The city of Boussa is situated on an island formed by the Quorra, in latitude 10 deg. 14' N. longitude 6 deg. 11' E. It stands nearest the westernmost branch of the Menai, which is about twenty yards in breadth, and runs with a slow and sluggish current. The place pointed out to Lander as the spot where Park perished, is in the eastern channel. A low flat island about a quarter of a mile in breadth, lies between the town of Boussa and the fatal spot, which is in a line from the sultan's house with a double trunked tree, with white bark, standing singly on the low flat island. The bank, at the time of Lander's visit, was only ten feet above the level of the stream, which here breaks over a great slate rock, extending quite across to the eastern shore, which rises into gentle hills of grey slate, thinly scattered with trees.
The following statement of the circumstances attending the lamented fate of Mr. Park, was given to the travellers by an eyewitness, and together with all the information which they could collect, tallies with the story, disbelieved at the time, which Isaaco brought back from Amadi Fatooma. The informant stated "that when the boat came down the river, it happened unfortunately just at the time that the Fellatas had risen in arms, and were ravaging Goober and Zamfra; that the sultan of Boussa, on hearing that the persons in the boat were white men, and that it was different from any that had ever been seen before, as she had a house at one end, called his people together from the neighbouring towns, attacked and killed them, not doubting they were the advanced guard of the Fellata army, then ravaging Soudan, under the command of Malem Danfodio, the father of sultan Bello. That one of the white men was a tall man, with long hair; that they fought for three days before they were all killed, that the people in the neighbourhood were very much alarmed, and great numbers fled to Nyffee, and other countries, thinking that the Fellatas were certainly coming amongst them; that the number of persons in the boat were only four, two white men and two black; that they found great treasure in the boat, but that the people had all died, who ate of the meat that was found on board."
This meat according to another native informant, was believed on that account to be human flesh, for they knew, it was added, that we white men eat human flesh. Lander afterwards received the following additional information from a mallam or priest, whom he met with at Wawa, and who tendered it spontaneously. "The sultan of Youri advised your countrymen to proceed the remainder of the way on land, as the passage by water was rendered dangerous by numerous sunken rocks in the Niger, and a cruel race of people inhabiting the towns on its banks." They refused, however, to accede to this, observing that they were bound to proceed down the Niger to the salt water. The old mallam further observed, that as soon as the sultan of Youri heard of their death, he was much affected, but it was out of his power to punish the people, who had driven them into the water. A pestilence reached Boussa at the time, swept off the king and most of the habitants, particularly those who were concerned in the transaction. The remainder fancying it was a judgment of the white man's God, placed everything belonging to the Christians in a hut, and set it on fire. It is not a little remarkable, that it is now a common saying, all through the interior of Africa, "Do not hurt a Christian, for if you do, you will die like the people of Boussa." On Clapperton waiting on the sultan of Boussa, he was as usual very kindly received; his first inquiry was concerning some white men, who were lost in the river, some twenty years ago, near this place.
The sultan appeared rather uneasy at these inquiries, and it was observed that he stammered in his speech. He assured both Clapperton and Lander, that he had not any thing in his possession belonging to the white men, and that he was a little boy when the event happened. Clapperton told him that he wanted nothing but the books and papers, and to learn from him a correct account of the manner of their death; and, with the sultan's permission, he would go and visit the place where they were lost. To this request, the sultan gave a decided refusal, alleging that it was a very bad place. Clapperton, however, having heard that part of the boat remained, inquired if such were really the case; to which the sultan replied, that there was no truth whatever in the report; that she did remain on the rocks for some time after, but had gone to pieces and floated down the river long ago. Clapperton told the sultan, that, if he would give him the books and papers, it would be the greatest favour he could possibly confer on him. The sultan again assured him, that nothing remained with him; every thing of books or papers having gone into the hands of the learned men; but that, if any were in existence, he would procure them, and give them to him. Clapperton then asked him, if he would allow him to inquire of the old people in the town the particulars of the affair, as some of them must have witnessed the transaction. The sultan appeared very uneasy, and as he did not return any answer, Clapperton did not press him further at that time upon the subject.
Some unpleasant suspicions floating on the mind of Clapperton, he took the first opportunity of returning to the subject, and on again inquiring about the papers of his unfortunate countryman, the sultan said, that the late iman, a Fellata, had had possession of all the books and papers, and that he had fled from Boussa some time since. This, therefore, was a death-blow to all future inquiries in that quarter, and the whole of the information concerning the affair of the boat, her crew, and cargo, was indefinite and unsatisfactory. Every one, in fact, appeared uneasy when any information was required; and they always stifled any further inquiry by vaguely answering, that it happened before their remembrance, or they had forgotten it, or they had not seen it. They, however, pointed out the place where the boat struck and the unfortunate crew perished. Even this, however, was done with caution, and as if by stealth, although in every thing unconnected with that affair, they were most ready to give the travellers whatever information they required, and in no part of Africa were they treated with greater hospitality and kindness.
The place where the vessel was sunk is in the eastern channel, where the river breaks over a grey slate rock extending quite across it. A little lower down, the river had a fall of three or four feet. Here, and still further down, the whole united streams of the Quorra were not above three-fourths the breadth of the Thames at Somerset-house.
On returning to the ferry, Clapperton found a messenger from the king of Youri, who had sent him a present of a camel.
The messenger stated, that the king, before he left Youri, had shown him two books, very large and printed, that had belonged to the white men, who were lost in the boat at Boussa; that he had been offered one hundred and seventy mitgalls of gold for them, by a merchant from Bornou, who had been sent by a Christian on purpose for them. Clapperton advised him to tell the king that he ought to have sold them, for that he would not give five mitgalls for them; but that, if he would send them, he would give him an additional present, and that he would be doing an acceptable thing to the king of England by sending them, and that he would not act like a king, if he did not. Clapperton gave the messenger, for his master, one of the mock gold chains, a common sword, and ten yards of silk, adding that he would give him a handsome gun and some more silk, if he would send the books. On asking the messenger, if there were any books like his journal, which he showed him, he said there was one, but that his master had given it to an Arab merchant ten years ago; the merchant, however, was killed by the Fellatas, on his way to Kano, and what had become of that book afterwards, he did not know.
Upon this, Clapperton sent a person with a letter to Youri. Mohammed, the Fezzaner, whom he had hired at Tabra, and whom he had sent to the chief of Youri for the books and papers of the late Mungo Park, returned, bringing him a letter from that person, which contained the following account of the death of that unfortunate traveller. That not the least injury was done to him at Youri, or by the people of that country; that the people of Boussa had killed them, and taken all their riches; that the books in his possession were given him by the iman of Boussa; that they were lying on the top of the goods in the boat when she was taken; that not a soul was left alive belonging to the boat; that the bodies of two black men were found in the boat, chained together; that the white men jumped overboard; that the boat was made of two canoes joined fast together, with an awning or roof behind; that he, the sultan, had a gun, double barrelled, and a sword, and two books, that had belonged to those in the boat; that he would give the books whenever Clapperton went himself to Youri for them, but not until then.
This is, however, not exactly what the sultan says, in his letter, of which the following is a translation:—
"This is issued from the prince or lord of Yaoury to Abdallah, the English captain—salutation and esteem. Hence your messenger has arrived, and brought us your letter, and we understand what you write; you inquire about a thing that has no trace with us. The prince or lord of Boossy is older (or greater) than us, because he is our grandfather. Why did you not inquire of him about what you wish for? You were at Boossy, and did not inquire of the inhabitants what was the cause of the destruction of the ship and your friends, nor what happened between them of evil; but you do now inquire of one who is far off, and knows nothing of the cause of their (the Christians') destruction.
"As to the book, which is in our hand, it is true, and we did not give it to your messenger; but we will deliver it to you, if you come and show us a letter from your lord. You shall then see and have it, if God be pleased; and much esteem and salam be to you, and prayer and peace unto the last of the apostles!
This may be considered as the conclusion of the information which was obtained respecting the fate of Park; although Clapperton expresses it to be his opinion, but founded on very slender grounds, that the journal of Park is yet to be recovered.
On leaving Boussa, Clapperton retraced his steps to the Cumbrie villages, and then turned to the south-south-west to another of their villages, named Songa, situated on the banks of the Quorra. About two hours above Songa, there is a formidable cataract, "where," Lander observes, "if Park had passed Boussa in safety, he would have been in danger of perishing, unheard and unseen." An hour and a half below Songa, the Quorra rushes with great force through a natural gap, such it seems to be, between porphyritic rocks rising on each side of the channel. Between Songa and this place, the river is full of rocky islets and rapids, and these occur occasionally all the way down to Wonjerque, or the king's ferry at the village of Comie, where it is all in one stream, about a quarter of a mile in width, and ten or twelve feet deep in the middle. This is the great ferry of all the caravans to and from Nyffee, Houssa, and is only a few hours from Wawa.
