They stopped awhile at various little villages during the day, to purchase yams, bananas, and cocoa-nuts, and the curiosity of their poor inhabitants at their appearance was intense. They were chiefly fishermen or husbandmen, and notwithstanding the uncouth and remarkable dress of the Landers, they behaved to them without rudeness and even with civility, so that their inquisitiveness was not disagreeable. Speaking trumpets, it was imagined, were quite a novelty with the men at Brass, by the extraordinary rapture which they displayed for their music, which certainly was anything but melodious. It has been already stated that two of these instruments were in the canoe, for the convenience of issuing orders, and during the whole of the day, they were not ten minutes together from the mouths of the officers, so great was the desire of all of them to breathe through them, and which adds considerably to the deafening noises made by their constant quarrelling with each other. This was a great annoyance to the Landers, but they were constrained to submit to it in silence; besides, it was entirely superfluous, for the voices of the people were of themselves loud and powerful enough for all the common purposes of life; and when they have a mind to strain their brazen lungs, no speaking trumpet that has ever been made, be it ever so large, could match the quantity of horrid sound which they made; it would, in fact, drown the roaring of the sea.
In addition to the officers and attendants in the canoe formerly mentioned, they had one drummer, the king's steward, and his lady's maid, and two persons to bale out water, besides three captains, to give the necessary directions for the safety of the canoe. The noise made by these people on their starting, in bawling to their fetish through the trumpets, was beyond all description. Their object was to secure them a safe journey, and most certainly, if noise could do so, they were pretty certain of it.
The villages that they passed in the course of the day, were very numerous, and not distant more than two or three miles from each other, on the banks of the river. They were surrounded by more cultivated land than they had seen for the previous fortnight; the crops consisting of yams, bananas, plantains, indian corn, &c. &c., not having seen so much since they left Kacunda. The villages had a pleasing appearance from the river. The houses seemed to be built of a light-coloured clay, and being thatched with palm branches, they very much resembled our own cottages. They were of a square form, with two windows on each side of the door, but have no upper rooms.
In many places they observed that the river had overflowed its banks, and was running between the trees and thick underwood. In the widest part, it did not seem more than a mile and a half across, in fact, its width, contrary to the usual course of rivers, when approaching the sea, was sensibly diminishing, and was dwindling away into an ordinary stream.
"Perhaps," says Richard Lander, "there cannot be a greater comfort under the sun, than sound and invigorating sleep to the weary, nor in our opinion, a greater grievance than the loss of it; because wakefulness at those hours, which nature has destined for repose, is, in nine cases out of ten, sure to be the harbinger of peevishness, discontent, and ill humour, and not unfrequently induces languor, lassitude, and disease. No two individuals in the world have greater reason to complain of disturbed slumbers or nightly watching, than ourselves. Heretofore, this has been occasioned chiefly by exposure to damps, rains, and dews, mosquito attacks, frightful and piercing noises, and over-fatigue, or apprehension or anxiety of mind. But now, in the absence of most of these causes, we are cramped, painfully cramped for want of room, insomuch, that when we feel drowsy, we find it impossible to place ourselves in a recumbent posture, without having the heavy legs of Mr. and Mrs. Boy, with their prodigious ornaments of ivory, placed either on our faces or on our breasts. From such a situation it requires almost the strength of a rhinoceros to be freed; it is most excessively teasing. Last night we were particularly unfortunate in this respect, and a second attack of fever, which came on me in the evening, rendered my condition lamentable indeed, and truly piteous. It would be ridiculous to suppose, that one can enjoy the refreshment of sleep, how much soever it my be required, when two or more uncovered legs and feet, huge, black, and rough, are traversing one's face and body, stopping up the passages of respiration, and pressing so heavily upon them at times, as to threaten suffocation. I could not long endure so serious an inconvenience, but preferred last night sitting up in the canoe. My brother was indisposed, and in fact unable to follow my example, and therefores I endeavoured, if possible, to render his situation more tolerable. With this object in view, I pinched the feet of our snoring companions, Mr. and Mrs. Boy, repeatedly, till the pain caused them to awake, and remove their brawny feet from his face, and this enabled him to draw backwards a few inches, and place his head into a narrow recess, which is formed by two boxes. However, this did not allow him liberty to turn it either way, and thus jammed, with no command whatever over his suffering limbs, he passed the hours without sleep, and arose this morning with bruised bones and sore limbs, complaining bitterly of the wretched moments, which the legs of Mr. and Mrs. Boy had caused him, with their ivory rings and heaps of yams."
They now arrived at a convenient place for stopping awhile, to give their canoe men rest from their labour, and at day break they launched out again into the river, and paddled down the stream. At seven in the morning, Boy and his wife having landed to trade, the Landers took advantage of their absence and slept soundly for two hours, without the risk of being disturbed by the brawny legs of either the gentleman or lady.
They continued their course down the river until two hours after midnight, when they stopped near a small village on the east side of the river. They made fast to the shore, and the people settled themselves in the canoe to sleep. Having sat up the whole of the previous night, for the best of all reasons, because they could find no room to lie down, in consequence of the crowded state of the canoe, and feeling themselves quite unequal to do the same, the Landers took their mats and went on shore, determined if possible, to sleep on the ground. Overcome by fatigue, the fear of being attacked by alligators, or any thing else, they selected a dry place and laid themselves down on their mats. They had nearly dropped asleep, when they were roused by several severe stings, and found themselves covered with black ants. They had got up their trousers, and were tormenting them dreadfully. At first they knew not which way to get rid of them. Their men, Pascoe, Sam, and Jowdie, seeing the condition they were in, landed from the canoe, and made large fires in the form of a ring, and they laid down in the midst of them and slept till daylight. The sting of a black ant is quite as painful as that of a wasp.
Towards the evening of the following day, they departed from the main river, and took their course up a small branch towards Brass Town, running in a direction about southeast from that which they had just left. They had not proceeded far on this course, when to their great satisfaction, they found themselves influenced by the tide. They had previously observed an appearance of foam on the water, which might have been carried up by the flood tide from the mouth of the river, but they now felt certain of being within its influence. They were constantly annoyed by the canoe running aground on a bank, or sticking fast in the underwood, which delayed their progress considerably, and the men were obliged to get out to lighten and lift the canoe off them. Their tract was through a narrow creek, arched over by mangroves, so as to form a complete avenue, which in many places was so thick as to be totally impenetrable by the light above. A heavy shower of rain came on and wetted them thoroughly, and after this was over, the dripping from the trees, which overhung the canoe, kept them in constant rain nearly the whole of the night. The smell from decayed vegetable substances was sickly and exceedingly disagreeable.
Through these dismal and gloomy passages, they travelled during the whole of the night of the 15th November without stopping, unless for a few minutes at a time, to disengage themselves from the pendant shoots of the mangrove and spreading brambles, in which they occasionally became entangled. These luxuriant natives of the soil are so intricately woven, that it would be next to impossible to eradicate them. Their roots and branches are the receptacles of ooze, mud, and filth of all kinds, exhaling a peculiar offensive odour, which no doubt possesses highly deleterious qualities.
The reason adduced for not resting during the night, was the apprehension entertained by King Boy, of being unable to overtake his father and brothers, they having left the Eboe country the day before them. A certain spot had been previously fixed upon by the parties for the meeting, and they arrived there about nine o'clock a.m., and found those individuals in three large canoes, with their attendants, waiting their arrival. Here they stopped, and made their canoes fast to the trees, to take refreshment, such as it was, and half an hour's rest; and here they were introduced to the renowned King Forday, who according to his own account is monarch of the whole country. In one of the canoes sat old King Forday, in company with several fetish priests; the second canoe belonged to King Boy, and the third was Mr. Gun's. These canoes had come thus far for the purpose of escorting them into their country.
King Forday was a complaisant venerable-looking old man, but was rather shabbily dressed, partly in the European and partly in the native style. Like most savages, his fondness for spirituous liquors was extreme, and he took large potations of rum in their presence, though it produced no visible effect upon his manner or conversation. In the jollity of the moment, he attempted to sing, but his weak piping voice did not seem to second his inclination, and the sound died away from very feebleness. His subjects, however, amounting to nearly two hundred individuals, testified their approbation of the effort by a tremendous "Yah!" shouted simultaneously by every voice, which sounded like the roar of a lion.
During the time that they had been at breakfast, the tide ebbed, and left their canoes lying on the mud. Breakfast being over, the fetish priests commenced their avocations, by marking the person of King Boy from head to foot with chalk, in lines, circles, and a variety of fantastic figures, which so completely metamorphosed him, as to render his identity rather questionable, at the distance of only a few yards. His usual dress had been thrown aside, and he was allowed to wear nothing but a narrow silk handkerchief tied round his waist; on his head a little close cap was placed, made of grass, and ornamented with large feathers. These they found to be the wing feathers of a black and white buzzard, which is the fetish bird of Brass Town. Two huge spears were also chalked and put into his hands, and thus equipped his appearance was wild and grotesque in the extreme. The same operation was performed on the rest of the party, and the fetish priests were chalked in the same manner. The people belonging to the Landers were merely marked on the forehead, and the Landers themselves, perhaps from being already white, although their faces were not a little tanned, were exempted from the ceremony.
