Introduction etc. | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25 | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30 | Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Appendices etc.
History Home Page | Site Index | Electronic texts index
Chapter 27. Low Hills -- Black Soldier-Ants; their Cannibalism -- The Plasterer and its Chloroform -- White Ants; their Usefulness -- Mutokwane-smoking; its Effects -- Border Territory -- Healthy Table-lands -- Geological Formation -- Cicadae -- Trees -- Flowers -- River Kalomo -- Physical Conformation of Country -- Ridges, sanatoria -- A wounded Buffalo assisted -- Buffalo-bird -- Rhinoceros-bird -- Leaders of Herds -- The Honey-guide -- The White Mountain -- Mozuma River -- Sebituane's old Home -- Hostile Village -- Prophetic Phrensy -- Food of the Elephant -- Ant-hills -- Friendly Batoka -- Clothing despised -- Method of Salutation -- Wild Fruits -- The Captive released -- Longings for Peace -- Pingola's Conquests -- The Village of Monze -- Aspect of the Country -- Visit from the Chief Monze and his Wife -- Central healthy Locations -- Friendly Feelings of the People in reference to a white Resident -- Fertility of the Soil -- Bashukulompo Mode of dressing their Hair -- Gratitude of the Prisoner we released -- Kindness and Remarks of Monze's Sister -- Dip of the Rocks -- Vegetation -- Generosity of the Inhabitants -- Their Anxiety for Medicine -- Hooping-cough -- Birds and Rain. NOVEMBER 27TH. Still at Marimba's. In the adjacent country palms abound, but none of that species which yields the oil; indeed, that is met with only near the coast. There are numbers of flowers and bulbs just shooting up from the soil. The surface is rough, and broken into gullies; and, though the country is parched, it has not that appearance, so many trees having put forth their fresh green leaves at the time the rains ought to have come. Among the rest stands the mola, with its dark brownish-green color and spreading oak-like form. In the distance there are ranges of low hills. On the north we have one called Kanjele, and to the east that of Kaonka, to which we proceed to-morrow. We have made a considerable detour to the north, both on account of our wish to avoid the tsetse and to visit the people. Those of Kaonka are the last Batoka we shall meet, in friendship with the Makololo. Walking down to the forest, after telling these poor people, for the first time in their lives, that the Son of God had so loved them as to come down from heaven to save them, I observed many regiments of black soldier-ants returning from their marauding expeditions. These I have often noticed before in different parts of the country; and as we had, even at Kolobeng, an opportunity of observing their habits, I may give a short account of them here. They are black, with a slight tinge of gray, about half an inch in length, and on the line of march appear three or four abreast; when disturbed, they utter a distinct hissing or chirping sound. They follow a few leaders who never carry any thing, and they seem to be guided by a scent left on the path by the leaders; for, happening once to throw the water from my basin behind a bush where I was dressing, it lighted on the path by which a regiment had passed before I began my toilette, and when they returned they were totally at a loss to find the way home, though they continued searching for it nearly half an hour. It was found only by one making a long circuit round the wetted spot. The scent may have indicated also the propriety of their going in one direction only. If a handful of earth is thrown on the path at the middle of the regiment, either on its way home or abroad, those behind it are completely at a loss as to their farther progress. Whatever it may be that guides them, they seem only to know that they are not to return, for they come up to the handful of earth, but will not cross it, though not a quarter of an inch high. They wheel round and regain their path again, but never think of retreating to the nest, or to the place where they have been stealing. After a quarter of an hour's confusion and hissing, one may make a circuit of a foot round the earth, and soon all follow in that roundabout way. When on their way to attack the abode of the white ants, the latter may be observed rushing about in a state of great perturbation. The black leaders, distinguished from the rest by their greater size, especially in the region of the sting, then seize the white ants one by one, and inflict a sting, which seems to inject a portion of fluid similar in effect to chloroform, as it renders them insensible, but not dead, and only able to move one or two front legs. As the leaders toss them on one side, the rank and file seize them and carry them off. One morning I saw a party going forth on what has been supposed to be a slave-hunting expedition. They came to a stick, which, being inclosed in a white-ant gallery, I knew contained numbers of this insect; but I was surprised to see the black soldiers passing without touching it. I lifted up the stick and broke a portion of the gallery, and then laid it across the path in the middle of the black regiment. The white ants, when uncovered, scampered about with great celerity, hiding themselves under the leaves, but attracted little attention from the black marauders till one of the leaders caught them, and, applying his sting, laid them in an instant on one side in a state of coma; the others then promptly seized them and rushed off. On first observing these marauding insects at Kolobeng, I had the idea, imbibed from a work of no less authority than Brougham's Paley, that they seized the white ants in order to make them slaves; but, having rescued a number of captives, I placed them aside, and found that they never recovered from the state of insensibility into which they had been thrown by the leaders. I supposed then that the insensibility had been caused by the soldiers holding the necks of the white ants too tightly with their mandibles, as that is the way they seize them; but even the pupae which I took from the soldier-ants, though placed in a favorable temperature, never became developed. In addition to this, if any one examines the orifice by which the black ant enters his barracks, he will always find a little heap of hard heads and legs of white ants, showing that these black ruffians are a grade lower than slave-stealers, being actually cannibals. Elsewhere I have seen a body of them removing their eggs from a place in which they were likely to be flooded by the rains; I calculated their numbers to be 1260; they carried their eggs a certain distance, then laid them down, when others took them and carried them farther on. Every ant in the colony seemed to be employed in this laborious occupation, yet there was not a white slave-ant among them. One cold morning I observed a band