At 6 A.M. on Friday, March 28, the boat was safely carried over the bar of Shark River, and we found ourselves once more hugging the shore southwards. The day was exceptional for West Africa, and much like damp weather at the end of an English May; the grey air at times indulged us with a slow drizzle. After two hours we passed another maritime village, where the farce of yesterday evening was re-acted, but this time with more vigour. Ignorant of my morning's private work, Hotaloya swore that it was Sanga- Tanga. I complimented him upon his proficiency in lying, and poor Langobumo, almost in tears, confessed that he had pointed out to me the real place. Whereupon Hotaloya began pathetically to reproach him for being thus prodigal of the truth. Nurya, the "head trader," coming down to the beach, with dignity and in force told me in English that I must land, and was chaffed accordingly. He then blustered and threatened instant death, at which it was easy to laugh. About 10 A.M. we lay off our destination, some ten miles south of Dyanye Point. It was a beautiful site, the end of a grassy dune, declining gradually toward the tree-fringed sea; the yellow slopes, cut by avenues and broken by dwarf table-lands, were long afterwards recalled to my memory, when sighting the fair but desolate scenery south of Paraguayan Asuncion. These downs appear to be a sea-coast raised by secular upheaval, and much older than the flat tracts which encroach upon the Atlantic. We could now understand the position of the town which figures so largely in the squadron-annals of the equatorial shore; it was set upon a hillock, whence the eye could catch the approaching sail of the slaver, and where the flag could be raised conspicuously in token of no cruiser being near.
But the glory had departed from Sanga-Tanga (Peel-White? Strip- White?); not a trace of the town remained, the barracoons had disappeared, and all was innocent as upon the day of its creation. A deep silence reigned where the song of joy and the shrieks of torture had so often been answered by the voice of the forest, and Eternal Nature had ceased to be disturbed by the follies and crimes of man.
Sanga-Tanga was burned down, after the fashion of these people, when Mbango, whom Europeans called "Pass-all," King of the Urungu, who extend up the right bank of the Ogobe, passed away from the sublunary world. King Pass-all had completed his education in Portugal: a negro never attains his highest potential point of villany without a tour through Europe; and thus he rose to be the greatest slave-dealer in this slave- dealing scrap of the coast. In early life he protected the Spanish pirates who fled to Cape Lopez, after plundering the American brig "Mexico:" they were at last forcibly captured by Captain (the late Admiral) Trotter, R.N.; passed over to the United States, and finally hanged at Boston, during the Presidency of General Jackson. Towards the end of his life he became paralytic, like King Pepple of Bonny, and dangerous to the whites as well as to the blacks under his rule. The people, however, still speak highly of him, generosity being a gift which everywhere covers a multitude of sins. He was succeeded by one of his sons, who is favourably mentioned, but who soon followed him to the grave. I saw another, a boy, apparently a slave to a Mpongwe on the coast, and the rest of the family is scattered far and wide. Since Pass-all's death the "peddlers in human flesh and blood" have gone farther south: men spoke of a great depot at the Mpembe village on the banks of the Nazareth River, where a certain Ndabuliya is aided and abetted by two Utangani. Now that "'long-sea" exportation has been completely suppressed, their only markets must be the two opposite islands.
South of Sanga-Tanga, lay a thin line of deeper blue, Fetish Point, the eastern projection of Cape Lopez Bay. From Mbango's Town it is easy to see the western headland, Cape Lopez, whose low outliers of sand and trees gain slowly but surely upon the waters of the Atlantic. I deferred a visit until a more favourable time, and—that time never came.
Cape Lopez is said to have considerable advantages for developing trade, but the climate appears adverse. A large Catholic mission, described by Barbot, was established here by the Portuguese: as in the Congo, nothing physical of it remains. But Mr. Wilson is rather hard when he asserts that all traces have disappeared— they survive in superior 'cuteness of the native.
Little need be said about our return, which was merrier than the outward bound trip. Wind, tide, and current were now in our favour, and we followed the chords, not the arcs, of the several bays. At 9.30 P.M. we gave a wide berth to the rollers off Point Nyonye and two hours afterwards we groped through the outer darkness into Bwamange, where the good Azizeh and Asunye, who came to receive us, shouted with joy. On the next day another "gorilla palaver," when a large male was reported to have been shot without a shadow of truth, detained me: it was the last straw which broke the patient camel's back. After "dashing" to old King Langobomo one cloth, one bottle of absinthe, two heads of tobacco, and a clay pipe, we set out betimes for the fifteen miles' walk to Mbata. Various obstacles delayed us on the way, and the shades of evening began to close in rapidly; night already reigned over the forest. Progress under such circumstances requires the greatest care; as in the streets of Damascus, one must ever look fixedly at the ground, under penalty of a shaking stumble over cross-bars of roots, or fallen branches hidden by grass and mud. And the worst of these wet walks is that, sooner or later, they bring on swollen feet, which the least scratch causes to ulcerate, and which may lame the traveller for weeks. They are often caused by walking and sitting in wet shoes and stockings; it is so troublesome to pull off and pull on again after wading and fording, repeated during every few hundred yards, that most men tramp through the brooks and suffer in consequence. Constant care of the feet is necessary in African travel, and the ease with which they are hurt—sluggish circulation, poor food and insufficient stimulants being the causes—is one of its deplaisirs. The people wash and anoint these wounds with palm oil: a hot bath, with pepper-water, if there be no rum, gives more relief, and caustic must sometimes be used.
We reached Mbata at 6.15 P.M., and all agreed that two hours of such forest-walking do more damage than five days along the sands.
Since my departure from the coast, French naval officers, travellers and traders, have not been idle. The Marquis de Compiegne, who returned to France in 1874, suffering from ulcerated legs, had travelled up the Fernao Vaz, and its tributary the highly irregular Ogobai, Ogowai, or Ogowe (Ogobe); yet, curious to remark, all his discoveries arc omitted by Herr Kiepert. His furthest point was 213 kilometres east of "San Quita" (Sankwita), a village sixty-one kilometres north (??) of Pointe Fetiche, near Cape Lopez; but wars and receding waters prevented his reaching the confluence where the Ivindo fork enters the north bank of the Ogobe. He made observations amongst the "Kamma" tribe, which differs from the Bakele and other neighbours. M. Guirold, commanding a cruiser, was also sent to the estuary of the Rembo or Fernao Vaz, into which the Mpungule (N'poulounay of M. du Chaillu?), ascended only by M. Aymes, discharges. The explorers found many shoals and shifting sands before entering the estuary; in the evening they stopped at the Ogobe confluence, where a French seaman was employed in custom- house duties. M. de Compiegne, after attending many palavers, was duly upset when returning to the ship.
On the Fernao Vaz there are now (1873) five factories, each named after some French town: Paris Factory, however, had fallen to ruins, the traders having migrated 150 miles higher up the Kamma River. Here a certain drunken kinglet, "Rampano," breaks everything he finds in the house, and pays damages when he returns to his senses. On March 31st there was a violent quarrel between the women of two settlements, and the "reguli" embarked with all their host, to fight it out; Rampano was the victor, and after the usual palaver the vanquished was compelled to pay a heavy fine. M. du Chaillu's descriptions of the country, a park land dotted with tree-mottes, are confirmed; but the sport, excepting hippopotamus, was poor, and the negroes were found eating a white-faced monkey—mere cannibalism amongst the coast tribes. The fauna and flora of the Ogobe are those of the Gaboon, and the variety of beautiful parrots is especially remarked.
On January 9, 1874, M. de Compiegne passed from the Fernao Vaz through the Obango Canal into the Ogobe, which, bordered by Fetish rocks, flows through vast forests; his object was to study the manners and customs of the Kammas, a more important tribe than is generally supposed, far outnumbering the Urungus of the coast. Their country is large and contains many factories, the traders securing allies by marrying native women. The principal items of import are dry goods, guns, common spirits, and American tobacco; profits must be large, as what costs in France one franc eighty cents, here sells for ten francs' worth of goods. The exports are almost entirely comprised in gum mastic and ivory. At the factory of Mr. Watkins the traveller secured certain figures which he calls "idols"—they are by no means fitted for the drawing-room table. He also noticed the "peace of the household," a strip of manatus nerve, at times used by paterfamilias.
Mr. R. B. N. Walker, who made sundry excursions between 1866 and 1873, also wrote from Elobe that he had left the French explorers, MM. de Compiegne and Marche, on the Okanda River which M. du Chaillu believes to be the northern fork of the Ogobe. Their letters (Feb. 12, 1874) were dated from Osse in the Okanda country, where they had made arrangements with the kinglet for a journey to the "Otjebos," probably the Moshebo or Moshobo cannibals of the "Gorilla Book." The rocks, shoals, and stony bottom of the Ogobe reduced their rate of progress to three miles a day, and, after four wearisome stages, they reached a village of Bakele. Here they saw the slave-driving tribe "Okota," whose appearance did not prepossess them and whose chief attempted unsuccessfully to stop the expedition. They did not leave before collecting specimens of the language.