They were now ordered into King Forday's canoe, to sit down with him. The old man asked them immediately in tolerably good English, to take a glass of rum with him; and having observed them wondering at the strange appearance of King Boy, and the rest of the party, gave them to understand that in consequence of no man having come down the river as they had done, the fetish ceremony was performed to prevent any thing happening to them. They also understood from him, that a certain rite would be performed to Dju-dju, the fetish or domestic god of Brass Town, in honour of their coming.
The tide was now fast returning, and preparations were made for proceeding to Brass Town. For this purpose the canoes were all arranged in a line, that of King Boy taking the lead; the Landers and King Forday in the next, followed by King Boy's brother; Mr. Gun and the Damaggoo people in others, and in this order they proceeded up the river. Gun was styled the little military king of Brass Town, from being entrusted with the care of all the arms and ammunition, and on this occasion, he gave them frequent opportunities of witnessing his importance and activity, by suddenly passing a short distance from the rest of the canoes, and firing off the cannon in the bow of his own, and then dropping behind again.
The whole procession formed one of the most extraordinary sights that can be imagined. The canoes were following each other up the river in tolerable order, each of them displaying three flags. In the first was King Boy, standing erect and conspicuous, his head dress of feathers waving with the movements of his body, which had been chalked in various fantastic figures, rendered more distinct by its natural colour. His hands were resting on the barbs of two immense spears, which at intervals he darted violently into the bottom of his canoe, as if he were in the act of killing some formidable wild animal under his feet. In the bows of all the other canoes, fetish priests were dancing, and performing various extraordinary antics, their persons as well as those of the people in them, being chalked over in the same manner as that of King Boy; and to crown the whole, Mr. Gun, the little military gentleman, was most actively employed, his canoe, now darting before, and now dropping behind the rest, adding not a little to the imposing effect of the whole scene, by the repeated discharges of his cannon.
In this manner they continued on till about noon, when they entered a little bay, and saw before them on the south side of it, two distinct groups of buildings, one of which was King Forday's own, and the other King Jacket's town. The cannons in all the canoes were now fired off, and the whole of the people were quickly on the look-out, to witness their approach. The firing having ceased, the greatest stillness prevailed, and the canoes moved forward very slowly between the two towns to a small island, a little to the east of Jacket's town. This island is the abode of Dju-dju, or grand fetish priest, and his wives, no one else being permitted to reside there. As they passed Forday's town, a salute of seven guns was fired off at a small battery near the water. The canoes stopped near the fetish hut on the island, which was a low insignificant building of clay. The priest, who was chalked over nearly in the same manner as Boy, drew near to the water's edge, and with a peculiar air asked some questions, which appeared to be answered to his satisfaction. Boy then landed, and preceded by the tall figure of the priest, entered the religious hut. Soon after this, the priest came to the water-side, and looking at the Landers with much earnestness, broke an egg, and poured some liquid into the water, after which he returned again to the hut. The Brass men then rushed on a sudden into the water, and returned in the same hasty manner, which to the Landers appeared equally as mysterious as the rest of the ceremony.
After remaining at the island about an hour, during which time Boy was in the hut with the priest, he rejoined them, and they proceeded to Forday's town, and took up their residence at Boy's house. In the extraordinary ceremony which they had just witnessed, it was evident that they were the persons principally concerned, but whether it terminated in their favour or against them; whether the answers of the Dju-dju were propitious or otherwise, they were only able to ascertain by the behaviour of the Brass people towards them.
It was with the strongest emotions of joy that they saw a white man on shore, whilst they were in the canoe, waiting the conclusion of the ceremony. It was a cheering and goodly sight to recognize the features of an European, in the midst of a crowd of savages. This individual paid them a visit in the evening; his behaviour was perfectly affable, courteous, and obliging, and in the course of a conversation which they had with him, he informed them that he was the master of the Spanish schooner, which was then lying in the Brass River for slaves. Six of her crew, who were ill of the fever, and who were still indisposed, likewise resided in the town.
Of all the wretched, filthy, and contemptible places in this world of ours, none can present to the eye of a stranger so miserable an appearance, or can offer such disgusting and loathsome sights as this abominable Brass Town. Dogs, goats, and other animals were running about the dirty streets half starved, whose hungry looks could only be exceeded by the famishing appearance of the men, women, and children, which bespoke the penury and wretchedness to which they were reduced, while the sons of many of them were covered with odious boils, and their huts were falling to the ground from neglect and decay.
Brass, properly speaking, consists of two towns of nearly equal size, containing about a thousand inhabitants each, and built on the borders of a kind of basin, which is formed by a number of rivulets, entering it from the Niger through forests of mangrove bushes. One of them was under the domination of a noted scoundrel, called King Jacket, to whom a former allusion has been made, and the other was governed by a rival chief, named King Forday. These towns are situated directly opposite each other, and within the distance of eighty yards, and are built on a marshy ground, which occasions the huts to be always wet. Another place, called Pilot's Town by Europeans, from the number of pilots that reside in it, is situated nearly at the mouth of the first Brass River, which the Landers understood to be the "Nun" River of the Europeans, and at the distance of sixty or seventy miles from hence. This town acknowledges the authority of both kings, having been originally peopled by settlers from each of their towns. At the ebb of the tide, the basin is left perfectly dry, with the exception of small gutters, and presents a smooth and almost unvaried surface of black mud, which emits an intolerable odour, owing to the decomposition of vegetable substances, and the quantity of filth and nastiness which is thrown into the basin by the inhabitants of both towns. Notwithstanding this nuisance, both children and grown-up persons may be seen sporting in the mud, whenever the tide goes out, all naked, and amusing themselves in the same manner, as if they were on shore.
The Brass people grow neither yams, nor bananas, nor grain of any kind, cultivating only the plantain as an article of food, which, with the addition of a little fish, forms their principal diet. Yams, however, are frequently imported from Eboe, and other countries by the chief people, who resell great quantities of them to the shipping that may happen to be in the river. They are enabled to do this by the very considerable profits which accrue to them from their trading transactions with people residing further inland, and from the palm oil which they themselves manufacture, and which they dispose of to the Liverpool traders. The soil in the vicinity of Brass is, for the most part, poor and marshy, though it is covered with a rank, luxuriant and impenetrable vegetation. Even in the hands of an active, industrious race, it would offer almost insuperable obstacles to general cultivation; but, with its present possessory, the mangrove itself can never be extirpated, and the country will, it is likely enough, maintain its present appearance till the end of time.
The dwelling in which the Landers resided, belonged to King Boy, and stood on the extreme edge of the basin, and was constructed not long since, by a carpenter, who came up the river for the purpose from Calabar, of which place he was a native: he received seven slaves for his labour. This man must evidently have seen European dwellings, as there was decidedly an attempt to imitate them. It was of an oblong form, containing four apartments, which were all on the ground-floor, lined with wood, and furnished with tolerably-made doors and cupboards. This wood bore decided marks of its having once formed part of a vessel, and was most likely the remains of one which, according to report, was wrecked not long ago on the bar of the river. The house had recently been converted into a kind of seraglio by King Boy, because ho had, to use his own expression, "plenty of wives," who required looking after. It also answered the purpose of a store-house for European goods, tobacco, and spirituous liquors. Its rafters were of bamboo, and its thatch of palm leaves. The apartment which the Landers occupied, had a window overlooking the basin, outside of which was a veranda, occupied at the time by Pascoe and his wives. The whole of its furniture consisted of an old oaken table, but it was supplied with seats, made of clay, which were raised about three feet from the ground. These, together with the floor, which was of mud, were so soft and wet as to enable a person to thrust his hand into any part of them without any difficulty whatever. In one corner, communicating with the other apartments, was a door destitute of a lock, and kept always ajar, except at night, when it was closed. One of the sides of the room was decorated with an old French print, representing the Virgin Mary, with a great number of chubby-faced angels ministering to her, at whose feet was a prayer on "Our Lady's good deliverance." The whole group was designed and executed badly.
When the tide is at its height, the water flows up to the doors and windows of the house, which may perhaps account for its dampness; it is, however, held in very high estimation by its owner, and was called an English house. In general the houses are built of a kind of yellow clay, and the windows are all furnished with shutters.
There were several huts opposite the town, where the people make salt, after the rains are over; the water at present was brackish from the effect of the rains, but according to the information given by Boy, in the course of two months it will be quite salt, when they will again commence making it. It is an article of trade, and appears to be taken in large quantities to the Eboe market, where it is exchanged for yams, the kowrie shell not being circulated lower down the river than Bocqua. The principal employment of the people consists in making salt, fishing, boiling oil, and trading to the Eboe country, for not a particle of cultivated land was to be seen. The people live exclusively on yams and palm oil, with sometimes a small quantity of fish. They bring poultry from the Eboe country, but rear very little themselves, and what they do rear is very carefully preserved, and sold to the ships that frequent the river.
A little palm oil would have been a great luxury to the Landers, but King Boy would not give them any. Their allowance consisted of half a small yam each day, but on the evening after their arrival, his majesty being out of the way, two of his wives brought them half a glass of rum each, and four yams; this was a great treat to them, but a considerable risk to the ladies, for had Boy discovered the theft, it is more than likely that he would have had them flogged and sold.
Wet and uncomfortable as was their dwelling, yet it was infinitely more desirable and convenient than their confined quarters in the canoe, for here they had the pleasure of reposing at full length, which was a luxury they could not have purchased on the water at any price.
The Spanish captain paid them another visit, and left the town in the afternoon, on his return to his vessel. He informed them that slaves were very scarce, and obtained with difficulty and expense.
