A short time afterwards, they landed at Warree, which is the most celebrated market town in the dependency of Engarski, and consists, of several clusters of huts, encircled by a dwarf clay wall. The market was attended by many thousands of people from different parts of the country. Vast numbers of canoes, filled with people and goods, were passing from one side of the Niger to the other, and the countenances of both buyers and sellers betrayed a very anxious and business-like expression. As soon as the curiosity of the Landers was fully satisfied, they crossed over to the Boossa side of the river, and landed at a small walled town called Garnicassa, which was inhabited by the Cumbrie people, and situated about five miles north of Boossa. At no great distance from this place, and within sight of it, all the branches of the Niger meet, and form a beautiful and magnificent sheet of water, at least seven or eight miles in breadth, and it excited the surprise of the Landers, to know what became of so extraordinary a body of water, for at Boossa, the river is no more than a stone's throw across, and its depth is in proportion to its narrowness, but about an hour's walk from thence, it again becomes a noble river, and maintains its width, it was reported, even to Funda. This singular fact favours the opinion, that a large portion of the waters of the Niger is conveyed by subterraneous passages from the town of Garnicassa to a few miles below Boossa.
The travellers pursued their journey along the banks of the Niger, although the path was filled with water, and broken up by the force of the rains. After an hour's ride they drew near to the walls of Boossa, and soon arrived at the drummer's house, which had been their former residence. Here they found the midiki on her knees to receive and welcome them back again to Boossa in the name of the king, but they were not permitted to enter and take possession of their old apartments, for the queen conducted them to other huts, which formed part of the cluster inhabited by the Fellatas. In the evening they were visited by the king, who said, he had been apprehensive that they required a little repose and quietness after their journey, and therefore he did not like to intrude on them before. They were not long domiciliated in their new dwelling, before they were informed that the drummer's wife had excited the envy of the queen, by wearing round her neck a smart gilt button, which had been given to her, and that was the only reason why they were not allowed to occupy their former lodgings in her house. Yet to be even with her fair rival, the queen had extracted from her little sheep-skin box, wherein they had been confined for a quarter of a century, a small number of round and flat golden ornaments, with which she adorned her sable bosom, and thereby totally eclipsed the transitory splendour of the button belonging to the drummer's wife.
In a conversation with the king, he intimated to them that it would be necessary for them to visit Wowow, previously to their going to Funda, because the prince of that state had already made war on Kiama on their account, and captured a few of the people. The king, himself, repeated to them the promise which he had made to their messenger, that he would furnish them with a canoe sufficiently large to contain the whole of their people and themselves; but still some doubts arose in their minds, and should a canoe be denied them, after all that the monarch had said, it was their determination to take a canoe of their own accord, and steal away from Boossa by night. The king expressed his fears that the personal safety of the travellers would be endangered by the Fellatas, who resided on each side of the river; but Pascoe answered his majesty by telling him, that the English were the gods of the waters, and no evil could befal them in boats, even though all Africa, or the whole world should fight against them. "I will, however," said the king, in reply, "go down and ask the Becken ronah (dark or black water, which the Niger is every where emphatically styled) whether it will be prudent and safe for the white men to embark on it or not, and I will be sure to acquaint you and them of my success, be it good or bad."
The following day the king intended to question the Niger, and the great hope of the Landers was, that the river would return a favourable answer.
The Landers were not ignorant that a present to an African king will generally effect wonders, it will even make the Niger return a favourable answer to an inquiry which, but for the present, would have been adverse. They therefore acted politically, and sent the king as a present, one of those beautiful silver medals which were cast during the American war, to which, was attached a large and valuable chain of the same metal; assuring the sable king at the same time, that he might now consider himself as the king of England's most particular friend, and that he could not make a more suitable return, than by assisting them them in their plan of journeying to the salt water by way of the Niger.
The present had the desired effect, for on the following day the king came to them with great joy, and informed them that he had been down to the Niger with his mallam, and that the result of his visit was highly favourable to their wishes as well as to his own, the river having promised to conduct them in safety its termination.
The Landers during their stay at Boossa, had to depend in great measure upon their own resources for their maintenance, their chief food consisting of guinea fowls and partridges, for their stock of articles, wherewith they could barter for provisions, was nearly exhausted. The market was already overstocked with buttons, needles were unsaleable; all their bits of coloured cloth were disposed of, and indeed almost every thing that would sell, reserving to themselves a few articles of some value as presents to the different chiefs along the banks of the Niger. Amongst other trifles disposed of, were several tin cases, which contained worthless and unpalatable portable soups, &c. These were labelled with slips of tin, which though rather dull and dirty, nevertheless attracted the admiration of many, and they were highly diverted to see one man in particular walking at large, and strutting about with "concentrated gravy," stuck on his head in no less than four places. He appeared quite proud of these ornaments, and was simpering with pleasure wherever he went.
The travellers left Boossa on the 11th August, and directed their course for Wowow, and having travelled a few miles, they crossed in a canoe a branch of the Niger, forming a pretty little river, and running nearly west, and is said to encompass the whole of Wowow. After a journey of about twelve miles, they entered the city of Wowow through the western entrance, and by desire, they galloped swiftly towards the king's residence, and fired off a couple of pistols as a signal of their arrival. The customs of this monarch were the most singular that had been yet observed in Africa. He came out to welcome the travellers, but it was contrary to etiquette for him to speak, or to enter into any kind of conversation, nor is any foreigner permitted to speak, whatever might be his rank, unless in presence of the representative of the chief from whom he last came. In the wall on each side of the entrance of the town was a large niche, in one of which the king stood fixed and motionless, with his hands clasped under his tobe, and supported on his bosom; and round a pole, which had been placed erect in the other niche, a naked youth had entwined his legs, remaining in breathless anxiety to be a spectator of the approaching interview.
While the king remained in the above position, without moving a single muscle, and which lasted till the Boossa messenger made his appearance, a singing woman drew near the person of her sovereign, and began to exercise her vocation in a tone of voice that displayed any thing but sweetness or melody, and so loud and shrill as to frighten away the birds from the trees near the spot.
The Boossa messenger, who had been so anxiously expected, at length arrived, and the spell, which had bound every one to the spot was dissolved in a moment; they were then conducted to the king, and formally introduced to him, but the grave eccentric old man shook hands with them, without taking them from the tobe in which they had been enveloped, or even condescending to look in their faces, for he never made it a practice to raise his head above a certain height, fearing that he should discover the person to whom he might be conversing gazing full in his countenance, to which he had a very strange, but unconquerable antipathy; the interview lasted but a moment, and they were hastily conducted to the house which was occupied by the late Captain Clapperton.
On the following morning, Richard Lander carried the presents to the king. The monarch appeared well pleased and cheerful, and expressed himself perfectly satisfied, though in a few minutes afterwards he despatched a messenger to inquire if they had not brought any coral beads with them from England. In compliance with the request which Richard Lander made to him, the king informed him, that he would sell them a canoe with the greatest pleasure. He was convinced, he said, that they would return in safety to their country by way of the Niger, which did not contain a single rock from Inguazhilligee to Funda.
It was the earnest, and oft repeated desire of the chief of Wowow, while they resided in the town, that they should return from Boossa, and spend the approaching holidays with him, to which they thought proper to accede, indeed the old man had behaved so well to them, that they did not like to make an ungrateful return. But his sister, the midiki, was jealous of her brother, because they had given him so good a character, and she said, she was apprehensive he might obtain from them more than she was willing he should have, and, therefore, she not only set her husband's mind against the measure, but she slandered and defamed his character most shamefully. This despicable vice of slander is universal in Africa, the people all speak ill of each other, from the monarch to the slave. They now found that they should be compelled to remain in Boossa, till the period arrived for their final departure from the country.
