He then proceeded to give directions for his people to prepare themselves for starting, when to the great astonishment of himself and his brother, Pascoe and the mulatto Ibrahim were the only two who agreed to go, the rest of them refusing to a man. Richard said all he could to them to change their determination; he talked to them half an hour, telling them they were cowards, and that his life and that of his brother were as good as theirs, but he could not make the slightest impression upon them, and therefore told them to go out of his sight, and that they would do without them. Partly, however, by threats, and partly by bribes, the men agreed to accompany them, although the impression could not be effaced from their minds, that they were going where they should be murdered, or at least sold as slaves.
At length every thing being in readiness, they bade farewell to the old chief, and several of the principal inhabitants came hurrying down to the waterside to take their leave, to give them their blessing, and to wish them a successful voyage. The men at first paddled sluggishly, and the canoe went slowly through the water, for which reason they were two hours before they reached the middle of the river. A few miles from the town, they saw with emotions of pleasure a seagull, which flew over their heads, which to them was a most gratifying sight, for it reminded them forcibly of the object which they had in view, and they fondly allowed it to confirm their hopes, that they were drawing very near their journey's end.
For many miles they could see nothing but large, open, well-built villages on both banks of the river, but more especially on the eastern, yet they touched at none of these goodly places, but continued their journey till the sun began to decline, when they stopped at a small hamlet on an island, with the intention of sleeping there, cut the inhabitants mistrusted their intentions, and were alarmed at their appearance; they would not even grant them an accommodation for the night, although they assured them, that the most homely, the most shattered hut would answer their purpose; fearing, however, that they might enforce their request, they did all they could to induce them to proceed onwards a little further, when they would arrive at a city of considerable importance called Kacunda, where plenty of provisions could be obtained, and where the inhabitants would pay the greatest attention to them.
Kacunda is situated on the western bank of the river, and at a little distance, it has an advantageous and uncommonly fine appearance. The only access to the town was by winding channels, that interspersed an unwholesome swamp, nearly two miles in breadth. It was evening when they arrived there, and the people at first were alarmed at their appearance, but they were soon welcomed on shore by an old mahommedan priest, who speedily introduced them into an excellent and commodious hut, once the residence of a prince, but then the domicile of a schoolmaster.
Kacunda, properly speaking, consists of three or four villages, all of them considerably large, but unconnected, though situated within a very short distance of each other. It is the capital of a state or kingdom of the same name, which is quite independent of Nouffie, or any other foreign power. The only dress that the natives wear, is a piece of cotton cloth round the loins. The women wear small ear-rings of silver, but use no paint, nor do they bedaub their persons with any sort of pigment.
On the morning subsequently to their arrival, a large double bank canoe arrived at Kacunda, and they shortly found that the king's brother had come in her to pay them a visit. He was saluted on landing with a discharge from five old rusty muskets. A messenger was immediately despatched to the Landers, announcing that he was ready to see them. Their meeting was very cordial, and they shook hands heartily with him, and explained to him their business. He brought a goat as a present, and in return Richard Lander presented him with a pair of silver bracelets, but he did not appear to be much interested about them, or indeed to care at all for them, but looking round their room, he perceived several little things to which he took a fancy, and which being of no value whatever to them, were readily presented to him.
They had now become great friends, and he commenced giving them a dreadful account of the natives down the river, and advised them by no means to go amongst them, but return by the way they had come. He said to them with much emphasis, "If you go down the river, you will surely fall into their hands and be murdered." "Go we must," said Richard Lander, "if we live or die by it, and that also on the morrow." He was then asked if he would send a messenger with them, for that he might ensure their safety, coming from so powerful a person as the chief of Kacunda. But he replied directly, "No, if I were to do such a thing, the people at the next town would assuredly cut off his head;" but, he added, "if you will not be persuaded by me to turn back, and save your lives, at least you must not leave this by day light, but stop until the sun goes down, and then you may go on your journey, you will then pass the most dangerous town in the middle of the night, and perhaps save yourselves." He was asked, if the people of whom he spoke had muskets, or large canoes. To which he replied, "Yes, in great numbers, they are very large and powerful, and no canoe can pass down the river in the day time, without being taken by them and plundered; and even at night, the canoes from here are obliged to go in large numbers, and keep close company with each other to make a formidable appearance in case of their being seen by them."
The Landers had no reason whatever to doubt this information, and being aware how little they could do, if they should be attacked by these formidable fellows, they determined on going at night, according to the custom of the natives, and proposed starting at four o'clock on the evening of the morrow. The chief's brother was apprised of their intentions, at which he seemed quite astonished, and they doubted not that this determined conduct, which they had every where shown, and apparent defiance of all danger, in making light of the dreadful stories, which were related to them, had great influence on the minds of the people, and no doubt inspired them with a belief that they were supernatural beings, gifted with more than ordinary qualifications. Having communicated their intentions to their friend, and given him all the little trifling things he wished for, he departed with the present for his brother the chief.
On the following day, he again paid them a visit, urging them by every argument which he could think of, to defer their departure for their own sakes for two or three days, in order that canoes might be got ready to accompany them on their voyage, and he endeavoured again to impress upon their minds the danger, which they should inevitably incur, if they were determined to go alone. They, however, paid little attention to his remarks, further than that they consented to wait till the afternoon, for a man to accompany them in the capacity of messenger, to the so much talked of Bocqua market, where, it was asserted, they should be perfectly safe, and beyond which place the people were represented as being less rapacious, so that little fear was to be entertained from them. As the afternoon approached, they inquired in vain for the promised guide, and when they found that the chief, or rather his brother, felt no disposition whatever to redeem his pledge, they made immediate preparations to leave the town, to the manifest disappointment of the latter, who made a very dolorous lament, and did all in his power, except employing actual force, to induce them to change their resolution.
They now ordered Pascoe and their people to commence loading the canoe, but the poor fellows were all in tears and trembled with fear; one of them in particular, a native of Bonny, said, that he did not care for himself, as his own life was of little consequence, all he feared was, that his masters would be murdered, and as he had been with them ever since they had left the sea, it would be as bad as dying himself, to see them killed.
In pursuance of their plans, on the same afternoon, they bade adieu to the inhabitants of Kacunda, and every thing having been conveyed to the canoe, they embarked and pushed off the shore, in the sight of a multitude of people. They worked their way with incredible difficulty through the morass, before they were able to get into the body of the stream, and being now fairly off they prepared themselves for the worst. "Now," said Richard Lander, "my boys," as their canoe glided down with the stream, "let us all stick together; I hope that we have none amongst us, who will flinch, come what may."
They had proceeded some distance down the river, when seeing a convenient place for landing, the men being languid and weary with hunger and exhaustion, they halted on the right bank of the river, which they imagined was most suitable for their purpose. The angry and scowling appearance of the firmament forewarned them of a shower, or something worse, which induced them hastily to erect an awning of mats under a palm tree's shade. The spot for a hundred yards was cleared of grass, underwood, and vegetation of all kinds: and very shortly afterwards, as three of their men were straggling about in the bush, searching for firewood, a village suddenly opened before them; this did not excite their astonishment, and they entered one of the huts which was nearest them, to procure a little fire. However, it happened only to contain women, but these were terrified beyond measure at the sudden and abrupt entrance of strange-looking men, whose language they did not know, and whose business they could not understand, and they all ran out in a fright into the woods, to warn their male relatives of them, who were labouring at their usual occupations of husbandry. Mean time, their men had very composedly taken some burning embers from the fire, and returned to their masters, with the brief allusion to the circumstance of having discovered a village. This at the time was thought lightly of, but they rejoiced that they had seen the village, and immediately sent Pascoe, Ibrahim and Jowdie, in company to obtain some fire, and to purchase some yams. In about ten minutes after, they returned in haste, telling them that they had been to the village, and asked for some fire, but that the people did not understand them, and instead of attending to their wishes, they looked terrified, and had suddenly disappeared. In consequence of their threatening attitudes, Pascoe and his party had left the village, and hastened back to their masters.
Totally unconscious of danger, the Landers were reclining on their mats, for they too, like their people, were wearied with toil, and overcome with drowsiness, when in about twenty minutes after their men had returned, one of them shouted with a loud voice, "War is coming, O war is coming!" and ran towards them with a scream of terror, telling them, that the natives were hastening to attack them. They started up at this unusual exclamation, and looking about them, they beheld a large party of men, almost naked, running in a very irregular manner, and with uncouth gestures, towards their little encampment. They were all variously armed with muskets, bows and arrows, knives, cutlasses, barbs, long spears, and other instruments of destruction; and as they gazed upon this band of wild men, with their ferocious looks and hostile appearance, which was not a little heightened on observing the weapons in their hands, they felt a very uneasy kind of sensation, and wished themselves safe out of their hands.