On reaching this ferry, Clapperton was told, that, so far from his baggage having been sent on to Koolfu, it had been stopped at Wawa, by order of the governor; but this extraordinary proceeding was in some degree accounted for, as it appeared that although neither Clapperton nor Lander would have any thing to do with the corpulent widow Zuma, she was determined not to let them off so easily, and, to their great surprise, the travellers heard that she was at a neighbouring village, from which she sent them a present of some boiled rice and a fowl, giving them, at the same time, a pressing invitation to come and stop at her house. The governor's son informed Clapperton, that his baggage would not be allowed to leave Wawa till the widow Zuma was sent back. "What the d—-l have I to do with the widow?" asked Clapperton.—"You have," he replied; "and you must come back with me and take her." Clapperton, however, refused, in the most positive terms, to have any thing to do with or to say to her. At this moment Lander returned from Boussa, whither he had followed his master, to acquaint him with the detention of his baggage; all of which was owing to the widow having left Wawa about half an hour after he did, with drums beating before her, and a train after her, first calling at his lodgings, before she waited on the governor. It was also ascertained that she had given old Pascoe a female slave for a wife, without having previously asked the governor's permission. The widow had also intimated her intention to follow the travellers to Kano, whence she would return to make war on the governor, as she had done once before. "This," said Clapperton, "let me into their politics with a vengeance; it would indeed have been a fine end to my journey, if I had deposed old Mahommed, and set up for myself, with a walking tun-butt for a queen." Clapperton, however, determined to go back to Wawa, to release his baggage; and scarcely had he got there, when the arrival of the buxom widow was announced, her appearance and escort being as grand as she could make it, hoping thereby to make an impression upon the flinty hearts of the Europeans. The following is the description of her dress and escort:— Preceding her marched a drummer, beating the instrument with all his power, his cap being profusely decked with ostrich feathers. A bowman walked on foot, at the head of her horse, a long train following, consisting of tall, strong men, armed with spears, bows, and swords. She rode on a fine horse, whose trappings were of the first order for this semi-civilized country; the head of the horse was ornamented with brass-plates, the neck with brass bells, and charms sewed in various coloured leather, such as red, green, and yellow; a scarlet breast-piece, with a brass plate in the centre; scarlet saddle-cloth, trimmed with lace. She was dressed in red silk trousers and morocco boots; on her head a white turban, and over her shoulders a mantle of silk and gold. For the purpose of properly balancing her ponderous frame on the horse, she rode in the style of the men, a-straddle; and perhaps a more unwieldy mass never pressed upon the loins of an animal; had she, however, been somewhat younger, and less corpulent, there might have been some temptation to head her party, for she certainly had been a very handsome woman, and such as would have been thought a beauty in any country in Europe.
The widow was summoned before the governor; went on her knees, and, after a lecture on disobedience and vanity, was dismissed; but on turning her back, she shook the dust off her feet with great indignation and contempt; "and," says Clapperton, "I went home, determined never to be caught in such a foolish affair in future."
The travellers, having secured their baggage, returned to the ferry, and crossed the Quorra. They were now on the high-road to Koolfu, the emporium of Nyffee. In the course of the first two stages, they came to two villages full of blacksmiths' shops, with several forges in each. They got their iron ore from the hills, which they smelt, where they dig it. In every village they saw a fetish house in good repair, adorned with painted figures of human beings, as also the boa, the alligator, and the tortoise. The country is well cultivated with corn, yams, and cotton; but the ant-hills were the highest the travellers had ever seen, being from fifteen to twenty feet high, and resembling so many gothic cathedrals in miniature.
In the afternoon of the third day, they crossed a stream called the May Yarrow, opposite the town of Tabra, by a long narrow wooden bridge of rough branches covered with earth, the first that they had seen in Africa; it will not, however, bear a man and horse, nor can two horses pass at once. Tabra, which is divided by the river into two quarters, was at this time the residence of the queen-mother of Nyffee, who was governor ad interim during the absence of her son. It may contain from eighteen to twenty thousand inhabitants, who, with a few exceptions, are pagans, and they all, men and women, have the reputation of being great drunkards. There are only a few blacksmiths here, but a great number of weavers. The Houssa caravans pass close to the north side of the town, but seldom enter it. Before the civil war began, the Benin people came here to trade. The war, which was still raging, originated in a dispute for the succession, between Mohammed El Majia, the son of the queen-mother, who was a moslem, and Edrisi, who was represented to be a pagan. The former was supported by the Fellatas, whom the people of Nyffee cannot endure; the other had the best right and the people on his side, but there was little doubt of his being obliged to succumb.
Clapperton, accompanied by Lander, repaired to the camp, to pay his respects to El Majia. He was found mounted on a good bay horse, the saddle ornamented with pieces of silver and brass; the breastplate with large silver plates hanging down from it, like what is represented in the prints of Roman and eastern emperors on horseback. He was a tall man, with a stupid expression of countenance, a large mouth, and snagged teeth, which showed horribly, when he attempted a smile. His dress consisted of a black velvet cap, with flaps over the ears, and trimmed with red silk; a blue and white striped tobe, and ragged red boots, part leather and part cloth; in his hand he bore a black staff with a silver head, and a coast-made umbrella and sword were carried by his slaves. Altogether his appearance was far from being either kingly or soldier-like, and he displayed the most mean degree of rapacity. He was the ruin of his country by his unnatural ambition, and by calling in the Fellatas, who would remove him out of the way the moment he is of no more use to them. Even then, he dared not move without their permission. It was reported, and generally believed, that he put to death his brother and two of his sons. Through him the greater part of the industrious population of Nyffee had either been killed, sold as slaves, or had fled from their native country. Lander considered that it would have been an act of charity to have removed him altogether.
The sanson, or camp, was a large collection of bee-hive-shaped huts, arranged in streets, and thatched with straw. But for the number of horses feeding, and some picketed near the huts, the men being all seen armed, and the drums beating, it might have been taken for a populous and peaceful village. Here were to be seen weavers, tailors, women spinning cotton, others reeling it off; some selling foofoo and accassons, others crying yams and paste; little markets at every green tree; holy men counting their beads, and dissolute slaves drinking wabum, palm wine. The king, when the travellers went to take leave of him, was found in his hut, surrounded by Fellatas, one of whom was reading the Koran aloud for the benefit of the whole, the meaning of which not one of them understood, not even the reader. It is by no means an uncommon occurrence, both in Bornou and Houssa, for a man to be able to read the Koran fluently, who does not understand a word in it but Allah, and who is unable to read any other book.
On the 2nd of May the travellers left Tabra, and journeying along the banks of the May Yarrow, crossed a stream running into it from the north, and soon after entered the great market town of Koolfu. Captain Clapperton, it would appear, was doomed to be brought into contact with the rich widows of the country, for in this town he took up his abode with the widow Laddie, huge, fat, and deaf, but reputed to be very rich. She was a general dealer, selling salt, natron, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera; but she was more particularly famous for her booza and wabum. The former is made from a mixture of dourra, honey, chili-pepper, the root of a coarse grass on which the cattle feed, and a proportion of water; these are allowed to ferment in large earthen jars, placed near a slow fire for four or five days, when the booza is drawn off into other jars, and is fit to drink. It is very fiery and intoxicating, but is drunk freely both by moslem and pagans. Every night, a large outer hut belonging to the widow, was filled with the topers of Koolfu, who kept it up generally till dawn, with music and drink. The former consisted of the erhab or Arab guitar, the drum, the Nyffee harp, and the voice. Their songs were mostly extempore, and alluded to the company present.
On the night of the travellers' arrival, the new moon was seen, which put an end to the fast of Rhamadan. It was welcomed both by moslems and kaffirs with a cry of joy, and the next day, the town exhibited a scene of general festivity. Every one was dressed in his best, paying and receiving visits, giving and receiving presents, parading the streets with horns, guitars, and flutes, whilst groupes of men and women were seen seated under the shade at their doors, or under trees, drinking wabum or booza.
The women were dressed and painted to the height of Nyffee fashion, and the young and the modest on this day would come up and salute the men, as if old acquaintance, and bid them joy on the day; with the wool on their heads dressed, plaited, and dyed with indigo; their eyebrows painted with indigo, the eyelashes with khol, the lips stained yellow, the teeth red, and their feet and hands stained with henna; their finest and gayest clothes on; all their finest beads on their necks; their arms and legs adorned with bracelets of glass, brass, and silver; their fingers with rings of brass, pewter, silver, and copper; some had Spanish dollars soldered on the back of the rings; they too drank of the booza and wabum as freely as the men, joining in their songs, whether good or bad. In the afternoon parties of men were seen dancing, free men and slaves, all were alike; not a clouded brow was to be seen in Koolfu. But at nine in the evening, the scene was changed from joy and gladness to terror and dismay: a tornado had just begun, and the hum of voices, and the din of the people putting their things under cover from the approaching storm, had ceased at once. All was silent as death, except the thunder and the wind. The cloudy sky appeared as if on fire, each cloud rolling onwards as a sea of flame, and only surpassed in grandeur and brightness by the forked lightning, which constantly seemed to ascend and descend from what was then evidently the town of Bali on fire, only a short distance outside the walls of Koolfu. When this was extinguished a new scene began, if possible, worse than the first. The wind had increased to a hurricane. Houses were blown down; Roofs of houses going along with the wind like chaff, the shady trees in the town bending and breaking; and in the intervals between the roaring of the thunder, nothing was heard but the war cry of the men and the screams of women and children, as no one knew but that an enemy was at hand, and that they should every instant share in the fate of Bali. At last the rain fell, the fire at Bali had ceased by the town being wholly burnt down, and all was quiet and silent, as if the angel of extermination had brandished his sword over the devoted country.