The expected messenger arrived from Wowow, with full power to treat with the midiki for the purchase of the canoe, and although the Landers were the parties most concerned in the business, they were not allowed to say anything about it. The bargain was, however, soon concluded; they were to give both their horses for the canoe, and if the king of Wowow should fancy the animals to be more than equivalent to the value of the boat, he promised to send them the balance in money (kowries). This was infinitely better than they could have managed the business themselves, indeed they could not have contrived matters half so well, for they had previously made a present of the youngest of the horses to the king of Boossa, but most likely, owing to Pascoe's misrepresentation, or rather his misinterpretation, the monarch was not made sensible of the circumstance. The canoe was to be sent to them in a day or two, when they determined to prepare her for the water without delay.
On Wednesday, August 25th, they despatched one of their men, named Ibrahim, to Coulfo, with their ass and a number of needles to sell. The king also sent a messenger with him, who was commissioned to visit all the towns and villages on the Nouffie side of the river, as far as the Fellata town of Rabba, and to request their chiefs and governors, in the name of the king of Boossa, to suffer them to pass down the river without injury or molestation.
The following is a singular trait in the African character. Not having any good salt, they sent Pascoe's wife to the king to request the favour of a little unadulterated salt, because there were such a great quantity of ashes, and other spurious ingredients, mixed up with that which is publicly sold in the markets, that they never could eat it with pleasure. Both the king and queen embraced the opportunity of admiring the shape and beauty of the salt box, and spoke in rapturous terms of the lustre of its appearance, and the ingenuity of its contrivance. "Allah! how wonderful," said they, "even the most trifling articles belonging to the white men, are fit for the use of the mightiest kings. Alas! Allah has given them all the glory and riches of the world, and its knowledge, and left none whatever for black men."
The king was affected! He thrust the vessel into the pocket of his tobe, smoothed it down with his hand, looked melancholy, and said, "How nicely it fits! what a beautiful thing! how convenient it would be in travelling." He then took it out again, turned it round and round, opened and shut it repeatedly, and then bestowing on it a last commendation, as outrageously as any of the former, it was returned filled with genuine salt. Who could not understand the meaning of all this? Now this handsome salt cellar was of latten, and was formerly a common round tinder box, and because they had nothing better for the purpose, they deprived it of the candlestick on its cover a short time before, and converted it to its present use. The tin, moreover, had been burnt off from many parts of it, and Pascoe's wife not being an admirer of cleanliness, it had lost much of its original brightness. The king's encomiums were nothing more than an indirect and ingenious solicitation of the article for his own use; which was further apparent by desiring the woman to relate to the Landers, no part of the conversation that had passed between them: or in other words, that she should tell them every syllable. They could not help admiring the delicacy of the king, and sent back the tinder box to him immediately. The bearer was rewarded handsomely for his trouble, and they received as many thanks, as when he accepted the silver medal and chain which they had presented to him.
It is by such means as this, that the chiefs and rulers of this country, ashamed of making a direct application for any thing in the possession of the travellers, to which they may have taken a fancy, endeavour to obtain it. If, however, the hint does not succeed in making a visible impression, less delicate measures are presently resorted to, and when every other expedient fails, they cast aside the reserve and bashfulness which had influenced them at first, and express their meaning in language which cannot be misunderstood. In this respect, the chiefs and governors are all alike, from Badagry to the metropolis of Yaoorie.
On the 31st, a messenger with a canoe arrived from the king of Wowow, but it was so very small, that it was wholly inadequate for their purpose. This was a most provoking circumstance, because a larger canoe was to be procured, which could not be done without a considerable loss of time. In fact, between the chief of Wowow and his sister, the midiki, the travellers were completely taken in. The horses given in exchange to the prince of Wowow for this sorry canoe, were large, handsome, and superior animals, worth in England at least sixty pounds, and the article they got in exchange for them was not worth so many pence. They heard that boats of a considerable size were kept at a small town on the banks of the Niger called Lever, and thither they resolved to proceed as soon as the Boossa messenger should have returned from Rabba, and get a canoe prepared with as much expedition as possible.
The Landers were now weary of their protracted stay at Boossa, and urged the king to hasten their departure, and after many scruples and much hesitation, he at length appointed the second day of the moon, that being, according to his opinion, the happiest and luckiest of all days. He could not, however, forbear expressing his deep regret at their determination to leave Boossa before the return of his messenger from Nouffie, as it might be detrimental to their own personal interests, and his own reputation also might suffer, if any thing should befal them on the river, but he had already given his word for their departure, and from that promise he would not swerve. On the same afternoon they wished to pay their respects to the king, previously to their departure, which they understood was to take place on the following morning; but to their surprise, he asserted that the moon would not be discernible that evening, and, therefore, that the following Monday would be the day of their departure. The moon, however, did shine fairly in sight of all the people; nevertheless, they made no further remark to the prince on the subject, thinking it might confuse and irritate him.
Every thing was now got ready for starting. As it was not their intention to call at many inhabited places on the banks of the Niger, they provided themselves with a great quantity of provisions, which consisted chiefly of three large bags of corn, and one of beans. They had likewise a couple of fowls and two sheep, so that they were of opinion, they should have food enough for all hands for three weeks or a month at least. To add to their stock, the king and midiki between them, gave them a considerable quantity of rice, honey, corn, and onions, and two large pots of vegetable butter, weighing not less than a hundred pounds.
To their now unspeakable joy, the long expected and wished for messenger arrived from Rabba, accompanied by two messengers from the king of Nouffie, who were to be their guides as far as Rabba, after passing which city, all the Nouffie territory to the southward, was under the government of Ederesa and his partisans. "The magia," said the Boossa ambassador, "was delighted with the intelligence, that white men were to honour his dominions with their presence, and as a proof of his friendly disposition towards you, and his interest in your welfare, he has not only sent his son as your companion and guide, but he has likewise despatched a messenger to every town on the banks of the Niger, either considerable or unimportant, even as far as Funda, which is beyond the limits of the empire, and he is commissioned to acquaint their inhabitants of the fact of your intention of proceeding down the river, and to desire them to assist you with their encouragement and support, as far as it lies in their power to do."
After some little consideration, the Landers knew not whether they ought to feel pleasure or regret, thankfulness or indifference, at the arrival of these men, and the occasion which brought them thither; at the time, they could only foresee that they would be a heavy burden on their funds, and as it happened, that they had the utmost difficulty in the world to support themselves, it would cause them additional trouble, expense, and uneasiness, to provide them with the bare necessaries of life. The king, however, had but one feeling on the subject, and that was unbounded delight; he capered round his hut with transport, when he saw their guides, and heard the message which they had to deliver, and after a burst of joy, he began to cry like a child, his heart was so full. "Now," said he, when he had become more composed, "whatever may happen to the white men, my neighbours cannot but acknowledge that I have taken every care of them, treated them as became a king, and done my best to promote their happiness and interests. They will not be able," continued the monarch with exultation, "they dare not have the effrontery to cast at me a reproach, like that which they bestowed on my ancestor; I can now safely entrust the white men to the care, protection, and hospitality of a neighbouring monarch, who, I am convinced, if not for my sake, at least for his own, will receive and entertain them with every mark of distinction and kindness, and feel that towards them I have done my duty, and let my neighbours see to it, that they do theirs."
On Monday, the 20th September, all were on the qui vine at a very early hour, ransacking their lumber, packing it up, and turning it out into the yard, whence it was conveyed to the water side. About breakfast time, the king and queen arrived at their hut, to pay them a farewell visit, and bestow upon them their last blessing. They brought with them two pots of honey, and a large quantity of goora nuts, strongly recommending them to present the latter to the Rabba chieftain, for that nothing which they might have in their possession, could so effectually conciliate his favour, procure them his friendship, and command his confidence.
