Being Illustrated Letters to the Youngsters at Home
UNDER the shadow of the South Downs--those soft green hills which run along the coast of Sussex--was born, in September, 1847, JAMES HANNINGTON, afterwards Bishop, and writer of the accompanying letters. The village of Hurstpierpoint, or Hurst, as it is generally called, seven miles from Brighton, was his birthplace. Flowers in the springtime, lovely tints in the autumn, were without his early home; within were brightness and comfort, and, best of all, a loving and Christian mother. The boy was active, lively, and full of mischief; so fond of fun that he was called "Mad Jim," and often getting into trouble because he had no fear, and never thought of danger. Several times, on his father's yacht, he had a narrow escape of being killed, and when he was twelve years old he lost his thumb while blowing up a wasp's nest with gunpowder.
"The child was father of the man" most remarkably in his case. We see the same daring, fearless spirit in the adventure with the lion, which he himself tells in one of these letters. Then as to his laugh, we are told that those who once heard it never could forget it, it was so genuine and hearty. You know there is a great deal of character in a laugh, and James Hannington never changed either his character or his laugh. His ardent temperament was modified and softened in after life by Divine grace, but he never lost the prominent traits which distinguished his boyhood.
He went to school at Brighton,. and in due time entered his father's business at the same place, but after six years it seemed clear both to himself and his family that business was not his vocation. He had gained by that time, he tells us, a knowledge of many things, but not of business. He was fond of riding and shooting and all athletic exercises, and true to his enterprising character, had visited nearly every capital in Europe by the time he was twenty-one.
Next he went to college. He was just the man to be a favourite--as an Oxford undergraduate he won all hearts. He was the leader in everything, and though his heart was not yet given wholly to God, it had desires after Him, and no doubt the Spirit of God was striving with him. Thus he vas kept from vicious ways--his influence was always to be found on the side of religion.
But far more than this is needed by one who intends to give himself to the ministry as did James Hannington. Yet he entered on it, as he said, "a mere formalist and fast drifting into ritualism." His family were Nonconformists, but at this time the real conversion of his heart to the Lord had not yet taken place.
On the 1st March, 1874, he was ordained to the curacy of Martinhoe in North Devon. "So I am a parson," he writes in his diary, "and the world has to be crucified in me. Oh, for God's Holy Spirit, without which I must fall--I must perish." And God's Holy Spirit heard and answered that prayer.
Mr. Hannington had a college friend, the Rev. E. C. Dawson, and he was the instrument used by God to bring the message to his soul. Mr. Dawson had written to him a few months after his ordination, telling him of his own conversion to God, and begging him to accept the way of peace through Jesus Christ, which he had himself found precious. Mr. Hannington did not answer the letter, but he could not forget it; his soul was burdened and ill at ease, and at last he wrote and begged his friend to come and see him. Mr. Dawson could not do it, but sent him a book with the request that he would read it. It was the late Dr. Mackay's "Grace and Truth."
Mr. Hannington read the preface, did not care for it, and threw the book aside. After awhile he took it up again and got through the first chapter, but that was all and a second time it was cast from him.
Once more he felt impelled for his friend's sake to return to it. "Well, I muse read it to tell Dawson about it," he said, and there, in his home at Hurst, he did read it. It was the turning-point in his life.
"I took up the old thing," he says- "and read it on till I came to the chapter called 'Do you know your sins are forgiven?' by means of which my eyes were opened. I was in bed at the time reading. I sprang out and leaped about the floor rejoicing and praising God that Jesus died for me; and from that day to this I have lived under the shadow of His wings in the assurance of faith that I am His and He is mine."
Now all was changed; the right motive power was given, the burden of sin was gone, the true rest found, and with all the characteristic energy of his nature, James Hannington henceforth lived and laboured for Him who had done all for him.
Meanwhile, the chapel which his father had built in his own grounds at Hurst had been made over to the rector of the parish as a chapel-of-ease to the church, and in 1875 he was appointed to take charge of it. And there, amongst his own friends, amidst the scenes of his boyhood, the young clergyman settled down to his work for the Master. Though it may be generally true that a prophet hath no honour in his own country, it was not the case with him. He was the living example of the power of grace. The quick and hasty temper was now subdued--he who once insisted on taking the lead in everything was content. to be led like a little child. Thus nobody could fail to see the change, and the influence of his personal character greatly helped his Sunday sermons.
His ministry at Hurst was much blessed of God. People crowded in from the neighbouring villages to his fervent Gospel preaching, and many conversions were the result. He held Bible-classes for young men, among whom he was especially useful; founded a temperance society (being himself the first pledged abstainer in Hurst), and set on foot many similar agencies.
Leaving him for the present in his happy work, we must look at "the Dark Continent" and what was going on there. Africa on the map in our schooldays looked very different to what it does in yours. All round the coast, it is true, there were places marked, but the inside part was a blank like a piece of white paper, save "desert" or "unknown" printed on it. Now it is unknown no longer. Brave men have worked their way through the so-called "desert," and have found instead greenness and beauty, rivers and mountain chains, and above all, the vast lake Victoria Nyanza, with an area of 20,000 square miles (we can hardly believe it!), and an island in it as large as our Isle of Wight.
On the north-west shore of the lake is the kingdom of Uganda, by far the most civilized and powerful of all the states of Central Africa But alas I all the people, when these parts were first visited, were of course heathens. Nobody had gone to tell them about the true God, so how should they know? Yes, it was a "dark continent" indeed!
It was in the year 1858 that the Victoria Nyanza was discovered by the geographer Speke, who also proved it to be the source of the Nile, so long disputed. He found that the waters of the Nile issued from the northern part, and much interesting information he gave about the country surrounding, and the people and the King Mtesa, of whom you would often have heard. All this, as well as the travels and death of the great Livingstone, has, in God's providence, prepared the way for the missionary efforts which were to follow. Christian England began to wake up and think more ought to be done for Africa thus laid open to its efforts. The Church Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, the Scotch Churches, and other agencies, all entered on the field. The Church Missionary Society had had for some years a station at Mombasa, on the coast, but when the discoverer Stanley, who had visited Uganda, told the story at home of his intercourse with King Mtesa and with his people there, they at once resolved to send a mission to Lake Victoria Nyanza and its neighbourhood. In 1876 the first band went forth, but in the course of a year and a half four out of the eight had fallen in Africa, and two men were obliged to return home. And was it then in vain? Must the heathen perish in their darkness, and the light of the glorious Gospel never reach them? Not so; the rest of the party struggled on, were kindly received by Mtesa, and regular Christian services were at once begun in the palace.
But the fair promise was overcast by the murder of two members of the little band-- Lieutenant Smith and Mr. O'Neill--in a native quarrel, and Mr. Wilson, the clergyman, was thus left alone in the middle of Africa. The news reached England--it reached the Sussex village, and it stirred the heart of the young minister there. Why should not he go forth and fill the place of those who had fallen? He had had thoughts of missionary work before, but there were home claims--he was a husband and father--and the way was not clear.
Now, however, he deemed the call from God had come, and he offered himself to the Society to go out for a time without finally giving up his church at Hurst. He was accepted, and leaving his quiet parsonage and peaceful home, the brave soldier of Jesus Christ went forth to hardship and exile for His dear sake. He sailed with five other missionaries for the east coast of Africa, in May, 1882, and in the following month they left Zanzibar for the interior, whither they were bound.
Now come the letters which give such graphic and interesting accounts of all the new scenes he passed through. It was not such an easy life as he had known before, as regards outward comfort, but when the love of Christ is in the heart we can do without being easy and comfortable. Before long the young missionary was stricken down with fever, and after vainly struggling against it with his iron will and determination, he was obliged to allow himself to be carried back to Zanzibar. But he was not downcast; he knew it must be all right, and this is what the men who bore him said. "Master must die; he is sure to die; but how is it master is always so happy?" Ah! God's word is true, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee."
He returned to England, and was soon re-established in health, so that he was told he might return to Africa. This was the great desire of his heart, and very soon after this he was chosen by the Church Missionary Society to be the first missionary bishop of Equatorial Africa. In November, 1884, he sailed a second time. We have not space to tell the vast amount of work he accomplished during the few months that followed ordaining, confirming, and providing new mission stations.
On the 22nd of July he started for Uganda by a new route to the north, which, if successful, would be much more direct than the usual way round the southern shore of Lake Victoria Nyanza. He knew there were dangers, and would not take any white missionary with him. Mr. Jones, a coloured clergyman, once a slave, whom he had just ordained, being his only companion besides the 500 men who formed the caravan.
What were the Bishop's thoughts on this, his last journey? He has told us himself. After speaking of his difficulties and trials, he adds, "Yet I feel in capital spirits, and feel sure of results, though perhaps they may not come in the way that we expect. In the midst of the storm I can say--
'Peace, perfect peace, the future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.'
You must uphold my hands in prayer lest they fall. If this is the last chapter of earthly history, then the next will be the first page of the heavenly; no blots and smudges, no incoherence, but sweet converse in the presence of the Lamb." This was his last letter to the Church Missionary House. He was "almost home," though he knew it not.
The party arrived safely at the north-east corner of the lake, and a few days from here would have taken them to Uganda, where welcome would have awaited them. For the work had been prospering, other helpers had joined Mr. Wilson, and more than a hundred natives had been baptized into the Christian faith. But there was a new danger of which the Bishop was unaware. Mtesa had died some time before. He had been very un certain in his behaviour to the Christians, though he had professed himself one; his son Muangu was much the same, and just now he had been alarmed about German invasion and annexation in this part of Africa. So when he heard of a party of Europeans entering his dominions by the north side, a thing never done before, he put the two things together, and sent to forbid them.
The Bishop meanwhile had gone forward with about fifty men, leaving Mr. Jones with the rest. The messengers of King Muangu met them, and arrested them, saying it was the "back door" into their country, and they must not proceed. They were kept in confinement eight days, and then, alas! were killed, the men being speared and the Bishop shot with his own rifle. Four men only escaped, and fled back to Mr. Jones with the terrible news; then the sad remains of the party retraced their steps back to the coast.
It was a sad ending (as it seems to us) to a brave and noble Christian life. But God's ways are not as our ways. He makes no mistake, and there is no such thing as failure in His purposes. Already the death of the good Bishop has fired anew the missionary spirit, so that even in the few weeks after the news came fifty-three young men offered them selves to the Church Missionary Society for the mission field. Let us pray that many more may do the same.
And if one heart be led to more entire consecration of itself to the Lord's service even in the common path of daily life and in the Home Mission field no less than in bearing the banner of the Cross to distant lands; if one sinner be led to seek the peace which Christ alone can give by the story of the life now told, which was "always happy"--then the martyred Bishop Hannington will not have died in vain.
YOU will be glad to hear that I have completed the voyage through the Red Sea most satisfactorily, and have duly arrived at Zanzibar. The journey out I shall not attempt to describe, since there was nothing very extraordinary about it, nor must we delay for any length of time discoursing upon Zanzibar, for it is well-trodden ground, and we have far wilder scenes before us. The streets, like those of all Oriental towns, are very narrow and tortuous, and have such a cut-throat appearance that at first one seemed afraid to venture far, but experience soon showed that there was no thing to harm beyond that occasional fragrance which one is wont to come across in every foreign town.