Koolfu or Koolfie stands on the northern bank of the May Garrow, and contains from twelve to fifteen thousand inhabitants, including slaves. It is built in the form of an oblong square, surrounded with a clay wall, about twenty feet high, with four gates. There are a great number of dyers, tailors, blacksmiths, and weavers, but all these, together with the rest of the townsfolk, are engaged in traffic. There are besides the daily market, general markets every Monday and Saturday, which are resorted to by traders from all quarters: Youriba, Borgoo, Soccatoo, Houssa, Nyffee, and Benin. The caravans from Bornou and Houssa, which halt at Koolfu a considerable time, bring horses, natron, unwrought silk, silk cord, beads, Maltese swords from Bengazi, remounted at Kano; clothes made up in the moorish fashion, Italian looking glasses, such as sell for one penny and upwards at Malta, tobes undyed, made in Bornou, khol for the eyelids, a small quantity of attar of roses, much adulterated, gums from Mecca, silks from Egypt, moorish caps, and slaves. The latter who are intended for sale, are confined in the house mostly in irons, and are seldom allowed to go out of it, except to the well or river every morning to wash. They are strictly guarded on a journey, and chained neck to neck, or else tied neck to neck by a long rope of raw hide, and carry loads on their heads, consisting of their master's goods or household stuff; these loads are generally from fifty to sixty pounds weight. A stranger may remain a long time in a town without seeing any of the slaves, except by accident or by making a particular inquiry. Although professedly moslem, religion had not yet moulded the society of the Koolfuans into the usual gloomy monotony, nor had it succeeded in secluding or subjecting the female sex, who on the contrary, were the most active agents in every mercantile transaction. In the widow Laddie's house, no fewer than twenty-one of these female merchants were lodged at the same time that Clapperton and Lander took up their abode with her, and it may be easily supposed, that the Europeans led a most pleasant life of it. An African hut is by no means at any time an abode which an European would covet, but in addition to the suffocating heat, the mosquitoes, and many other nameless inconveniences, to be congregated with twenty or thirty females, not carrying about them the most delicious odour in the world, and making the welkin ring again with their discordant screams, there denominated singing, is a consummation by no means devoutly to be wished. In addition to other nuisances, the organ of amativeness, as the phrenologists would have it, was strongly developed in some of the skulls of the ladies, and displayed themselves in their actions towards the Europeans, who not being disposed to return their amorous advances, often made a precipitate retreat out of the hut, not being aware at the time that by avoiding Sylla, they ran a great risk of failing into Charybdis. The widow Laddie, although huge, fat, and deaf, was by no means of a cold, phlegmatic or saturnine disposition—many a wistful look she cast towards Lander, but he either would not or could not comprehend their meaning, and to punish him for his stupidity, she took care that he should not comprehend any of the significant glances, which were cast towards him by the more juvenile portion of the community. To protect him from this danger, the kind widow attended him whithersoever he went, to the great annoyance of Lander, who, in order to escape from such a living torment, betook himself to a more distant part of the town, or explored its vicinity, although very little presented itself to attract his immediate attention.
The following is the manner in which the good people of Koolfu fill up the twenty-four hours. At daylight, the whole household rise. The women begin to clean the house, the men to wash from head to foot; the women and children are then washed in water, in which has been boiled the leaf of a bush called bambarnia. When this is done, breakfast of cocoa is served out, every one having their separate dish, the women and children eating together. After breakfast, the women and children rub themselves over with the pounded red wood and a little grease, which lightens the darkness of the black skin. A score or patch of the red powder is put on some place, where it will show to the best advantage. The eyes are blacked with khol. The mistress and the better-looking females stain their teeth, and the inside of the lips, of a yellow colour, with goora, the flower of the tobacco plant, and the bark of a root; the outer parts of the lips, hair, and eyebrows are stained with shunt, or prepared indigo. Then the women, who attend the market, prepare their wares for sale, and when ready, set off, ten or twelve in a party, and following each at a stated distance. Many of these trains are seen, and their step is, so regular, that if they had been drilled by a sergeant of the foot-guards in England, they could not perform their motions with greater exactitude. The elderly women prepare, clean, and spin cotton at home, and cook the victuals; the younger females are generally sent round the town, selling the small rice balls, fried beans, &c., and bringing back a supply of water for the day. The master of the house generally takes a walk to the market, or sits in the shade at the door of his hut, hearing the news, or speaking of the price of natron or other goods. The weavers are daily employed at their trade; some are sent to cut wood, and bring it to market; others to bring grass for the horses that may belong to the house, or to take to the market to sell. A number of people at the commencement of the rainy season, are employed in clearing the ground for sowing the maize and millet, some are sent on distant journeys to buy and sell for their master or mistress, and they very rarely betray their trust. About noon, they return home, when all have a mess of the pudding called tvaki, or boiled beans. About two or three in the afternoon, they return to their different employments, on which they remain until near sunset, when they count their gains to their master or mistress, who receives it, and puts it carefully away in their strong room. They then have a meal of pudding, and a little fat or stew. The mistress of the house, when she goes to rest, has her feet put into a cold poultice of the pounded henna leaves. The young then go to dance and play, if it be moonlight, and the old to lounge and converse in the open square of the house, or in the outer coozie, where they remain until the cool of the night, or till the approach of morning drives them into shelter.
The majority of the inhabitants of Koolfu are professedly Mahommedans; the rest are pagans, who once a year, in common with the other people of Nyffee, repair to a high hill in one of the southern provinces, on which they sacrifice a black bull, a black sheep, and a black dog. On their fetish houses are sculptured, as in Youriba, the lizard, the crocodile, the tortoise, and the boa, with sometimes human figures. Their language is a dialect of the Youribanee, but the Houssa is that of the market. They are civil, but the truth is not in them; and to be detected in a lie is not the smallest disgrace; it only causes a laugh. The men drink very hard, even the Mahommedans and the women are not particularly celebrated for their chastity, although they succeeded in cheating both Clapperton and Lander; they were not, however, robbed of a single article, and they were uniformly treated with perfect respect. The people seem, indeed, by no means devoid of kindness of disposition. When the town of Bali was burned down, every person sent next day what they could spare of their goods, to assist the unfortunate inhabitants. In civilized England, when a fire takes place, thieving and robbery are the order of the day, but during the conflagration at Bali, not an article was stolen.
To their domestic slaves, they behave with the greatest humanity, looking upon them almost as children of the family. The males are often freed, and the females given in marriage to free men, or to other domestic slaves. The food of the slave and the free is nearly the same. The greatest man or woman in the country is not ashamed, at times, to let the slaves eat of the same dish; but a woman is never allowed to eat with a man. With a people, who have neither established law nor government, it is surprising that they are so good and moral as they are; it is true, they will cheat if they can, but amongst the civilized nations, who have both laws and government, cheating is by no means a rare occurrence, and by those too, who are the loudest in the professions of their honesty and integrity.
The country round Koolfu is a level plain, well cultivated, and studded with little walled towns and villages along the banks of the May Yarrow, and of a little river running into it from the north. Between the walled towns of Bullabulla and Rajadawa, the route passed through plantations of grain, indigo, and cotton; the soil clay mixed with sand, with here and there large blocks of sandstone, containing nodules of iron and veins of iron-stone.
At five days from Koolfu, the route entered at the town of Wazo, or Wazawo, the district of Koteng Koro, formerly included in Kashna; and for another five days' journey through a rich and beautiful valley, and over woody hills, the travellers reached Womba, a large walled town, where the caravans both from the east and the west generally halt a day or two, and where, as at Wazo, a toll is levied on merchandise. The town stands on a rising ground, at the eastern head of a valley watered by a small stream, having three bare rocky hills of granite to the north, east, and south. The inhabitants may amount to between ten and twelve thousand souls. The travellers were here objects of much kindness; the principal people of the place sent presents, and the lower ranks sought to obtain a sight of them by mounting the trees which overlooked their residence. The Koran does not seem to have much embarrassed these people; their only mode of studying it was to have the characters written with a black substance on a piece of board, then to wash them off and drink the water; and when asked what spiritual benefit could be derived from the mere swallowing of dirty water, they indignantly retorted, "What! do you call the name of God dirty water?" This mode of imbibing sacred truth is indeed extensively pursued throughout the interior of the African continent.
On the second day from Womba, the travellers passed through another large and populous town, called Akinjie, where also kafilas pay toll; beyond which, the route lay for two days over a very hilly country, for the most part covered with wood, and but little cultivated, till they approached Guari.
This town, the capital of a district of the same name, formerly included in Kashna, is built partly on a hill, and partly in a narrow valley, through which runs a muddy stream, that is dry in summer; this stream, the source of which is only a day's journey distant, divides in one part the states of Kotong Kora and Guari, and falls into the Kodonia in Nyffee. The district of Guari was conquered by the Fellatas, in a short time after their rising, together with the rest of Houssa. On the death of old Bello, the father of the then reigning sovereign, these districts, with the greater part of Kashna, joined in the towia, or confederacy, against the Fellatas. The chief of Zamfra was the first to shake the spear of rebellion, and he was soon joined by the natives of Goober, and the northern parts of Kashna, by Guari and Kotong Kora, and at length by the states of Youri, Cubbi, Doura, and the southern part of Zeg Zeg. The strength of Youri is said to lie in the bravery of its inhabitants, and the number of horse they can bring into the field, amounting to a thousand. Clapperton was, however, disposed to place their real strength in the hilly and woody nature of their country.