It was nine o'clock in the morning when they arrived at the river side, where they found two canoes lying to receive their goods, which were quickly loaded. They had, however, been but a short time on the water, when they discovered that the smaller canoe, in which were six individuals and a number of sheep belonging to the Nouffie messengers, was over-laden, and in danger of sinking, and that both were very leaky, insomuch that it required three men to be constantly employed in baling out the water to keep them afloat. To lighten the smaller canoe, they took a man from her into their own, and afterwards they proceeded more safely, and with less apprehension, yet they were obliged to put into a small island, called Malalie, to get it repaired, for they were afraid to proceed any further with the small canoe, on account of the rocks, and the velocity of the current.
According to their estimation, the current was here running at the rate of five or six miles in an hour, and the bed of the river was full of rocks, some of which were only a few inches below the surface of the water, which occasioned it to make a loud rushing noise, and forewarn the canoe man of his danger. They now passed the boundaries of Boossa, on the eastern side of the river, and entered the dominions of the king of Nouffie. Towards evening they came to Inguazhilligee, having passed just before, a very large and pleasant, but straggling town, called Congie. Inguazhilligee is the first town on the Wowow ground, all above, on the western bank of the Niger, belonging to Boossa. Journeying along for a quarter of an hour without stopping at any place, they put into a market town, on a large and beautiful island, called Patashie, just in time to save themselves from a heavy shower. Here they were obliged to remain until the return of the messenger, whom they landed in the middle of the day, and sent to Wowow, for the purpose of informing the king of their departure from Boossa, and their intention to reside at Patashie till it might please him to send the large canoe, which they had purchased of him. They were now out of the protection of the friendly monarch of Boossa, who would have nothing further to do with them.
Patashie is a large, rich island, unspeakably beautiful, and is embellished with various groves of palm and other noble trees. It is tributary to Wowow, though it is inhabited solely by Nouffie people, who are considered honest, active, laborious, and wealthy. The hut in which they resided, exhibited a scene of revelry and mirth more becoming a native inn than a private dwelling.
The chief of the island, accompanied by the four messengers from Boossa and Nouffie, and several of his own people, all dressed "in their holiday best," paid them a visit in the earlier part of the morning, and out of compliment, it was supposed, remained with them till the evening, with the exception of a short absence in the middle of the day, during all which time they were employed in swallowing palm wine, which is procured in the island in great plenty, and in telling nonsensical stories. The Landers were heartily glad when they said it was time to depart, and having shaken hands with the ardour of drunkards, they took their leave, staggered out of the hut, and all went laughing away.
They were about to close their hut for the night, when a messenger arrived from the king of Wowow, with news not at all to their liking. He informed them that they were anxiously expected in that city from Boossa at the time of the holidays, and because they did not come agreeably to their promise, the prince could not conceal his chagrin, and was exceedingly angry, not only with the king of Boossa, who was the cause of their absence, but also with themselves. The messenger informed them that his sovereign had most certainly procured for them a canoe, which was laid up at Lever, but that if they wished, or rather if they were determined to have their horses back again, the king would send them in compliance to their wishes, "for who," said he, with much emphasis, "would presume to assert that the monarch of Wowow would keep the property of others? It would not be paying him that respect," he continued, which his rank and situation demanded, were the white men to leave his dominions and the country altogether, without first coming to pay him their respects, and he would therefore entreat them to pay a visit to Wowow for that purpose, or if both of them could not leave Patashie, he requested that Richard Lander would come and bid him adieu, because he had not done so when his illness compelled him to leave his city.
The monarchs of Boossa and Wowow seemed to entertain very different opinions regarding the journey of the Landers. The former insisting on the necessity of their proceeding down the Niger on the eastern or Nouffie side, and the latter making use of strong language to persuade them that the Yarriba side of the river would be the most convenient, the most agreeable, and the safest; and if they would make up their minds not to attend to the king of Boossa's advice, he would send a messenger with them, who should protect them even to the sea. This difference of opinion, they were apprehensive would involve them in a thousand perplexities, yet they could only be guided by circumstances.
At Boossa, they experienced the greatest difficulty and trouble in procuring the bare necessaries of life, but in the flourishing Patashie, provisions were sent to them from the chiefs of the two islands in such abundance, that half of them were thrown to the dogs. The natives of all ages displayed the greatest anxiety to see the white men, and large crowds assembled every day, and waited from morning to night patiently till they had gained the object of their visit. However, they were all as timid as hares, and if the Landers happened to look fixedly in their faces for a moment, most of them, more especially the females and the junior classes of both sexes, started back with terror, as if they had seen a serpent in the grass; and when the Landers attempted to walk near any of them, they ran screaming away, as though they had been pursued by a lion, or were in danger of falling into the jaws of a crocodile, so horrified were these poor people at the bare sight of a white man, and so frightful did their imaginations picture him to be.
On Friday, September 24th, Richard Lander landed for the purpose of proceeding to Wowow, and took possession of a house on the banks of the river, which had been prepared for him. The king of Wowow's messenger accompanied him, and having got everything ready as soon as he could, he commenced his journey to the city.
On his arrival at Wowow, he was too much fatigued to pay his respects to the sovereign, but on the following day, he had prepared himself for the visit to the king's house, but to his great surprise the eccentric old man excused himself from being seen on that day, on the plea that he had taken a ride in the morning to see his gardens, and the exercise had so much tired him, that he felt no inclination whatever to receive his visitors till the following day. It was, therefore, not until the 26th, that he granted Lander an audience, and he then said with the greatest indifference, "I have not yet been able to procure you the canoe which I promised to get, but I have no doubt that the ruler of Patashie will have it in his power to supply you with one to your satisfaction, for which purpose I will send an express to that island without delay, whom I will furnish with the necessary instructions to effect an immediate purchase."
Finding that nothing definitive could be arranged relative to the canoe, Lander prepared to take his departure, but previously to his setting out, he requested the monarch to show him his collection of charms, which were written on sheets of paper, glued or pasted together. Amongst them he discovered a small edition of Watts' Hymns on one of the blank leaves of which was written, Alexander Anderson, Royal Military Hospital, Gosport, 1804. From the Wowow chieftain, as well as from his good old brother, and their quondam Abba, Richard and his attendants received the most liberal hospitality, and on his taking his leave of them, they wished him farewell in the most cordial and affectionate manner.
On the return of Richard Lander to Patashie, preparations were instantly made for their departure, but after all their luggage had been packed up in readiness, information was brought them from the chief, that they could not start until to-morrow, because the Niger would receive a great influx of water during the night, which would be considerably in their favour. To raise any objection to this arrangement was considered as wholly useless, and therefore they quietly awaited the coming of the following day.
Between eight and nine in the morning, horses were brought from the chief and his nephew to take the Landers to the water side, where their luggage had been previously conveyed. Here they had to wait a considerable time till the canoes were brought from another part of the island, there being but one got ready at the time of their arrival. On the arrival of the canoes, and all their things had been removed into them from the beach, they were desired to ride to a landing place further down the island, because of the rocks, which were reported to intercept the stream at a little distance from the place whereon they stood, and to be very dangerous for canoes that were heavily laden. The venerable governor of Patashie, to whom they were under so many obligations, preceded them on the footpath, walking with a staff, and they reached the appointed place of embarkation exactly at the same moment as the canoes. After thanking all the friends that had accompanied them, they jumped on board, and pushed off from the shore, cheered by the natives that were present.
The current bore them rapidly along, and having passed down in front of one or two towns on the banks of the river, they came in sight of Lever, which was the place of their destination, it being about twenty miles from Patashie.