As we peep into the shops we perceive that for the most part the traders are not negroes, but Hindus, and that they are subjects not of the Sultan of Zanzibar, but of her Majesty the Empress of India. Their wares are not very inviting, being chiefly cheap Manchester and Birmingham goods. Even the strange-looking cakes and sweetmeats that are occasionally to be seen would scarce tempt Miss Hettie to delay, although I expect I should have had a different tale to have told had she been there.
When we got a little farther on we reached the African quarter, and saw piles of bananas, oranges, mangoes, and other kinds of fruit strewing the ground. We glance through a half-open door, and notice some camels solemnly turning a mill. They are extracting the oil from ground nuts, which will probably be sold for the best Sorrento olive oil. Out side the town a delightful scene meets the eye. Dark-spreading mango, vine, lemon, orange, broad-leaved bananas, and plumed cocoanut trees are crowded together with the luxuriance of a forest, while pineapples are planted along the roadsides, or are massed together in small enclosed gardens. Here and there groups of tropical vegetation crown a gentle slope; or, standing out against the clear sky, form a succession of beautiful pictures which I hope would have more attraction for you than the mandarin oranges hanging overhead.
How you would have laughed to have be held your sober old uncle climbing a cocoanut tree--one, by-the-by, that was some what out of the perpendicular--and you would have been still more amused to have seen his energetic struggles to emancipate the nut from its fibrous husk. But I must leave you to digest that cocoanut whilst I visit his Majesty the Sultan, Bargash Bin Said, the noble and energetic ruler of Zanzibar.
People in our station of life do not visit Sultans every day, so I will endeavour to give you a full description of the interview. The palace is well situated in the Grand Square, and looks out on the roadstead, beautiful with its deep blue water and varied flotilla. Thither, at the appointed time, Colonel Miles, Acting Consul during the absence of Sir John Kirk, conducted me, duly arrayed in cap and gown, together with Captain Hore, of the London Missionary Society, who was also to be presented. A guard of honour was drawn up in front of the palace, and saluted upon our arrival. The Sultan then appeared on the scene, shook hands cordially, and beckoned us to follow him. We mounted some stairs, which were so steep that they formed a perfect safeguard against an inebriate thrusting himself into the royal presence, and then were led into a small reception room, and bade be seated on elaborate amber-satin armchairs. Immediately attendant slaves brought coffee, in glass cups, tastefully mounted in gold. That was coffee! I should like to soliloquise on it, but you are not old enough to appreciate delicate flavours. You would have done greater justice to the iced sherbet which followed; only, if I mistake not, you would have looked rather glum when, having taken a gentle sip (it is vulgar to take deep draughts in the presence of kings), the attendant at once presented a tray, and relieved you of your burden.
Conversation now waxed warm. The Sultan was greatly interested in our movements, asked me many questions, through an interpreter, as to how we travelled, how long we expected the journey to take; and he was further very inquisitive about a report that he heard of a serpent in Ugogo, reputed to eat up whole oxen and women and children. The royal attire was the plain everyday costume of wealthy Arabs--the long black coat, or joho, trimmed with silver, an ordinary turban, a handsome waistband, in which were thrust two finely-wrought dirks, while a very hand some ring, worn German fashion on the first finger, graced his hand. His Majesty was exceedingly courteous, and did his utmost to entertain his guests. Upon our rising he also rose, led the way into the Grand Square, and wished us farewell.
I must now hastily pack my goods in small bundles of about half a hundredweight, hire porters, and cross to the mainland. I should perhaps explain to you that on account of the ravages of the tsetse fly we are unable to use beasts of burden, and so are compelled to have all goods carried by porters. These porters are for the most part of two different races--namely, the Wanguana, or coast men from Zanzibar, and the Wanyamwezi, or the men from the Country of the Moon, that vast region which lies to the south of the Victoria Nyanza.
Our next step is to hire an Arab dhow, which is to take us over from the island of Zanzibar to the little town of Sedaani. We pack in as tightly as safety will allow, weigh anchor, and soon after reach the coral-bound coast.
We touch bottom about half a mile from the beach, and, as there is a heavy ground swell on at the time, the crazy old dhow threatens to go to pieces. So while some made their way to shore in a small dug-out canoe, half full of water, your uncle put his clothing in a bag, unmindful of sharks, plunged into the water, and thus, with a heart throbbing with emotion--and, I might add, feet throbbing too, for the coral was sharp--entered the land of Moffat, Krapf, Livingstone, and Gordon. That I was not prudent thus to fling myself into the water I will allow, but you cannot fully enter into the feelings aroused by such tremendous associations in the heart of one whose life was about to be devoted to Africa. It is not too much to say that the poetry of the situation was dispelled shortly after by our sitting down to dine on a tough goat. I have seen goats on the table which knives refused to manipulate, and chickens whose limbs denied that they would part company, so strongly were they attached to each other, until one seized hold of one leg and another the other, and had a tug-of-war.
It will not do to expatiate on the comforts and discomforts of tent life at this early stage of the journey. I believe that most of us slept well; nor did I hear of more than one bed coming down with a crash. But no doubt I shall have some pleasant little adventures of this kind to talk about hereafter, but we will not anticipate evil, nor meet troubles half way. One more day being required to set things in order and to call over the loads, we remained where we were, and did our utmost to get our baggage thoroughly shipshape, and on the morrow, June 30th, 1882, we started for the interior,--seven white men and about 500 porters, head-men, and tent-boys, all told.
It may assist your geography if I give you a brief description of the whole route from the coast to the lake.
It has been well divided by the great African traveller Burton into five different regions. The first of these is the coast belt which lies between the Indian Ocean and that vast chain of mountains which runs from Abyssinia, to Lake Nyassa, and which numbers among its peaks Kenia and Kilimanjaro. This district abounds in rivers, and has the general appearance of English park scenery. The second region is that occupied by the mountain chain we have just named, and is truly beautiful, being in places not unlike the best parts of North Devon. Here we have two flourishing mission stations, namely, Mamboia and Mpwapwa.
Leaving this truly delightful district the third region is entered, which comprises the thickly-populated plains of savage Ugogo, and two or three almost uninhabited and waterless tracts. Fourthly, you come to the country of the Wanyamwezi, or People of the Moon, the great traders, and consequently travellers, of Equatorial Africa; here we have one station, Uyui. Then, lastly, the great lake basin is reached, which nurses in its bosom the mighty Victoria Nyanza. Each of these regions is well defined, the people and the physical features being very different; but more of this as we proceed.
Our first experience, I think, might well have disappointed those in search of wild adventure, or what you in England picture to yourselves as tropical scenery. It is true that from the moment we left the coast candle-shaped euphorbias, umbrella-like acacias, and long-spined mimosas were at once met with; but no very wonderful butterflies or birds, or flowers dazed the eye with their brightness, much less did savage beasts break from the thicket, or disturb our slumbers by their nocturnal roarings.
If you want to learn a little about the hard ships of the missionary's life, you must think of him as compelled to march day after day under the rays of a tropical sun. Of our troops in Egypt one of the daily papers wrote: "The scenes on the road--told even in the roughest outline--are melancholy enough."
I leave you, therefore, to imagine what we had to put up with. Night which many suggest, is quite out of the question. The roads are too narrow and rough; the men, with their bare feet, tread on the thorns and stones, and get maimed; nor can one see them if they linger behind, or even desert us altogether. Once or twice we were compelled to march through the night in order to reach water, and we found it more trying and dangerous than even tramping at midday. On one of these occasions, after arriving at camp, and calling over our men, we found that one was missing. A search-party was sent back, and presently they spied a pool of blood ill the footpath, which told the dismal tale that he had straggled from us, and been set upon by robbers, who had speared him to death, dragged his body into the jungle, and had stolen the valuable load that he was carrying.
Another great cause of suffering was the frequent absence of water, or, when not absent altogether, it was often so thick and black that it is scarce an exaggeration to say that one looked at it and wondered whether it came under the category of meat or drink. At times it was lively, so much so, that if you did not watch the movements of your "boy" with fatherly anxiety, you always stood a chance of an odd tadpole or two finding their way into the tea-kettle; occasionally it showed a bright green tinge. I had previously seen green tea, and had been taught studiously to avoid it; but green coffee was a new and at times unavoidable delicacy only known among the luxuries of African travel. But I cannot say that I minded very much about finding the pools lively with toads, or even crocodiles, and I soon grew tired of grumbling because dogs and men would bathe in our drinking- water; but I did not like to find dead toads and other animal and vegetable putrefaction. Afterwards, when weak and ill, I used to avoid drinking any liquid; I have been three and even four days at a stretch without drinking anything at all. But while we are talking about water I must tell you about my river experience.
On the 8th of July, 1882, we reached our first stream. Loud had been the warnings that we should not wade through or bathe while on the march, lest we should catch fever, for it was here that one man nearly died because of his imprudence. I was exceedingly hot when I arrived at its banks, and needed no advice. Well, just at that moment there were no head-men up, and I was going to wait patiently, when my boys volunteered to carry me across, a feat they could very well have accomplished. But the ambitious Johar must needs have all the honour and glory to himself; he seized me and bore me off in triumph. I felt an ominous totter, and yelled to him to return. But I shouted in vain; he refused to heed. More tottering, more entreaty to go back; but all to no purpose; on he pressed. Swaying to and fro like a bulrush in a gale of wind, I clenched my teeth and held my breath. They shout from the bank for Johar to retrace his steps, but it has not the slightest effect; he feels his only chance is to dash right on. Midstream is now gained, and my hopes revive; I think, perhaps--but the water deepens, the rocks become more slippery, a huge struggle, and down we go flat, Johar collapsing like an india-rubber ball punctured by a pin. Far better to have walked through with all my clothes on, for I should then only have got wet to the knees; but now no part of me could claim to be dry. Luckily, however, I did not get an attack of fever, as I expected.
Not long after this adventure we came to a broad and deep arm of the Wami. Here the vegetation underwent a complete transformation, assuming an entirely different aspect, and we beheld for the first time what is usually understood by the term "tropical forest scenery." Gigantic trees, towering aloft, and supporting endless creepers and parasitic plants, presented to the eye every shade and variety of foliage. There a mass of jasmine filled the air with its perfume; there a euphorbia, like the candelabra of the Jewish temple, stood stiffly erect; and from the boughs of those trees which overhung the stream the great belted kingfisher watched for his finny prey.
The natives possessed a small dug-out canoe, which tempted inc to go for a paddle midst the fairy-like scene; but the evil spirits of the vasty deep below, in the shape of crocodiles, soon forced me to beat a hasty retreat, and make for the less enchanted ground of the camp. It was probably this same stream that we crossed, after about three days' march, by a curious native bridge of poles, and trees, and living creepers pitched and tangled together in a most marvellous manner. Living poles one has often seen used. I remember four trees being topped, and the roof of a shed put on them, and the shed gradually getting taller and taller; but this was the first time I had seen living ropes binding a bridge together, and stretching across to form a hand rail for the wayfarer. It was intensely picturesque, but equally inconvenient, and took the men with their loads about two hours to cross. There was not that general activity amongst them that I expected; some almost wanted to be carried over as well as their loads, though others bounded across like monkeys. While at the river-side I heard a sharp but familiar note, and looking up I beheld our gay old friend the English king fisher, in his bright blue uniform, by far the most handsome bird I had yet seen in Africa. Only one load was dropped over the cobweb- like parapet of the bridge, but that of course was a box of cartridges, being one of the most spoilable things they could find; it, however, was better than a man being snapped up by a crocodile.