Their party was at this time much scattered, but fortunately they could see them coming to them at some distance, and they had time to collect their men. They resolved, however, to prevent bloodshed, if possible; their numbers were too few to leave them a chance of escaping by any other way. The natives were approaching fast, and had nearly arrived close to the palm tree. Not a moment was to be lost. They desired Pascoe and all their men to follow behind them at a short distance, with the loaded muskets and pistols; and they enjoined them strictly not to fire, unless they were first fired at. One of the natives, who proved to be the chief, was perceived to be a little in advance of his companions, and throwing down their pistols, which they had snatched up in the first moment of surprise, the two Landers walked very composedly and unarmed towards him. As they approached him, they made all the signs and motions they could with their arms, to deter him and his people from firing on them. His quiver was dangling at his side, his bow was bent, and an arrow, which was pointed at their breasts, already trembled on the string, when they were within a few yards of his person. This was a highly critical moment—the next might be their last. But the hand of Providence averted the blow, for just as the chief was about to pull the fatal cord, a man that was nearest him rushed forward and stayed his arm. At that instant the Landers stood before him, and immediately held forth their hands; all of them trembling like aspen leaves; the chief looked up full in their faces, kneeling on the ground; light seemed to flash from his dark rolling eyes; his body was convulsed all over, as though he was enduring the utmost torture, and with a timorous, yet indefinable expression of countenance, in which all the passions of human nature were strangely blended, he drooped his head, eagerly grasped their proffered hands, and burst into tears. This was a sign of friendship, harmony followed, and war and bloodshed were thought of no more. Peace and friendship now reigned amongst them, and the first thing that they did was, to lift the old chief from the ground, and convey him to their encampment.
The behaviour of their men afforded them no little amusement, now that the danger was past. Pascoe was firm to his post, and stood still with his musket pointed at the chief's breast during the whole of the time. He was a brave fellow, and he said to his masters, as they passed him to their encampment with the old man, "If the black rascals had fired at either of you, I would have brought the old chief down like a guinea fowl." As for their two brave fellows, Sam and Antonio, they took to their heels, and scampered off as fast as they could, directly they saw the natives approaching them over the long grass, nor did they make their appearance again, until the chief and all his people were sitting round them.
All the armed villagers had now gathered round their leader, and anxiously watched his looks and gestures. The result of the meeting delighted them, every eye sparkled with pleasure; they uttered a shout of joy; they thrust their bloodless arrows into their quivers; they ran about as though they were possessed of evil spirits; they twanged their bowstrings, fired off their muskets; shook their spears; clattered their quivers; danced, put their bodies into all manner of ridiculous positions; laughed, cried, and sung in rapid succession; they were like a troop of maniacs. Never was a spectacle more wild and terrific. When this sally of passion to which they had worked themselves, had subsided into calmer and more reasonable behaviour, the Landers presented each of the war-men with a number of needles, as a farther token of their friendly intentions. The chief sat himself down on the turf, with one of the Landers on each side of him, while the men were leaning on their weapons on his right and left. At first, no one could understand what the Landers said, but shortly after an old man made his appearance, who understood the Houssa language. Him the chief employed as an interpreter, and every one listened with anxiety to the following explanation given by the chief.
"A few minutes after you first landed, one of my people came to me, and said that a number of strange people had arrived at the market place. I sent him back again to get as near to you as he could, to hear what you intended doing. He soon after returned to me, and said that you spoke in a language which he could not understand. Not doubting that it was your intention to attack my village at night, and carry off my people, I desired them to get ready to fight. We were all prepared and eager to kill you, and came down breathing vengeance and slaughter, supposing that you were my enemies, and had landed from the opposite side of the river. But when you came to meet us unarmed, and we saw your white faces, we were all so frightened that we could not pull our bows, nor move hand or foot; and when you drew near me, and extended your hands towards me, I felt my heart faint within me, and believed that you were Children of Heaven, and had dropped from the skies." Such was the effect that the Landers had produced on him, and under this impression, he knew not what he did. "And now," said he, "white men, all I want is your forgiveness." "That you shall have most heartily," said the Landers, as they shook hands with the old chief; and having taken care to assure him that they had not come from so good a place as he had imagined, they congratulated themselves, as well as him, that this affair had ended so happily. For their own parts, they had reason to feel the most unspeakable pleasure at its favourable termination, and they offered up internally to their merciful Creator, a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for his providential interference in their behalf. It was indeed a narrow escape, and it was happy for them that their white faces and calm behaviour produced the effect it did on these people; in another minute their bodies would have been as full of arrows as a porcupine's is full of quills.
They now ascertained that the place where they now were, was the famous Bocqua market place, of which they had heard so much talk, and that the opposite bank of the river belonged to the Funda country. Their interpreter was an old Funda mallam, who understood the Houssa language perfectly, and was come to Bocqua to attend the market, which was held every nine days. The old mallam was asked the distance from Bocqua to the sea, and he told them about ten days journey. The Landers then pointed out the hills on the opposite side of the river, and asked him, where they led to. "The sea," was his answer. "And where do they lead to?" they inquired, pointing to those on the same bank of the river as themselves. He answered, "They run along way in the country we do not know." Their next concern was about the safety of the river navigation, and they anxiously inquired his opinion of it lower down, and whether there were any rocks or dangerous places. As to the river navigation, he satisfied them by saying, that he knew of no dangers, nor had he ever heard of any, but the people on the banks, he said, were very bad. They asked him, if he thought the chief would send a messenger with them, if they were to request him, even one day's journey from this place. Without the least hesitation, he answered: "No; the people of this country can go no further down the river; if they do, and are caught, they will lose their heads." Every town that he knew of on the banks of the river, was at war with its neighbour, and all the rest likewise. They then asked him how far Bornou was from Funda. To which, he replied, "Fifteen days journey." Here their conversation was interrupted by the old chief, who wished to return to the village, and the mallam was obliged to accompany him. They likewise learnt from other persons, that directly opposite, on the eastern bank, was the common path to the city of Funda, which, as they had been told at Fof, was situated three days journey up the Tshadda from the Niger; that the large river which they had observed on their course, was the celebrated Shar, Shary, or Sharry of travellers, or which is more proper than either, the Tshadda, as it is universally called throughout the country. They were also informed that the smaller stream which they passed on the 19th, flowing from the same direction, was the Coodania.
On Wednesday the 27th October, they made preparations for starting, and after experiencing rather hostile treatment from the natives, they arrived at a village called Abbazacca, where they saw an English iron bar, and feasted their eyes on the graceful cocoa-nut tree, which they had not seen so long.
It was the intention of the chief of Abbazacca to send a man with them as messenger, to a large town, of which he said that his brother was governor, but on maturer reflection, he determined to accompany them himself, expecting to obtain an adequate reward. In consequence of the lightness of his canoe, and its superiority to the old one, which they had got at Zagozhi, the chief passed them with the utmost facility, and touched at various towns and villages, to inform their inhabitants of the fact of the Christians journeying down the river, and that they had come from a country he had never heard of.
In the course of the day they came abreast of a village of pretty considerable extent, intending to pass it by on the other side; they had, however, no sooner made their appearance, than they were lustily hailed by a little squinting fellow, who kept crying out as loud as is lungs would permit him: "Holloa! you Englishmen, you come here!" They felt no inclination to obey the summons, being rather anxious to get to the town mentioned to them by the chief of Abbazacca; and as the current swept them along past the village, they took no notice of the little man, and they had already sailed beyond the landing place, when they were overtaken by about a dozen canoes, and the people in them desiring them to turn back, for that they had forgotten to pay their respects to the king. The name of the village was Damaggoo. Being in no condition to force themselves from the men, who had interrupted them with so little ceremony, they pulled with all their strength against the current, and after an hour's exertion landed amidst the cheers and huzzas of a multitude of people. The first person they observed at the landing place, was their little friend in the red jacket, whom they found out afterwards was a messenger from the chief of Bonny.
Whilst a hut was preparing for them, they were conducted over a bog to a large fetish tree, at the root of which they were made to sit down, till the arrival of the chief, who made his appearance in a few minutes, bringing with him a goat and other provisions as a present. He put a great many questions respecting themselves and their country, the places they had come from, their distance up the river, and also concerning the river itself, and was astonished at their answers.