Further eastward, going towards the country of the Yalimbongo tribe, they found the Okanda River, which they make the southern fork, the Okono being the northern, descending from the mountains; here food was plentiful compared with Okota-land. The active volcano reported by Mr. R. B. N. Walker, 1873, was found to bear a lake upon the summit—which, in plutonic formations, would suggest an extinct crater. East of the Yalimbongo they came upon the Apingis, whom M. du Chaillu, after two visits, also placed upon the southern fork of the Ogobe. The tribe is described as small in stature, of mild habits, and fond of commerce; hence their plantations on the north or right bank of the river are plundered with impunity by the truculent "Oshieba" (Moshebo or Moshobo?). Further east the river, after being obstructed by rapids, broadens to a mile and becomes navigable— they were probably above the "Ghats." It is supposed to arise south in a lakelet called Tem or N'dua. A Bakele village was seen near Ochunga, a large riverine island; and thence they passed into the country of the mountaineer Okandas. They are described as fine men, but terrible sorcerers; their plantations of banana and maize are often plundered by the "Oshieba," the latter being now recognized as a kindred tribe of the Pahouin (Fan).
Village Life in Pongo-land.
The next day was perforce a halt. Forteune and his wives did not appear till 9 A.M., when it was dead low water. I had lent Nimrod a double-barrelled gun during the march, and he was evidently anxious to found a claim upon the protracted usufruct. "Dashes" also had to be settled, and loads made up. The two women to whose unvarying kindness all my comfort had been owing, were made happy with satin-stripe, cassis, and the inevitable nicotiana. In an unguarded moment my soft heart was betrayed into giving a bottle of absinthe to the large old person who claimed to be Forteune's mamma. Expecting nothing, had nothing been offered she would not have complained; the present acted upon her violently and deleteriously; she was like the cabman who makes mauvais sang because he has asked and received only twice his fare; briefly, next morning she was too surly to bid us adieu.
When giving Forteune his "dash," I was curious to hear how he could explain the report about the dead gorilla shot the night before last: the truth of the old saying, "a black man is never fast for an excuse," was at once illustrated; the beast had been badly wounded, but it had dragged itself off to die. And where was the blood? The rain had washed the blood away!
Nimrod seemed chagrined at the poor end of so much trouble, but there was something in his look and voice suggesting a suppressed thought—these people, like the English and the Somal, show their innermost secrets in their faces. At last, I asked him if he was now willing to try the Shekyani country. He answered flatly, "No!" And why?
Some bushmen had bewitched him; he knew the fellow, and would quickly make "bob come up his side:" already two whites had visited him with a view of shooting gorillas; both had failed; it was "shame palaver!"
This might have been true, but it certainly was not the whole truth. I can hardly accept M. du Chaillu's explanation, that the Mpongwe, who attack the beasts with trade muskets and pebbles, will not venture into the anthropoid's haunts unless certain of their white employer's staunchness. What could that matter, when our Nimrod had an excellent weapon in his hand and a strong party to back him? Very likely Forteune was tired with walking, and five dollars per shot made the game not worth the candle. Again, perhaps the black diplomatist feared to overstock the market with Njinas, or to offend some regular customer for the sake of an "interloper." In these African lands they waste over a monkey's skin or a bottle of rum as much intrigue as is devoted to a contested election in England.
I then asked the guide if my staying longer would be of any use? He answered with a simple negative. Whilst the Utangani remained the Mbunji (spell) would still work, but it would at once be broken by our departure, and he would prove it by sending down the first-fruits. This appeared to me to be mere Mpongwe "blague," but, curious to say, the sequel completely justified both assertions. He threw out a hint, however, about certain enemies and my "medicine," the arsenical soap; I need hardly say that it was refused.
When the palaver ended and the tide served, a fierce tornado broke upon us, and the sky looked grisly in the critical direction, north-east. Having no wish to recross the Gaboon River during a storm blowing a head wind, I resolved to delay my departure till the morrow, and amused myself with drawing from the nude a picture of the village and village-life in Pongo-land.
The Mpongwe settlements on the Gaboon River are neatly built, but without any attempt at fortification; for the most part each contains one family, or rather a chief and his dependants. In the larger plantation "towns," the abodes form a single street, ranging from 100 to 1,000 yards in length; sometimes, but rarely, there are cross streets; the direction is made to front the sea- breeze, and, if possible, to present a corner to storm-bearing Eurus. An invariable feature, like the arcaded loggie of old Venetian towns, is the Nampolo, or palaver-house, which may be described as the club-room of the village. An open hangar, like the Ikongolo or "cask-house" of the trading places, it is known by a fire always kept burning. The houses are cubes, or oblong squares, varying from 10 to 100 feet in length, according to the wealth and dignity of the owner; all are one-storied, and a few are raised on switch foundations. Most of them have a verandah facing the street, and a "compound" or cleared space in the rear for cooking and other domestic purposes. The walls are built by planting double and parallel rows of posts, the material being either bamboo or the mid-rib of a wine-giving palm (Raphia vinifera); to these uprights horizontal slats of cane are neatly lashed by means of the never-failing "tie-tie," bast-slips, runners, or llianas. For the more solid buildings thin "Mpavo," or bark slabs, are fitted in between the double posts; when coolness is required, their place is taken by mats woven with the pinnated leaves of sundry palms. This is a favourite industry with the women, who make two kinds, one coarse, the other a neat and close article, of rattan-tint until it becomes smoke-stained: the material is so cheap and comfortable, that many of the missionaries prefer it for walls to brick or boarding. The windows are mere holes in the mats to admit light, and the doors are cut with a Mpano (adze) from a single tree trunk, which would be wilful waste if timber were ever wanting. The floor is sometimes sandy, but generally of hard and level tamped clay, to which the European would prefer boarding, and, as a rule, it is clean—no fear of pythogenie from here! The pent-shaped roof of rafters and thatch is water-tight except when the host of rats disturb it by their nocturnal gambols.
Rich men affect five or six rooms, of which the principal occupies the centre. The very poor must be contented with one; the majority have two. The "but" combines the functions of hall, dining-room, saloon and bachelor's sleeping quarters. The "ben" contains a broad bed for the married, a standing frame of split bamboo with mats for mattresses; it is usually mounted on props to defend it from the Nchu'u or white ants, and each has its mosquito bar, an oblong square, large enough to cover the whole couch and to reach the ground; the material is either fine grass- cloth, from the Ashira country, a light stuff called "Mbongo," or calico and blue baft from which the stiffening has been washed out. It is far superior to the flimsy muslin affairs supplied in an Anglo-Indian outfit, or to the coarse matting used in Yoruba. Provided with this solid defence, which may be bought in any shop, one can indulge one's self by sleeping in the verandah without risk of ague or rheumatism. The "ben" always displays a pile of chests and boxes, which, though possibly empty, testify to the "respectability" of the household. In Hotaloya's I remarked a leather hat-case; he owned to me that he had already invested in a silk tile, the sign of chieftainship, but that being a "boy" he must grow older before he could wear it. The inner room can be closed with a strong door and a padlock; as even the window-hole is not admitted, the burglar would at once be detected. Except where goods are concerned, the Mpongwe have little respect for privacy; the women, in the presence of their husbands, never failed to preside at my simple toilette, and the girls of the villages would sit upon the bedside where lay an Utangani in almost the last stage of deshabille.
The furniture of course varies; a rich man near the river will have tables and chairs, sofas, looking-glasses, and as many clocks, especially "Sam Slicks," as love or money can procure. Even the poorest affect a standing bedstead in the "ben," plank benches acting as couches in the "but," a sufficiency of mats, and pots for water and cooking. A free man never condescends to sit upon the ground; the low stool, cut out of a single block, and fancifully carved, is exactly that of the old Egyptians preserved by the modern East Africans; it dates from ages immemorial. The look of comparative civilization about these domiciles, doubtless the effect of the Portuguese and the slave trade, distinguishes them from the barbarous circular huts of the Kru-men, the rude clay walls of the Gold Coast, and the tattered, comfortless sheds of the Fernandian "Bube." They have not, however, that bandbox-like neatness which surprises the African traveller on the Camerones River.
The only domestic animals about these villages are dogs, poultry, and pigeons (fine blue rocks): I never saw in Pongo-land the goats mentioned by M. du Chaillu. The bush, however, supplies an abundance of "beef," and, as most South Africans, they have a word, Isangu (amongst the Mpongwes), or Ingwamba (of the Cape Lopez people), to express that inordinate longing and yearning for the stimulus of meat diet, caused by the damp and depressing equatorial climate, of which Dr. Livingstone so pathetically complains. The settlements are sometimes provided with little plots of vegetables; usually, however, the plantations are distant, to preserve them from the depredations of bipeds and quadrupeds. They are guarded by bushmen, who live on the spot and, shortly before the rains all the owners flock to their farms, where, for a fortnight or so, they and their women do something like work. New grounds are preferred, because it is easier to clear them than to remove the tangled after-growth of ferns and guinea grass; moreover, they yield, of course, better crops. The plough has not yet reached Pongo-land; the only tools are the erem (little axe for felling), the matchet (a rude cutlass for clearing), the hoe, and a succedaneum for the dibble. After the bush has been burned as manure, and the seed has been sown, no one will take the trouble of weeding, and half the surface is wild growth.
Maize (Zea mays) has become common, and the people enjoy "butas," or roasted ears. Barbot says that the soil is unfit for corn and Indian wheat; it is so for the former, certainly not for the latter. Rice has extended little beyond the model farms on the north bank of the river; as everywhere upon the West African Coast, it is coarser, more nutritious, and fuller flavoured than the Indian. The cereals, however, are supplanted by plantains and manioc (cassava). The plantains are cooked in various ways, roast and boiled, mashed and broiled, in paste and in balls; when unripe they are held medicinal against dysentery. The manioc is of the white variety (Fatropha Aypim seu utilissima), and, as at Lagos, the root may be called the country bread: I never saw the poisonous or black manioc (Fatropha manihot), either in East or in West Africa, and I heard of it only once in Unyamwezi, Central Africa. Yet it is mentioned by all old travellers, and the sweet harmless variety gives very poor "farinha," Anglice "wood meal."
