NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, W.C.;
43, QUEEN VICTORIA STREET, E.C.
BRIGHTON: 129, NORTH STREET.
NEW YORK: E. & J. B. YOUNG AND CO.
"WHO and where are the Ménabè?" will be the natural question on first reading the title of this book.
The name is given to one of the larger divisions of the much-divided Sakalava tribe, which covers the western side of Madagascar, comes round the northern and southern extremities of the island, and so joins the Bétsimismáraka, the inhabitants of the coast on the east. These Sakalava are the least known of the various tribes in the island, while, roughly speaking, they cover about half its area. They have not been brought under the rule of the Hova, nor, indeed, of any single sovereign, but are still, in primitive fashion, governed by chieftains or petty kings, more or less in dependent of one another. Naturally, therefore, the country is in a most unsettled state; the authority of the kings is often merely nominal, [1/2] and the intentions of a sovereign afford no guarantee that his subjects will be like-minded. Quarrels between the various chiefs are constantly occurring and more serious differences between the kings themselves, while the whole tribe considers itself the hereditary enemy of the Hova in Imerina, and constant raids upon cattle, women, and children are the rule during the dry season.
Over and above these elements of unquiet, there is a floating population of robbers on the look-out for plunder great or small; these robbers are sometimes men who have fallen under the displeasure of their king, or have renounced their allegiance and owe obedience to no one except their leader for the time being; more often they are Sakalava, who have organized an expedition on their own account and naturally prefer to operate at some distance from their home.
These wandering bands will for choice attack luggage-bearers travelling alone or in small parties, but, failing strangers, they seize the cattle of their fellow-countrymen, and after murdering or taking captive those in charge of the herd, drive off their booty and with it any women from the village on whom they may chance to lay hands.
All this makes travelling in the Sakalava country a very difficult matter, for, having made friends with one king and shown due appreciation of his greatness by making him presents, all must be done over again if the traveller go beyond his friend's territory; even while still within it, he can be by no means sure of his [2/3] reception at the hands of the various chiefs, especially at a distance from the king's town, unless he arrange matters to the satisfaction of each one individually. This system of presents is, by a convenient euphemism among the natives, termed "giving honour," but in practice it is the most barefaced blackmailing. Having satisfied the numerous demands upon him, the traveller must still, as he moves about the country, take the risk of meeting one of the above-mentioned marauding bands on the warpath; if he and his party happen to be numerically stronger, they may pass the ambushed robbers without being aware of their existence, otherwise they must trust to their powers of diplomacy or take the consequences. In most cases no time is given for parley, the shots of the attacking party from their hiding-place being the first indication of their presence.
The Hova tribe is too small to exercise any effective check upon the Sakalava, and has only been able to establish a certain number of forts up and down the country: firstly, they have their outposts along the western border of Imerina, with a view to preventing the cattlelifting and woman-stealing, which occupies the Sakalava during the winter months--the dry season on the west coast and in the interior. These small Hova garrisons, under the command of a governor, are nearly always in a miserable state of inefficiency, both as to numbers and weapons; and in some cases certainly the governor has been known to purchase his own safety from his country's enemies by stealthily providing them with what they require.
 In addition to these border garrisons and a few isolated stations on the coast, there are two main lines of communication connecting Antananarivo, the capital, with the west coast. The one has a northerly direction and issues at Mojanga, taking the route followed by the late French expedition; the other, starting due southwards, proceeds down the centre of the island, until well past its point of exit, and then turns sharply westwards, or rather north-west, and so reaches Mahabo, the main garrison, and the coast at Morondava, one of the ports on the west at which the French mail steamers regularly call.
Between these two lines of Hova garrisons--not by any means perfect lines, for gaps of more than a day or even two days' journey occur on the southern route--the country is in absolute possession of the Sakalava. The district thus bounded is a large one, with Mojanga at its northern extremity and Morondava at its southern. The country occupied by the Menabe lies in the southern portion of this district, immediately to the north of Mahabo and Morondava, that is, from a little south of the 20th parallel of latitude to a line somewhere between the 18th and 19th. The western boundary is very indefinite, but the Menabe extend right up to the uninhabited country, a broad strip of which, abounding in wild cattle, separates the Sakalava from the Hova.
The Menabe are nominally under the rule of a single king, by name Toéra, but his sovereignty is disputed by his half-brother Ingréza (= the Englishman), a great ruffian, and much dreaded [4/5] along the coast of Menabe-land. Both claim the throne, but the claims of neither are quite without a flaw. Toera is the son of the former king and a Sakalava princess; Ingreza, on the other hand, is the son of the same king by a Makoa woman, therefore not of the blood royal on the mother's side; but he bases his claim upon the fact that he was born with the "vála ména" (= red fence) or royal enclosure; while, by some accident or oversight, Toera, though born of the right parents, was not born in the right place.
The existence of rival claimants to the throne renders much more difficult the already difficult task of governing a restless and turbulent people. The majority of the Menabe--the comparatively, very comparatively, peaceably inclined of them--have thrown in their lot with Toera; while those who have incurred his displeasure, and all the more lawless spirits, follow Ingreza. The latter, though possessing a smaller following, is in consequence very formidable both from his own daring and recklessness, and from his being in command of a body of men thoroughly likeminded. Many of these would fight, if it came to actual war, with a halter round their necks, for to them submission to Toera would mean certain ruin, probably death; they therefore prefer to take the risk of remaining with a tyrant, who may or may not take their lives at any time, but who has, on the other hand, congenial tastes with themselves, and gives them ample opportuuities for plunder and fighting.
Through the southern half of Menabe runs a fine river, the Tsiribihina (more usually called [5/6] by the natives Tsijobóhina, = which cannot be waded through), with a nasty bar at the mouth, but navigable by small vessels for some days' journey eastwards.
The valley through which this river runs is remarkably fertile, and produces tobacco famous in the district round. With characteristic laziness the Menabe do little or nothing towards cultivating the rich alluvial soil on either side of the river, and barely produce sufficient for their daily wants.