They were now conducted through filthy streets of mud to a very diminutive hut, which they found excessively warm, owing to the small quantity of light and air, which were admitted into it only through a narrow aperture, opening into a gloomy and dismal passage. The appearance of the inside was better than that of the outside, being rudely plastered with clay, and surrounded with indifferently carved fetish figures, either painted or chalked a red colour.
As signs of European intercourse, with which the Landers, as it might be reasonably supposed, were highly delighted, they received from the chief as a present some fofo, a quantity of stewed goat, sufficient for thirty persons, and a small case bottle of rum, a luxury which they had not enjoyed since they left Kiama; the latter was a treat that they did not expect, although it was of the most inferior kind.
Early on the morning of the 28th, the chief paid them a visit, accompanied by a Nouffie mallam; he gave them a pressing invitation to come and see him, which was readily accepted, and on proceeding to the residence, they passed through a variety of low huts, which led to the one in which he was sitting. He accosted them with cheerfulness, and placed mats for them to sit upon, and rum was produced to make them comfortable withal. He wished to know in what way they had got through the country, for he had learnt that they had come a long journey; and after having related to them some of their adventures, he appeared quite astonished, and promised as far as he was able to imitate those good men in the treatment of his guests. When Antonio, their interpreter, explained to them that they were ambassadors from the great king of white men, he seemed highly delighted, and said, "Something must be done for you to-morrow;" and left them to conjecture for a short time what that something would be, but they soon learnt that he intended to make rejoicings with all his people, that they would fire off their muskets, and pass a night in dancing and revelry. He requested them to wait eight days longer, when he expected his people back from the Bocqua market. "I think," he added, "that the chief of Bocqua's messenger and our people will be a sufficient protection." The Landers readily assented to his proposal, and told him that as all their presents were expended, they would send him some from the sea coast, if he would allow a person to accompany them thither, on whom he could depend to bring them back to him. He expressed himself much gratified with this offer, and said that his own son should accompany them, and that although his people had never been lower down the river than to a place called Kirree, about a day's journey from hence, he had no doubt that they should reach the sea in safety. He then promised with solemnity, that he would consent to their departure in the time that he had specified, and having shaken hands, they parted.
The Landers, however, found that the old chief was not so punctual to his word as they had a right to expect, for he was every day consulting his fetish and his mallams, and they were all unanimous in their opinion, that the departure of the white men should be delayed for a short time. This to them was a most vexatious proceeding. Their determination of departing was not, however, to be shaken, although the entrails of some fowls which the chief consulted, declared that the time of their departure was very inauspicious. According to the chief's own arrangement, the people of the Landers were to embark in the leaky canoe, with the heaviest of the luggage, and themselves were to travel in one of the chief's canoes, and to take along with them whatever was of most consequence. To this regulation they could not raise any plausible objection, because their old canoe had been partially repaired.
A little after four in the afternoon of the 4th November, their luggage was conveyed to the river side, and they proceeded to load the canoes. Long before five, every thing on their parts had been got in readiness for quitting the town, and they sat in the canoe till after sunset, waiting the arrival of the boatmen, who did not seem at all disposed to hurry themselves in making their appearance. They began at length to be wearied with anxiety, and impatient to be stirring. Hundreds of people had been gazing on them for a long while, many of whom had taken the pains to come, from different parts of the town in boats for that purpose and the curiosity of all having been amply indulged, they were moving off in all directions, so that the Landers were almost deserted.
At length when their uneasiness was at its height, they saw the chief advancing towards them with a train of followers. The mallam and all his principal people were with him, bringing numerous jars of palm wine. A mat was spread near the water-side, whereon the chief sat himself, and the Landers were instantly desired to place themselves one on each side of his person. The palm wine, and some rum were then produced, and as they were about to take a long farewell of their hospitable host, they drank of his offering, rather than give offence by a refusal. They drank and chatted away until half-past six in the evening, when they sent Pascoe on before them in their own old canoe, telling him that they should overtake him. It was, however, nearly dark before they were allowed to depart, and as they lay at a short distance from the bank, all the fetish people walked knee deep into the river, and muttered a long prayer, after which they splashed the water towards their canoe with each foot, and then they proceeded on their voyage.
On the following day, they observed a large market close to the banks of the river, which they were informed was Kirree. A great number of canoes were lying near the bank, and in a short time afterwards, they saw about fifty canoes before them coming up the river. As they approached each other, the Landers observed the British union flag in several, while others, which were white, had figures on them of a man's leg, chain, tables, and all kinds of such devices. The people in them, who were very numerous, were dressed in European clothing, with the exception of trousers.
The Landers felt quite overjoyed by the sight of these people, more particularly when they saw the English flag and European apparel amongst them, and they congratulated themselves that they were from the sea coast. But all their fond anticipations vanished in a moment as the first canoe met them. A great stout fellow, of a most forbidding countenance beckoned Richard Lander to come to him, but seeing him and all his people so well armed, Lander was not much inclined to trust himself amongst them, and therefore paid no attention to the call. The next moment, he heard the sound of a drum, and in an instant several of the men mounted a platform and levelled their muskets at them. There was nothing to be done now but to obey; as for running away it was out of the question, their square loaded canoe was incapable of it, and to fight with fifty war canoes, for such they really were, containing each above forty people, most of whom were as well armed as themselves, would have been throwing away their own and their canoe men's lives very foolishly.
By this time the canoes were side by side, and with astonishing rapidity the luggage of the Landers found its way into those of their opponents. This mode of proceeding was not relished by them at all, and Richard Lander's gun being loaded with two balls and four slugs, he took deliberate aim at the leader, and he would have paid for his temerity with his life in one moment more, had not three of his people sprung on Lander, and forced the gun from his hands. His jacket and shoes were now plundered from him, and observing some other fellows at the same time taking away Pascoe's wife, Lander lost all command over himself, and was determined to sell his life as dearly as he could. He encouraged his men to arm themselves with their paddles, and defend themselves to the last. He instantly seized hold of Pascoe's wife, and with the assistance of another of his men dragged her from the fellow's grasp. Pascoe at the same time levelled a blow at his head with one of their iron-wood paddles, that sent him reeling backwards, and they saw him no more.
Their canoe having been so completely relieved of their cargo, which had consisted only of their luggage, they had plenty of room on her for battle, and being each of them provided with a paddle, they determined, as they had got clear of their adversary, to cut down the first fellow who should dare to board them. This, however, was not attempted, and as none of the other canoes had attempted to interfere, Lander was in hopes of finding some friends amongst them, but at all events, he was determined to follow the people who had plundered them, to the market, whither they seemed to be going. They accordingly pulled after them as fast as they could, and they were following the canoe that had attacked them, with the utmost expedition, when they were hailed by some people from a large canoe, which was afterwards found to belong to the New Calabar River. One of the people, who was apparently a person of consequence, called out lustily, "Holloa, white men, you French, you English?" "Yes, English," Lander answered immediately. "Come here in my canoe," he said, and their two canoes approached each other rapidly. Lander got into the canoe, and put three of his men into his own, to assist in pulling her to the market. The people of the canoe treated him with much kindness, and the chief gave him a glass of rum.
On looking round him, Lander now observed his brother coming towards him, in the Damaggoo canoe, and the same villain, who had plundered his canoe was also the first to pursue that of his brother. The canoe in which Richard was, as well as the war canoes, hastened to a small sand island in the river, at a short distance from the market, and John Lander arrived soon afterwards. In a short time the Damaggoo people made their appearance, and also the chief of Bonny's messenger, having, like themselves, lost every thing they had of their own property, as well as of their masters.
The canoes belonging to the Landers had been lying at the island, but now the canoes were all formed into a line and paddled into the market-place before alluded to, called Kirree, and here they were informed that a palaver would be held to take the whole affair into consideration; and accordingly, a multitude of men landed from the canoes, to hold, as it may be termed, a council of war. The Landers were not suffered to go on shore, but constrained to remain in the canoes, without a covering for the head, and exposed to the heat of a burning sun. A person in a muhommedan dress, who they learnt afterwards was a native of a place near Funda, came to them and endeavoured to cheer them, by saying that their hearts must not be sore, that at the palaver which would be held, they had plenty of friends to speak for them. In the mean time about twenty canoes full of Damaggoo people had arrived from the various towns near that place. These persons having heard how the Landers had been treated, also became their friends, so that they now began to think there was a chance of their escaping, and this intelligence put them into better spirits.