of another species of black ant returning each with a captive; there could be no doubt of their cannibal propensities, for the "brutal soldiery" had already deprived the white ants of their legs. The fluid in the stings of this species is of an intensely acid taste. I had often noticed the stupefaction produced by the injection of a fluid from the sting of certain insects before. It is particularly observable in a hymenopterous insect called the "plasterer" (`Pelopaeus Eckloni'), which in his habits resembles somewhat the mason-bee. It is about an inch and a quarter in length, jet black in color, and may be observed coming into houses, carrying in its fore legs a pellet of soft plaster about the size of a pea. When it has fixed upon a convenient spot for its dwelling, it forms a cell about the same length as its body, plastering the walls so as to be quite thin and smooth inside. When this is finished, all except a round hole, it brings seven or eight caterpillars or spiders, each of which is rendered insensible, but not killed, by the fluid from its sting. These it deposits in the cell, and then one of its own larvae, which, as it grows, finds food quite fresh. The insects are in a state of coma, but the presence of vitality prevents putridity, or that drying up which would otherwise take place in this climate. By the time the young insect is full grown and its wings completely developed, the food is done. It then pierces the wall of its cell at the former door, or place last filled up by its parent, flies off, and begins life for itself. The plasterer is a most useful insect, as it acts as a check on the inordinate increase of caterpillars and spiders. It may often be seen with a caterpillar or even a cricket much larger than itself, but they lie perfectly still after the injection of chloroform, and the plasterer, placing a row of legs on each side of the body, uses both legs and wings in trailing the victim along. The fluid in each case is, I suppose, designed to cause insensibility, and likewise act as an antiseptic, the death of the victims being without pain. Without these black soldier-ants the country would be overrun by the white ants; they are so extremely prolific, and nothing can exceed the energy with which they work. They perform a most important part in the economy of nature by burying vegetable matter as quickly beneath the soil as the ferocious red ant does dead animal substances. The white ant keeps generally out of sight, and works under galleries constructed by night to screen them from the observation of birds. At some given signal, however, I never could ascertain what, they rush out by hundreds, and the sound of their mandibles cutting grass into lengths may be heard like a gentle wind murmuring through the leaves of the trees. They drag these pieces to the doors of their abodes, and after some hours' toil leave off work, and many of the bits of grass may be seen collected around the orifice. They continue out of sight for perhaps a month, but they are never idle. On one occasion, a good bundle of grass was laid down for my bed on a spot which was quite smooth and destitute of plants. The ants at once sounded the call to a good supply of grass. I heard them incessantly nibbling and carrying away all that night; and they continued all next day (Sunday), and all that night too, with unabated energy. They had thus been thirty-six hours at it, and seemed as fresh as ever. In some situations, if we remained a day, they devoured the grass beneath my mat, and would have eaten that too had we not laid down more grass. At some of their operations they beat time in a curious manner. Hundreds of them are engaged in building a large tube, and they wish to beat it smooth. At a signal, they all give three or four energetic beats on the plaster in unison. It produces a sound like the dropping of rain off a bush when touched. These insects are the chief agents employed in forming a fertile soil. But for their labors, the tropical forests, bad as they are now with fallen trees, would be a thousand times worse. They would be impassable on account of the heaps of dead vegetation lying on the surface, and emitting worse effluvia than the comparatively small unburied collections do now. When one looks at the wonderful adaptations throughout creation, and the varied operations carried on with such wisdom and skill, the idea of second causes looks clumsy. We are viewing the direct handiwork of Him who is the one and only Power in the universe; wonderful in counsel; in whom we all live, and move, and have our being. The Batoka of these parts are very degraded in their appearance, and are not likely to improve, either physically or mentally, while so much addicted to smoking the mutokwane (`Cannabis sativa'). They like its narcotic effects, though the violent fit of coughing which follows a couple of puffs of smoke appears distressing, and causes a feeling of disgust in the spectator. This is not diminished on seeing the usual practice of taking a mouthful of water, and squirting it out together with the smoke, then uttering a string of half-incoherent sentences, usually in self-praise. This pernicious weed is extensively used in all the tribes of the interior. It causes a species of phrensy, and Sebituane's soldiers, on coming in sight of their enemies, sat down and smoked it, in order that they might make an effective onslaught. I was unable to prevail on Sekeletu and the young Makololo to forego its use, although they can not point to an old man in the tribe who has been addicted to this indulgence. I believe it was the proximate cause of Sebituane's last illness, for it sometimes occasions pneumonia. Never having tried it, I can not describe the pleasurable effects it is said to produce, but the hashish in use among the Turks is simply an extract of the same plant, and that, like opium, produces different effects on different individuals. Some view every thing as if looking in through the wide end of a telescope, and others, in passing over a straw, lift up their feet as if about to cross the trunk of a tree. The Portuguese in Angola have such a belief in its deleterious effects that the use of it by a slave is considered a crime. NOVEMBER 28TH. The inhabitants of the last of Kaonka's villages complained of being plundered by the independent Batoka. The tribes in front of this are regarded by the Makololo as in a state of rebellion. I promised to speak to the rebels on the subject, and enjoined on Kaonka the duty of giving them no offense. According to Sekeletu's order, Kaonka gave us the tribute of maize-corn and ground-nuts, which would otherwise have gone to Linyanti. This had been done at every village, and we thereby saved the people the trouble of a journey to the capital. My own Batoka had brought away such loads of provisions from their homes that we were in no want of food. After