Futika, the frontier town of Zeg Zeg, was reached on the second day from Guari; and at Zaria, where the travellers arrived on the fourth, they found themselves in a city almost wholly peopled by Fellatas, who have mosques with minarets, and live in flat-roofed houses. The population is said to exceed that of Kano, and must contain above fifty thousand inhabitants. A great number of the inhabitants are from Foota Ronda and Foota Torra, the Foulahs and Fellatas being, in fact, the same people. The people from the west professed to be well acquainted with both the English and the French, and they rattled over the names of the towns between Sierra Leone and the Senegal and Timbuctoo. They were armed with French fusees, preferring the guns of the French and the powder of the English.
The old city of Zaria was taken by the Fellatas, within a month after they had made themselves masters of the provinces of Goober and Zamfra, about thirty years ago. It took a siege of two days, when it was evacuated by the sultan and the greater part of the inhabitants, who took refuge in hills south and west, where they still maintain their independence, though subject to the continual attacks of the Fellatas. The old city is now known only by its ruined walls, surrounding some high mounds, which were in the centre of the enclosed area. The new city, built by the Fellatas, to the south-east of the old, consists of a number of little villages and detached houses, scattered over an extensive area, surrounded with high clay walls. Near the centre of the wall stands the principal mosque, built of clay, with a minaret nearly fifty feet high. On entering one of the western gates, instead of finding houses, the travellers could but just see the tops of some of them over the growing grain, at about a quarter of a mile distance; all was walled fields full of dhourra, with here and there a horse tethered in the open space.
The province of Zeg Zeg is the most extensive in the kingdom of Houssa, and both Kashna and Kano were at one time tributary to its sovereigns. The name of the country appears to be also given to the capital, and is possibly derived from it. It must, however, be observed that Lander mentions Zaria only by the name of Zeg Zeg. Prior to the Fellata conquest, Islamism is said to have been unknown in Zeg Zeg, and the southern part is still in the possession of various pagan tribes, whose country is called Boushir or Boushi, that is, the infidel country, and is said to extend to the ocean.
The country in the vicinity of the capital, Zaria, is clear of wood, and is all either in pasture or under cultivation. Its appearance at this season resembled some of the finest counties in England at the latter end of April. It was beautifully variegated with hill and dale, like the most romantic parts of England; was covered with luxuriant crops and rich pastures, and produced the best rice grown in any part of that continent. Rows of tall trees, resembling gigantic avenues of poplar, extended from hill to hill. Zaria, like many other African cities, might be considered as a district of country surrounded with walls.
After passing several towns at the distance of short stages, the travellers, on the fourth day from Zaria, entered, at the town of Dunchow, the province of Kano. A highly cultivated and populous country extends from this place to Baebaejie, the next stage. This town stands in an extensive plain, stretching towards the north till lost in the horizon. The two mounts inside the walls of Kano are just distinguishable above the horizontal line, bearing north-east by north. The hills of Nora are seen about ten miles east; to the south are the mountains of Surem, distant about twenty-five miles, while to the westward appear the tops of the hills of Aushin, in Zeg Zeg, over which the route had passed. Small towns and villages are scattered over the plain, and herds of fine white cattle were seen grazing on the fallow ground. The inhabitants of Baebaejie, amounting to about twenty or twenty-five thousand, are chiefly refugees from Bornou and Waday, and their descendants, all engaged in trade. They appeared cleanly, civil, and industrious. A broad and good road thronged with passengers and loaded animals, led in another day's journey to Kano.
The travellers found the city of Kano in a state of dreadful agitation. There was war on every side. Hostilities had been declared between the king of Bornou and the Fellatas; the provinces of Zamfra and Goober were in open insurrection; the Tuaricks threatened an inroad; in short, there was not a quarter to which the merchants durst send a caravan. Kano being nearly mid-way between Bornou and Sockatoo, Clapperton left his baggage there, to be conveyed to the former place on his return, and set out for the capital of the sultan Bello, bearing only the presents destined for that prince. On his way he found numerous bands mustering to form an army for the attack of Coonia, the rebel metropolis of Ghoober. The appearance of these troops was very striking, as they passed along the borders of some beautiful little lakes, formed by the river Zirmie.
The appearance of the country at this season was very beautiful; all the acacia trees were in blossom, some with white flowers, others with yellow, forming a contrast with the small dusky leaves, like gold and silver tassels on a cloak of dark green velvet. Some of the troops were bathing; others watering their horses, bullocks, camels, and asses; the lake Gondamee as smooth as glass, and flowing around the roots of the trees. The sun, in its approach to the horizon, threw the shadows of the flowering acacias along its surface, like sheets of burnished gold and silver. The smoking fires on its banks, the sounding of horns, the beating of their gongs and drums, the blowing of their brass and tin trumpets; the rude huts of grass or branches of trees, rising as if by magic, everywhere the calls on the names Mahomed, Abdo, Mustafa, &c., with the neighing of horses, and the braying of asses, gave animation to the beautiful scenery of the lake, and its sloping, green, and woody banks. The only regulation that appears in these rude feudal armies is, that they take up their ground according to the situation of the provinces, east, west, north, or south; but all are otherwise huddled together, without the least regularity.
The sultan was himself encamped with the forces from Sockatoo, whither the travellers repaired to join him, and they arrived just in time to be eye-witnesses of a specimen of the military tactics and conduct of these much-dreaded Fellatas. This curious scene is thus described:—
After the mid-day prayers, all except the eunuchs, camel-drivers, and such other servants as were of use only to prevent theft, whether mounted or on foot, marched towards the object of attack, and soon arrived before the walls of the city. Clapperton accompanied them, and took up his station close to the gadado. The march had been the most disorderly that could be imagined; horse and foot intermingling in the greatest confusion, all rushing to get forward; sometimes the followers of one chief tumbling amongst those of another, when swords were half unsheathed, but all ended in making a face, or putting on a threatening aspect. They soon arrived before Coonia, the town not being above half a mile in diameter, nearly circular, and built on the banks of one of the branches of the liver, or lakes. Each chief, as he came, took his station, which, it was supposed, had been previously assigned to him. The number of fighting men brought before the town could not be less than fifty or sixty thousand, horse and foot, of which the latter amounted to more than nine-tenths. For the depth of two hundred yards, all round the walls, was a dense circle of men and horses. The horse kept out of bow-shot, while the foot went up as they felt courage or inclination, and kept up a straggling fire with about thirty muskets and the shooting of arrows. In front of the sultan, the Zeg Zeg troops had one French fusee; the Kano forces had forty-one muskets. These fellows, whenever they fired their muskets, ran out of bow-shot to load; all of them were slaves; not a single Fellata had a musket. The enemy kept up a slow and sure fight, seldom throwing away their arrows, until they saw an opportunity of letting fly with effect. Now and then a single horseman would gallop up to the ditch, and brandish his spear, the rider taking care to cover himself with his large leathern shield, and return as fast as he went, generally calling out lustily, when he got amongst his own party, "Shields to the walls! You people of the gadado, (or atego, &c.) why do you not hasten to the wall?" To which some voices would call out, "Oh, you have a good large shield to cover you." The cry of "Shields to the wall!" was constantly heard from the several chiefs to their troops; but they disregarded the call, and neither chiefs nor vassals moved from the spot. At length the men in quilted armour went up "per order." They certainly cut not a bad figure at a distance, as their helmets were ornamented with black and white ostrich feathers, and the sides of the helmets with pieces of tin, which glittered in the sun; their long quilted cloaks of gaudy colours reaching over part of their horses' tails, and hanging over the flanks. On the neck, even the horses' armour was notched or vandyked, to look like a mane; on his forehead, and over his nose, was a brass or tin plate, also a semicircular piece on each side. The rider was armed with a large spear, and he had to be assisted to mount his horse, as his quilted cloak was too heavy; it required two men to lift him on. There were six of them belonged to each governor, and six to the sultan. It was at first supposed, that the foot would take advantage of going under cover of these unwieldy machines; but no, they went alone, as fast as the poor horses could bear them, which was but a slow pace. They had one musket in Coonia, and it did wonderful execution; for it brought down the van of the quilted men, who fell from his horse like a sack of corn thrown from a horse's back at a miller's door, but both horse and man were brought off by two or three footmen. He got two balls through his breast; one went through his body and both sides of the tobe; the other went through and lodged in the quilted armour opposite the shoulders.
The cry of "Allahu akber!" (God is great), the cry of the Fellatas, was resounded through the whole army every quarter of an hour; but neither this nor "Shields to the walls!" nor "Why do not the gadado's people go up?" had any effect, except to produce a scuffle amongst themselves, when the chiefs would have to ride up and part their followers, who, instead of fighting against the enemy, were more likely to fight with one another. At sunset, the besiegers drew off, and the harmless campaign terminated in a desertion on the part of the Zirmee troops, followed by a general retreat.
The flags of the Fellatas are white, like the French, and their staff is a palm branch. They are not borne by men of honour, but by their slaves. The sultan had six borne before him; each of the governors had two. They also dress in white tobes and trousers, as an emblem of their purity in faith and intention. The most useful personage in the army, and as brave as any of them, was an old female slave of the sultan's, a native of Zamfra, five of whose former governors, she said, she had nursed. She was of a dark copper colour, in dress and countenance very much like a female esquimaux. She was mounted on a long-backed bright bay horse, with a scraggy tail, crop-eared, and the mane, as if the rats had eaten part of it, nor was it very high in condition. She rode a-straddle, had on a conical straw dish-cover for a hat, or to shade her face from the sun; a short, dirty, white bed-gown, a pair of dirty white loose and wide trousers, a pair of Houssa boots, which are wide, and come over the knee, fastened with a string round the waist. She had also a whip and spurs. At her saddle-bow hung about half a dozen gourds filled with water, and a brass basin to drink out of, and with this she supplied the wounded and the thirsty.