The vegetables are "Mbongwe" (yams), koko or Colocasia esculenta, Occras (Hibiscus esculentus), squashes (pumpkins), cucumbers, beans of several sorts, and the sweet potato, an esculent disliked by Englishmen, but far more nutritious than the miserable "Irish" tuber. The ground-nut or peanut (Arachis hypogaea), the "pindar" of the United States, a word derived from Loango, is eaten roasted, and, as a rule, the people have not learned to express its oil. Proyart (Pinkerton, xvi. 551) gives, probably by misprint, "Pinda, which we call Pistachio." "Bird- peppers," as the small red species is called, grow wild in every bush; they are wholesome, and the people use them extensively. Tomatoes flourish almost spontaneously, and there is a bulbless native onion whose tops make excellent seasoning. Sugar-cane will thrive in the swamps, coffee on the hill-slopes: I heard of, but never saw ginger.
The common fruits are limes and oranges, mangoes, papaws, and pineapples, the gift of the New World, now run wild, and appreciated chiefly by apes. The forest, however, supplies a multitude of wild growths, which seem to distinguish this section of the coast, and which are eaten with relish by the people. Amongst them are the Sango and Nefu, with pleasant acid berries; the Ntaba, described as a red grape, which will presently make wine; the olive-like Azyigo (Ozigo?); the filbert-like Kula, the "koola-nut" of M. du Chaillu ("Second Expedition," chap, viii.), a hard-shelled nux, not to be confounded with the soft-shelled kola (Sterculia); and the Aba, or wild mango (Mango Gabonensis), a pale yellow pome, small, and tasting painfully of turpentine. It is chiefly prized for its kernels. In February and March all repair to the bush for their mango-vendange, eat the fruit, and collect the stones: the insides, after being sun-dried, are roasted like coffee in a neptune, or in an earthern pot. When burnt chocolate colour, they are pounded to the consistency of thick honey, poured into a mould, a basket lined with banana leaves, and set for three days to dry in the sun: after this the cake, which in appearance resembles guava cheese, will keep through the year.
For use the loaf is scraped, and a sufficiency is added to the half-boiled or stewed flesh, the two being then cooked together: it is equally prized in meat broths, or with fish, dry and fresh; and it is the favoured kitchen for rice and the insipid banana. "Odika," the "Ndika" of the Bakele tribes, is universally used, like our "Worcester," and it may be called the one sauce of Gorilla-land, the local equivalent for curry, pepper-pot, or palm-oil chop; it can be eaten thick or thin, according to taste, but it must always be as hot as possible. The mould sells for half a dollar at the factories, and many are exported to adulterate chocolate and cocoa, which it resembles in smell and oily flavour. I regret to say that travellers have treated this national relish disrespectfully, as continentals do our "plomb- boudin:" Mr. W. Winwood Reade has chaffed it, and another Briton has compared it with "greaves."
At "Cockerapeak," or, to speak less unpoetically, when Alectryon sings his hymn to the dawn, the working bees of the little hive must be up and stirring, whilst the master and mistress enjoy the beauty-sleep. "Early to bed, and early to rise," is held only fit to make a man surly, and give him red eyes, by all wild peoples, who have little work, and who justly hold labour an evil less only than death. Amongst the Bedawin it is a sign of Shaykh-dom not to retire before dawn, and I have often heard the Somal "palavering" after midnight. As a rule the barbarian enjoys his night chat and smoke round the fire all the more because he drinks or dozes through the better part of the day. There is a physical reason for the preference. The absence of light stimulus, and the changes which follow sunset seem to develope in him a kind of night-fever as in the nervous temperament of Europe. Hence so many students choose the lamp in preference to the sun, and children mostly clamour when told at 8 o'clock to go to bed.
Shortly after sunrise the young ones are bathed in the verandah. Here also the mistress smooths her locks, rumpled by the night, "tittivates" her macaw-crest with the bodkin, and anoints her hair and skin with a tantinet of grease and palm oil. Some, but by no means all, proceed for ablution to the stream-side, and the girls fetch water in heavy earthen jars, containing perhaps two gallons; they are strung, after the Kru fashion, behind the back by a band passing across the forehead. When we meet them they gently say "Mbolo!" (good morning), or "Oresa" (are you well)? At this hour, however, all are not so civil, the seniors are often uncommonly cross and surly, and the mollia tempora fandi may not set in till after the first meal—I have seen something of the kind in England. The sex, impolitely said to have one fibre more in the heart and one cell less in the brain, often engages in a violent wordy war; the tornado of wrath will presently pass over, and leave clear weather for the day. In the evening, when the electric fluid again gathers heavily, there will be another storm. Meanwhile, superintended by the mistress, all are occupied with the important duty of preparing the morning meal. It is surprising how skilful are these heaven-born cooks; the excellent dishes they make out of "half-nothing." I preferred the cuisine of Forteune's wives to that of the Plateau, and, after finding that money was current in the village, I never failed to secure their good offices.
The Mpongwe breakfast is eaten by the women in their respective verandahs, with their children and friends; the men also gather together, and prefer the open air. This feed would not only astonish those who talk about a "free breakfast-table," with its silly slops and bread-stuffs; it would satisfy a sharp-set Highlander. In addition to yams and sweet potatoes, plantains, and perhaps rice, there will be cooked mangrove-oysters fresh from the tree, a fry, or an excellent bouillabaisse of fish; succulent palaver sauce, or palm-oil chop; poultry and meat. The domestic fowl is a favourite; but, curious to say, neither here nor in any part of tropical Africa known to me have the people tamed the only gallinaceous bird which the Black Continent has contributed to civilization. The Guinea fowl, like the African elephant, remains wild. We know it to be an old importation in Europe, although there are traditions about its appearing in the fourteenth century, when Moslems sold it to Christians as the "Jerusalem cock," and Christians to Moslems as the "bird of Meccah." It must be the Greek meleagris, so called, says AElian, from the sisters who wept a brother untimely slain; hence the tears upon its plume, suggesting the German Perl-huhn, and its frequent cries, which the Brazilians, who are great in the language of birds, translate Sto fraca, sto fraca, sto fraca (I'm weak). The Hausa Moslems make the Guinea fowl cry, "Kilkal! kilkal!" (Grammar by the Rev. F. J. Schon, London, Salisbury Square, 1862). It is curious to compare the difference of ear with which nations hear the cries of animals, and form their onomatopoetic, or "bow-wow" imitations. For instance, the North Americans express by "whip-poor-will" what the Brazilians call "Joao-corta-pao." The Guinea fowl may have been the "Afraa avis;"but that was a dear luxury amongst the Romans, though the Greek meleagris was cheap. The last crotchet about it is that of an African traveller, who holds it to be the peacock of Solomon's navies, completely ignoring the absolute certainty which the South-Indian word "Tukkiim" carries with it.
The Mpongwe will not eat ape, on account of its likeness to themselves. But they greatly enjoy game; the porcupine, the ground-hog (an Echymys), the white flesh of the bush pig (Cricetomys), and the beef of the Nyare (Bos brachyceros); this is the "buffalo" or "bush-cow" of the regions south of Sierra Leone, and the empacassa of the Congo-Portuguese, whose "empacasseirs" or native archers, rural police and auxiliaries "of the second line," have as "guerra preta" (black militia) won many a victory. Their numbers in Angola have amounted to 30,000, and they aided in conquest like the Indian Sipahi (sepoy) and the Tupi of the older Brazil. Now they wear the Tanga or Pagne, a waist cloth falling to the knee, and they are armed with trade muskets and cartridge-boxes fastened to broad belts. Barbot calls the Nyare a buffalo, and tells us that it was commonly shot at Sandy Point, where in his day elephants also abounded. Captain Boteler (ii. 379) well describes a specimen, which was killed by Dr. Guland, R.N., as exactly resembling the common cow of England, excepting that its proportions are far more "elegant."
This hearty breakfast is washed down with long drinks of palm wine, and followed by sundry pipes of tobacco; after which, happy souls! all enjoy a siesta, long and deep as that of Andine Mendoza; and they "kill time" as well as they can till evening. The men assemble in the club round the Nampolo-fire, where they chat and smoke, drink and doze; those who are Agriophagi or Xylobian AEthiopians, briefly called hunters, spend their days much like the race which Byron declared
"Merely born To hunt and vote, and raise the price of corn."
The Pongo venator is up with the sun, and, if not on horseback, at least he is on the traces of game; sometimes he returns home during the hours of heat, when he knows that the beasts seek the shady shelter of the deepest forests; and, after again enjoying the "pleasures of the chase," he disposes of a heavy dinner and ends the day, sleep weighing down his eyelids and his brains singing with liquor. What he did yesterday that he does to-day, and what he does to-day that he shall do to-morrow; his intellectual life is varied only by a visit to town, where he sells his choice skins, drinks a great deal too much rum, and makes the purchases, ammunition and so forth, which are necessary for the full enjoyment of home and country life. At times also he joins a party of friends and seeks some happier hunting ground farther from his campagne.
Meanwhile the women dawdle through the day, superintending their domestic work, look after their children's and their own toilette, tend the fire, attend to the cooking, and smoke consumedly. The idle sit with the men at the doors of their huts; those industriously disposed weave mats, and, whether lazy or not, they never allow their tongues and lungs a moment's rest. The slaves, male and female, draw water, cut fuel, or go to the distant plantations for yams and bananas; whilst the youngsters romp, play and tease the village idiot—there is one in almost every settlement. Briefly, the day is spent in idleness, except, as has been said, for a short time preceding the rains.
