs or supporters.
I endeavoured in vain to gain any satisfactory account of their funeral ceremonies; no indications of graves have been seen by our people, and the probability is, as is not unfrequently the custom in Africa, that they bury their dead under the earthen floor of their huts. I know not whether this opinion will be deemed as confirmed or not by the fact, that, in returning from a walk, this afternoon, we passed a closed hut, with five hats hanging in front of it, the owner of which, we were informed, had died shortly before our arrival.
Our friend Canning supplied us with a fowl for dinner, and, when it was dressed, appeared perfectly ready to assist us in disposing of it.
The following is, probably, the general mode which these people adopt of hunting or catching wild animals, of which we had the fortune this day to meet with a specimen: A goat, which was very wild, had been secured to a rail, when, taking fright at the approach of my companions, it contrived, by floundering, to break loose from its confinement. The King, and some of his chiefs, who were at hand, immediately ran for some long grass nets, rolled upon poles, and which were about four feet wide. These they expeditiously unfolded, and then encircling the goat, very skilfully and speedily recaptured him. They have, however, other methods of taking wild animals; on enclosing yam plantations with stakes seven feet high, they place traps at the sides of the fence.
Wednesday, 21.—We returned His Majesty's visit this morning at eight o'clock. He received us on the outside of his hut, and seated me on a stone at his right hand, but immediately after a few words had been exchanged, he made signs to us to return to our own residence; where on our arrival, we found he had sent a sheep, with a view of giving us a sumptuous feast. His Majesty, accompanied by his chiefs, soon after joined us, and they immediately proceeded to the operation of killing the sheep, which was conducted in the following manner: The animal having been first hung up by the hind legs, its throat was cut, care being taken, in effecting this, not to wound the windpipe. The blood, as it flowed, was caught in a calabash, and then given to the priest, probably to be reserved for some religious ceremony. The next process was to skin the animal, in doing which the operator commenced with a fore leg, then the corresponding hind one, then the other fore leg, and so on; he then proceeded to the abdomen, and afterwards completed the operation in the usual manner. The gall-bag and bladder were now extracted and thrown away; after which the whole of the remaining viscera were removed and placed aside for subsequent use. A large portion of the flesh from one of the shoulders was now presented to the King, who cut it into the form of a long string, beginning at the outside, and proceeding to the centre. This he wound round a stick, and held over a blazing fire, until half broiled; and, then dividing it into a number of small pieces, distributed them to the party around him, doing myself the honour of presenting me with the first piece. The remainder of the animal was, in the next place, taken within our hut, where the stomach and intestines, without any other preparation than imperfectly squeezing out their contents, were warmed over the fire, and then, in nearly a raw state, divided among the natives, who ate them with great relish, the King receiving his portion with the rest. His Majesty now presented our party with a leg, shoulder, breast, and small saddle, and afterwards divided what remained among his chiefs, reserving the head for himself, which, after being well scorched, he ordered to be taken to his hut.
A more curious part of this singular feast remains to be described. On opening the animal, it was found to be with young, when the uterus, containing two lambs, each about six inches long, was, as a particular mark of favour or respect, placed in my hands: but, not appreciating the gift so highly as probably had been expected, I immediately laid it aside. After the departure of the King, it was a second time brought to me, and I now contrived, by shaking my head, and other demonstrations, to make them comprehend that I did not intend to make use of it, and that it was entirely at their service. This was, without doubt, very agreeable intelligence; for, having pricked the sac, to allow the liquor to drain away, and laid it for a short time before the fire, the whole was divided into portions, and eaten up apparently with avidity and delight.
The above meal was purely carnivorous, for neither yams nor palm-wine were introduced as accompaniments; in the afternoon, however, his Majesty made us another short visit, and sent a quantity of wine. We offered the natives salt to their meat, but they refused it with every sign of disgust, and even wanted to throw away our little store of this, to us, so necessary a condiment. They also shewed an equal dislike to tobacco; and, when one of our party made preparations for smoking a cigar, the priest held out his rod as if in prohibition, while others endeavoured to prevent him from lighting it. Canning, indeed, who had witnessed more frequently the practice of smoking on board, shewed less aversion.
