Our correspondence with the natives was absolutely necessary, and our artist the cutler having made abundance of those little diamond-cut squares of silver, with these we made shift to traffic with the black people for what we wanted; for indeed they were pleased wonderfully with them, and thus we got plenty of provisions. At first, and in particular, we got about fifty head of black cattle and goats, and our cook's mate took care to cure them and dry them, salt and preserve them for our grand supply; nor was this hard to do, the salt and saltpetre being very good, and the sun excessively hot; and here we lived about four months.
The southern solstice was over, and the sun gone back towards the equinoctial, when we considered of our next adventure, which was to go over the sea of Zanguebar, as the Portuguese call it, and to land, if possible, upon the continent of Africa.
We talked with many of the natives about it, such as we could make ourselves intelligible to, but all that we could learn from them was, that there was a great land of lions beyond the sea, but that it was a great way off. We knew as well as they that it was a long way, but our people differed mightily about it; some said it was 150 leagues, others not above 100. One of our men, that had a map of the world, showed us by his scale that it was not above eighty leagues. Some said there were islands all the way to touch at, some that there were no islands at all. For my own part, I knew nothing of this matter one way or another, but heard it all without concern, whether it was near or far off; however, this we learned from an old man who was blind and led about by a boy, that if we stayed till the end of August, we should be sure of the wind to be fair and the sea smooth all the voyage.
This was some encouragement; but staying again was very unwelcome news to us, because that then the sun would be returning again to the south, which was what our men were very unwilling to. At last we called a council of our whole body; their debates were too tedious to take notice of, only to note, that when it came to Captain Bob (for so they called me ever since I had taken state upon me before one of their great princes), truly I was on no side; it was not one farthing matter to me, I told them, whether we went or stayed; I had no home, and all the world was alike to me; so I left it entirely to them to determine.
In a word, they saw plainly there was nothing to be done where we were without shipping; that if our business indeed was only to eat and drink, we could not find a better place in the world; but if our business was to get away, and get home into our country, we could not find a worse.
I confess I liked the country wonderfully, and even then had strange notions of coming again to live there; and I used to say to them very often that if I had but a ship of twenty guns, and a sloop, and both well manned, I would not desire a better place in the world to make myself as rich as a king.
But to return to the consultations they were in about going. Upon the whole, it was resolved to venture over for the main; and venture we did, madly enough, indeed, for it was the wrong time of the year to undertake such a voyage in that country; for, as the winds hang easterly all the months from September to March, so they generally hang westerly all the rest of the year, and blew right in our teeth; so that, as soon as we had, with a kind of a land-breeze, stretched over about fifteen or twenty leagues, and, as I may say, just enough to lose ourselves, we found the wind set in a steady fresh gale or breeze from the sea, at west, W.S.W., or S.W. by W., and never further from the west; so that, in a word, we could make nothing of it.
On the other hand, the vessel, such as we had, would not lie close upon a wind; if so, we might have stretched away N.N.W., and have met with a great many islands in our way, as we found afterwards; but we could make nothing of it, though we tried, and by the trying had almost undone us all; for, stretching away to the north, as near the wind as we could, we had forgotten the shape and position of the island of Madagascar itself; how that we came off at the head of a promontory or point of land, that lies about the middle of the island, and that stretches out west a great way into the sea; and that now, being run a matter of forty leagues to the north, the shore of the island fell off again above 200 miles to the east, so that we were by this time in the wide ocean, between the island and the main, and almost 100 leagues from both.
Indeed, as the winds blew fresh at west, as before, we had a smooth sea, and we found it pretty good going before it, and so, taking our smallest canoe in tow, we stood in for the shore with all the sail we could make. This was a terrible adventure, for, if the least gust of wind had come, we had been all lost, our canoes being deep and in no condition to make way in a high sea.
This voyage, however, held us eleven days in all; and at length, having spent most of our provisions, and every drop of water we had, we spied land, to our great joy, though at the distance of ten or eleven leagues; and as, under the land, the wind came off like a land-breeze, and blew hard against us, we were two days more before we reached the shore, having all that while excessive hot weather, and not a drop of water or any other liquor, except some cordial waters, which one of our company had a little of left in a case of bottles.
This gave us a taste of what we should have done if we had ventured forward with a scant wind and uncertain weather, and gave us a surfeit of our design for the main, at least until we might have some better vessels under us; so we went on shore again, and pitched our camp as before, in as convenient manner as we could, fortifying ourselves against any surprise; but the natives here were exceeding courteous, and much more civil than on the south part of the island; and though we could not understand what they said, or they us, yet we found means to make them understand that we were seafaring men and strangers, and that we were in distress for want of provisions.
The first proof we had of their kindness was, that as soon as they saw us come on shore and begin to make our habitation, one of their captains or kings, for we knew not what to call them, came down with five or six men and some women, and brought us five goats and two young fat steers, and gave them to us for nothing; and when we went to offer them anything, the captain or the king would not let any of them touch it, or take anything of us. About two hours after came another king, or captain, with forty or fifty men after him. We began to be afraid of him, and laid hands upon our weapons; but he perceiving it, caused two men to go before him, carrying two long poles in their hands, which they held upright, as high as they could, which we presently perceived was a signal of peace; and these two poles they set up afterwards, sticking them up in the ground; and when the king and his men came to these two poles, they struck all their lances up in the ground, and came on unarmed, leaving their lances, as also their bows and arrows, behind them.
This was to satisfy us that they were come as friends, and we were glad to see it, for we had no mind to quarrel with them if we could help it. The captain of this gang seeing some of our men making up their huts, and that they did it but bunglingly, he beckoned to some of his men to go and help us. Immediately fifteen or sixteen of them came and mingled among us, and went to work for us; and indeed, they were better workmen than we were, for they run up three or four huts for us in a moment, and much handsomer done than ours.
After this they sent us milk, plantains, pumpkins, and abundance of roots and greens that were very good, and then took their leave, and would not take anything from us that we had. One of our men offered the king or captain of these men a dram, which he drank and was mightily pleased with it, and held out his hand for another, which we gave him; and in a word, after this, he hardly failed coming to us two or three times a week, always bringing us something or other; and one time sent us seven head of black cattle, some of which we cured and dried as before.
And here I cannot but remember one thing, which afterwards stood us in great stead, viz., that the flesh of their goats, and their beef also, but especially the former, when we had dried and cured it, looked red, and ate hard and firm, as dried beef in Holland; they were so pleased with it, and it was such a dainty to them, that at any time after they would trade with us for it, not knowing, or so much as imagining what it was; so that for ten or twelve pounds' weight of smoke-dried beef, they would give us a whole bullock, or cow, or anything else we could desire.
Here we observed two things that were very material to us, even essentially so; first, we found they had a great deal of earthenware here, which they made use of many ways as we did; particularly they had long, deep earthen pots, which they used to sink into the ground, to keep the water which they drunk cool and pleasant; and the other was, that they had larger canoes than their neighbours had.
By this we were prompted to inquire if they had no larger vessels than those we saw there, or if any other of the inhabitants had not such. They signified presently that they had no larger boats than that they showed us; but that on the other side of the island they had larger boats, and that with decks upon them, and large sails; and this made us resolve to coast round the whole island to see them; so we prepared and victualled our canoe for the voyage, and, in a word, went to sea for the third time.
It cost us a month or six weeks' time to perform this voyage, in which time we went on shore several times for water and provisions, and found the natives always very free and courteous; but we were surprised one morning early, being at the extremity of the northernmost part of the island, when one of our men cried out, "A sail! a sail!" We presently saw a vessel a great way out at sea; but after we had looked at it with our perspective glasses, and endeavoured all we could to make out what it was, we could not tell what to think of it; for it was neither ship, ketch, galley, galliot, or like anything that we had ever seen before; all that we could make of it was, that it went from us, standing out to sea. In a word, we soon lost sight of it, for we were in no condition to chase anything, and we never saw it again; but, by all that we could perceive of it, from what we saw of such things afterwards, it was some Arabian vessel, which had been trading to the coast of Mozambique, or Zanzibar, the same place where we afterwards went, as you shall hear.