A stir was now made in the market, and a search commenced through all the canoes for their goods, some of which were found, although the greater part of them were at the bottom of the river. Those were landed and placed in the middle of the market-place. The Landers were now invited by the mallams to land, and told to look at their goods, and see if they were all there. To the great satisfaction of Richard Lander, he immediately recognized the box containing their books, and one of his brother's journals. The medicine chest was by its side, but both were filled with water. A large carpet bag containing all their wearing apparel was lying cut open, and deprived of its contents, with the exception of a shirt, a pair of trousers, and a waistcoat. Many valuable articles which it contained were gone. The whole of Richard Lander's journal, with the exception of a note book, with remarks from Rabba to Kirree, was lost. Four guns, one of which had been the property of the late Mr. Park, four cutlasses, and two pistols were gone. All their buttons, kowries, and needles, which were necessary for them to purchase provisions with, all were missing, and said to have been sunk in the river.
They were now desired to seat themselves, which as soon as they had done, a circle gathered round them and began questioning them, but at that moment the sound of screams and the clashing of arms reached the spot, and the multitude catching fire at the noise, drew their swords, and leaving the Landers to themselves, they ran away to the place whence it proceeded. The origin of all this, was a desire for more plunder on the part of the Eboe people. Seeing the few things of the white men in the marketplace, they made a rush to the place to recover them. The natives, who were Kirree people, stood ready for them, armed with swords, daggers, and guns; and the savage Eboes finding themselves foiled in the attempt, retreated to their canoes, without risking an attack, although the Landers fully expected to have been spectators of a furious and bloody battle.
This after all, was a fortunate circumstance, inasmuch as the two brothers, having unconsciously jumped into the same canoe found themselves in each other's company, and were thus afforded, for a short time at least, the pleasure of conversing without interruption.
The palaver not having yet concluded, they had full leisure to contemplate the scene around them. They had moored a little way from the banks of the river; in front of them was the marketplace, which was crammed with market people, from all parts of the neighbouring country of different tribes: a great multitude of wild men, of ferocious aspect and savage uncouth manners. To these belonged the choice either of giving them life and liberty, or dooming them to slavery or death. In the latter determination, their minds might be swayed by suspicion or caprice, or influenced by hatred. In the former, they might be guided by the hopes of gain, or biassed by the fear of punishment; for many of them had come from the sea-coast; and such an adventure as theirs could not long remain concealed from the knowledge of their countrymen. There happened to be amongst the savages, a few well-dressed mahommedan priests, who had come late to the market from the northward. These were decidedly the friends of the Landers. Many times they blessed them with uplifted hands and compassionate countenances, exclaiming, "Allah sullikee," God is king. Nor did they confine themselves to simple expressions of pity or concern; but as they subsequently learnt, they joined the assembly and spoke in their favour with warmth and energy, taxing those who had assaulted them, with cowardice, cruelty, and wrong: and proposing to have them beheaded on the spot, as a just punishment for their crime. This was bold language, but it produced a salutary effect on the minds of the hearers.
In the afternoon, the Landers were ordered to return to the small island whence they had come, and the setting of the sun being the signal for the council to dissolve, they were again sent for to the market. The people had been engaged in deliberation and discussion during the whole of the day; and with throbbing hearts they received their resolution, in nearly the following words:—
"That the king of the country being absent, they had taken upon themselves to consider the occurrence, which had taken place in the morning, and to give judgment accordingly. Those of their things which had been saved from the water, should be restored to them; and the person, who first commenced the attack on the white men, should lose his head, as a just retribution for his offence, having acted without the chief's permission: that with regard to themselves, they must be considered as prisoners, and consent to be conducted on the following morning to Obie, king of the Eboe country, before whom they were to undergo an examination, and whose will and pleasure concerning their persons would then be explained."
They received this intelligence with feelings of rapture, and with bursting hearts they offered up thanks to their divine Creator, for his signal preservation of them throughout this disastrous day.
The Kirree people are a savage-looking race; they are amazingly strong and athletic, and are also well proportioned. Their only clothing is the skin either of a leopard or tiger fastened round their waist. Their hair is plaited, and plastered with red clay in abundance; and their face is full of incisions in every part of it; these are cut into the flesh, so as to produce deep furrows, each incision being about a quarter of an inch long and dyed with indigo. It was scarcely possible to make out a feature of their face, and never were individuals more disfigured. The Eboe women have handsome features; and the Landers could not help thinking it a pity, that such savage-looking fellows as the men should be blessed with so handsome a race of females.
At sunrise on the 6th November, their canoe was taken from before Kirree market-place, to the little sand bank or island in the middle of the river, where they waited till nine o'clock for the coming of two war canoes, which it was resolved should convoy them to the Eboe country, which they understood was situated three days journey down the Niger. At seven in the morning they bade adieu to Kirree, the scene of all their sorrows, accompanied by six large war canoes, and again took their station with the Damaggoo people. Independently of their convoy, they had a sumpter canoe in company, belonging to the Eboe people, from which the others were supplied with dressed provisions. For their part, they had neither money nor needles, nor indeed any thing to purchase a meal; and knowing this to be the case, their sable guardians neglected to take into consideration the state of their stomachs. However, they felt no very strong inclination to join them in their repast, though on one occasion they were invited to do so; for they felt an invincible disgust to it, from the filthy manner in which it had been prepared. Yams were first boiled, and then skinned, and mashed into a paste, with the addition of a little water, by hands that were far from being clean. As this part of the business requires great personal exertion, the man on whom it devolved perspired very copiously, and the consequences may easily be guessed at. In eating they use their fingers only, and every one dips his hand into the same dish.
It was ten at night, when they came abreast of a small town, where they stopped. It was long since they had tasted food, and they had suffered from hunger the whole day, without being able to obtain any thing. Soon after they had stopped for the night, their guards gave each of them a piece of roasted yam, and their poor famished people had also the good fortune to get some too, being the first they had had since leaving Damaggoo. The roasted yam, washed down with a little water, was to them as joyful a meal, as if they had been treated with the most sumptuous fare, and they laid themselves down in the canoe to sleep in content.
Long before sunrise on the 8th November, though it was excessively dark, the canoes were put in motion; for as the Eboe country was said to be at no great distance, the Eboe people who were with them, were desirous of arriving there as early in the day as possible. It proved to be a dull hazy morning, but at 7 o'clock the fog had become so dense, that no object, however large, could be distinguished at a greater distance than a few yards. This created considerable confusion, and the men fearing, as they expressed it, to lose themselves, tied one canoe to another, thus forming double canoes, and all proceeded together in close company. The Landers wished to be more particular in their observations of this interesting part of their journey, but were constrained to forego that gratification, on account of the superstitious prejudices of the natives, who were so infatuated as to imagine, that the Landers had not only occasioned the fog, but that if they did not sit or lie down in the canoe, for they had been standing, it would inevitably cause the destruction of the whole party, and the reason they assigned, was, that the river had never beheld a white man before; and, therefore, they dreaded the consequences of their rashness and presumption in regarding its waters so attentively. This and similar nonsense was delivered with such determination and earnestness, that they reluctantly laid down, and allowed themselves to be covered with mats, in order to quiet their apprehensions; for they did not forget that they were prisoners, and that a perseverance in standing up, would have exposed them to the mortification of being put down by force.
On the dispersion of the fog, the Landers were again permitted to look at the river, and shortly afterwards one of the Eboe men in their canoe, exclaimed, "There is my country;" pointing to a clump of very high trees, which was yet at some distance before them, and after passing a low fertile island, they quickly came to it. Here they observed a few fishing canoes, but their owners appeared suspicious and fearful, and would not come near them, though their national flag, which was a British union, sewed on a large piece of plain white cotton, with scollops of blue, was streaming from a long staff on the bow. The town, they were told, was yet a good way down the river. In a short time, however, they came to an extensive morass, intersected by little channels in every direction, and by one of these, they got into clear water, and in front of the Eboe town. Here they found hundreds of canoes, some of them even larger than any they had previously met with. When they had come alongside the canoes, two or three huge brawny fellows, in broken English, asked how they did, in a tone which Stentor might have envied; and the shaking of hands with their powerful friends was really a punishment, on account of the violent squeezes which they were compelled to suffer. The chief of these men called himself Gun, though blunderbuss or thunder would have been as appropriate a name; and without solicitation, he informed them, that though he was not a great man, yet he was a little military king; that his brother's name was King Boy, and his father's King Forday, who, with King Jacket, governed all the Brass country. But what was infinitely more interesting to them, than this ridiculous list of kings, was the information he gave them, that besides a Spanish schooner, an English vessel, called the Thomas of Liverpool, was also lying in the first Brass river, which Mr. Gun said was frequented by Liverpool traders for palm oil. Full of joy at this intelligence, they passed on to a little artificial creek, where they were desired to wait till the king's pleasure respecting them should be known. They were afterwards drawn in a canoe over ooze and mud to a house, where, if the countenance of their host had been at all in unison with the agreeableness of his dwelling, they imagined that they could live at ease in it, for a few days at least. The harshness, however, of this man's manners, corresponded with his sulky, ill-natured face, and deprived them of a good deal of pleasure, which they would have enjoyed, in reposing at full length on dry, soft mats, after having been cramped up for three days in a small canoe, with slaves and goats, and exposed to the dews by night and the sun by day.