At the time of which I am writing, Toera was occupying a small village on the northern bank of the Tsiribihina, some two days' journey from the sea; while Ingreza held a town close to the mouth of the river, and so commanded' the waterway.
A certain amount of trade is done, mainly by Arabs, who bring up the river, in their outrigger canoes, gunpowder and cloth, which they exchange for rubber and ebony.
Toera was at one time in imminent danger of being starved into submission by his halfbrother, who intercepted the boats of the traders, and so stopped the supplies of the above articles. Gunpowder is almost a necessary of life with the Sakalava, and Toera's subjects would not long have endured the want of it.
Higher up the Tsiribihina, where two rivers, the Mahajilo and the Mania, meet, which come from far in the interior, and on the eastern border of the Menabe country, live the Betsiriry, a subdivision of the Menabe, and with them begins the story of our attempt to found a mission among the Sakalava.
CHAPTER II. PRELIMINARIES AND PREPARATIONS--BY SEA TO THE WEST COAST.
SOME three years before our attempt was made, one of the S.P.G. missionaries in Madagascar, E. O. McMahon, who was stationed to the south-west of the Ankaratra Mountains, carried out a long-cherished plan, and made his way westwards across the desert into the country of the Betsiriry.
It was a most difficult and dangerous undertaking; but that, as Rudyard Kipling says, "is another story."
It is enough for our present purpose to say, that after he had been kept under guard three days, while a messenger was sent to Toera to learn his will with regard to the bold white man who had so unexpectedly appeared in his territory, a favourable answer was returned, and McMahon was able to make friends with some of the chiefs, and only left them after promising to return in due time and bring with him teachers to settle amongst them. In accordance [7/8] with this promise he did return after some months, and with him three young Hova, who had volunteered for this hard and perilous work.
On the arrival of the party, however, it soon appeared that the friendly chiefs had overestimated their own influence and the complaisance of their fellows, and McMahon was checkmated by a distinct refusal from the people generally to allow any of the hated and suspected Amboa-lambo (= dog-pig, the Sakalava name for the Hova) to settle in their country for any purpose whatever. At the same time, they said that if he would come alone or with another European he would be welcome, and the king would allow him to settle in his land. Here seemed a sufficiently definite promise to go upon, and McMahon again returned to his station at Ramainandro.
This second visit was made shortly before his time for going home on furlough, and on reaching England and telling his story, he obtained from the Society the promise of a grant sufficient to start the work in the Betsiriry country. It only remained for him to find a companion missionary for the attempt; thus I come into the story!
McMahon returned to Madagascar at the end of his furlough, and it was settled that I should not follow until some months later, in order to give him time to make proper arrangements for carrying on the work in his district during his absence in Sakalava-land. Having decided that the attempt should be made, the question arose as to the best means of approaching the Menabe. One thing was certain: we must go as direct as [8/9] possible to King Toera, if any permanent result was to be looked for; no chief dare take the responsibility of receiving us until we had been introduced into the royal presence, nor would the jealousy of his fellow-chieftains allow him to have a white man all to himself for any length of time.
Two routes were open to us: the one the overland desert route, starting from McMahon's station, Ramainandro, and approaching Toera through the Betsiriry; the other by sea, round to the west coast, and so to the nearest practicable point to Menabe.
The former plan offered the great advantage of entering the country among friends. The Betsiriry, as we heard, were expecting us, and would convoy us at once in safety to Toera, who was then reported to be living on the banks of the Tsiribihina--the place, in fact, where we found him. This was so far in favour of taking the land journey, but the objections were various. There was, first, the great difficulty of procuring porters for our baggage, which was necessarily a considerable amount. In addition to a tent with a fly-roof of rot-proof canvas and the requisite stores, we had several men's loads of drugs, which McMahon hoped to use, and did use, with great effect throughout our wanderings. Besides the initial difficulty of obtaining bearers, there was the heavy responsibility we should incur by taking a number of men from Imerina and Betsileo into a hostile country, without being able to guarantee their safe return. While still with us, they only shared a common danger, and the risk was not very [9/10] great, considering the promises we had received , but it was by no means certain that, after following us into Toera's presence, they would be allowed to return home unmolested. This danger was by no means imaginary, for on McMahon's former visit five of his men, who insisted on separating from him and making their own way eastwards, were attacked, and two of them murdered before they had completed their second day's journey.
We therefore abandoned the idea of following in the track of McMahon's former journey.
The other plan was made easier by the fact that the French Messageries Maritimes had a small mail steamer running from Nosibe down the west coast of Madagascar, and calling, among other places, at Morondava, so landing us not only close on the Menabe country, but at a place in the hands of the Hova, where we might obtain such help as we required in the way of boats and porters. We heard also that Ingreza had grown weary of the constant quarrels with Toera, and had retired southwards, thus leaving the Menabe in peace and the way up the Tsiribihina open. We hoped, therefore, to be able to arrange that our goods should be transported by sea from Morondava to Toera's town, and so save a long and fatiguing march and much expense in the matter of porters.
This plan seemed to offer the best chances of success, and had the further advantage of bringing us directly to his Majesty of Menabe, without running the risk of offending his dignity by using one of his chiefs as our intermediary.