I kept no journal of this voyage, nor indeed did I all this while understand anything of navigation, more than the common business of a foremast-man; so I can say nothing to the latitudes or distances of any places we were at, how long we were going, or how far we sailed in a day; but this I remember, that being now come round the island, we sailed up the eastern shore due south, as we had done down the western shore due north before.
Nor do I remember that the natives differed much from one another, either in stature or complexion, or in their manners, their habits, their weapons, or indeed in anything; and yet we could not perceive that they had any intelligence one with another; but they were extremely kind and civil to us on this side, as well as on the other.
We continued our voyage south for many weeks, though with several intervals of going on shore to get provisions and water. At length, coming round a point of land which lay about a league further than ordinary into the sea, we were agreeably surprised with a sight which, no doubt, had been as disagreeable to those concerned, as it was pleasant to us. This was the wreck of an European ship, which had been cast away upon the rocks, which in that place run a great way into the sea.
We could see plainly, at low water, a great deal of the ship lay dry; even at high water, she was not entirely covered; and that at most she did not lie above a league from the shore. It will easily be believed that our curiosity led us, the wind and weather also permitting, to go directly to her, which we did without any difficulty, and presently found that it was a Dutch-built ship, and that she could not have been very long in that condition, a great deal of the upper work of her stern remaining firm, with the mizzen-mast standing. Her stern seemed to be jammed in between two ridges of the rock, and so remained fast, all the fore part of the ship having been beaten to pieces.
We could see nothing to be gotten out of the wreck that was worth our while; but we resolved to go on shore, and stay some time thereabouts, to see if perhaps we might get any light into the story of her; and we were not without hopes that we might hear something more particular about her men, and perhaps find some of them on shore there, in the same condition that we were in, and so might increase our company.
It was a very pleasant sight to us when, coming on shore, we saw all the marks and tokens of a ship-carpenter's yard; as a launch-block and cradles, scaffolds and planks, and pieces of planks, the remains of the building a ship or vessel; and, in a word, a great many things that fairly invited us to go about the same work; and we soon came to understand that the men belonging to the ship that was lost had saved themselves on shore, perhaps in their boat, and had built themselves a barque or sloop, and so were gone to sea again; and, inquiring of the natives which way they went, they pointed to the south and south-west, by which we could easily understand they were gone away to the Cape of Good Hope.
Nobody will imagine we could be so dull as not to gather from hence that we might take the same method for our escape; so we resolved first, in general, that we would try if possible to build us a boat of one kind or other, and go to sea as our fate should direct.
In order to this our first work was to have the two carpenters search about to see what materials the Dutchmen had left behind them that might be of use; and, in particular, they found one that was very useful, and which I was much employed about, and that was a pitch-kettle, and a little pitch in it.
When we came to set close to this work we found it very laborious and difficult, having but few tools, no ironwork, no cordage, no sails; so that, in short, whatever we built, we were obliged to be our own smiths, rope-makers, sail-makers, and indeed to practise twenty trades that we knew little or nothing of. However, necessity was the spur to invention, and we did many things which before we thought impracticable, that is to say, in our circumstances.
After our two carpenters had resolved upon the dimensions of what they would build, they set us all to work, to go off in our boats and split up the wreck of the old ship, and to bring away everything we could; and particularly that, if possible, we should bring away the mizzen-mast, which was left standing, which with much difficulty we effected, after above twenty days' labour of fourteen of our men.
At the same time we got out a great deal of ironwork, as bolts, spikes, nails, &c., all of which our artist, of whom I have spoken already, who was now grown a very dexterous smith, made us nails and hinges for our rudder, and spikes such as we wanted.
But we wanted an anchor, and if we had had an anchor, we could not have made a cable; so we contented ourselves with making some ropes with the help of the natives, of such stuff as they made their mats of, and with these we made such a kind of cable or tow-line as was sufficient to fasten our vessel to the shore, which we contented ourselves with for that time.
To be short, we spent four months here, and worked very hard too; at the end of which time we launched our frigate, which, in a few words, had many defects, but yet, all things considered, it was as well as we could expect it to be.
In short, it was a kind of sloop, of the burthen of near eighteen or twenty tons; and had we had masts and sails, standing and running rigging, as is usual in such cases, and other conveniences, the vessel might have carried us wherever we could have had a mind to go; but of all the materials we wanted, this was the worst, viz., that we had no tar or pitch to pay the seams and secure the bottom; and though we did what we could, with tallow and oil, to make a mixture to supply that part, yet we could not bring it to answer our end fully; and when we launched her into the water, she was so leaky, and took in the water so fast, that we thought all our labour had been lost, for we had much ado to make her swim; and as for pumps, we had none, nor had we any means to make one.
But at length one of the natives, a black negro-man, showed us a tree, the wood of which being put into the fire, sends forth a liquid that is as glutinous and almost as strong as tar, and of which, by boiling, we made a sort of stuff which served us for pitch, and this answered our end effectually; for we perfectly made our vessel sound and tight, so that we wanted no pitch or tar at all. This secret has stood me in stead upon many occasions since that time in the same place.
Our vessel being thus finished, out of the mizzen-mast of the ship we made a very good mast to her, and fitted our sails to it as well as we could; then we made a rudder and tiller, and, in a word, everything that our present necessity called upon us for; and having victualled her, and put as much fresh water on board as we thought we wanted, or as we knew how to stow (for we were yet without casks), we put to sea with a fair wind.
We had spent near another year in these rambles, and in this piece of work; for it was now, as our men said, about the beginning of our February, and the sun went from us apace, which was much to our satisfaction, for the heats were exceedingly violent. The wind, as I said, was fair; for, as I have since learned, the winds generally spring up to the eastward, as the sun goes from them to the north.
Our debate now was, which way we should go, and never were men so irresolute; some were for going to the east, and stretching away directly for the coast of Malabar; but others, who considered more seriously the length of that voyage, shook their heads at the proposal, knowing very well that neither our provisions, especially of water, or our vessel, were equal to such a run as that is, of near 2000 miles without any land to touch at in the way.
These men, too, had all along had a great mind to a voyage for the mainland of Africa, where they said we should have a fair cast for our lives, and might be sure to make ourselves rich, which way soever we went, if we were but able to make our way through, whether by sea or by land.
Besides, as the case stood with us, we had not much choice for our way; for, if we had resolved for the east, we were at the wrong season of the year, and must have stayed till April or May before we had gone to sea. At length, as we had the wind at S.E. and E.S.E., and fine promising weather, we came all into the first proposal, and resolved for the coast of Africa; nor were we long in disputing as to our coasting the island which we were upon, for we were now upon the wrong side of the island for the voyage we intended; so we stood away to the north, and, having rounded the cape, we hauled away southward, under the lee of the island, thinking to reach the west point of land, which, as I observed before, runs out so far towards the coast of Africa, as would have shortened our run almost 100 leagues. But when we had sailed about thirty leagues, we found the winds variable under the shore, and right against us, so we concluded to stand over directly, for then we had the wind fair, and our vessel was but very ill fated to lie near the wind, or any way indeed but just before it.
Having resolved upon it, therefore, we put into the shore to furnish ourselves again with fresh water and other provisions, and about the latter end of March, with more courage than discretion, more resolution than judgment, we launched for the main coast of Africa.
As for me, I had no anxieties about it, so that we had but a view of reaching some land or other, I cared not what or where it was to be, having at this time no views of what was before me, nor much thought of what might or might not befall me; but with as little consideration as any one can be supposed to have at my age, I consented to everything that was proposed, however hazardous the thing itself, however improbable the success.
The voyage, as it was undertaken with a great deal of ignorance and desperation, so really it was not carried on with much resolution or judgment; for we knew no more of the course we were to steer than this, that it was anywhere about the west, within two or three points N. or S., and as we had no compass with us but a little brass pocket compass, which one of our men had more by accident than otherwise, so we could not be very exact in our course.