An hour or two of rest invigorated and refreshed them extremely, and they then received a message from the king, that he was waiting to see and converse with them. Having little to adjust in regard to their dress, they rose up, and followed the messenger. Passing near the outskirts of the town, the messenger conducted them, by paths little frequented, to the outward yard of the palace, before the door of which was placed the statue of a woman in a sitting posture, and made of clay, of course, very rude and very ugly. Having crossed the yard, in which they saw nothing remarkable, they entered by a wooden door into another, which was far superior. From this enclosure they were led into a third, which, like the former, had its porticoes. Opposite the entrance was a low clay platform, about three feet from the ground, which was overlaid with mats of various colours, a large piece of coarse red cloth covering the whole, and at each of its corners they observed a little squat figure, also of clay, but whether they were intended to be males or females, it was impossible to conjecture. Here they were desired to place themselves among a crowd of half-dressed, armed men, who were huddled together on the left of the platform, some sitting, and others standing, and awaiting the coming of the prince. Their friend, Gun, was with them, and he immediately claimed priority of acquaintance with them. He chatted with amazing volubility, and in less than two minutes, he was on the most familiar footing, slapping them with no small force just above the knee, to give weight to his observations, and to rivet their attentions to his remarks. Then, while they spoke, he would rest his heavy arms on their shoulders, and laugh aloud at every word they said, look very knowingly, and occasionally apply the palm of his hand to their backs with the most feeling energy, as a token of encouragement and approbation. They wished him to answer questions which concerned them nearly, but the only satisfaction they received, was contained in the expression "O yes, to be sure," and this was repeated so often, with an emphasis so peculiar, and with a grin so irresistibly ludicrous, that in spite of their disappointment, they were vastly entertained with him.
In this manner was the time beguiled, till they heard a door suddenly opened on their right, and the dreaded Obie, king of the Eboe country, stood before them. There was, however, nothing dreadful in his appearance, for he was a sprightly young man, with a mild open countenance, and an eye which indicated quickness, intelligence, and good nature, rather than the ferocity which they were told he possessed in an eminent degree. He received them with a smile of welcome, and shook hands with infinite cordiality, often complimenting them with the word, "Yes," to which his knowledge of the English was confined, and which no doubt he had been tutored to pronounce for the occasion.
Their story was related to the king in full by the Bonny messenger, who had accompanied them from Damaggoo, whose speech, which nearly as they could guess lasted two whole hours, was delivered in an admirable manner, and produced a visible effect on all present. As soon as it was over, they were invited by Obie to take some refreshment; being in truth extremely hungry at the time, they thankfully accepted the offer, and fish and yams, swimming in oil, were forthwith brought them on English plates, the king retiring in the meanwhile from motives of delicacy. When Obie returned, a general conversation ensued, and he was engaged in talking promiscuously to those around him till evening, when the "great palaver," as it was called, was formally prorogued until the morrow, and presently after the chief bade them good night, and retired.
On the following morning, they were visited by a number of the inhabitants, who broke through every restraint to gratify their desire of seeing them. This was what they naturally expected, yet after all, they were much better behaved and less impatient, than they had any reason to apprehend, and they departed with little importunity, considering that they had not been in the habit of bending to the will of prisoners and slaves, for such were the Landers in reality.
About noon they were informed that their attendance was required at the king's house, Obie being fully prepared, it was said, to resume the hearing of their case, and examine the deposition of the Bonny messenger and the Damaggoo people. On entering the principal yard or court, in which they were introduced to the king on the preceding day, a common English chair, covered with inferior red cloth, was placed for the use of the king. He soon afterwards entered, his fat, round cheeks were swelling with good humour, real or assumed, as he shook hands with a sprightly air, when he instantly seated himself to receive the prostrations and addresses of his subjects and others.
The business of the day was entered into with spirit, and a violent altercation arose between the Brass and Bonny people, and although not much was communicated to the Landers, of the conversation that passed between them, yet a sufficiency was imparted to them to let them know, that they would never leave the country without a high ransom.
Bonny was the real place of their destination, and they had with them a messenger from the present and a son to the late ruler of that state, (King Pepper,) whilst on the other hand, they knew nothing of Brass, never having heard the name of such a river in their lives before. The Brass people affirm that the Bonny Creek, which is a small branch of the Niger, was dried up, and that the main river, which runs to Brass, belongs to King Jacket, who permitted no foreigners whatever to pass up and down the Niger, without exacting the accustomed fees or duties. The Brass people, therefore, would have a very plausible reason for taking them entirely out of the hands of Obie and the Damaggoo people.
In the evening, Antonio and five other Bonny people came to their hut with tears in their eyes. On asking them, what was the matter, "The chief," they said, "is determined to sell you to the Brass people, but we will fight for you, and die rather than see you sold." "How many of you Bonny people are there?" Richard Lander asked. "Only six," was the reply. "And can you fight with two hundred Brass people?" Lander asked. "We can kill some of them," they answered, "and your people can assist." Lander then asked Antonio the reason why he did not interpret what was going forward to-day at the king's house. He said, that he was afraid it would have made their hearts sore—that it was "a bad palaver." "We have all been to the chief," he added, "crying to him, and telling him that black man cannot sell white man, but he will not listen to us, he said, he would sell you to the Brass people."
The Landers felt much hurt at their situation, for they did not expect that it would be so bad as it turned out to be, but they made up their minds to prepare themselves for the worst, for it was impossible to foresee the lengths to which the savages would go. On the following day, Richard Lander was taken very ill with the fever, and was consequently unable to attend the summons to the king's house, he therefore sent his brother in his stead, who gave the following account:—
"On my arriving there this morning, to my infinite surprise I found King Boy (Gun's eldest brother,) with a number of his attendants already assembled. He was dressed in a style far superior to any of his countrymen, and wore a jacket and waistcoat over a neat shirt of striped cotton, to which was annexed a silk pocket handkerchief, which extended below the knees. Trousers are not permitted to be worn, either by natives or strangers, of the same hue as themselves, the kings alone being an exception to the rule. Strings of coral and other beads encircled his neck, and a pretty little crucifix of seed beads hung on his bosom. This latter ornament, which has probably been given him by a slave captain, had by no means an unbecoming appearance. King Boy introduced himself to me with the air of a person who bestows a favour, rather than soliciting acquaintance, and indeed his vanity in other respects was highly amusing. He would not suffer any one to sit between him and the platform, but squatted himself down nearest the king's seat, which, as a mark of honour, had been previously assigned to us; and with a volubility scarcely imaginable, he commenced a long narrative of his greatness, power, and dignity, in which he excelled all his neighbours, and to this I was constrained to listen with assumed composure and attention for a considerable time. To convince me of his veracity, he produced a pocket book, containing a great number of recommendatory notes, or 'characters,' as a domestic would call them, written in the English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese languages, and which had been given him by the various European traders, who had visited the Brass River. This practice of giving written characters, which has for some time been adopted by Europeans, is both praiseworthy and useful, and it has become almost universal on the western coast; because it is not to be supposed that the natives themselves can understand these documents, and strangers are made acquainted with their good or bad qualities by them, and taught to discriminate the honest from the unfaithful and malicious. Boy's letters mentioned certain dealings, which their authors had had with him, and they likewise bore testimony to his own character, and the manners of his countrymen. Amongst others is one from a 'James Dow, master of the brig Susan, from Liverpool,' and dated: 'Brass First River, Sept. 1830,' which runs as follows: "Captain Dow states, that he never met with a set of greater scoundrels than the natives in general, and the pilots in particular." These he anathematised as d——d rascals, who had endeavoured to steer his vessel among the breakers at the mouth of the river, that they might share the plunder of its wreck. King Jacket, who claims the sovereignty of the river, is declared to be a more confirmed knave, if possible, than they, and to have cheated him of a good deal of property. The writer describes King Forday as a man rather advanced in years, less fraudulent but more dilatory. King Boy, his son, alone deserved his confidence, for he had not abused it, and possessed more honour and integrity than either of his countrymen.