Within a mile of this we had to cross the stream again. Here the river had considerably widened, and was spanned by a gigantic fallen tree, of enormous girth and length; it must have been about 150 feet long. On arriving at the village we found that a false report that we were exceedingly hostile had reached the natives. Accordingly they had fled pell-mell, leaving behind them nothing but empty huts. In cases of this kind it is extremely difficult to restrain the men from plundering the sugar plantations and banana trees, for they must have something to eat. Then, if they steal, the natives naturally say the report was right, and the white men are robbers.
This district was very swampy, and here, I think, we began to get incipient fever. It was a memorable sight to see the swamps at night literally blazing with fireflies darting about like millions of miniature meteors; here, too, we met with another accompaniment of marshes, which did not amuse us in the least--namely, mosquitos, in equal myriads.
As we journeyed on more rivers had to be crossed. At one I had an amusing adventure with our hospital donkey, which we kept for the transport of invalids. It happened to be at hand at the time I wanted to cross, so having had an experience of a two-legged donkey, I thought I would try the four-legged one. The wretch had on neither saddle nor bridle at the time, but was very quiet and docile until we were well into the stream, when suddenly he became tired of his burden, and began to play the natural pranks characteristic of that worthy race; his hinder part became slightly elevated, his head bobbed, and he threatened to lie down and roll. The head men, however, saw my predicament, and rushed at me, caught me up as if I were a wisp of straw, and bore me in a horizontal position over the donkey's head to the farther side. At the next stream I selected two men, and was assured it was exceedingly narrow, and so it was; but there was no exit on the other side, an impenetrable fringe of reeds and jungle hedging us in; so we turned up stream. I had to urge and urge and urge them not to drop me until we gained a small sandbank a little ahead, where I stripped and waded the best part of a mile before we found a break in the dense tangle.
July 21st we reached our first mission station, Mamboia, about 150 miles from the coast. Here our good missionary and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Last, met and welcomed us, and instantly carried me off to their comfortable quarters.
The house, or perhaps the word bungalow describes it better, is prettily situated on the mountain side, about 3,000 feet above sea-level, and commands most extensive and beautiful views. Immediately on the left side rises a precipitous cliff, in which a grand old eagle has its eyrie; to the east the mountains form an amphitheatre, and bold jutting crags add wildness to the scene; all that it lacks to make it surpassingly beautiful is water.
The soil is most productive, and the climate sub-Alpine, so that our English vegetables grow to great perfection. The flower garden in front of the house was one mass of geraniums, nasturtiums, petunias, and other denizens of our home gardens. We had not had enough of the wild flowers of Africa to care much for these. Next the house was the church, a very original structure. Circular mud walls had been built to the height of about six feet, which were covered by a deep sloping roof open in the centre, from which rose wooden stanchions, which in their turn supported a cap roof; thus open space was left between the two roofs for ventilation. The luxury of pews was not needed, the natives preferring to sit on the ground, and two chairs served for the ordinary European portion of the congregation.
The Sunday we were there of course was an exception. On this occasion the church was quite full. Part of our prayers were read in the Kiswahili tongue, as well as the Lessons for the day. Two or three hymns were sung; and by giving them out a verse at a time the natives were able to join. Then followed the sermon, which always takes the form of catechising, or is even more conversational still. Although, in these early days, no definite results in the way of conversions are known of, yet it is most encouraging to see the natives listening attentively and sending their children to be educated.
On 25th July we were fain to proceed, our friends accompanying us as far as they could; but at length a river decided the question, and with many heart-achings we said farewell. With one, Mrs. Last, we were to meet no more on this side of the narrow stream of death. The march was a long one. We crossed a lovely-looking rivulet, clear as crystal; but its waters had a strong taste of Epsom salts, and the effect produced by drinking them was much the same. There are many saline springs and streams to be met with in Africa. Woe betide those who are unwary enough to par take of them! When the wave of civilisation spreads over the land these places will be the Baths and Buxtons of East African society.
This part of the country abounds with game. On one occasion a herd of antelopes crossed the path as tamely as if they had been sheep, and tracks of giraffe and larger game were frequently seen. Guinea-fowl were so plentiful that one of the white men at Mpwapwa told us that he did not trouble to fire at them unless he could ensure killing two or three at a shot.
I had two narrow escapes in one of my walks with a gun in search of game. I came to a belt of jungle so dense that the only way to get through it was to creep on all-fours along the tracks made by hyaenas and smaller game; and as I was crawling along I saw close in front of me a deadly puff-adder; in another second I should have been on it. The same day, on my return, I espied in one of these same tracks a peculiar arrangement of grass, which I at once recognised to be over a pitfall; but though I had seen it I had already gone too far, and fell with a tremendous crash, my double-barrel gun full-cocked in my hand. I had the presence of mind to let myself go and look out only for my gun, which fortunately never exploded. On arriving at the bottom I called out to my terrified boy, Mikuke Hapana, "There are no spears,) a most merciful providence; for they often stake these pitfalls in order to ensure the death of the animals that fall into them. The pitfall could not have been less than ten feet deep, for when I proceeded to extricate myself I found that I could not reach the top with my uplifted hands. Undaunted by my adventures, and urged on by the monotony of nothing but tough goat on the sideboard, I started before the break of next morning in pursuit of game, and was soon to be seen crawling on hands and knees after ante lope, I am afraid unmindful of puff-adders and pitfalls.
By-and-by the path followed the bed of a narrow stream, which was completely ploughed with the tracks of buffalo and giraffe, as fresh as fresh could be. Our impression was, and probably it was right, that the former were lurking in the dense thicket close by. The breathless excitement that such a position keeps you in does much to help along the weary miles of the march, and to ward off attacks of fever. All experienced hands out here recommend that men should, while not losing sight of their one grand object, keep themselves amused.
Your cousin Gordon and I, with our boys, had led the van all the morning. He, having lately had fever, complained of being tired, and begged me to continue in pursuit of game alone, merely taking my one faithful boy with me to carry my gun; but I refused to leave him, for never had I complained of an ache or pain but what he was at my side to help and comfort me. After living in the same tent, and never being separated until I left him at the lake, I say we have no more gentle and heavenly-minded man in the mission field. We sat down and rested, and the other brethren, with a party of a dozen or fourteen, marched on ahead. They had not gone many hundred yards before I heard the whiz of a bullet. "They have found game" said I. Bang went a second shot. "It's a herd." Then another. "Yes, it must be a herd;" then a fourth, and it dawned upon me that they were attacked by robbers--the far-famed Ruga-Ruga.
"Stay where you are," I cried, and dashed off, closely followed by my boys. The bangs had now reached seven, and we had not the slightest doubt that it was an attack of robbers, and so it proved to be. My anxiety was relieved by seeing our men intact, standing together at bay with a foe that was nowhere to be beheld. I soon learnt that as they were quietly proceeding a party of the savage Wahumba tribe had swooped down upon them; but seeing white men with rifles had fled with the utmost precipitation, without even discharging a poisoned arrow. To make their flight more rapid the white men had fired their rifles in the air; and one in grabbing his gun from his boy had managed to discharge it in such a manner as to blow off the sight of his neighbour's rifle. Finding that danger was at an end for the time being, I begged them to remain as they were ready to receive an attack, while I returned with my boys to Gordon, and got the stragglers together, after which we all proceeded in a body. I have always thought that it was I who had the greatest escape of all; for had I gone on, as Gordon proposed, with only one, or at the outside two boys, I should most probably have been attacked.
On July 28th a double march brought me to the second Church Missionary Station, Mpwapwa. The house is a fine one for Central Africa, and the prospect in the rainy must be far more beautiful than it was then in the hot dry season. It looks out over a vast plain, the home of many noble herds of antelope and buffalo. Food proved to be rather a scarce article here, as many caravans had preceded us, and they had also had a very trying dry season. Small-pox was raging in the neighbourhood, and not far from us was a native encampment terribly infected, so that we felt it was not wise to delay.
Six miles from here is an outlying station, Kisokwe, a delightful spot among the mountains and highlands of the Usagara district, which form part of the long mountain chain I mentioned some time ago. Here almost every variety of scenery is met with. There are fine mountain peaks terminating in bare and precipitous crags, and others crowned with luxuriant verdure, while in many places torrents dash down the valleys in a succession of waterfalls, forcibly reminding one of North Devon.
Game, as I have already hinted, is abundant, and leopards are very plentiful. Hunting excursions, however, are not unattended by danger, for small bands of savage Wahumba robbers traverse the country. Fig-trees, which are plentiful throughout Fast Africa, attain vast proportions in this district. At the end of the garden stands a monarch, spreading his densely-foliaged limbs over a space wide enough to shelter a standing army. Unfortunately the fruit is not edible. When ripe these figs look inviting and smell nice, but consist of nothing but seeds and rind without fleshy pulp, so that there is nothing for a human being to eat, although hornbills and other birds relish them exceedingly.
We left this beautiful region by a mountain pass which proved to be very rugged and steep, and very trying for the men. Descending on the other side we entered the third of our divisions, which comprises desert tracts and the plains of Ugogo. It is very different to the one we have just left behind, consisting of broad sandy plains, bounded by low ridges of hills. Wherever there is water it is densely populated, so much so that the plain frequently looks like a broad causeway. Rivers are superseded by ponds and nullahs, which can scarcely be graced with the name of lakes. And it is here that curious isolated granite rocks thrust their weird-looking heads through the alluvial soil.
Our first experience in this region was not a pleasant one. We had sent our men on before while we dallied with our friends at Mpwapwa. When we reached the summit of the pass we could see various villages with their fires in the plains below, but nowhere was the camp to be discerned. It was a weary time before we could alight on it, and when we did, what a scene presented itself to our gaze! The wind was so high that the camp fires were extinguished, and the men had betaken them selves to a deep trench cut through the sandy plain by a mountain torrent, but now perfectly dry; hence our difficulty in making out where the camp was. Two of the tents were in a prostrate condition, while the others were fast getting adrift. Volumes of dust were swamping beds, blankets, boxes, buckets, and in fact everything; and a more miserable scene could scarcely be beheld by a party of benighted pilgrims. It was no use staring at it. I seized a hammer and tent-pegs, forgot I was tired, and before very long had things fairly to rights; but I slept that night in a dust- heap.
Nor did the morning mend matters, and to encourage us the Mpwapwa brethren prophesied this state of things all through Ugogo. It is bad enough in a hot climate to have dust in your hair and down your neck, and filling your boxes; but when it comes to food, and every mouthful you take grates your teeth, I leave you to imagine the pleasures of tent-life in a sandy plain.
A day or two after this we arrived at a camp where the water was excessively bad. We had to draw it for everybody from one deep hole, and probably rats, mice, lizards, and other small animals had fallen in and been drowned, and allowed to remain and putrefy. The water smelt most dreadfully, no filtering or boiling seemed to have any effect upon it, and soup, coffee, and all food were flavoured by it. That afternoon I went for a stroll with my boy and two guns to endeavour to supply the table with a little better meat than tough goat. I soon struck on the dry bed of a masika (wet season) torrent. Following this up a little way I saw a fine troop of monkeys, and wanting the skin of one of them for my collection I sent a bullet flying amongst them, without, however, producing any effect beyond a tremendous scamper.