The army being disbanded, Clapperton obtained permission of the sultan to proceed to Sockatoo, where he found every thing ready for his reception, in the house, which he had occupied on his former visit. The traveller, however, found an entire change in the feelings of kindness and cordiality towards himself, which had been so remarkably displayed in the previous journey. Jealousy had began to fester in the breasts of the African princes. They dreaded some ambitious design in these repeated expeditions sent out by England, without any conceivable motive; for that men should undertake such long journeys, out of mere curiosity, they could never imagine. The sultan Bello had accordingly received a letter from the court of Bornou, warning him that by this very mode of sending embassies and presents, which the English were now following towards the states of central Africa, they had made themselves masters of India, and trampled on all its native princes. The writer therefore gave it as his opinion, that the European travellers should immediately be put to death. An alarm indeed had been spread through Sockatoo, that the English were coming to invade Houssa. The sultan irritated doubtless at the shameful result of his grand expedition against Coonia, felt also another and more pressing fear. War had just broken out between himself and the king of Bornou. Clapperton was on his way to visit that prince, and had left six muskets at Kano, supposed to be intended as presents to him; and six muskets in central Africa, where the whole Fellata empire could scarcely muster forty, were almost enough to turn the scale between those two great military powers. Under the impulse of these feelings, Bello proceeded to steps not exactly consistent with the character of a prince and a man of honour. He demanded a sight of the letter which Clapperton was conveying to the king of Bornou, and when this was, of course, refused, he seized it by violence. Lander was induced by false pretences to bring the baggage from Kano to Sockatoo, when forcible possession was taken of the muskets. Clapperton loudly exclaimed against these proceedings, declaring them to amount to the basest robbery, to a breach of all faith, and to be the worst actions, of which any man could be guilty. This was rather strong language to be used to a sovereign, especially to one, who could at any moment have cut off his head, and the prime ministers of the sultan dropped some unpleasant hints, as if matters might come to that issue, though in point of fact, the government did not proceed to any personal outrage. On the contrary, Bello discovered an honourable anxiety to explain his conduct, and to soothe the irritated feelings of the traveller. He even wrote to him the following letter, which it must be confessed, places the character of Bello in a very favourable light.
"In the name of God, and praise be to God, &c. &c. To Abdallah Clapperton, salutation and esteem. You are now our guest, and a guest is always welcomed by us; you are the messenger of a king, and a king's messenger is always honoured by us. You come to us under our honour as an ambassador, and an ambassador is always protected by us. There is no harm in the king's ministers sending you to the sheik Kanemi, of Bornou, nor do we see any harm in your coming, when thus sent. But when you formerly came to us from Bornou, peace was then between us and the sheik; whereas there is now war between him and ourselves; we cannot perceive any blame in our preventing warlike stores being sent to him. We continue to maintain our faith with you, and are ready to attend to all your wishes, because we consider you as a trusty friend, and one who enjoys a high degree of esteem with us. Do not encroach upon us, we will not encroach upon you; we have rights to maintain, and you have also rights to be respected. And Salam be to you."
(Signed as usual.)
It is difficult to conceive, why so reasonable and friendly a letter should have failed to subdue the irritation of the traveller; this cannot be accounted for only by his ill health, or by supposing that he was not exactly conversant with its contents. It appears, however, that the conduct of Bello had such an effect upon the spirits of Clapperton, that Lander reports, he never saw him smile afterwards. The strong constitution of Clapperton, had till this period enabled him to resist all the baneful influence of an African climate. He had recovered, though perhaps not completely, from the effects of the rash exposure which had proved fatal to his two companions, but subsequently when overcome with heat and fatigue he had lain down on a damp spot in the open air, he was soon after seized with dysentery, which continued to assume more alarming symptoms. Unable to rise from his bed, and deserted by all his African friends, who saw him no longer a favourite at court, he was watched with tender care by his faithful servant Lander, who devoted his whole time to attendance on his sick master. At length he called him to his bed-side, and said, "Richard, I shall shortly be no more; I feel myself dying." Almost choked with grief, Lander replied, "God forbid, my dear master—you will live many years yet." Clapperton replied, "don't be so much affected, my dear boy, I entreat you, it is the will of the Almighty, it cannot be helped. I should have wished to live to have been of further use to my country—and more, I should like to have died in my native land—but it is my duty to submit." He then gave particular directions as to the disposal of his papers, and of all that remained of his property, to which the strictest attention was promised. "He then," says Lander, "took my hand within his, and looking me full in the face, while a tear stood glistening in his eye, said in a low but deeply affecting tone, 'My dear Richard, if you had not been with me, I should have died long ago. I can only thank you with my latest breath for your kindness and attachment to me, and if I could have lived to return with you, you should have been placed beyond the reach of want, but God will reward you.'" He survived some days, and appeared even to rally a little, but one morning, Lander was alarmed by a peculiar rattling sound in his throat, and hastening to the bed-side found him sitting up, and staring wildly around; some indistinct words quivered on his lips, he strove but ineffectually to give them utterance, and expired without a struggle or a sigh.
Bello seems to have repented in some degree of his harsh conduct, especially after the news arrived of a great victory gained by his troops over the sultan of Bornou. He allowed Lander to perform the funeral obsequies with every mark of respect, agreeably to the sultan's own directions at Jungavie, a small village on a rising ground, about five miles to the S. E. of Sockatoo. Lander performed the last sad office of reading the English service over the remains of his generous and intrepid master; a house was erected over his grave;
"And he was left alone in his glory."
Lander may now be said to be in the interior of Africa, a solitary wanderer, dependent entirely on his own resources, at the same time that he received from sultan Bello, all the requisite means to enable him to return to his native country, allowing him to choose his own road, though advising him to prefer that which led through the great Desert, but Lander having already had many dealings with the Arabs, preferred the track through the negro countries.
On arriving at Kano, on his return route, Lander formed a spirited and highly laudable design, which proved him to be possessed of a mind much superior to his station, and this was nothing less than an attempt to resolve the great question, respecting the termination of the Niger, which he hoped to effect by proceeding to Funda, and thence to Benin by water. Striking off to the eastward of the route, on which, in company with his late master, he had reached Kano, he passed several walled towns, all inhabited by natives of Houssa, tributary to the Fellatas, and early on the third day from Bebajie, (as he spells it,) arrived at the foot of a high craggy mountain, called Almena, from a ruined town said to have been built by a queen of the Fantee nation, some five hundred years ago. Mahomet, Lander's servant, who had travelled far and near, and knew all the traditions of the country, gave the following story:—About five hundred years ago, a queen of the Fantee nation having quarrelled with her husband about a golden stool, in other words, we presume about the throne, probably after her husband's death, fled from her dominions with a great number of her subjects, and built a large town at the foot of this mountain, which she called Almena, from which it took its name. The town, according Lander, was surrounded with a stone wall, as the ruins plainly attest. The M. S. account of Tukroor evidently alludes to the same personage. The first who ruled over them, that is the seven provinces of Houssa, was, as it is stated, Amenah, daughter of the prince of Zag Zag, (Zeg Zeg?) She conquered them by the force of her sword, and subjected them, including Kashna and Kano, to be her tributaries. She fought and took possession of the country of Bowsher, till she reached the coast of the ocean on the right hand, and west side. She died at Atagara.
The gigantic blocks of granite forming the mountain Almena, fearfully piled on each other, and seeming ready to fall, are described as resembling the rocks near the Logan stone in Cornwall, but on a scale infinitely larger. To the eastward, a range of high hills was seen stretching from north to south, as far as the eye could reach, and Lander was informed that they extended to the salt water. They were said to be inhabited by a savage race of people called Yamyams, that is cannibals, who had formerly carried on an extensive traffic with the Houssa men, bringing elephants' teeth, and taking in exchange red cloth, beads, &c., but five years before, they had murdered a whole kafila of merchants, and afterwards eaten them, since which time, the Houssa people had been reasonably shy of dealing with them.
Sultan Bello informed Lander that he had ocular proof of the fact, that these same people are in the practice of eating human flesh. The sultan said, that on the governor of Jacoba telling him of these people, he could scarcely believe it, but on a Tuarick being hanged for theft, he saw five of these people eat a part, with which he was so disgusted, that he sent them back to Jacoba soon after. He said, that whenever a person complained of sickness amongst these men, even though only a slight headache, he is killed instantly, for fear he should be lost by death, as they will not eat a person that has died by sickness; that the person falling sick is requested by some other family, and repaid when they had a sick relation; that universally, when they went to war, the dead and wounded were always eaten; that the hearts were claimed by the head men, and that on asking them, why they ate human flesh, they said, it was better than any other, that they had no want or food, and that excepting this bad custom, they were very cleanly, and otherwise not bad people, except that they were kaffirs.