However, as it pleased God that the wind continued fair at S.E. and by E., we found that N.W. by W., which was right afore it, was as good a course for us as any we could go, and thus we went on.
The voyage was much longer than we expected; our vessel also, which had no sail that was proportioned to her, made but very little way in the sea, and sailed heavily. We had, indeed, no great adventures happened in this voyage, being out of the way of everything that could offer to divert us; and as for seeing any vessel, we had not the least occasion to hail anything in all the voyage; for we saw not one vessel, small or great, the sea we were upon being entirely out of the way of all commerce; for the people of Madagascar knew no more of the shores of Africa than we did, only that there was a country of lions, as they call it, that way.
We had been eight or nine days under sail, with a fair wind, when, to our great joy, one of our men cried out "Land!" We had great reason to be glad of the discovery, for we had not water enough left for above two or three days more, though at a short allowance. However, though it was early in the morning when we discovered it, we made it near night before we reached it, the wind slackening almost to a calm, and our ship being, as I said, a very dull sailer.
We were sadly baulked upon our coming to the land, when we found that, instead of the mainland of Africa, it was only a little island, with no inhabitants upon it, at least none that we could find; nor any cattle, except a few goats, of which we killed three only. However, they served us for fresh meat, and we found very good water; and it was fifteen days more before we reached the main, which, however, at last we arrived at, and which was most essential to us, as we came to it just as all our provisions were spent. Indeed, we may say they were spent first, for we had but a pint of water a day to each man for the last two days. But, to our great joy, we saw the land, though at a great distance, the evening before, and by a pleasant gale in the night were by morning within two leagues of the shore.
We never scrupled going ashore at the first place we came at, though, had we had patience, we might have found a very fine river a little farther north. However, we kept our frigate on float by the help of two great poles, which we fastened into the ground to moor her, like poles; and the little weak ropes, which, as I said, we had made of matting, served us well enough to make the vessel fast.
As soon as we had viewed the country a little, got fresh water, and furnished ourselves with some victuals, which we found very scarce here, we went on board again with our stores. All we got for provision was some fowls that we killed, and a kind of wild buffalo or bull, very small, but good meat; I say, having got these things on board, we resolved to sail along the coast, which lay N.N.E., till we found some creek or river, that we might run up into the country, or some town or people; for we had reason enough to know the place was inhabited, because we several times saw fires in the night, and smoke in the day, every way at a distance from us.
At length we came to a very large bay, and in it several little creeks or rivers emptying themselves into the sea, and we ran boldly into the first creek we came at; where, seeing some huts and wild people about them on the shore, we ran our vessel into a little cove on the north side of the creek, and held up a long pole, with a white bit of cloth on it, for a signal of peace to them. We found they understood us presently, for they came flocking to us, men, women, and children, most of them, of both sexes, stark naked. At first they stood wondering and staring at us, as if we had been monsters, and as if they had been frighted; but we found they inclined to be familiar with us afterwards. The first thing we did to try them, was, we held up our hands to our mouths, as if we were to drink, signifying that we wanted water. This they understood presently, and three of their women and two boys ran away up the land, and came back in about half a quarter of an hour, with several pots, made of earth, pretty enough, and baked, I suppose, in the sun; these they brought us full of water, and set them down near the sea-shore, and there left them, going back a little, that we might fetch them, which we did.
Some time after this, they brought us roots and herbs, and some fruits which I cannot remember, and gave us; but as we had nothing to give them, we found them not so free as the people in Madagascar were. However, our cutler went to work, and, as he had saved some iron out of the wreck of the ship, he made abundance of toys, birds, dogs, pins, hooks, and rings; and we helped to file them, and make them bright for him, and when we gave them some of these, they brought us all sorts of provisions they had, such as goats, hogs, and cows, and we got victuals enough.
We were now landed upon the continent of Africa, the most desolate, desert, and inhospitable country in the world, even Greenland and Nova Zembla itself not excepted, with this difference only, that even the worst part of it we found inhabited, though, taking the nature and quality of some of the inhabitants, it might have been much better to us if there had been none.
And, to add to the exclamation I am making on the nature of the place, it was here that we took one of the rashest, and wildest, and most desperate resolutions that ever was taken by man, or any number of men, in the world; this was, to travel overland through the heart of the country, from the coast of Mozambique, on the east ocean, to the coast of Angola or Guinea, on the western or Atlantic Ocean, a continent of land of at least 1800 miles, in which journey we had excessive heats to support, unpassable deserts to go over, no carriages, camels, or beasts of any kind to carry our baggage, innumerable numbers of wild and ravenous beasts to encounter with, such as lions, leopards, tigers, lizards, and elephants; we had the equinoctial line to pass under, and, consequently, were in the very centre of the torrid zone; we had nations of savages to encounter with, barbarous and brutish to the last degree; hunger and thirst to struggle with, and, in one word, terrors enough to have daunted the stoutest hearts that ever were placed in cases of flesh and blood.
Yet, fearless of all these, we resolved to adventure, and accordingly made such preparations for our journey as the place we were in would allow us, and such as our little experience of the country seemed to dictate to us.
It had been some time already that we had been used to tread barefooted upon the rocks, the gravel, the grass, and the sand on the shore; but as we found the worst thing for our feet was the walking or travelling on the dry burning sands, within the country, so we provided ourselves with a sort of shoes, made of the skins of wild beasts, with the hair inward, and being dried in the sun, the outsides were thick and hard, and would last a great while. In short, as I called them, so I think the term very proper still, we made us gloves for our feet, and we found them very convenient and very comfortable.
We conversed with some of the natives of the country, who were friendly enough. What tongue they spoke I do not yet pretend to know. We talked as far as we could make them understand us, not only about our provisions, but also about our undertaking, and asked them what country lay that way, pointing west with our hands. They told us but little to our purpose, only we thought, by all their discourse, that there were people to be found, of one sort or other, everywhere; that there were many great rivers, many lions and tigers, elephants, and furious wild cats (which in the end we found to be civet cats), and the like.
When we asked them if any one had ever travelled that way, they told us yes, some had gone to where the sun sleeps, meaning to the west, but they could not tell us who they were. When we asked for some to guide us, they shrunk up their shoulders as Frenchmen do when they are afraid to undertake a thing. When we asked them about the lions and wild creatures, they laughed, and let us know that they would do us no hurt, and directed us to a good way indeed to deal with them, and that was to make some fire, which would always fright them away; and so indeed we found it.
Upon these encouragements we resolved upon our journey, and many considerations put us upon it, which, had the thing itself been practicable, we were not so much to blame for as it might otherwise be supposed; I will name some of them, not to make the account too tedious.
First, we were perfectly destitute of means to work about our own deliverance any other way; we were on shore in a place perfectly remote from all European navigation; so that we could never think of being relieved, and fetched off by any of our own countrymen in that part of the world. Secondly, if we had adventured to have sailed on along the coast of Mozambique, and the desolate shores of Africa to the north, till we came to the Red Sea, all we could hope for there was to be taken by the Arabs, and be sold for slaves to the Turks, which to all of us was little better than death. We could not build anything of a vessel that would carry us over the great Arabian Sea to India, nor could we reach the Cape de Bona Speranza, the winds being too variable, and the sea in that latitude too tempestuous; but we all knew, if we could cross this continent of land, we might reach some of the great rivers that run into the Atlantic Ocean; and that, on the banks of any of those rivers, we might there build us canoes which would carry us down, if it were thousands of miles, so that we could want nothing but food, of which we were assured we might kill sufficient with our guns; and to add to the satisfaction of our deliverance, we concluded we might, every one of us, get a quantity of gold, which, if we came safe, would infinitely recompense us for our toil.
I cannot say that in all our consultations I ever began to enter into the weight and merit of any enterprise we went upon till now. My view before was, as I thought, very good, viz., that we should get into the Arabian Gulf, or the mouth of the Red Sea; and waiting for some vessel passing or repassing there, of which there is plenty, have seized upon the first we came at by force, and not only have enriched ourselves with her cargo, but have carried ourselves to what part of the world we had pleased; but when they came to talk to me of a march of 2000 or 3000 miles on foot, of wandering in deserts among lions and tigers, I confess my blood ran chill, and I used all the arguments I could to persuade them against it.
