The travellers passed through Sansan, a great market place, divided into three distinct towns, and Katagum, the strongly fortified capital of the province, containing about eight thousand inhabitants. Thence they proceeded to Murmur, where the severe illness under which Dr. Oudney had long laboured, came to a crisis. Though now in the last stage of consumption, he insisted on continuing his journey and with the aid of his servant had been supported to his camel, when Clapperton, seeing the ghastliness of death on his countenance, insisted on replacing him in his tent, where, soon after, without a groan, he breathed his last. His companion caused him to be buried with the honours of the country. The body was washed, wrapped in turban shawls, and a wall of clay built round the grave, to protect it from wild beasts; two sheep were also killed and distributed amongst the poor.
Katungwa, the first town of Houssa proper, and the next on the route, is situated in a country well enclosed, and under high cultivation. To the south is an extensive range of rocky hills, amid which is the town of Zangeia, with its buildings picturesquely scattered over masses of rocks. Clapperton passed also Girkwa, near a river of the same name, which appears to come from these hills, and to fall into the Yeou.
Two days after, he entered Kano, the Ghana of Edrisi, and which is now, as it was six hundred years ago, the chief commercial city of Houssa, and of all central Africa. Yet it disappointed our traveller on his first entry, and for a quarter of a mile scarcely appeared a city at all. Even in its more crowded quarters, the houses rose generally in clusters, separated by stagnant pools. The inhabited part on the whole, did not comprise more than a fourth of the space enclosed by the walls, the rest consisted of fields, gardens, and swamps; however, as the whole circuit is fifteen miles, there is space for a population moderately estimated, to be between thirty or forty thousand. The market is held on a neck of land, between two swamps, by which, during the rains, it is entirely overflowed, but in the dry season it is covered with sheds of bamboo, arranged into regular streets. Different quarters are allowed for the several kinds of goods; some for cattle, others for vegetables, while fruits of various descriptions, so much neglected in Bornou, are here displayed in profusion. The fine cotton fabrics of the country are sold either in webs, or in what are called tobes and Turkadees, with rich silken strips or borders ready to be added. Amongst the favourite articles are goora or kolla nuts, which are called African coffee, being supposed to give a peculiar relish to the water drunk after them; and crude antimony, with the black tint of which every eyebrow in Houssa must be dyed. The Arabs also dispose here of sundry commodities that have become obsolete in the north; the cast-off dresses of the mamelukes and other great men, and old sword-blades from Malta. But the busiest scene is the slave market, composed of two long ranges of sheds, one for males and another for females. These poor creatures are seated in rows, decked out for exhibition. The buyer scrutinizes them as nicely as a purchaser with us does a horse, inspecting the tongue, teeth, eyes, and limbs; making them cough and perform various movements, to ascertain if there be any thing unsound, and in case of a blemish appearing, or even without assigning a reason, he may return them within three days. As soon as the slaves are sold, the exposer gets back their finery, to be employed in ornamenting others. Most of the captives purchased at Kano, are conveyed across the desert, during which their masters endeavour to keep up their spirits, by an assurance, that on passing its boundary, they will be set free and dressed in red, which they account the gayest of colours. Supplies, however, often fail in this dreary journey, a want first felt by the slaves, many of whom perish with hunger and fatigue. Clapperton heard the doleful tale of a mother, who had seen her child dashed to the ground, while she herself was compelled by the lash to drag on an exhausted frame. Yet, when at all tolerably treated, they are very gay, an observation generally made in regard to slaves, but this gaiety, arising only from the absence of thought, probably conceals much secret wretchedness.
The regulations of the market of Kano seem to be good, and strictly enforced. A sheik superintends the police, and is said even to fix the prices. The dylalas or brokers, are men of somewhat high character; packages of goods are often sold unopened bearing merely their mark. If the purchaser afterwards finds any defect, he returns it to the agent, who must grant compensation. The medium of exchange is not cloth as in Bornou, nor iron as in Loggun, but cowries or little shells, brought from the roast, twenty of which are worth a halfpenny, and four hundred and eighty make a shilling, so that in paying a pound sterling, one has to count over nine thousand six hundred cowries. Amid so many strangers, there is ample room for the trade of the restaurateur, which is carried on by a female seated on the ground, with a mat on her knees, on which are spread vegetables, gussub water, and bits of roasted meat about the size of a penny; these she retails to her customers squatted around her. The killing of a bullock forms a sort of festival at Kano; its horns are dyed red with henna, drums are beaten, and a crowd collected, who, if they approve of the appearance and condition of the animal, readily become purchasers.
Boxing in Houssa, like wrestling in Bornou, forms a favourite exercise, and the grand national spectacle. Clapperton, having heard much of the fancy of Kano, intimated his willingness to pay for a performance, which was forthwith arranged. The whole body of butchers attended, and acted as masters of the ceremonies; while, as soon as the tidings spread, girls left their pitchers at the wells; the market people threw down their baskets, and an immense crowd were assembled. The ring being formed, and drums beaten, the performers first came forward singly, plying their muscles, like a musician tuning his instrument, and each calling out to the bystanders—"I am a hyena." "I am a lion." "I can kill all that oppose me." After about twenty had shown off in this manner, they came forward in pairs, wearing only a leathern girdle, and with their hands muffled in numerous folds of country cloth. It was first ascertained that they were not mutual friends; after which they closed with the utmost fury, aiming their blows at the most mortal parts, as the pit of the stomach, beneath the ribs, or under the ear; they even endeavoured to scoop out the eyes; so that in spite of every precaution, the match often terminated in the death of one of the combatants. Whenever Clapperton saw the affair verging to such an issue, he gave orders to stop, and after seeing six parties exhibit, he paid the hire, and broke up the meeting.
The negroes here are excessively polite and ceremonious, especially to those advanced in years. They salute one another by laying the hand on the breast, making a bow, and inquiring, Kona lafia? ki ka ky kee—Fo fo da rana: How do you do? I hope you are well. How have you passed the heat of the day? The last question corresponds in their climate to the circumstantiality, with what our country folks inquire about a good night's rest.
The unmarried girls, whether slaves or free, and likewise the young unmarried men, wear a long apron of blue and white check, with a notched edging of red woollen cloth. It is tied with two broad bands, ornamented in the same way, and hanging down behind to the very ankles. This is peculiar to Soudan, and forms the only distinction in dress from the people of Bornou.
Their marriages are not distinguished by any great form or ceremony. When a bride is first conducted to the house of the bridegroom, she is attended by a great number of friends and slaves, bearing presents of melted fat, honey, wheat, turkadees, and tobes as her dower. She whines all the way, "Wey kina! wey kina! wey lo!" O my head! My head! Oh! dear me. Notwithstanding this lamentation, the husband has commonly known his wife some time before marriage. Preparatory to the ceremony of reading the fatah, both bridegroom and bride remain shut up for some days, and have their hands and feet dyed for three days successively, with henna. The bride herself visits the bridegroom, and applies the henna plasters with her own hands.
Every one is buried under the floor of his own house, without monument or memorial, and among the commonalty the house continues occupied as usual, but among the great there is more refinement, and it is ever after abandoned. The corpse being washed, the first chapter of the Koran is read over it, and the interment takes place the same day. The bodies of slaves are dragged out of town, and left a prey to vultures and wild beasts. In Kano they do not even take the trouble to convey them beyond the walls, but throw the corpse into the morass, or nearest pool of water.
Major Denham was now informed that the sultan had sent a messenger express, with orders to have him conducted to his capital, and to supply him with every thing necessary for his journey. He now begged him to state what he stood in need of. The major assured him that the king of England, his master, had liberally provided for all his wants, but that he felt profoundly grateful for the kind offer of the sultan, and had only to crave from him the favour of being attended by one of his people as a guide. He instantly called a fair-complexioned Fellata, and asked the major if he liked him; the answer was given in the affirmative, and Major Denham took his leave. He afterwards went by invitation, to visit the governor of Hadyja, who was here on his return from Sockatoo, and lived in the house of the Wanbey. He found this governor of Hadyja, a black man, about fifty years of age, sitting amongst his own people, at the upper end of the room, which is usually a little raised, and is reserved in this country for the master of the house, or visitors of high rank. He was well acquainted with the major's travelling name, for the moment he entered, he said laughing, "How do you do, Abdallah? Will you come and see me at Hadyja on your return?"
"God be willing," answered the major, with due moslem solemnity.
"You are a Christian, Abdallah?" asked the governor. "I am," replied the major.
"And what are you come to see?" inquired the governor. "The country," replied the major, "its manners and customs." "What do you think of it?" asked the governor. "It is a fine country," said the major, "but very sickly." At this the governor smiled, and again asked, "would you Christians allow us to come and see your country?"