leaving Kaonka we traveled over an uninhabited, gently undulating, and most beautiful district, the border territory between those who accept and those who reject the sway of the Makololo. The face of the country appears as if in long waves, running north and south. There are no rivers, though water stands in pools in the hollows. We were now come into the country which my people all magnify as a perfect paradise. Sebituane was driven from it by the Matebele. It suited him exactly for cattle, corn, and health. The soil is dry, and often a reddish sand; there are few trees, but fine large shady ones stand dotted here and there over the country where towns formerly stood. One of the fig family I measured, and found to be forty feet in circumference; the heart had been burned out, and some one had made a lodging in it, for we saw the remains of a bed and a fire. The sight of the open country, with the increased altitude we were attaining, was most refreshing to the spirits. Large game abound. We see in the distance buffaloes, elands, hartebeest, gnus, and elephants, all very tame, as no one disturbs them. Lions, which always accompany other large animals, roared about us, but, as it was moonlight, there was no danger. In the evening, while standing on a mass of granite, one began to roar at me, though it was still light. The temperature was pleasant, as the rains, though not universal, had fallen in many places. It was very cloudy, preventing observations. The temperature at 6 A.M. was 70 Deg., at midday 90 Deg., in the evening 84 Deg. This is very pleasant on the high lands, with but little moisture in the air. The different rocks to the westward of Kaonka's, talcose gneiss and white mica schist, generally dip toward the west, but at Kaonka's, large rounded masses of granite, containing black mica, began to appear. The outer rind of it inclines to peel off, and large crystals project on the exposed surface. In passing through some parts where a good shower of rain has fallen, the stridulous piercing notes of the cicadae are perfectly deafening; a drab-colored cricket joins the chorus with a sharp sound, which has as little modulation as the drone of a Scottish bagpipe. I could not conceive how so small a thing could raise such a sound; it seemed to make the ground over it thrill. When cicadae, crickets, and frogs unite, their music may be heard at the distance of a quarter of a mile. A tree attracted my attention as new, the leaves being like those of an acacia, but the ends of the branches from which they grew resembled closely oblong fir-cones. The corn-poppy was abundant, and many of the trees, flowering bulbs, and plants were identical with those in Pungo Andongo. A flower as white as the snowdrop now begins to appear, and farther on it spots the whole sward with its beautiful pure white. A fresh crop appears every morning, and if the day is cloudy they do not expand till the afternoon. In an hour or so they droop and die. They are named by the natives, from their shape, "Tlaku ea pitse", hoof of zebra. I carried several of the somewhat bulbous roots of this pretty flower till I reached the Mauritius. On the 30th we crossed the River Kalomo, which is about 50 yards broad, and is the only stream that never dries up on this ridge. The current is rapid, and its course is toward the south, as it joins the Zambesi at some distance below the falls. The Unguesi and Lekone, with their feeders, flow westward, this river to the south, and all those to which we are about to come take an easterly direction. We were thus at the apex of the ridge, and found that, as water boiled at 202 Deg., our altitude above the level of the sea was over 5000 feet. Here the granite crops out again in great rounded masses which change the dip of the gneiss and mica schist rocks from the westward to the eastward. In crossing the western ridge I mentioned the clay shale or keele formation, a section of which we have in the valley of the Quango: the strata there lie nearly horizontal, but on this ridge the granite seems to have been the active agent of elevation, for the rocks, both on its east and west, abut against it. Both eastern and western ridges are known to be comparatively salubrious, and in this respect, as well as in the general aspect of the country, they resemble that most healthy of all healthy climates, the interior of South Africa, near and adjacent to the Desert. This ridge has neither fountain nor marsh upon it, and east of the Kalomo we look upon treeless undulating plains covered with short grass. From a point somewhat near to the great falls, this ridge or oblong mound trends away to the northeast, and there treeless elevated plains again appear. Then again the ridge is said to bend away from the falls to the southeast, the Mashona country, or rather their mountains, appearing, according to Mr. Moffat, about four days east of Matlokotloko, the present residence of Mosilikatse. In reference to this ridge he makes the interesting remark, "I observed a number of the Angora goat, most of them being white; and their long soft hair, covering their entire bodies to the ground, made them look like animals moving along without feet."* -- * Moffat's "Visit to Mosilikatse". -- Royal Geographical Society's Journal, vol. xxvi., p. 96. -- It is impossible to say how much farther to the north these subtending ridges may stretch. There is reason to believe that, though the same general form of country obtains, they are not flanked by abrupt hills between the latitude 12 Deg. south and the equator. The inquiry is worthy the attention of travelers. As they are known to be favorable to health, the Makololo, who have been nearly all cut off by fevers in the valley, declaring that here they never had a headache, they may even be recommended as a sanatorium for those whose enterprise leads them into Africa, either for the advancement of scientific knowledge, or for the purposes of trade or benevolence. In the case of the eastern ridge, we have water carriage, with only one short rapid as an obstruction, right up to its base; and if a quick passage can be effected during the healthy part of the year, there would be no danger of loss of health during a long stay on these high lands afterward. How much farther do these high ridges extend? The eastern one seems to bend in considerably toward the great falls; and the strike of the rocks indicating that, farther to the N.N.E. than my investigations extend, it may not, at a few degrees of latitude beyond, be more than 300 or 350 miles from the coast. They at least merit inquiry, for they afford a prospect to Europeans of situations superior in point of salubrity to any of those on the coast; and so on the western side of the continent; for it is a fact that many parts in the interior of Angola, which were formerly thought to be unhealthy on account of their distance inland, have