When the sun nears the western horizon, the hunter and the slaves return home, and the housewife, who has been enjoying the "coolth" squatting on her dwarf stool at her hut-door, and puffing the preparatory pipe,—girds her loins for the evening meal, and makes every one "look alive." When the last rays are shedding their rich red glow over the tall black trees which hem in the village, all torpidity disappears from it. The fires are trimmed, and the singing and harping, which were languid during the hot hours, begin with renewed vigour. The following is a specimen of a boating-song:
(Solo.) "Come, my sweetheart!" ( Chorus.) "Haste, haste!" (Solo) 'How many things gives the white man?' (Chorus chants all that it wants.) (Solo) 'What must be done for the white man?" (Chorus improvises all his requirements) (Solo) "How many dangers for the black girl?" (Chorus) "Dangers from the black and the white man!"
The evening meal is eaten at 6 P.M. with the setting of the sun, whose regular hours contrast pleasantly with his vagaries in the northern temperates. And Hesperus brings wine as he did of old. Drinking sets in seriously after dark, and is known by the violent merriment of the men, and the no less violent quarrelling and "flyting" of the sex which delights in the "harmony of tongues." All then retire to their huts, and with chat and song, and peals of uproarious laughter and abundant horseplay, such as throwing minor articles at one another's heads, smoke and drink till 11 P.M. The scene is "Dovercourt, all speakers and no hearers." The night is still as the grave. and the mewing of a cat, if there were one, would sound like a tiger's scream.
The mornings and evenings in these plantation-villages would be delightful were it not for what the Brazilians call immundicies. Sandflies always swarm in places where underwood and tall grasses exclude the draughts, and the only remedy is clearing the land. Thus at St. Isabel or Clarence, Fernando Po, where the land-wind or the sea-breeze ever blows, the vicious little wretches are hardly known; on the forested background of mountain they are troublesome as at Nigerian Nufe. The bite burns severely, and presently the skin rises in bosses, lasting for days with a severe itching, which, if unduly resented, may end in inflammatory ulcerations—I can easily understand a man being laid up by their attacks. The animalcules act differently upon different constitutions. While mosquitoes hardly take effect, sand flies have often blinded me for hours by biting the circumorbital parts. The numbers and minuteness of this insect make it formidable. The people flap their naked shoulders with cloths or bushy twigs; Nigerian travellers have tried palm oil but with scant success, and spirits of wine applied to the skin somewhat alleviate the itching but has no prophylactic effect. Sandflies do not venture into the dark huts, and a "smudge" keeps them aloof, but the disease is more tolerable than the remedy of inflaming the eyes with acrid smoke and of sitting in a close box, by courtesy termed a room, when the fine pure air makes one pine to be beyond walls. After long endurance in hopes of becoming inoculated with the virus, I was compelled to defend myself with thick gloves, stockings and a muslin veil made fast to the hat and tucked in under the shirt. After sunset the sandflies retire, and the mosquito sounds her hideous trump; as has been said, however, Pongo-land knows how to receive her.
Return to the River.
Early on the last morning in March we roused the Kru-men; they were eager as ourselves to leave the "bush," and there was no delay in loading and the mission-boat. Forteune, Azizeh, and Asunye were there to bid me God-speed, and Hotaloya did not fail to supply a fine example of Mpongwe irresolution.
That "sweet youth" had begged hard during the last week that I would take him to Fernando Po; carpenters were wanted for her Majesty's consulate, and he seemed to jump at the monthly pay of seven dollars—a large sum in these regions. On the night before departure he had asked me for half a sovereign to leave with his wives, and he made me agree to an arrangement that they should receive two dollars per mensem. In the morning I had alluded to the natural sorrow which his better semi-halves must feel, although the absence of groaning and weeping was very suspicious, and I had asked in a friendly way, "Them woman he make bob too much?"
"Ye', sar," he replied with a full heart, "he cry too much."
When the last batch had disappeared with the last box I walked up to him, and said, "Now, Andrews, you take hat, we go Gaboon."
Hotaloya at once assumed the maudlin expression and insipid ricanement of the Hindu charged with "Sharm ki bat" (something shameful).
"Please, mas'r, I no can go—Nanny Po he be too far—I no look my fader (the villain had three), them boy he say I no look 'um again!"
The wives had won the day, and words would have been vain. He promised hard to get leave from his papa and "grand-pap," and to join me after a last farewell at the Plateau. His face gave the lie direct to his speech, and his little manoeuvre for keeping the earnest-money failed ignobly.
The swift brown stream carried us at full speed. "Captain Merrick" pointed out sundry short cuts, but my brain now refused to admit as truth a word coming from a Mpongwe. We passed some bateaux pecheurs, saw sundry shoals of fish furrowing the water, and after two hours we were bumping on the rocks outlying Mombe Creek and Nenga Oga village. The passage of the estuary was now a pleasure, and though we grounded upon the shallows of "Voileliay Bay," the Kru-men soon lifted the heavy boat; the wind was fair, the tide was ebbing, and the strong current was in our favour. We reached Glass Town before midday, and after five hours, covering some twenty-two direct geographical miles, I found myself with pleasure under the grateful shade of the Factory. It need hardly be described, as it is the usual "bungalow" of the West African shore.
Twelve days had been expended upon 120 miles, but I did not regret the loss. A beautiful bit of country had been added to my mental Pinacothek, and I had satisfied my mind to a certain extent upon that quaestio, then vexata, the "Gorilla Book." Even before my trip the ethnological part appeared to me trustworthy, and, if not original, at any rate borrowed from the best sources. My journey assured me, from the specimen narrowly scrutinized, that both country and people are on the whole correctly described. The dates, however, are all in confusion: in the preface to the second edition, "October, 1859," became "October, 1858," and we are told that the excursions were transposed for the simple purpose of taking the reader from north to south. As in the case of most African travels, when instruments are not used, the distances must be reduced: in chapter xii. the Shekyani villages are placed sixty miles due east of Sanga-Tanga; whereas the map shows twenty. Mr. W. Wimvood Reade declares that the Apingi country, the ultima Thule of the explorer, is distant from Ngumbi "four foot-days' journey;" as MM. de Compiegne and Marche have shown, the tribe in question extends far and wide. Others have asserted that seventy-five miles formed the maximum distance. But many of M. du Chaillu's disputed distances have been proved tolerably correct by MM. Serval and Griffon du Bellay, who were sent by the French government in 1862 to survey the Ogobe. A second French expedition followed shortly afterwards, under the charge of MM. Labigot and Touchard; and finally that of 1873, like all preceding it, failed to find any serious deviation from fact.
The German exploring expedition (July 25, 1873) confirms the existence of M. du Chaillu's dwarfs, the Obongo tribe, scoffed at in England because they dwell close to a fierce people of Patagonian proportions. The Germans report that they are called "Babongo," "Vambuta," and more commonly "Bari," or "Bali;" they dwell fourteen days' march from the mouth of the Luena, or River of Chinxoxo. I have not seen it remarked that these pygmies are mentioned by Andrew Battel Plinian at the end of the sixteenth century. "To the north-east of Mani Kesoch," he tells us, "are a kind of little people called Matimbas, who are no bigger than boys twelve years old, but are very thick, and live only upon flesh, which they kill in the woods with bows and darts." Of the Aykas south of the Welle River, discovered by Dr. Schweinfurth, I need hardly speak. It is not a little curious to find these confirmations of Herodotean reports about dwarfish tribes in the far interior, the Dokos and the Wabilikimo, so long current at Zanzibar Island, and so long looked upon as mere fables.
Our departure from Mbata had broken the spell, and Forteune did keep his word; I was compelled in simple justice to cry "Peccavi." On the very evening of our arrival at Glass Town the youth Kanga brought me a noble specimen of what he called a Nchigo Mpolo, sent by Forteune's bushmen; an old male with brown eyes and dark pupils. When placed in an arm-chair, he ludicrously suggested a pot-bellied and patriarchal negro considerably the worse for liquor. From crown to sole he measured 4 feet 10 3/4 inches, and from finger-tip to finger-tip 6 feet 1 inch. The girth of the head round ears and eyebrows was 1 foot 11 inches; of the chest, 3 feet 2 inches; above the hip joints, 2 feet 4 inches; of the arms below the shoulder, 2 feet 5 inches; and of the legs, 2 feet 5 inches. Evidently these are very handsome proportions, considering what he was, and there was a suggestion of ear lobe which gave his countenance a peculiarly human look. He had not undergone the inhuman Hebrew-Abyssinian operation to which M. du Chaillu's gorillas had been exposed, and the proportions rendered him exceedingly remarkable.