Richard Lander was now invited to visit King Forday, and he accordingly complied with the summons. His house was situated about a hundred yards distant from that of King Boy, and on entering it, he found him sitting, half drunk, with about a dozen of his wives, and a number of dogs in a small filthy room. Lander was desired to sit down by his side, and to drink a glass of rum. He was then given to understand, as well as his majesty was able, that it was customary for every white man who came down the river to pay him four bars. Lander expressed his ignorance and surprise at this demand, but was soon silenced by his saying, "That is my demand, and I shall not allow you to leave this town until you give me a book for that amount." Seeing that he had nothing to do but to comply with his demand, Lander gave him a bill on Lake the commander of the English vessel, after which he said, "To-morrow you may go to the brig; take one servant with yon, but your mate, (meaning his brother,) must remain here with your seven people, until my son, King Boy, shall bring the goods for himself and me, after this they shall be sent on board without delay."
In order that he might make a decent appearance before his countrymen on the following day, Richard Lander was obliged to sit the whole of the afternoon with an old cloth wrapped round him, until his clothes were washed and dried. This was the most miserable and starving place which they had yet visited: since their arrival, Mr. Gun had sent them two meals, consisting of a little pounded yam, and fish stewed in palm oil, and for this he had the impudence to demand two muskets in payment. These fellows, like the rest on the coast, were a set of imposing rascals, little better than downright savages; Lander was informed that they had absolutely starved three white men, shortly before his arrival, who had been wrecked in a slaving vessel, when crossing the bar.
Richard Lander had determined that one of his men should accompany him down the river, and at ten o'clock, having taken leave of his brother and the rest of the party, they embarked in King Boy's canoe, with a light heart and an anxious mind: although distant about sixty miles from the mouth of the river, his journey appeared to him already completed, and all his troubles and difficulties, he considered at an end. Already, in fond anticipation, he was on board the brig, and had found a welcome reception from her commander had related to him all the hardships and dangers they had undergone, and had been listened to with commiseration; already had he assured himself of his doing all he could to enable him to fulfil his engagements with these people, and thought themselves happy in finding a vessel belonging to their own country in the river at the time of their arrival. These meditations and a train of others about home and friends, to which they naturally led, occupied his mind as the canoe passed through the narrow creeks, sometimes winding under avenues of mangrove trees, and at others expanding into small lakes occasioned by the overflowing of the river. The captain of the canoe, a tall sturdy fellow, was standing up, directing its course, occasionally hallooing as they came to a turn in the creek, to the fetish, and where an echo was returned half a glass of rum and a piece of yam and fish were thrown into the water. Lander had seen this done before, and on asking Boy the reason why he was throwing away the provisions thus, he asked, "Did you not hear the fetish?" The captain of the canoe replied, "Yes." "That is for the fetish," said Boy, "if we do not feed him, and do good for him, he will kill us, or make us poor and sick." Lander could not help smiling at the ignorance of the poor creatures, but such is their firm belief.
They had pursued their course in this manner, which had been principally to the west, till about three in the afternoon, when they came to a branch of the river about two hundred yards wide, and seeing a small village at a short distance before them, they stopped there for the purpose of obtaining some dried fish. Having supplied their wants and proceeded on, about an hour afterwards they again stopped, that their people might take some refreshment. Boy very kindly presented Lander with a large piece of yam, reserving to himself all the fish they had got at the village, and after making a hearty meal off them, he fell asleep. While he was snoring by Lander's side, the remainder of the fish attracted his notice, and not feeling half satisfied with the yam which had been given him, he felt an irresistible inclination to taste them. Conscience acquitted him on the score of hunger, and hinted that such an opportunity should not be lost, and accordingly, he very quickly demolished two small ones. Although entirely raw, they were delicious, and he never remembered having enjoyed anything with a better relish in all his life.
There was scarcely a spot of dry land to be seen anywhere, all was covered with water and mangrove trees. After remaining about half an hour, they again proceeded, and at seven in the evening arrived in the second Brass River, which was a large branch of the Quorra. They kept their course down it about due south, and half an hour afterwards, Lander heard the welcome sound of the surf on the beach. They still continued onwards, and at a quarter before eight in the evening, they made their canoe fast to a tree for the night, on the west bank of the river.
On the following morning, Lander found his clothes as thoroughly wet from the effects of the dew, as if he had been lying in the river all night instead of the canoe. At five in the morning, they let go the rope from the tree, and took their course in a westerly direction up a creek. At seven they arrived in the main branch of the Quorra, which is called the River Nun, or the First Brass River, having entered it opposite to a large branch, which, from the information given by King Boy, ran to Benin. The direction of the River Nun was here nearly north and south, and they kept on their course down the stream.
About a quarter an hour after they had entered the river Nun, they discerned at a distance from them, two vessels lying at anchor. The emotions of delight which the sight of them occasioned were beyond the power of Lander to describe. The nearest was a schooner, a Spanish slave vessel, whose captain they had seen at Brass Town. Their canoe was quickly by her side, and Lander went on board. The captain received him very kindly, and invited him to take some spirits and water with him. He complained sadly of the sickly state of the crew, asserting that the river was extremely unhealthy, and that he had only been in it six weeks, in which time he had lost as many men. The remainder of his crew, consisting of thirty persons, were in such a reduced state, that they were scarcely able to move, and were lying about his decks, more resembling skeletons man living persons. Lander could do no good with the Spaniard, so he took his leave of him, and returned into the canoe.
They now directed their course to the English brig, which was lying about three hundred yards lower down the river. Having reached her, with feelings of delight, mingled with doubt, Lander went on board. Here he found every thing in as sad a condition, as he had in the schooner, four of the crew had just died of fever, four more which completed the whole, were lying sick in their hammocks, and the captain himself appeared to be in the very last stage of illness. He had recovered from a severe attack of fever, and having suffered a relapse in consequence of having exposed himself too soon, which had been nearly fatal to him, Lander now stated to him who he was, explained his situation to him as fully as he could, and had his instructions read to him by one of his own people, that he might see there was no intention to impose upon him. Lander then requested that he would redeem them by paying what had been demanded by King Boy, and assured him, that whatever he might give to him on their account would certainly be repaid him by the British government. To the utter surprise, however, of Lander, he flatly refused to give a single thing, ill and weak as he was, made use of the most offensive and the most shameful oaths, which he ever heard. Petrified amazement, and horror-struck at such conduct, Lander shrunk from him with terror. He could scarcely believe what he had heard, till his ears were assailed by a repetition of the same oaths. Disappointed beyond measure, by such brutal conduct from one of his own countrymen, he could not have believed it possible, his feelings completely overpowered him, and he was ready to sink with grief and shame. He was now undetermined how to act, or what course to pursue. Never in his life did he feel such humiliation as at this moment. In his way through the country he had been treated well; he had been in the habit of making such presents as had been expected from them, and above all, they had maintained their character amongst the natives, by keeping their promises. This was now no longer in his power, as his means were all expended, and when as a last, and as he had imagined, a certain resource, he had promised the price of his ransom should be paid by the first of his countrymen that he might meet with, on the best of all securities, to be thus refused and dishonoured by him, would, he knew, degrade them sadly in the opinion of the natives, if it did not lessen them in their own.
As there were no hopes that the captain of this vessel would pay any thing for them, he went on board the canoe again, and told King Boy, that he must take him to Bonny, as a number of English ships were there. "No, no," said he, "dis captain no pay, Bonny captain no pay. I won't take you any further." As this would not do, Lander again had recourse to the captain, and implored him to do something for him, telling him that if he would only let him have ten muskets, Boy might be content with them, when he found that he could get nothing else. The only reply Lander received was; "I have told you already I will not let you have even a flint, so bother me no more." "But I have a brother and eight people at Brass Town," said Lander to him, "and if you do not intend to pay King Boy, at least persuade him to bring them here, or else he will poison or starve my brother, before I can get any assistance from a man of war, and sell all my people." The only answer given was; "If you can get them on board, I will take them away, but as I have told you before, you do not get a flint from me." Lander then endeavoured to persuade Boy to go back for his people, and that he should be paid some time or other. "Yes," said the captain, "make haste and bring them." Boy very naturally required some of his goods before he went, and it was with no small difficulty, that Lander prevailed on him afterwards to go without them.
The captain of the brig now inquired what men Lander had, and on his telling him he had two seamen, and three others, who might be useful to him in working his vessel, his tone and manner began to soften. He fully agreed with Lander, that they might be useful in getting the brig out of the river, as half of his crew were dead, and the other half sick, so Lander took courage and asked him for a piece of beef to send to his brother, and a small quantity of rum, which he readily gave. Lander knew that his brother as well as himself, much needed a change of linen, but he could not venture to ask such a thing from the captain with much hopes of success, so the cook of the brig, appearing to be a respectable sort of a man, an application was made to him, and he produced instantly three white shirts. King Boy was now ready to depart, not a little discontented, and Lander sent his own man in the canoe, with the few things which he had been able to obtain, and a note for his brother. The latter was desired to give Antonio an order on any English captain that he might find at Bonny, for his wages, and also one for the Damaggoo people, that they might receive the small present he had promised to their good old chief, who had treated them so well. At two in the afternoon, King Boy took his departure, promising to return with John Lander and his people in three days, but grumbling much at not having been paid his goods.