Though we were at a considerable distance from the settlement, we could hear the reports of the morning and evening gun; for the first two or three days, the natives appeared, or pretended to be, much alarmed at this, as they halloed for some time after. They would frequently come up to us, levelling a stick like a musket, and accompany the action with bang! bang! We had reason to consider them much afraid of every species of fire-arms, and I cannot but think it would be good policy to keep this apprehension alive, rather than to endeavour to remove it by attempts to explain the principles of their action, and to familiarise them with the effects. In this respect, I deem the general practice of our voyagers and travellers to be decidedly faulty, since the superior advantages which fire-arms give, may be said to constitute our chief compensation for deficiency of numbers, and thus enable us to preserve that vast pre-eminence which we possess over the uncivilised inhabitants of newly-discovered countries. If the policy of our Government requires an intercourse with savage nations, both prudence and humanity justify our retaining the means of commanding that intercourse, by the superiority of our modes of defence; for, in the event of hostile collision, the numbers of the savages, possessed as they are, individually, of physical strength and bodily activity, at least equal to our own, could scarcely fail to be overwhelming. This also agrees with Vaillant's opinion, for he remarks, that, "when you travel among savages, you ought never to employ your arms, or shew the use of them, except to render them a service, either by procuring them game, or destroying such ferocious animals as are obnoxious to them."—Vaillant, vol. ii. p. 127.
About ten o'clock this evening, a great noise from persons talking commenced in the village, accompanied, at times, by loud hallooing, and a clattering of a kind of rattle-boxes, which many of the natives wear around the neck, and which somewhat resembles the upper half of the leathern-case of a spirituous-liquor bottle, within which is appended a clapper made generally of a sheep's jawbone. This noise, the meaning of which I could not comprehend, continued, with little interruption, throughout the night.
Thursday, Nov. 22.—Soon after breakfast, the King sent for us to his hut, and regaled us with palm-wine, poured out by the fair hand of a young female, whom my companions pronounced the most beautiful they had seen in this island, and whom we supposed to be his Majesty's favourite wife. On this occasion, he took the opportunity of reminding us of the presents he expected to receive from Captain Owen, and directed some of his chiefs to shew us those which he intended to offer in return, consisting of sheep, fowls, &c. &c. We were then conducted to our hut, and given to understand, by signs, that it was his Majesty's pleasure we should forthwith pack up our luggage, and return to our settlement. We thought, however, it would be more pleasant to take an early dinner first, and with this intention commenced the preparation of a kind of Irish stew, consisting of mutton and yams: being defective in the latter article, we requested a further supply; but this did not please our hosts, and it was intimated that we should find plenty at the end of our journey. We still, however, urged our wishes, when, at length, they brought us a couple of pieces. We could not avoid expressing dissatisfaction at this scanty supply, when they began to assume a very savage and sulky appearance; even our friend Canning arose with a menacing countenance, and laying hold of his spears, threatened to compel our immediate departure. It would have been imprudent to continue to irritate them at this juncture, and at best have only exposed our own weakness: we therefore thought we should most preserve our dignity, and, at the same time, retain a just ground of complaint of their want of hospitality, by giving way to their wishes, yet not without evident signs of our high dissatisfaction. I believe they had, subsequently, reason to repent of their conduct, as Capt. Owen afterwards treated them with apparent coldness, and probably abridged his intended presents: not but that they were amply remunerated, although the measure of it fell short of their own expectations. We took our dinner deliberately, notwithstanding this urgency, and then commenced our journey, accompanied by Canning and another chief; besides an old man, who had resided in the hut with us, carrying our luggage. We were soon joined by the persons who carried the presents intended for Captain Owen. We also met the King, but he, instead of accompanying us, as we had expected, went off immediately to his own residence, bearing on his shoulders a quantity of wood, for the use, as we supposed, of the royal household; we shook hands with his Majesty on taking our final leave.
As on the journey up the country, we had, on our return, great numbers of idle people following us, either from motives of curiosity or interest, and teazing us to give them palm-wine, iron, &c. The road, in various places, was extremely rugged and narrow, with steep declivities from the sides to the centre, and very slippery from the rain that had fallen in the morning. We again crossed two streams, the chief of which, although broad and rapid, was not sufficiently deep to be dignified with the title of a river. Towards evening, we arrived at King Cove, where, proceeding to the beach, we washed the clay from our trowsers, and then went to our quarters for the night.