My boy then said to me, "If you want to kill monkey, master, you should try buck shot;" so returning him my rifle I took my fowling-piece. Perhaps it was fortunate I did so, for about a hundred yards farther on the river-bed took a sharp turn, and coming round the corner I lighted on three flue tawny lions. They were quite close to me, and had I had my rifle my first impulse might have been too strong for me to resist speeding the parting guest with a bullet. As it was, I came to a sudden halt and they ran away. In vain my boy begged me to retreat. I seized the rifle and ran after them as fast as my legs would carry me; but they were soon hidden in the dense jungle that lined the river banks; and although I could hear one growling and breathing hard about ten yards from me, I could not get a shot.
I now had severe attacks of fever every day, and at length we were compelled to come to a standstill, for I was far too ill to be moved. My life hung in the balance for three days. I was so weak that the mere fact of a head-man in kindness coming in and speaking a few words to me, brought on a fainting fit, and on another occasion I nearly succumbed from moving across the tent from one bed to an other.
After a few days the fever left me, and I was able to sit up for five and ten minutes at a time, and the next day was lifted into a hammock and carried onwards.
The curiosity of the natives in these parts was unbounded. They swarmed round our tents from morning till night, asking to see everything we possessed, and as they are noted thieves we had to keep an uncommonly sharp look out. The men are exceedingly undressed, wearing only short goat-skins from the shoulder to the hip-bone. They besmear themselves with red ochre and paint hideous devices on their faces, so that they look like red men rather than black. The hair is worn long, is often interwoven with bark fibre, and is plaited in various fashions, some of which are by no means unbecoming. The Ugogo type of countenance is for the most part very low in the scale, the features being broad and flat, with but little forehead. The few hand some exceptions one sees are, I am told, supposed to be Wamasai.
The women are scrupulously clad, and the many copper and steel chains which they wear are particularly becoming. The great feature of the Wagogo is their ears. The lower lobes in men, women, and children are pierced. First starting, they begin by inserting a straw or two, or a ring of copper wire; these are gradually increased in number, until at last the ear is sufficiently stretched to allow of the insertion of bits of stick, gourds, snuff-boxes, old cartridge cases, and other such articles. From a boy of twelve years old I got a block of wood that he had in his ear considerably larger than the cork of a goose-berry bottle. Sometimes the lobe is so distended that it hangs down to the shoulder and refuses to hold anything inserted in it; in such a case it is used as a suspendory for fine chains, or coils of iron wire. Some times you would see the lobes quite broken down, so that to their immense regret they could wear nothing. I have often been asked to mend their ears; but although I could easily have done it by nipping off the ends and binding them together, yet I always refused so to encourage their vanity.
I am supposed to be perverse, and so it was, I imagine, that I took a great fancy to these ill-famed Wagogo. It struck me that there was something very manly about them; the boys were daubed with war paint, and were armed with bright spears and skin shields, some of which I could not help coveting a little; but they asked such enormous prices, when anything was said about buying and selling, that I had to forego purchasing.
In some of the places I passed through they had never seen a white man before. They would gather round me in dozens, and gaze upon me with the utmost astonishment. One would suggest that I was not beautiful--in plainer language that I was amazingly ugly. Fancy a set of hideous savages regarding a white man, regarding your uncle, as a strange outlandish creature frightful to behold. You little boys that run after a black man in the park and laugh at him, think what you may come to when you grow old. The tables may be turned on you if you take to travelling, just as they were with me.
As with other travellers, my boots hardly ever failed to attract attention. "Are those your feet, white man?" "No, gentlemen, they are not. They are my sandals." "But do they grow to your feet?" " No, gentle men, they do not. I will show you." So forthwith I would proceed to unlace a boot. A roar of astonishment followed when they beheld my blue sock, as they generally surmised that my feet were blue and toeless. Greater astonishment still followed the withdrawal of the sock, and the revelation of a white five-toed foot. I frequently found that they considered that only the visible parts of me were white, namely, my face and hands, and that the rest of me was as black as they were. An almost endless source of amusement was the immense amount of clothing, according to their calculation, that I possessed. That I should have waistcoat and shirt and jersey underneath a coat, seemed almost incredible, and the more so when I told them that it was chiefly on account of the sun that I wore so much.
My watch, too, was an unfailing attraction: "There's a man in it." "It is Lubari; it is witchcraft," they would cry. "He talks; he says Teek, teek, teek." My nose they would compare to a spear; it struck them as so sharp and thin compared to the African production, and ofttimes one bolder than the rest would give my hair and my beard a sharp pull, imagining them to be wigs worn for ornament. Many of them had a potent horror of this white ghost, and a snap of the fingers or the stamp of the foot was enough to send them flying helter skelter from my tent, which they generally crowded round in ranks five deep. For once in the way this was amusing enough; but when it came to be repeated every day and all day, one had really a little too much of a good thing.
By the 22nd of August we had passed through Ugogo without having paid hongo (tax), a triumph in African travel. And now began the desert tracts.
What must strike every traveller on entering these plains is the immense quantity of wild fowl. Bustards, king crane, herons, storks, ibis, geese, and ducks abound; but in a land where everybody's hand is against his neighbour's, everything worth shooting is exceedingly wild.
In the rainy season open breaks in the jungle (the "pori" we call it) are exceeding beautiful, blossom almost concealing foliage. In the dry season nothing could be much more dismal than the desert plateau. In some places it was so arid that no bird, beast, or butterfly broke the monotony of a scene which consisted of thin acacia-trees at spaces of about thirty yards distant from each other. I have walked for an hour without finding one sufficiently dense to exclude the rays of the sun and afford a little shelter. At other times miles of dense tangle would be traversed, so thick that it seemed to defy even the penetrating power of an elephant, and yet the leafless boughs formed no protection against the rays of the mid-day sun.
At times I would arouse my companions with a shout of joy. "What is the matter? Elephants?"--"No." "Giraffe?"--"No, or I should not have called out." "Water?"--"Not exactly." "What then? Come, out with it?"--"A tortula; a new tortula." "What is that! a tortoise or a snake?"--"No; a moss. I haven't seen a vestige of moss for a hundred miles." "Oh!" with an emphasis that it would take a long time to paraphrase.
After six hard days' travelling Sunday came round again, and most gladly would we have accepted the Divinely-given day of rest; but it could not be, for food was running short, and to lose a day would be to starve the men. The effect of their provisions being scant began to show itself in their growing rather quarrel some, for soon after starting I had to rush in and, like Mrs. Brown, stop a tremendous fight with my umbrella. Words had not only waxed high, but guns were about to be used. Your uncle seized one of their guns, but it was some time before I could drag it out of the man's hands; nor did I feel safe in the skirmish, for a full-cocked loaded gun with weak and worn-out locks is not the safest thing to be wrestling over; but such is life out here--one cannot stop to think what is safe or what is unsafe.
By the 3rd of September we had reached Uyui, our next mission station. This is a district in the fourth region that I mentioned, namely, the country of Unyamwezi, the Land of the Moon. After this country the well-known range of the Mountains of the Moon was probably called, and seems to have found its way into our older maps from reports obtained from India. Nowadays these mountains under that name and the form in which they appeared on the maps must be viewed as legendary.
This district consists of a high plateau, between 3,000 and 4,000 feet above sea level, studded with little outcropping ridges of granite, between which are fertile valleys densely populated. I estimated that in one valley I passed through there were as many as eighty villages, the smallest containing from two to three hundred inhabitants.
It is on the crests of these ridges that the granite assumes such fantastic forms. It is hard to believe that they are natural, and are not the cromlechs of a race of giants; but situation and size lead one to the conclusion that these phenomena in stone are the result of deterioration.
The Men of the Moon are the great traders of the interior, and have probably been so from remote ages. For the love of barter they leave their country as porters, and go to the coast by hundreds annually, carrying with them iron spades, horns, tobacco, hippopotamus teeth, ivory, slaves--in fact, anything marketable.
They are far more industrious than the generality of negroes. They cultivate cotton extensively, and manufacture it in their own looms; they smelt the iron which abounds in their hills, and work it with considerable skill and design. A Wanyamwezi spade when new fetches a dollar, or cloth to that amount, at the coast.
As a race they are slimly built, generally intensely cowardly, fractious, and more difficult to manage than the most spoilt of spoilt children. The well-known and mighty Mirambo is the Emperor of the Wanyamwezi, having raised himself to that position by his personal bravery.
I look back to my interview with him with the greatest pleasure, and his answers to questions show an immense amount of intelligence.
"Mirambo, you are a great warrior, and have conquered in many battles. Tell me which make the best soldiers, young men or fathers? "
"If I want to march rapidly, if I want to make sudden and desperate attacks, give me young men, quite young men; they are more active, they are more daring. If I want to defend villages and to stand sieges, give me fathers; they will fight for their wives and little ones and for their goods to the very last."
A short time before my arrival he had ordered a levy of men to be made in the surrounding villages, as he was wishing to build a new palace. Three men in a distant village made an excuse; they were ill or absent. The next day or so Mirambo, without any intimation of the fact, arrived in that village, and found them busily engaged with their own work, so he immediately ordered their heads to be struck off. The London Missionary Society's missionary residing there said to him, "Mirambo, our Queen is a great Sovereign. She never does things of this sort," and then he proceeded to explain to him the judge and jury system.
"Yes," replied Mirambo, "that is very good for your Queen; she is surrounded by clever gentlemen; but it would not do for me. My people are so foolish, I can only govern them in this way."
When Captain Hore passed through this country on his way to Ujiji, Mirambo gave especial instructions that nobody should raise a finger against his white friend. Now it happened the very night before Captain Hore started from the capital that his head-man caught one of Mirambo's pages stealing, and to punish him slightly he tied him up for the night to a post. It also happened that long before daybreak Mirambo was abroad, and visited the white man's camp, where all were asleep, and there he espied his own page in durance vile. He hastily retired, and, when all were astir, he sent down privately to inquire how this came about. He heard and held his peace until Captain Hore had marched away; he then sent for his page, who had been released, and had returned to the palace.
"Where were you last night?"--"Thy servant went no whither," was the unblushing lie. "Then I will tell you where you went," so he recounted all. "Now," he said, "I will teach you to disobey my orders, and to molest my white friends." So he took a bow and arrow and shot him through the heart, and then, as he did not die instantly, he further took his bow and bowstrung him. It was cruel and severe, but the circumstances of the case must be remembered. Mirambo had given especial orders, and one of his own servants was the first to disobey it, and thus laid him open to possible suspicion of connivance. Now it is a noted fact that he never puts anybody to death with his own hand, but always employs an executioner. In this ease he made an especial exception in order to show that he had nothing to do with the theft, and meant to stand by the white man, and to prevent his being molested.
Mirambo's history is too long for me to enter into at any length. He was first called Mtelya, but in consequence of his many victories he assumed the name of Mirambo, which probably means "Killing many men." He is further surnamed Nzige or Locust, because it is said that he eats up all before him, and a short time ago he took the name of Malomo-Malimu, or Five Lamps, being the number of important places around him, in all of which he says "he is able to discern between friends and foes."