Lander endeavoured to make himself as comfortable as he could in the vessel, and thinking that the captain might change his behaviour towards him, when he got better, he determined to have as little to say to him till then as possible. On the following day, Captain Lake appeared to be much better, and Lander ventured to ask him for a change of linen, of which he was in great want. This request was immediately complied with, and he enjoyed a luxury which he had not experienced a long time. In the course of the morning, Lander conversed with him about his travels in the country, and related the whole of the particulars of the manner in which they had been attacked and plundered at Kirree. He then explained to him how King Boy had saved them from slavery in the Eboe country, and how much they felt indebted to him for it. He endeavoured particularly to impress this on his mind, as he still hoped to bring him round to pay what he had promised. Having laid all before him as fully as he was able, and pointed out to him the bad opinion which Boy would have of them, and the injurious tendency towards Englishmen in general, that would result from not keeping their word with him, which it was in his power to enable them to do, he ventured to ask him to give him ten muskets for his bill on government. He listened apparently with great attention to his story, but Lander no sooner advanced his wants, than with a furious oath, he repeated his refusal, and finding him as determined as ever he had been, he mentioned it no more. He moreover told him in the most unkind and petulant manner, "If your brother and people are not here in three days, I go without them." This, it was believed, he would not do, as the men would be of service to him, but Boy had given his promise, that they should be at the vessel in that time.
In the middle of the day, the pilot who had brought the vessel into the river, came on board and demanded payment for it, which gave Lander an opportunity of seeing more of the disposition of Mr. Lake. The pilot had no sooner made his business known, than Lake flew into a violent passion, cursing and abusing him in the most disgusting language he could use; he refused to pay him any thing whatever, and ordered him to go out of the ship immediately. Whether Lake was right or wrong in this, Lander knew not, but he was shocked at his expressions, and the pilot reluctantly went away, threatening that he would sink his vessel, if he offered to leave the river without paying him his due. He was rather surprised to hear such language from the pilot, and doubted his meaning, until he found that he had a battery of seven brass guns at the town on the eastern side of the river, near its entrance, which, if well managed, might soon produce that effect. This town, as before observed, is named Pilot's Town, being the established residence of those who conduct vessels over the bar.
On the following day, Lander inquired of Capt. Lake, whether, when they left the river, he would take them to Fernando Po. This, however, he again refused, saying that the island had been given up; that there was not a single white man on it, and that no assistance could be got there, but that if all the people should arrive by the morning of the 23rd, he would land them at Bimbia, a small island in the river Cameroons, whither he was going to complete his cargo, and at this island he said that Lander would find a white man, who kept a store for Captain Smith. Lander was quite satisfied with this arrangement, feeling assured that he should get every thing he might want from him.
Lander's chief concern was now about his brother, and he much feared that the vessel would sail without him, for there was no dependence on the captain, so little did he care for them, or the object for which they had visited the country. Lander took an opportunity of begging him, in the event of his brother and the men not arriving by the 23rd, to wait a little longer for them, asserting at the same time, that if he went away without them, they would be assuredly starved or sold as slaves, before he could return to them with assistance. He might just as well have addressed himself to the wind—"I can't help it, I shall wait no longer," was the only reply he made, in a surly, hasty tone, which was a convincing proof that all attempts to reason with him would be fruitless.
In the afternoon, the chief mate and three Kroomen were sent away by his direction to sound the bar of the river, to know whether there was sufficient depth of water for the vessel to pass over it. The pilot, who had been dismissed so peremptorily on the preceding day, was determined to have his revenge, and being naturally on the look out, had observed the movements of the boat; so favourable an opportunity was not to be lost, and accordingly watching her, he despatched an armed canoe, and intercepted her return at the mouth of the river. The mate of the brig and one of the Kroomen were quickly made prisoners and conveyed to Pilot's Town, and the boat with the remainder sent back with a message to the captain, that they would not be given up until the pilotage should be paid. Lake must have felt somewhat annoyed at this, but whether he did or not, he treated it with the greatest indifference, saying that he did not care, he would go to sea without his mate or the Kroomen either, and that he was determined not to pay the pilotage.
On the 22nd of December, the anxiety of Lander for his brother's safety made him extremely unhappy, and during the whole of the day he was on the look out for him; Lake, observing the distress he was in, told him not to trouble himself any more about him, adding, that he was sure he was dead, and that he need not expect to see him again. "If he had been alive," said Lake, "he would have been here by this time, to-morrow morning I shall leave the river." Such inhuman and unfeeling conduct from this man only tended to increase Lander's dislike for him, and without paying him any attention, he kept looking out for his party. So great was his anxiety that he was on the look out long after dusk, nor could he sleep during the whole of the night.
The 23rd arrived, the day fixed for the departure, but to the great joy of Lander, and the mortification of Lake, the sea breeze was so strong that it raised a considerable surf on the bar, and prevented them from getting out. This was a most anxious time for Lander, and the whole of the day his eyes were riveted to the part of the river where he knew his brother must come. The whole day passed in tedious watching, and the night was far spent without any tidings of him. About midnight he saw several large canoes making their way over to the west bank of the river, in one of which he imagined that he could distinguish his brother. He observed them soon after landing, and saw by the fires which they made, that they had encamped under some mangrove trees. All his fears and apprehensions vanished in an instant, and he was overjoyed with the thoughts of meeting his brother in the morning.
The captain of the brig having observed them, suddenly exclaimed, "Now we shall have a little fighting to-morrow, go you and load seventeen muskets, and put five buck shot into each. I will take care that the cannon shall be loaded to the muzzle with balls and flints, and if there is any row, I will give them such a scouring as they never had." He then directed Lander to place the muskets and cutlasses out of sight, near the stern of the vessel, and said to him, "The instant that your people come on board, call them aft, and let them stand by the arms. Tell them, if there is any row to arm themselves directly, and drive all the Brass people overboard." This was summary work with a vengeance, and every thing betokened that Lake was in earnest. Lander saw clearly that he was resolved on adopting severe measures, and he appeared to possess all the determination necessary to carry them through.
Lander could not help feeling otherwise than distressed and ashamed of leaving the Brass people in this manner, but he had no alternative, there was no one to whom he could apply for assistance in his present situation, except the captain of the vessel, and to him he had applied in vain. His entreaties were thrown away on him, and even the certainty of an ample recompense by the British government, which had been held out to him, had been treated with contempt. He, therefore, had no hopes from that quarter. Boy had refused to take them to Bonny, asserting that if he could not be paid here, he should not be paid there, and to go back to Brass Town would be deliberately returning to starvation. His last resource, therefore, was to put the best face on the business which he could, and as no other plan was left him, to get away by fair means or foul, and let the blame fall where it was incurred.
Early on the following morning, Lander was on the look out for his brother, and soon observed him and the people get into the canoe. They were no sooner embarked than they all landed again, which could be accounted for in no other way, than by supposing that it was the intention of Boy to keep them on shore, until he had received the goods. He was, however, not long in this state of anxiety, for about seven o'clock, they embarked and were brought on board.
The following is the account which John Lander gave, of the events which fell under his notice at Brass Town, and his proceedings during the time that he was separated from his brother.
Wednesday, November 17th. "This morning, my brother, attended by one of our men, quitted this town with King Boy and suite, leaving the remainder of the party and myself behind, as hostages for the fulfilment of the conditions, which we entered into with him in the Eboe country. For myself, though greatly chagrined at this unforeseen arrangement, I could not from my heart, altogether condemn the framer of it; for it is quite natural to suppose that a savage should distrust the promises of Europeans, when he himself is at all times guilty of breach of faith and trust, not only in his trading transactions with foreigners, but likewise in familiar intercourse with his own people. Forday is the cause of it, and he displays all the artifice, chicanery, and low cunning of a crafty and corrupt mind. Therefore, after a moment's reflection, I was not much surprised at the step which King Boy has taken, nor can I be very angry with him, and I am resolved to await with composure his return, and consequently my release from this miserable place, though I have begun to consider with seriousness, what will become of us, in the event of Lake's refusal to honour the bill which we have sent him. Besides, I am rather uneasy on our people's account, for during these two or three days past, they have had scarcely any thing to eat, and we are now left entirely destitute, nor do I know where to obtain relief. The Damaggoo people are with us likewise, and they are interested in my brother's return, equally as much as myself. Instead of being our guides and protectors, these poor creatures have shared in our calamity; their little all has either been lost or stolen, or else expended in provisions, and like us, they are reduced to great distress and wretchedness. They will remain here, in order to receive the few things which we have promised them and their chief, but should Lake object to part with his goods, we shall give them a note to the master of any English vessel at Bonny, whither they are destined to go, requesting him to pay the poor strangers their demands.
"After a good deal of solicitation and importunity, we received this morning four small yams from the wives of King Boy, who informed us that the same number of yams will be given us daily. Our people having nothing else to eat, made a kind of broth with this vegetable; at first it was, of course, a most insipid mess, but with the addition of a little salt, it is rendered more palatable. We sent to King Forday in the afternoon, for a few plantains, or any thing that could be eaten, but the gloomy old savage shook his head, folded his arms, and refused.