been found, as population advanced, to be the most healthy spots in the country. Did the great Niger expedition turn back when near such a desirable position for its stricken and prostrate members? The distances from top to top of the ridges may be about 10 Deg. of longitude, or 600 geographical miles. I can not hear of a hill ON either ridge, and there are scarcely any in the space inclosed by them. The Monakadze is the highest, but that is not more than a thousand feet above the flat valley. On account of this want of hills in the part of the country which, by gentle undulations, leads one insensibly up to an altitude of 5000 feet above the level of the sea, I have adopted the agricultural term ridges, for they partake very much of the character of the oblong mounds with which we are all familiar. And we shall yet see that the mountains which are met with outside these ridges are only a low fringe, many of which are not of much greater altitude than even the bottom of the great central valley. If we leave out of view the greater breadth of the central basin at other parts, and speak only of the comparatively narrow part formed by the bend to the westward of the eastern ridge, we might say that the form of this region is a broad furrow in the middle, with an elevated ridge about 200 miles broad on either side, the land sloping thence, on both sides, to the sea. If I am right in believing the granite to be the cause of the elevation of this ridge, the direction in which the strike of the rocks trends to the N.N.E. may indicate that the same geological structure prevails farther north, and two or three lakes which exist in that direction may be of exactly the same nature with Lake Ngami, having been diminished to their present size by the same kind of agency as that which formed the falls of Victoria. We met an elephant on the Kalomo which had no tusks. This is as rare a thing in Africa as it is to find them with tusks in Ceylon. As soon as she saw us she made off. It is remarkable to see the fear of man operating even on this huge beast. Buffaloes abound, and we see large herds of them feeding in all directions by day. When much disturbed by man they retire into the densest parts of the forest, and feed by night only. We secured a fine large bull by crawling close to a herd. When shot, he fell down, and the rest, not seeing their enemy, gazed about, wondering where the danger lay. The others came back to it, and, when we showed ourselves, much to the amusement of my companions, they lifted him up with their horns, and, half supporting him in the crowd, bore him away. All these wild animals usually gore a wounded companion, and expel him from the herd; even zebras bite and kick an unfortunate or a diseased one. It is intended by this instinct that none but the perfect and healthy ones should propagate the species. In this case they manifested their usual propensity to gore the wounded, but our appearance at that moment caused them to take flight, and this, with the goring being continued a little, gave my men the impression that they were helping away their wounded companion. He was shot between the fourth and fifth ribs; the ball passed through both lungs and a rib on the opposite side, and then lodged beneath the skin. But, though it was eight ounces in weight, yet he ran off some distance, and was secured only by the people driving him into a pool of water and killing him there with their spears. The herd ran away in the direction of our camp, and then came bounding past us again. We took refuge on a large ant-hill, and as they rushed by us at full gallop I had a good opportunity of seeing that the leader of a herd of about sixty was an old cow; all the others allowed her a full half-length in their front. On her withers sat about twenty buffalo-birds (`Textor erythrorhynchus', Smith), which act the part of guardian spirits to the animals. When the buffalo is quietly feeding, this bird may be seen hopping on the ground picking up food, or sitting on its back ridding it of the insects with which their skins are sometimes infested. The sight of the bird being much more acute than that of the buffalo, it is soon alarmed by the approach of any danger, and, flying up, the buffaloes instantly raise their heads to discover the cause which has led to the sudden flight of their guardian. They sometimes accompany the buffaloes in their flight on the wing, at other times they sit as above described. Another African bird, namely, the `Buphaga Africana', attends the rhinoceros for a similar purpose. It is called "kala" in the language of the Bechuanas. When these people wish to express their dependence upon another, they address him as "my rhinoceros", as if they were the birds. The satellites of a chief go by the same name. This bird can not be said to depend entirely on the insects on that animal, for its hard, hairless skin is a protection against all except a few spotted ticks; but it seems to be attached to the beast, somewhat as the domestic dog is to man; and while the buffalo is alarmed by the sudden flying up of its sentinel, the rhinoceros, not having keen sight, but an acute ear, is warned by the cry of its associate, the `Buphaga Africana'. The rhinoceros feeds by night, and its sentinel is frequently heard in the morning uttering its well-known call, as it searches for its bulky companion. One species of this bird, observed in Angola, possesses a bill of a peculiar scoop or stone forceps form, as if intended only to tear off insects from the skin; and its claws are as sharp as needles, enabling it to hang on to an animal's ear while performing a useful service within it. This sharpness of the claws allows the bird to cling to the nearly insensible cuticle without irritating the nerves of pain on the true skin, exactly as a burr does to the human hand; but in the case of the `Buphaga Africana' and `erythrorhyncha', other food is partaken of, for we observed flocks of them roosting on the reeds, in spots where neither tame nor wild animals were to be found. The most wary animal in a herd is generally the "leader". When it is shot the others often seem at a loss what to do, and stop in a state of bewilderment. I have seen them attempt to follow each other and appear quite confused, no one knowing for half a minute or more where to direct the flight. On one occasion I happened to shoot the leader, a young zebra mare, which at some former time had been bitten on the hind leg by a carnivorous animal, and, thereby made unusually wary, had, in consequence, become a leader. If they see either one of their own herd or any other animal taking to flight, wild animals invariably flee. The most timid thus naturally leads the rest. It is not any other peculiarity, but simply this provision, which is given them for the preservation of the race. The great increase of wariness which is seen to occur