"Certainly," said the major, "and every civility and kindness would be shown to you."
"Would you force us to become Christians?" asked the governor.
"By no means," answered the major, "we never meddle with a man's religion."
"What!" he exclaimed, "and do you ever pray?" "Sometimes," said the major. "Our religion commands us to pray always, but we pray in secret, and not in public, except on Sundays."
One of his attendants here abruptly asked, what a Christian was "Why, a kafir," rejoined the governor. "Where is your Jew servant?" he asked, "you ought to let us see him."
"Excuse me," said the major, "he is averse from it, and I never allow my servants to be molested for their religious opinions."
"Well, Abdallah," said the governor, "thou art a man of understanding, and must come and see me at Hadyja."
The major then retired, and the Arabs afterwards told him, that he was a perfect savage, and sometimes put a merchant to death for the sake of his goods, but this account, if true, is less to be wondered at, from the notorious villainy of some of them.
From Kano, Lieutenant Clapperton set out, under the guidance of Mohammed Jollie, leader of a caravan intended for Sockatoo, capital of the sultan of the Fellatas. The country was perhaps the finest in Africa, being under high cultivation, diversified with groves of noble trees, and traversed in a picturesque manner by ridges of granite. The manners of the people, too, were pleasing and pastoral. At many clear springs, gushing from the rocks, young women were drawing water. As an excuse for engaging in talk, our traveller asked several times for the means of quenching his thirst. Bending gracefully on one knee, and displaying, at the same time, teeth of pearly whiteness and eyes of the blackest lustre, they presented a gourd, and appeared highly delighted, when he thanked them for their civility, remarking to one another, "Did you hear the white man thank me?" But the scene was changed on reaching the borders of the provinces of Goobar and Zamfra, which were in a state of rebellion against Sockatoo. The utmost alarm at that moment prevailed; men and women, with their bullocks, asses, and camels, all struggled to be foremost, every one crying out, "Woe to the wretch that falls behind; he will be sure to meet an unhappy end, even at the hands of the Goobarites!" There was danger of being even thrown down and trampled to death by the bullocks, which were furiously rushing backward and forward; however, through the unremitting care of the escort, Clapperton made his way safely, though not without much fatigue and annoyance, along this perilous frontier.
The country was now highly cultivated. The road was crowded with passengers and loaded bullocks, going to the market of Zimrie, which town was passed a little to the southward about noon, when the country became more wooded. In the evening, a halt was made at a town called Quarra, where Clapperton waited upon the governor, who was an aged Fellata. Here Clapperton was unluckily taken for a fighi, or teacher, and was pestered at all hours of the clay to write out prayers by the people. His servants hit upon a scheme to get rid of their importunities, by acquainting them, that, if he did such things, they must be paid the perquisites usually given to the servants of other fighis. Clapperton's washerwoman positively insisted on being paid with a charm in writing, that would entice people to buy earthen-ware of her, and no persuasion of his could either induce her to accept of money for her service, or make her believe that the request was beyond human power. In the cool of the afternoon, he was visited by three of the governor's wives, who, after examining his skin with much attention, remarked, compassionately, it was a thousand pities he was not black, for then he would have been tolerably good looking. He asked one of them, a buxom young girl of fifteen, if she would accept of him for a husband, provided he could obtain the permission of her master, the governor. She immediately began to whimper, and on urging her to explain the cause, she frankly avowed, she did not know what to do with his white legs. He gave to each of them a snuff-box, and, in addition, a string of white beads to the coy maiden. They were attended by an old woman and two little female slaves, and, during their stay, made very merry; but he feared much that their gaiety soon fled on returning to the close custody of their old gaoler.
Clapperton now tried every thing in his power to induce his guide to proceed, without waiting for the escort; but El Wordee and the shreef, who were the most pusillanimous rascals he ever met with, effectually dissuaded him from it.
He was much amused with a conversation he overheard between the blind shreef and his servant, respecting himself and his intended journey. "That Abdallah," says the servant, "is a very bad man; he has no more sense than an ass, and is now going to lead us all to the devil, if we will accompany him. I hope, master, you are not such a fool."
"Yes," ejaculated the shreef, "it was a black day when I joined that kafir; but if I don't go with him; I shall never see the sultan; and when I return to Kano without any thing, the people will laugh at me for my pains."
"Why did you not talk to him," said the servant, "about the dangers of the road?"
"D—n his father!" replied the shreef; "I have talked to him, but these infidels have no prudence."
Clapperton now called out, "A thousand thanks to you, my lord shreef."
"May the blessings of God be upon you!" exclaimed the shreef. "Oh! Rais Abdallah, you are a beautiful man. I will go with you wherever you go. I was only speaking in jest to this dog."
"My lord shreef," said Clapperton, "I was aware of it from the first; it is of no importance, but, if the escort does not arrive to-morrow, I may merely mention to you, I shall certainly proceed, without further delay, to Kashna."
This Clapperton said by way of alarming the shreef, who liked his present quarters too well, from the number of pious females, who sought edification from the lips of so true a descendant of the prophet; besides the chance such visits afforded of transmitting to their offspring the honour of so holy a descent.
The small-pox was at this time raging in the country to an alarming degree. The treatment of the disease is as follows:—When the disease makes its appearance, they anoint the whole body with honey, and the patient lies down on the floor, previously strewed with warm sand, some of which is also sprinkled upon him. If the patient be very ill, he is bathed in cold water early every morning, and is afterwards anointed with honey, and replaced in the warm sand. This is their only mode of treatment; but numbers died every day of this loathsome disease, which had now been raging for six months.
Clapperton had now his baggage packed up for his journey to Kashna, to the great terror of El Wordee, the shreef, and all his servants, who earnestly begged him to remain only a day longer. A party of horse and foot arrived from Zirmee the same night. It was the retinue of a Fellata captain, who was bringing back a young wife from her father's, where she had made her escape. The fair fugitive bestrode a very handsome palfrey, amid a groupe of female attendants on foot. Clapperton was introduced to her on the following morning, when she politely joined her husband in requesting Clapperton to delay his journey another day, in which case, they kindly proposed they should travel together. Of course, it was impossible to refuse so agreeable an invitation, to which Clapperton seemed to yield with all possible courtesy. Indeed he had no serious intention of setting out that day. The figure of the lady was small, but finely formed, and her complexion of a clear copper colour, while, unlike most beautiful women, she was mild and unobtrusive in her manners. Her husband, too, whom she had deserted, was one of the finest looking men Clapperton ever saw, and had also the reputation of being one of the bravest of his nation.
A humpbacked lad, in the service of the gadado, or vizier of Bello, who, on his way from Sockatoo, had his hand dreadfully wounded by the people of Goober, was in the habit of coming every evening to Clapperton's servants to have the wound dressed. On conversing with Clapperton himself, he told him that he had formerly been on an expedition under Abdecachman, a Fallata chief. They started from the town of Labogee, or Nyffee, and, crossing the Quarra, travelled south fourteen days along the banks of the river, until they were within four days journey of the sea, where, according to his literal expression, "the river was one, and the sea was one," but at what precise point the river actually entered the sea, he had no distinct notion.
Early in the morning of the 13th March, Clapperton commenced his journey, in company with the Fellata chief. El Wordee and the shreef were evidently in much trepidation, as they did not consider their present party sufficiently strong, in case of attack; but they had not proceeded far on their route, when they were agreeably surprised by meeting the escort, which they expected. It consisted of one hundred and fifty horsemen, with drums and trumpets. Their leader, with his attendants, advanced to Clapperton in full gallop, and bade him welcome to the country in the name of his master, the sultan, who, he said, was rejoiced to hear he was so near, and had sent him to conduct the travellers to his capital.
They continued to travel with the utmost speed, but the people soon began to fag, and the lady of the Fellata chief, who rode not far from Clapperton, began to complain of fatigue. In the evening they halted at the wells of Kamoon, all extremely fatigued, and on the following morning, they discovered that all their camels had strayed away in quest of food; they were, however, recovered by the exertions of the escort, to the commander of which Clapperton made a handsome present, consisting of some European articles, and to his officers a present of minor value.
On the following day, Clapperton left the wells of Kamoon, followed by his escort and a numerous retinue, and a loud flourish of horns and trumpets. Of course, this extraordinary respect was paid to him as the servant of the king of England, as he was styled in the sheik of Bornou's letter. To impress them still farther with his official importance, Clapperton arrayed himself in his lieutenant's coat, trimmed with gold lace, white trousers, and silk stockings, and to complete his finery, he wore Turkish slippers and a turban. Although his limbs pained him extremely, in consequence of their recent forced march, he constrained himself to assume the utmost serenity of countenance, in order to meet, with befitting dignity, the honours they lavished on him as the humble representative of his country.