"Nothing could exceed my regret and consternation on the perusal of the letter which I received from my brother, and somehow, I almost dreaded to meet with King Boy. Well knowing how much it would influence his behaviour towards us, we had been careful to represent to that individual, the thanks and cheering which he would receive from our countrymen, the moment he should take us on board the English brig, that he would be favoured and caressed beyond measure, and receive plenty of beef, bread, and rum. His face used to shine with delight on anticipating so luxurious a treat, and he had uniformly been in a better humour, after listening to these promises of ours, than any thing else could have made him. The contrast between his actual reception on board Lake's ship, to that which his own fancy and our repeated assurances had taught him to expect, was too dreadful to think on even for a moment, and for this reason, as much as any other, I looked forward with something of apprehension and anxiety to an interview with this savage, because I knew, that after the cutting disappointment which he had experienced, he would be under the influence of strongly excited feelings, and stormy passions, over which he exercises no control. I was convinced too, that the whole weight of his resentment, and the fury of his rage, would fall upon me, for I am completely in his power.
"The interesting moment at length arrived. We heard King Boy quarrelling with his women, and afterwards walking through their apartments towards ours, muttering as he went along. He entered it, and stood still; I was reposing, as I usually do for the greater part of the day, upon a mat which is placed on the seat of wet clay, but on perceiving him, I lifted my head without arising, and reclined it on my hand. He looked fixedly upon me, and I returned his glance with the same unshrinking steadfastness. But his dark eye was flashing with anger, whilst his upturned lip, which exposed his white teeth, quivered with passion. No face in the world could convey more forcibly to the mind the feeling of contempt and bitter scorn, than the distorted one before me. It was dreadfully expressive, drawing up the left angle of his mouth in a parallel with his eyes, he broke silence, with a sneering, long-drawn 'Eh!' and almost choked with rage, he cursed me; and in a tone and manner, which it is infinitely out of my power to describe, he spoke to the following effect: 'You are thief, man; English captain, no will! You assured me, when I took you from the Eboe country, that he would be overjoyed to see me, and give me plenty of beef and rum; I received from him neither the one nor the other. Eh! English captain, no will! I gave a quantity of goods to free you from the slavery of Obie; I took you into my own canoe; you were hungry, and I gave you yam and fish; you were almost naked, I was sorry to see you so, because you were white men and strangers, and I gave each of you a red cap and a silk handkerchief; but you are no good, you are thief, man. Eh! English captain, no will; he no will. You also told me your countrymen would do this (taking off his cap, and flourishing it in circles over his head,) and cry hurra! hurra! on receiving me on board their vessel; you promised my wife a necklace, and my father, four bars. But eh! English captain, no will! he tell me he no will: yes, I will satisfy your hunger with plenty more of my fish and yams, and your thirst I will quench with rum and palm wine. Eh! you thief man, you are no good, English captain, no will!' He then stamped on the ground, and gnashing at me with his teeth like a dog, he cursed me again and again.
"It is true I did not feel perfectly easy at this severe rebuke, and under such taunting reproaches; but I refrained from giving utterance to a single thought till after he had concluded his abuse and anathematizing. Had a spirited person been in my situation, he might have knocked him down, and might have had his head taken off for his pains, but as for me, all such kind of spirit is gone out of me entirely. Besides we had, though unintentionally, deceived King Boy, and I also bore in mind the kindness which he had done us, in ransoming us from a state of slavery. Most of what he had asserted was most unquestionably true, and in some measure, I was deserving his severest reprehension and displeasure.
"The fury of Boy having been somewhat appeased by my silence and submission, as well as by his own extraordinary and violent agitation, I ventured mildly to assure him, on the strength of my brother's letter, that his suspicions were entirely groundless, that Mr. Lake had certainly a will or inclination to enter into arrangements with him for the payment of his just demands, and that when he should convey our people and myself to the Thomas, every thing would be settled to his complete satisfaction. He half believed, half mistrusted my words, and shortly afterwards quitted the apartment, threatening, however, that we should not leave Brass till it suited his own pleasure and convenience.
"It is really a most humiliating reflection, that we are reduced to the most contemptible subterfuges of deceit and falsehood, in order to carry a point which might have been easily gained by straightforward integrity. But the conduct of Lake has left us no alternative, and whatever my opinion of that individual may be, he surely must be destitute of all those manly characteristics of a British seaman, as well as of the more generous feelings of our common nature, to be guilty, on a sick bed, of an action which might, for aught he knew or cared, produce the most serious consequences to his unfortunate countrymen in a savage land, by exposing them to the wretchedness of want, and the miseries of slavery, to mockery, ill-usage, contempt, and scorn, and even to death itself.
"November 20th. King Boy has not visited us to-day, though we have received the customary allowance of four yams from his women. In addition to which, Adizzetta made us a present of half a dozen this morning, as an acknowledgment for the benefit she had derived from a dose of laudanum, which I gave her last night, for the purpose of removing pain from the lower regions of the stomach, a complaint by which she says she is occasionally visited.
"This morning, November 21st, I dismissed the poor Damaggoo people, with a note to either of the English vessels lying in the Bonny river, requesting him to give the bearer three barrels of gunpowder, and a few muskets, On the faith of being paid for the same by the British government. They left Brass in their own canoe, quite dejected and out of heart, and Antonio, the young man who volunteered to accompany us from his majesty's brig, Clinker, at Badagry, went along with them, on his return to his country, from which he has been absent two or three years.
"The following day, one or two crafty little urchins, who are slaves to King Boy, brought us a few plantains as a gift. They had been engaged in pilfering tobacco leaves from an adjoining apartment, to which our people were witnesses, and the juvenile depredators, fearing the consequences of a disclosure, bribed them to secrecy in the manner already mentioned. Boy's women have also been guilty, during the temporary absence of their lord and master, of stealing a quantity of rum from the store room, and distributing it amongst their friends and acquaintance, and they have resorted to the same plan as the boys, to prevent the exposure, which they dreaded. One of them, who acts as a duenna, is the favourite and confidante of Boy, and she wears a bunch of keys round her neck in token of her authority. She has likewise the care of all her master's effects, and as a further mark of distinction, she is allowed the privilege of using a walking-stick with a knob at the end, which is her constant companion. This woman is exceedingly good-natured, and indulges our men with a glass or two of rum every day.
"Last evening, King Boy stripped to the skin, and having his body most hideously marked, ran about the town like a maniac with a spear in his hand, calling loudly on Dju dju, and uttering a wild, frantic cry at every corner. It appears that one of his father's wives had been strongly suspected of adulterous intercourse with a free man residing in the town, and that this strange means was adopted, in pursuance of an ancient custom, to apprize the inhabitants publicly of the circumstance, and implore the counsel and assistance of the god at the examination of the parties. This morning the male aggressor was found dead, having swallowed poison, it is believed, to avoid a worse kind of death, and the priest declaring his opinion of the guilt of the surviving party, she was immediately sentenced to be drowned. This afternoon, the ill-fated woman was tied hand and foot, and conveyed in a canoe to the main body of the river, into which she was thrown without hesitation, a weight of some kind having been fastened to her feet for the purpose of sinking her. She met her death with incredible firmness and resolution. The superstitious people believe, that had the deceased been innocent of the crime laid to her charge, their god would have saved her life, even after she had been flung into the river; but because she had perished, her guilt was unquestionably attested. The mother of the deceased is not allowed to display any signs of sorrow or sadness at the untimely death of her daughter, for were she to do so, the same dreadful punishment would be inflicted upon her, 'For,' say the Brass people, 'if the parent should mourn or weep over the fate of a child guilty of so heinous a crime, we should pronounce her instantly to be as criminal as her daughter, and to have tolerated her offence. But if, on the contrary, she betrays no maternal tenderness, nor bewail her bereavement in tears and groans, we should then conclude her to be entirely ignorant of the whole transaction; she would then give a tacit acknowledgment to the justice of the sentence, and rejoice to be rid of an object that would only entail disgrace on her as long as she lived.
"Our people are become heartily tired of their situation, and impatient to be gone; they were regaled with an extra quantity of rum last evening, by their female friend, the duenna; when their grievances appearing to them in a more grievous light than ever, they had the courage to go in a body to King Boy, to demand an explanation of his intentions towards them. They told him, indignantly, either to convey them to the English brig, or sell them for slaves to the Spaniards, 'For,' say they, 'we would rather lose our liberty, than be kept here to die of hunger.' Boy returned them an equivocating answer, but treated them much less roughly than I had reason to anticipate. Afterwards, I went myself to the same individual, and with a similar motive, but for some time I had no opportunity of conversing with him. It is a kind of holiday here, and most of the Brass people, with their chiefs, are merry with intoxication. As well as I can understand, during the earlier part of the day they were engaged in a solemn, religious observance, and since then King Forday has publicly abdicated in favour of Boy, who is his eldest son. I discovered those individuals in a court annexed to the habitation of the former, surrounded by a great number of individuals with bottles, glasses, and decanters at their feet; they were all in a state of drunkenness, more or less; and all had their faces and bodies chalked over in rude and various characters. Forday, alone, sat in a chair, Boy was at his side, and the others, amongst whom was our friend Gun and a drummer, were sitting around on blocks of wood, and on the trunk of a fallen tree. The chairman delivered a long oration, but he was too tipsy, and perhaps too full of days to speak with grace, animation, or power; therefore his eloquence was not very persuasive, and his nodding hearers, overcome with drowsiness, listened to him with scarcely any attention. They smiled, however, and laughed occasionally, but I could not find why they did so; I don't think they themselves could tell. The old chief wore an English superfine beaver hat, and an old jacket, that once belonged to a private soldier, but the latter was so small that he was able only to thrust an arm into one of the sleeves, the other part of the jacket being thrown upon his left shoulder. These, with the addition of a cotton handkerchief, which was tied round his waist, were his only apparel. By far the most showy and conspicuous object in the yard, was an immense umbrella, made of figured cotton of different patterns, with a deep fringe of coloured worsted, which was stuck into the ground. But even this was tattered and torn, and dirty withal, having been in Forday's possession for many years, and it is only used on public and sacred occasions. I had been sitting amongst the revellers till the speaker had finished his harangue, when I embraced the opportunity, as they were about to separate, of entreating King Boy to hasten our departure for the vessel. He was highly excited and elated with liquor, and being in excellent temper, he promised to take us to-morrow.