 We sailed, therefore, from Tamatave in the French mail of July 27th, and the 30th saw us landed at Nosibe, there to await the sailing of the Mpanjaka on August 7th, which would take us to Morondava. Here we made our first acquaintance with the sea-going craft of the Sakalava--the catamaran or outrigger canoe, called by the natives "laka-piaro." These canoes are built of a light, white wood, with almost the buoyancy of cork, made wedgeshape, and with long pointed bow and stern. The bottom is hewn out of a solid piece of timber, and upon this is built the superstructure, very ingeniously fitted and fastened with long pegs of hard wood; sometimes the bows will consist of as many as thirteen to fifteen different pieces thus joined; the peculiar curves and twists of the topmost portion form a distinguishing mark for the various tribes. Unless the owner is a bachelor, there is always wrapped round one portion of the bows a tiny piece of native matting, fastened there, I was told, in order that the wife might have a hand in the fitting of her husband's boat--a touching emblem of conjugal affection, but probably rather the outcome of superstition than sentiment. The "laka-piaro" carries a huge square-sail, rigged on two poles loosely lashed to the forward cross-pole of the outrigger, and fitting at their foot into a series of holes; by shifting the foot of the poles into different holes as required, the sail can be trimmed for running before the wind or sailing close-hauled. These craft are much safer than one would suppose, for, though they are seldom more than two [13/14] feet in width at the top, often much less, they will well carry four passengers, in addition to a fair amount of baggage, and will ride safely over a pretty heavy sea; the only danger is of the outrigger becoming unshipped. The crosspoles, which are lashed athwart the boat, are fixed, not directly into the outrigger, but into large pegs driven down into it, and it may happen that the working of the outrigger in a choppy sea loosens the pegs, and an upset is then inevitable. The Sakalava are, however, little discomposed by such an accident; they swim round, unship the masts, right the lakana, drive in the offending pegs, bale out the water, and go on their way, as if an upset in shark-infested waters a mile or more from land was the most ordinary event in the world!
Our first practical experience of one of these "laka-piaro" was one day during our stay at Nosibc, when we went into the Hindi quarter in search of ammunition, knowing that our larder must be supplied in Menabe mainly by our own exertions. The shortest way thither was across a small bay, but we two, of the four who, including the boatman, formed the party, looked rather askance at the diminutive article provided for our accommodation. It was only sixteen inches in the widest part, but it carried the four of us splendidly over the waves raised by the sea-breeze, which was blowing briskly; now and again a dash of spray came on board, but the outrigger acted as a sort of breakwater, and a stiff pull brought us in safety to our destination. We landed on our boatman's back, and a few steps took us into a typical Eastern town; it [14/15] might have been a little bit of Zanzibar--the same narrow streets, the same beautifully carved posts between the folding doors, the same fat men and bright dark-eyed children, the same unmistakable smell, once experienced always recognizable, and, coming down the street, the same melancholy procession of women, covered from head to ankle in a reddish, sad-coloured cloak, a small plate of perforated metal opposite their eyes, and enormous rings of silver round their ankles. On returning after getting powder and shot, without being outrageously cheated, we had to head the waves, but had no reason to be dissatisfied with the sea-going qualities of our tiny craft.
It was weary waiting till August 7th, but it came at last, and then in the early morning of the 12th we sighted the low-lying shore of Morondava, and felt that the preliminaries were nearly over and that we were at last close upon the land of the Menabe.
CHAPTER III. LANDING AT MORONDAVA--BAD NEWS--A CHANGE OF PLAN.
BEHOLD us, then, on a bright clear morning of August, seated, with our goods around us, in a clumsily built coasting schooner, and running over the bar of a shallow river, which at high water forms the harbour of Morondava, or Anosimiandroka, as we discovered the small town was really called.
On landing, we found ourselves among friends--the Hova governor of the place as well as his two subordinate officers being men whom we had known well in Imerina in former days; they were down on the coast because of the arrival of the mail, but their little garrison town was half a days journey inland.
Our first sight of a west-coast town did not promise great attractions: the land on which it is built is low, and mangrove swamps abound, while on three sides of the town a huge expanse of mud is left bare at low water. A mangrove swamp at low water is a strange sight: the trees [16/17] so curiously interlaced, branches and roots so much alike, that it is almost impossible to say where one tree ends and another begins; slimy, tenacious mud below riddled with large holes, the homes of uncanny-looking crabs, with dark-blue bodies and one huge red claw (the other merely rudimentary), slimy things of various kinds sticking to or hanging from the mud-covered roots--a gruesome and nightmarish sort of place altogether.
The inhabitants were hardly more attractive than the town. The men are strong, well-setup fellows, but with rather an offensive swagger, and much more truculent in appearance than the quiet Betsimisaraka of the east coast; the women evidently do not believe in "beauty (or the want of it) unadorned," for they use jewelry largely when they can get it.
A fashionable ornament at the time of our arrival was a line of yellow ochre, traced from each ear and encircling the forehead and china cheap and sufficiently conspicuous decoration, which probably, however, had some religious signification. English sovereigns are much sought after to be worn as trinkets, and you may see even small girls with two or three on a necklace, or with one hanging from a tiny lock of hair in the centre of the forehead; this, of course, only among the wealthier. One mode of adorning the person is within reach of all, for all alike distend the pierced lobe of the ear with circular ornaments, about an inch and a half in diameter; the Arabs sell them hollow silver rings for the purpose; but failing them a tight roll of a leaf, or better still of stiff paper, serves [17/18] to stretch the hole in the ear until the skin is the size of a piece of small cord surrounding the ornament. We had as patients some women who, in their anxiety to be in the tip-top of the fashion (a desire peculiar, of course, to the untutored savage), had stretched the skin beyond its powers, and came to the white doctor to have the broken ends united. He, being very busy with more pressing cases, usually contented himself with pointing out to them the suffering and inconvenience resulting from their vanity, and sternly refusing to minister to it.
The news we received at Anosimiandroka was startling and most unpromising. A few days before our arrival, a party of seventy men had been landed from South Africa, bound for a gold concession in the interior, north-east of the Menabe country; events proved that they were the victims of a bare-faced fraud. Their original intention had been to land at the mouth of the Manambolo, a river north of the Tsiribihina, and make their way up by water; but it appeared that the captain of their steamer failed to find the mouth of the river, and the Sakalava in the neighbourhood seemed decidedly hostile and prepared to prevent their landing. They had therefore been put ashore bag and baggage at Morondava, to make their way as best they could to their gold concession.