From the top of the second hill after leaving Kamoon, they at length saw Sockatoo. A messenger from the sultan met them here to bid the travellers welcome, and to acquaint them that the sultan was at a neighbouring town, on his return from a ghrazzie or expedition, but intended to be in Sockatoo in the evening. At noon they arrived at Sockatoo, where a great number of people were assembled to look at the European traveller, and he entered the city amid the hearty welcomes of young and old. He was immediately conducted to the house of the gadado or vizier, where apartments were provided for him and his servants. The gadado, an elderly man named Simnon Bona Lima, arrived near midnight, and came instantly to see him. He was excessively polite, but would on no account drink tea with Clapperton, as he said, he was a stranger in their land, and had not yet eaten of his bread. He told Clapperton that the sultan wished to see him in the morning, and repeatedly assured him of experiencing the most cordial reception. He spoke Arabic extremely well, which he said he learned solely from the Koran.
After breakfast on the following morning, the sultan sent for Clapperton, his residence being at no great distance. In front of it there is a large quadrangle, into which several of the principal streets of the city lead. They passed through three coozees, as guardhouses, without the least detention, and were immediately ushered into the presence of Bello, the second sultan of the Fellatas. He was seated on a small carpet, between two pillars supporting the roof of a thatched house, not unlike one of our cottages. The walls and pillars were painted blue and white, in the moorish taste and on the back wall was sketched a fire screen, ornamented with a coarse painting of a flower-pot. An arm-chair with an iron lamp standing on it, was placed on each side of the screen. The sultan bade Clapperton many hearty welcomes, and asked him if he were not much tired with his journey from Burderewa. Clapperton told him it was the most severe travelling he had experienced between Tripoli and Sockatoo, and thanked him for the guard, the conduct of which he did not fail to commend in the strongest terms.
The sultan asked him a great many questions about Europe, and our religious distinctions. He was acquainted with the names of some of the more ancient sects, and asked whether we were Nestorians or Socinians. To extricate himself from the embarrassment occasioned by this question, Clapperton bluntly replied, we were called Protestants. "What are Protestants?" said he. Clapperton attempted to explain to him, as well as he was able, that having protested more than two centuries and a half ago, against the superstition, absurdities, and abuses practised in those days, we had ever since professed to follow simply what was written "in the book of our Lord Jesus," as they call the New Testament, and thence received the name of Protestants. He continued to ask several other theological questions, until Clapperton was obliged to confess himself not sufficiently versed in religious subtleties, to resolve these knotty points, having always left that task to others more learned than himself.
The sultan was a noble-looking man, forty-four years of age, although much younger in appearance, five feet ten inches high, portly in person, with a short curling black beard, a small mouth, a fine forehead, a grecian nose, and large black eyes. He was dressed in a light blue cotton tobe, with a white muslin turban, the shawl of which he wore over the nose and mouth, in the Tuarick fashion.
In the afternoon Clapperton repeated his visit, accompanied by the Gadado, Mahomed El Wordee, and Mahomed Gomsoo, the principal Arab of the city, to whom he had a letter of introduction from Hat Salah, at Kano. The sultan was sitting in the same apartment in which he received him in the morning, and Clapperton laid before him the presents, in the name of his majesty the king of England. Amongst these presents, the compass and spy glass excited the greatest interest, and the sultan seemed highly gratified when Clapperton pointed out, that by means of the former he could at any time find out the east, to address himself in his daily prayers. He said "Every thing is wonderful, but you are the greatest curiosity of all," and then added, "What can I give that is most acceptable to the king of England?" Clapperton replied, "The most acceptable service you can render to the king of England, is to cooperate with his majesty, in putting a stop to the slave trade on the coast, as the king of England sends every year large ships to cruise there, for the sole purpose of seizing all vessels engaged in this trade, whose crews are thrown into prison, and of liberating the unfortunate slaves, on whom lands and houses are conferred, at one of our settlements in Africa."
"What!" said the sultan, "have you no slaves in England."
"No," replied Clapperton, "whenever a slave sets his foot on England, he is from that moment free."
"What do you do then for servants?" asked the sultan.
"We hire them for a stated period," replied Clapperton, "and give them regular wages; nor is any person in England allowed to strike another, and the very soldiers are fed, clothed, and paid by government."
"God is great!" exclaimed the sultan, "you are a beautiful people."
Clapperton now presented the sheik of Bornou's letter. On perusing it, the sultan assured Clapperton that he should see all that was to be seen within his dominions, as well as in Youri and Nyffee, both of which Clapperton informed him, he was most anxious to visit. This interview terminated very satisfactory to Clapperton, as through the influence and power of the sultan, he hoped to be able to accomplish his design of penetrating further into the country, but the sequel will show, that the knowledge which Clapperton had as yet entertained of the African character, was very limited and superficial.
In describing the events which took place during the residence of Clapperton at Sockatoo, we shall be obliged in several instances to be very circumstantial, as they have all a reference proximate or remote to the affairs which took place, when he visited the place at a future period, in company with Richard Lander, in whose papers some highly interesting information is contained, respecting the conduct of the sultan and the natives, both prior and subsequent to the death of Clapperton, and from which in some degree resulted the death of that amiable and highly spirited officer.
On the morning of the 19th March, Clapperton was sent for by the sultan, and desired to bring with him "the looking glass of the sun," the name which they gave to the sextant. He was on this occasion conducted further into the interior of his residence, than on his two former visits. Clapperton first exhibited a planisphere of the heavenly bodies. The sultan knew all the signs of the zodiac, some of the constellations, and many of the stars by their Arabic names. The looking glass of the sun was then brought forward, and occasioned much surprise. Clapperton had to explain all its appendages. The inverting telescope was an object of intense astonishment, and Clapperton had to stand at some little distance, to let the sultan look at him through it, for his people were all afraid of placing themselves within its magical influence. He had next to show him how to take an observation of the sun. The case of the artificial horizon, of which Clapperton had lost the key, was sometimes very difficult to open, as happened on this occasion, and he asked one of the people near him for a knife to press up the lid. The person handed him one much too small, and he quite inadvertently asked for a dagger for the same purpose. The sultan was instantly thrown into a fright; he seized his sword, and half drawing it from the scabbard, placed it before him, trembling all the time like an aspen leaf. Clapperton did not deem it prudent to take the least notice of this alarm, although it was himself who had in reality the greatest cause of fear. On receiving the dagger, Clapperton calmly opened the case, and returned the weapon to its owner with apparent unconcern. When the artificial horizon was arranged, the sultan and all his attendants had a peep at the sun, and the breach of etiquette which Clapperton had committed, seemed to be entirely forgotten. In the evening the sultan sent him two sheep, a camel load of wheat and rice, and some of the finest figs which Clapperton had ever tasted in Africa.
On the following day, Clapperton returned the visit of Mahomed Gomsoo, the chief of the Arabs, of whose excessive greediness he had been warned at Kano, but at the same time recommended to make him a handsome present, and to endeavour by all means to keep him in good humour, on account of his great influence. On receiving the presents, Gomsoo promised to give Clapperton a letter to the sultan of Youri, who was his particular friend, and with whom he had lived many years. From this person Clapperton obtained the following information respecting the death of Mr. Park, and which confirmed the previous reports which had been obtained respecting him. Gomsoo said he was at Youri when the English came down in a boat from Timbuctoo, and were lost, which circumstance he related in the following manner:—They had arrived off a town called Boosa, and having sent a gun and some other articles as presents to the sultan of Youri, they sent to purchase a supply of onions in the market. The sultan apprised them of his intention to pay them a visit, and offered to send people to guide them through the ledges of rock, which run quite across the channel of the river a little below the town, where the banks rise into high hills on both sides. Instead of waiting for the sultan, they set off at night, and by daybreak next morning, a horseman arrived at Youri, to inform the sultan that the boat had struck upon the rocks. The people on both sides of the river then began to assail them with arrows, upon which they threw overboard all their effects, and two white men, arm and arm, jumped into the water, two slaves only remaining in the boat, with some books and papers, and several guns. One of the books was covered with wax-cloth, and still remained in the hands of the sultan of Youri. Gomsoo also told Clapperton, and his account was confirmed by others, that the sultan of Youri was a native of Sockna, in the regency of Tripoli, and prided himself extremely on his birth, but that he was such a drunkard, whenever any person of consequence came to visit him, that nothing proved so acceptable a present as a bottle of rum.