Before Mirambo came to the throne he used to get drunk on pombè, the native beer, just as those around him; when, however, he became king, he at once also became a total abstainer, saying, "I could not do all my business and govern my people well, if I drank pombè."
UYUI, October 16th.--By this time I was able to walk from one room to the other, and had had a trial trip in my hammock from the mission station to the camp and back. I bore this journey well, and although unable to sit up at the end of it, I deemed that the time had come for me to make a start for the lake. That very evening news was brought us that fifty of our porters had deserted, the result being that all was thrown into confusion. However, it never does to be downhearted at misfortunes, so we decided to start, and leave Rashid to follow with the boat and a few odd loads. S asked me to be down at the camp at 2 p.m., and promised that I should have six porters told off to carry me. I made this a stipulation, as I had already experienced the trial of being dragged along by tired, ill-tempered men.
In spite of much weakness, I sat up the whole morning and wrote to as many friends at home as possible, for all here felt that the experiment I was about to make was not unlikely to terminate fatally. At 12 we lunched, and at 2 I entered the hammock, and proceeded to the camp, where all was noise and excitement, for now that these men had departed the question had to be faced, what loads should be taken and what left? I saw that a start was for the present impracticable, and so was carried beneath the shelter of a great rock, and there left until 4.30 p.m., at which time a start was finally made. When the men came to fetch me, I was too tired to think how many or who they were, but before very long I discovered that I had only one relay, namely four men in all, and that these, while at Uyui, had been going through a course of dissipation, and had neither power nor inclination to carry me properly.
I had not gone very far when a large green snake, about eight feet long, came out of the grass and drew himself up in a defiant way, plainly indicating that. if we attempted to pass it would be at our peril. My men prepared to drop me and bolt, so I jumped from my hammock and called for my gun, but was not allowed to have it, as they thought rue far too weak and ill. Another then fired a bullet from a very respectful distance without any effect; and, wonderful to relate, one of the Wanguana was found brave enough to advance upon the venomous reptile with a stick, whereupon it retreated, fleeing into a hole.
After about an hour and a half my men began to show signs of utter collapse, and jerked and shook me most painfully. By-and-by a stumble, and both went down. I had been looking out for this, and so broke my fall; but it is very dangerous to be thus dropped, nothing being more likely to injure the spine. I gave them a long rest, but it was of no avail; finally, for safety's sake, I was compelled to abandon the hammock and walk for two hours. How I managed it I scarcely know. I had been in bed for the best part of six weeks, and persuaded myself that I could only crawl from one room to another, and sit up for an hour at a time; now I had to walk six miles, or even more. It only proves what one can do if an effort has to be made.
I arrived in camp at 8 p.m., where sad con fusion prevailed. S had remained to see about the loads we had been compelled to leave behind; the consequence was, the men, being tired, took advantage of his absence, and threw down their burdens everywhere. The grass was long, the night pitch dark, and thing after thing refused to be found. In my exhausted condition I had to do without bedding, and, worse still, without food; for we had encamped in the "pori," with neither village nor water at hand, and daylight scarcely mended matters, for there could be no breakfast. I refused to start until I had more men to carry me than on the previous day; but although six were scraped together, yet they were not regular carriers, and I was worse off than before. The scenes of the past afternoon were painfully repeated, with the additional distress of want of food. At 1.30 p.m., five-and-twenty hours after lunch at Uyui, we sat down to a meal of pea-soup without stock, and flour-and-water dumpling without suet. The next day I declined to stir an inch until I had six good men allotted to me, for my life absolutely depended upon it.
November 1.--Encamped near the village of a great chief, called Shimami, great in possessions, stature, and power. He was considerably over six feet and robust, although not over-corpulent. A man of remarkably fine points. his first overture was the present of a very fine goat, which was followed by some milk, after which came two oxen. Then, having prepared the way in a right royal manner, he came himself to see and to be seen, and to pick up any little treasure that might be presented to him.
I gave Shimami a few small presents, and among them a pair of blue spectacles. He then departed to the other tents, where he seemed inclined to spend the rest of the day; and so, as his room was rather to be desired than his company, I arrived on the scene, and suggested that he should take me to see his village, and there I would present him with an English hat, which he greatly coveted. To this he readily assented, and we marched off in correct order, namely, in single file, the chief leading, the guest following, then the Kilangori and officers, according to rank.
When we approached the village Shimami produced the blue spectacles, and said he must put them on. It struck me that this was the right moment to bring out the hat, for I had now accomplished my object, and drawn him away from the camp. Accordingly I presented him with it. His delight knew no bounds; he put it on, and spectacles and all, strutted off as proud as a peacock. His chief minister discovered that the crown was flattened a little, in the fashion we generally wear our wide-awakes. So it was taken off, and erected in a sharp peak; then its rim was bent up au brigand, and altered yet again and again. I was immensely amused, but my mirth only caused greater delight, for in Africa laughter is seldom expressive of ridicule.
Though this scene was otherwise ludicrous, the magnificent presence of my newly-made friend, with his bright coloured clothes elegantly thrown around him, was most effective.
When we entered the village every corner had to be explored, and every subject had to be interrogated, in order that they might gaze upon the new costume. I felt quite sorry for the poor chief, because, in spite of all his grandeur, the white man was the chief object of attraction. The royal hut was very ordinary in appearance. I was proudly seated on the throne--a low stool with a wooden hood over it, rudely cut from a single block, joinery being unknown by the Wanyamwezi; any ethnological collection would be as proud to possess this rough seat as was Shimami.
After sitting a short time, I suddenly took my leave before his majesty could even rise from the ground, and I slipped round the corner and out of the gate of the village opposite to that at which I had entered. Can you believe it?--when I came round the camp side of the Tembe I saw the same pompous procession, only altered in two respects--its face was turned the other way, and it lacked my figure, for that was at that moment hiding behind a bush! My object was hopelessly defeated.
Every day for a week after this we had interesting marches, and health improved sufficiently to allow me really to enjoy life.
In my next I shall take you all for a paddle on the mighty Nyanza.
MY last letter gave you a brief outline of the three months' journey I took from the coast to the country of the Wanyamwezi, and there I was obliged to say farewell. You will remember that I told you that we had to traverse five well-defined regions, the physical features of which vary very much the one from the other. Four of these I have already described, so now I am going to tell you a little about the fifth, namely, the Lake District, which nurses in its bosom the mighty Victoria Nyanza, that vast expanse of water which I believe is next to, if not the largest, lake in existence. However, up to the present time we have had no very accurate survey of its dimensions, so that we may have to alter our opinions a little.
As to the district, it is, as might be imagined, far more remarkable than any of the other four. The plateau of the country of Wanyamwezi gradually slopes away to the basin of the lake, and gradually, too, becomes more and more fertile until you find yourself in a land literally flowing with milk and honey, and teeming with all manner of life. With regard to the people, it is difficult to give any detailed account of the inhabitants of its shores, because they are divided into so many tribes.
The Wasukuma, a branch of the great Wanyamwezi family, inhabit the south-east coasts. They are in many respects like the People of the Moon, but from situation rather more pastoral. Of the north-east shores very little is at present known. We are waiting with burning impatience the report of Mr. Thompson. On the north-west and south-west banks the original tribes may possibly be closely allied to the Wanyamwezi, but are now ruled by chiefs and nobles of the Wahuma races, who are of Abyssinian descent. Clothing at the south end of the Nyanza is very lightly esteemed by men and unmarried girls. The national costume consists almost entirely of skins, many of which are badly tanned, and intensely greasy, and smell most horribly. We were compelled at times to be ungallant enough to have the ladies driven from the vicinity of our tents, their robes being more ample in dimension than the men's, and consequently more effluvious.
The villages are frequently situated on the brow of a hill, and the beehive-shaped huts ofttimes nestle amongst picturesque groups of rocks and shady trees, and are surrounded by euphorbia hedges and stout fences. It is customary to ornament these fences with the skulls of enemies slain in war, though some times a more lofty spot is chosen, in the shape of a neighbouring tree. Such trophies announce to the visitor who happens to be passing by that a warlike chief lives within; and if he does not look out his head may be seen ornamenting a spare bough.
After the deplorable massacre of Lieutenant Smith, R.N., and Mr. O'Neil, on the Island of Ukerewe, their heads were found by my fellow-traveller, S----, thus put over the gate of the town, and were bought by him, and buried in the grave of Dr. J. Smith, at Kageye.
One day, in passing through a country where they were at war with some neighbours, I almost stepped upon two dead bodies, one of which was headless, and was doubtless that of a chief, whose head had been taken to ornament the gate of the village. When shortly after I arrived there I found the greatest excitement prevailing; the drums were being beaten furiously, and an aged warrior was addressing a ferocious-looking band of younger men, and, to make himself look the more savage, he had taken a piece of brain, which I strongly suspect had been extracted from the head of the murdered man, and had tied it on to his hair, and there it was hanging down over his eyes while he spoke. A more disgusting picture of degraded savagery I never beheld, and I think, somewhat fortunately for me, I could not fully understand the address that he was delivering to the murderous-looking gang around him.
This region, the leading features of which I have been, attempting to describe, we entered when we arrived on the 8th of November, 1882, at Kwa Sonda, the last village under Mirambo's jurisdiction, and the long-promised spot where we were to behold the waters of the mighty Nyanza. The first impression was one of utter disappointment; we expected to see a grand expanse of water and luxuriant foliage, instead of which there was a sandy plain, and in the middle of it, for these parts, a singularly unpicturesque village. Nor could we gather from the natives our exact position and whereabouts. Some cried one thing and some another. The greater part seemed never to have travelled northwards, on account of hostile tribes, and, therefore, to know nothing about the countries beyond them more than that Romwa, Sultan of Uzinga, lived to the north, and bad canoes; that the Sultan of Urima reigned over the country to the north west, and further, that their people were very savage, and often at war with their neighbours. It was very puzzling to know how to proceed, the more so as our long journey from the coast had considerably reduced our stores. We really had not the means to explore right and left, as we should gladly have done. We there fore determined to remain where we were until joined by a small caravan that was following us.
In the meantime I must relate one or two of my expeditions with a gun, for although I never went out on what you might call a hunting excursion, yet I frequently spent an hour or two searching for food, and some of my adventures were slightly stirring. For instance, one day I had had a very worrying time with the natives--and they can be worrying if they try. At length I said to a boy, "I shall get out of this. I will go for a walk; give me my butterfly-net, and you carry the gun for safety As usual, near the lake, I had not gone far before I sighted game. A fine bluebok was grazing a short distance from us, but I said, "No; I do not feel up to the exertion of stalking it," so turned away.
Presently, while hunting for insects in short mimosa tangle up to the knee, I disturbed a strange-looking animal, about the size of a sheep, brownish colour, long tail, short legs, feline in aspect and movement, but quite strange to me. I took my gun and shot it dead-- yes, quite dead. Away tore my boy as fast as his legs would carry him, terrified beyond measure at what I had done! What, indeed? you may well ask. I had killed the cub of a lioness! Terror was written on every line and feature of the lad, and dank beads of perspiration stood on his face. I saw it as he passed me in his flight, and his fear for the moment communicated itself to me. I turned to flee, and had gone a few paces, when I heard a savage growl, and a tremendous lioness--I say advisedly a tremendous one bounded straight for me.