Their surprise was, however, great indeed, when instead of the proper person whom they expected would have received them, they were welcomed on shore by a man called Ducoo, who represented himself as the agent and confidential friend of the prince of Rabba, but their surprise was not a little increased on learning that a party of forty or fifty armed Fellata soldiers were also in the town. Ducoo treated them with the courtly politeness of a Frenchman, and was equally lavish in his compliments and offers of service; he walked with them to the chief of the town, to whom he took the liberty of introducing them, almost before he knew himself who or what they were; went himself and procured excellent lodgings for them, returned and sat down in their company to tell them some droll stories, and impart to them in confidence some very disagreeable news; then hastily arose, went out, and came back again with a sheep and other provisions, which he had obtained by compulsion from the chief, and finally remained with them till long after the moon had risen, when he left them to their repose.
The Landers now began to discover that they had been egregiously imposed upon, for in the first place they found, after all, that Lever did not belong to the king of Wowow, though it stands on his dominions, nor had that monarch a single subject here, or a single canoe, so that they were as far as ever they were from getting one, and with the loss of their horses to boot. They now found to their cost that they had been cajoled and out-manoeuvred by those fellows of Boossa and its adjoining state, whom they falsely conceived to be their dearest and best black friends. They had played with them as if they were great dolls; they had been driven about like shuttlecocks; they had been to them first a gazing stock, and afterwards were their laughing stock, and, perhaps, not unlikely their mockery; they had been their admiration, their buffoons, their wonder and their scorn, a by-word and a jest. Else why this double dealing, this deceit, this chicanery, these hollow professions? "Why," as Richard Lander says, "did they entrap us in this manner? Why have they led us about as though we had been blind, only to place us in the very lap of what they imagine to be danger? For can it be possible that the monarchs of Wowow and Boossa were ignorant of the state of things here, which is in their own immediate neighbourhood, and which have continued the same essentially for these three years? Surely," concludes Lander, "they have knowingly deceived us."
The Landers were now placed in a most unpleasant predicament; they could not possibly obtain a canoe according to the promise of the king of Wowow, and to take those which had been lent them by the chief of Patashie, appeared such a breach of confidence, that they could not prevail upon themselves to commit it, but the necessity of the case pleaded strongly in their favour. They had not the means of purchasing the canoes of the chief of Patashie, as the king of Wowow had adroitly managed to exhaust them of nearly all their resources; but when they began to talk of prosecuting their journey in the canoes belonging to the chief of Patashie, the canoe men stoutly resisted their right: fortunately, however, for them, their busy, restless friend Ducoo interfered on their behalf, and soon silenced their remarks, by threatening to cut off the head of him who should presume from that time to set foot in either of the canoes; and in order to give his menace the greater weight, he stationed two of his men to guard the forbidden boats till the sun went down, with drawn swords, and during the greater part of the night, another of his men paraded up and down the banks of the river near the spot as a watch, and this man kept up a noise by continually playing on a drum.
The four messengers, who had accompanied them from Wowow and Boossa, had hitherto been a great encumbrance upon the Landers, as their maintenance was by no means inconsiderable, at the same time, they were themselves in some measure dependent upon the native chiefs for their support. They were, therefore, heartily rejoiced to get rid of them, and having been paid their stipulated wages, they left the town in company to proceed to Wowow.
The question of the canoes was, however, by no means settled, for the Landers were on a sudden surprised by the arrival of a small party of men, who arrived in a canoe, from the chief of the island of Teah, with a message to them, purporting that the canoes which they had, to the infinite surprise of the chief, detained at Lever, did not belong as was supposed, to his friend, the chief of Patashie, but were his own property, and as he did not acknowledge the authority of Wowow, but had ever been subject to the king of Nouffie, he considered that they could have no right whatever to the canoes in question, and, therefore, he entreated them to return the canoes by the hands of his messengers. The chief of Teah asserted, that he had lent them, because he was willing to oblige the white men and his own neighbour, but he did not conceive it possible that they could make so ungrateful and unkind a return for his hospitality, and the respect and attention which it had been his pride and pleasure to show them. For their own parts, they could not forbear acknowledging the truth and justice of the observations of the Teah chieftain, and blaming themselves for the step they had taken. They said further, that whatever might be the consequence, they had not the slightest objection to restore the canoes to their rightful owner; and provided the men from Teah could obtain the consent of Ducoo, the priest, to take them away, they were at liberty to do so whenever they might think proper. But this, they were by no means disposed to do, for they both feared and hated Ducoo, and, therefore, they bribed the Nouffie messenger with a large sum of money to assist them in their project, and purposed taking away both canoes in the night time by stealth. These intentions were, however, frustrated by the watchful vigilence of Ducoo, who had mistrusted them long before they were made known to the Landers, and when he had actually detected their plans, he ordered the canoes to be pulled up on shore, two hundred yards at least from the water's edge, and observed with vehemence, "That after what he had done, should they again be launched into the water and taken away, he would instantly tie a rope round the necks of the chief of the town, and the Nouffie messenger that had accepted the bribe, and in that humiliating state, they should be driven like beasts to their sovereign, the magia."
On Friday the 3rd October, they were desired to get their things packed up, for that they would be allowed to proceed on their journey on the following morning. In pursuance of that arrangement, they had got all their luggage in readiness, and only waited the coming of the chief to take their departure, when to their great regret, one of his messengers entered their hut to apprise them, that they would be unable to depart until to-morrow, his master having been dissuaded from his original purpose by the officious, bustling priest, their friend and enemy. They submitted to their disappointment as patiently and silently as they could, and in the evening they obtained a solemn promise, that whatever might be the consequence, no one should divert him from the resolution he had formed of detaining them longer than that day, and that early on the following morning they should certainly depart.
Their surprise and displeasure may, however, be guessed, when after their goods had been removed from the hut into the yard, they were informed, that they would be compelled to remain in the town yet another day, notwithstanding all that the chief had told them on the day preceding. Their patience was now completely exhausted, and they were in great anger, for it was disheartening to be always deceived and trifled with by such scoundrels. Repairing, therefore, to a hut, in which they knew the chief passed the greater part of his time, they discovered him sitting on the ground in company with the artful Ducoo and the Nouffie messenger, and engaged in a very high dispute with both of them. Their unexpected and abrupt intrusion, in a moment cut short their wrangling, and they spoke with much emphasis of the shameful manner in which they had been treated, and expressed their determination of leaving Lever in a few hours, in defiance of them and all their power. With the most insolent effrontery in the world, Ducoo smiled at them, and replied, that they were entirely in his power—that they should do as he liked, and quit the town whenever he thought proper.
Such language as this they thought rather too bold, and they pretended to be in a violent passion, and quickly undeceived him on that point, threatening that if either he or any of his men, should presume to interfere with them in their intention; or proceedings or attempt to hinder them from getting away from the town, they would feel no more hesitation nor reluctance in shooting him, than if he had been a partridge or a guinea hen. The priest, who had never before seen any thing in them but mildness, was intimidated at the determined and resolute behaviour they had found it necessary to adopt; in a moment he was crest-fallen, and from being one of the most boisterous and consequential fellows in the world, became quite passive: yet his presence of mind did not forsake him, he stammered out a kind of apology, attempted to soothe them by soft language and submission, in which he found little difficulty, and did all in his power to effect a reconciliation. Having settled this business, the Landers went out, and assembling their men, attempted to draw their canoe to the river side, but the ground was even, and the boat so long and heavy, that notwithstanding all their exertions, they could move her only a few inches towards the river. The people were ashamed of themselves to see them labouring so hard, and to so little purpose, and Ducoo likewise, observing them, was convinced that they were in earnest, therefore, whispering a few words in the ear of the chief, they both came down to the spot, where they were toiling at the canoe, followed by a number of men; these, with the priest at their head, took the work out of their hands, and in less than two minutes the boat was floating on the water. Their luggage was then conveyed into the two canoes, and shortly afterwards they were supplied with three men to paddle them, with the assistance of their own. Here they took their farewell of the chief and the priest, the latter begging them very anxiously to speak well of him to his sovereign at Rabba.