The hut in which we took up our residence, consisted of a wooden roof, thatched with palm-leaves, and supported on stancheons of wood; the leaves, on all sides, approaching within two or three feet of the ground, indeed so low, that it made it very inconvenient to get in or out; for, unless great caution was observed, there was considerable risk of getting wounded by the prickles on the leaves of the palm-tree. Previously to its becoming dark, we were invited to drink palm-wine on the outside of our hut; and, afterwards retiring within, our native companions employed themselves busily enough in roasting and eating their yams, while we enjoyed the refreshing beverage of tea. We then lay down for the night; but, alas! not to sleep; for, although our hut was not very large, it contained about twenty persons of different sexes and ages, who were, of course, pretty closely stowed: and from its not being closed at the sides, with much thunder and lightning taking place, accompanied by high wind and heavy rain, which continued throughout the greater part of the night, the latter beat in under the roof, and also drove the smoke of three fires towards us, until we were nearly suffocated. It will be conceived, that our situation was not the most enviable; those near the outside were exposed to the pitiless storm; while they who occupied the centre, where we had spread our hammocks, were necessarily oppressed with heat and smoke. About two o'clock, some of the natives, finding it impossible to sleep, got up and amused themselves until daylight in conversation, and roasting yams on the fire.
Friday, 23.—At day-break, the whole of the natives rose and commenced their yam feast, succeeded by plentiful supplies of palm-wine. As the heavy winds and rain shewed no appearance of abating, we began to doubt whether we should get on board to-day; however, about eight o'clock, it moderated, and before noon, the weather was sufficiently favourable to induce us to make the attempt. Having taken our seats in the canoes, together with the chiefs who accompanied us, a party of the natives urged them over the surf, and away we paddled for the ship, which we reached in less than a couple of hours. Before getting on board, however, we were treated with a specimen of eager covetousness and want of decorum in our late friends; for, instead of waiting to allow us to get up first, or offering to assist us, no sooner did the canoe touch the ship, which she happened to do under the main-chains, than away they all started with their presents, leaving us to bring the boat to the gangway, and get out as well as we could; they even gave up all care for the safety of the canoe; the consequence of which was, that they left us adrift in it, and the commanding officer was obliged to send a boat to bring her alongside again.
Saturday, 24.—Having now spent some days in what may be termed the domestic privacy of the island, it will be inferred that I have become more intimately acquainted with the character of its inhabitants, who may justly be considered as constituting one of the most extraordinary races of savages at this time in existence. I shall, therefore, avail myself of this opportunity of developing farther than has yet been done in the preceding pages, whatever occurred to me as being most interesting in their manners, habits, customs, and peculiarities. This I shall follow up with some details respecting the natural history and productions of the island; which, however imperfectly they may be treated, will probably be deemed worthy of attention as subjects of scientific research. In these descriptions, I must, however, plead strongly for the indulgence of my readers, as many serious obstacles have opposed themselves to the inquiry after satisfactory information; among which, none have been more uncompromising than those experienced in acquiring a knowledge of the language; for, although we have been in constant communication with the natives, at present so little progress has been made, that our attempts in this respect may be said to have almost entirely proved abortive. We have, indeed, some reason to believe that the natives are desirous of throwing impediments in our way, since, notwithstanding they evince much quickness in catching words of our language, repeating the orders issued by the officers, and are also possessed of considerable power of mimicry, they shew little inclination to communicate their own terms or names. It has not unfrequently happened, that when, according to the usual custom of persons who are not conversant with each other's language, we touched, significantly, any thing which we were desirous of knowing, they used different words in reply, as if with the intention of confusing us; and, again, when we believed that we had ascertained the right name from one source, on inquiring from others, a very different word was given; so that we eventually remained in doubt as to the proper one. The few small vocabularies we have succeeded in collecting, seem to prove that there are distinct dialects, or idioms, among the different tribes. This is particularly exemplified in the case of the numerals; for not only are different words used to express the same number, but peculiar modes of counting are made use of—for instance, one tribe, after counting five in the usual way, proceeds to ten and twenty; while another, after going on progressively to ten, starts at once to twenty. The language itself is, generally speaking, harmonious, most of the words terminating in vowels, as will be perceived from the subjoined vocabulary, which is as correct as circumstances would admit of our obtaining.