On Clapperton's return home from Gomsoo's, he found a message had been left for him to wait upon the sultan, which he complied with immediately after breakfast. He received him in an inner apartment, attended only by a few slaves. After asking Clapperton how he did, and several other chit chat questions, he was not a little surprised, without a single question being put to him on the subject, to hear, that if he wished to go to Nyffee, there were two roads leading to it, the one direct, but beset by enemies; the other safer, but more circuitous; that by either route he would be detained during the rains, in a country at present in a state of rebellion, and therefore that he ought to think seriously of these difficulties. Clapperton assured the sultan that he had already taken the matter into consideration, and that he was neither afraid of the dangers of the roads nor of the rains. "Think of it with prudence," the sultan replied, and they parted.
From the tone and manner in which the sultan pronounced the latter sentence, Clapperton felt a foreboding that his intended visit to Youri and Nyffee was at an end. He could not help suspecting the intrigues of the Arabs to be the cause, as they knew well, if the native Africans were once acquainted with English commerce by the way of the sea, their own lucrative inland trade would from that moment cease. He was much perplexed during the whole of the day, to know how to act, and went after sunset to consult Mahomed Gomsoo. Clapperton met him at the door of his house, on his way to the sultan, and stopped him to mention what had passed, and how unaccountably strange it appeared to him, that the sultan, after having repeatedly assured him of being at liberty to visit every part of his dominions, should now, for the first time, seem inclined to withdraw that permission, adding, that before he came to Sockna, he never heard of a king making a promise one day and breaking it the next. All this, he knew, would find its way to the sultan. Gomsoo told Clapperton that he was quite mistaken; for that the sultan, the gadado, and all the principal people, entertained the highest opinion of him, and wished for nothing so much as to cultivate the friendship of the English nation. But, said Clapperton, on leaving him, it is necessary for me to visit those places, or else how can the English get here? As Clapperton anticipated, Gomsoo repeated to the sultan every word he had said, for he was no sooner at home, than he was sent for by the sultan, whom he found seated with Gomsoo and two others. He was received with great kindness, and Gomsoo said he had made the sultan acquainted with their conversation. Clapperton thanked him, and expressed his earnest hope, that he had neither done nor said any thing to offend him. The sultan assured him that his conduct had always met with his approbation, and although he was freely disposed to show him all the country, still he wished to do so with safety to him. An army, he added, was at this moment ravaging the country, through which he had to pass, and until he heard from it, it would be unsafe to go, he expected, however, further information in three or four days. He drew on the sand the course of the river Quarra, which he informed Clapperton entered the sea at Fundah. By his account the river ran parallel to the sea coast for several days' journey, being in some places only a few hours, in others a day's journey distant from it. After questioning Clapperton on some points connected with the English trade, the sultan said, "I will give the king of England a place on the coast to build a town, only I wish a road to be cut to Rakah, if vessels should not be able to navigate the river." Clapperton asked him, if the country which he had promised, belonged to him. "Yes," said he, "God has given me all the lands of the infidels." This was an answer that admitted of no contradiction.
The sultan informed Clapperton, that some timbers of Park's boat, fastened together with nails, remained a long time on the rocks of the river, and that a double-barrelled gun, taken in the boat, was once in his possession, but it had lately burst. His cousin, Abderachman, however, had a small printed book, taken out of the boat; but he was now absent on an expedition to Nyffee. The other books were in the hands of the sultan of Youri, who was tributary to him. Clapperton told the sultan, if he could procure these articles for the king of England, they would prove a most acceptable present, and he promised to make every exertion in his power.
The direct road to Youri is only five days' journey; but on account of the rebellious state of the country, it was necessary to take a circuitous route of twelve days. Numbers of the principal people of Sockatoo came to Clapperton, to advise him to give up the idea of going, all alleging that the rains had already commenced it Youri, and that the road was in the hands of their enemies. They repeated the same tales to the servants who were to accompany him, and threw them all into a panic at the prospect of so dangerous a journey. Clapperton discovered also, that the Arabs were tampering with his servants, and some of them absolutely refused to go, from some information that was given to them, that, if they met with no disasters on the route to Youri, the sultan there would assuredly sell them, and that they would never be allowed to return.
The journey to Youri now appeared to engross the whole of Clapperton's attention, and the sultan sent for him, to consult with him about the guide, who was to accompany him to that place. One man had already refused, and he had to tempt another with a promise of forty thousand kowries unknown to the sultan, who kindly took much pains to impress upon Clapperton the necessity of his return within twenty-six days, on account of the capricious character of the people of the place.
Clapperton now began to see that no chance existed of his prosecuting his journey to Youri; but it must be admitted, that some of the suspicions which he entertained were groundless, for the state of the country was afterwards found to be, if possible, worse than had been described; and the ravages of the Fellatas so terrible, that any one coming from amongst them was likely to experience a very disagreeable reception. Indeed it may be suspected, that the sultan must have been a good deal embarrassed by the simplicity with which his guest listened to his pompous boasting as to the extent of his empire, and by the earnestness with which he entreated him to name one of his seaports, where the English might land, when it was certain that he had not a town which was not some hundred miles distant from the coast. To prevent the disclosure of this fact, which must have taken place, had Clapperton proceeded in that direction, might be an additional motive for refusing his sanction. In short, it was finally announced to Clapperton, that no escort could be found to accompany him on so rash an enterprise, and that he could return to England only by retracing his steps.
One morning, Clapperton was surprised at a visit from Ateeko, the brother of the sultan, to whom he had sent a present of a scarlet jacket, breeches, and bornouse. When he was seated, and the usual compliments were over, Clapperton apologized, on the score of ill health, for not having already paid him a visit. He now told him he had a few things belonging to the Englishman who was at Musfeia with the late Boo Khaloom, but as no person knew what they were, he would gladly sell them to him, ordering his servant, at the same time, to produce a bundle he held under his arm. The servant took from the bundle a shirt, two pair of trousers, and two pieces of parchment used for sketching by Major Denham. The only other articles, Ateeko said, were a trunk, a broken sextant, and a watch; the latter had been destroyed, as he alleged, in their ignorant eagerness to examine its structure. He then invited Clapperton to visit him on the following morning, when they might fix the price of what he wished to buy, to which Clapperton assented; but on reconsidering the matter, he thought it prudent first to consult the gadado, particularly as the sultan had gone on an expedition, and was not expected to return for five days. Clapperton began to fear lest a bad construction might be put upon his visit to this mean prince, who, on the death of his father, Bello the First, had aspired to the throne, and even had himself proclaimed sultan in Sockatoo; from the mere circumstance of his brother Bello, the present sultan, having expressed the intention, during his father's lifetime, of resigning the splendour of royalty for the tranquillity of a holy and learned life. Ateeko had even the audacity to enter his brother's house, preceded by drums and trumpets; and when Bello inquired the cause of the tumult, he received the first intimation of his brother's perfidy in the answer, "The sultan Ateeko is come." Bello, nowise disconcerted, immediately ordered the usurper into his presence, when Ateeko pleaded, in vindication of his conduct, his brother's proposed disinclination to reign; to which the sultan only deigned to reply, "Go and take off these trappings, or I will take off your head." Ateeko, with characteristic abjectness of spirit, began to wring his hands, as if washing them in water, and called God and the prophet to witness that his motives were innocent and upright, since which time he has remained in the utmost obscurity. According, however, to another authority, Bello confined him to the house for twelve months, and then a reconciliation took place between them. We are apt to speak of the sovereigns of barbarous and uncivilized nations as deficient in those virtues for which civilized sovereigns are or ought to be distinguished; but we suspect that few of the latter would have acted towards the usurper of his throne with the same magnanimity as was displayed by the Fellata sovereign.
On visiting the gadado, he told Clapperton by no means to go to Ateeko whilst the sultan was absent, as his visit at this juncture might be regarded with a very jealous eye by the people, who would not hesitate to charge him with a plot to place Ateeko on the throne, by the assistance of England. The gadado undisguisedly expressed his contempt at Ateeko's conduct, and assured him that it was entirely without the sanction of the sultan.