That interesting anthropoid's career after death was one series of misfortunes, ending with being stuffed for the British Museum. My factotum sat up half the night skinning, but it was his first coup d'essai. In a climate like the Gaboon, especially during the rains, we should have turned the pelt "hairy side in," filled it with cotton to prevent shrinking, and, after painting on arsenic, have exposed it to the sun: better still, we should have placed it on a scaffolding, like a defunct Congo-man, over a slow and smoky fire, and thus the fatty matter which abounds in the integuments would have been removed. The phalanges of the hands and feet, after being clean-scraped, were restored to their places, and wrapped with thin layers of arsenicated cotton, as is done to small animals, yet on the seventh day decomposition set in; it was found necessary to unsew the skin, and again to turn it inside out. The bones ought to have been removed, and not replaced till the coat was thoroughly dry. The skinned spoils were placed upon an ant-hill; a practice which recalls to mind the skeleton deer prepared by the emmets of the Hartz Forest, which taught Oken that the skull is(?) expanded vertebrae. We did not know that half-starved dogs and "drivers" will not respect even arsenical soap. The consequence of exposing the skeleton upon an ant-hill, where it ought to have been neatly cleaned during a night, was that the "Pariah" curs carried off sundry ribs, and the "parva magni formica laboris" took the trouble to devour the skin of a foot. Worse still: the skull, the brain, and the delicate members had been headed up in a breaker of trade rum, which was not changed till the seventh day. It was directed to an eminent member of the old Anthropological Society, and the most interesting parts arrived, I believe, soft, pulpy, and utterly useless. The subject seems to have been too sore for mentioning —at least, I never heard of it again.
The late Dr. John Edward Gray, of the British Museum, called this Nchigo Mpolo, from its bear-like masses of breast-pile, the "hairy Chimpanzee" (Troglodytes vellerosus). After my return home I paid it a visit, and could only think that the hirsute one was considerably "mutatus ab illo." The colour had changed, and the broad-chested, square-framed, pot-bellied, and portly old bully- boy of the woods had become a wretched pigeon-breasted, lean- flanked, shrunk-linibed, hungry-looking beggar. It is a lesson to fill out the skin, even with bran or straw, if there be nothing better—anything, in fact, is preferable to allowing the shrinkage which ends in this wretched caricature.
During my stay at Glass Town I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of the Rev. Messrs. Walker and Preston, of the Baraka Mission. The head-quarter station of the American Board of Foreign (Presbyterian) Missions was established on the Gaboon River in 1842 by the Rev. J. Leighton Wilson, afterwards one of the secretaries to the Society in New York. He had left the best of memories in "the River," and there were tales of his having manumitted in the Southern United States a small fortune of slaves without a shade of compulsion. His volume on West Africa, to which allusion has so often been made, contains a good bird's- eye of the inter-tropical coast, and might, with order, arrangement, and correction of a host of minor inaccuracies, become a standard work.
I have already expressed my opinion, founded upon a sufficiently long experience, that the United States missionary is by far the best man for the Western Coast, and, indeed, for dangerous tropical countries generally. Physically he is spare and hard, the nervous temperament being more strongly developed in him than in the bulbous and more bilious or sanguine European. He is better born, and blood never fails to tell. Again, he generally adopts the profession from taste, not because il faut vivre. He is better bred; he knows the negro from his childhood, and his education is more practical, more generally useful than that of his rivals. Moreover, I never yet heard him exclaim, "Capting, them heggs is 'igh!" Lastly he is more temperate and moderate in his diet: hitherto it has not been my fate to assist in carrying him to bed.
Perhaps the American missionary carries sobriety too far. In dangerous tropical regions, where there is little appetite and less nutritious diet, where exertion of mind and body easily exhaust vitality, and where "diffusible stimulants" must often take the place of solids, he dies first who drinks water. The second is the man who begins with an "eye-opener" of "brandy- pawnee," and who keeps up excitement by the same means through the day. The third is the hygienic sciolist, who drinks on principle poor "Gladstone" and thin French wines, cheap and nasty; and the survivor is the man who enjoys a quantum suff. of humming Scotch and Burton ales, sherry, Madeira, and port, with a modicum of cognac. This has been my plan in the tropics from the beginning, when it was suggested to me by the simplest exercise of the reasoning faculties. "A dozen of good port will soon set you up!" said the surgeon to me after fever. Then why not drink port before the fever?
I have said something upon this subject in "Zanzibar City, Island, and Coast" (i. p. 180), it will bear repetition. Joseph Dupuis justly remarks: "I am satisfied, from my own experience, that many fall victims from the adoption of a course of training improperly termed prudential; viz. a sudden change of diet from ship's fare to a scanty sustenance of vegetable matter (rejecting even a moderate proportion of wine), and seclusion in their apartments from the sun and atmosphere."
An immense mass of nonsense, copied in one "authority" from another, was thrown before the public by books upon diet, until the "Physiology of Common Life" (George Henry Lewes) discussed Liebig's brilliant error in considering food chemically, and not physiologically. The rest assume his classification without reserve, and work from the axiom that heat-making, carbonaceous and non-nitrogenous foods (e.g. fat and sugars), necessary to support life in the arctic and polar regions, must be exchanged for the tissue-making, plastic or nitrogenous (vegetables), as we approach the equator. They are right as far as the southern temperates, their sole field of observation; they greatly err in all except the hot, dry parts of the tropics. Why, a Hindoo will drink at a sitting a tumbler of gli (clarified butter), and the European who would train for wrestling after the fashion of Hindostan, as I attempted in my youth, on "native" sweetmeats and sugared milk, will be blind with "melancholia" in a week. The diet of the negro is the greasiest possible, witness his "palm- oil chop" and "palaver sauce;" his craving for meat, especially fat meat, is a feeling unknown to Europe. And how simple the reason. Damp heat demands almost as much carbon as damp or dry cold.
Return we to the Baraka Mission. The name is a corruption of "barracoon;" in the palmy days of the trade slave-pens occupied the ground now covered by the chapel, the schoolroom, and the dwelling-house, and extended over the site of the factory to the river-bank. The place is well chosen. Immediately beyond the shore the land swells up to a little rounded hill, clean and grassy like that about Sanga-Tanga. The soil appears poor, and yet around the mission-house there are some fine wild figs, one a huge tree, although not a score of years old; the bamboo clump is magnificent, and the cocoas, oranges, and mangoes are surrounded by thick, fragrant, and luxuriant quickset hedges of well-trimmed lime.
A few words concerning the banana of this coast, which we find so flourishing at Baraka. An immense god-send to the Gaboon, it is well known to be the most productive of all food, 100 square yards of it giving annually nearly 2,000 kilogrammes of food far more nutritious than the potato. Here it is the musa sapientum, the banana de Soa Thome, which has crossed over to the Brazil, and which is there known by its sharper leaves and fruit, softer and shorter than the indigenous growth. The plant everywhere is most vigorous in constant moist heat, the atmosphere of a conservatory, and the ground must be low and wet, but not swampy. The best way of planting the sprouts is so to dispose them that four may form the corners of a square measuring twelve feet each side; the common style is some five feet apart. The raceme, which appears about the sixth to the tenth month, will take sixty days more to ripen; good stocks produce three and more bunches a year, each weighing from twenty to eighty pounds. The stem, after fruiting, should be cut down, in order to let the others enjoy light and air, and the oftener the plants are removed to fresh ground the better.
The banana, when unripe, is white and insipid; it is then baked under ashes till it takes a golden colour, and, like a cereal, it can be eaten as bread. A little later it is boiled, and becomes a fair vegetable, tasting somewhat like chestnuts, and certainly better than carrots or turnips. Lastly, when softer than a pear, it is a fruit eaten with milk or made into beignets. I have described the plantain-cider in "Lake Regions of Central Africa" (ii. 287). The fruit contains sugar, gum, and acids (malic and gallic); the rind, which is easily detached when ripe, stains cloth with ruddy grey rusty colour, by its tannin, gallic, and acetic acids.
The Baraka Mission has had several out-stations. One was at a ruined village of Fan, which we shall presently pass on the right bank of the river. The second was at Ikoi, a hamlet distant about fifteen (not twenty-five) miles, upon a creek of the same name, which enters the Gaboon behind Point Ovindo, and almost opposite Konig Island. A third is at Anenge-nenge, vulgo Inenge-nenge,— "nenge" in Mpongwe, and anenge in Bakele, meaning island,— situated forty (not 100) miles up the main stream; here a native teacher still resides. The Baraka school now (1862) numbers thirty scholars, and there are twelve to fifteen communicants. The missionaries are our white "labourers;" but two of them, the Revs. Jacob Best and A. Bushnell, are absent in the United States for the benefit of their health.
My first visit to the Rev. William Walker made me regret my precipitate trip to Mbata: he told me what I now knew, that it was the wrong line, and that I should have run two or three days up the Rembwe, the first large influent on the southern bank of the Gaboon. He had come out to the River in 1842, and had spent twenty years of his life in Africa, with occasional furloughs home. He greatly interested me by a work which he was preparing. The Gaboon Mission had begun its studies of the many native dialects by the usual preparatory process of writing grammars and vocabularies; after this they had published sundry fragmentary translations of the Scriptures, and now they aimed at something higher. After spending years in building and decorating the porticoes of language, they were ambitious of raising the edifice to which it is only an approach; in other words, of explaining the scholarship of the tongue, the spirit of the speech.
"Language," says the lamented Dr. O.E. Vidal, then bishop designate of Sierra Leone,[FN#19] "is designed to give expression to thought. Hence, by examining the particular class of composition"—and, I may add, the grammatical and syntactical niceties characterizing that composition—"to which any given dialect has been especially devoted, we may trace the direction in which the current of thought is wont to flow amongst the tribe or nations in which it is vernacular, and so investigate the principal psychical peculiarities, if such there be, of that tribe or nation." And again he remarks: "Dr. Krap was unable to find any word expressing the idea of gratitude in the language of all the Suaheli (Wasawahili) tribes; a fact significant enough as to the total absence of the moral feeling denoted by that name." Similarly the Mpongwe cannot express our "honesty;" they must paraphrase it by "good man don't steal." In time they possibly may adopt the word bodily like pus (a cat), amog (mug), kapinde (carpenter), krus (a cross), and ilepot (pot).