The mode Captain Owen adopted of gaining an insight into the Fernandian language was, perhaps, the best that could have been devised: viz. the sending a person to reside with the natives in the interior, as has been before stated; but the result proved very unsatisfactory; for he added little to what we had previously acquired. Another mode adopted was, the promise of a reward to that individual who might gain the earliest and best knowledge of the subject.
A VOCABULARY OF THE NATIVE LANGUAGE OF FERNANDO PO.
Etwee, head. Isilla, hair of the head. Lotto, ear. Booyah, mouth. Nokko, eye. Lopappo, eye-lashes. Kokalako, chief, or head man. Mohoonka, chief's wife. Icancunee, little one. Ebeo, boy. Ternapo, mother. Murugudu, eye-brows. Vompo and Mompo, nose. Bello and Wello, tooth. Ezaddoo, beard. Lobabbo, tongue. Lobok, arm. Dialla, hand. Aboobooso, wrist. Anne, finger. Jpapo, thigh. Eddo, and Etoko, knee. Lopola, leg. Inkakase, ancle. Dekotto, foot. Deballe, female bosom. Babilla, belly. Djakkee, navel. Bopa. Motto. Djeecha. Eppoo buttocks. Elleboo, trinket of wood, in form of a bell. Motoocko, belt of shells and pebbles. Dpibbo, bracelet. Longebo, armlet. Touno, black shell bracelet. Ebebbo, snake skin collar. Loppollo, vertebrae of a snake. Eboote, hat. Mu-u, bulls, or cattle. Me-he, sheep, or goats, or their flesh. Kohoko, fowls, or their meat. Tonatchetolo, tattoo, or marked. Empoo, dog's jaw. Tokko, round shell ornament like a button. Epehaunah, purse, sheep's scrotum. Looka, man. Daka, woman. Labole, ship. Labolechee, or Epoode, boat. Wattoo, canoe. Ikahaddee, long reed, in the stern of canoes. Kalsokoola, sail. Nossapo, mast. Inkappa, paddle. Bonokee, fishing. Itokka, sun. Tolo, moon. Bockao, eggs. Boka, water. Mooheelya, bar of iron. Pooripoodee, cloves. Sokolaee, Chili pepper. Epeepee, tomatos. Etoka, potatoe. Saly, yams. Beentok, or Lilo, cocoa tops. Topy, or Nakko, palm-wine. Loma, to drink. Looba, or Bata, give. Taleppa, take it away. Omitta, to hold. Vallee anger. Atehee, done, no more, finish, end. Anjoo, come here. Sheerskalle, fine, pretty. Boola, or Lilla, or Illee, one. Epa, or Taba, two. Buelly, or Twelly, three. Betoh, or Totoh, five. Beho, ten. Bo, fifteen. Eeckee, twenty. Olaito, thirty.
It would be superfluous to repeat the descriptions which have already, on various occasions, been given of the persons, dress, and characters of the male inhabitants of this island. The reader will have inferred, that they are generally a harmless and inoffensive race of savages: it may be added, that they are probably the most dirty people existing under the face of the sun; for, with the exception of occasional immersions in the sea, when occupied in the affairs of business, we have never known them to wash themselves. The only systematic method they appear to adopt of cleansing, as well as of dress, is to give themselves a new coating of clay and palm-oil, whenever the previous one happens to be injured. Some few individuals, indeed, appear to renew this covering as a matter of fashion; particularly one dandy chief, who frequently changed the colour of his skin, and, in consequence, became familiarly known to us by the name of Chameleon; and what is singular, this man, like our European dandies, was in the habit of scenting himself.