But they were all positive, and I might as well have held my tongue; so I submitted, and told them I would keep to our first law, to be governed by the majority, and we resolved upon our journey. The first thing we did was to take an observation, and see whereabouts in the world we were, which we did, and found we were in the latitude of 12 degrees 35 minutes south of the line. The next thing was to look on the charts, and see the coast of the country we aimed at, which we found to be from 8 to 11 degrees south latitude, if we went for the coast of Angola, or in 12 to 29 degrees north latitude, if we made for the river Niger, and the coast of Guinea.
Our aim was for the coast of Angola, which, by the charts we had, lying very near the same latitude we were then in, our course thither was due west; and as we were assured we should meet with rivers, we doubted not but that by their help we might ease our journey, especially if we could find means to cross the great lake, or inland sea, which the natives call Coalmucoa, out of which it is said the river Nile has its source or beginning; but we reckoned without our host, as you will see in the sequel of our story.
The next thing we had to consider was, how to carry our baggage, which we were first of all determined not to travel without; neither indeed was it possible for us to do so, for even our ammunition, which was absolutely necessary to us, and on which our subsistence, I mean for food, as well as our safety, and particularly our defence against wild beasts and wild men, depended,—I say, even our ammunition was a load too heavy for us to carry in a country where the heat was such that we should be load enough for ourselves.
We inquired in the country, and found there was no beast of burthen known among them, that is to say, neither horses or mules, or asses, camels, or dromedaries; the only creature they had was a kind of buffalo, or tame bull, such a one as we had killed; and that some of these they had brought so to their hand, that they taught them to go and come with their voices, as they called them to them, or sent them from them; that they made them carry burthens; and particularly that they would swim over rivers and lakes upon them, the creatures swimming very high and strong in the water.
But we understood nothing of the management of guiding such a creature, or how to bind a burthen upon them; and this last part of our consultation puzzled us extremely. At last I proposed a method for them, which, after some consideration, they found very convenient; and this was, to quarrel with some of the negro natives, take ten or twelve of them prisoners, and binding them as slaves, cause them to travel with us, and make them carry our baggage; which I alleged would be convenient and useful many ways as well to show us the way, as to converse with other natives for us.
This counsel was not accepted at first, but the natives soon gave them reason to approve it, and also gave them an opportunity to put it in practice; for, as our little traffic with the natives was hitherto upon the faith of their first kindness, we found some knavery among them at last; for having bought some cattle of them for our toys, which, as I said, our cutler had contrived, one of our men differing with his chapman, truly they huffed him in their manner, and, keeping the things he had offered them for the cattle, made their fellows drive away the cattle before his face, and laugh at him. Our man crying out loud of this violence, and calling to some of us who were not far off, the negro he was dealing with threw a lance at him, which came so true, that, if he had not with great agility jumped aside, and held up his hand also to turn the lance as it came, it had struck through his body; and, as it was, it wounded him in the arm; at which the man, enraged, took up his fuzee, and shot the negro through the heart.
The others that were near him, and all those that were with us at a distance, were so terribly frighted, first, at the flash of fire; secondly, at the noise; and thirdly, at seeing their countryman killed, that they stood like men stupid and amazed, at first, for some time; but after they were a little recovered from their fright, one of them, at a good distance from us, set up a sudden screaming noise, which, it seems, is the noise they make when they go to fight; and all the rest understanding what he meant, answered him, and ran together to the place where he was, and we not knowing what it meant, stood still, looking upon one another like a parcel of fools.
But we were presently undeceived; for, in two or three minutes more, we heard the screaming roaring noise go on from one place to another, through all their little towns; nay, even over the creek to the other side; and, on a sudden, we saw a naked multitude running from all parts to the place where the first man began it, as to a rendezvous; and, in less than an hour, I believe there was near 500 of them gotten together, armed some with bows and arrows, but most with lances, which they throw at a good distance, so nicely that they will strike a bird flying.
We had but a very little time for consultation, for the multitude was increasing every moment; and I verily believe, if we had stayed long, they would have been 10,000 together in a little time. We had nothing to do, therefore, but to fly to our ship or bark, where indeed we could have defended ourselves very well, or to advance and try what a volley or two of small shot would do for us.
We resolved immediately upon the latter, depending upon it that the fire and terror of our shot would soon put them to flight; so we drew up all in a line, and marched boldly up to them. They stood ready to meet us, depending, I suppose, to destroy us all with their lances; but before we came near enough for them to throw their lances, we halted, and, standing at a good distance from one another, to stretch our line as far as we could, we gave them a salute with our shot, which, besides what we wounded that we knew not of, knocked sixteen of them down upon the spot, and three more were so lamed, that they fell about twenty or thirty yards from them.
As soon as we had fired, they set up the horridest yell, or howling, partly raised by those that were wounded, and partly by those that pitied and condoled the bodies they saw lie dead, that I never heard anything like it before or since.
We stood stock still after we had fired, to load our guns again, and finding they did not stir from the place we fired among them again; we killed about nine of them at the second fire; but as they did not stand so thick as before, all our men did not fire, seven of us being ordered to reserve our charge, and to advance as soon as the other had fired, while the rest loaded again; of which I shall speak again presently.
As soon as we had fired the second volley, we shouted as loud as we could, and the seven men advanced upon them, and, coming about twenty yards nearer, fired again, and those that were behind having loaded again with all expedition, followed; but when they saw us advance, they ran screaming away as if they were bewitched.
When we came up to the field of battle, we saw a great number of bodies lying upon the ground, many more than we could suppose were killed or wounded; nay, more than we had bullets in our pieces when we fired; and we could not tell what to make of it; but at length we found how it was, viz., that they were frighted out of all manner of sense; nay, I do believe several of those that were really dead, were frighted to death, and had no wound about them.
Of those that were thus frighted, as I have said, several of them, as they recovered themselves, came and worshipped us (taking us for gods or devils, I know not which, nor did it much matter to us): some kneeling, some throwing themselves flat on the ground, made a thousand antic gestures, but all with tokens of the most profound submission. It presently came into my head, that we might now, by the law of arms, take as many prisoners as we would, and make them travel with us, and carry our baggage. As soon as I proposed it, our men were all of my mind; and accordingly we secured about sixty lusty young fellows, and let them know they must go with us; which they seemed very willing to do. But the next question we had among ourselves, was, how we should do to trust them, for we found the people not like those of Madagascar, but fierce, revengeful, and treacherous; for which reason we were sure that we should have no service from them but that of mere slaves; no subjection that would continue any longer than the fear of us was upon them, nor any labour but by violence.
Before I go any farther, I must hint to the reader, that from this time forward I began to enter a little more seriously into the circumstance I was in, and concerned myself more in the conduct of our affairs; for though my comrades were all older men, yet I began to find them void of counsel, or, as I now call it, presence of mind, when they came to the execution of a thing. The first occasion I took to observe this, was in their late engagement with the natives, when, though they had taken a good resolution to attack them and fire upon them, yet, when they had fired the first time, and found that the negroes did not run as they expected, their hearts began to fail, and I am persuaded, if their bark had been near hand, they would every man have run away.
Upon this occasion I began to take upon me a little to hearten them up, and to call upon them to load again, and give them another volley, telling them that I would engage, if they would be ruled by me, I'd make the negroes run fast enough. I found this heartened them, and therefore, when they fired a second time, I desired them to reserve some of their shot for an attempt by itself, as I mentioned above.
Having fired a second time, I was indeed forced to command, as I may call it. "Now, seigniors," said I, "let us give them a cheer." So I opened my throat, and shouted three times, as our English sailors do on like occasions. "And now follow me," said I to the seven that had not fired, "and I'll warrant you we will make work with them," and so it proved indeed; for, as soon as they saw us coming, away they ran, as above.