when the females bring forth their young, causes all the leaders to be at that time females; and there is a probability that the separation of sexes into distinct herds, which is annually observed in many antelopes, arises from the simple fact that the greater caution of the she antelopes is partaken of only by the young males, and their more frequent flights now have the effect of leaving the old males behind. I am inclined to believe this, because, though the antelopes, as the pallahs, etc., are frequently in separate herds, they are never seen in the act of expelling the males. There may be some other reason in the case of the elephants; but the male and female elephants are never seen in one herd. The young males remain with their dams only until they are full grown; and so constantly is the separation maintained, that any one familiar with them, on seeing a picture with the sexes mixed, would immediately conclude that the artist had made it from his imagination, and not from sight. DECEMBER 2, 1855. We remained near a small hill, called Maundo, where we began to be frequently invited by the honey-guide (`Cuculus indicator'). Wishing to ascertain the truth of the native assertion that this bird is a deceiver, and by its call sometimes leads to a wild beast and not to honey, I inquired if any of my men had ever been led by this friendly little bird to any thing else than what its name implies. Only one of the 114 could say he had been led to an elephant instead of a hive, like myself with the black rhinoceros mentioned before. I am quite convinced that the majority of people who commit themselves to its guidance are led to honey, and to it alone. On the 3d we crossed the River Mozuma, or River of Dila, having traveled through a beautifully undulating pastoral country. To the south, and a little east of this, stands the hill Taba Cheu, or "White Mountain", from a mass of white rock, probably dolomite, on its top. But none of the hills are of any great altitude. When I heard this mountain described at Linyanti I thought the glistening substance might be snow, and my informants were so loud in their assertions of its exceeding great altitude that I was startled with the idea; but I had quite forgotten that I was speaking with men who had been accustomed to plains, and knew nothing of very high mountains. When I inquired what the white substance was, they at once replied it was a kind of rock. I expected to have come nearer to it, and would have ascended it; but we were led to go to the northeast. Yet I doubt not that the native testimony of its being stone is true. The distant ranges of hills which line the banks of the Zambesi on the southeast, and landscapes which permit the eye to range over twenty or thirty miles at a time, with short grass under our feet, were especially refreshing sights to those who had traveled for months together over the confined views of the flat forest, and among the tangled rank herbage of the great valley. The Mozuma, or River of Dila, was the first water-course which indicated that we were now on the slopes toward the eastern coast. It contained no flowing water, but revealed in its banks what gave me great pleasure at the time -- pieces of lignite, possibly indicating the existence of a mineral, namely, coal, the want of which in the central country I had always deplored. Again and again we came to the ruins of large towns, containing the only hieroglyphics of this country, worn mill-stones, with the round ball of quartz with which the grinding was effected. Great numbers of these balls were lying about, showing that the depopulation had been the result of war; for, had the people removed in peace, they would have taken the balls with them. At the River of Dila we saw the spot where Sebituane lived, and Sekwebu pointed out the heaps of bones of cattle which the Makololo had been obliged to slaughter after performing a march with great herds captured from the Batoka through a patch of the fatal tsetse. When Sebituane saw the symptoms of the poison, he gave orders to his people to eat the cattle. He still had vast numbers; and when the Matebele, crossing the Zambesi opposite this part, came to attack him, he invited the Batoka to take repossession of their herds, he having so many as to be unable to guide them in their flight. The country was at that time exceedingly rich in cattle, and, besides pasturage, it is all well adapted for the cultivation of native produce. Being on the eastern slope of the ridge, it receives more rain than any part of the westward. Sekwebu had been instructed to point out to me the advantages of this position for a settlement, as that which all the Makololo had never ceased to regret. It needed no eulogy from Sekwebu; I admired it myself, and the enjoyment of good health in fine open scenery had an exhilarating effect on my spirits. The great want was population, the Batoka having all taken refuge in the hills. We were now in the vicinity of those whom the Makololo deem rebels, and felt some anxiety as to how we should be received. On the 4th we reached their first village. Remaining at a distance of a quarter of a mile, we sent two men to inform them who we were, and that our purposes were peaceful. The head man came and spoke civilly, but, when nearly dark, the people of another village arrived and behaved very differently. They began by trying to spear a young man who had gone for water. Then they approached us, and one came forward howling at the top of his voice in the most hideous manner; his eyes were shot out, his lips covered with foam, and every muscle of his frame quivered. He came near to me, and, having a small battle-axe in his hand, alarmed my men lest he might do violence; but they were afraid to disobey my previous orders, and to follow their own inclination by knocking him on the head. I felt a little alarmed too, but would not show fear before my own people or strangers, and kept a sharp look-out on the little battle-axe. It seemed to me a case of ecstasy or prophetic phrensy, voluntarily produced. I felt it would be a sorry way to leave the world, to get my head chopped by a mad savage, though that, perhaps, would be preferable to hydrophobia or delirium tremens. Sekwebu took a spear in his hand, as if to pierce a bit of leather, but in reality to plunge it into the man if he offered violence to me. After my courage had been sufficiently tested, I beckoned with the head to the civil head man to remove him, and he did so by drawing him aside. This man pretended not to know what he was doing. I would fain have felt his pulse, to ascertain whether the violent trembling were not feigned, but had not much inclination to go near the battle-axe again. There was, however, a flow of perspiration, and the excitement continued fully half an hour, then gradually ceased. This paroxysm is the direct opposite of hypnotism, and