"These are the rulers of the Brass River, and pretty fellows they are, truly. Mr. Dow further observes, that the river is extremely unhealthy, and that his first and second mates, three coopers, and five seamen, had already died of fever, and that he himself had had several narrow escapes from the same disorder. He concludes, by cautioning traders against the treachery of the natives generally, and gives them certain directions concerning 'the dreadful bar,' at the mouth of the river, on which he had nearly perished.
"This business had been no sooner settled, than Obie entered the yard, attended as usual, but clad indifferently in loose silks. After the customary salutations, Boy directed the monarch to appeal to me, that he might be satisfied in what estimation he was held by white men. Of course I said a variety of fine things in his favour, which were received with a very good grace indeed; but that a piece of paper simply, which could neither speak, hear, nor understand, should impart such information, was a source of astonishment and wonder to Obie and his train, who testified their emotion in no other manner than by looks of silly amazement, and repeated bursts of laughter.
"The king then said with a serious countenance, that there was no necessity for further discussion respecting the white men, his mind was already made up on the subject, and for the first time, he briefly explained himself to this effect: That circumstances having thrown us in the way of his subjects, by the laws and usages of the country, he was not only entitled to our own persons, but had an equal right to those of our attendants; that he should take no further advantage of his good fortune, than by exchanging us for as much English goods as would amount in value to twenty slaves. In order to have this matter fairly arranged and settled, he should, of his own accord, prevent our leaving the town, till such time as our countrymen at Bonny or Brass should pay for our ransom, having understood from ourselves that the English at either of those rivers, would afford us whatever assistance we might require, with cheerfulness and alacrity. Concerning the goods of which we had been robbed at Kirree, he assured us he would use his utmost exertions to get them restored. He lamented that circumstance more than any one, but he denied that a single subject of his had any thing to do with it, and attributed the whole of that unfortunate affair, to the rashness and brutality of a certain people, that inhabited a country nearly opposite to his own, whose monarch was his particular friend, therefore, he apprehended little difficulty in seeing justice done us; 'but then,' said he, 'it is necessary that you should wait here for an indefinite time, till a council of that nation be held, when the plunderers will be examined, and your claims established. The Damaggoo people, that have come with you, have like yourselves suffered much loss; for my own part, I shall make them a present of a slave or two as a compensation, and they have my permission to go along with you for the present, which I understand you have promised their monarch, but you must not expect them to be your guides to the sea, for their responsibility ends here.'
"When all this was interpreted to me by Antonio, I was thunderstruck. It was in vain that I assured Obie that there was not the slightest necessity for our detention in the town; that our countrymen would redeem us the moment they should see us, but not before; and equally unavailing were my solicitations for him to alter this arrangement and suffer us to depart; but the tears of his subjects, and the representations of the men at Brass, had made too deep an impression upon his mind to be so easily eradicated. We found it too late either to implore or remonstrate.
"This final decision of the king is a bitter stroke to us, for we fondly indulged the hope of a more favourable issue, from the deliberations of the savage council, at whose dissolution we expected to be sent to the sea coast, without being perplexed with further embarrassments. We have now to wait the return of a messenger from thence, who has not yet been sent on his errand, and he is to bring back with him the value of twenty slaves, ere we obtain our freedom. Heaven only knows whether the masters of English vessels at Bonny or Brass, have the ability or feel the disposition to ransom us. We only know that if disposed of at all, we shall be sold for infinitely more than we are worth.
"As may naturally be supposed, I returned home much depressed and afflicted, to inform my brother of the result of the palaver, and he was as greatly surprised and afflicted as myself at the intelligence. But though we are full of trouble and uneasiness at our gloomy situation, yet we do not repine at the divine dispensations of that Almighty providence, which has comforted us in the hours of adversity, and relieved us in times of pain and danger, and snatched us from the jaws of death."
On the following morning, Richard Lander was rather convalescent, and in truth they both wondered much that their health, generally speaking, had been so good, when they reflected for a moment on the hardships and privations, which they had lately undergone, the perplexities in which they had been entangled, and the difficulties with which they had had to contend.
During the few days that they had spent in this place, they had been sadly in want of provisions, and their people, who for the first day bore their privation in silence, have since then been loud in their complaints. The constant fear which they entertained of being taken away and sold, now, however, changed that lively feeling of discontent into sullen-ness and despondency. What made the matter still worse was the fact, that having lost their needles and kowries at Kirree, they had not the means of purchasing any thing, although the kowrie shell was not current where they then were. Obie was in the habit of sending them a fowl, or a yam or two every morning, but as they were ten in number, it made but a slender meal, and it was barely sufficient to keep them from actual starvation. To stop, if possible, the sullen murmurings of their people, they were now reduced to the painful necessity of begging, but they might as well have addressed their petitions to the stones and trees, and thereby have spared themselves the mortification of a refusal. They never experienced a more stinging sense of their own humbleness and imbecility than on such occasions, and never had they greater need of patience and lowliness of spirit. In most African towns and villages, they had been regarded as demi-gods, and treated in consequence with universal kindness, civility, and veneration; but here, alas! what a contrast, they were classed with the most degraded and despicable of mankind, and were become slaves in a land of ignorance and barbarism, whose savage natives treated them with brutality and contempt. It would be hard to guess whence these unkindly feelings originated, but they felt that they had not deserved them, yet the consciousness of their own insignificance sadly militated against every idea of self-love or self-importance, and taught them a plain and useful moral lesson. Although they made the most charitable allowances for the Eboe people, they were, notwithstanding, obliged to consider them the most inhospitable tribe, as well as the most covetous and uncivil, that they were acquainted with. Their monarch, and a respectable married female, who had passed the meridian of her days, were the only individuals, amongst several thousands, that showed them anything like civility or kindness, and the latter alone acted, as they were convinced, solely from disinterested motives.
All ranks of people here are passionately fond of palm wine, and drank of it to excess, whenever they had an opportunity, which often occurred, as great quantities of it are produced in the town and its neighbourhood. It was a very general and favourite custom with them, as soon as the sun had set, to hold large meetings and form parties in the open air, or under the branches of trees, to talk over the events of the day, and make merry with this exciting beverage. These assemblies are kept up until after midnight, and as the revellers generally contrive to get inebriated very soon after they sit down to drink, the greater part of the evening is devoted to wrangling and fighting, instead of convivial intercourse, and occasionally the most fearful noises that it is possible for the mind to conceive. Bloodshed, and even murder, it is said, not unfrequently terminate these boisterous and savage entertainments. A meeting of this description was held outside the yard of their residence every evening, and the noise which they made was really terrifying, more especially when the women and young people joined in the affray, for a quarrel of some sort was sure to ensue. Their cries, groans, and shrieks of agony were dreadful, and would lead a stranger to suppose, that these dismal and piercing sounds proceeded from individuals about to be butchered, or that they were extorted by the last pangs of anguish and suffering. The Landers trembled with alarm for the first night or two, imagining from these loud and doleful cries, that a work of bloodshed and slaughter was in progress. They found it useless to endeavour to sleep till the impression of the first wild cry that was uttered, and the last faint scream had worn away. But by degrees they became in some measure more reconciled to them, from the frequency of their occurrence, or rather they felt less apprehension than formerly, as to their origin; understanding with surprise that they were only the effects of a simple quarrel, and excite from the inhabitants no more than a casual remark, although it is said that in fits of ungovernable passion, the most heinous crimes are consummated in these frantic revels.
Their matronly female acquaintance, though excessively fat, was of diminutive stature, and by her cheerful pleasantry she beguiled in some degree the wearisomeness of the long evening hours, and banished that ennui, which the disagreeableness of their situation had partially induced, simply by her endeavours to do so. For not content with paying them formal visits in the day time, she came into their yard every night, instead of joining the orgies of her acquaintance, accompanied by two or three friends of congenial natures, with the very benevolent intention of pitying their misfortunes, and dissipating their melancholy. Two or three slaves followed their mistress into the yard, carrying a few bottles of their favourite palm wine, and perhaps with a plate of bananas also, that the evening might be passed more agreeably.