Such a task is difficult as it is interesting, the main obstacle to success being the almost insuperable difficulty of throwing off European ideas and modes of thought, which life-long habit has made a second nature. Take the instance borrowed from Dr. Krap, and noticed by a hundred writers, namely, the absence of a synonym for "gratitude" amongst the people of the nearer East. I have explained the truth of the case in my "Pilgrimage," and it will bear explanation again. The Wasawahili are Moslems, and the Moslem view everywhere is that the donor's Maker, not the donor, gives the gift. The Arab therefore expresses his "Thank you!" by "Mamnun"—I am under an obligation (to your hand which has passed on the donation); he generally prefers, however, a short blessing, as "Kassir khayr' ak" (may Allah) "increase thy weal!" The Persian's "May thy shadow never be less!" simply refers to the shade which you, the towering tree, extend over him, the humble shrub.
Another instance of deduction distorted by current European ideas, is where Casalis ("Etudes sur la langue Sechuana," par Eugene Casalis, part ii. p. 84), speaking of the Sisuto proverbs, makes them display the "vestiges of that universal conscience to which the Creator has committed the guidance of every intelligent creature." Surely it is time to face the fact that conscience is a purely geographical and chronological accident. Where, may we ask, can be that innate and universal monitor in the case of a people, the Somal for instance, who rob like Spartans, holding theft a virtue; who lie like Trojans, without a vestige of appreciation for truth; and who hold the treacherous and cowardly murder of a sleeping guest to be the height of human honour? And what easier than to prove that there is no sin however infamous, no crime however abominable, which at some time or in some part of the world has been or is still held in the highest esteem? The utmost we can say is that conscience, the accident, flows directly from an essential. All races now known to the world have a something which they call right, and a something which they term wrong; the underlying instinctive idea being evidently that everything which benefits me is good, and all which harms me is evil. Their good and their evil are not those of more advanced nations; still the idea is there, and progress or tradition works it out in a thousand different ways.
My visits to Mr. Walker first gave me the idea of making the negro describe his own character in a collection of purely Hamitic proverbs and idioms. It appeared to me that, if ever a book aspires to the title of "l'Africain peint par lui-meme," it must be one in which he is the medium to his own spirit, the interpreter to his own thoughts. Hence "Wit and Wisdom from West Africa" (London, Tinsleys, 1856), which I still hold to be a step in the right direction, although critics, who possibly knew more of Cornhill than of Yoruba, assured me that it was "rather a heavy compilation." Nor can I yet see how the light fantastic toe can show its agility in the sabots of African proverbs.
Up the Gaboon River.
Detestable weather detained me long at the hospitable factory. Tornadoes were of almost daily occurrence —not pleasant with 200 barrels of gunpowder under a thatched roof; they were useful chiefly to the Mpongwe servants of the establishment. These model thieves broke open, under cover of the storms, a strong iron safe in an inner room which had been carefully closed; they stole my Mboko skin, and bottles were not safe from them even in our bedrooms.
My next step was to ascend the "Olo' Mpongwe," or Gaboon River, which Bowdich ("Sketch of Gaboon") calls Oroongo, and its main point Ohlombopolo. The object was to visit the Fan, of whose cannibalism such curious tales had been told. It was not easy to find a conveyance. The factory greatly wanted a flat-bottom iron steamer, a stern-wheeler, with sliding keel, and furnaces fit for burning half-dried wood—a craft of fourteen tons, costing perhaps L14 per ton, would be ample in point of size, and would save not a little money to the trader. I was at last fortunate in securing the "Eliza," belonging to Messrs. Hatton and Cookson. She was a fore-and-aft schooner of twenty tons, measuring 42 feet 6 inches over all and put up at Bonny Town by Captain Birkett. She had two masts, and oars in case of calms; her crew was of six hands, including one Fernando, a Congoese, who could actually box the compass. No outfit was this time necessary, beyond a letter to Mr. Tippet, who had charge of the highest establishments up stream. His business consisted chiefly of importing arms, ammunition, and beads of different sorts, especially the red porcelain, locally called Loangos.
On April 10, a little before noon, I set out, despite thunder and lightning, rain, sun, torrential showers, and the vehemently expressed distaste of my crew. The view of the right bank was no longer from afar; it differs in shape and material from the southern, but the distinction appears to me superficial, not extending to the interiors. Off Konig Island we found nine fathoms of water, and wanted them during a bad storm from the south-east; it prevented my landing and inspecting the old Dutch guns, which Bowdich says are remains of the Portuguese. Both this and Parrot Island, lying some five miles south by west, are masses of cocoas, fringed with mangroves; a great contrast with the prairillon of the neighbouring Point Ovindo. At last, worn out by a four-knot current and a squall in our teeth, we anchored in four fathoms, about five miles south-east of Konig.
From this point we could easily see the wide gape of the Rembwe, the south-eastern influent, or rather fork, of the Gaboon, which rises in the south-western versant of some meridional chain, and which I was assured can be ascended in three tides. The people told me when too late of a great cavity or sink, which they called Wonga-Wonga; Bowdich represents it to be an "uninhabited savannah of three days' extent, between Empoongwa and Adjoomba (Mayumba). I saw nothing of the glittering diamond mountains, lying eastward of Wonga-Wonga, concerning which the old traveller was compelled to admit that, "when there was no moon, a pale but distinct light was invariably reflected from a mountain in that quarter, and from no other." It has now died out—this superstition, which corresponds with the carbuncle of Hoy and others of our Scoto-Scandinavian islands.
Resuming our cruize on the next day, we passed on the right a village of "bad Bakele," which had been blown down by the French during the last year; in this little business the "king" and two lieges had been killed. The tribe is large and important, scattered over several degrees north and south of the equator, as is proved by their slaves being collected from distances of several weeks and even months. In 1854 Mr. Wilson numbered them at 100,000. According to local experts they began to press down stream about 1830, driven a tergo by their neighbours, the Mpangwe (Fan), even as they themselves are driving the Mpongwes. But they are evidently the Kaylee or Kalay of Bowdich (p. 427), whose capital, "Samashialee," was "the residence of the king, Ohmbay." He places them in their present habitat, and makes them the worst of cannibals. Whilst the "Sheekans" (Shekyani) buried their dead under the bed within the house, these detestable Kaylees ate not only their prisoners, but their defunct friends, whose bodies were "bid for directly the breath was out of them;" indeed, fathers were frequently seen to devour their own children. Bowdich evidently speaks from hearsay; but the Brazil has preserved the old traditions of cannibalism amongst the Gaboes.
The Bakele appeared to me very like the coast tribes, only somewhat lighter-coloured and wilder in look, whilst they again are darker-skinned than their eastern neighbours from the inner highlands. Their women are not so well dressed as the "ladies" of the Mpongwe, the chignon is smaller, and there are fewer brass rings. The men, who still cling to the old habit of hunting, cultivate the soil, practise the ruder mechanical arts, and trade with the usual readiness and greed; they asked us a leaf of tobacco for an egg, and four leaves for a bunch of bananas. Missionaries, who, like Messrs. Preston and Best, resided amongst them for years, have observed that, though a mild and timid people, they are ever involved in quarrels with their neighbours. I can hardly understand how they "bear some resemblance to the dwarfish Dokos of the eastern coast," seeing that the latter do not exist.
The Dikele grammar proves the language, which is most closely allied to the Benga dialect, to be one of the great South African family, variously called Kafir, because first studied amongst these people; Ethiopic (very vague), and Nilotic because its great fluvial basin is the Zambezi, not the Nile. As might be expected amongst isolated races, the tongue, though clearly related to that of the Mpongwe and the Mpangwe, has many salient points of difference; for instance, the liquid "r" is wholly wanting. According to Mr. T. Leighton Wilson, perhaps one word in two is the same, or obviously from the same root; consequently verbal resemblances are by no means striking. The orthography of the two differs materially, and in this respect Dikele more resembles the languages of the eastern coast than its western neighbour, at the same time less than the Fiote or the Congoese. It has a larger number of declensions, and its adjectives and pronouns are more flexible and complicated. On the other hand, it possesses few of the conjugations which form so conspicuous a feature in the tongues of the Lower River, and, reversing the usage of the Mpongwe, it makes very little use of the passive.
Running the gauntlet of cheer and chaff from the noisy inmates of the many Bakele villages, and worried by mangrove-flies, we held our way up the muddy and rapidly narrowing stream, whose avenues of rhizophoras and palms acted as wind-sails; when the breeze failed the sensation was stifling. Lyamba (Cannabis sativa) grew in patches upon the banks, now apparently wild, like that about Lagos and Badagry. Not till evening did the tide serve, enabling us to send our papers for visa on board the guard-ship "L'Oise," where a party of young Frenchmen were preparing for la chasse. A little higher up stream are two islets, Nenge Mbwendi, so called from its owner, and Nenge Sika, or the Isle of Gold. The Mpongwe all know this name for the precious metal, and the Bakele appear to ignore it: curious to say, it is the Fante and Mandenga word, probably derived from the Arabic Sikkah, which gave rise to the Italian Zecca (mint) and Zecchino. It may have been introduced by the Laptots or Lascar sailors of the Senegal. M. du Chaillu ("Second Expedition," chap. iii.) mentions "the island Nengue Shika" on the Lower Fernao Vaz River; and Bowdich turns the two into Ompoongu and Soombea. The third is Anenga-nenga, not Ninga- ninga, about one mile long from north to south, and well wooded with bush and palms; here the Gaboon Mission has a neat building on piles. The senior native employe was at Glass Town, and his junior, a youth about nineteen, stood a la Napoleon in the doorway, evidently monarch of all he surveyed. I found there one of the Ndiva, the old tribe of Pongo-land, which by this time has probably died out. We anchored off Wosuku, a village of some fifty houses, forming one main street, disposed north-east— south-west, or nearly at right angles with the river. The entrance was guarded by a sentinel and gun, and the "king," Imondo, lay right royally on his belly. A fine plantation of bananas divides the settlement, and the background is dense bush, in which they say "Nyare" and deer abound. The Bakele supply sheep and fowls to the Plateau, and their main industry consists in dressing plantain-fibre for thread and nets.