From this day forward they would call me nothing but Seignior Capitanio; but I told them I would not be called seignior. "Well, then," said the gunner, who spoke good English, "you shall be called Captain Bob;" and so they gave me my title ever after.
Nothing is more certain of the Portuguese than this, take them nationally or personally, if they are animated and heartened up by anybody to go before, and encourage them by example, they will behave well enough; but if they have nothing but their own measures to follow, they sink immediately: these men had certainly fled from a parcel of naked savages, though even by flying they could not have saved their lives, if I had not shouted and hallooed, and rather made sport with the thing than a fight, to keep up their courage.
Nor was there less need of it upon several occasions hereafter; and I do confess I have often wondered how a number of men, who, when they came to the extremity, were so ill supported by their own spirits, had at first courage to propose and to undertake the most desperate and impracticable attempt that ever men went about in the world.
There were indeed two or three indefatigable men among them, by whose courage and industry all the rest were upheld; and indeed those two or three were the managers of them from the beginning; that was the gunner, and that cutler whom I call the artist; and the third, who was pretty well, though not like either of them, was one of the carpenters. These indeed were the life and soul of all the rest, and it was to their courage that all the rest owed the resolution they showed upon any occasion. But when those saw me take a little upon me, as above, they embraced me, and treated me with particular affection ever after.
This gunner was an excellent mathematician, a good scholar, and a complete sailor; and it was in conversing intimately with him that I learned afterwards the grounds of what knowledge I have since had in all the sciences useful for navigation, and particularly in the geographical part of knowledge.
Even in our conversation, finding me eager to understand and learn, he laid the foundation of a general knowledge of things in my mind, gave me just ideas of the form of the earth and of the sea, the situation of countries, the course of rivers, the doctrine of the spheres, the motion of the stars; and, in a word, taught me a kind of system of astronomy, which I afterwards improved.
In an especial manner, he filled my head with aspiring thoughts, and with an earnest desire after learning everything that could be taught me; convincing me, that nothing could qualify me for great undertakings, but a degree of learning superior to what was usual in the race of seamen; he told me, that to be ignorant was to be certain of a mean station in the world, but that knowledge was the first step to preferment. He was always flattering me with my capacity to learn; and though that fed my pride, yet, on the other hand, as I had a secret ambition, which just at that time fed itself in my mind, it prompted in me an insatiable thirst after learning in general, and I resolved, if ever I came back to Europe, and had anything left to purchase it, I would make myself master of all the parts of learning needful to the making of me a complete sailor; but I was not so just to myself afterwards as to do it when I had an opportunity.
But to return to our business; the gunner, when he saw the service I had done in the fight, and heard my proposal for keeping a number of prisoners for our march, and for carrying our baggage, turns to me before them all. "Captain Bob," says he, "I think you must be our leader, for all the success of this enterprise is owing to you." "No, no," said I, "do not compliment me; you shall be our Seignior Capitanio, you shall be general; I am too young for it." So, in short, we all agreed he should be our leader; but he would not accept of it alone, but would have me joined with him; and all the rest agreeing, I was obliged to comply.
The first piece of service they put me upon in this new command was as difficult as any they could think of, and that was to manage the prisoners; which, however, I cheerfully undertook, as you shall hear presently. But the immediate consultation was yet of more consequence; and that was, first, which way we should go; and secondly, how to furnish ourselves for the voyage with provisions.
There was among the prisoners one tall, well-shaped, handsome fellow, to whom the rest seemed to pay great respect, and who, as we understood afterwards, was the son of one of their kings; his father was, it seems, killed at our first volley, and he wounded with a shot in his arm, and with another just on one of his hips or haunches. The shot in his haunch being in a fleshy part, bled much, and he was half dead with the loss of blood. As to the shot in his arm, it had broke his wrist, and he was by both these wounds quite disabled, so that we were once going to turn him away, and let him die; and, if we had, he would have died indeed in a few days more: but, as I found the man had some respect showed him, it presently occurred to my thoughts that we might bring him to be useful to us, and perhaps make him a kind of commander over them. So I caused our surgeon to take him in hand, and gave the poor wretch good words, that is to say, I spoke to him as well as I could by signs, to make him understand that we would make him well again.
This created a new awe in their minds of us, believing that, as we could kill at a distance by something invisible to them (for so our shot was, to be sure), so we could make them well again too. Upon this the young prince (for so we called him afterwards) called six or seven of the savages to him, and said something to them; what it was we know not, but immediately all the seven came to me, and kneeled down to me, holding up their hands, and making signs of entreaty, pointing to the place where one of those lay whom we had killed.
It was a long time before I or any of us could understand them; but one of them ran and lifted up a dead man, pointing to his wound, which was in his eyes, for he was shot into the head at one of his eyes. Then another pointed to the surgeon, and at last we found it out, that the meaning was, that he should heal the prince's father too, who was dead, being shot through the head, as above.
We presently took the hint, and would not say we could not do it, but let them know, the men that were killed were those that had first fallen upon us, and provoked us, and we would by no means make them alive again; and that, if any others did so, we would kill them too, and never let them live any more: but that, if he (the prince) would be willing to go with us, and do as we should direct him, we would not let him die, and would make his arm well. Upon this he bid his men go and fetch a long stick or staff, and lay on the ground. When they brought it, we saw it was an arrow; he took it with his left hand (for his other was lame with the wound), and, pointing up at the sun, broke the arrow in two, and set the point against his breast, and then gave it to me. This was, as I understood afterwards, wishing the sun, whom they worship, might shoot him into the breast with an arrow, if ever he failed to be my friend; and giving the point of the arrow to me was to be a testimony that I was the man he had sworn to: and never was Christian more punctual to an oath than he was to this, for he was a sworn servant to us for many a weary month after that.
When I brought him to the surgeon, he immediately dressed the wound in his haunch or buttock, and found the bullet had only grazed upon the flesh, and passed, as it were, by it, but it was not lodged in the part, so that it was soon healed and well again; but, as to his arm, he found one of the bones broken, which are in the fore-part from the wrist to the elbow; and this he set, and splintered it up, and bound his arm in a sling, hanging it about his neck, and making signs to him that he should not stir it; which he was so strict an observer of, that he set him down, and never moved one way or other but as the surgeon gave him leave.
I took a great deal of pains to acquaint this negro what we intended to do, and what use we intended to make of his men; and particularly to teach him the meaning of what we said, especially to teach him some words, such as yes and no, and what they meant, and to inure him to our way of talking; and he was very willing and apt to learn anything I taught him.
It was easy to let him see that we intended to carry our provision with us from the first day; but he made signs to us to tell us we need not, for we should find provision enough everywhere for forty days. It was very difficult for us to understand how he expressed forty; for he knew no figures, but some words that they used to one another that they understood it by. At last one of the negroes, by his order, laid forty little stones one by another, to show us how many days we should travel, and find provisions sufficient.
Then I showed him our baggage, which was very heavy, particularly our powder, shot, lead, iron, carpenters' tools, seamen's instruments, cases of bottles, and other lumber. He took some of the things up in his hand to feel the weight, and shook his head at them; so I told our people they must resolve to divide their things into small parcels, and make them portable; and accordingly they did so, by which means we were fain to leave all our chests behind us, which were eleven in number.
Then he made signs to us that he would procure some buffaloes, or young bulls, as I called them, to carry things for us, and made signs, too, that if we were weary, we might be carried too; but that we slighted, only were willing to have the creatures, because, at last, when they could serve us no farther for carriage, we might eat them all up if we had any occasion for them.
I then carried him to our bark, and showed him what things we had here. He seemed amazed at the sight of our bark, having never seen anything of that kind before, for their boats are most wretched things, such as I never saw before, having no head or stern, and being made only of the skins of goats, sewed together with dried guts of goats and sheep, and done over with a kind of slimy stuff like rosin and oil, but of a most nauseous, odious smell; and they are poor miserable things for boats, the worst that any part of the world ever saw; a canoe is an excellent contrivance compared to them.