"It required little time on the following day, to take leave of a few friends we have at Brass, and we quitted the town not only without regret, but with emotions of peculiar pleasure. King Boy, with three of his women, and his suite in a large canoe, and our people and myself in a smaller one. Adizzetta would gladly have accompanied her husband to the English vessel, for her desire to see it was naturally excessive; but she was forbidden by old Forday, who expressed some squeamishness about the matter, or rather he was jealous that on her return to her father's house in the Eboe country, she would give too high and favourable an opinion of it to her friends, which might in the end produce consequences highly prejudicial to his interests.
"We stopped awhile at a little fishing village, at no great distance from Brass, where we procured a few fish, and abundance of young cocoa nuts, the milk of which was sweet and refreshing. Continuing our journey on streams and rivulets intricately winding through mangroves and brambles, we entered the main body of the river in time to see the sun setting behind a glorious sky, directly before us. We were evidently near the sea, because the water was perfectly salt, and we scented also the cool and bracing sea breeze, with feelings of satisfaction and rapture. However, the wind became too stormy for our fragile canoe; the waves leaped into it over the bow, and several times we were in danger of being swamped. Our companion was far before us, and out of sight, so that, for the moment, there was no probability of receiving assistance, or of lightening the canoe, but, happily, in a little while we did not require it, for the violence of the wind abating with the disappearance of the sun, we were enabled to continue on our way without apprehension. About nine o'clock in the evening, we overtook the large canoe and the crews, both having partaken of a slight refreshment of fish and plantain together, we passed the Second Brass River, which was to the left of us, in company. Here it might have been somewhat more than half a mile in breadth, and though it was dangerously rough for a canoe, with great precaution we reached the opposite side in safety. From thence, we could perceive in the distance, the long wished for Atlantic, with the moonbeams reposing in peaceful beauty on its surface, and could also hear the sea breaking, and roaring over the sandy bar, which stretches across the mouth of the river. The solemn voice of Ocean never sounded more melodiously in my ear, than it did at this moment. O it was enchanting as the harp of David! Passing along by the left bank, we presently entered the First Brass River, which is the Nun of Europeans, where at midnight we could faintly distinguish the masts and rigging of the English brig in the dusky light, which appeared like a dark and fagged cloud above the horizon. To me, however, no sight could be more charming. It was beautiful as the gates of Paradise, and my heart fluttered with unspeakable delight, as we landed in silence on the beach opposite the brig, near a few straggling huts, to wait impatiently the dawn of to-morrow.
"The morning of the 24th was a happy one, for it restored me to the society of my brother, and of my countrymen. The baneful effects of the climate are strongly impressed upon the countenances of the latter, who, instead of their natural healthy hue, have a pale, dejected, and sickly appearance, which is quite distressing to witness. However, the crew of the Spanish schooner look infinitely more wretched; they have little else but their original forms remaining; they crawl about like beings under a curse they are mere shadows or phantoms of men, looking round for their burying place. No spectacle can be more humiliating to man's pride than this; nothing can give him a more degrading sense of his own nothingness. It is very much to be wondered at why Europeans, and Englishmen in particular, persevere in sending their fellow creatures to this Aceldama, or Golgotha, as the African coast is sometimes not inappropriately called; they might as well bury them at once at home, and it is pleasanter far to die there; but interest, and the lust of gain, like Aaron's rod, seem to swallow up every other consideration."
During the time that the canoe was coming from the shore to the vessel, Richard Lander had stationed himself by the cannon; it was the only one on board, but it had been loaded as Lake had directed, and pointed to the gangway of the brig, where the Brass people were obliged to come. The muskets were all ready, lying concealed, where Lake had directed them to be placed, and he repeated the same orders that he had given on the preceding day, respecting the part that the Landers' people were to take in the business.
Lake received John Lander very civilly, but immediately expressed his determination to dismiss Boy without giving him a single article, and to make the best of his way out of the river. A short time after the arrival of John Lander, a canoe arrived at the beach, with Mr. Spittle, the mate of the brig, as prisoner, who, immediately sent a note off to the captain, informing him that the price of his liberation was the sum demanded for the pilotage of the vessel over the bar of the river. He said further, that he was strictly guarded, but that, notwithstanding this, he did not despair of making his escape, if Lake could wait a little for him. The vessel had been brought into the river about three months before, but Lake would never pay the pilotage, and all he did was to send Mr. Spittle a little bread and beef. The amount demanded was about fifty pounds worth of goods, which it was quite out of the question that Lake would ever pay.
Meanwhile King Boy, full of gloomy forebodings, had been lingering about the deck. He had evidently foresight enough to suspect what was to take place, and he appeared troubled and uneasy, and bewildered in thought. The poor fellow was quite an altered person; his habitual haughtiness had entirely forsaken him, and given place to a cringing and humble demeanor. A plate of meat was presented to him, of which he ate sparingly, and showed clearly that he was thinking more of his promised goods, than his appetite, and a quantity of rum that was given to him was drunk carelessly, and without affording any apparent satisfaction.
Knowing how things were likely to terminate, the Landers endeavoured to get Boy into a good humour, by telling him that he should certainly have his goods some time or other; but it was all to no purpose; the attempt was a complete failure; the present was the only time in his mind. The Landers really pitied him, and were grieved to think that their promises could not be fulfilled. How gladly would they have made any personal sacrifice, rather than thus break their word; for although they had been half starved in his hands, yet they felt themselves indebted to him for having taken them from the Eboe people, and bringing them to the vessel. Richard Lander rummaged over the few things which had been left them from their disaster at Kirree, and found to his surprise, five silver bracelets wrapped up in a piece of flannel. He was not aware of having these things, but he immediately offered them to him, along with a native sword, which being a very great curiosity, they had brought with them from Yarriba, with the intention of taking it to England. Boy accepted of them, and John Lander then offered him his watch, for which he had a great regard, as it was the gift of one of his earliest and best friends. This was refused with disdain, for Boy knew not its value, and calling one of his men to look at what, he said, the Landers wished to impose on him in lieu of his bars, both of them, with a significant groan, turned away from the Landers with scorn and indignation, nor would they speak to them or even look at them again. The mortification of the Landers was nearly now complete, but they were helpless, and the fault was not with them.
Boy now ventured to approach Captain Lake, on the quarter deck, and with an anxious petitioning countenance, asked for the goods, which had been promised him. Prepared for the desperate game he was about to play, it was the object of Lake to gain as much time as possible, that he might get his vessel under way, before he came to an open rupture. Therefore, he pretended to be busy in writing, and desired Boy to wait a moment. Becoming impatient with delay, Boy repeated his demand a second and a third time: "Give me my bars." "I NO WILL," said Lake, in a voice of thunder, which could hardly have been expected from a frame so emaciated as his. "I no will, I tell you; I won't give you a—flint. Give me my mate, you black rascal, or I will bring a thousand men of war here in a day or two; they shall come and burn down your towns, and kill every one of you; bring me my mate." Terrified by the demeanor of Lake, and the threats and oaths he made use of, poor King Boy suddenly retreated, and seeing men going aloft to loosen the sails, apprehensive of being carried off to sea, he quickly disappeared from the deck of the brig, and was soon observed making his way on shore in his canoe, with the rest of his people; this was the last they saw of him. In a few minutes from the time Boy had left the vessel, the mate, Mr. Spittle, was sent off in a canoe, so terrified were the Brass people that a man of war would come, and put Lake's threats into execution.
At ten in the morning the vessel was got under way, and they dropped down the river. At noon the breeze died away, and they were obliged to let go an anchor to prevent their drifting on the western breakers, at the mouth of the river. A few minutes more would have been fatal to them, and the vessel was fortunately stopped, although the depth of water where she lay, was only five fathoms. The rollers, as the large high waves are called, which come into the river over the bar, were so high, that they sometimes passed nearly over the bow of the vessel, and caused her to ride very uneasily by her anchor. They had been obliged to anchor immediately abreast of the Pilot's town, and expected every moment that they should be fired at from the battery. Time was of the greatest importance to them; they had made Boy their enemy, and expected before they could get out of the river, he would summon his people and make an attack upon them, whilst their whole party amounted only to twenty men, two thirds of whom were Africans. The pilot also, whom Lake had offended so much, was known to be a bold and treacherous ruffian. He was the same person, who steered the brig Susan among the breakers, by which that vessel narrowly escaped destruction, with the loss of her windlass, and an anchor and cable. The fellow had done this, merely with the hope of obtaining a part of the wreck, as it drifted on shore. Another vessel, a Liverpool oil trader, was actually lost on the bar, by the treachery of the same individual, who having effected his purpose, by placing her in a situation, from which she could not escape, jumped overboard and swam to the canoe, which was at a short distance. The treatment of the survivors of this wreck is shocking to relate; they were actually stripped of their clothes, and allowed to die of hunger. It would be an endless task to enumerate all the misdeeds, that are laid to this fellow's charge, which have no doubt lost nothing by report, but after making all reasonable allowances for exaggeration, his character appears in a most revolting light, and the fact of his running these vessels on the bar, proves him to be a desperate and consummate villain. This same fellow is infinitely more artful and intelligent than any of his countrymen, and is one of the handsomest black men that the Landers had seen.