This was serious and much against the success of our attempt. Their road would lie right through the Menabe country; and, apart from the ferment certain to be caused by the sudden appearance of so unusually large a body of white men, it was more than likely that they might in [18/19] their passage through Toera's territory do something to excite the easily roused suspicions of the Sakalava, and it would be very difficult for us to dissociate ourselves and our errand from these gold-diggers in the minds of the natives.
Still we hoped for the best and trusted to be able to reach Toera by way of the Tsiribihina long before so large a body of men could be on the move. We at once set about making inquiries as to the feasibility of this route, and were met by the second piece of bad news: Ingreza had found his presence with his attendant ruffians unacceptable in the south, and had returned to his old position, the town called Tsimanandrafozana (= not having a mother-in-law), commanding the mouth of the Tsiribihina. We had a long talk to a half-breed trader, who knew the country well and was blood-brother of both Ingreza and Toera. He gave the former a very bad character, and assured us that it was impossible for us to go by water, and that we had better go up to the Hova garrison town of Mahabo, and thence by land to Toera. He said that Ingreza would probably not allow visitors for Toera to pass at all, or, even if he did not absolutely prevent us, would invent excuses for delaying us possibly for some weeks, and that even then we should only get away after Ingreza had got from us all the cloth (the currency of the country) and other presents which we had with us; he added that we should not be safe for a day in the power of that drunken ruffian and his equally drunken and ruffianly followers.
Later in the day this information was enforced [19/20] from a more reliable source--the Rev. O. Aarnes, a Norwegian missionary, who at the same time offered us hospitality, during our stay on the coast, at his Mission village Betela (Bethel), a few miles up the river, and promised us boats and men for the journey to Mahabo. He not only told us that we must not dream of attempting to pass through Ingreza's territory, but also said that, by going to Mahabo and making friends with Rasinaotra, the Sakalava Princess there, we should have a far better chance of getting a safe conduct to Toera, and of a favourable reception on arriving.
This Rasinaotra, called by the Sakalava Rasaotsy, is, it seems, Toera's aunt, and lives in Mahabo, under Hova protection and direction; she is acknowledged as the sovereign of the country round Mahabo, and thus her territory borders upon the Menabe. [The change comes about thus: the "in" drops out; words which in Hova end in "tra" are invariably changed in Sakalava to a sound something between "tsa" and "tsy," pronounced very lightly; thus "lanitra" becomes "linitsy."]
There was clearly nothing for it but to go avid Mahabo, and we somewhat reluctantly changed our plans and as soon as possible went up to Betela, still hoping to be able to move towards Toera in advance of the gold-seekers' expedition.
The aspect of the Mission station gave us some idea of the unsettled state of this western side of Madagascar: the little Christian colony was surrounded by a strong ring fence, and at the gate by which we entered an armed watchman was stationed. Other evidences of the [20/21] general lawlessness were not wanting. The very day after our arrival, a woman was brought into the Mission compound, shot in the head by her husband, owing to some trifling quarrel. The event caused some excitement among the Christians, but was evidently considered by the heathen Sakalava who brought her in as the not unusual result of a conjugal difference. An hour's work sufficed to extract from her forehead several fragments of an iron pot, a common substitute for shot or ball, and she retired with her friends, well bandaged up and apparently little the worse. We had already discovered that no one moved out of his house without a spear and loaded gun, generally an old flint-and-steel tower musket, and powder horn at his belt; but we were hardly prepared on our first Sunday to find that the inevitable weapons were even brought into church and placed against the wall or seat as unconcernedly as a man in England disposes of his umbrella.
We were told, however, that this was by no means a needless precaution, for in the previous year some Sakalava had made an attack upon Betela during morning service one Sunday, and in the fight which followed a native Christian teacher had been shot and killed.
Five days were spent at Betela making arrangements with men to take us up to Mahabo by water, and getting our baggage into the most portable possible form. Among other things, we were most fortunate in obtaining two Christians as servants, one of whom volunteered to go with us and remain as long as we stayed in Toera's country. Our two "boys"--every [21/22] servant is a boy on the west coast, even when grey hairs make the designation ludicrously inappropriate--were not Sakalava but Makoa as indeed were nearly all the members of this Christian settlement, and most valuable and faithful they proved throughout our wanderings. The one, by name Jesse, had a relative at Toera's court, which fact might prove of service to us, while the name of the volunteer was Zephaniah. Our negotiations with the first candidate were rather amusing; he had been to sea as cook, and had also been in service for a short time at Natal; there he had picked up a little English, and plumed himself not a little upon the distinguished position this accomplishment conferred on him. He expressed great willingness to go with us, but wished to impress us with the great value of his services. When he went on to say that he was "captain of all the cooks," we felt that he was too big a man for us, and that we must deny ourselves the luxury of such a cook, especially as it was clear that these were preliminaries to a demand for extortionate wages.
We had also a long and interesting conversation with one of the leading Christians upon the subject of the fati-dra or blood-covenant, a custom which prevails here as well as in Africa. [It is a disputed fact among the natives whether this word is derived from "fatitra" (= an incision which draws blood), or "fatotra" (= a bond, and "ea" = blood) (the "d" is merely euphonic in both cases). The latter seems more natural and logical; the word should then be spelt "fato-dra."] This covenant gives an absolute guarantee for safety and assistance from the king or chief [22/23] with whom it is made, and therefore it seemed advisable that we should go through the ceremony on our arrival in Menabe, in spite of its unpleasant nature, if only we could be assured that it was unobjectionable in other ways. For this reason we consulted our Christian friend, who was intimately acquainted with the necessary ceremonies, and also held a position something like that of lay-reader in the church at Betela.
He without hesitation condemned the whole thing as connected with idolatry, telling us that the covenant made and promises given depended for their obligation upon the belief in the sanctity of the "hazo manga" (= blue wood, the sacred post erected in each village, at which all idolatrous gatherings are held and offerings made).
"Besides this," said he, "it is not a ceremony for a Christian, for to seek for a bond of union by drinking another man's blood is to make light of the Blood of Christ, which is our bond of union."