it is singular that it has not been tried in Europe as well as clairvoyance. This second batch of visitors took no pains to conceal their contempt for our small party, saying to each other, in a tone of triumph, "They are quite a Godsend!" literally, "God has apportioned them to us." "They are lost among the tribes!" "They have wandered in order to be destroyed, and what can they do without shields among so many?" Some of them asked if there were no other parties. Sekeletu had ordered my men not to take their shields, as in the case of my first company. We were looked upon as unarmed, and an easy prey. We prepared against a night attack by discharging and reloading our guns, which were exactly the same in number (five) as on the former occasion, as I allowed my late companions to retain those which I purchased at Loanda. We were not molested, but some of the enemy tried to lead us toward the Bashukulompo, who are considered to be the fiercest race in this quarter. As we knew our direction to the confluence of the Kafue and Zambesi, we declined their guidance, and the civil head man of the evening before then came along with us. Crowds of natives hovered round us in the forest; but he ran forward and explained, and we were not molested. That night we slept by a little village under a low range of hills, which are called Chizamena. The country here is more woody than on the high lands we had left, but the trees are not in general large. Great numbers of them have been broken off by elephants a foot or two from the ground: they thus seem pollarded from that point. This animal never seriously lessens the number of trees; indeed, I have often been struck by the very little damage he does in a forest. His food consists more of bulbs, tubers, roots, and branches, than any thing else. Where they have been feeding, great numbers of trees, as thick as a man's body, are seen twisted down or broken off, in order that they may feed on the tender shoots at the tops. They are said sometimes to unite in wrenching down large trees. The natives in the interior believe that the elephant never touches grass, and I never saw evidence of his having grazed until we came near to Tete, and then he had fed on grass in seed only; this seed contains so much farinaceous matter that the natives collect it for their own food. This part of the country abounds in ant-hills. In the open parts they are studded over the surface exactly as haycocks are in harvest, or heaps of manure in spring, rather disfiguring the landscape. In the woods they are as large as round haystacks, 40 or 50 feet in diameter at the base, and at least 20 feet high. These are more fertile than the rest of the land, and here they are the chief garden-ground for maize, pumpkins, and tobacco. When we had passed the outskirting villages, which alone consider themselves in a state of war with the Makololo, we found the Batoka, or Batonga, as they here call themselves, quite friendly. Great numbers of them came from all the surrounding villages with presents of maize and masuka, and expressed great joy at the first appearance of a white man, and harbinger of peace. The women clothe themselves better than the Balonda, but the men go `in puris naturalibus'. They walk about without the smallest sense of shame. They have even lost the tradition of the "fig-leaf". I asked a fine, large-bodied old man if he did not think it would be better to adopt a little covering. He looked with a pitying leer, and laughed with surprise at my thinking him at all indecent; he evidently considered himself above such weak superstition. I told them that, on my return, I should have my family with me, and no one must come near us in that state. "What shall we put on? we have no clothing." It was considered a good joke when I told them that, if they had nothing else, they must put on a bunch of grass. The farther we advanced, the more we found the country swarming with inhabitants. Great numbers came to see the white man, a sight they had never beheld before. They always brought presents of maize and masuka. Their mode of salutation is quite singular. They throw themselves on their backs on the ground, and, rolling from side to side, slap the outside of their thighs as expressions of thankfulness and welcome, uttering the words "Kina bomba." This method of salutation was to me very disagreeable, and I never could get reconciled to it. I called out, "Stop, stop; I don't want that;" but they, imagining I was dissatisfied, only tumbled about more furiously, and slapped their thighs with greater vigor. The men being totally unclothed, this performance imparted to my mind a painful sense of their extreme degradation. My own Batoka were much more degraded than the Barotse, and more reckless. We had to keep a strict watch, so as not to be involved by their thieving from the inhabitants, in whose country and power we were. We had also to watch the use they made of their tongues, for some within hearing of the villagers would say, "I broke all the pots of that village," or, "I killed a man there." They were eager to recount their soldier deeds, when they were in company with the Makololo in former times as a conquering army. They were thus placing us in danger by their remarks. I called them together, and spoke to them about their folly, and gave them a pretty plain intimation that I meant to insist upon as complete subordination as I had secured in my former journey, as being necessary for the safety of the party. Happily, it never was needful to resort to any other measure for their obedience, as they all believed that I would enforce it. In connection with the low state of the Batoka, I was led to think on the people of Kuruman, who were equally degraded and equally depraved. There a man scorned to shed a tear. It would have been "tlolo", or transgression. Weeping, such as Dr. Kane describes among the Esquimaux, is therefore quite unknown in that country. But I have witnessed instances like this: Baba, a mighty hunter -- the interpreter who accompanied Captain Harris, and who was ultimately killed by a rhinoceros -- sat listening to the Gospel in the church at Kuruman, and the gracious words of Christ, made to touch his heart, evidently by the Holy Spirit, melted him into tears; I have seen him and others sink down to the ground weeping. When Baba was lying mangled by the furious beast which tore him off his horse, he shed no tear, but quietly prayed as long as he was conscious. I had no hand in his instruction: if these Batoka ever become like him, and they may, the influence that effects it must be divine. A very large portion of this quarter is covered with masuka-trees, and the ground was so strewed with the pleasant fruit that my men kept eating it constantly as we marched along. We saw a smaller kind of the same tree, named Molondo, the fruit of which is about the size of