Not long after they had dropped the anchor, they observed the pilot, with the help of the glass, walking on the beach, and watching them occasionally. A multitude of half-naked, suspicious-looking fellows, were likewise straggling along the shore, while others were seen emerging from a grove of cocoa trees, and the thick bushes near it. These men were all armed, chiefly with muskets, and they subsequently assembled in detached groups to the number of several hundreds, and appeared to be consulting about attacking the vessel. Nothing less than this, and to be fired at from the battery, was now expected by them, and there was no doubt that the strength and loftiness of the brig only deterred them from so doing. The same people were hovering on the beach till very late in the evening, when they dispersed; many of them could be seen even at midnight, so that they were obliged to keep a good look-out till the morning.
During the night, the vessel rode very uneasily, in consequence of the long heavy waves which set in from the bar; these are technically called by sailors ground swell, being different from the waves which are raised while the wind blows; the latter generally break at the top, while the former are quite smooth, and roll with great impetuosity in constant succession, forming a deep furrow between them, which, with the force of the wave, is very dangerous to vessels at anchor.
Their motions were still closely watched by the natives. About eleven they got under way, but were obliged to anchor again in the afternoon, as the water was not deep enough for the vessel to pass over the bar. The mate sounded the bar again, and placed a buoy as a mark for the vessel to pass over in the deepest water.
On the following morning, the wind favouring them, they made another attempt at getting out of the river. They had already made some progress, when the wind again died away, and the current setting them rapidly over to the eastern breakers, they were obliged to let go an anchor to save them from destruction. They could see nothing of the buoy, and no doubt was entertained that it was washed away by the current. Their anchorage was in three and a half fathom water, and the ground swell, which then set in, heaved the vessel up and down in such a frightful manner, that they expected every moment to see the chain cable break. As soon as they dropped their anchor, the tide rushed past the vessel at the rate of eight miles an hour. After the ebb tide had ceased running, the swell gradually subsided, and the vessel rode easily.
The mate was again sent to sound the bar, and in about three hours afterwards, returned with the information that two fathoms and three quarters was the deepest water he could find. The bar extended across the mouth of the river in the form of a crescent, leaving a very narrow and shallow entrance for vessels in the middle, which was generally concealed by the surf and foam of the adjacent breakers. When the wind is light and the tide high, and the surface of the water smooth, excepting in a few places, the bar is then most dangerous. They observed several fires made by the natives on the beach, which were supposed to be signals for them to return.
They passed a restless and most unpleasant night. The captain and the people were much alarmed for the safety of the brig. The heavy ground swell, which set in, increased by the strength of the tide, caused her to pitch and labour so hard, that a man was placed to watch the cable, and give notice the moment it complained, a technical expression, which meant, the moment it gave signs of breaking. Daylight had scarcely dawned, when the pall of the windlass broke. The purpose of this was to prevent the windlass from turning round on its axis against any strain to which it might be subjected, and consequently it was no sooner broken, than the windlass flew round with incredible velocity, having nothing to resist the strain of the cable, which was passed round it. The chain cable ran out so swiftly, that in half a minute the windlass was broken to atoms. The two Landers with their people rendered all the assistance in their power to prevent the ship from drifting. They succeeded in fastening the cable to ring bolts in the deck, until they got sufficient of it clear to go round the capstan, which they had no sooner effected, than the ring bolts were fairly drawn out of the deck by the strain on the cable.
About eight in the evening, a terrific wave, called by sailors a sea, struck the vessel with tremendous force, and broke the chain cable. "The cable is gone," shouted a voice, and the next instant the captain cried out in a firm, collected tone, "Cut away the kedge," which was promptly obeyed, and the vessel was again stopped from drifting among the breakers. The man who had been stationed to look out on the cable, came running aft on deck, as soon as he had given notice of the danger, calling out that all was over. "Good God!" was the passionate exclamation of every one, and a slight confusion ensued. But the captain was prepared for the worst, he gave his orders with firmness, and behaved with promptness and intrepidity.
"We were riding by the kedge, a small anchor, which, however, was the only one left us, and on which the safety of the brig now depended. The breakers were close under our stern, and this was not expected to hold ten minutes; it was a forlorn hope, every eye was fixed on the raging surf, and our hearts thrilled with agitation, expecting every moment that the vessel would be dashed in pieces. A few long and awful minutes were passed in this state, which left an indelible impression on our minds. Never," continues Richard Lander, "shall I forget the chief mate saying to me, 'Now, sir, every one for himself, a few minutes will be the last with us.' The tumultuous sea was raging in mountainous waves close by us, their foam dashing against the sides of the brig, which was only prevented from being carried among them by a weak anchor and cable. The natives, from whom they could expect no favour, were busy on shore making large fires, and other signals, for us to desert the brig and land at certain places, expecting, no doubt, every moment to see her a prey to the waves, and those who escaped their fury, to fall into their hands. Wretched resource! the sea would have been far more merciful than they."
Such was their perilous situation, when a fine sea breeze set in, which literally saved them from destruction. The sails were loosened to relieve the anchor from the strain of the vessel, and she rode out the ebb tide without drifting. At ten a.m. the tide had nearly ceased running out, and the fury of the sea rather abated, but it was quite impossible that the brig could ride out another ebb tide where she lay, with the kedge anchor alone to hold her; the only chance left them, therefore, was to get to sea, and the captain determined on crossing the bar, although there appeared to be little chance of success. At half-past ten a.m. he manned the boat with two of Lander's men, and two Kroomen belonging to the brig, and sent them to tow while the anchor was got on board. This had no sooner been done than the wind fell light, and instead of drifting over to the western breakers as on the two preceding days, the brig was now set towards those on the eastern side, and again they had a narrow escape. With the assistance of the boat and good management, they at length passed clear over the bar on the edge of the breakers, in a depth of quarter less three fathoms, and made sail to the eastward. Their troubles were now at an end; by the protection of a merciful Providence, they had escaped dangers, the very thoughts of which had filled them with horror, and with a grateful heart and tears of joy for all his mercies, they offered up a silent prayer of thanks for their deliverance.
The bar extends about four or five miles from the mouth of the river, in a southerly direction, but is by no means known. This river is by far the best place on the whole coast, at which small vessels may procure oil, as it is the shortest distance from the Eboe country, where the best palm oil is to be had in any quantity. The Eboe oil is pronounced to be superior to that of any other part of the country, which is brought to the coast. The river is not much frequented, owing probably to its being unknown, and the difficulty of crossing the bar; for not more than five English vessels have been known to come to it, two of which are stated to have been lost, and a third to have struck on the bar, but being a new strong vessel, she beat over into deep water. The Landers recommend any master going to the river for palm oil, to provide himself with two good strong six-oared boats for towing, and a double complement of Kroomen. The expense of ten or twelve Kroomen would be trifling, as they only require a few yams and a little palm oil to eat, and they are always ready to perform any laborious work which may be required of them. If masters of vessels coming to the river would send a boat before to sound, and have two good six-oared boats towing, it is supposed there would be no danger of any being lost, as has been the case with some, from being weakly manned. Vessels are got under way with a fine breeze, and when they arrive in the most dangerous part, it dies away, and if there be no boats ready for towing, nothing can save them from destruction.
Vessels going out of the river are usually recommended to keep as near as possible to the western breakers, but this plan is supposed to be very dangerous, unless there be sufficient wind to keep command of them. When a vessel leaves her anchorage in the river, she will be set by the current over to the western breakers, and when half way to the bar, will be set over to the eastern, as the Landers were. The river would be the safest in the month of December or January, as the rains in the interior would then be over, and all the extra water will have been discharged, which it has received in the extent of country through which it has run. When no English vessels are in the river, the people of Bonny come and purchase the palm oil from the Brass people, probably for the purpose of supplying the ships in their river, as well as for their own uses.
On the morning of November 28th, they discovered a strange vessel on their starboard beam, which directly made sail in chase of them. After firing a gun to make them stop, or to bring them to, as the sailors expressed themselves, she sent a boat on board of the brig, and we found her to be the Black Joke, tender to the British commodore's ship. The Landers reported themselves to the lieutenant commanding her, under the hope of her taking them on board of his vessel and landing them at Accra, from whence they thought it would be easy to find their way by one of his majesty's ships to Ascension or St. Helena, from either of which places an opportunity would offer for them to get home without delay. The orders, however, of the lieutenant were to run down the coast as far as the Congo, and he recommended them to go to Fernando Po, where they would find every assistance, and a vessel about to sail soon for England. Having obtained from them the intelligence that the Spanish slaver was lying in the Nun River ready to sail, he immediately altered his course for that river, for the purpose of capturing her. Captain Lake agreed to land them in his boat at Fernando Po, as he passed the island on his way to the River Camaroons, and they again made sail to the westward.