Their sleeping quarters were in a recess, which was elevated three or four feet from the ground, and supported by wooden columns. It was without a door, or indeed anything answering the same purpose, so that they enjoyed the refreshing coolness of the evening air, with the disadvantage of being gazed at by whoever had the curiosity to enter their premises. They generally laid down shortly after sunset, and presently their fat, jolly little friend, duck-like, comes waddling into their yard, with her companions and slaves, to offer them the evening salutations, and enter into the usual familiar discourse. This was commonly preceded by a large potation of palm wine, which was always relished with a loud and peculiar smack, expressive of the pleasure and satisfaction afforded by so copious a draught, and betokening also much internal warmth and comfort. The officious slaves having spread mats for the purpose, directly in front of their recess, their lady visitor and her associates, together with their ill-natured host, who had by this time joined the party, squatted themselves down in a circle, and under the inspiration of the fermented juice, maintained a pretty animated conversation, till the wine was all expended and sleep weighed their eyelids down. For themselves they had little of any thing to say, because the Landers were pretty nearly as ignorant of their language, as they were of theirs, and interpretation is unfavourable to the contagion of social felicity. Nevertheless, it was highly diverting to watch the influence of the palm wine on their looks, language, and ideas. The flushed countenance is invisible in a black lady, but then she has the liquid and unsettled eye, the proneness to talk with irresistible garrulity, the gentle simper, or the bursting laugh at any trifle, or at nothing at all; and to wind up the list of symptoms, she has that complaisant idea of her own good points, and superior qualifications, which elicit her own approbation, without exciting the applauses of her associates, and which distinguishes the inexperienced male reveller in every part of the globe. All these were observable in their talkative little friend, as well as in her companions. It was also a relief to contemplate from their resting place, the peace and harmony of the little party before them, so entirely different from the boisterous one without; because it gave them a comfortable sense of their own security, which they should not certainly have entertained, had they been left to their own reflections, and when, after a good deal of turning and restlessness they at length fell into a disagreeable and unrefreshing dose, and were attacked by that hideous phantom, nightmare, which was often the case; starting up in fright from the assassin's knife, which they could scarcely persuade themselves to be unreal; it was pleasant to fix their eyes upon their comical little visitor, with her round shining face, and her jolly companions; all apprehension of mischief immediately vanished, and a truly pleasing effect was produced upon their minds and spirits. The breaking up of the party on the outside, was a signal for their friends also to depart. When rising from her mat, the mistress, after shaking hands, wished them good night in a thick tremulous tone, and waddled out of their yard in a direction, which Hogarth denominates the line of beauty, she returned home to her husband, who was a valetudinarian. Thus passed their evenings, and thus much of their solitary Eboe friend.
In addition to the value of twenty slaves, which the king of Eboe demanded from them, they now heard that King Boy required the value of fifteen casks of palm oil, which is equal to fifteen slaves, for himself, and as payment for the trouble he and his people will have in conducting them to the English vessel. He said, that he must take three canoes and one hundred and fifty people, and, therefore, it was impossible that he could do with less. The chief then said, that if they did not consent to give King Boy a book for all this money, he should send them into the interior of the country to be sold, and that they never should see the sea again. It was now seen that they had no alternative, and they considered it most prudent to give him the bill, not intending, however, on their arrival at the sea, to give him more than twenty common trade guns, to pay this chief and all other expenses. King Boy was to give Obie five pieces of cloth and one gun as part payment; the remainder was to be paid on his return, after having delivered them up to the brig. The Landers and all their people were now in high spirits, at the prospect of leaving this place and obtaining their freedom, for they had so much faith in the character of the English, that they entertained not the slightest doubt that the captain of the brig would most willingly pay the ransom money.
Towards evening, Obie in his showy coral dress came barefooted to their hut, for the purpose of inspecting their books and examining the contents of their medicine chest. His approach was announced to them by the jingling of the little bells which his feet. He appeared greatly pleased with every thing they said, and looked aghast when informed of the powerful properties of some of the medicines, which ended in a fit of laughter. He expressed a strong desire to have a little, especially of the purgatives, and there being no objection on the part of the Landers, they supplied him with a good strong dose of jalap, which had the same affect as it had had upon the sultan of Yaoorie and family. Obie was evidently fearful of their books, having been informed that could "tell all things," and appeared to shrink with horror at which was offered him, shaking his head, saying, that he must not accept it, for that it was good only for white men, "Whose God was not his God." The visit was of very short duration,
On the following day, they found King Boy in the inner yard of the king's house, and from his significant physiognomy, they conjectured that he had something of consequence to communicate. Obie received them with his accustomed politeness and jocularity, but instantly directed his attention and discourse to King Boy, who maintained an earnest and pretty animated conversation with him for some time. The Bonny people were in attendance and weeping. As the Landers were frequently pointed out and named, they had no doubt whatever that it was chiefly concerning themselves, which opinion was soon after confirmed. As if the parties had some secret to discuss, which they did not wish either their attendants or those of the Landers to overhear, they retired to the middle court, where having conversed for a time by themselves, they returned with anxious looks to resume their conversation. This was repeated twice, after which, as it was subsequently understood, Obie briefly related in a loud voice the result of this extraordinary conference, and all present, except the men of Bonny, shouted simultaneously the monosyllable "Yah," as a token of their approbation.
In the mean time, from anxiety to be made acquainted with what had transpired respecting themselves, they felt rather impatient and uneasy, the answer of King Boy to their repeated interrogations having been only "Plenty of bars," the meaning whereof they were grievously puzzled to define. But shortly after the termination of the palaver, how transported were they to hear the last mentioned individual explain himself in broken English to this effect: "In the conversation, which I have just had with Obie, I have been induced to offer him the goods, which he demands for your ransom, on the faith that they be hereafter repaid me by the master of the brig Thomas, which is now lying in the first Brass, River, and that the value of fifteen bars or slaves be added thereto in European goods, and likewise a cask of rum, as a remuneration for the hazard and trouble which I shall inevitably incur in transporting you to Brass. If you consent to these resolutions, and on these only will I consent to redeem you, you will forthwith give me a bill on Captain Lake, for the receipt of articles to the value of thirty-five bars, after which you will be at liberty to leave this place, and to go along with me, whenever you may think proper, agreeably to the understanding at present existing between Obie and myself."
This was delightful news indeed, and they thanked King Boy over and over again for his generosity and nobleness, for they were too much elated at the time to reflect on the exorbitant demands which had been imposed upon them. Without hesitation they gave him a bill on Mr. Lake; indeed there was not anything which they would not have done, rather than lose the opportunity of getting down to the sea, which seemed so providentially held out to them.
Obie perceived by the great and sudden change in their countenances, the joy which filled their breasts, and having asked them whether they were not pleased with his arrangements, in the fullness of their hearts, he exacted from them a promise, that on returning to England, they would inform their countrymen that he was a good man, and that they would pay him a visit whenever they should come again into the country.
When King Boy came for his book, it was given to him, and he wished to send it down to the brig, to know if it was good. This was no more than what was to be expected, so he was informed, the book would be of no use, unless they were sent along with it, and that the captain would not pay it, before he had taken them on board, on which he put the bill into his pocket-book. They then bade him farewell, and he took leave of them in a kind and cordial manner.
Fearing that something might yet occur to detain them, and ultimately to change the king's resolution altogether, they were most eager to get out of the reach of him and his people as quickly as possible. Therefore they lost not a moment in hastening to their lodgings, and having sent their people on board Boy's canoe, they hurried after them immediately, and embarked at three in the afternoon, and thus terminated four of the most wretched days of their existence. They were unable to take along with them their own old leaky and shattered canoe, as it would detain them very much, from being so heavy to move along. The Damaggoo people accompanied them in their own canoe, and every thing was arranged for their departure at an early hour on the following day. The Brass canoe, which was now become their dwelling, was extremely large, and heavily laden. It was paddled by forty men and boys, in addition to whom there might be about twenty individuals, or more, including a few slaves and themselves, so that the number of human beings amounted altogether to sixty.