This quite decided us to abandon the idea. He assured us, however, that an exchange of gifts, in the presence of the people, would be accepted as an equivalent to the "fato-dra."
By the help of our friend and host, all was ready on the evening of the fifth day for a start the next morning, and a young Hova officer, formerly a pupil of McMahon's in Imerina, had arrived to act as our escort to Mahabo.
CHAPTER IV. TO MAHABO--A SAKALAVA PRINCESS.
THE morning of August 19th saw us actually under way en route for Toera and the Menabe. Our fleet of twelve canoes made quite an imposing show--ten conveying our baggage, and one for each of us. It was a novel mode of travelling to us, accustomed to the large dug-out canoes in the interior and on the east coast, for these used by the Makoa are much smaller and lighter, and when going up stream are not paddled but punted by a man standing up in the stern. Our men were all skilful hands, balancing their crank craft wonderfully, and sending them at a great pace against the swift stream. Just at first we were all close together, and the rhythmical rise and fall of the little forest of punt poles was very striking. Coming down stream a paddle is used in the ordinary way, but it would be of little service in the shallow water and strong current in which we were travelling.
 It was difficult to believe, as we moved up the river, that we were really in Madagascar, so entirely different is the east country from the west. Instead of the huge wild arums which line the streams there and cover miles of swamp, here we had banks fringed with high reeds, called "bararata" by the natives. The trees on the banks were of species unknown on the east coast, and everywhere the "sata" or "satrana" (the fan-palm) took the place of the ubiquitous "traveller's tree." We had already noticed the high tide of the Mozambique channel, some sixteen feet at spring tides--a great contrast to the hardly noticeable ebb and flow of the Indian Ocean. Again, fortunately for our journey, the west coast, like Imerina, boasts of a real dry season, rain hardly ever falling from April to November, while along the east coast the cold season brings constant rain and chilly south winds during the months from May to August.
Our first day's journey was a short one. Early in the afternoon we reached a place where the river almost disappears, and where a portage of about half a mile is necessary. We discovered 11 it the main body of water ran off southwards above the portage and entered the sea some three miles south of Anosimiandroka, while the remainder made its way by a number of small channels, and coming out through the thick bush, below our landing place, formed the stream up which we had come. Our men told us that the portage was noted for robbers, and that the next possible camping-ground beyond could not be reached before nightfall, when travelling was by no means safe; we therefore pitched our tent [25/26] and prepared for our first night under canvas. It was a glorious moonlight night, and after saying Evensong and enjoying some welcome food, we sat for some time and listened to our men chatting and singing hymns round their camp-fires.
Before sunrise next morning we were awakened to find that our men had been astir long before, and transported all the "lakana" and baggage to the stream above, and were waiting for our tent. This was quickly struck, and we were soon afloat again, at first on a small stream only a few inches deep; the water gradually increased as we passed the various channels disappearing in the bush, till it became a river some seventy to a hundred yards wide, full of shallows, with a very winding channel, but running strong and bringing down a considerable body of water.
Noon the next day saw us arrived without adventure at the landing-place for Mahabo, and bearers and "filanjána" (the native palanquin) shortly appeared, sent by the Hova governor for our conveyance to his town.
Mahabo stands on flat ground, with rice-fields to the east and south, and is strongly fortified with thick hedges of prickly-pear planted on high banks, absolutely impassable to an unclad and unshod enemy. On the north side, which is more exposed to attack from the Sakalava, the only entrance is by a narrow winding path, between high banks thick with prickly-pear, and further protected by three gates placed at intervals and strongly barricaded at night.
The governor was very friendly, provided us [26/27] with a house, and promised to escort us to visit Rasinaotra, the Sakalava Princess, on the morrow.
We were much disappointed to hear that the miners' expedition had decided to send on a flying column to report upon the road, and that arrangements had been made for some of Rasinaotra's chiefs to escort them into Toera's country. They were to start the following day, and so our hopes of reaching Toera before them were frustrated.
Early next morning, according to his promise, the governor was with us, bringing the Sakalava chief of the district to be introduced. Some little time was spent in deciding upon the presents to be made to Rasinaotra. As already mentioned, it is absolutely necessary to be provided with a gift in the case of all native officials, great or small, the present varying in value, according to the rank of the receiver--from an empty preserved-milk tin to an English sovereign; and here we had to deal with a lady who might prove fastidious. This knotty question settled, we set out for our first visit to a Sakalava potentate.
We found her house a small one, nearly in the centre of a piece of ground abutting upon the Rova, or government enclosure, surrounded by the usual rough palisading, and with a gate in the common fence, which afforded the Hova governor a means of privately visiting the Princess, if necessary.
In one corner of her compound was a small building, which we were told contained the relics of her father, the former king of the [27/28] district. These relics have a specially appointed guardian, and are regarded with the greatest reverence, but consist of nothing more interesting than some teeth and toe-nails of the departed sovereign. Evidently great respect is shown to her Sakalava Majesty, for after sending a messenger to announce our arrival, our companions deposited their hats outside before entering the royal compound. We were ushered into the house by a door in the corner of the south end, and found the royal palace consisted of one room, not large, and built in the native fashion, the further half of it raised a step above the rest; the lower half was full of natives, principally women, and in the centre was an erection which looked like the trunk of a tree, hung with all sorts of curious objects, the exact nature of which we could not get near enough to discover, and surmounted by a pair of ox-horns--the Penates doubtless of the Princess.
Occupying half the raised part of the room was a portion shut off by a partition of mats, with an opening in the side facing west. In this opening, wrapped in a gorgeous silk lamba, sat the Princess, a rather stout but not bad-looking Sakalava, with apparently some Hova blood in her. We advanced and solemnly, but not, I fear, very gracefully, seated ourselves on the ground opposite to her. We knew enough of Malagasy customs to be aware that it is very improper to speak standing, but we nearly committed a grievous offence against court manners by seating ourselves with outstretched legs. A whisper from the governor put us right, [28/29] and we promptly assumed a more becoming posture, and then all gave the lady the usual Hovo royal greeting, "Tsaráva Tompoko è."