In spite of the loaded gun in my hand, it seemed to me that I was lost. The boy knew more about lions than I did, and his fear knew no bounds. I began to realise that I was in a dangerous situation, for a lioness robbed of her whelp is not the most gentle creature to deal with. I retreated hastily. No; I will out with it, children, in plain language--I ran five or six steps; every step she gained on me, and the growls grew fiercer and louder. Do I say she gained? they gained, for the lion was close behind her, and both were making straight for me. They will pause at the dead cub? No; they take no notice of it; they come at me. What is to be done?
It now struck me that retreat was altogether wrong. Like a cat with a mouse, it induced them to follow. Escape in this manner was impossible. I halted, and just at that moment came a parting yell from my boy, "Hakuna! Kimbia!" I thought he had seen and heard the lion and lioness, and that, speaking as he does bad Kiswahili, he had said, "Hakuna Kimbia!" which might be roughly, though wrongly, translated, "Don't run away!" instead of which he meant to say--in fact, did say--"No! Run away!"
I have no hesitation in saying that a stop wrongly read but rightly made saved my life. I had in the second or two that had elapsed determined to face it out; and now strengthened as I thought by his advice, I made a full stop and turned sharply on them. This new policy on my part caused them to cheek instantly. They now stood lashing their tails and growling, and displaying un feigned wrath, but a few paces from me.
I then had time to inspect them. They were a right royal pair of the pale sandy variety, a species which is noted for its fierceness, the knowledge of which by no means made my situation more pleasant. There we stood; both parties feeling that there was no direct solution to the matter in hand. I cannot tell you exactly what passed through their minds, but they evidently thought that it was unsafe to advance upon this strange and new being, the like of which they had never seen before. I cannot tell you either how long a time we stood face to face. Minutes seemed hours, and perhaps the minutes were only seconds; but this I know, my boy was out of hearing when the drama was concluded.
And this is how it ended:--After an interval I decided not to fire at them, but to try instead what a little noise would do. So I suddenly threw up my arms in the air, set up a yell, and danced and shouted like a madman. Do you know, the lions were so astonished to see your sober old uncle acting in such a strange way that they both bounded into the bushes as if they had been shot, and I saw them no more! As the coast was now clear, I thought I might as well secure my prize, a real little beauty. So I seized it by its hind legs and dragged it as quickly as I could along the ground, the bushes quite keeping it out of sight. When I had gone what I had deemed a sufficient distance I took it up and swung it over my back, and beat a hasty re treat, keeping a sharp eye open in case the parents should lay claim to the body, for I should not have been dishonest enough not to let them have it had they really come to ask for it.
I soon found the cub was heavier than I bargained for, being about the size of a South Down sheep, so I shouted for my boy. It was a long time, however, before I could make him hear. I began to be afraid I must abandon my spoil. At length I saw him in the far distance. Fortunately for me he did not know his way back to the camp, otherwise his intention was to return to the camp, and ask the men to come and look for my remains. The arrival of the cub caused a tremendous sensation amongst the natives; dozens of men came to see it, nor would they believe until they had seen the skin that I had dared to kill a "child of the lioness," it being more dangerous than killing a lion itself. I do not think that I was wise in shooting; but the fact was it was done, and I was in the scrape be fore I knew where I was, and having got into trouble, of course the question then was how best to get out of it.
A few days after my adventure with the lions I again took my butterfly net and boy, and consented gladly to the suggestion of W---- to accompany me for a walk. We had not gone far when we came to a beautiful flowering shrub, covered with insects, and here I should have probably remained for the rest of the morning, had I not been disturbed by an excited summons from the others to come in pursuit of a rhinoceros that they had just sighted. "Well," I replied, "rhino or no rhino, I have just. sighted a new species of butterfly, and I cannot leave this spot until I have secured it."
Could anybody be so ignorant of my character as to think that I would give up the
opportunity of capturing a new butterfly for a chance shot at a rhinoceros? Preposterous Well, there I remained until I had caught, killed, and boxed my fly; and then, with no slight feeling of exhilaration, I seized my gun and proceeded in the direction pointed out to me by my companions.
W------ had never been face to face with big game before, and was in a great state of excitement, trembling with hope and fear combined. We marched on in single file under cover of a tree, and although W----- thoroughly knows how to use his gun, he was in such a state of high pressure, that I momentarily expected the contents of his barrels to take up their residence in the neighbourhood of my calves.
I took a hasty glance round the bush, and there, sure enough, I saw a magnificent rhino lazily eating some rich herbage, and taking no notice of our approach. Back I darted under cover, and whispered my instructions to my eager companions. There was another hush about twenty yards ahead; they were to crawl close behind me under cover of this, and then I was suddenly to emerge to the right hand and they to the left, and all deliberately take aim and fire; and if this produced a savage charge, there was the bush to serve as cover.
It was an anxious moment. How would my companions conduct themselves? Would they dodge, if necessary? Would they stand firm, if firm it must be? "Now then; are you ready?"--"Yes; quite." "Now for it--"
We emerged with bated breath; and 1 the rhinoceros had disappeared, and there before us stood, or rather lay, a fallen tree The looks of disappointed disgust and surprise that clouded our brows require an abler pen than mine to portray. Be it said in excuse that we returned to the spot from whence the mock spectre had first been viewed, and there stood a rhino again as natural as life; and, moreover, my boy, a true son of the forest, had been the first to be taken in!
Towards the end of the year the caravan, for which I mentioned we had to wait, put in an appearance in an utterly dilapidated condition; the barter goods, which we had been relying on, having been all expended. I therefore determined to remain here no longer, but to send messengers to Romwa, to find out whether he was willing to receive us. The report that these men brought back was encouraging, so on the last day of the year I made a start in company with your cousin, and A----, and a handful of men. But, of all seasons in the year, I was just going to pass by Christmas Day.
Well, it found us as follows: G---- very ill in bed: A---- and W---- tottering out of fever; and your uncle just about to totter in. We had an early Communion, and thought much of our loved ones at home thinking and praying for us and wishing us true Christmas joy. In spite of our poor plight we felt that we must celebrate the day. So we gave our men a holiday, telling them it was a great day amongst Christians, and that we should further give them a goat. I had a kid killed for our Christmas cheer, and A------ undertook the pudding. That pudding had its drawbacks; for when we went to the flour-box the flour was full of beetles and their larvae, and we could not get them all out; the raisins were fermented; the suet could easily have been compressed into an egg cup. Then the pudding was underboiled, and yet boiled enough to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, whereby not only was a big hole burnt clean out of the cloth in which it was neatly tied (we were saved the trouble of untying the string), but also its lower vitals had suffered considerably--in fact, were burnt black--and yet a musty, fermented, underdone, burnt plum-pudding was such a treat to African wanderers, that I, for. one, ate three slices and enjoyed it more than ever I re member enjoying a pudding in my life. My only regret was that I could not send you each a slice; you would have liked it so much.
The first day. of the New Year, 1883, found us en route for Romwa's land, encamped on the banks of the south arm of the Victoria Nyanza. This was called by one of the earlier travellers "Jordan's Nullah." Here we were fortunate--or unfortunate--enough to obtain the ser vices of a canoe and canoe-men in the employ of Mtesa. The captain of these men--as de graded a ruffian as ever lived--was called Mzee, which is simply the Kiswahili for "old man," or "elder." I translated this name somewhat freely, and called him "Old Man of the Sea," for he proved to be more trouble some than the persecutor of Sinbad.
To begin with, he had promised to start on the 2nd January, but began by declaring that we had brought more luggage than he had expected, and he therefore refused to start unless we paid him more than the original agreement. After a deal of haggling we came to terms. He then turned round and said that the canoe leaked, and that he must take the day to mend. it. The fact was he had had an unusually good catch of fish, and wanted to skirmish the country to sell it. Evening came, I saw to the loading of the canoe, and at the same time thrice over cautioned Mzee that I had ten more packages to come.
At 2 a.m. he called me up and said we must start. Well, unearthly as the hour was, I got up, saw to everything, cooked my brethren some food, had the tent packed and taken down to the boat, when Mzee turned round and said that he had no room for the luggage, and refused to start until daylight. This meant that my poor suffering companions would have to sit about in dewy grass, bitter cold, and biting mosquitos, for three full hours.
I resolutely answered, "We must start." Thereupon he and his crew rushed to the boat and began tearing out the baggage. A fearful scrimmage ensued, during which time I trod in a colony of biting ants and was wofully punished. Things got in such a pickle that I did not know what was taken and what left, and many packages we could ill spare were left behind.
At 4 p.m. we got off, a hippo blowing a salute as we started. We had not gone far when a loud explosion startled us, and looking up, I saw two legs of my chair flying up wards. My stupid boy had put his gun, loaded and fall-cocked, into the boat, and the jarring fired it off. A new rug was cut in half, the side of the canoe broken, and my poor chair spoilt. Yet how much worse the accident might have been!
Our next escapade was to rob some natives of a goat. And thus it came about. The Old Man of the Sea spied a goat, and rowed after it to shore. I thought they were simply having a chat or friendly barter, for the goat was handed over as quietly as possible, and on we went. It was not until some time after that it came out that it had been forced from its owner. At my expressing horror I was quietly informed that Mtesa's men are accustomed to act in this way.
The scenery soon became very varied and beautiful. Cormorants, darters, belted-king- fishers, and a very small blue variety, with a robin breast, constantly crossed our track. Many crocodiles and hippos floated lazily on the surface, and over the purple hills the sun rose in golden glory. We landed on the Uzinza side for lunch. The people had never seen a white man before, and their astonishment was beyond bounds. The canoe-men were too wise to misbehave themselves in the face of such numbers, so the visit passed off auspiciously. At sunset we camped for the night. G---- had to be lifted from the boat. A---- crept out and at once went to bed. I had the tent pitched; then I discovered there was no firewood. After an hour's search I found a little, and finally bought some more, and superintended the cooking, for the boys were worn out. Then Mzee came and said I must get the things out of the canoe, for it leaked, and I found most of the goods wet. It was very dark, and the air was thick with mosquitos--they were like the plums in a rich Christmas pudding.
As I was sitting down to enjoy a well-earned meal, Duta came and called me from the tent and told me that the men had refused to go on unless I would pay them extra cloth, and from what he overheard he believed that they intended deserting us. I went down to see what could be done, but we could arrive at no agreement. I kept silence, sparing my brethren any anxiety. I slept little that night, fearing the men would desert and steal some of our loads, but daylight found them still there. Three valuable hours were spent in haggling, which resulted in my having to pay yet more cloth, and a start was not made until 11 a.m.
We had not paddled far before a storm gathered, and we had to put into port, and only just in time, for a fearful hurricane burst upon us. "Down rushed the rain terrific," and large waves beat upon the shore, washing up shells and weeds. I should have liked to have slept here, as the day was waning, but no! "Onward!" was the word. Three hippos pursued us, and the hippos of the lake are very savage and dangerous, but the men managed to out-distance them. Vast numbers of crocodiles appeared on the surface of the water. I think I saw as many as a dozen in a shoal. I felt no temptation to bathe! The sun then sank into the west, and we were still at sea. I looked at the pale faces of my invalids, and I looked at the luggage, the tent, my helpless boys, and the savage ruffians in the canoe, and my heart trembled.