But to return to our boat. We carried our new prince into it, and helped him over the side, because of his lameness. We made signs to him that his men must carry our goods for us, and showed him what we had; he answered, "Si, Seignior," or, "Yes, sir" (for we had taught him that word and the meaning of it), and taking up a bundle, he made signs to us, that when his arm was well he would carry some for us.
I made signs again to tell him, that if he would make his men carry them, we would not let him carry anything. We had secured all the prisoners in a narrow place, where we had bound them with mat cords, and set up stakes like a palisado round them; so, when we carried the prince on shore, we went with him to them, and made signs to him to ask them if they were willing to go with us to the country of lions. Accordingly he made a long speech to them, and we could understand by it that he told them, if they were willing, they must say, "Si, Seignior," telling them what it signified. They immediately answered, "Si, Seignior," and clapped their hands, looking up to the sun, which, the prince signified to us, was swearing to be faithful. But as soon as they had said so, one of them made a long speech to the prince; and in it we perceived, by his gestures, which were very antic, that they desired something from us, and that they were in great concern about it. So I asked him, as well as I could, what it was they desired of us; he told us by signs that they desired we should clap our hands to the sun (that was, to swear) that we would not kill them, that we would give them chiaruck, that is to say, bread, would not starve them, and would not let the lions eat them. I told him we would promise all that; then he pointed to the sun, and clapped his hands, signing to me that I should do so too, which I did; at which all the prisoners fell flat on the ground, and rising up again, made the oddest, wildest cries that ever I heard.
I think it was the first time in my life that ever any religious thought affected me; but I could not refrain some reflections, and almost tears, in considering how happy it was that I was not born among such creatures as these, and was not so stupidly ignorant and barbarous; but this soon went off again, and I was not troubled again with any qualms of that sort for a long time after.
When this ceremony was over, our concern was to get some provisions, as well for the present subsistence of our prisoners as ourselves; and making signs to our prince that we were thinking upon that subject, he made signs to me that, if I would let one of the prisoners go to his town, he should bring provisions, and should bring some beasts to carry our baggage. I seemed loth to trust him, and supposing that he would run away, he made great signs of fidelity, and with his own hands tied a rope about his neck, offering me one end of it, intimating that I should hang him if the man did not come again. So I consented, and he gave him abundance of instructions, and sent him away, pointing to the light of the sun, which it seems was to tell him at what time he must be back.
The fellow ran as if he was mad, and held it till he was quite out of sight, by which I supposed he had a great way to go. The next morning, about two hours before the time appointed, the black prince, for so I always called him, beckoning with his hand to me, and hallooing after his manner, desired me to come to him, which I did, when, pointing to a little hill about two miles off, I saw plainly a little drove of cattle, and several people with them; those, he told me by signs, were the man he had sent, and several more with him, and cattle for us.
Accordingly, by the time appointed, he came quite to our huts, and brought with him a great many cows, young runts, about sixteen goats, and four young bulls, taught to carry burthens.
This was a supply of provisions sufficient; as for bread, we were obliged to shift with some roots which we had made use of before. We then began to consider of making some large bags like the soldiers' knapsacks, for their men to carry our baggage in, and to make it easy to them; and the goats being killed, I ordered the skins to be spread in the sun, and they were as dry in two days as could be desired; so we found means to make such little bags as we wanted, and began to divide our baggage into them. When the black prince found what they were for, and how easy they were of carriage when we put them on, he smiled a little, and sent away the man again to fetch skins, and he brought two natives more with him, all loaded with skins better cured than ours, and of other kinds, such as we could not tell what names to give them.
These two men brought the black prince two lances, of the sort they use in their fights, but finer than ordinary, being made of black smooth wood, as fine as ebony, and headed at the point with the end of a long tooth of some creature—we could not tell of what creature; the head was so firm put on, and the tooth so strong, though no bigger than my thumb, and sharp at the end, that I never saw anything like it in any place in the world.
The prince would not take them till I gave him leave, but made signs that they should give them to me; however, I gave him leave to take them himself, for I saw evident signs of an honourable just principle in him.
We now prepared for our march, when the prince coming to me, and pointing towards the several quarters of the world, made signs to know which way we intended to go; and when I showed him, pointing to the west, he presently let me know there was a great river a little further to the north, which was able to carry our bark many leagues into the country due west. I presently took the hint, and inquired for the mouth of the river, which I understood by him was above a day's march, and, by our estimation, we found it about seven leagues further. I take this to be the great river marked by our chart-makers at the northmost part of the coast of Mozambique, and called there Quilloa.
Consulting thus with ourselves, we resolved to take the prince, and as many of the prisoners as we could stow in our frigate, and go about by the bay into the river; and that eight of us, with our arms, should march by land to meet them on the river side; for the prince, carrying us to a rising ground, had showed us the river very plain, a great way up the country, and in one place it was not above six miles to it.
It was my lot to march by land, and be captain of the whole caravan. I had eight of our men with me, and seven-and-thirty of our prisoners, without any baggage, for all our luggage was yet on board. We drove the young bulls with us; nothing was ever so tame, so willing to work, or carry anything. The negroes would ride upon them four at a time, and they would go very willingly. They would eat out of our hand, lick our feet, and were as tractable as a dog.
We drove with us six or seven cows for food; but our negroes knew nothing of curing the flesh by salting and drying it till we showed them the way, and then they were mighty willing to do so as long as we had any salt to do it with, and to carry salt a great way too, after we found we should have no more.
It was an easy march to the river side for us that went by land, and we came thither in a piece of a day, being, as above, no more than six English miles; whereas it was no less than five days before they came to us by water, the wind in the bay having failed them, and the way, by reason of a great turn or reach in the river, being about fifty miles about.
We spent this time in a thing which the two strangers, which brought the prince the two lances, put into the head of the prisoners, viz., to make bottles of the goats' skins to carry fresh water in, which it seems they knew we should come to want; and the men did it so dexterously, having dried skins fetched them by those two men, that before our vessel came up, they had every man a pouch like a bladder, to carry fresh water in, hanging over their shoulders by a thong made of other skins, about three inches broad, like the sling of a fuzee.
Our prince, to assure us of the fidelity of the men in this march, had ordered them to be tied two and two by the wrist, as we handcuff prisoners in England; and made them so sensible of the reasonableness of it, that he made them do it themselves, appointing four of them to bind the rest; but we found them so honest, and particularly so obedient to him, that after we were gotten a little further off of their own country, we set them at liberty, though, when he came to us, he would have them tied again, and they continued so a good while.
All the country on the bank of the river was a high land, no marshy swampy ground in it; the verdure good, and abundance of cattle feeding upon it wherever we went, or which way soever we looked; there was not much wood indeed, at least not near us; but further up we saw oak, cedar, and pine-trees, some of which were very large.
The river was a fair open channel, about as broad as the Thames below Gravesend, and a strong tide of flood, which we found held us about sixty miles; the channel deep, nor did we find any want of water for a great way. In short, we went merrily up the river with the flood and the wind blowing still fresh at E. and E.N.E. We stemmed the ebb easily also, especially while the river continued broad and deep; but when we came past the swelling of the tide, and had the natural current of the river to go against, we found it too strong for us, and began to think of quitting our bark; but the prince would by no means agree to that, for, finding we had on board pretty good store of roping made of mats and flags, which I described before, he ordered all the prisoners which were on shore to come and take hold of those ropes, and tow us along by the shore side; and as we hoisted our sail too, to ease them, the men ran along with us at a very great rate.
In this manner the river carried us up, by our computation, near 200 miles, and then it narrowed apace, and was not above as broad as the Thames is at Windsor, or thereabouts; and, after another day, we came to a great waterfall or cataract, enough to fright us, for I believe the whole body of water fell at once perpendicularly down a precipice above sixty foot high, which made noise enough to deprive men of their hearing, and we heard it above ten miles before we came to it.
Here we were at a full stop, and now our prisoners went first on shore; they had worked very hard and very cheerfully, relieving one another, those that were weary being taken into the bark. Had we had canoes or any boats which might have been carried by men's strength we might have gone two hundred miles more up this river in small boats, but our great boat could go no farther.