We now reach the confluence of the Nkonio or north-eastern, with the Mbokwe, or eastern branch, which anastomose to form the Gaboon; the latter, being apparently the larger of the two, preserves the title Mpolo. Both still require exploration; my friend M. Braouezzec, Lieutenant de Vaisseau, who made charts of the lower bed, utterly failed to make the sources; and the Rev. Mr. Preston, who lived seven months in the interior, could not ascend far. Mr. W. Winwood Reade reached in May, 1862, the rapids of the Nkomo River, but sore feet prevented his climbing the mountain, which he estimates at 2,000 feet, or of tracing the stream to its fountain. Mr. R.B.N. Walker also ascended the Nkomo for some thirty miles, and found it still a large bed with two fathoms of water in the Cacimbo or "Middle dries." In M. du Chaillu's map the Upper Nkomo is a dotted line; according to all authorities, upon the higher and the lower river his direction is too far to the north-east. The good Tippet declares that he once canoed three miles up the Mbokwe, and then marched eastward for five days, covering a hundred miles—which is impossible. He found a line of detached hills, and an elevation where the dews were exceedingly cold; looking towards the utterly unknown Orient, he could see nothing but a thick forest unbroken by streams. He heard from the country people traditions of a Great Lake, which may be that placed by Tuckey in north latitude 2deg.-3deg.. The best seasons for travel are said to be March and November, before and after the rains, which swell the water twelve feet.
About Anenge-nenge we could easily see the sub-ranges of the great Eastern Ghats, some twenty miles to the north-east. Here the shallows and the banks projecting from different points made the channel dangerous. Entering the Mbokwe branch we were compelled to use sweeps, or the schooner would have been dashed against the sides; as we learned by the trees, the tides raise the surface two to three feet high. After the third hour we passed the "Fan Komba Vina," or village of King Vina. It stood in a pretty little bay, and the river, some 400 feet broad, was fronted, as is often the case, by the "palaver tree," a glorious Ceiba or bombax. All the people flocked out to enjoy the sight, and my unpractised eye could not distinguish them from Bakele. Above it, also on the right bank, is the now-deserted site where Messrs. Adams and Preston nearly came to grief for bewitching the population with "bad book."
Five slow hours from Anenge-nenge finally placed us, about sunset, at Mayyan, or Tippet Town. The depot lies a little above the confluence of the Mbokwe and the Londo, or south-eastern fork of the latter. A drunken pilot and a dark and moonless night, with the tide still running in, delayed us till I could hardly distinguish the sable human masses which gathered upon the Styx- like stream to welcome their new Matyem—merchant or white man. Before landing, all the guns on board the steamer were double- loaded and discharged, at the instance of our host, who very properly insisted upon this act of African courtesy—"it would be shame not to fire salute." We were answered by the loudest howls, and by the town muskets, which must have carried the charges of old chambers. Mr. Tippet, an intelligent coloured man from the States, who has been living thirteen years on the Gaboon, since the age of fourteen, and who acts as native trader to Mr. R.B.N. Walker, for ivory, ebony, rubber, and other produce, escorted me to his extensive establishment. At length I am amongst the man- eaters.
A Specimen Day with the Fan Cannibals.
At 5 a.m. on the next day, after a night with the gnats and rats, I sallied forth in the thick "smokes," and cast a nearer look upon my cannibal hosts. And first of the tribal name. The Mpongwe call their wild neighbours Mpangwe; the Europeans affect such corruptions as Fanwe, Panwe, the F and P being very similar, Phaouin and Paouen (Pawen). They call themselves Fan, meaning "man;" in the plural, Bafan. The n is highly nasalized: the missionaries proposed to express it by "nh" which, however, wrongly conveys the idea of aspiration; and "Fan," pronounced after the English fashion, would be unintelligible to them.
The village contains some 400 souls, and throughout the country the maximum would be about 500 spears, or 4,000 of both sexes, whilst the minimum is a couple of dozen. It is pleasantly situated on the left bank of the Mbokwe River, a streamlet here some 50 feet broad, whose water rises 6 feet 10 inches under the tidal influence. The single street, about half a mile long, is formed by two parallel rows of huts, looking upon a cleared line of yellow clay, and provided with three larger sheds—the palaver houses. The Fan houses resemble those of the Mpongwe; in fact, the tribes, beginning at the Camarones River, build in much the same style, but all are by no means so neat and clean as those of the seaboard. A thatch, whose projecting eaves form deep shady verandahs, surmounts walls of split bamboo, supported by raised platforms of tamped earth, windows being absent and chimneys unknown; the ceiling is painted like coal tar by oily soot, and two opposite doors make the home a passage through which no one hesitates to pass. The walls are garnished with weapons and nets, both skilfully made, and the furniture consists of cooking utensils and water-pots, mats for bedding, logs of wood for seats and pillows, and lumps of timber or dwarf stools, neatly cut out of a single block. Their only night-light—that grand test of civilization—is the Mpongwe torch, a yard of hard, black gum, mixed with and tightly bound up in dried banana leaves. According to some it is acacia; others declare it to be the "blood" of the bombax, which is also used for caulking. They gather it in the forest, especially during the dries, collect it in hollow bamboos, and prepare it by heating in the neptune, or brass pan. The odour is pleasant, but fragments of falling fire endanger the hut, and trimming must be repeated every ten minutes. The sexes are not separated; as throughout intertropical Africa, the men are fond of idling at their clubs; and the women, who must fetch water and cook, clean the hut, and nurse the baby, are seldom allowed to waste time. They are naturally a more prolific race than those inhabiting the damp, unhealthy lowlands, and the number of the children contrasts pleasantly with the "bleak house" of the debauched Mpongwe, who puts no question when his wife presents him with issue.
In the cool of the morning Fitevanga, king of Mayyan, lectured me upon the short and simple annals of the Fan. In 1842 the first stragglers who had crossed the Sierra del Crystal are said to have been seen upon the head waters of the Gaboon. I cannot, however, but suspect that they are the "Paamways" of whom Bowdich ("Sketch of Gaboon," p. 429) wrote in the beginning of the century, "All the natives on this route are said to be cannibals, the Paamways not so voraciously as the others, because they cultivate a large breed of dogs for their eating." Mr. W. Winwood Reade suspects them to be an offshoot of the great Fulah race, and there is nothing in point of dialect to disprove what we must at present consider a pure conjecture. "The Fulah pronouns have striking analogies with those of the Yoruba, Accra, Ashantee, and Timmanee, and even of the great Kaffir class of dialects, which reaches from the equator to the Cape," wrote the late learned E. Norris, in his "Introduction to the Grammar of the Fulah Language" (London: Harrison, 1854).
According to the people of the upper river the Fan were expelled by the Bati or Batti—not "Bari" as it has been written-from their ancient seats; and they are still pushing them seawards. The bushmen are said to live seven to ten short marches (seventy to a hundred miles) to the east, and are described by Mr. Tippet, whom they have visited, as a fine, tall, slender, and light- skinned people, who dress like the Fan, but without so much clothing, and who sharped the teeth of both sexes. Dr. Barth heard of the Bati, and Herr Petermann's map describes them[FN#20] as "Pagans, reported to be of a white colour, and of beautiful shape, to live in houses made of clay, to wear cloth of their own making, and to hold a country from which a mountain is visible to the south-west, and close to the sea." The range in question may be the Long Qua (Kwa), which continues the Camarones block to the north-east, and the Batis may have passed south-westward from Southern Adamawa.
The Fan were accompanied in their seaward movement by the Osheba or 'Sheba, the Moshebo and Moshobo of M. du Chaillu's map. They are said to be a tribe of kindred blood and warlike tastes, speaking a remarkably guttural tongue, but intelligible to the Mpangwe. They too were doubtless pressed forward by the Inner Bati, who are.also affected by the Okana, the Yefa, and the Sensoba. The latter are the innermost known to my negro informants, and their sheep and goats have found their way to the Gaboon: they are doughty elephant-hunters, and they attack the Njina, although they have no fire-arms. The Mpangwe deride the savagery of these races, who have never heard of a man riding a horse or an ass, which the Mpongwes call Cavala and Buro burro). The names of these three races, which are described as brave, warlike, and hospitable to strangers, will not be found on any map; indeed the regions east of the Gaboon belong to the great white blot of inter-tropical Africa, extending from north latitude 7 degrees to south latitude 5 degrees. Major de Ruvignes heard also of a tribe called Lachaize (Osheba?) which excels the Fan in strength and courage as much as the latter do the coast tribes: a detachment of them had settled near one of the chief Mpangwe towns, "Mboma." Some days after his arrival he saw several of these people, and describes them as giants, compared with the negro races to which his eye was accustomed. The general stature varied from six feet to six feet four inches; their complexion was a light cafe au lait; their hair was ornamented with cowries, strung so thickly as to suggest a skull-cup, whilst long streamers of elephants' tails, threaded with the Cypraea and brass rings, hung down from the head behind the ears, covering the nape of the neck. All these, we may observe, are Congo customs. In their manufacture of iron, dug by themselves, they resemble the cannibals.