The transition from the male to the female sex, through the intermediate species of Macaroni, is easy, if not natural; and I shall indulge my own particular feelings and partialities in entering upon that part of my observations which relates more exclusively to the fairer and softer portion of this aboriginal people. The infinite modifications of person, mind, and manners, exhibited by the sex in the different grades of society throughout the world, whether formed by the influences of climate, government, or education, present a most interesting subject to the speculative observer of human nature: and to one who, from early life, both by profession and inclination, a traveller, has wandered under every temperature of our eastern hemisphere, who has studied and admired the sex under every variety of character, no wonder that the contemplation of woman, as nature left her, inartificial, unsophisticated, simple, barbarous, and unadorned, should seem fraught with peculiar interest. Are there any who imagine that my loss of eye-sight must necessarily deny me the enjoyment of such contemplations? How much more do I pity the mental darkness which could give rise to such an error, than they can pity my personal calamity! The feelings and sympathies which pervade my breast, when in the presence of an amiable and interesting female, are such as never could have been suggested by viewing a mere surface of coloured clay, however shaped into beauty, or however animated by feeling and expression. The intelligence still allowed me by a beneficent Providence, is amply sufficient to apprise me of the existence of the more real—the diviner beauties of the soul; and herein are enjoyments in which I am proud to indulge. A soft and sweet voice, for instance, affords me a two-fold gratification;—it is a vehicle of delight, as operating on the appropriate nerves, and, at the same time, it suggests ideas of visible beauty, which, I admit, may, by force of imagination, be carried beyond reality. But, supposing I am deceived, are my feelings the less intense?—and, in what consists my existence, but in those feelings? Is it otherwise with those who see? If it be, I envy them not. But are those who think themselves happier, in this respect, than I am, sure, that the possession of a more exquisite sense than any they enjoy, does not, sometimes at least, compensate, or more than compensate, the curtailments to which the ordinary senses, and particularly the one of eye-sight, is liable?—and if they should think so, let them not, at least, deny me the resources I possess. I shall not, however, persist further in a description of that situation, those circumstances and those consolations, which the all-feeling comprehension of the poet hath so justly caught in one of its diviner moods of inspiration:—
And yet he neither drooped nor pined, Nor had a melancholy mind; For God took pity on the boy, And was his friend—and gave him joy Of which we nothing know.
The personal appearance of the females of Fernando Po, is by no means attractive, unless (de gustibus non est disputandum) a very ordinary face, with much of the contour of the baboon, be deemed so. Add to this the ornaments of scarification and tattooing, adopted by the sex to a greater extent than by the men: and the imagination will at once be sensible how much divinity attaches to Fernandian beauty. Like the men, the women plaster the body all over with clay and palm-oil, and also in a similar manner wear the hair long, and in curls or ringlets, well stiffened with the above composition. The children of both sexes, or those who have not obtained the age of puberty, have the hair cut short, and are not permitted to use any artificial covering to the body. One trait is, perhaps, peculiar to the women of this country, and may be regarded by some as an indication of their good sense—that they have no taste for baubles, or, at all events, do not appear to desire them more than the men. With respect to articles of clothing, they are equally exempt from such incumbrances as the other sex:—
Happy the climate where the beau Wears the same suit for use and show, And at a small expense your wife, If once well pink'd, is clothed for life.
Their lords and masters contrive to keep them in great subjection, and accustom them to carry their burdens; they evince also a considerable degree of jealousy, and shew evident marks of displeasure, whenever strangers pay attentions to them. As, however, this is equally the case whether the lady be young or old, it is not improbable that it may, in some measure, arise from their considering it too great a condescension on their parts to notice persons whom they deem so inferior. They rarely brought them to the ship, and for some time did not allow them to appear at market. If we are to credit our people, some of the young women are great jilts, and very expert in wheedling them out of iron and other property, under pretence of admitting them into their favour, and then running away, with a laugh at their credulity.
Mr. Jeffery witnessed the following ludicrous occurrence. He went one day, for the purpose of barter, to a part of the shore eastward of Hay river, where the surf was too great to allow his boat to remain on the beach, and he was, therefore, compelled to lie off in deep water; this, however, did not prevent the natives from carrying on their traffic. Some young women, in particular, came off to the boat, bringing a calabash of palm-wine in each hand, and treading the water so soon as they were out of their depth. These they contrived to deliver safe, without the wine becoming in the slightest degree impregnated with the briny wave. One of these females, having been taken into the boat, began to ingratiate herself into the favour of an honest tar, who, nothing loath, seated her near him, with his arm around her neck. At this juncture, the boat beginning to move, she made a sudden plunge over the side, and nearly carried the astonished seaman into the water; in short, he only escaped a good ducking by laying fast hold of the seat. The lady now, in an instant, dived under the boat, and, reappearing at some distance on the opposite side, swam, laughing, to the shore, evidently much amused at Jack's surprise and disappointment.