marbles, having a tender skin, and slight acidity of taste mingled with its sweetness. Another tree which is said to yield good fruit is named Sombo, but it was not ripe at this season. DECEMBER 6TH. We passed the night near a series of villages. Before we came to a stand under our tree, a man came running to us with hands and arms firmly bound with cords behind his back, entreating me to release him. When I had dismounted, the head man of the village advanced, and I inquired the prisoner's offense. He stated that he had come from the Bashukulompo as a fugitive, and he had given him a wife and garden and a supply of seed; but, on refusing a demand for more, the prisoner had threatened to kill him, and had been seen the night before skulking about the village, apparently with that intention. I declined interceding unless he would confess to his father-in-law, and promise amendment. He at first refused to promise to abstain from violence, but afterward agreed. The father-in-law then said that he would take him to the village and release him, but the prisoner cried out bitterly, "He will kill me there; don't leave me, white man." I ordered a knife, and one of the villagers released him on the spot. His arms were cut by the cords, and he was quite lame from the blows he had received. These villagers supplied us abundantly with ground-nuts, maize, and corn. All expressed great satisfaction on hearing my message, as I directed their attention to Jesus as their Savior, whose word is "Peace on earth, and good-will to men." They called out, "We are tired of flight; give us rest and sleep." They of course did not understand the full import of the message, but it was no wonder that they eagerly seized the idea of peace. Their country has been visited by successive scourges during the last half century, and they are now "a nation scattered and peeled." When Sebituane came, the cattle were innumerable, and yet these were the remnants only, left by a chief called Pingola, who came from the northeast. He swept across the whole territory inhabited by his cattle-loving countrymen, devouring oxen, cows, and calves, without retaining a single head. He seems to have been actuated by a simple love of conquest, and is an instance of what has occurred two or three times in every century in this country, from time immemorial. A man or more energy or ambition than his fellows rises up and conquers a large territory, but as soon as he dies the power he built up is gone, and his reign, having been one of terror, is not perpetuated. This, and the want of literature, have prevented the establishment of any great empire in the interior of Africa. Pingola effected his conquests by carrying numbers of smith's bellows with him. The arrow-heads were heated before shooting into a town, and when a wound was inflicted on either man or beast, great confusion ensued. After Pingola came Sebituane, and after him the Matebele of Mosilikatse; and these successive inroads have reduced the Batoka to a state in which they naturally rejoice at the prospect of deliverance and peace. We spent Sunday, the 10th, at Monze's village, who is considered the chief of all the Batoka we have seen. He lives near the hill Kisekise, whence we have a view of at least thirty miles of open undulating country, covered with short grass, and having but few trees. These open lawns would in any other land, as well as this, be termed pastoral, but the people have now no cattle, and only a few goats and fowls. They are located all over the country in small villages, and cultivate large gardens. They are said to have adopted this wide-spread mode of habitation in order to give alarm should any enemy appear. In former times they lived in large towns. In the distance (southeast) we see ranges of dark mountains along the banks of the Zambesi, and are told of the existence there of the rapid named Kansala, which is said to impede the navigation. The river is reported to be placid above that as far as the territory of Sinamane, a Batoka chief, who is said to command it after it emerges smooth again below the falls. Kansala is the only rapid reported in the river until we come to Kebrabasa, twenty or thirty miles above Tete. On the north we have mountains appearing above the horizon, which are said to be on the banks of the Kafue. The chief Monze came to us on Sunday morning, wrapped in a large cloth, and rolled himself about in the dust, screaming "Kina bomba," as they all do. The sight of great naked men wallowing on the ground, though intended to do me honor, was always very painful; it made me feel thankful that my lot had been cast in such different circumstances from that of so many of my fellow-men. One of his wives accompanied him; she would have been comely if her teeth had been spared; she had a little battle-axe in her hand, and helped her husband to scream. She was much excited, for she had never seen a white man before. We rather liked Monze, for he soon felt at home among us, and kept up conversation during much of the day. One head man of a village after another arrived, and each of them supplied us liberally with maize, ground-nuts, and corn. Monze gave us a goat and a fowl, and appeared highly satisfied with a present of some handkerchiefs I had got in my supplies left at the island. Being of printed cotton, they excited great admiration; and when I put a gaudy-colored one as a shawl about his child, he said that he would send for all his people to make a dance about it. In telling them that my object was to open up a path whereby they might, by getting merchandise for ivory, avoid the guilt of selling their children, I asked Monze, with about 150 of his men, if they would like a white man to live among them and teach them. All expressed high satisfaction at the prospect of the white man and his path: they would protect both him and his property. I asked the question, because it would be of great importance to have stations in this healthy region, whither agents oppressed by sickness might retire, and which would serve, moreover, as part of a chain of communication between the interior and the coast. The answer does not mean much more than what I know, by other means, to be the case -- that a white man OF GOOD SENSE would be welcome and safe in all these parts. By uprightness, and laying himself out for the good of the people, he would be known all over the country as a BENEFACTOR of the race. None desire Christian instruction, for of it they have no idea. But the people are now humbled by the scourgings they have received, and seem to be in a favorable state for the reception of the Gospel. The gradual restoration of their former prosperity in cattle, simultaneously with instruction, would operate beneficially upon their minds. The language is a dialect of the other negro languages in the great valley; and as many of the Batoka living under the Makololo