On the return of the sultan from the army, permission was given to Clapperton to purchase from Ateeko the sorry remains of Major Denham's baggage; accompanied, therefore, by El Wordee, he went to the prince's house, and after waiting for some time in the porch of a square tower, they were introduced into an inner coozee, hung round with blue and yellow silk, in sharp-pointed festoons, not unlike gothic arches. Ateeko soon made his appearance, and after a few compliments, they proceeded to business. He brought out a damaged leathern trunk, with two or three shirts, and other articles of dress, much the worse for wear, and the sextant and parchment already mentioned. The former was completely demolished, the whole of the glasses being taken out, or, where they could not unscrew them, broken off the frame, which remained a mere skeleton. Ateeko seemed to fancy that the sextant was gold, in which Clapperton soon undeceived him; and selecting it, with the parchment and one or two flannel waistcoats and towels, likely to be useful to Major Denham, he offered the prince five thousand kowries, at which he appeared much surprised and mortified. El Wordee whispered into Clapperton's ear, "Remember he is a prince, and not a merchant." But Clapperton said, loud enough for his highness to hear, "Remember, that when a prince turns merchant, he must expect no more than another man; and as that is the value of the articles, it is a matter of indifference to me whether I buy them or not." Ateeko frequently repeated his belief of the sextant being gold; but at length the bargain seemed to be concluded, and Clapperton requested the prince to send a slave to his house with the articles he had picked out, to whom also he would pay the money. The slave, however, was recalled before he got half-way, and his suspicious master took back the sextant-frame, in dread of being overreached by the purchaser in its value, which Clapperton did not fail to deduct from the price agreed on.
The prince stated, that he kept two hundred civet cats, two of which he showed Clapperton. These animals were extremely savage, and were confined in separate wooden cages. They were about four feet long from the nose to the tip of the tail, and, with the exception of a greater length of body and a longer tail, they very much resembled diminutive hyenas. They are fed with pounded guinea corn and dried fish made into balls. The civet is scraped off with a kind of muscle shell every other morning, the animal being forced into a corner of the cage, and its head held down with a stick during the operation. The prince offered to sell any number of them which Clapperton might wish to have; but he did not look upon them as very desirable travelling companions. Ateeko was a little spare man, with a full face, of monkey-like expression. He spoke in a slow and subdued tone of voice, and the Fellatas acknowledge him to be extremely brave, but at the same time avaricious and cruel. "Were he sultan," say they, "heads would fly about in Soudan."
One evening, on paying the gadado a visit, Clapperton found him alone, reading an Arabic book, one of a small collection he possessed. "Abdallah," said he, "I had a dream last night, and am perusing this book to find out what it meant. Do you believe in such things?"
"No, my lord gadado. I consider books of dreams to be full of idle conceits. God gives a man wisdom to guide his conduct, while dreams are occasioned by the accidental circumstances of sleeping with the head low, excess of food, or uneasiness of mind."
"Abdallah," he replied, smiling, "this book tells me differently." He then mentioned, that, in a few days, the sultan was going on another expedition, and wished him to join it; but that he preferred remaining, in order to have a mosque, which was then building, finished before the Rhamadan, lest the workmen should idle away their time in his absence.
Previously to the sultan's departure, he sent Clapperton a present of two large baskets of wheat, who now began to think seriously of retracing his steps to Kano. He was sitting in the shade before his door, with Sidi Sheik, the sultan's fighi, when an ill-looking wretch, with a fiend-like grin on his countenance, came and placed himself directly before Clapperton, who immediately asked Sidi Sheik who he was. He immediately answered, "The executioner." Clapperton instantly ordered his servants to turn him out. "Be patient," said Sidi Sheik, laying his hand upon that of Clapperton; "he visits the first people in Sockatoo, and they never allow him to go away without giving him a few goora nuts, or money to buy them." In compliance with this hint, Clapperton requested forty kowries to be given to the fellow, with strict orders never again to cross his threshold. Sidi Sheik now related a professional anecdote of Clapperton's uninvited visitor. Being brother of the executioner of Yacoba, of which place he was a native, he applied to the governor for his brother's situation, boasting of superior adroitness in the family vocation. The governor coolly remarked, "We will try; go and fetch your brother's head." He instantly went in quest of his brother, and finding him seated at the door of his house, without noise or warning, he struck off his head with a sword at one blow; then carrying the bleeding head to the governor, and claiming the reward of such transcendent atrocity, he was appointed to the vacant office. The sultan being afterwards in want of an expert headsman, sent for him to Sockatoo, where, a short time after his arrival, he had to officiate at the execution of two thousand Tuaricks, who, in conjunction with the rebels at Goober, had attempted to plunder the country, but were all made prisoners. It may be added, that the capital punishments inflicted in Soudan are beheading, impaling, and crucifixion; the first being reserved for Mahometans, and the other two practised on pagans. Clapperton was told, that wretches on the cross generally linger three days before death puts an end to their sufferings. Clapperton was for some time delayed in completing his arrangements for his departure from Sockatoo, on account of the fast of the Rhamadan, which the Fellatas keep with extreme rigour. The chief people never leave their houses, except in the evening to prayer; and the women frequently pour cold water over their backs and necks. Under the idea, that the greater the thirst they appear to endure, the better entitled they become to paradise; though Clapperton was inclined to believe that they made a parade of these privations, in a great measure, to obtain the reputation of extraordinary sanctity.
On the 2nd May, Clapperton sent for the steward of the gadado's household, and all the female slaves, who had daily performed the duty of bringing him provisions from the time of his arrival. These provisions were about a gallon of new milk every morning, in a large bowl, for himself, and two gallons of sour milk and siccory for his servants at noon, in return for which he always gave fifty kowries; at three o'clock three roast fowls, with doura or nutta sauce, for which he sent fifty kowries; again after sunset two bowls of bozeen were brought by two female slaves, to whom he gave one hundred kowries; and about two quarts of new milk afterwards, for which he gave fifty kowries more. As an acknowledgment for their attention during his residence in Sockatoo, he now presented the steward of the household with ten thousand kowries, and the slaves with two thousand each. The poor creatures were extremely grateful for his bounty, and many of them even shed tears. In the afternoon he waited upon the sultan, who told him that he had appointed the same escort which he had before, under the command of the gadado's brother, to conduct him through the provinces of Goober and Zamfra, and that an officer of the gadado, after the escort left him, should accompany him to Zirmee, Kashna, Kano, and Katagun; the governor of which would receive orders to furnish him with a strong escort through the Bedite territory, and to deliver him safely into the hands of the sheik of Bornou. He also mentioned that the letter for the king of England would be ready the next day.
On the following day, Clapperton was visited by all the principal people of Sockatoo, to bid him farewell, and in the evening he went to take his leave of the sultan. He was, however, at the mosque, and he had to wait about two hours before he came out. Clapperton followed him at a little distance to the door of his residence, where an old female slave took Clapperton by the hand and led him through a number of dark passages, in which, at the bidding of his conductress, he had often to stoop, or at times to tread with great caution, as they approached flights of steps, whilst a faint glimmering light twinkled from a distant room. He could not imagine where the old woman was conducting him, who, on her part, was highly diverted at his importunate inquiries. After much turning and winding, he was at last brought into the presence of Bello, who was sitting alone, and immediately delivered into his hands a letter for the king of England. He had previously sent to Clapperton to know what were his majesty's name, style, and title. He again expressed with much earnestness of manner, his anxiety to enter into permanent relations of trade and friendship with England, and reminded Clapperton to apprise him by letter, at what time the English expedition would be upon the coast. After repeating the fatah, and praying for his safe arrival in England, and speedy return to Sockatoo, he affectionately bade him farewell.
Clapperton went next to take his leave of his good old friend the gadado, for whom he felt the same regard, as if he had been one of his oldest friends in England, and he was certain it was equally sincere on his side. The poor old man prayed very devoutly for his safety, and gave strict charge to his brother, who was to accompany Clapperton, to take especial care of him in their journey through the disturbed provinces.
The town of Sockatoo lies in latitude 13 deg. 4' 52" north, and longitude 6 deg. 12' east, and is situated near the junction of an inconsiderable stream, with the same river which flows past Zirmee, and which taking its rise between Kashna and Kano, is said to fall into the Quarra four days' journey to the west. The name in their language signifies, a halting place, the city being built by the Fellatas, after the conquest of Goober and Zamfra, as near as Clapperton could learn about the year 1805. It occupies a long ridge, which slopes gently towards the north, and appeared to Clapperton the most populous town he had visited in the interior of Africa, for unlike most other towns in Houssa, where the houses are thinly scattered, it is laid out in regular well-built streets. The houses approach close to the walls, which were built by the present sultan in 1818, after the death of his father; the old walls being too confined for the increasing population. This wall is between twenty and thirty feet high, and has twelve gates, which are regularly closed at sunset. There are two large mosques, including the new one which was then building by the gadado, besides several other places for prayer. There is a spacious market-place in the centre of the city, and another large square in front of the sultan's residence. The inhabitants are principally Fellatas, possessing numerous slaves. Such of the latter as are not employed in domestic duties, reside in houses by themselves, where they follow various trades; the master of course reaping the profit. Their usual employments are weaving, house-building, shoemaking, and iron work, many bring firewood to the market for sale. Those employed in raising grain and tending cattle, of which the Fellatas have immense herds, reside in villages without the city. It is customary for private individuals to emancipate a number of slaves every year, according to their means, during the great feast after the Rhamadan. The enfranchised seldom return to their native country, but continue to reside near their old masters, still acknowledging them as their superiors, but presenting them yearly with a portion of their earnings. The trade at Sockatoo is at present inconsiderable, owing to the disturbed state of the surrounding country. The necessaries of life are very cheap, butchers' meat is in great plenty and very good. The exports are principally civet, and blue check tobes called sharie, which are manufactured by the slaves from Nyffee, of whom the men are considered the most expert weavers in Soudan, and the women the best spinners. The common imports are goora nuts, brought from the borders of Ashantee, and coarse calico and woollen cloth in small quantities, with brass and pewter dishes, and some few spices from Nyffee.