All this way the country looked green and pleasant, and was full of cattle, and some people we saw, though not many; but this we observed now, that the people did no more understand our prisoners here than we could understand them; being, it seems, of different nations and of different speech. We had yet seen no wild beasts, or, at least, none that came very near us, except two days before we came to the waterfall, when we saw three of the most beautiful leopards that ever were seen, standing upon the bank of the river on the north side, our prisoners being all on the other side of the water. Our gunner espied them first, and ran to fetch his gun, putting a ball extraordinary in it; and coming to me, "Now, Captain Bob," says he, "where is your prince?" So I called him out. "Now," says he, "tell your men not to be afraid; tell them they shall see that thing in his hand speak in fire to one of those beasts, and make it kill itself."
The poor negroes looked as if they had been all going to be killed, notwithstanding what their prince said to them, and stood staring to expect the issue, when on a sudden the gunner fired; and as he was a very good marksman, he shot the creature with two slugs, just in the head. As soon as the leopard felt herself struck, she reared up on her two hind-legs, bolt upright, and throwing her forepaws about in the air, fell backward, growling and struggling, and immediately died; the other two, frighted with the fire and the noise, fled, and were out of sight in an instant.
But the two frighted leopards were not in half the consternation that our prisoners were; four or five of them fell down as if they had been shot; several others fell on their knees, and lifted up their hands to us; whether to worship us, or pray us not to kill them, we did not know; but we made signs to their prince to encourage them, which he did, but it was with much ado that he brought them to their senses. Nay, the prince, notwithstanding all that was said to prepare him for it, yet when the piece went off, he gave a start as if he would have leaped into the river.
When we saw the creature killed, I had a great mind to have the skin of her, and made signs to the prince that he should send some of his men over to take the skin off. As soon as he spoke but a word, four of them, that offered themselves, were untied, and immediately they jumped into the river, and swam over, and went to work with him. The prince having a knife that we gave him, made four wooden knives so clever, that I never saw anything like them in my life; and in less than an hour's time they brought me the skin of the leopard, which was a monstrous great one, for it was from the ears to the tale about seven foot, and near five foot broad on the back, and most admirably spotted all over. The skin of this leopard I brought to London many years after.
We were now all upon a level as to our travelling, being unshipped, for our bark would swim no farther, and she was too heavy to carry on our backs; but as we found the course of the river went a great way farther, we consulted our carpenters whether we could not pull the bark in pieces, and make us three or four small boats to go on with. They told us we might do so, but it would be very long a-doing; and that, when we had done, we had neither pitch or tar to make them sound to keep the water out, or nails to fasten the plank. But one of them told us that as soon as he could come at any large tree near the river, he would make us a canoe or two in a quarter of the time, and which would serve us as well for all the uses we could have any occasion for as a boat; and such, that if we came to any waterfalls, we might take them up, and carry them for a mile or two by land upon our shoulders.
Upon this we gave over the thoughts of our frigate, and hauling her into a little cove or inlet, where a small brook came into the main river, we laid her up for those that came next, and marched forward. We spent indeed two days dividing our baggage, and loading our tame buffaloes and our negroes. Our powder and shot, which was the thing we were most careful of, we ordered thus:—First, the powder we divided into little leather bags, that is to say, bags of dried skins, with the hair inward, that the powder might not grow damp; and then we put those bags into other bags, made of bullocks' skins, very thick and hard, with the hair outward, that no wet might come in; and this succeeded so well, that in the greatest rains we had, whereof some were very violent and very long, we always kept our powder dry. Besides these bags, which held our chief magazine, we divided to every one a quarter of a pound of powder, and half a pound of shot, to carry always about us; which, as it was enough for our present use, so we were willing to have no weight to carry more than was absolutely necessary, because of the heat.
We kept still on the bank of the river, and for that reason had but very little communication with the people of the country; for, having also our bark stored with plenty of provisions, we had no occasion to look abroad for a supply; but now, when we came to march on foot, we were obliged often to seek out for food. The first place we came to on the river, that gave us any stop, was a little negro town, containing about fifty huts, and there appeared about 400 people, for they all came out to see us, and wonder at us. When our negroes appeared the inhabitants began to fly to arms, thinking there had been enemies coming upon them; but our negroes, though they could not speak their language, made signs to them that they had no weapons, and were tied two and two together as captives, and that there were people behind who came from the sun, and that could kill them all, and make them alive again, if they pleased; but that they would do them no hurt, and came with peace. As soon as they understood this they laid down their lances, and bows and arrows, and came and stuck twelve large stakes in the ground as a token of peace, bowing themselves to us in token of submission. But as soon as they saw white men with beards, that is to say, with mustachios, they ran screaming away, as in a fright.
We kept at a distance from them, not to be too familiar; and when we did appear it was but two or three of us at a time. But our prisoners made them understand that we required some provisions of them; so they brought us some black cattle, for they have abundance of cows and buffaloes all over that side of the country, as also great numbers of deer. Our cutler, who had now a great stock of things of his handiwork, gave them some little knick-knacks, as plates of silver and of iron, cut diamond fashion, and cut into hearts and into rings, and they were mightily pleased. They also brought several fruits and roots, which we did not understand, but our negroes fed heartily on them, and after we had seen them eat them, we did so too.
Having stocked ourselves here with flesh and root as much as we could well carry, we divided the burthens among our negroes, appointing about thirty to forty pounds weight to a man, which we thought indeed was load enough in a hot country; and the negroes did not at all repine at it, but would sometimes help one another when they began to be weary, which did happen now and then, though not often; besides, as most of their luggage was our provision, it lightened every day, like Aesop's basket of bread, till we came to get a recruit.—Note, when we loaded them we untied their hands, and tied them two and two together by one foot.
The third day of our march from this place our chief carpenter desired us to halt, and set up some huts, for he had found out some trees that he liked, and resolved to make us some canoes; for, as he told me, he knew we should have marching enough on foot after we left the river, and he was resolved to go no farther by land than needs must.
We had no sooner given orders for our little camp, and given leave to our negroes to lay down their loads, but they fell to work to build our huts; and though they were tied as above, yet they did it so nimbly as surprised us. Here we set some of the negroes quite at liberty, that is to say, without tying them, having the prince's word passed for their fidelity; and some of these were ordered to help the carpenters, which they did very handily, with a little direction, and others were sent to see whether they could get any provisions near hand; but instead of provisions, three of them came in with two bows and arrows, and five lances. They could not easily make us understand how they came by them, only that they had surprised some negro women, who were in some huts, the men being from home, and they had found the lances and bows in the huts, or houses, the women and children flying away at the sight of them, as from robbers. We seemed very angry at them, and made the prince ask them if they had not killed any of the women or children, making them believe that, if they had killed anybody, we would make them kill themselves too; but they protested their innocence, so we excused them. Then they brought us the bows and arrows and lances; but, at a motion of their black prince, we gave them back the bows and arrows, and gave them leave to go out to see what they could kill for food; and here we gave them the laws of arms, viz., that if any man appeared to assault them, or shoot at them to offer any violence to them, they might kill them; but that they should not offer to kill or hurt any that offered them peace, or laid down their weapons, nor any women or children, upon any occasion whatsoever. These were our articles of war.
These two fellows had not been gone out above three or four hours, but one of them came running to us without his bow and arrows, hallooing and whooping a great while before he came at us, "Okoamo, okoamo!" which, it seems, was, "Help, help!" The rest of the negroes rose up in a hurry, and by twos, as they could, ran forward towards their fellows, to know what the matter was. As for me, I did not understand it, nor any of our people; the prince looked as if something unlucky had fallen out, and some of our men took up their arms to be ready on occasion. But the negroes soon discovered the thing, for we saw four of them presently after coming along with a great load of meat upon their backs. The case was, that the two who went out with their bows and arrows, meeting with a great herd of deer in the plain, had been so nimble as to shoot three of them, and then one of them came running to us for help to fetch them away. This was the first venison we had met with in all our march, and we feasted upon it very plentifully; and this was the first time we began to prevail with our prince to eat his meat dressed our way; after which his men were prevailed with by his example, but before that, they ate most of the flesh they had quite raw.