As far as the route of Lander had hitherto extended, all the streams that were crossed had a north-westerly course, and on the fifth day, he reached a large river running in the same direction called Accra. On the following day proceeding S. W., he arrived at Nammalack, built immediately under a mountain, which, rising almost perpendicularly, forms a natural wall on the north-eastern side. It is thickly wooded and abounds with thousands of hyenas, tiger cats, jackals, and monkeys, who monopolize all the animal food in the neighbourhood, the poor inhabitants not being able to keep a single bullock, sheep, or goat.
For four hours beyond this town, Lander's route continued along the foot of this range of mountains, in a continued direction of S. W., it then turned eastward through an opening in the range, and after crossing one large and three small rivers, led to Fillindushie, the frontier town of Catica. Lander speaks of the Catica or Bowchee people as the same. This district must, therefore, belong to the Bowchee country, which forms part of Zeg Zeg, according to the M. S. account of Tackroor, apparently on the Boushy, that is infidel or kirdy country, bordering on Yacoba.
The inhabitants of Catica are described as a fine handsome people, with features not at all resembling those of the negro race, and very similar to the European, but below the negroes in civilization, without any clothing, filthy in person, disgusting in manners, and destitute of natural affection; the parent selling his child with no more remorse or repugnance than he would his chicken, yet at the same time, by way of contrast, artless and good humoured. Their appearance is extremely barbarous and repulsive. They rub red clay softened with oil over their heads and bodies, and invariably wear a large semicircular piece of blue glass in the upper and lower lip, with ear-pendants of red wood. They make fetishes like the natives of Yariba.
Turning again to the S. W., the route now led over a fine and rich country, to a large river rolling to the N. W., called Coodoma (Kadoma,) which empties itself into the Quorra, near Funda. Lander reached the north-eastern bank on the tenth day, and on the morrow after three hours travelling reached Cuttup. Having heard on his route many different reports of the wealth, population and celebrated market of this place, he was surprised to find it to consist of nearly five hundred villages, almost joining each other, occupying a vast and beautiful plain, adorned with the finest trees. Amongst these, the plantain, the palm, and the cocoa-nut tree, were seen flourishing in great abundance, and the aspect of the country strikingly resembled some parts of Yariba. A considerable traffic is carried on here in slaves and bullocks, which are alike exposed in the daily market. The bullocks are bred by the Fellatas, who reside there for no other purpose.
The sultan of Cuttup being a very great man, that is, in his own estimation, Lander made him a suitable present of four yards of blue damask, the same quantity of scarlet, a print of George IV., one of the late duke of York, which, we have reason to suppose, was held in higher estimation than his whole-length colossal figure on the top of the pedestal in this country, which has the superlative honour of calling him one of the most meritorious, most puissant, and most honourable of the royal blood. Lander also made the sultan a present of other trifling articles, in return for which he received a sheep, the humps, or we should call it the rumps, of two bullocks, and stewed rice sufficient for fifty men, not being able at the time to form an accurate opinion of the extent of Lander's gourmandizing appetite, or most probably, as is generally the case in countries situated farther to the northward, judging of the appetite of others by his own. During the four days that Lander remained in these hospitable quarters, he was never in want of provisions, nor do we see how it was possible that he should be, when he had two rumps of beef, from which he could at any time cut a steak, which the most finished epicurean of Dolly's would not turn up his nose at, and stewed rice, as an entremet, sufficient for the gastronomic powers of fifty men. When it is also considered, that the sultan invariably receives as a tax the hump of every bullock that is slaughtered, weighing from twelve to fifteen pounds, and the choicest part of the animal, it is somewhat surprising that the country does not abound with hump-backed tyrants, similar to the notorious Richard of England; at all events, Lander had to congratulate himself that the humps, or rumps, were sent to him daily by the king's wives, we will suppose, out of the pure spirit of charity and benevolence, on the same principle, perhaps, that the widow Zuma invited Lander to take up his abode in her house.
It was very proper that Lander should make a return to the sultan's wives for their rumps of beef, and, therefore, he presented them with one or two gilt buttons from his jacket, and they, imagining them to be pure gold, fastened them to their ears. Little, however, did the Birmingham manufacturer suppose, when he issued these buttons from his warehouse, that they were destined one day to glitter as pendants in the ears of the wives of the sultan of Cuttup, in the heart of Africa; truly may it be said with Shakespeare,
"To what vile uses may we come at last!"
It is very possible, from some cause not worthy here of investigation, that one of the wives of the sultan had contrived to obtain a higher place in the estimation of Lander, than any of her other compeers; but, as a proof that great events from trivial causes flow, it happened that Lander set the whole court of Cuttup in a hubbub and confusion by a very simple act, to which no premeditated sin could be attached, and this act was no other, than presenting one of the wives of the sultan secretly, clandestinely, and covertly, with a most valuable article, in the shape of a large darning needle, which he carried about with him, for the purpose of repairing any sudden detriment, that might happen to any part of his habiliments. A female, whether European or African, generally takes a pride in displaying the presents that have been made her; and the favoured wife of the sultan no sooner displayed the present which she had received, than the spirit of jealousy and envy burst forth in the breast of all the remaining wives. It was a fire not easily to be quenched; it pervaded every part of the residence of the sultan; it penetrated into every hut, where one of the wives resided; discord, quarrels, and battles became the order of the day, and Lander was obliged to make a precipitate retreat from a place, where he had incautiously and innocently raised such a rebellion. On relating this anecdote to us, Lander declared, that, with a good supply of needles in his possession, he would not despair of obtaining every necessary article and accommodation throughout the whole of central Africa.
On leaving Cuttup, Lander proceeded south-south-west, over a hilly country, and on the following day, crossed the Rary, a large river flowing to the south-east. The next day, part of the route lay over steep and craggy precipices, some of them of the most awful height. From the summit of this pass, he obtained a very beautiful and extensive prospect, which would indicate the elevation to be indeed very considerable. Eight days' journey might plainly be seen before him. About half a day's journey to the east, stood a lofty hill, at the foot of which lay the large city of Jacoba. In the evening, he reached Dunrora, a town containing about four thousand inhabitants.
Lander had now reached the latitude of Funda, which, according to his information, lies about twelve days due west of Dunrora, and after seventeen perilous days' travelling from Kano, he seemed to be on the point of solving the great geographical problem respecting the termination of the supposed Niger, when, just as he was leaving Dunrora, four armed messengers from the sultan of Zeg Zeg rode up to him, bearing orders for his immediate return to the capital. Remonstrance was in vain; and, with a bad grace and a heavy heart, poor Lander complied with the mandate. He was led back to Cuttup by the same route that he had taken, and here, much against the inclination of his guards, he remained four days, suffering under an attack of dysentery. On his arrival at Zaria, he was introduced to the king; and having delivered his presents, that prince boasted of having conferred on him the greatest possible favour, since the people of Funda, being now at war with sultan Bello, would certainly have murdered any one, who had visited and carried gifts to that monarch. From this reasoning, sound or otherwise, Lander had no appeal, and was obliged to make his way back by his former path.
The subsequent part of his route was, however, rather more to the westward of his former track. The Koodoonia, where he crossed it, was much deeper, as well as broader, and much more rapid. On Lander refusing to cross the river till it had become more shallow, his guards left him in great wrath, threatening to report his conduct to their master, and they did not return for a fortnight, during which time, Lander remained at a Bowchee village, an hour distant, very ill, having nothing to eat but boiled corn, not much relishing roasted dog. The inhabitants, who came by hundreds every day to visit him, were destitute of any clothing, but behaved in a modest and becoming manner. The men did not appear to have any occupation or employment whatever. The women were generally engaged, the greater part of the day, in manufacturing oil from a black seed and the Guinea nut.
Not deeming it safe, according to the advice of the sultan of Zeg Zeg, to pursue his homeward way by the route of Funda, he chose the Youriba road; and, after serious delays, he reached Badagry on the 21st November 1827; but here he was nearly losing his life, owing to the vindictive jealousy of the Portuguese slave-merchants, who denounced him to the king as a spy sent by the English government. The consequence was, that it was resolved by the chief men to subject him to the ordeal of drinking a fetish. "If you come to do bad," they said, "it will kill you; but if not, it cannot hurt you." There was no alternative or escape. Poor Lander swallowed the contents of the bowl, and then walked hastily out of the hut through the armed men who surrounded it, to his own lodgings, where he lost no time in getting rid of the fetish drink by a powerful emetic. He afterwards learned, that it almost always proved fatal. When the king and his chiefs found, after five days, that Lander survived, they changed their minds, and became extremely kind, concluding that he was under the special protection of God. The Portuguese, however, he had reason to believe, would have taken the first opportunity to assassinate him. His life at this place was in continual danger, until, fortunately, Captain Laing, of the brig Maria of London, of which Fullerton was the chief mate, and afterwards commander, hearing that there was a white man about sixty miles up the country, who was in a most deplorable condition, and suspecting that he might be one of the travellers sent out on the expedition to explore the interior of Africa, despatched a messenger with instructions to bring him away. The parties who held him were, however, not disposed to part with him without a ransom, the amount of which was fixed at nearly L70, which was paid by Captain Laing in broadcloths, gunpowder, and other articles, and which was subsequently refunded by the African Society. Lander arrived in England on the 30th April 1828, on which occasion we were introduced to him by the late Captain Fullerton, from whose papers the following history of Lander's second journey is compiled.