The Arabs from Tripoli and Ghadamis bring unwrought silk, attar of roses, spices and beads; slaves are both exported and imported. A great quantity of guinea coin is taken every year by the Tuaricks, in exchange for salt. The market is extremely well supplied, and is held daily from sunrise to sunset.
After encountering several difficulties, and experiencing some very hair-breadth escapes, Clapperton arrived at Zirmee the capital of Zamfra, a kind of outlawed city, the inhabitants of which are esteemed the greatest rogues in Houssa, and where all the runaway slaves find protection. He passed also through Kashna or Cassina, the metropolis of a kingdom, which, till the rise of the Fellata power, ruled over all Africa from Bornou to the Niger. In its present subject and fallen state, the inhabited part does not cover a tenth of the wide circuit enclosed by its walls, yet a considerable trade is still carried on with the Tuaricks, or with caravans coming across the desert by the route of Ghadamis and Suat. Here Clapperton met with much kindness from Hadgi Ahmet, a powerful and wealthy Arab chief, who even took him into his seraglio, and desired him, out of fifty black damsels to make his choice, a complaisance, nothing resembling which had ever before been shown by a Mussulman. The Arab was so importunate, and appeared so determined that Clapperton should have one of his ladies, that to satisfy him, he at length selected the oldest of the groupe, who made him an excellent nurse in his illness.
Lieutenant Clapperton rejoined Major Denham at Kouka, whence they set out, and crossed the desert in the latter part of 1824. They reached Tripoli in January 1825, and soon after embarked for Leghorn, but being detained by contrary winds and quarantine regulations, did not reach London until the following June.
Having now completed our preparatory analysis of the principal travels for the exploration of the interior of Africa, we proceed to enter upon those in which Richard Lander was remotely or closely connected, as the coadjutor or the principal, and to whose perseverance and undaunted courage, we are indebted for some of the most important information respecting the interior of Africa, particularly in the solution of the great geographical problem of the termination of the Niger. At the time when Lander was ransomed by Captain Laing, of the Maria of London, belonging to Messrs. Forster and Smith, the papers, which he had with him respecting the travels which he had performed, as the servant of Captain Clapperton, who had been promoted on his return from his first expedition, were not very voluminous. In our personal intercourse with him, however, he unreservedly dictated to us many interesting particulars respecting his travels, whilst in the service of Captain Clapperton, which are not to be found in his published narrative, and particularly of the occurrences which took place at Whidah, in the kingdom of Dahomey, on their passage through that territory, in fulfilment of the object of their mission to sultan Bello of Sockatoo.
Although the second expedition of Clapperton is ostensibly published under his name, yet it is generally known, that but for the information given by Lander on his return, after the death of Captain Clapperton, very little would have transpired relative to any discoveries which had been made, or towards an elucidation of those geographical and statistical objects, for which the expedition was undertaken. We are therefore more disposed to award the merit where it is most particularly due, for although in accordance with the received notion, that whatever was accomplished in the second expedition, is to be attributed to Clapperton, yet, from our private resources, we are enabled not only to supply many deficiencies in the published accounts of Clapperton's second expedition, gathered from the oral communication of Lander himself, but also to give a description of many interesting scenes, which throw a distinct light upon the character of the natives, their progress towards civilisation, and the extent of their commercial relations.
It may be remembered that when Clapperton took his leave of the sultan at Sockatoo, he delivered into his hands a letter for the king of England, in consequence of several conversations that had passed between him and Clapperton, touching the establishment of some commercial relations between England and the central kingdoms of Africa. In that letter the sultan proposed three things:—the establishment of a friendly intercourse between the two nations by means of a consul, who was to reside at the seaport of Raka; the delivery of certain presents described, at the port of Fundah, supposed to be somewhere near Whidah, and the prohibition of the exportation of slaves, by any of the Houssa merchants, to Atagher, Dahomy, or Ashantee.
No doubt whatever rested on the mind of Lander, that Clapperton was in some respects made the dupe of the pride, pomposity, and deception of the African sultan. It may be remembered that the sultan offered him land on the sea coast, on which to form a settlement, when it was subsequently discovered, that he was not in possession of an inch of territory within several hundred miles of the sea; the seaport of Raka was nearly similar to Sancho Panza's Island Barrataria, it was not to be found in any existing map, and it will be seen in the sequel, that the people resident on the sea coast knew as little of sultan Bello of Sockatoo, as he knew of them, although, according to his own report, the greater part of the sea coast belonged to him.
On the arrival of Clapperton in England, Lord Bathurst, then secretary of state for the colonies, conceived the proposals contained in the sultan's letter, to afford a fair opportunity for endeavouring to carry into effect objects of such considerable importance, and Clapperton immediately volunteered his services for the occasion. He had arranged with sultan Bello, that his messengers should about a certain time be at Whidah, to conduct the presents and the bearers to Sockatoo. Clapperton was allowed to take with him on this novel and hazardous enterprise two associates, one of whom was Captain Pearce of the navy, an excellent draughtsman, and the other Dr. Morrison, a surgeon in the navy, well versed in various branches of natural history; and at his particular request, a fellow countryman of the name of Dickson, who had served as a surgeon in the West Indies, was added to the list; Richard Lander accompanying Captain Clapperton in the capacity of a servant.
The travellers embarked on board his majesty's ship Brazen, on the 25th August 1825, and arrived off Whidah on the 26th of the following November. Mr. Dickson landed at Whidah, for reasons which do not appear in the narrative of Clapperton's expedition, but which have been fully stated to us by Lander, to whom we are indebted for the information which we now lay before our readers of the kingdom of Dahomy, its natives, customs, natural productions, and commercial advantages.
Mr. Dickson, accompanied with a Portuguese of the name of De Sousa, proceeded from Whidah to Dahomy, where the latter had resided for some time. Here he was well received, and sent forward with a suitable escort to a place called Shar, seventeen days' journey from Dahomy, where he also arrived in safety, and thence proceeded with another escort towards Youri, but has not since been heard of.
It was in consequence of the inquiries that were set on foot relative to Mr. Dickson, that Lander obtained the following highly interesting information relative to a part of Africa, which was at one time, the emporium of the slave trade on the sea-coast, but the interior of which was but very little known.
Whidah was once an independent kingdom, but in the year 1727 was conquered by Guadja Trudo, the king of Dahomy. Grigwee, the present capital, lies a few miles up from the sea coast, and may contain about twenty thousand inhabitants. Dahomy, including the subjugated districts, extends at least a hundred and fifty miles into the interior, the principal town of which is Abomey, lying in about 3 deg. east longitude.
Dahomy produces in perfection all the immense variety of fine fruits found within the torrid zone, and amongst others one of a most singular quality. It is not unlike a ripe coffee berry, and does not at first appear to have a superior degree of sweetness, but it leaves in the mouth so much of that impression, that a glass of vinegar tastes like sweet wine, and the sourest lemon like a sweet orange; sugar is quite an unnecessary article in tea or coffee; in fact, the most nauseous drug seems sweet to whomever chews this fruit, and its effect is not worn away until after several meals. It is generally called the miraculous berry, and whoever eats of it in the morning, must be content at least for that day to forego the flavour of every kind of food, whether animal or vegetable, for all will be alike saccharine to the palate, and the most ridiculous effect is often produced by playing tricks upon those, who are not aware of its peculiar property. Lander himself was one of the dupes, and he relates, that the first time he partook of one of these berries, he thought himself under the influence of witchcraft—the fowl of which he partook at dinner seemed to him as if it had been soaked in a solution of sugar—the lime juice appeared to him as if it were mixed with some saccharine matter—his biscuit tasted like a bun—and although he was convinced that he had not put any sugar into his grog, it seemed to him as if it had been sweetened by the first maker of punch in his native country.