They were two days in making their passage to Fernando Po, and on the morning of December 1st, to their great satisfaction, they discovered the island. They were glad to get out of the Thomas, for the unfeeling commander, notwithstanding that Lander's men had rendered him every service in getting his brig out of the river, and had done every thing required of them, afterwards employed every means he could think of to annoy them, and to make them uncomfortable, while they were with him. At night, while the people were sleeping, he would make his men draw water, and throw it over them, for mere amusement. There are many commanders as bad as he is on the coast, who seem to vie with each other in acts of cruelty and oppression. The captain of the palm oil brig Elizabeth, now in the Calebar River, actually whitewashed his crew from head to foot, while they were sick with fever, and unable to protect themselves; his cook suffered so much in the operation, that the lime totally deprived him of the sight of one of his eyes, and rendered the other of little service to him.
In the afternoon they were happily landed at Clarence Cove, in the island of Fernando Po, where they were most kindly received by Mr. Becroft, the acting superintendent. This worthy gentleman readily supplied them with changes of linen, and every thing they stood in need of, besides doing all he could to make them comfortable. The kindness and hospitality they received from him and Dr. Crichton in particular, made a grateful impression on the hearts of the Landers.
Accustomed as they had been during the last month, to the monotonous sameness of a low flat country, the banks of the river covered with mangroves overhanging the water, and in many parts, in consequence of its extraordinary height, apparently growing out of it; the lofty summit of Fernando Po, and the still loftier mountains of the Camaroons, on the distant mainland, presented a sublime and magnificent appearance. The highest mountain of the Camaroons, is a striking feature on this part of the coast, being more than thirteen thousand feet high. The land in its vicinity is low and flat, which renders the appearance of this mountain still more imposing, as it towers majestically over the surrounding country in solitary grandeur. It divides the embouchures of the spacious rivers Old Calebar and Del Rey on the west, from the equally important one of the Cameroons on the east. The island of Fernando is detached about twenty miles from the coast, and appeared to them, when they first saw it, in two lofty peaks connected by a high ridge of land. The northern peak is higher than the other, which is situated in the southern part of the island, and rises gradually from the sea to the height of ten thousand seven hundred feet. In clear weather the island can be seen at the distance of more than a hundred miles; but this is not always the case, as the summit is most frequently concealed by clouds and fogs, which are common at certain seasons of the year.
As they approached the island in fine weather, and with a moderate wind, they had ample time to observe it. The shore is formed mostly of a dark coloured rock, and covered with trees which reach down to the water's edge. The whole of the lower part of the island is covered with fine forest trees of various descriptions, extending about three fourths up the sides of the mountain, where they became thinly scattered, stinted in their growth, and interspersed with low bushes and a brown dry grass. In various parts, patches of cultivated ground may be seen along with the huts of the natives, presenting, with the luxuriant foliage of the trees, a mass of verdure in the most flourishing condition. Nature has here done her utmost; the whole appearance of the island is of the most beautiful description, and fully justifies its title to the name of Ilha Formosa, signifying, "beautiful island," which it first received. As they approached it still nearer, the stupendous precipices, and wide fissures near the summit of the principal mountain, became more distinct, by the contrast between their dark recesses and the lights on the projecting rocks, until by the proximity of the observers to the shore, the whole became concealed behind the lesser height next to the sea.
Until the year 1827, the island lay forsaken and neglected in its primitive condition, neither the Portuguese nor Spaniards having thought it worth their consideration. At length, the attention of the British government was directed to it, in consequence of its favourable position for putting a stop to the slave trade in that quarter of Africa. Situated within a few hours sail of the coast, in the immediate vicinity of those rivers, commencing with the Camaroons on the east, and extending along the whole of the Gold Coast, where the principal outlets of this unlawful traffic are found, Fernando Po presented advantages, which were sufficient to authorize a settlement being formed on it, and Captain W. Owen sailed from England for that purpose, in his majesty's ship Eden, with the appointment of governor, and with Commander Harrison under his orders. Captain Owen had been previously employed on an extensive and difficult survey of the coasts of Africa, both in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, in which the shores of this island were included, and therefore, having visited it before, he was no stranger either to its nature and resources, or to the climate in which it is situated. Previously to the arrival of Captain Owen, the island had been occasionally visited by some of the ships on the African station, for the purpose of obtaining supplies of vegetables and water, and perhaps now and then a Liverpool trader would be seen there waiting for palm oil, or recovering the health of her crew from fevers obtained in the rivers on the coast. As the natives reside some distance in the interior, the arrival of a ship of war at the island, was announced to them by the discharge of a cannon on board, which was sufficient to bring them to the sea side, with whatever vegetables, poultry, and other articles they might wish to sell. The articles mostly demanded by them in return, were pieces of iron-hoop, knives, and nails. At first, a piece of iron-hoop about six inches long, would purchase a pair of fowls or four yams, so great was the value which the natives attached to iron.
The business of forming a new settlement, is a species of service that requires the exercise of certain qualities of the mind, which it is not the good fortune of every one to possess. In addition to the pernicious effects of the climate on European constitutions, there were people on the island, who, although they might be unable to offer any serious impediment to the progress of the settlement, it was necessary to conciliate than treat them with hostility, and for this, no one could have been better calculated than Captain Owen. Whatever may have induced him to relinquish the appointment of governor, no measures for gaining the friendship of the natives, and thereby securing their good will towards the colony, could have been better than those which he adopted, and the chiefs even now frequently mention his name.
The part selected as the site of the proposed settlement, was on the northern side of the island on the borders of a small cove, formed by a narrow neck of land projecting out from the shore on the eastern side of it. This was named "Point William," and the cove, together with the whole establishment was called "Clarence," after his most gracious majesty, who was then lord high admiral of Great Britain. Point Adelaide with two small islets off it, connected by a sand bank, forms the western boundary of the cove, and is distant about half a mile from Point William. Goderich Bay lies to the east, and Cockburn Cove to the west of Clarence Cove. Under the able direction of Captain Owen, the various buildings were planned, while the operation of clearing the ground was going forward. A flag staff, which formerly stood on the extremity of Point William, was removed to the governor's house; and a large commodious building, with a few solitary palm trees near it, is the first object which attracts attention. This building was assigned as the hospital, and was judiciously situated here, as it was the most exposed to the sea breeze, and stood completely isolated from the rest of the settlement, both which precautions were of no small importance in the climate of Fernando Po. A small, round-topped building at a short distance from the hospital, with a few huts near it, and surrounded by stakes, was formerly the magazine, and near it was another large building, used as the marine barracks. The officers' quarters, and those of the African corps, were next in succession, and announced their military character by a piece of artillery mounted close to them, and pointed towards the cove. The governor's house, a large, spacious building, stands eminently conspicuous, on the precipice of the shore beneath, which is the landing place. From hence, a fatiguing walk leads immediately to it, up an ascent of about one hundred feet. A battery of seven guns were landed for this purpose from his majesty's ship, Esk, which were placed in a very commanding situation in front of the governor's house. The house of the mixed commission for the adjudication of captured slave vessels, stands in an unfinished state, at a short distance from the governor's. Various other buildings occupy Point William, which are diversified by a few trees, that give it a pleasing and picturesque appearance from the sea. This remark is generally made by those who first visit Clarence Cove, and all are pleased on first seeing it. In addition to the buildings just enumerated, Mr. Lloyd has a tolerably good house, and the surgeon of the colony, who is a naval officer, has also one assigned for his residence. The Kroomen and free negroes, who amount to about two thousand in number, have a collection of small, neat huts, at a short distance from government house, which are constructed of wood, and thatched with palm leaves. They are very careful of them, and have a small garden in the front as well as behind, in which they cultivate Indian corn, bananas, peppers, &c. These huts form two small streets, but they are daily receiving additions from new comers.
The work of clearing the ground is constantly going forward and is performed by the free negroes, the African troops, and the Kroomen. The principal disease amongst these people, which arises from accidents in cutting down the trees, is ulcerated legs, and sixteen of them were in the hospital from this cause alone. The Kroomen are a particular race of people, differing entirely from the other African tribes. They inhabit a country called Sotta Krou, on the coast near Cape Palmas; their principal employment being of a maritime nature. Their language, as well as their general character, is also different from that of their neighbours. A certain number of these men are always employed on board of the ships of war on the African coast, for the purpose of performing those duties where considerable fatigue and exposure to the sun are experienced. In consequence of their roving employment, they are to be found on all parts of the coast, and are sufficiently acquainted with it to serve as pilots. It is customary with them to establish themselves on various parts of the coast for this purpose, and to leave the elders of their tribes in their own country, unless their presence should be required by any war that might take place. They are said to return to their country after an absence of several years, when they have amassed by their industry, sufficient to maintain themselves, and some among them are intelligent and active, but they are not always to be trusted, although they are a very superior class of people, in comparison with other African tribes.
Besides a watering place at a short distance to the right of the governor's house, two small streams, Hay brook and Horton brook, run into Goderich Bay, affording plenty of excellent water, and capable of admitting boats. The watering place, above-mentioned, is generally frequented, from the convenience with which the water is obtained, being connected to the sea side by a wooden aqueduct, under which boats may lie and fill their casks very easily without removing them.
When the Landers arrived, Clarence establishment consisted of the superintendent, or acting governor, Mr. Becroft, who was generally known by the title of captain; Captain Beattie, the commander of the Portia, colonial schooner; Mr. Crichton, a naval surgeon; Lieutenant Stockwell, with a party of five or six marines; a mulatto ensign of the royal African corps, with two black companions from Sierra Leone, and some carpenters and sail-makers, besides a mulatto, who filled the office of clerk or secretary to Mr. Becroft; an English merchant of the name of Lloyd, in the employment of Mr. Smith, whose residence has been already mentioned.