understand both it and the Sichuana, missionaries could soon acquire it through that medium. Monze had never been visited by any white man, but had seen black native traders, who, he said, came for ivory, not for slaves. He had heard of white men passing far to the east of him to Cazembe, referring, no doubt, to Pereira, Lacerda, and others, who have visited that chief. The streams in this part are not perennial; I did not observe one suitable for the purpose of irrigation. There is but little wood; here and there you see large single trees, or small clumps of evergreens, but the abundance of maize and ground-nuts we met with shows that more rain falls than in the Bechuana country, for there they never attempt to raise maize except in damp hollows on the banks of rivers. The pasturage is very fine for both cattle and sheep. My own men, who know the land thoroughly, declare that it is all garden-ground together, and that the more tender grains, which require richer soil than the native corn, need no care here. It is seldom stony. The men of a village came to our encampment, and, as they followed the Bashukulompo mode of dressing their hair, we had an opportunity of examining it for the first time. A circle of hair at the top of the head, eight inches or more in diameter, is woven into a cone eight or ten inches high, with an obtuse apex, bent, in some cases, a little forward, giving it somewhat the appearance of a helmet. Some have only a cone, four or five inches in diameter at the base. It is said that the hair of animals is added; but the sides of the cone are woven something like basket-work. The head man of this village, instead of having his brought to a point, had it prolonged into a wand, which extended a full yard from the crown of his head. The hair on the forehead, above the ears, and behind, is all shaven off, so they appear somewhat as if a cap of liberty were cocked upon the top of the head. After the weaving is performed it is said to be painful, as the scalp is drawn tightly up; but they become used to it. Monze informed me that all his people were formerly ornamented in this way, but he discouraged it. I wished him to discourage the practice of knocking out the teeth too, but he smiled, as if in that case the fashion would be too strong for him, as it was for Sebituane. Monze came on Monday morning, and, on parting, presented us with a piece of a buffalo which had been killed the day before by lions. We crossed the rivulet Makoe, which runs westward into the Kafue, and went northward in order to visit Semalembue, an influential chief there. We slept at the village of Monze's sister, who also passes by the same name. Both he and his sister are feminine in their appearance, but disfigured by the foolish custom of knocking out the upper front teeth. It is not often that jail-birds turn out well, but the first person who appeared to welcome us at the village of Monze's sister was the prisoner we had released in the way. He came with a handsome present of corn and meal, and, after praising our kindness to the villagers who had assembled around us, asked them, "What do you stand gazing at? Don't you know that they have mouths like other people?" He then set off and brought large bundles of grass and wood for our comfort, and a pot to cook our food in. DECEMBER 12TH. The morning presented the appearance of a continuous rain from the north, the first time we had seen it set in from that quarter in such a southern latitude. In the Bechuana country, continuous rains are always from the northeast or east, while in Londa and Angola they are from the north. At Pungo Andongo, for instance, the whitewash is all removed from the north side of the houses. It cleared up, however, about midday, and Monze's sister conducted us a mile or two upon the road. On parting, she said that she had forwarded orders to a distant village to send food to the point where we should sleep. In expressing her joy at the prospect of living in peace, she said it would be so pleasant "to sleep without dreaming of any one pursuing them with a spear." In our front we had ranges of hills called Chamai, covered with trees. We crossed the rivulet Nakachinta, flowing westward into the Kafue, and then passed over ridges of rocks of the same mica schist which we found so abundant in Golungo Alto; here they were surmounted by reddish porphyry and finely laminated felspathic grit with trap. The dip, however, of these rocks is not toward the centre of the continent, as in Angola, for ever since we passed the masses of granite on the Kalomo, the rocks, chiefly of mica schist, dip away from them, taking an easterly direction. A decided change of dip occurs again when we come near the Zambesi, as will be noticed farther on. The hills which flank that river now appeared on our right as a high dark range, while those near the Kafue have the aspect of a low blue range, with openings between. We crossed two never-failing rivulets also flowing into the Kafue. The country is very fertile, but vegetation is nowhere rank. The boiling-point of water being 204 Deg., showed that we were not yet as low down as Linyanti; but we had left the masuka-trees behind us, and many others with which we had become familiar. A feature common to the forests of Angola and Benguela, namely, the presence of orchilla-weed and lichens on the trees, with mosses on the ground, began to appear; but we never, on any part of the eastern slope, saw the abundant crops of ferns which are met with every where in Angola. The orchilla-weed and mosses, too, were in but small quantities. As we passed along, the people continued to supply us with food in great abundance. They had by some means or other got a knowledge that I carried medicine, and, somewhat to the disgust of my men, who wished to keep it all to themselves, brought their sick children for cure. Some of them I found had hooping-cough, which is one of the few epidemics that range through this country. In passing through the woods I for the first time heard the bird called Mokwa reza, or "Son-in-law of God" (Micropogon sulphuratus?), utter its cry, which is supposed by the natives to be "pula, pula" (rain, rain). It is said to do this only before heavy falls of rain. It may be a cuckoo, for it is said to throw out the eggs of the white-backed Senegal crow, and lay its own instead. This, combined with the cry for rain, causes the bird to be regarded with favor. The crow, on the other hand, has a bad repute, and, when rain is withheld, its nest is sought for and destroyed, in order to dissolve the charm by which it is supposed to seal up the windows of heaven. All the other birds now join in full chorus in the mornings, and two of them, at least, have fine loud notes.
Back to top
Next chapter (28)
This work (David Livingstone, Missionary Travels) is out of copyright, but see the Project Gutenberg legal notice.