The beasts of prey are numerous and dangerous, and often commit great havoc amongst the sheep, and other live stock, notwithstanding every precaution to put them in a place of security at night. The tigers and leopards are not contented with what they actually carry off, but they leave nothing alive which comes within the reach of their talons. During the residence of Lander in the country, a good mode of astonishing a tiger was practised with success. A loaded musket was firmly fixed in a horizontal position, about the height of his head, to a couple of stakes driven into the ground, and the piece being cocked, a string from the trigger, first leading a little towards the butt, and then turning through a small ring forwards, was attached to a shoulder of mutton, stuck on the muzzle of the musket, the act of dragging off which, drew the trigger, and the piece loaded with two balls, discharged itself into the plunderer's mouth, killing him on the spot.
Elephants are common in Dahomy, but are not tamed and used by the natives, as in India, for the purposes of war or burthen, being merely taken for the sake of their ivory and their flesh, which is, on particular occasions, eaten.
An animal of the hyena tribe, called by the natives tweetwee, is likewise extremely troublesome; herds of these join together, and scrape up the earth of newly-made graves, in order to get at the bodies, which are not buried here in coffins. These resurrection men, as Lander termed them, make, during the night, a most dismal howling, and often change their note to one very much resembling the shriek of a woman in some situation of danger or distress.
Snakes of the boa species are here found of a most enormous size, many being from thirty to thirty-six feet in length, and of proportional girth. They attack alike wild and domestic beasts, and often human kind. They kill their prey by encircling it in their folds, and squeezing it to death, and afterwards swallow it entire; this they are enabled to do by a faculty of very extraordinary expansion in their muscles, without at the same time impairing the muscular action or power. The bulk of the animals which these serpents are capable of gorging would stagger belief, were the fact not so fully attested as to place it beyond doubt. The state of torpor in which they are sometimes found in the woods, after a stuffing meal of this kind, affords the negroes an opportunity of killing them. Lander informed us, that there is not in nature a more appalling sight than one of these monsters in full motion. It has a chilling and overpowering effect on the human frame, and it seems to inspire with the same horror every other animal, even the strongest and most ferocious; for all are equally certain of becoming victims, should the snake once fasten itself upon them.
The religion of this country is paganism. They believe in two beings, equal in power; the one doing good, the other evil; and they pray to the demon to allow them to remain unmolested by the magicians, who are constantly endeavouring to injure them.
In Whidah, for some unaccountable reason, they worship their divinity under the form of a particular species of snake called daboa, which is not sufficiently large to be terrible to man, and is otherwise tameable and inoffensive. These daboas arc taken care of in the most pious manner, and well fed on rats, mice, or birds, in their fetish houses or temples, where the people attend to pay their adoration, and where those also who are sick or lame apply for assistance.
The tiger is also an object of religious regard in Dahomy Proper; but they deem it the safest mode of worship to perform their acts of devotion to his skin only after death, which is stuffed for that purpose.
The people of Whidah occasionally imagine themselves inspired by the divinity, or, as they term it, are seized by the fetish; and in such cases, it becomes necessary, from the frantic manner in which they run about, to secure and place them under the charge of the fetisheers, or priests, until this fit of inspiration be over, and they become themselves again.
The political management of Whidah is entrusted to a viceroy, who is called the Yavougah, or captain of the white men. This officer, at the time of Lander's visit to the country, was a man of majestic stature, and possessed an uncommon share of dignity, mingled with complacency of manner. His dress was generally a large hat, somewhat resembling that of a Spanish grandee, tastefully decorated, and a piece of damask silk, usually red, thrown over one shoulder, like a Scotch plaid, with a pair of drawers; but his arms and legs were bare, except the bracelets of silver, which encircled the arm above the elbow, with manillas of the same sort, and rows of coral round the wrist.
When he had any message to deliver from the king, or other public affairs to transact with the Europeans, it was done with much ceremony and state; his guards, musicians, and umbrella-bearers, and a numerous retinue, always attending him. The most polished courtier of Europe could not have deported himself more gracefully on public occasions than this man, or have carried on a conference with greater ease and affability. He was master, besides his own, of the English, French, and Portuguese languages, having resided from his birth chiefly in the vicinity of the European forts, and in his younger days had been much connected with them, officially as a linguist.
Although, therefore, he understood perfectly what was said to him by the Europeans, who accompanied Lander, yet it was etiquette for the viceroy to be spoken to through an interpreter, and it was often amusing to see the bungling efforts of the latter in the performance of a task, which the yavougah himself so much better understood, and which he good humouredly, and in an under tone, assisted him to complete. After the business of ceremony was finished, he laid aside all formality, and conversed in a familiar manner upon general subjects, the whole party joining convivially in a collation, or repast, which was always served up on such occasions.
The government of Dahomy is, in the fullest sense of the word, despotism. It is a monarchy the most unlimited and uncontrolled on the face of the earth, there being no law but the king's will, who may chop off as many heads as he pleases, when he is "i' the vein," and dispose of his subjects' property as he thinks fit, without being accountable to any human tribunal for his conduct. He has from three to four thousand wives, a proportion of whom, trained to arms, under female officers, constitute his body-guards. As may naturally be supposed, but a few of these wives engage his particular attention.
The successor to the throne is not announced during the king's lifetime; but the moment his decease is known, the proclamation is made with all possible despatch by the proper officers; for all is murder, anarchy, and confusion in the palace until it takes place; the wives of the late king not only breaking the furniture and ornaments, but killing each other, in order to have the honour of attending their husband to the grave.
The choice usually falls on the eldest son of the late sovereign's greatest favourite, provided there exists no particular reason for setting him aside. There seem to be no rank nor privileges annexed to any branches of the royal family; the king, in his own person, absorbing the undivided respect of the people. Those of his relations whom his majesty may deign to patronise, will, of course, be more noticed by their fellow-slaves; but are all alike the slaves of the king.
His palace at Abomey is walled round, and consists, according to the report of Lander and others, who had an opportunity of visiting its interior, of numerous courts connected with each other, occupying, in the whole, a space full as large as St. James' Park.
The first minister is called the tamegan, and he is the only man in the country whose head the king cannot cut off at pleasure. By some ancient regulation, he who attains this rank has that very essential part of his person secured to him, perhaps that he may honestly speak his mind to the king, without fear of consequences. The second, or mahou, is the master of the ceremonies, whose office it is to receive and introduce all strangers, whether black or white, and also to take care of them during their stay at court, and to see that they are well fed and lodged, with all their attendants. The third officer in the state is the yavougah of Whidah; and the fourth is the jahou, or master of the horse, who is likewise the chief executioner, and has the duty of superintending the numerous decapitations, which occur in various ways.
There are entertained about the court a number of king's messengers, called half-heads, because one side of their head is always shaved, whilst the hair on the other is allowed to grow to its full length. They are men, who have distinguished themselves in battle, and wear, as the badge of their office, strings of the teeth of those enemies they have actually killed with their own hands, slung round their necks, like the collar of an order.
These extraordinary-looking couriers, when sent on any mission, are never permitted to walk, but run at full speed, and are relieved at certain distances on the road by relays of others, who push on in the same manner, on receiving their orders, which they transfer from one to the other with the greatest exactness. The general officers in the Dahomian army are distinguished by large umbrellas, and when any of that class are killed in action, they say figuratively, that, on such an occasion, we lost so many umbrellas.
In delivering what is termed the king's word, the messenger, as well as all those around him, fall prostrate on the ground, and cover their heads with dust, or with mud, if it rains; so that they often display very hideous figures, with their black bodies and the wool of their heads thus bedaubed with red puddle.
The ministers of state, in communicating with the king, approach within a certain distance of him, crawling on their hands and knees, at last they prostrate themselves, kiss the ground, cover their heads with dust, then make their speech, and receive his reply. His majesty usually sits on public occasions, as he is represented in our engraving, under a rich canopy, on a finely carved stool or throne, surrounded by his women, some with whisks driving away the flies, one with a handkerchief to wipe his mouth, and another on her knees, holding a gold cup to spit in, as he smokes.
Their marriages, like those of most barbarous nations, are settled by the bridegroom paying a certain sum for the woman, which is calculated at the rate of one or more slaves, or moveable property in shells, cloth, or other articles, to the amount of the specified number of slaves. Polygamy is allowed to any extent, and it is generally carried as far as the means of the gentlemen will admit, as, after a short period, or honeymoon, the women are employee in the fields and plantations, and usually are no better situated than the common servants of their husbands.
Adultery is punished by slavery, or the value of a slave, by the offender, and the lady likewise subjects herself to be sold, but it is remarked that this measure is seldom resorted to, and it sometimes happens that a handsome wife is repeatedly turned to advantage by her husband, in alluring the unwary into heavy damages.