The journeys of Denham and Clapperton made a great accession to our knowledge of interior Africa, they having completed a diagonal section from Tripoli to the gulf of Benin; they explored numerous kingdoms, either altogether unknown, or indicated only by the most imperfect rumour. New mountains, lakes, and rivers had been discovered and delineated, yet the course of the Niger remained wrapt in mystery nearly as deep as ever. Its stream had been traced very little lower than Boussa, which Park had reached, and where his career was brought to so fatal a termination. The unhappy issue of Clapperton's last attempt chilled for a time the zeal for African discovery; but that high spirit of adventure which animates Britons was soon found acting powerfully in a quarter, where there was least reason to expect it. Partaking of the character which animated his master, Lander endeavoured, on his return towards the coast, to follow a direction, which, but for unforeseen circumstances, would have led to the solution of the great problem. After reaching England, he still cherished the same spirit; in our frequent conversations with him, he expressed it to be his decided opinion, that the termination of the Niger would be found between the fifth and tenth degree of north latitude, and his subsequent discoveries proved his opinion to be correct. Undeterred by the recollection of so much peril and hardship, he tendered his services to the government to make one effort more, in order to reach the mouth of this mysterious river; his offer was accepted, but on terms which make it abundantly evident that the enterprise was not undertaken from any mercenary impulse. The manner in which he had acquitted himself of his trust, amidst the difficulties with which he had to contend after the death of Clapperton, bespoke him as being worthy to be sent out on such a mission, when scientific observations were not expected, and the result has proved the justness of the opinion, that was entertained of him. Descended from Cornish parents, having been born at Truro, and not gifted with any extraordinary talent, it was not his fortune to boast either the honour of high birth, or even to possess the advantages of a common-place education. His leading quality was a determined spirit of perseverance, which no obstacles could intimidate or subdue. In society, particularly in the company of those distinguished for their talents or literary attainments, his reserve and bashfulness were insuperable, and it was not until a degree of intimacy was established by frequent association, that he could be brought to communicate the sentiments of his mind, or to impress a belief upon the company, that he was possessed of any superior qualifications.
His younger brother, John Lander, who, influenced by a laudable desire to assist in the solution of the geographical problem, was of a very different turn of mind. He was brought up to the profession of a printer, and, as a compositor, had frequent opportunities of enriching his mind with various branches of knowledge, and in time became himself the author of several essays in prose and verse, by no means discreditable to his talents. Being naturally gifted with an exuberant imagination, his descriptions partake of the inflated and bombastic; but we have reason to know, that the information which he gives is deduced from authentic sources, without the usual exaggeration proverbially belonging to travellers.
The following were the instructions given by government to Richard Lander:—
"Downing-street, 31st December 1829.
"I am directed by secretary Sir George Murray to acquaint you, that he has deemed it expedient to accept the offer, which you have made, to proceed to Africa, accompanied by your brother, for the purpose of ascertaining the course of the great river, which was crossed by the late Captain Clapperton on his journey to Sockatoo; and a passage having been accordingly engaged for you and your brother, on board of the Alert, merchant vessel, which is proceeding to Cape Coast Castle, on the western coast of Africa, I am to desire that you will embark immediately on board that vessel.
"In the event of your falling in with any of his Majesty's ships of war on the coast of Africa, previously to your arrival at Cape Coast Castle, you will prevail on the master to use every endeavour to speak with such ship of war, and to deliver to the officer commanding her, the letter of which you are the bearer, and which is to require him to convey yourself and your brother to Badagry, to present you to the king, and to give you such assistance as may be required to enable you to set out on your journey.
"You should incur as little delay as possible at Badagry, in order that, by reaching the hilly country, you may be more secure from those fevers, which are known to be prevalent on the low lands of the sea-coast. You are to proceed by the same road as on a previous occasion, as far as Katunga, unless you shall be able to find, on the northern side of the mountains, a road which will lead to Funda, on the Quorra or Niger; in which case, you are to proceed direct to Funda. If, however, it should be necessary to go as far as Katunga, you are to use your endeavours to prevail on the chief of that country to assist you on your way to the Quorra, and with the means of tracing down, either by land or water, the course of that river as far as Funda.
"On your arrival at this place, you are to be very particular in your observations, so as to enable you to give a correct statement.
"1st, Whether any, and what rivers fall into the Quorra at or near that place; or whether the whole or any part of the Quorra turns to the eastward.
"2nd, Whether there is at Funda, or in the neighbourhood, any lake or collection of waters or large swamps; in which case, you are to go round such lake or swamp, and be very particular in examining whether any river flows into or out of it, and in what direction it takes its course.
"3rd, If you should find that at Funda, the Quorra continues to flow to the southward, you are to follow it to the sea, where, in this case, it may be presumed to empty its waters; but if it should be found to turn off to the eastward, in which case it will most probably fall into the lake Tchad, you are to follow its course in that direction, as far as you conceive you can venture to do, with due regard to your personal safety, to Bornou; in which case it will be for you to determine, whether it may not be advisable to return home by the way of Fezzan and Tripoli: if, however, after proceeding in an easterly course for some distance, the river should be found to turn off towards the south, you are to follow it, as before, down to the sea. In short, after having once gained the banks of the Quorra, either from Katunga or lower down, you are to follow its course, if possible, to its termination, wherever that may be.
"Should you be of opinion that the sultan of Youri can safely be communicated with, you are at liberty to send your brother with a present to that chief, to ask, in the king's name, for certain books or papers, which he is supposed to have, that belonged to the late Mr. Park; but you are not necessarily yourself to wait for your brother's return, but to proceed in the execution of the main object of your mission, to ascertain the course and termination of the Niger.
"You are to take every opportunity of sending down to the coast a brief extract of your proceedings and observations, furnishing the bearer with a note, setting forth the reward he is to have for his trouble, and requesting any English person to whom it is presented to pay that reward, on the faith that it will be repaid him by the British government.
"For the performance of this service, you are furnished with all the articles which you have required for your personal convenience during your journey, together with a sum of two hundred dollars in coin; and in case, upon your arrival at Badagry, you should find it absolutely necessary to provide yourself with a further supply of dollars, you will be at liberty to draw upon this department for any sum not exceeding three hundred dollars.
"During the ensuing year, the sum of one hundred pounds will be paid to your wife in quarterly payments; and upon your return, a gratuity of one hundred pounds will be paid to yourself.
"All the papers and observations, which you shall bring back with you, are to be delivered by you at this office; and you will be entitled to receive any pecuniary consideration which may be obtained from the publication of the account of your journey. "I am, Sir, &c. &c.
(Signed) "R. W. HAY."
"To Mr. Richard Lander."
In pursuance of these instructions, Richard Lander and his brother embarked at Portsmouth, on the 9th January 1830, in the brig Alert, for Cape Coast Castle, where they arrived on the 22nd of the following month, after a boisterous and unpleasant passage. Here they were fortunate enough to engage old Pascoe and his wife, with Jowdie, who had been employed on the last expedition, with Ibrahim and Mina, two Bornou men, who were well acquainted with English manners, and could converse in the Houssa language. These individuals promised to be very useful on the expedition, more especially old Pascoe, whose merits as an interpreter were unquestionable.
After remaining at Cape Coast Castle eight days, they accompanied Mr. M'Lean, the president of the council at that place, on a visit to Mr. Hutchinson, commandant at Anamaboo, about nine miles distant from Cape Coast. Mr. Hutchinson lived in his castle, like an English baron in the feudal times, untinctured, however, by barbarism or ignorance; for the polished, refinements of life have insinuated themselves into his dwelling, though it is entirely surrounded by savages, and though the charming sound of a lady's voice is seldom or never heard in his lonely hall. His silken banner, his turreted castle, his devoted vassals, his hospitality, and even his very solitariness, all conspired to recall to the mind the manners and way of life of an old English baron, in one of the most interesting periods of our history, whilst the highly chivalrous and romantic spirit of the gentleman alluded to, was strictly in unison with the impression. Mr. Hutchinson had resided a number of years on the coast, and was one of the few individuals, who had visited the capital of Ashantee, in which he resided eight months, and obtained a better acquaintance with the manners, customs, and pursuits of that warlike, enterprising, and original nation, than any other European whatever. In the Ashantee war he took a very active part, and rendered important and valuable services to the cause he so warmly espoused.
They resided at the fort till the 4th March, and then sailed in the Alert for Accra, where they expected to find a vessel to take them to Badagry, in the Bight of Benin, agreeably to their instructions.
In two days they arrived opposite the British fort at Accra, and, after staying there a week, they embarked on board the Clinker, Lieutenant Matson, commander; and having sailed direct for Badagry, they dropped anchor in the roadstead in the front of that town on the 19th. From the commander of the Clinker they received a young man of colour, named Antonio, son to the chief of Bonny, who eagerly embraced the opportunity of proceeding with them into the interior, being impressed with the notion that he should be enabled to reach his home and country by means of the Great River, or Niger.
In the earlier part of the afternoon of the 22nd March, they sailed towards the beach in one of the brig's boats, and having been taken into a canoe that was waiting at the edge of the breakers to receive them, they were plied over a tremendous surf, and flung with violence on the burning sands.