Like Obie's war canoes, it was furnished with a cannon, which was lashed to the bow, a vast number of cutlasses, and a quantity of grape and other shot, besides powder, flints, &c. It contained a number of large boxes or chests, which were filled with spirituous liquors, cotton, silk goods, earthenware, and other articles of European and other foreign manufactures; besides abundance of provisions for present consumption, and two thousand yams for the master of a Spanish slaver, which was then lying in Brass River. In this canoe three men might sit abreast of each other, and from the number of people which it contained, and the immense quantity of articles of various descriptions, some idea of its size may be formed. It was cut out of a solid trunk of a tree, and drew four feet and a half of water, being more than fifty feet in length. It was, however, so deeply laden, that not above two inches of the canoe were to be seen above the water's edge. With its present burden, it would have been impossible for her to sail on any river less smooth than the Niger, and even as it is, when it comes to be paddled, some danger exists of its being swamped. It was really laughable to reflect that the canoe was supplied with two speaking trumpets, which, considering the stentorian lungs of the men of Brass, were entirely superfluous, and that she was commanded by regularly appointed officers, with sounding titles, in imitation of European vessels, such as captain, mate, boatswain, coxswain, &c. besides a cook and his minions. These distinctions are encouraged by King Boy, whose vanity and consequence even in the most trifling concerns, were irresistibly diverting. The Landers determined to sleep in the canoe that night, notwithstanding the want of room would render it an intolerable grievance. Previously to embarking, they had taken a little boiled yam with palm oil at Obie's house, and they remained two hours lying on the bank. At seven in the evening they settled themselves for the night, but found that they were exceedingly cramped up for want of room, occasioned by the yams being stowed badly.
During the night a great tumult arose between the natives and the men of Brass, which might have had a serious and fatal termination, if the latter had not taken timely precaution to convey their canoe from the beach into the middle of the stream, whither the natives could not follow them. The former had flocked down to the water's edge in considerable numbers, armed with muskets, spears, and other offensive weapons, and kept up a dreadful noise, like the howling of wolves, till long after midnight; when the uproar died away King Boy slept on shore with his wife Adizzetta, who was Obie's favourite daughter, and on her account they waited till between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, when she made her appearance with her husband, who, they understood, had embraced the present opportunity of making an excursion with her to his native country, to vary her life a little by a change of air and scene, and to introduce her to his other wives and relatives residing at Brass. She had besides expressed a desire to see white men's ships, and it was partly to gratify her curiosity in this particular that she was going with them. On stepping into the canoe, with a spirit of gallantry, Boy handed her to the best seat, which was a box, close to which he himself sat, and which the Landers, from motives of delicacy, had relinquished in her favour. Her face was towards the bow, whilst the two Landers sat directly vis-a-vis on a heap of yams, but they were So close to the opposite party that their legs came in continual contact, which threatened to produce much inconvenience and confusion. They were still further detained by removing various heavy articles into another canoe, which was lying alongside, because the canoe in which they were was pronounced too deeply laden to be safe, but after all she did not appear to be lightened very considerably. This being all accomplished, at half-past seven they pushed off the Eboe shore, and for a little while, with forty paddles dashing up the silvery foam at the same moment, they glided through the water with the speed of a dolphin. To the Landers it was altogether a scene of considerable gratification.
"The eyes of man," says Richard Lander, "are so placed in his head, that it has been frequently observed, whether sitting or standing, he can behold earth and sky at the same moment without inconvenience, which is an advantage, I believe, that no other animal possesses in an equal degree, if it does at all. As I was reflecting on this circumstance I happened to cast my eyes towards the horizon, to convince myself of its reality, when I found the tall, masculine figure of Obie's favourite daughter intercepted it entirely from my view. Being thus balked for a moment in my intentions, I was instantly diverted from them, and I deemed the opportunity favourable for studying the physiognomy and person of King Boy's 'ladye love.' Adizzetta may be between twenty and thirty years of age,[Footnote: There is a discrepancy in the account given by Lander respecting Obie and Adizzetta, which we cannot reconcile. Obie is represented to be a sprightly young man, and yet his favourite daughter Adizzetta is married, and between 20 and 30 year of age. Obie then could not be a young man.] or perhaps younger, for she takes snuff, and females arrive at womanhood in warm countries much sooner than in cold ones. Her person is tall, stout, and well proportioned, though it has not dignity sufficient to be commanding; her countenance is round and open, but dull and almost inexpressive; mildness of manners, evenness of temper, and inactivity of body also, might notwithstanding, I think be clearly defined in it; on the whole she has a perfect virginity of face, which betrays not the smallest symptoms of feeling. Her forehead is smooth and shining as polished ebony, but it is rather too low to be noble; her eyes full, large, and beautiful, though languid; her cheeks of a dutch-like breadth and fullness; her nose finely compressed, but not quite so distinguished a feature as the negro nose in general; there is a degree of prettiness about her mouth, the lips not being disagreeably large, which is further embellished by a set of elegant teeth, perfectly even and regular, and white as the teeth of a greyhound; her chin—but I am unable to describe a chin; I only know that it agrees well with the other features of her face.
"Adizzetta seldom laughs, but smiles and simpers most engagingly, whenever she is more than ordinarily pleased, and she seems not to be unconscious of the powerful influence which these smiles have over the mind of her husband. Her dress and personal charms may be described in a few words; the former consisting simply of a piece of figured silk, encircling the waist, and extending as far as the knees; her woolly hair, which is tastefully braided, is enclosed in a net, and ends in a peak at the top; the net is adorned, but not profusely, with coral beads, strings of which hang from the crown to the forehead. She wears necklaces of the same costly bead; copper rings encircle her fingers and great toes; bracelets of ivory her wrists, and enormous rings, also, of the elephant's tusks decorate her legs, near the ankle, by which she is almost disabled from walking, on account of their ponderous weight and immense size. I had almost finished the scrutiny of her person, when Adizzetta, observing me regarding her with more than common attention, at length caught my eye, and turned away her head, with a triumphant kind of smile, as much as to say, Aye, white man, you may well admire and adore my person; I perceive you are struck with my beauty, and no wonder neither: yet I immediately checked the ill-natured construction, which I had put on her looks, and accused myself of injustice. For though, said I to myself, Adizzetta, poor simple savage, may be as fond of admiration as her white sisters in more civilized lands, yet her thoughts, for aught I know, might have been very remote from vanity or self-love. However, that she smiled I am quite certain, and very prettily too, for I saw a circling dimple, radiating upon her full, round cheek, which terminated in a momentary gleam of animation, and illuminate her dark languishing eye, like a flash of light; and what could all this mean I had forgotten to say that the person of Obie's daughter is tattooed in various parts, but the incisions or rather lacerations are irregular and unseemly. Her bosom in particular bears evident marks of the cutting and gashing, which it had received when Adizzetta was a child, for the wounds having badly healed, the skin over them is risen a full half inch above the natural surface. By the side of each eye, near the temple vein, a representation of the point of an arrow is alone formed with tolerable accuracy. They look a though indigo had been inserted into the flesh with a needle, and by this peculiarity, with which every female face is impressed, the Eboe women are distinguished from their neighbours and surrounding tribes.
"Before breakfast, Adizzetta was employed above an hour in cleaning and polishing her teeth, by rubbing them with the fibrous roots of a certain shrub or tree, which are much esteemed, and generally used for the purpose in her own country, as well as in the more interior parts. A great part of the day is consumed by many thousands of individuals in this amusing occupation, and to this cause, the brilliant whiteness of their teeth, for which Africans, generally speaking, are remarkable, may be attributed." Such is Lander's description of an African beauty, and that beauty a queen.
About ten in the morning, a mess of fish, boiled with yams and plantains, was produced for breakfast. As King Boy was fearful that the presence of the Landers might incommode the lady, they were desired to move farther back, that she might eat with additional confidence and comfort, for alas! they were not placed on an equality with Adizzetta and her kingly spouse. When they had breakfasted and swallowed a calabash of water from the stream, the Landers were served with a plateful, and afterwards the boat's crew and the slaves were likewise regaled with yams and wafer. In the evening, another refreshment, similar to this, was served round to all, and these are the only meals which the men of Brass have during the twenty-four hours. Before eating, Boy himself made it a practice of offering a small portion of his food to the spirits of the river, that his voyage might be rendered propitious by conciliating their good will. Previously also to his drinking a glass of rum or spirits, he poured a few drops of it into the water, invoking the protection of these fanciful beings, by muttering several expressions between his teeth, the tenor of which, of course, they did not understand. This religious observance, they were told, was invariably performed, whenever the Brass people have occasion to leave their country by water, or return to it by the same means; it is called a meat and drink offering, and is celebrated at every meal. A custom very similar to this prevails at Yarriba, at Badagry, Cape Coast Castle, and along the western coast generally; the natives of those places never take a glass of spirits without spilling a quantity of it on the ground as "a fetish." In the morning, they observed a branch of the river running off in a westerly direction, the course of the main body being southwest.