It was not until 8 o'clock that we arrived at the place where the boatmen intended us to sleep. It was so dark that it was a long time before we could thud a break in the reeds through which we could wade ashore, and when we landed we found we were in a place which was so rough and damp that there was no possibility of pitching the tent. We crept on some half a mile until we reached a native hut. Fancy the good man of the house, having retired to rest, being disturbed by a ghost in the shape of the first white man he had ever seen! Fortunately he was not tempted to try my ethereal qualities with a spear, but most liberally said we might occupy the goat-house. "Impossible!" I ejaculated, with something more than emphasis, as I gazed upon a thatched manure heap ankle deep in mire. "If you will kindly allow us to sleep within your fence, for fear of leopards, we shall be content."
Having agreed to this, I hastened to my companions, and with great difficulty got them over the rough ground, and had their huts put up in the open. The native, beholding our sad plight, generously vacated his hut, but, after recent experience, I strongly recommended that we should remain in the open until the rain came on. The instant the canoe touched the shore the men made off, leaving us to do the best we could, while they seized upon all the firewood. Our boys on any occasion of this kind always became useless, so that everything fell upon me, and it was some time before I could manage to get a little food ready.
At 2 p.m. it came on to rain, and the invalids took to the hut, but I preferred wrapping myself in my waterproof and facing it. When daylight dawned, I found to my utter despair that the canoe had sunk during the night, and that almost everything had been drenched. It was hard to think of one's note-books, barometers, botanical specimens, etc., in this condition. But the man who goes to Central Africa must be prepared "to take joyfully the spoiling of his goods," and to bear the reproach of incompetence.
Almost superhuman strength at times, I fully believe, was given me; but even that had its limit. After a sleepless night, and then travelling from 5.30 a.m. till 11 o'clock at night, I was unable to unload that canoe, and so it sank. The Old Man of the Sea and his crew refused to bale it out, so I and the boys set to work in the pouring rain, and by 11 o'clock the weather broke, and I got my friends into the canoe and started. Soon clouds began to gather, but evidently only for soft rain.
Mzee now announced that he had made up his mind to take us ashore and leave us,--he had had enough of this journey. We certainly had had enough of him to last for many a long day.
"Well," said I, "how far should we then be from Romwa's? "--"Altogether out of the way." "And are there any canoes to be hired there?"--"There are not. Mzee says he won't go on." "Why, we shall die if we are left in this way."--"He says he will not go on." Then I said in a firm clear voice, "Give me my gun;" and I deliberately proceeded to load it, and pointing at Mzee, I said, "Now will you go on?"--"Yes, Bwana, yes; don't fire." And round flew the head of the canoe like magic. Once more we speeded o'er the waves; and a few minutes afterwards his own men were imitating my solemn gestures and laughing at me, though confessing that they were very glad I had made them go on; but I had found out a secret--I was henceforth the master, and our lives, it is not too much to say, were saved from danger by one prompt action.
I now grew generous, and promised the men a goat on arrival if they made no more ado. The offer was received with joyous acclamations, and we paddled into shore for lunch in glee, thinking all trouble over. Lunch finished and a start made, they coolly turned on me and said they would only go to the next village, and then leave us. I made no comment, thinking I would get there first. To my great joy when I landed I found that the men whom I had sent overland had hit upon this spot, so now I had a small army of men to help us dry our goods, pitch tent, and get in order. I further discovered that Romwa's capital was only a short distance from us. A runner from thence brought word for us to proceed to a certain spot next morning, and there to await a canoe from Romwa. "Trouble surely is ended! " we cried; but was it? No. I wish I had space to relate fully all we passed through before we finally reached this part of our journey. After being detained two days while Romwa made medicine and consulted oracles as to whether the white men would harm him, the Delphian reply was, "The white men are good for you and your people, but injurious to medicine men." During this day I failed with severe fever, but could not give way to it, for somebody must see the matter through. I only remember suffering more pain, but I buckled myself together, saw the canoe loaded, and made a start.
No sooner had we got fairly off than I perceived there was a terrible leak in the canoe, and that the canoe-men were drunken. We landed and repaired the mischief, and the men plied themselves with some "pombè" (native wine), which they had brought with them. The consequence was that when we started they were worse than ever, and yelled and screamed till my poor companions felt over come by the fearful noise. The captain then stood up and executed a war dance on a bale of goods, ending by falling on me. This was more than I could stand, so I gave him a needed warning, and said next time he should have a cold bath. Thereupon he grew wrathful, and ordered the canoe-men to land us on a desert shore. This they refused, fearing Romwa, and perhaps my wrath more than the captain's. Then a free fight commenced, which ended in the captain falling overboard. He climbed in, and in a dreadful rage seized a paddle, and, as I thought, aimed a heavy blow at A----, which fortunately just missed, but shivered the paddle completely.
Believe me, ill as I was, I bounded from my seat, seized him, dragged him into his seat, and defied him to move. I was proceeding to arm myself for protection if necessary, when one of my men took me and gently forced me into my seat, and then proceeded to pat me on the back and talk in this fashion: "White man, be calm, be calm; gently, gently; don't disturb yourself. We will go on; indeed we will. White man, be calm; quietly, quietly, quietly;" and with each word administering a gentle pat, until at last I fairly burst out laughing, and the April shower of wrath fled before the sunshine of mirth.
January 9th saw us settled at Romwa's. It was a lovely spot. We had pitched our tents on a rocky eminence clothed with beautiful foliage, and from whence we gazed out on the broad expanse of that mighty inland sea. Well could we say with the poet-bishop that
"Every prospect pleases, and only man is vile."
Romwa himself, like a good many of us, was not so agreeable as he made himself out, and soon began to try and extract from us the few remaining goods that we had in our possession. Superstition of the most degraded type was rampant, and every corner of the land full of the habitations of cruelty, and all that one saw forcibly told, in language too plain to be misunderstood, of the great need, yea, and opening, that there is for Christian missionaries to teach these poor degraded savages the ennobling and saving truths of the Gospel.
For some time at Romwa's we seemed to be State prisoners, and could not tell when he would permit us to leave. However, at length he consented to my proceeding pro viding the others remained. I accordingly started (January 22nd) with two boys. I had had severe fever the day before, and did not feel up to much fatigue. However, I got up early and went down to the royal hut, and was kept waiting for an hour while I was inspected by the king's wives; then another hour was spent at the water's side, so that it was not until 11 a.m. that a start could be made. Then hindrances arose and we had to put into shore. Then came a storm, and the canoe sprang a leak, so that by 5 p.m. we had only accomplished an hour's work.
Once more we put to sea, and encountered another storm which drenched all my blankets. At midnight we crept quietly ashore, uncertain whether the natives were friendly or not. I had my wet bed and blankets conveyed a little way from the swamp belt of the lake. The boys and men feared to remain with me thus far from the canoe, so I laid my weary frame to rest under my umbrella, for it was raining. Unmindful of natives or beasts of prey, I fell asleep. Soon a tremendous roar close to me caused me to start in a way that no nightmare has ever accomplished. What could it be, a lion? No; lions are not so noisy. It was only a hippopotamus. He had, no doubt, come up to feed, and stumbled nearly on top of this strange object--a white man with an umbrella over his head fast asleep. So bellowing out his surprise, he turned round and ran to the lake.
Before daylight dawned we were off, and soon after reached Kageye. I was welcomed by the Arab chief, Sayed bin Saif, and as I was seated sipping some delicious coffee, a strange white man stood before me. I sprang to my feet, only to hear, "Bon jour, monsieur," and then I knew that I was in the presence of one of the French Jesuit priests.
I started on January 30th, 1883, with my two boys and six men, leaving your cousin in Kageye to wait for my return with the baggage left behind in Msalala. I had to cross Urima, in parts of which they had never seen a white man before. It was a bold undertaking, but I had no fear of being molested by the natives, simply because I could see no reason for their interfering with me. However, when first I set foot in Urima about 200 armed warriors turned out and surrounded me, and I suspect at the least show of resistance, or on the other hand of fear, would have been followed by fatal consequences. They peremptorily ordered me to stop and pitch my tent, and then they surrounded me by a cordon of armed me to see that I made no escape. In the meantime they despatched runners to the Sultan of Urima to tell him that they had captured a white man, and to ask what they should do with him. I was kept in this durance vile for the whole day, but I punished the rough soldiers around me, and myself not a little, by sulking within my closed tent, so that they were unable to inspect either me or my things.
Just before sunset an ambassador arrived from the Sultan demanding a present. I assured him that I had nothing suitable with me, whereupon he replied that he must be assured that I spoke the truth. So accordingly I had to show him all I possessed. At my blanket--you know my blanket, for fifteen years it has been my companion--he paused. "life must have that blanket, Bwana Mkubwa, great master." I cried, "The white man is cold; he wants much clothes. If you take his blanket he will die. When the sun is gone to rest the white man grows chill. Leave him his blanket." The earnestness of my eloquence prevailed, and the next day he permitted me to depart, providing that a messenger accompanied me to receive the promised present.
Then arose a question about canoes to cross the nullah, and these at first were denied, but after a great deal of palaver my arguments again prevailed. A council of war on an occasion of this kind was really a grand sight. I would sit on my bed in the tent and have both the doors flung open. Then the ambassador would take the seat of honour, and near me would sit my head-man and boys, and near him his chief attendants, while outside and around the doors would crowd breathless listeners. I would then tell my man in Kiswahili what I wanted, and this he would trans late in Kirima to the ambassador, only adding volumes to it of his own to put it into proper shape. He would say three or four words only at a time, snapping his fingers between each sentence, and further pausing for the audience to exclaim, "Baba."
Here is an example: "The great white man ('Baba!') has come a long distance ('Baba!'). He has come to see the black man ('Baba!'). He has come to teach the black man ('Baba! Baba! Baba!'). He asks the black man to be kind ('Baba!')" (rather feebly), and so on, and if he spoke for an hour no one would move or interrupt or object until he had concluded. Then all eyes would be turned to the ambassador, who in the same solemn way would state his objections. I think you would have liked seeing and hearing one council, but I doubt if you would have sat through a second; and when it came to two or three times a day you would have kicked over the traces, and the consequence would have been that the ambassador would have sent down a man to say lie was busy that day, and would talk again in three days time. The patience required to deal with savage Africans is almost superhuman. Still, in spite of everything, I arrived once more in Msalala.
I had a long consultation with the other missionaries, which ended in my immediately starting for the coast.
It was a bad time to travel, as the "big rains" were almost upon us, and they make the country very wretched. However, there seemed nothing to be done but to face the worst, and make the best of it. An extract from my diary will show the kind of thing experienced
"February 22 .--Started at daybreak, and marched through jungle until we reached a plain. There I had at once to plunge into thick grass, higher than my head, and wringing with dew. Under foot was water, in most places up to the ankles. And where it was not water it was filthy black mud. I never had such a walk in my life, and the men with me, who have travelled all their lives, said they never had. So I am hopeful that although much of this kind of thing must be gone through, yet it will not often be quite so terrific.