It was not till after they were all in the canoes, and ready to push off, that those on shore discovered them to be overladen, and recommended them to hire one of immense size, which was lying alongside. Without stopping to make them any reply, or listen to any further nonsense, they desired their own men to push the boats out into the middle of the current, which was done very promptly, and the town of Lever, with its chief and inhabitants, was speedily out of sight and soon forgotten.
About one o'clock they landed at a considerable large and spacious town, called Bajiebo, inhabited by Nouffie people, although, it is situated on the Yarriba, or western side of the river. For dirt, bustle, and nastiness of all kinds, this place exceeded anything they had ever seen before. For two hours after their arrival they were obliged to wait in a close diminutive hut, till a more convenient and becoming habitation could be procured for their reception, and the pleasure of the chief with regard to them should be known. They were much incommoded by visitors, who scarcely allowed them to move or breathe, which, joined to the heat of the weather and the insufferable stench, rendered their situation truly comfortless and distressing.
They were at length removed from this horrible hole, and conducted to a hut in the heart of the town, in which wood fires had been burning the whole of the day, so that the wall was almost as warm as the sides of a heated oven, insomuch that it could scarcely be endured. Yet, to render it more unpleasant still, a large closely woven mat was placed before the door way, in order to prevent a thousand eyes from staring in upon them, and which excluded every breath of air. Their feelings during the whole of the night, were more distressing than could be conceived; they were almost suffocated with the closeness and intense heat of the room, and dreamt that they were being baked alive in an oven.
Bajiebo is a flourishing and important trading town, although not walled, and one of the largest and most populous that they had yet seen. The huts are erected so close to each other, and with so little regard to comfort, and a free circulation of air, that there is scarcely a foot path in the town wide enough for more than one man to walk on at a time, and not having the advantage of shady trees, the heat of the town was excessive and distressing.
The power of the Fellatas was here evidently very great. One of their number was styled chief, and had more authority and influence than the native ruler. They were obliged to make a present to each of these individuals, and other high and mighty personages were likewise desirous of obtaining a similar favour at their hands, but they made light of their conversation, and would not understand their enigmas. Before sunrise on the 5th October, their luggage was removed to the beach, and between six and seven o'clock they were once more upon the water. In the course of an hour after leaving Bajiebo, they passed by two towns of considerable extent, and in about an hour afterwards they arrived at an extensive town called Lechee, inhabited by Noufanchie, and said to be a place of considerable rank and consequence. Here they landed by express desire, and finding an empty grass hut near the spot, they entered and took possession of it, till such time as the chief should be made acquainted with their arrival. Here also their canoe men left them and returned to Bajiebo, where they had hired them.
They were not suffered to wait long, but in a few minutes received an invitation from the chief to come and see him; and having walked through a good part of the town, they at length approached his residence, and were introduced without ceremony or hindrance, into a large and lofty hut, where they discovered the chief sitting on a platform of mud, in great state, with about forty natives and Fellatas in earnest conversation on each side of him. He received them with great civility, and many demonstrations of gladness, and desired them to draw near his person, that he might have a better opportunity of looking at and talking to them. He appeared, however, unwilling for them to quit Lechee till the following day, and pressed them strongly to remain with him for the day, which, however, not all his solicitations nor importunities could induce them to accede to. After some trifling conversation, and a long and pithy harangue from a Fellata, they took their leave of him and his people, and instantly made their way back to the water side, where they waited in the grass hut for the appearance of the canoe men, with whom the chief had promised to supply them. After a considerable delay, a man for each canoe could only be procured, so that two of their own people were obliged to supply the place of others, as well as they could. Having got into their canoes, they pushed off from the shore, and proceeded at a good rate down the stream, along the side of a considerable island, which was within gunshot of the town, and after passing a large open village of respectable appearance, which was on the western bank, they put in at a small town, a few miles below, also on the Yarriba side of the river, where they were constrained to go in quest of other canoe men, because those from Lechee, though they had been with them only forty minutes, and had certainly not laboured very hard, had refused to proceed with them any further, nor could all their enticements induce them to forego the resolution which they had taken. The Landers were detained in their canoes for an hour and a half, exposed to a scorching sun, in order to obtain fresh canoe men. They at last proceeded on their journey, and in the evening arrived at a fishing town on a small island, which was called Madjie, and belonged to the Noufanchie. Here they were received with cheerfulness by the chief, who accommodated them with a roomy hut, sent them a quantity of dressed provisions, and otherwise treated them in the most hospitable manner.
At nine in the following morning, they landed near a small town to procure a fresh supply of canoe men, and having obtained them, they journeyed along the eastern side of the river, and in a few hours afterwards, they perceived the smoke of the far-famed Rabba ascending many miles before them. They stopped for a short time at a low, flat, swampy island called Belee, and visited a mean, dirty-looking town, where they were in a short time introduced to the chief, who, according to the report of their messenger, was a great, rich, and important personage. He informed them, that Mohammed, the magia's son, who had left them at Patashie, had returned from his father, in pursuance of his agreement, but instead of remaining at Rabba, as they had expected, he had come over to Belee, and had been waiting three days on the island in expectation of their arrival. The governor further informed them, that they would be obliged to remain at Belee, till the return of Mohammed to the island, for he had news of importance to communicate to them. "To-morrow," he said, "you will leave hence, and proceed to another island, which is further down the river, wherein it is arranged that you shall abide till your affairs be finally adjusted." There was some mystery about this information, which was unexpected by the Landers, and not very gratifying to them.
It was the evening before Mohammed returned to Belee, and he presented himself before them in a dripping state, with an excuse, that he had been upset in a canoe two or three times. After the first salutation was over, he informed them of his visit to his father, and its result. The magia had desired him to assure them of his best wishes in their welfare, and his determination to protect, support, and encourage them, as far as he was able. Mohammed then drew their attention to a young man, who had entered the hut with him, but whom they had not before observed, and introduced him as a messenger sent to them by the Fellata prince of Rabba. This man said, that his master, named Mallam Dendo, had commissioned him to acquaint them, that he heartily concurred with the king of Nouffie in the favourable opinions and sentiments which the latter entertained for them. With respect to their visiting Rabba, which he understood they were very much disinclined to do, he should not urge them, and rather imagined that they would be more comfortable and enjoy greater tranquillity, on an inland on the opposite side of the river, where he would recommend them to stop. The Fellata messenger concluded by observing, that they would be visited on the morrow by the king of the dark water, who would escort them to the island in question, of which he was the governor.
As early as five o'clock on the following morning, their canoes were loaded, and having breakfasted on a slice of yam, they were fully prepared to quit the island. But as it was not deemed either politic or proper to go away till the arrival of the great king of the dark water, who was hourly expected, and who might be inclined to construe their departure into contempt, they consented to await his coming. Rather, however, than remain in a close black hut, full of men, whose garments were generally covered with vermin, and rarely if ever cleaned, and who made it a common practice to sit on the mat where the two Landers slept, rather than undergo such a nuisance, they stepped into their canoes, and having pushed off from the land, they waited the arrival of the king of the dark water under the branches of a large tree, at a little distance from the town.
Between nine and ten, they heard a number of men singing, and keeping time to the motion of many paddles, and in a very few minutes, a canoe, which was paddled by a few men only, came in sight, and they knew by this that the water king was approaching. It was instantly followed by another, and much larger one, propelled by above twenty very fine young men, whose voices they had been listening to just before, and who were still continuing their song. The king of the dark water was with them. As the canoe drew nearer, they were not only surprised at its extraordinary length and uncommon neatness, but likewise at the unusual display of pomp and show which were observable in her. In the centre a mat awning was erected, which was variously decorated, and on the front of it hung a large piece of scarlet cloth, ornamented with bits of gold lace stitched on different parts of it. In the bow of the canoe were three or four little boys of equal size, who were clad with neatness and propriety; and in the stern sat a number of comely looking musicians, consisting of several drummers and a trumpeter, whilst the young men, who had the management of the boat, were not inferior to their companions either in decency of apparel or respectability of appearance.