The governor next introduced us, and after we had each said a few words, telling the object of our visit, and received in answer a grunt of acquiescence, we shook hands and presented our gifts--I an English half sovereign, and McMahon a couple of large gilt pins for the hair. These were graciously received, and a little more general talk followed. After a while McMahon presented a coloured blanket to Rasinaotra's husband, whom he had spied sitting within the partition, but round the corner out of my sight. We got a promise of such assistance as we required, and took a respectful leave of the Princess, fairly satisfied with our first interview.
A stream of visitors was the order of the day after our return, among them several Sakalava chiefs, to one of whom, the headman of the people on the coast, we thought it well to make a present, as he was supposed to have much influence at court. We were told that Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday mornings and the previous evenings, were "dies non" with Rasinaotra, being days upon which her relations had died: her father, it appeared, had died on Sunday, and it was not allowable even to mention his name. It struck us that there must be some limit to the observance of these anniversaries, or public business would fare badly as the sovereign increased in years and her relations died off.
A later visitor was a chief who was leaving [29/30] that day with the advance party of miners, and who said that he knew two of the chiefs with whom McMahon had made friends among the Betsiriry. He promised to inform them of our arrival and proposed visit to Toera, but I am afraid did not keep his word.
The party of miners left in the afternoon, and we had to resign ourselves, as best we could, to several days' delay, until news could reach us of the attitude of Toera towards them; but waiting did not mean idleness.
The next day being Sunday, we had a quiet celebration of Holy Communion in the early morning in our own quarters, and this custom, to our great comfort, we never had reason to omit throughout our wanderings; we also arranged to hold a service in the miners' camp, where we had a congregation of fifteen, and were then invited to conduct two services in the Hova church.
On succeeding days we had a large number of patients to attend to, who came, not from Mahabo alone, but also from some of the neighbouring Sakalava villages. In this way the arrival of the white men was noised abroad, and we were able to make friends with some of the chief men in the district. We had several interviews with the Princess, who seemed very friendly, and indeed invited us to remain and work in her country. We could not refuse point-blank, but temporised, for we knew that the Norwegians intended shortly to place a missionary at Mahabo, and we had no wish to interfere with their work.
One afternoon a special invitation came from [30/31] the Princess, accompanied by a request that we would bring the musical-box of which she had heard; we had brought two with us, one intended as a present for King Toera. After the usual greeting, not quite so ceremonious as on our first visit, the musical-box was deposited between us and the royal pair and set going. It was listened to by the Princess and her husband with great pleasure and astonishment, but its wonders were quite eclipsed by a lantern-show which we gave one evening in the governor's house. The place was crammed to suffocation, and Rasinaotra was present in person. Her curiosity was too strong to be resisted and she came, after, as we heard, some searchings of heart, for she was by no means sure that this startling novelty was not connected with white man's charms, and might not have some unexpected effect upon her royal person. She was provided with a seat upon a platform, to raise her above the common herd, and at the conclusion of the show, professed herself much pleased with it; in her inmost heart she was really, I am convinced, much relieved that it was all safely over without any explosion or anything untoward happening.
On the sixth day after the departure of the flying column, messengers arrived from Toera with good news. He had promised a free passage through his territory for the mining party, and was preparing to give them a right royal reception, and present them with an ox. This sounded promising, and we at once petitioned for an interview with Rasinaotra, to arrange about porters and the chiefs who would [31/32] act as our convoy into the Menabe country. The interview was granted on the following day, but we found the royal lady inclined to temporise, suggesting that special messengers should be sent to Toera, and that we should await their return. We mildly objected, but as our objections had no effect, we were obliged to apply to the governor. He speedily arranged matters, and obtained leave for us to proceed as soon as men could be collected and chiefs appointed to accompany us. We had had sufficient experience of the Malagasy and their ways to know that this could not be done in a day, and indeed it took four days with much talking and bargaining before all was ready for a start on the morrow.
CHAPTER V. ON THE MARCH--A CHECK--WAITING--THE ROAD TO ANDRONGONY.
IN the afternoon of September the first, we were actually on the march. We found it necessary to make the loads for the porters very light, about forty pounds a man, and thus, though we left some luggage under the care of the Hova governor, to be forwarded to us if we got settled in the country, our party was a large one--twenty four porters, six chiefs. making a grand total of thirty-four, including ourselves and our two servants.
On emerging from the winding path, fenced with prickly-pear, we followed a narrow sandy track, running nearly due north, with under two hours' march before us to our first camping place. The country was flat and rather uninteresting; well-wooded however, and with some magnificent specimens of the fan-palm here and there. Numerous ant-hills--conical heaps of earth, very hard, and averaging over three feet in height--were everywhere. There was a marked [33/34] absence of bird-life. Once or twice a sand grouse flew overhead, uttering as it passed the cry which is well expressed by the native name of the bird "katrakatraka;" or you might hear, especially as it drew near the time of sunset, the wild guinea-fowl calling to one another in the forest; but there was little else to hear or see.
We made an imposing show on the march, for it was only possible to move in single file, and we covered a considerable length of ground as we followed the winding track.
We were within sight of Analatsivalana, our first halt, rather under the two hours, and were much amused with the extreme precaution with which our party, by command of the chiefs in charge, approached the village. Instead of entering it directly at the southern end, we made a long detour and got out into the open so as to face the village and come in from the west side; we might have been a hostile force meditating an attack upon the place, instead of a peaceful band accompanying two missionaries. Subsequent experience, however, taught us that this caution was not altogether unnecessary, for if we had appeared suddenly emerging from the forest, shots might have been fired before we had any opportunity of explaining our presence.
We entered unchallenged, and no greetings passed until we had crossed the village and halted under some large tamarind trees at its northern corner. Here after some waiting we were approached by the chief, a fat, comfortable looking gentleman, and some of his followers, and received permission to camp.