The Fan have now lodged themselves amongst the less warlike, maritime, and sub-maritime tribes, as the (Ashantis) Asiante lately did in Fante-land; now they visit the factories on the estuary, and wander as far as the Ogobe. In course of time, they will infallibly "eat up" the Bakele, as the latter are eating up the Mpongwe and Shekyani. They have their own names for neighbouring tribes: the Mpongwe, according to Bowdich, called the Shekyani, and the inner tribes "Boolas, a synonym of Dunko in Ashantee;" hence, probably, the "Bulous" of Mr. Hutchinson (p. 253), "a tribe on the Guergay Creek, who speak a different language from the Mpongwes." The Fan call the Mpongwes, Bayok; the Bakele, Ngon; the Shekyani, Besek; and the Gaboon River, Aboka. The sub-tribes of cannibals, living near my line of march, were named to me as follows:—1. The Lala (Oshebas?), whose chief settlement, Sankwi, is up the Mbokwe River; 2. their neighbours, the Esanvima; 3. the Sanikiya, a bush tribe; 4. the Sakula, near Mayyan; 5. the Esoba, about Fakanjok; 6. the Esonzel of the Ute, or Auta village; 7. the Okola, whose chief settlement is Esamasi; and 8. the Ashemvon, with Asya for a capital.
From M. du Chaillu's illustrations (pp. 74, 77) I fully expected to see a large-limbed, black-skinned, and ferocious-looking race, with huge mustachios and plaited beards. A finely made, light- coloured people, of regular features and decidedly mild aspect, met my sight.
The complexion is, as a rule, chocolate, the distinctive colour of the African mountaineer and of the inner tribes; there are dark men, as there would be in England, but the very black are of servile origin. Few had any signs of skin-disease; I saw only one hand spotted with white, like the incipient Morphetico (leper) of the Brazil. Many, if bleached, might pass for Europeans, so "Caucasian" are their features; few are negro in type as the Mpongwe, and none are purely "nigger" like the blacks of maritime Guinea and the lower Congoese. And they bear the aspect of a people fresh from the bush, the backwoods; their teeth are pointed, and there is generally a look of grotesqueness and surprise. When I drank tea, they asked what was the good of putting sugar in tobacco water. The hair is not kinky, peppercorn-like, and crisply woolly, like that of the Coast tribes; in men, as well as in women, it falls in a thick curtain, nearly to the shoulders, and it is finer than the usual elliptical fuzz. The variety of their perruquerie can be rivalled only by that of the dress and ornament. The males affect plaits, knobs, and horns, stiff twists and upright tufts, suddenly projecting some two inches from the scalp; and, that analogies with Europe might not be wanting, one gentleman wore a queue, zopf, or pigtail, bound at the shoulders, not by a ribbon, but by the neck of a claret bottle. Other heads are adorned with single feathers, or bunches and circles of plumes, especially the red tail-plumes of the parrot and the crimson coat of the Touraco (Corythrix), an African jay; these blood-coloured spoils are a sign of war. The Brazilian traveller will be surprised to find the coronals of feathers, the Kennitare (Acangatara) of the Tupi- Guarani race, which one always associates with the New World. The skull-caps of plaited and blackened palm leaf, though common in the interior, are here rare; an imitation is produced by tressing the hair longitudinally from occiput to sinciput, making the head a system of ridges, divided by scalp-lines, and a fan-shaped tuft of scarlet-stained palm frond surmounts the poll. I noticed a fashion of crinal decoration quite new to me.
A few hairs, either from the temples, the sides or the back of the head, are lengthened with tree-fibres, and threaded with red and white pound-beads, so called by Europeans because the lb. fetches a dollar. These decorations fall upon the breast or back; the same is done to the thin beard, which sprouts tufty from both rami of the chin, as in the purely nervous temperament of Europe; and doubtless the mustachios, if the latter were not mostly wanting, would be similarly treated. Whatever absurdity in hair may be demanded by the trichotomists and philopogons of Europe, I can at once supply it to any extent from Africa—gratis. Gentlemen remarkable by a raie, which as in the Scotch terrier begins above the eyes and runs down the back, should be grateful to me for this sporting offer.
Nothing simpler than the Fan toilette. Thongs and plaits of goat, wild cat, or leopard skin gird the waist, and cloth, which is rare, is supplied by the spoils of the black monkey or some other "beef." The main part of the national costume, and certainly the most remarkable, is a fan of palm frond redolent of grease and ruddled with ochre, thrust through the waist belt; while new and stiff the upper half stands bolt upright and depends only when old. It suggests the "Enduap" (rondache) of ostrich-plumes worn by the Tupi-Guarani barbarians of the Brazil, the bunchy caudal appendages which made the missionaries compare them with pigeons. The fore part of the body is here decked with a similar fan, the outspread portion worn the wrong way, like that behind. The ornaments are seed-beads, green or white, and Loangos (red porcelain). The "bunch" here contains 100 to 120 strings, and up country 200, worth one dollar; each will weigh from one to three, and a wealthy Fan may carry fifteen to forty-five pounds. The seed-bead was till lately unknown; fifteen to twenty strings make the "bunch." There is not much tattooing amongst the men, except on the shoulders, whilst the women prefer the stomach; the gandin, however, disfigures himself with powdered cam-wood, mixed with butter-nut, grease, or palm oil—a custom evidently derived from the coast-tribes. Each has his "Ndese," garters and armlets of plaited palm fibre, and tightened by little cross-bars of brass; they are the "Hibas" which the Bedawin wear under their lower articulations as preservatives against cramp. Lastly, a Fetish horn hangs from the breast, and heavy copper rings encumber the wrists and ankles. Though unskilful in managing canoes—an art to be learned, like riding and dancing, only in childhood—many villagers affect to walk about with a paddle, like the semi-aquatic Kru-men. Up country it is said they make rafts which are towed across the stream by ropes, when the swiftness of the current demands a ferry. The women are still afraid of the canoe.
All adult males carry arms, and would be held womanish if they were seen unweaponed. These are generally battle-axes, spears cruelly and fantastically jagged, hooked and barbed, and curious leaf-shaped knives of archaic aspect; some of the latter have blades broader than they are long, a shape also preserved by the Mpongwe. The sheaths of fibre or leather are elaborately decorated, and it is chic for the scabbard to fit so tight that the weapon cannot be drawn for five minutes; I have seen the same amongst the Somal. There are some trade-muskets, but the "hot- mouthed weapon" has not become the national weapon of the Fan. Bows and arrows are unknown; the Nayin or cross-bow peculiar to this people, and probably a native invention, not borrowed, as might be supposed, from Europe, is carried only when hunting or fighting: a specimen was exhibited in London with the gorillas. The people are said sometimes to bend it with the foot or feet like the Tupi Guaranis, the Jivaros, and other South Americans. Suffice it to remark of this weapon, with which, by the by, I never saw a decent shot made, that the detente is simple and ingenious, and that the "Ebe" or dwarf bolt is always poisoned with the boiled root of a wild shrub. It is believed that a graze is fatal, and that the death is exceedingly painful: I doubt both assertions. Most men also carry a pliable basket full of bamboo caltrops, thin splints, pointed and poisoned. Placed upon the path of a bare-footed enemy, this rude contrivance, combined with the scratching of the thorns, and the gashing cuts of the grass, must somewhat discourage pursuit. The shields of elephant hide are large, square, and ponderous. The "terrible war-axe" is the usual poor little tomahawk, more like a toy than a tool.
After a bathe in the muddy Mbokwe, I returned to the village, and found it in a state of ferment. The Fan, like all inner African tribes, with whom fighting is our fox-hunting, live in a chronic state of ten days' war, and can never hold themselves safe; this is the case especially where the slave trade has never been heard of. Similarly the Ghazwah ("Razzia") of the Bedawin is for plunder, not for captives. Surprises are rare, because they will not march in the dark. Battles are not bloody; after two or three warriors have fallen their corpses are dragged away to be devoured, their friends save themselves by flight, and the weaker side secures peace by paying sheep and goats. On this occasion the sister of a young "brave" had just now been killed and "chopped" by the king of Sankwi, a neighbouring settlement of Oshebas, and the bereaved brother was urging his comrades with vociferous speeches to "up and arm." Usually when a man wants "war," he rushes naked through his own village, cursing it as he goes. Moreover, during the last war Mayyan lost five men to three of the enemy; which is not fair, said the women, who appeared most eager for the fray. All the youths seized their weapons; the huge war-drums, the hollowed bole of a tree fringed with Nyare hide, was set up in the middle of the street; preparations for the week of singing and dancing which precedes a campaign were already in hand, and one war-man gave earnest of blood-shed by spearing a goat the property of Mr. Tippet. It being our interest that the peace should be kept till after my proposed trip into the interior, I repaired to the palaver-house and lent weight to the advice of my host, who urged the heroes to collect ivory, ebony, and rubber, and not to fight till his stores were filled. We concluded by carrying off the goat. After great excitement the warriors subsided to a calm; it was broken, however, two days afterwards by the murder of a villager, the suspected lover of a woman whose house was higher up the Mbokwe River; he went to visit her, and was incontinently speared in the breast by the "injured husband." If he die and no fine be paid, there will be another "war."