"There was little to amuse besides a solitary giraffe and some dozen ostriches, the pursuit of which was quite out of question. After the first plain was passed a second had to be faced, which fortunately was shorter; for it was in a worse condition than the last. When we reached the first village we found that all the inhabitants had fled, and carried all their goods with them, since war was raging in the district, one poor old blind woman being all that was left behind, and she was just struggling off to a neighbouring town.
"Before reaching camp one of those tropical showers of which you so often hear came on. I struggled on, and took shelter in a native hut; even here I had to sit with my umbrella up, for it leaked very badly. While the ground was running with water my men, in mistaken kindness, put up the tent; the consequence being that the floor inside was much in the condition of the path I had been travelling, and my bed, on which for hours I had been promising myself a good rest, was too wet to use.
As we marched on we fell in with many rivers and morasses, and the rains became so heavy that I doubted whether I should be able to proceed much further. There was often an immense deal of water on the road, sometimes ankle, sometimes knee-deep, and sometimes I have been carried for the best part of an hour with the water up to the men's chins. In cases of this kind I used to cling round the pole of my hammock, and six men would carry me on their heads as if I was a log of wood; but it was by no means comfortable, although far better than getting wet. I have often thought of poor Dr. Livingstone's trials, and realised what he went through, for my own experience very closely resembled his, perhaps more than that of most of the other African travellers. If the picture on the cover of his "Last Journals" is correct, my mode of being carried across deep streams is far better than his. If you glance at the illustration you will see your uncle kneeling on the shoulders of a tall powerful man, and resting on the shoulders of another in front, while a third behind has grasped him by the feet, to steady him. In very swift streams sometimes six or eight men were requisite to keep the three bearers from being swept away, uncle and all.
These rivers and floods used to keep me in suspense lest in my weak condition I should be plunged headlong into the water. But far worse than the rivers were the morasses. For a mile together have I been borne through the most horrible black mud, often above the knee. This was exceedingly fatiguing for the men and trying to me, and the more so as I knew I was inhaling malarious poison of the worst description. Then again, coming from the Lake to Urombo, I was at the mercy of men whom I had to hire perhaps for a spell of three days; they would carry me two days, and the third day bolt, and leave me in the lurch. On one occasion, when only fit to be in bed, I had to crawl fifteen miles. And yet again, when scarce able to stand or sit up without being kept on my feet by my boys, I had to drag my weary limbs six miles. My men used to say, "Master must die, but how is it master is so cheerful and happy through it all? Black man would lie down by the side of the road and die like a sheep."
I was once examined by one of Mirambo's medicine men. This man was of vastly superior morality to the majority of his fellows, who I believe, as a rule, are villains of the deepest dye. He was, moreover, very good-natured and confiding, nor did he appear to be possessed with that spirit of hatred which seems ever to have prevailed amongst the priesthood of heathen systems. He did not hesitate to show me and explain his charms and their uses, and at last it ended in his examining me. For this purpose he used a pair of lazy-tongs, with a little figure at the end, over which he either breathed a prayer or else whispered some instructions. When the doll had peered into my chest, by an almost imperceptible turn of the wrist it came round and delivered its message to its master. This was repeated twice more, and then the answer was that I had got a cold, which, considering I had been coughing and sneezing ever since I had been in the hut, was easy to guess and hard to deny.
When we questioned him about his medicine, and asked him if he thought putting a little bottle in the earth and saying a few words over it could make rain, he replied, "Certainly not! Only God could make rain, but how could we expect Him to do so unless we prayed and made the offerings we thought right?" He prayed to God, but he always went away into the forest to do so. We asked if God was only in the forest? No; but it was more retired and quiet.
Now, lest any should think that this man's own religion was sufficiently enlightened, and he had no need of our teaching, hear the following tale. His son was dying, so he sent a message to Mirambo to say a certain man in his village had bewitched him. The answer back was, "You know the punishment for witchcraft (death); apply it." The accused, however, was a desperate character, and nobody dared carry out the sentence, so word was sent to Mirambo, who asked which of his warriors would undertake the job. All shrank back; but one man whom I knew well, expressed himself willing to do it. The man was asked to meet him at supper; the invitation, however, was refused, so he went to the man's house, and stood at his door until he saw him, and was able to shoot at and wound him. The men round then rushed in and speared him to death.
I witnessed a rather peculiar Dawa (medicine) ceremony amongst the Wanyamwezi. A man solemnly seated himself while another poured some black ointment into his left hand, and then drew his knife and made small cuts, as if to tattoo, first the middle of his forehead and each of his forefingers, the top of his head, each arm, each side of his back, his great toes, each side of the neck, the hip, and back of the tongue. After all the incisions had been made, each cut was lightly touched with the medicine, and the man was ready to journey to the coast, his life henceforth being a charmed one.
Here is another tale about these same strange people. One day, soon after encamping, I heard a great shout, and started to my feet in time to see a zebra bound through the camp, hotly pursued by a hundred or more men. It was speared a few yards from the tents; and then I perceived that mischief was in the wind. A tremendous quarrel ensued. I pushed my way, closely followed by B----, into the surging crowd, and found myself in about as ugly a position as one could imagine.
On the ground was a beautiful zebra; I was at its tail, B---- at its head, and on either side a dense crowd of fierce and angry men quarrelling at the top of their voices; a hundred spears were pointing in all directions. B---- at last got the public ear, and ordered the animal to be taken to his tent, saying he would divide it there and arbitrate between them. This gave general satisfaction. The skin he gave to me; but as it had over forty spear holes in it, we agreed each to take a piece as a reminiscence.
Then came the head-men, and said that the body must be carried off and thrown into the Pori, for the Wanyamwezi never eat zebra-- it was against their creed; if they did eat it it would very likely break the camp up. Hearing this the hungry men sprang on the prey, tore it to bits, and ran off with it; in the mêlée B---- getting rather disagreeably splashed. I had asked for a portion to taste, but this new phase put a stop to my expected feast. Per haps I need scarcely add the camp was not broken up, nor in any way unhinged.
At length, through another desperate attack of fever, I had to take altogether to my ham mock. It sounds wonderfully luxurious to talk of being transported from place to place in such a manner. Well, all I can say is, let anybody try it, and see if they care to repeat the dose. I think I could write a book on the subject, I have had so much of its excitements, its monotony, and its discomforts.
One illustration is all we can afford to set forth the pleasantries of the life. I have drawn myself when upon one occasion the man in front fell down flat, and by some miraculous means was pinned to the ground by the hammock-pole; nor could he move until a companion released him from his strange position. Sometimes the man behind tripped up; in which case I fell on the back of my head. Another time he glided on to his knees in several inches of black mud. And yet again both bearers simultaneously tripped, and a complete downfall took place.
It is hard to draw pictures of boughs whip ring one in the face, or of men banging you against a sharp-pointed stump of a tree, or of passing over rough ground, and being jumped up and clown like a pea on a drum, and yet these were everyday occurrences. And as for being lifted over and under fallen trees, and being handed down deep ravines and up the other side, with one's feet far above one's head--why it happened so often that I grew accustomed to have my heels high in the air.
I believe I have already dilated on the horrors of crossing streams and floods and mud pools and swamps--first one man and then the other slipping and tripping and sliding, and stumbling, and gliding and tumbling, and keeping one in an intense state of agitation, let alone discomfort beyond imagination. One good man who carried me had a kind of spring-halt, which was particularly unpleasant, especially after a meal.
Altogether I had a nice time of it, and one of the most suffering things about life in a hammock was the fact that I was a mere bag of bones, having been reduced from twelve to eight stones in weight, by repeated attacks of fever.
I will now give you a description of my tent and its contents. We begin at the pole, around which are fastened about twenty spears, besides a bow, one of my guns, and a native sword. Then we come to the pantry, which contains a native box made out of bark, a saucepan, bucket of water, and the two pro vision boxes; on the top of the little one, my lamp; on the other a cup, etc. The best box stands on two fine elephant tusks, to prevent its being eaten by the white ants. Leaving the pantry we come to the wardrobe, which, besides the bags for my clothes, has also a load of shields. The one in front is from Uganda. Under some leopard and other skins you would find a load or two of cloth for barter, and, stowed away in a corner, a number of native clubs. Then as we pass on we come to the dining- room and bedroom; on my bed is my favourite old blanket which has accompanied me in all my wanderings for fifteen years, and to my mind it looks as gay as ever it did. The three boxes are respectively medicine, despatch, and lamp-box. They act as my table, but as they are not very large, if you come to a meal with me, we must put some of the things upon the floor.
"Now, boy, bring in my tea." "Yes, sir; coming." Let us see what we have got. First, two eggs, which, with the salt and our one teaspoon, he puts down before us. Now, mind I don't forget to help myself to salt first, because I have only one spoon. Having finished my first egg, the boy comes again. "Kettle boils, sir." "Well, make the cocoa." "Spoon?" Then I wonder which will be best, to let the water or the egg get cold; finally I decide, as I have no bread-and-butter, to finish the egg, since it will only take a very short time to eat. I then hand over the spoon to be taken to the camp and washed, only hoping that he will not forget to do so. Perhaps you noticed as I ate my egg that I was not burdened with an egg-cup, and that I had to hold it in my handkerchief; but I did not like its running over the side, for run over the side it would, because African eggs are only the size of bantams' eggs, and our spoon, not being a silver one, has had rather an extravagant expenditure of metal laid out upon it.
Eggs finished, I proceed to rice porridge-- my standing dish. I may speak of myself having lived upon it for three months. The spoon having again been cleaned, I forget that I am going to be extravagant, and have jam, and so plunge it into the rice. Dear me! shall I lick it clean, or wait while the boy washes it? Don't tell anybody--I'll lick it. Having dived into the jam, I taste the cocoa. 'Tis very weak, and I see all the cocoa has sunk to the bottom of the cup. Where is the spoon? 'Tis jammy! Never mind; lick it again, and don't tell. Then allowing ourselves two sweet biscuits we conclude our meal, and, seizing pen and ink, we begin to write our letter.
I passed the two big Poris (deserts), and at length arrived at Kisokwe, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cole, and a little English baby, at this time five months old, the first born in these parts. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cole are earnest and devoted missionaries. Mrs. Cole has a large Sunday-school class. Its members form such a quaint group, I should like you just to look in upon them one Sunday after noon. Some were very gaudily clothed in all sorts of bright colours, some merely in goat-skins. Others, again, were red with war paint, and carried bows and arrows or spears. Altogether it would be difficult to imagine a more quaint and yet picturesque group of children; and yet, for all this funny appearance, they were very respectful and orderly, and tried to learn the great lessons which Mrs. Cole endeavours to teach then.
Here, in addition to my other trials, I lost a friend, who, like me, was returning to England for his health. He died very suddenly at last, and at the moment of his death I alone was with him.
Not many weeks after, dear Mrs. Cole, who was so kind to your uncle during his two visits, and who was such an energetic missionary, and so truly devoted to the welfare of the swarthy Sons and daughters of Africa, likewise was called away. ***
And now, my dear nephews and nieces, I must say farewell! What your uncle under went is only what many out there are going through, and must continue to go through, before a native ministry can be raised up to carry on the grand work of evangelising Africa. You will think of these things sometimes.