Wet and uncomfortable as this accident had rendered them, having no change of linen at hand, they walked to a small creek about the distance of a quarter of a mile from the sea shore, where they were taken into a native canoe, and conveyed safely through an extremely narrow channel, overhung with luxuriant vegetation, into the Badagry river, which is a branch of the Lagos. It is a beautiful body of water, resembling a lake in miniature; its surface is smooth and transparent as glass, and its picturesque banks are shaded by trees of a lively verdure. They were soon landed on the opposite side, when their road lay over a magnificent plain, on which deer, antelopes, and buffaloes were often observed to feed. Numbers of men, women, and children followed them to the town of Badagry, making the most terrific noises at their heels, but whether these were symptoms of satisfaction or displeasure, admiration or ridicule, they could not at first understand. They were soon, however, satisfied that the latter feeling was predominant, and indeed their clothing was sufficient to excite the laughter of any people, for it certainly was not African, nor had it any pretensions to be characterized as European. In the first place, the covering of the head consisted of a straw hat, larger than an umbrella, a scarlet mahommedan tobe or tunic and belt, with boots, and full Turkish trousers. So unusual a dress might well cause the people to laugh heartily; they were all evidently highly amused, but the more modest of the females, unwilling to give them any uneasiness, turned aside to conceal the titter, from which they were utterly unable to refrain.
On their way they observed various groups of people seated under the spreading branches of superb trees, vending provisions and country cloth, and on their approach, many of them arose and bowed, whilst others fell on their knees before them in token of respect. They reached the dwelling, which had been prepared for them about three o'clock in the afternoon, but as the day was too far advanced to visit the chief or king, they sent a messenger to inform him of their intention of paying him their respects on the following morning.
Towards evening, Richard Lander his brother being too fatigued to accompany him, took a saunter in the immediate vicinity of his residence, when he found, that in one respect, the streets of Badagry, if they might be so called, and the streets of London, bore a very great resemblance. It might be the mere effect of female curiosity, to ascertain what kind of a man's visage could possibly be concealed under such a preposterous hat, or it might be for any other purpose, which his penetration could not discover, but certain it was, that ever and anon a black visage, with white and pearly teeth, and an expressive grin of the countenance, somewhat similar to that of the monkey in a state of excited pleasure, protruded itself under the canopy of straw, which protected his head, but he, who had withstood the amorous advances of the widow Zuma, or of the fat and deaf widow Laddie, could not be supposed to yield to the fascinations and allurements of a Badagry houri. Richard therefore returned to his dwelling, fully satisfied with himself, but by no means having satisfied the ladies of Badagry, that an European was a man of love or gallantry.
At nine o'clock on the morning of the 23rd March, agreeably to the promise which they had made on the preceding day, they visited the chief at his residence, which was somewhat more than half a mile from their own. On their entrance, the potent chief of Badagry was sitting on a couple of boxes, which, for aught Lander knew, might at one time have belonged to a Hong merchant at Canton; the boxes were placed in a small bamboo apartment, on the sides of which were suspended a great number of muskets and swords, with a few paltry umbrellas, and a couple of horses' tails, which are used for the purpose of brushing away flies and other insects.
King Adooley looked up in the faces of his visitors without making any observation, it perhaps not being the etiquette of kings in that part of the world, to make any observation at all on subjects before them, nor did he even condescend to rise from his seat to congratulate them on their arrival. He appeared in deep reflection, and thoughtfully rested his elbow on an old wooden table, pillowing his head on his hand. One of the most venerable and ancient of his subjects was squatted at the feet of his master, smoking from a pipe of extraordinary length; whilst Lantern, his eldest son and heir apparent, was kneeling at his side, the Badagry etiquette not allowing the youth to sit in the presence of his father. Everything bore an air of gloom and sadness, totally different from what they had been led to expect. They shook hands, but the royal pressure was so very faint, that it was scarcely perceptible, yet, notwithstanding this apparent coldness, they seated themselves one on each side, without ceremony or embarrassment. It was evident that neither Lander nor his brother knew how to deport themselves in the presence of a king, a thing which the former had never seen in his life but at the courts of Africa, and they, God knows, were not calculated to give him an exalted idea of royalty; but when it had been ascertained, that it was contrary to etiquette at the court of Badagry, for even the heir apparent to assume any other attitude in the royal presence than that of kneeling, it might have occurred to the European travellers, that seating themselves without permission, in the presence of so august a personage as the king of Badagry, might be the forerunner of their heads being severed from their body, which, as it has been detailed in a preceding part of this work, is in that part of the country, a ceremony very easily and speedily despatched. It was, however, necessary that some conversation should take place between the king and his visitors, and therefore the latter began in the true old English fashion, to inquire about the state of his health, not forgetting to inform him at the same time, that they found the weather uncommonly hot, which could not well have been otherwise, considering that they were at that moment not much more than 5 deg. to the northward of the equator. In regard to the state of his health, he answered them only with a languid smile, and relapsed into his former thoughtlessness. Not being able to break in upon the taciturnity of the monarch, they had recourse to a method which seldom fails of "unknitting the brow of care," and that was by a display to the best advantage, of the presents, which they had brought for him from England. Badagry is not the only kingdom in which, if a present be made to the king, the sole return that is received for it, is the honour of having been allowed to offer it, and this experience was acquired by our travellers, for the king certainly accepted the presents, but without the slightest demonstration of pleasure or satisfaction; the king scarcely deigned to look at the presents, and they were carried away by the attendants, with real or seeming indifference. To be permitted to kiss the hand of the sable monarch could not rationally be expected, as an honour conferred upon them for the presents, which they had delivered, but it was mortifying to them not to receive a word of acknowledgement, not even the tithe of a gracious smile; they accordingly said not a word, but they had seen enough to convince them that all was not right. A reserve, the cause whereof they could not define, and a coldness towards them, for which they could in no wise account, marked the conduct of the once spirited and good-natured chief of Badagry, and prepared them to anticipate various difficulties in the prosecution of their plans, which they were persuaded would require much art and influence to surmount. The brow of the monarch relaxed for a moment, and an attempt was made on the part of Richard Lander to enter into conversation with him, but on a sudden the king rose from his boxes, and left them to converse with themselves.
After waiting a considerable time, and the king not returning, a messenger was despatched to acquaint him, that the patience of his visitors was nearly exhausted, and they would feel obliged by his immediate return, in order to put an end to their conference or palaver, as it is emphatically styled, as speedily as possible. On the receipt of this message, the king hastened back, and entered the apartment with a melancholy countenance, which was partially concealed behind large volumes of smoke, from a tobacco pipe, which he was using. He seated himself between them as before, and gave them to understand in a very low tone of voice, that he was but just recovering from a severe illness, and from the effect of a series of misfortunes, which had rendered him almost brokenhearted. His celebrated generals Bombanee and Poser, and all his most able warriors had either been slain in battle, or fallen by other violent means. The former in particular, whose loss he more especially lamented, had been captured by the Lagos people, who were his most inveterate enemies. When this unfortunate man was taken prisoner, his right hand was immediately nailed to his head, and the other lopped off like a twig. In this manner he was paraded through the town, and exposed to the view of the people, whose curiosity being satiated, Bombanee's head was at length severed from his shoulders, and being dried in the sun and beaten to dust, was sent in triumph to the chief of Badagry. To add to his calamities, Adooley's house, which contained an immense quantity of gunpowder, had been blown up by accident, and destroyed all his property, consisting of a variety of presents, most of them very valuable, that had been made him by Captain Clapperton, by European merchants, and traders in slaves. The chief and his women escaped with difficulty from the conflagration; but as it was the custom to keep the muskets and other firearms constantly loaded, their contents were discharged into the bodies and legs of those individuals, who had flocked to the spot on the first alarm. The flames spread with astonishing rapidity, notwithstanding every exertion, and ended in the destruction of a great part of the town. This accounted in some measure for the sad and grievous expression so strongly depicted on the chiefs countenance; but still another and more powerful reason had doubtless influenced him on this occasion.
On returning to their residence, a number of principal men, as they style themselves, were introduced to compliment them on coming to their country, although their true and only motive for visiting their quarters was the expectation of obtaining rum, which is the great object of attraction to all of them. They had been annoyed during the greater part of this day by a tribe of ragged beggars, whose importunity was really disgusting. The men were in general old, flat-headed, and pot-bellied. The women skinny and flap-eared. To these garrulous ladies and gentlemen they were obliged to talk and laugh, shake hands, crack fingers, bend their bodies, bow their heads, and place their hands with great solemnity on their heads and breasts. They had not indeed a moment's relaxation from this excessive fatigue, and had Job, amongst his other trials, been exposed to the horrors of an interminable African palaver, his patience would most certainly have forsaken him. Lander was of opinion that he never would be a general favourite with this ever-grinning and loquacious people. If he laughed, and he was obliged to laugh, it was done against his inclination, and consequently with a very bad grace. At this time, Lander, speaking of himself, says, "for the first five years of my life, I have been told, that I was never even seen to smile, and since that period, Heaven knows my merriment has been confined to particular and extraordinary occasions only. How then is it possible, that I can be grinning and playing the fool from morning to night, positively without any just incentive to do so, and sweltering at the same time under a sun that causes my body to burn with intense heat, giving it the appearance of shrivelled parchment. Fortunately these savages—for savages they most certainly are in the fullest extent of the word—cannot distinguish between real and fictitious joy; and although I was vexed at heart, and wished them, all at the bottom of the Red Sea, or somewhere else, I have every reason to believe that my forced attempts to please the natives have so far been successful, and that I have obtained the reputation, which I certainly do not deserve, of being one of the pleasantest and best-tempered persons in the world."