As it was near sundown we lost no time in [34/35] pitching our tent, for it was out of the question to attempt the occupation of the very diminutive house put at our disposal. This done, we were able to receive the great men with due ceremony, and to hear what they had to tell us.
Their news was most unexpected and a great disappointment.
It seemed that the mining party had passed through Toera's country, and been well received by him, but they had before leaving committed some grievous offences. The ox which the king had sent to them, had been duly slaughtered, but then they had, naturally enough, hung up the carcase by the heels; this was to insult the "tany masina" (= holy earth), and consequently the king who ruled over it. In addition to this terrible crime, they had actually been seen to take a photograph of the "halo manga," the sacred tree or post already mentioned in connection with the "fatodra." The immediate result of all this wickedness was that, though the king had allowed them to pass, he had stopped the letters which they were sending back to Mahabo, and sent orders to the chiefs on the road, among them our new friend Tsilaitra ( = the Invincible) that no more white men were to be allowed to pass northwards.
We at once decided to send messengers both ways--to Mahabo, to inform the governor of what had occured and to ask for the kind offices of Kasinaotra; and to Toera, to explain that we were in no way connected with the offending party, but were only coming to visit him, in accordance with the promise made by McMahon three years before. Tsilaitra refused to let our [35/36] messengers go northwards until he had received orders from Rasinaotra at Mahabo, and we therefore had to resign ourselves to a stay of some days at Analatsivalana. All this had taken some time and more than some talking, and we were not sorry to turn in when it was over. Our men slept round their camp fires under the trees, for we had obtained a good supply of firewood in exchange for a few beads.
Money in the shape of coin is of little account among the Sakalava, except for use as personal ornaments; wages, where there are any, are nearly always reckoned in fathoms of cloth, but gunpowder, beads, trinkets, and coloured pockethandkerchiefs, the gaudier the better, are readily accepted for barter. The dollar, i.e. the French five-franc piece, is in use to a small extent, but not the cut-money employed in other parts of Madagascar. The latter is not current at all, but if the piece happen to be triangular in shape the natives accept it in exchange and then drill a hole through the apex, and thus suspend it in the centre of the forehead. We discovered that coral (called "vóahángy") was in great request, and lived for several days on a coral necklace sent by some good friends in England. Lastly, gilt buttons to ornament their ammunition belts are eagerly taken by the men.
There was every prospect of our larder being well supplied, for wild-duck abounded in the rice-fields and marsh-land to the north of the town, and we were told that guinea-fowl were to be had in the forest to the west. A brief experience taught us that appearances and reports were rather too favourable, for the ducks [36/39] proved very wild, and the only chance of getting guinea-fowl was to make a very early start, so as to reach their habitat, quite five miles away, very shortly after sunrise.
Our mornings were very soon busily employed with a daily crowd of patients, which increased steadily during our stay. Attending to these as well as the claims of the commissariat, constant talks with the chief of the village and other visitors, who were curious about the real object of our visit, and so gave us opportunities for trying to say a word in season, kept us fully occupied. In many ways our detention was no loss to us, for the people were getting used to our presence in their country, and McMahon's fame as a doctor got spread abroad and preceded us into Toera's land.
The Sakalava have apparently much less notion of doctoring their sick than the Betsimisaraka, who are well acquainted with many, valuable herbs and roots, while the former rely almost entirely upon charms; as a last resource, in cases of severe illness the patient is hoisted upon the "bilo." This consists of a rude platform of twigs bound together with creepers and supported on four lofty poles from ten up to twenty feet in height; the higher the rank of the person to be treated the loftier the "bilo." Against the side of the platform is fixed a long, sloping pole, sometimes two, one on each side, for the convenience of those who attend to the patient, and a very inconvenient staircase it must be. In some cases a few branches are so arranged as to form a canopy over the sick person--a very necessary precaution under a [39/40] tropical sun, for the "bilo" is always erected in an exposed place. A few feet away from the end of the "bilo," and opposite the feet of the patient, a tall slim pole is planted, at the foot of which is a roughly carved wooden image; this image represents a female if the patient be a male, and vice versa,. When the unfortunate victim has been deposited on the top of the "bilo," the friends and relations and others interested in the case gather at the foot, and singing, drumming, dancing and firing of guns is kept up continuously by day and night. As far as I could gather, the idea of thus suspending the sick between earth and sky, is to remove him or her from any malign influences of the earth, but to a man suffering from malarial fever and inclined to be delirious the process must be well-nigh maddening; while for one prostrate with acute pneumonia, an actual case that came to our knowledge, the exposure to the night dews and keen wind is not conducive to a cure. I never witnessed the process of hoisting the patient up to the platform, but it must be a matter of considerable difficulty and entail much suffering for one in extreme sickness.
On the second day of our stay at Analatsivalana we received a visit from the Governor of Mahabo in response to our message, and with his help promptly despatched Lehiota, one of our convoy, and three companions as our ambassadors to Toera. We supplied them with nine fathoms of cloth, for food and presents on the road, and gave them full instructions to explain thoroughly the object of our proposed visit.
That done, there was nothing for it but to wait [40/41] patiently until their return. All our friends gave us good hope of a favourable answer: one was especially confident; he was one of the chiefs in charge of us, a fat, plausible gentleman, by name Rabiby (=Mr. Beast), who had supplied us with a large number of patients from among his own friends and relations, and whose confidence was not perhaps quite disinterested. He it was whose instruction by Zephania we overhead one evening--the two were sitting over the camp fire close to our tent one night after we had retired, and Zephania began with Adam and Eve, and after giving a rapid sketch of the narrative of the Old and New Testaments, he wound up with a few words about the Day of Judgment. The lesson spoke well for the zeal and knowledge of the instructor, but must have left poor Rabiby in a very confused state of mind.
One evening we ventured upon a lantern-show in Tsilaitra's house and were nearly stifled by the heat and crush; but the pictures were much appreciated, and I have no doubt that the wonders of that evening are still talked about in the place. We only consented to show them our sacred pictures, alter receiving a promise of good behaviour, which, I must confess, was faithfully kept. The effect was great, and probably did much more than many hours of such talk as we had, as occasion offered, been able to hold with the natives.