This was not the only instance Mr. Jeffery met with of the superior talents of the fair sex, in swimming and diving. On one occasion, having thrown into the sea a few small pieces of iron which had been rejected in barter, a number of natives of both sexes dashed after them, with a view to their recovery, when it was evident that the females were the more active and successful.
To elucidate more fully the character of the native women, I shall conclude my account of them with the details of an occurrence which possesses enough of the romantic to be capable of exciting, in the hands of a better painter than I am, an interest in the bosoms of such of my fair readers as may delight in tales of love and jealousy, with their sequel of rage and revenge. A female, about twenty-five years of age, who resided at a village in the neighbourhood of our settlement, had been guilty of an offence, probably infidelity to her husband, which subjected her to the dreadful penalty of having her hands cut off. Hoping to avert this punishment, she adopted the resolution, accompanied by her child, a fine and engaging boy of two years old, of entering our lines, and throwing herself on our protection. Captain Harrison received her favourably, and, for additional safety, sent her on board the Eden, where she remained several days before any inquiry was made respecting her. Although evidently of much firmness and decision of character, her personal appearance was by no means attractive, the face being greatly seamed with scars, and the abdomen tattooed all over. Captain Owen directed her to be placed under the care of our European females, who, either from envy or the force of habit, not approving the Eve-like dress in which she came on board, immediately clothed her in blue cotton garments. The poor child of nature, unused to such incumbrance, which probably, in her opinion, served only to irritate the skin, and prevent the contact of the refreshing atmosphere, felt any thing but easy, or gratified with this addition to her circumstances, and availed herself, at first, of every opportunity to lay it aside; but our unrelenting countrywomen were equally zealous in persisting to replace it. At length, she either became more accustomed to it, or aware of the necessity of compliance with the wishes of her new friends; this effort was, however, not unaccompanied by some ludicrous occurrences: for instance, whenever her tormentors were out of sight, she lost no time in tucking the grievance up round the waist, and dropping it below the shoulders from above, thus leaving her limbs, and the general surface, as free as nature intended them to be. On being taken on shore some days after, and placed under the protection of the wife of a seaman who had charge of the guns and ordnance stores, she had become sufficiently reconciled to her new dress to wear it with less apparent inconvenience; she was, indeed, once caught tripping, having one evening taken an opportunity of throwing it off, when finding herself light and free, like a bird on the wing, she ran into the jungle, where she frisked about and enjoyed herself for some time; after which she returned to the seaman's hut, and resumed her dress.
When this woman had been with us about a week, her husband came to Captain Harrison, bearing with him a present of two calabashes of palm-wine, and a couple of fowls, intimating his wish to have the child restored to him. With regard to his wife, he at this time shewed no anxiety to recover her; he afterwards, however, returned with a deputation of chiefs, and expressed his wish to have both of them restored to him. This being represented to Captain Owen, in order to convince them that she was under no restraint, he conducted her to the boundary line, and, pointing first to her countrymen, and then to our settlement, gave her to understand that she was at liberty to make her choice. One of the chiefs now advanced, and taking her by the hand, evinced his intention of leading her away, but Captain Owen would not permit this without her free consent; and, that his presence might be no restraint, left her to walk with her husband on the outside of the boundary line, attended by a sailor armed with a musket. They had not walked many paces, before five natives started from the bush and attempted to carry her off by force, when she immediately ran towards the sailor, and putting her hand on his musket, intimated her wish that he would fire at them. He did so, and they all immediately scampered away as fast as they could, leaving her to return with the sailor to his hut. Foiled in this attempt, the husband soon after came again and induced her to permit him to stay the night with her, and to take away the child in the morning, under the promise of bringing it back next day; a promise which he failed to perform, and which rendered the lady so indignant, that, although he afterwards came to visit her himself, bringing some fowls and palm-wine as a peace-offering, she persisted in rejecting all compromise. This produced a violent quarrel, which ended in their parting in high wrath, the husband threatening to return in the night and inflict some dreadful vengeance upon her for it, but he did not dare to carry his threats into execution.