The state of women is upon the whole very abject in Dahomy. Wives approach their husbands with every mark of the humblest submission. In presenting him even with a calabash containing his food, after she has cooked it, she kneels and offers it with an averted look, it being deemed too bold to stare him full in the face. By their constantly practising genuflexion upon the bare ground, their knees become in time almost as hard as their heels.
A mutinous wife or a vixen, sometimes the treasure and delight of an Englishman; the enlivener of his fireside, and his safeguard from ennui, is a phenomenon utterly unknown in Dahomy—that noble spirit, which animates the happier dames in lands of liberty, being here, alas! extinguished and destroyed.
In most nations a numerous progeny is considered a blessing, as being likely to prop the declining years of their parents, but in Dahomy, children are taken from their mothers at an early age, and distributed in villages remote from the places of their nativity, where they remain with but little chance of being ever seen, or at least recognized by their parents afterwards. The motive for this is, that there may be no family connexion nor combinations; no associations that might prove injurious to the king's unlimited power. Hence each individual is detached and unconnected, and having no relative for whom he is interested, is solicitous only for his own safety, which he consults by the most abject submission. Paternal affection, and filial love, therefore, can scarcely be said to exist. Mothers, instead of cherishing, endeavour to suppress those attachments for their offspring, which they know will be violated, as soon as their children are able to undergo the fatigue of being removed from them.
At a particular period of the year, generally in April or May, a grand annual festival is held, which may with much propriety be termed a carnival. On this occasion the chief magistrates or caboceers of the different towns and districts, the governors of the English, French, and Portuguese settlements, are expected to attend at the capital, with their respective retinues; and the captains of ships, and factors trading at Whidah, usually take this opportunity of paying their respects to the king. A great part of the population, in fact; repair to Abomey, which resembles some great fair, from the number of booths and tents erected in it for various purposes.
It is at this time also that the revenue is collected; all the people either bringing or sending their respective quotas to the royal treasury. White men are received there with every mark of respect, and even saluted by the discharge of cannon. There appears to be an extraordinary mixture of ferocity and politeness in the character of these people; though terrible and remorseless to their enemies, nothing can exceed their urbanity and kindness to strangers.
Should any white person be taken ill at Abomey, the king sends the mayhou, or some other great officer, to make daily inquiries about the state of his malady, and desiring to know in what way he can assist or promote his recovery.
Notwithstanding, the king exacts from his own subjects the most humiliating and abject prostrations, on approaching his person, yet he admits Europeans to his presence without the least scruple, requiring only from them those marks of respect which they may think fit to perform, in the style of salutation they have been accustomed to in their own countries. They are allowed to be seated in his company, and he personally pays them great attention. Cooks are procured, who understand the mode of preparing European dishes; even table cloths, with knives and forks, although never used by themselves, are furnished, and in short every thing which can contribute to their comfort, is provided with eastern hospitality.
They are likewise entertained with feasts, music, public dances, processions of the king's women, and the exhibition of sports and games.
But amidst this general enjoyment of festivity and mirth, deeds are done from which the civilized mind recoils with horror, and which it cannot contemplate without feeling an ardent desire, to see mankind raised from that state of savage ignorance and superstition, which leads to acts so monstrous and unnatural.
In order to water with their blood the graves of the king's ancestors, and to supply them with servants of various descriptions in the other world, a number of human victims are annually sacrificed in solemn form, and this carnival is the period at which these shocking rites are publicly performed.
Scaffolds are erected outside the palace wall, and a large space fenced in round them. On these the king, with the white strangers who think proper to attend, are seated, and the ministers of state are also present in the space beneath. Into this field of blood the victims are brought in succession, with their arms pinioned, and a fetisheer, laying his hand on the devoted head, pronounces a few mystical words, when another man, standing behind, with a large scymitar severs the sufferer's head from his body, generally at a single blow, and each repetition of this savage act is proclaimed by loud shouts of applause from the surrounding multitude, who affect to be highly delighted with the power and magnificence of their sovereign.
His bards, or laureats, join also at this time in bawling out his strong names, (their term for titles of honour,) and sing songs in his praise. These scenes are likewise enlivened by a number of people engaged in a savage dance round the scaffolds; should the foot of one of these performers slip, it is considered an ill omen; the unfortunate figurante is taken out of the ring, and his head instantly struck off, whilst the dance continues without interruption, as if nothing unusual had occurred.
The people thus sacrificed are generally prisoners of war, whom the king often puts aside for this purpose, several months previously to the celebration of his horrid festival; should there be any lack of these, the number is made up from the most convenient of his own subjects. The number of these victims sometimes amount to several hundred, but about seventy are the average number.
Their bodies are either thrown out into the fields, to be devoured by vultures and wild beasts, or hung by the heels in a mutilated state upon the surrounding trees, a practice exceedingly offensive in so hot a climate. The heads are piled up in a heap for the time, and afterwards disposed of in decorating the walls of the royal simbonies, or palaces, some of which are two miles in circumference, and often require a renewal and repair of these ornaments.
An anecdote is related of king Adahoouza, who, on a successful attack upon Badagry, having a great number of victims to sacrifice, ordered their heads to be applied to the above purpose. The person to whom the management of this business was committed, having neglected to make a proper calculation of his materials, had proceeded too far with his work, when he found that there would not be a sufficient number of skulls to adorn the whole palace; he therefore requested permission to begin the work, as the lawyers would say, de novo, in order that he might, by placing them farther apart, complete the design in a regular manner; but the king would by no means give his consent to this proposal, observing that he would soon find a sufficient number of Badagry heads to render the plan perfectly uniform, and learning that a hundred and twenty seven were required to complete this extraordinary embellishment, he ordered that number of captives to be brought forth and slaughtered in cold blood.
On visiting the bed-chamber of Bossa Ahadee, the passage leading to it was found to be paved with human skulls. They were those of his more distinguished adversaries, captured at different times, and placed in that situation that he might nightly enjoy the savage gratification of trampling on the heads of his enemies. The top of the little wall, which surrounded this detached apartment, was adorned likewise with their jaw-bones. In some more civilized minds there is an instinctive dread on viewing the remains of a human being; but it cannot be laid to the charge of these savages, that the fear of ghosts and hobgoblins forms any part of their character.
The immolation of victims is, however, not confined to this particular period; for at any time, should it be necessary to send an account to his forefathers of any remarkable event, the king despatches a courier to the shades, by delivering his message to whomsoever may happen to be near him, and then ordering his head to be chopped off immediately; and it has not unfrequently happened, that as something new has occurred to the king's mind, another messenger, as Mr. Canning very justly observed of the postscript of a letter, has instantly followed on the same errand, perhaps in itself of the most trivial kind.
It is considered a high honour where his majesty personally condescends to become the executioner in these feats of decapitation, an office in which the king, at the time of the visit of Lander to Abomey, considered himself as a most expert proficient. The Europeans were present on one occasion, when a poor fellow, whose fear of death outweighing the sense of the honour conferred on him, on being desired by the king to carry some message to his father, who was in the shades below, humbly declared on his knees that he was ignorant of the way, on which the tyrant vociferated, "I'll show you the way," and with one blow made his head fly many yards from his body, highly indignant that there should have been the least expression of reluctance.
The performance of the annual sacrifice is considered a duty so sacred, that no allurement in the way of gain, no additional price which the white traders can offer for slaves, will induce the king to spare even a single victim of the established number; and he is equally inexorable with respect to the chiefs of his enemies, who are never, on any account, permitted to live if they fall into his hands.
In illustration of the above, the following narrative is highly characteristic, and serves at once to a clear exposition of the savage and relentless feelings of the uncivilized negro. In a warlike excursion towards the Mahee or Ashantee borders, an enemy's town was surprised, and a great number of the inhabitants were either killed or made prisoners; but especial care was taken that the head of the prince of that district should be sent to Abomey, and that every branch of his family should, if possible, be exterminated, for it was one which had often given the Dahomian forces a great deal of trouble. A merciless massacre, therefore, of these individuals took place, in obedience to strict injunctions to that effect; and it was believed that not one of the breed was left alive.
A youth, however, about seventeen years of age, one of the sons of the obnoxious prince, had managed to conceal his real quality, and not being pointed out, succeeded in passing among the crowd of prisoners to the Dahomian capital, where, after selecting that portion thought necessary for the ensuing sacrifices, the captors sent the remainder to Grigwee, to be sold at the factories. This young man happened to be purchased by Mr. M'Leod, and he lived thenceforth in the fort, as a sort of general rendezvous, or trunk, as it is called, for those belonging to that department.