We wished now we had brought some bows and arrows out with us, which we might have done; and we began to have so much confidence in our negroes, and to be so familiar with them, that we oftentimes let them go, or the greatest part of them, untied, being well assured they would not leave us, and that they did not know what course to take without us; but one thing we resolved not to trust them with, and that was the charging our guns: but they always believed our guns had some heavenly power in them, that would send forth fire and smoke, and speak with a dreadful noise, and kill at a distance whenever we bid them.
In about eight days we finished three canoes, and in them we embarked our white men and our baggage, with our prince, and some of the prisoners. We also found it needful to keep some of ourselves always on shore, not only to manage the negroes, but to defend them from enemies and wild beasts. Abundance of little incidents happened upon this march, which it is impossible to crowd into this account; particularly, we saw more wild beasts now than we did before, some elephants, and two or three lions, none of which kinds we had seen any of before; and we found our negroes were more afraid of them a great deal than we were; principally, because they had no bows and arrows, or lances, which were the particular weapons they were bred up to the exercise of.
But we cured them of their fears by being always ready with our firearms. However, as we were willing to be sparing of our powder, and the killing of any of the creatures now was no advantage to us, seeing their skins were too heavy for us to carry, and their flesh not good to eat, we resolved therefore to keep some of our pieces uncharged and only primed; and causing them to flash in the pan, the beasts, even the lions themselves, would always start and fly back when they saw it, and immediately march off.
We passed abundance of inhabitants upon this upper part of the river, and with this observation, that almost every ten miles we came to a separate nation, and every separate nation had a different speech, or else their speech had differing dialects, so that they did not understand one another. They all abounded in cattle, especially on the river-side; and the eighth day of this second navigation we met with a little negro town, where they had growing a sort of corn like rice, which ate very sweet; and, as we got some of it of the people, we made very good cakes of bread of it, and, making a fire, baked them on the ground, after the fire was swept away, very well; so that hitherto we had no want of provisions of any kind that we could desire.
Our negroes towing our canoes, we travelled at a considerable rate, and by our own account could not go less than twenty or twenty-five English miles a day, and the river continuing to be much of the same breadth and very deep all the way, till on the tenth day we came to another cataract; for a ridge of high hills crossing the whole channel of the river, the water came tumbling down the rocks from one stage to another in a strange manner, so that it was a continued link of cataracts from one to another, in the manner of a cascade, only that the falls were sometimes a quarter of a mile from one another, and the noise confused and frightful.
We thought our voyaging was at a full stop now; but three of us, with a couple of our negroes, mounting the hills another way, to view the course of the river, we found a fair channel again after about half a mile's march, and that it was like to hold us a good way further. So we set all hands to work, unloaded our cargo, and hauled our canoes on shore, to see if we could carry them.
Upon examination we found that they were very heavy; but our carpenters, spending but one day's work upon them, hewed away so much of the timber from their outsides as reduced them very much, and yet they were as fit to swim as before. When this was done, ten men with poles took up one of the canoes and made nothing to carry it. So we ordered twenty men to each canoe, that one ten might relieve the other; and thus we carried all our canoes, and launched them into the water again, and then fetched our luggage and loaded it all again into the canoes, and all in an afternoon; and the next morning early we moved forward again. When we had towed about four days more, our gunner, who was our pilot, began to observe that we did not keep our right course so exactly as we ought, the river winding away a little towards the north, and gave us notice of it accordingly. However, we were not willing to lose the advantage of water-carriage, at least not till we were forced to it; so we jogged on, and the river served us for about threescore miles further; but then we found it grew very small and shallow, having passed the mouths of several little brooks or rivulets which came into it; and at length it became but a brook itself.
We towed up as far as ever our boats would swim, and we went two days the farther—having been about twelve days in this last part of the river—by lightening the boats and taking our luggage out, which we made the negroes carry, being willing to ease ourselves as long as we could; but at the end of these two days, in short, there was not water enough to swim a London wherry.
We now set forward wholly by land, and without any expectation of more water-carriage. All our concern for more water was to be sure to have a supply for our drinking; and therefore upon every hill that we came near we clambered up to the highest part to see the country before us, and to make the best judgment we could which way to go to keep the lowest grounds, and as near some stream of water as we could.
The country held verdant, well grown with trees, and spread with rivers and brooks, and tolerably well with inhabitants, for about thirty days' march after our leaving the canoes, during which time things went pretty well with us; we did not tie ourselves down when to march and when to halt, but ordered those things as our convenience and the health and ease of our people, as well our servants as ourselves, required.
About the middle of this march we came into a low and plain country, in which we perceived a greater number of inhabitants than in any other country we had gone through; but that which was worse for us, we found them a fierce, barbarous, treacherous people, and who at first looked upon us as robbers, and gathered themselves in numbers to attack us.
Our men were terrified at them at first, and began to discover an unusual fear, and even our black prince seemed in a great deal of confusion; but I smiled at him, and showing him some of our guns, I asked him if he thought that which killed the spotted cat (for so they called the leopard in their language) could not make a thousand of those naked creatures die at one blow? Then he laughed, and said, yes, he believed it would. "Well, then," said I, "tell your men not to be afraid of these people, for we shall soon give them a taste of what we can do if they pretend to meddle with us." However, we considered we were in the middle of a vast country, and we knew not what numbers of people and nations we might be surrounded with, and, above all, we knew not how much we might stand in need of the friendship of these that we were now among, so that we ordered the negroes to try all the methods they could to make them friends.
Accordingly the two men who had gotten bows and arrows, and two more to whom we gave the prince's two fine lances, went foremost, with five more, having long poles in their hands; and after them ten of our men advanced toward the negro town that was next to us, and we all stood ready to succour them if there should be occasion.
When they came pretty near their houses our negroes hallooed in their screaming way, and called to them as loud as they could. Upon their calling, some of the men came out and answered, and immediately after the whole town, men, women, and children, appeared; our negroes, with their long poles, went forward a little, and stuck them all in the ground, and left them, which in their country was a signal of peace, but the other did not understand the meaning of that. Then the two men with bows laid down their bows and arrows, went forward unarmed, and made signs of peace to them, which at last the other began to understand; so two of their men laid down their bows and arrows, and came towards them. Our men made all the signs of friendship to them that they could think of, putting their hands up to their mouths as a sign that they wanted provisions to eat; and the other pretended to be pleased and friendly, and went back to their fellows and talked with them a while, and they came forward again, and made signs that they would bring some provisions to them before the sun set; and so our men came back again very well satisfied for that time.
But an hour before sunset our men went to them again, just in the same posture as before, and they came according to their appointment, and brought deer's flesh, roots, and the same kind of corn, like rice, which I mentioned above; and our negroes, being furnished with such toys as our cutler had contrived, gave them some of them, which they seemed infinitely pleased with, and promised to bring more provisions the next day.
Accordingly the next day they came again, but our men perceived they were more in number by a great many than before. However, having sent out ten men with firearms to stand ready, and our whole army being in view also, we were not much surprised; nor was the treachery of the enemy so cunningly ordered as in other cases, for they might have surrounded our negroes, which were but nine, under a show of peace; but when they saw our men advance almost as far as the place where they were the day before, the rogues snatched up their bows and arrows and came running upon our men like so many furies, at which our ten men called to the negroes to come back to them, which they did with speed enough at the first word, and stood all behind our men. As they fled, the other advanced, and let fly near a hundred of their arrows at them, by which two of our negroes were wounded, and one we thought had been killed. When they came to the five poles that our men had stuck in the ground, they stood still awhile, and gathering about the poles, looked at them, and handled them, as wondering what they meant. We then, who were drawn up behind all, sent one of our number to our ten men to bid them fire among them while they stood so thick, and to put some small shot into their guns besides the ordinary charge, and to tell them that we would be up with them immediately.