As soon as their canoe arrived at the landing place, the water king came out from beneath the awning, and followed by the musicians and a suite of attendants, walked to the hut, in which all public matters were transacted, and whither in a few minutes the Landers were desired to repair. The chief of the island, with his elders and the more respectable of the people were seated, on their entrance, on each side of their important visitor, and the two Landers, as a mark of distinction, were invited to place themselves in front of him. When the usual compliments had passed on both sides, he informed them, with much solemnity, of his rank and title, he then alluded to the cause of his coming, which he said, was to do them honour, and repeated what had been previously told them by the king's son. This being done, he presented them with a pot of excellent honey, and two thousand cowries in money, with a large quantity of goora nuts, and which are held in such high esteem that the opulent and powerful alone have the means of procuring them. Having nothing further to say or do, they shook hands with his sable majesty, whose name was Suliken Rouah, expressed their acknowledgement for his handsome present, and returned to their boats.
It was exactly mid-day when Suliken Rouah re-embarked in his princely canoe, and quitted the island of Belee. Determined for once to make an attempt at a more respectable appearance, for heretofore it had been extremely mean and homely, they hastily constructed an awning of their sheets. It was the first time they had made use of such a thing, though they were without umbrellas, and till then had nothing but slight straw hats to protect their heads from the sun. Above the awning, they elevated a slender staff, on the top of which they fastened the national colours, the union flag, which was kindly given them by a gentleman on the coast, who was commandant of Anamaboo. When unfurled and waving in the wind, it looked extremely pretty, and it made their hearts glow with pride and enthusiasm as they looked on this solitary little banner. They thought it would also be of service to them, if they made as gay an appearance as the king and his followers, and accordingly Richard Lander put on an old naval uniform coat, which he had with him for state occasions, and John Lander dressed himself in as grotesque and gaudy a manner as their resources would afford. Their eight attendants also put on new white mahommedan tobes, so that their canoe, with its white awning, surmounted by the union flag, their canoe men in new dresses, and themselves appearing as officers, contributed not a little to the effect of the whole scene. The august king of the dark water, with his retinue in twenty canoes, condescendingly gave them the precedence, and theirs was the first that moved off from land, and led the way down the river towards Rabba.
For a little while, they continued to take the lead, but the chief soon went before them for two reasons, first, that he might have an opportunity of looking at them, and secondly, that they might have a fairer chance of seeing him in all his state, for which purpose, he had placed himself outside his awning, on an elevated and conspicuous seat. However, he only wished to get a few yards before them, for his canoe men soon lifted their paddles out of the water, and the boat fell back to its former situation. The musicians in the large canoe performed merrily on their instruments, and about twenty persons now sung at intervals in recitative, keeping excellent time with their paddles.
A brisk wind sprung up the river full in their faces, relieving them from the extreme heat of the weather, which was remarkably fine; the scene before them was very animating, and the whole of them were in high glee and spirits. Other canoes joined them, and never did the British flag lead so extraordinary a squadron. The king of the dark water might have been mistaken for a river god, and his wives, now and then showing their pretty black faces from under the awning, cast many an arch look at them with their sparkling, jetty eyes.
It was not long before their reverie was interrupted by a great noise from the adjacent land, and on turning, they perceived the banks of an island, called Zagozhi, which was lined with numbers of people, admiring their flag, and watching them very earnestly, by which they guessed that this was the place of their destination. The island was so uncommonly low that the houses and trees appeared as if they were standing in the water, as indeed many of them actually were. Theirs being the first canoe, before they landed on the island, they waited for the king to precede them, and the moment he set his foot on shore, they fired a salute of four muskets and three pistols. The king of the dark water was rather alarmed at this, and demanded whether they were going to make war on him, but he was soon relieved from his fear, by being told that it was an honour that they had been in the habit of paying to all the princes, whom they had met in their travels; which he no sooner understood, than he expressed himself much gratified by their attention.
The king himself went in quest of a dwelling house, and conducted them to one of the best which the island afforded; it was, however, miserably bad, for as the town was built on a marsh, every hut in it had the disadvantage, during the whole of the rainy season, of soft damp floors, and uncomfortable roofs. Their own hut had positively pools of water springing up out of the ground. The walls of the hut were built of mud from the river, strengthened and supported by wooden pillars, and ribs of the same materials; however, these do not prevent them from cracking in a hundred different places, and large chinks, admitting wind and rain, may be observed in the walls of every hut. They have all a very dirty and wretched appearance, although their inmates, generally speaking, were understood to be clean, opulent, and respectable. Having conducted them to the hut, the chief of the island shook hands with them very heartily, and assured them they should want for nothing. He soon provided them with doors of bamboo for their hut, and a number of mats to spread on the floor, which made it tolerably comfortable. In the evening, four large calabashes of stewed rice with fowls, and no less than ten gallons of petto or country beer were sent them.
About seven in the evening, messengers arrived from Rabba, to inform them that they should come early in the morning for the presents intended for their chief. They said that the king would not put them to the trouble of going to see him, as the town was full of Arabs, whose begging propensities would be very inconvenient to them. The Landers were much pleased with this intelligence, knowing very well the character of the Arabs, and they sent back word, that they would be still more obliged to him, if he would dispense with their going to the sansan, or camp, at a short distance from the town, to visit the king of Nouffie.
Rabba stands in an opposite direction to Zagozhi, and appears at the distance of about two miles, to be an immensely large, populous, and flourishing town. It is built on the slope of a gentle hill, and on a spot almost entirely bare of trees; the Niger here flowed in a direction to the south of east.
According to their announcement on the preceding day, the messengers from the chiefs arrived, bringing with them two fine sheep and a great quantity of rice, and it appeared that they would be required to give presents to nine people, before they should be able to get away from the place.
Having prepared the presents, the messengers were collected, and Richard Lander laid before each of them those that were intended for their masters, and in order to make them some reward, and secure their good will, he gave something to each of them, and dismissed them.
On the following morning they were visited by two young men, Arabs, from Rabba, one of whom was very eager to claim acquaintance with Richard Lander, and to bring to his memory certain scenes which had taken place on his former journey to Houssa. Having in some degree recovered from his surprise at his salutation, on looking at him more attentively, he recognized in him the very same individual, that had been employed by Captain Clapperton, whom he had abused and cheated, and who was subsequently engaged by Lander himself as a guide from Kano. He was the same person also, who decamped with Captain Pearce's sword, and a large sum of money in kowries. The fellow, however, on being taxed with his dishonesty, made very light of his offence, and with the utmost effrontery begged every thing that he saw, so that the Landers lost their temper with the scoundrel, and turned him out of the hut in disgust. He, however, could not believe that they were in earnest with him, "Oh, it must be all sport," said he, but at last they threatened to shoot him, if ho did not go about his business, and being apprehensive that they would put their threats into execution, he ran off as fast as he could.
The market at Rabba is very celebrated, and considered by traders as one of the largest and best in the whole country, of which it may be styled the emporium. On one market day, between one and two hundred men, women, and children were exposed for sale in ranks and lines, like the oxen at Smithfield. These poor creatures had for the most part been captured in war. The price of a strong healthy lad was about forty thousand kowries, (L8 sterling,) a girl fetches about fifty thousand, and perhaps more, if she be at all interesting. The value of men and women varies according to their age, and abilities.
The situation of the travellers now assumed a critical aspect, for early one morning, Mallam Dendo, the old king of Rabba sent for Pascoe in a great hurry, with a message that he was waiting impatiently his arrival at Rabba, having something of the utmost consequence to communicate. As may be easily conjectured, the Landers were rather surprised at this unexpected summons, and waited Pascoe's return with much anxiety, for they had no doubt whatever, that themselves were principally concerned in it. When, however, he did come back, and entered the hut, he looked very wistfully, and informed them with considerable agitation both of voice and manner, that Mallam Dendo had expressed to him the greatest dissatisfaction at the things which he had received from them as presents, declaring them to be perfectly worthless, and with the exception of the looking-glass, "fit only for a child," that he well knew they could have sent him something more useful and of greater value, if they had thought proper; but that if they persisted in their refusal to do so, he should demand of them their guns, pistols, and powder, before he would consent or permit them to leave Zagozhi.
This news made them very uneasy and unhappy, and they sat down in gloom and thoughtfulness without uttering a word, for they believed this to be a death-blow to all their hones. To part with the only defensive weapons in their possession, they felt determined not to do, for they knew if they were to be deprived of them, they should be entirely in the power of a set of fellows remarkable neither for generosity nor nobleness of principle, without the means of helping themselves, and they resolved never to part with their guns, unless compelled to do so by the most urgent necessity. Having reflected deliberately on their situation, they felt convinced that something on their part must be done by way of conciliation, if they had any intention of quitting the country, and of prosecuting their enterprise. On a sudden, they thought of Mr. Park's tobe, which was given to them by the king of Boossa, and they hoped that in consequence of the splendour of its appearance, and its intrinsic value, it might prove an acceptable present to the covetous prince, and be the means of effecting a perfect reconciliation between them. They therefore immediately despatched Ibrahim with it to Rabba, although their hearts misgave them at the time, that it would, after all, be thought lightly of, as an excuse for further extortions.
In this, however, they were agreeably disappointed, for in less than two hours after his departure, Ibrahim returned from his errand with a quick step and cheerful looks, and informed them that the tobe was accepted by the prince with rapturous admiration. By this present they had made him their friend for ever. "Ask the white men," said he, "what they would desire, and if Rabba can supply them with it, tell them they shall always have it. Well," he continued, "I must purchase this tobe, I will not accept it as a gift; that would be against my principles, and besides, it would be wrong for me to be guilty of such injustice. Now I shall be something like a king," he added, turning the tobe inside and out; "let no man know of it, my neighbours will behold me with envy, and as for my own people, I will surprise them some morning by putting it on when they are going to war: it will dazzle their eyes. How great will be their astonishment?" In this manner the king of the Fellatas talked to Ibrahim.
On the following day, Pascoe was sent to Rabba, well tutored by his masters, and in consequence of the offer made by the king to make them any compensation for the handsome tobe, Pascoe informed him, that the first wish of the white men was to obtain a large canoe, and to pursue their journey on the Niger as fast as possible. He promised to settle the business of the canoe, and sent some presents to the Landers, which at the time were very acceptable.
They had, however, scarcely got over the dilemma with the king of Rabba, than a messenger arrived to that monarch from the king of Nouffie, who had despatched him privately to Mallam Dendo, with an intimation to him, that if it met with his approbation, he (the magia) would order the white men to be detained at Zagozhi, until they would consent to make him a present of a certain number of dollars, or something equivalent to them in value; that he disbelieved the story of their poverty altogether, and would therefore search their luggage, in order to discover whether their assertion were true or false, that they had no greater presents to make.
So much dissimulation, meanness, and rapacity, which this trait in his character exhibited, they had little reason to expect from the king of Nouffie, after expressing for them so warmly and repeatedly as he had done, protestations of the most cordial, candid, and lasting friendship. They could not forbear feeling very indignant at this foul breach of the laws of hospitality and good faith, which previously to this act, they had experienced in every part of the country. Perhaps it was well that they had presented the prince of Rabba with Mr. Park's tobe, for he treated the message and its bearer with contempt, and answered energetically, "Tell the magia, your sovereign, that I would rebuke him for this expression of his sentiments, and that I detest his base insinuations; that I will never consent to his wishes, and that I reject his proposal with disdain. What! shall the white men, who have come from such distant lands to visit our country, who have spent their substance amongst us, and made us presents before we had leisure to do any good for them, shall they be treated so inhumanly? never! They have worn their shoes from their feet, and their clothes from their persons, by the length and tediousness of their journeys; they have thrown themselves into our hands, to claim our protection and partake of our hospitality; shall we treat them as robbers, and cast them from us like dogs? Surely not. What would our neighbours, what would our friends—our foes say to this? What could be a greater reproach than the infamy, which would attach itself to our characters, and to our name, should we treat these poor, unprotected, wandering strangers, and white men too, in the manner your monarch, the king of Nouffie proposes? After they have been received and entertained with so much hospitality and honour in Yarriba, at Wowow, and at Boossa, shall it be said that Rabba treated them badly? that she shut her doors upon them and plundered them? No, never! I have already given my word to protect them, and I will not forfeit that sacred pledge for all the guns and swords in the world." Such was the answer of a man whom we call a savage—it was worthy of a prince and a Christian.
It was now high time that their journey should be completed, for their goods were very nearly exhausted, and so far from being in a condition to make further presents, their means were scarcely adequate to procure the bare necessaries of life. Their stock of cloth, looking-glasses, snuff-boxes, knives, scissors, razors, and tobacco pipes, had been already given away, and they had only needles and a few silver bracelets left, to present to the chiefs whom they might reasonably expect to fall in with on their voyage down the Niger.
The population of Zagozhi cannot well be estimated on account of its lowness, and the prevailing flatness of the country round, on which neither a hillock nor eminence of any kind can be discerned. However, it must be immense, and the Landers considered it to be one of the most extensive and thickly inhabited towns, as well as one of the most important trading places in the whole kingdom of Nouffie, not excepting even Coulfoo.
Having at length received permission to quit Zagozhi on the following day, to pursue their journey down the Niger, they made the necessary preparations for their departure. They were in hope of obtaining a canoe capable of holding the whole of their party, as it would be a much more satisfactory arrangement for them, and more convenient than two small ones. The chief of the island promised to send a messenger with them as far as Egga, which was the last town down the river belonging to the Nouffie territory. The chief was, however, unwilling to part with a canoe under any consideration, yet as a token of his friendship and regard, he offered to spare them one for twenty thousand kowries, in addition to their own canoe, which they had brought from Patashie. A messenger from the prince of Rabba arrived just after this proposal had been made to them, with full powers to treat with the "King of the dark water" for the canoe. In a short time, he returned from his errand, with the pleasing intelligence of his having succeeded in obtaining the long-talked-of canoe, and which was to be in readiness to receive them on board at an early hour on the following morning.
On Friday, October 16th, they rose at an early hour, to pack up their clothes, and to get their luggage ready for embarkation. But when this was all done, they met with a sudden and unforeseen embarrassment, for the sable king of the dark water laughed at the idea of giving them a canoe on the faith of receiving payment from the prince of the Fellatas, and at first, he even refused to deliver up their own canoe, which they had brought from Patashie, and which they had kept with so much anxiety and trouble. At length, however, he consented to restore to them all their property, and the whole of the articles were accordingly moved into the canoes.
When all this was done, and they were quite ready to start, the old chief came down to the water side to bid them farewell, according to his avowed purpose, but in reality to offer them a commodious canoe in exchange for their own, if they would consent to give him ten thousand kowries in addition to them. They had fortunately realized a sufficient number of kowries from the sale of needles at Rabba, and while Richard Lander was shifting the things from their own canoe into another, John Lander walked back with the old chief to his residence, where he found all the people of the house gathered round the trunk of a large tree, which was burning in the hut. Here he paid the chief ten thousand kowries for the canoe, which having done, he rejoined his brother at the water side.
The canoes made here are of a particular description, very much resembling what are called punts in England, but are perfectly straight and flat bottomed. They are generally formed out of one log of wood, and are of an immense size; that which the Landers purchased, was about fifteen feet in length and four in breadth, but they are sometimes made nearly as large again. To this offer the Landers most willingly acceded, and as soon as all the goods were transferred into the purchased canoe, they found, after all, that it was not nearly large enough for their purpose, independently of its being extremely leaky, and patched up in a thousand places; they had been prevented from perceiving the canoe's defect before, by the excitement of preparation, and the hurry of departure. They now saw that they had been cheated by the artful king of the dark water, but rather than enter into an interminable dispute on the subject, which might involve them in further difficulties, they held their peace and put up with the imposition without a murmur; after, getting all their luggage into her, they waited for the arrival of a messenger, who was to have accompanied them a little way on their journey, but as he did not come, they resolved to depart without him, so bidding farewell to the king of the dark water, and hundreds of spectators who were gazing at them, they fired two muskets, and launching out into the river, they were soon out of sight of Zagozhi.
They paddled along the banks at a distance of not less than thirty miles, every inch of which they had attentively examined, but not a bit of dry land could anywhere be discovered, which was firm enough to bear their weight. Therefore, they resigned themselves to circumstances, and all of them having been refreshed with a little cold rice and honey, and water from the stream, they permitted the canoe to drive down with the current, for their men were too much fatigued with the labours of the day to work any longer. But here a fresh evil arose, which they were unprepared to meet. An incredible number of hippopotami arose very near them, and came plashing and snorting and plunging all round the canoe, and placed them in imminent danger. Thinking to frighten them off, they fired a shot or two at them, but the noise only called up from the water, and out of the fens, about as many more of their unwieldy companions, and they were more closely beset than before. Their people, who had never in all their lives been exposed in a canoe to such huge and formidable beasts, trembled with fear and apprehension, and absolutely wept aloud; their terror was not a little increased by the dreadful peals of thunder, which rattled over their heads, and by the awful darkness which prevailed, broken at intervals by flashes of lightning, whose powerful glare was truly awful.
However, the hippopotami did them no kind of mischief whatever; no doubt at first when they interrupted them, they were only sporting and wallowing in the river for their own amusement, but had they upset the canoe, the travellers would have paid dearly for it.
Having travelled, according to their own computation, a distance little short of a hundred miles, they stopped at a small insignificant fishing village called Dacannie, where they were very glad to land. The Niger here presented a very magnificent appearance; and was reckoned to be nearly eight miles in breadth.
Whilst they were at breakfast, under the shelter of a tree, the promised messenger from Zagozhi arrived, and introduced himself to them. He said that he had followed their track during the night, and had heard the report of their guns, but though he strove to come up with them, yet he had not been able.
It was between nine and ten in the morning, that the guide desired them to proceed onwards, promising to follow them in a few minutes. With this arrangement they cheerfully complied, and instantly pushed off the shore, for of all persons, a messenger is the most unpleasant companion; he is fond of procrastination, sullen when rebuked, and stops at every paltry village wherein he fancies that he can levy his contributions without the fear of interruption.
The messenger, whom they had left at Dacannie, soon overtook them, and kept company with them till they drew near to two cities of prodigious extent, one on each side of the river, and directly opposite each other. To that lying on the right, the guide expressed his intention of going, and endeavoured to entice the Landers with many promises to accompany him there, but they refused, for they had formed a resolution to husband their resources to the utmost of their ability, and consequently to land at little hamlets only, where they might do just as they pleased, without being amenable for their actions to those powerful beings, who are styled "the mighty" of the earth.
They now took leave of the Zagozhi messenger, who promised to follow them as before, and in an hour afterwards they put into a small village, situated on an island called Gungo, the natives of which appeared to be a mild, inoffensive, quiet, and good-natured people. About sunset, the inhabitants of the whole island, amounting to about a hundred men, women, and children, dressed in very decent apparel, and headed by their chief, a venerable old man, paid them a visit. The chief was dressed in the mahommedan costume, and he arranged his people, and made them sit down round the hut which the Landers occupied, in the most orderly manner. The men evinced no alarm, but the women and pretty little plump-faced children were much frightened at their white faces, and seemed not a little glad to get away. Before they retired, they distributed about two hundred needles among them, and they went away highly pleased with their present.
At Zagozhi, they had been strongly recommended to put into a large and important trading town called Egga, which was reported to be three days journey down the river from thence, and they had been promised a guide or messenger to accompany them thither, but they had neither heard nor seen any thing of him since the preceding day. From motives of prudence, however, they thought proper to make inquiries concerning the Egga, of which they had been told, lest by any means, they should pass it without seeing it.
About mid-day they touched at a large village to inquire whereabouts Egga lay, and they were informed that they had not a long way to go. They journeyed onwards for about an hour, when they perceived a large, handsome town, behind a deep morass. It was the long-sought-for Egga, and they instantly proceeded up a creek to the landing place. The town was upwards of two miles in length, they halted a few minutes before landing, no one having conveyed intelligence of their arrival to the chief. A young Fellata was the first who invited them on shore, and they despatched Pascoe to the chief to tell him who they were, and what they wanted. He quickly returned, saying that the old chief was ready to receive them, and they immediately proceeded to his residence.
In a few minutes, they arrived at the Zollahe or entrance hut, in which they found the old man ready to receive them. They discovered him squatting on a cow's hide, spread on the ground, smoking from a pipe of about three yards long, and surrounded by a number of Fellatas, and several old mallams. They were welcomed in the most friendly and cordial manner, and as a mark of peculiar distinction, they were invited to seat themselves near the person of the chief. He looked at them with surprise from head to foot, and told them that they were strange-looking people, and well worth seeing. Having satisfied his curiosity, he sent for all his old wives, that they might do the same; but as they did not altogether relish so much quizzing, they requested to be shown to a hut. A house, "fit for a king," to use his own expression, was speedily got ready for their reception, and as soon as he had learnt with surprise, that they subsisted on the same kind of food as himself, they were led to their dwelling, and before evening received a bowl of tuah and gravy from his wives. They were soon pestered with the visits of the mallams and the chief's wives, the latter of whom brought them presents of goora nuts as a sort of introduction to see them. As soon as the news of their arrival spread through the town, the people flocked by hundreds to their hut, for the purpose of satisfying their curiosity with a sight of the white people. The mallams and the king's wives had given them trouble enough, but the whole population of Egga was too much for them, so that they were literally obliged to blockade the doorways, and station three of their people at each to keep them away.
The Landers were extremely anxious to expedite their departure from Egga, for although the old chief was extremely kind and hospitable, yet the annoyance from the natives was more than could be borne; for they never could have a moment of rest, their windows and doorways being blocked up by visitors, so that they were literally prevented from inhaling the fresh air, but were like prisoners in a cage to be examined and quizzed by every one, who thought they could pass their jokes with impunity.
Having expressed their intention of continuing their journey, the elders of the town remonstrated with them, that it would be highly dangerous to go by themselves, and endeavoured to persuade them to alter the arrangement for their own sakes. They promised to procure them a convoy of traders, if they would consent to wait three days longer, which was to leave Egga at the end of that time to attend a famous market called Bocqua. When they sent word to the chief that they intended departing on the following day, he begged of them to remain a few days longer, declaring the banks of the river to be inhabited by people, who were little better than savages, and plundered every one that came near them. He was then asked, if he would send a messenger with them, but he refused, saying, that the Fellata power and his own extended no further down the river; that Egga was the last town of Nouffie, and that none of his people traded below it. "If that be the case," said Richard Lander, "it will be as safe for us to go to-morrow as any other day," and with this determination he left him.