Each Sunday, during our tent-life, after our quiet celebration of Holy Communion in the early morning, we had a simple service and short instruction, attended by our two servants and any others whom they could induce to join [41/42] them. At Analatsivalana there was a little colony of Hova, of whom two women seemed very grateful for the opportunity.
The children were always ready to make friends and showed little of the dread of a white face, which is usual in other parts of the island. We were seldom without a little group of children near the tent, and earnest requests to hear the musical-box were often made; others brought nuts or small bundles of firewood, eager to get in exchange a few beads. It is the custom in the Sakalava villages for the children to make the most of the light nights, and as the moon got near the full, drumming, singing, dancing, and various games were kept up with great vigour till midnight or beyond.
While we were encamped at Analatsivalana the chiefs of the village were nominally responsible for our safety, and were sometimes ludicrously scrupulous in performing their duties. Every evening, when we went down to a stream, some quarter of a mile from the village, for a welcome bath, we were accompained by an armed chief; sometimes two, as our body-guard. One afternoon, finding no one about, we, in the innocence of our hearts, went off alone, and on returning, about dusk, found the village in a ferment, and were severely reproved by the chief for going unattended. lie did not pretend that his anxiety arose from personal affection for us, but naively said, "What would be done to us, if anything happened to you!"
It appeared afterwards that there were special reasons for caution at that time, for four men from the Tsiribihina had been seen lurking [42/43] about the place; they were probably only on a little cattle-lifting expedition on their own account, but had they caught sight of us, the novel experience of trying their guns upon a white man would have been a great temptation. There was little doubt of their errand, when a fortnight or so later some of Tsilaitra's cattle were driven off.
Here is another instance of the excessive caution of our nurses. As we returned one morning from shooting "for the pot," McMahon stopped to bathe his feet in a small stream; upon this, two men at once took their stand close on each side of him with their spear-heads just touching the water, to protect him from a possible, though hardly probable, crocodile.
Just a week after our arrival, news came that Toera was sending messengers to Rasinaotra, and that Lehiota, our ambassador, had been promised an audience with the king on the previous day. In addition to this, the king had sent a summons for his chief doctor (i.e. charm-maker). The last item of news was satisfactory for us, for the said doctor, by name Itsarahomehy (=good laughter), was one of the six chiefs told off to accompany us, and could, if he would, do much for us with the king.
Two days later we were rejoiced to find, on returning from our daily bath, that our messengers had returned, and a glance showed that they were well pleased with the result of their mission. Lehiota had a long story to tell, and, according to his own account, had found great difficulty in passing through some of the border towns of the Menabe; he hinted, in fact, that a less diplomatic [43/44] person might have failed. Doubtless the cloth with which we had supplied him had materially helped his diplomacy, but no mention was made of that. Much that he said was only half intelligible to us, for we were only just acquiring the Sakalava dialect; but Toera's speech, as reported, was simple, brief, and to the point, "Bring them to me." At the audience most of the talking was done by Ivóngovóngo, who was apparently Prime Minister and chief in all secular matters. Sambilo, another chief, headman in all matters religious, was rather inclined to oppose our visit, but the king's word decided the question.
The road was therefore open to us, but we were not able to start at once; our porters had gradually dispersed to their homes, as the days went by, and it was necessary to give the chiefs time to get them together, so we fixed Monday, September 14th, for the actual start, thus giving them four clear days for their preparations. Before the day arrived, our party was reinforced by the men sent to fetch Itsarahomehy, eight in all, and they consented to wait and travel with us. On second thoughts, they suggested that there was a danger of their suffering from hunger if they had to wait two or three days. A dollar soon relieved their doubts on this point. This settled, came a request for the musical-box, the fame of which seemed to have spread rapidly all over the country, and it was not till late at night and after much palaver that we finally got rid of them.
On Sunday evening our camp was quite lively with all our men assembled in addition to the [44/45] new contingent, and all in high spirits, having satisfactorily feasted on a sheep which we had purchased for the moderate sum of two shillings.
All was bustle on Monday morning, some men packing the tent and goods, others pounding rice for the journey across the uninhabited district, some thirty miles or more, while a further addition to our party of five more porters, which arrived under the charge of our fat friend Rabiby, necessitated a slight rearrangement of loids. Thus we started with a grand total of forty-five men all told--a sufficiently formidable party to render attack unlikely, though we were told that a certain chief Lehisila (=the Chip) had sent word that we were to look to our weapons as he intended "mandátsaka éntana" (=make us drop some of our baggage), which was probably more swagger than an actual threat.
We left Analatsivalana early in the afternoon, and as is usual on the first day, made a short march of a little over two hours, and camped for the night at Ikarapaka, the last village this side the desert on the way to the Tsiribihina. Here we were cheered by the arrival of the mail, fetched from Morondava by the faithful Jesse, and bringing "good news from home." During the evening we tried to obtain provisions for toe next two days in the shape of fowls, not being altogether satisfied with the prospect of dry rice; but the inhabitants of Ikarapaka were not to be tempted to barter their poultry, even for our most attractive beads and other wares. The people of the place seemed rather shy of us, and we had not the usual crowd of adults and children round our [46/46] tent door to gaze at the strange spectacle of two men with white faces. There was no actually hostile feeling shown, but evidently suspicion was strong enough to render futile all Jesse's attempts to trade.
By sunrise next morning we were on the move, and soon discovered why so many of our men had been busy shaping sandals for themselves from untanned ox-hide. The narrow track which we followed was covered with small sharp stones, a kind of spar, very trying doubtless to bare feet.
We marched steadily on through small tracts of forest and a gently undulating country, until about 10.30, when a halt was called. It was an ideal camping ground--a grassy spot, close by the high banks of a clear swift stream, and shaded by some magnificent trees. We first held a sort of council of war, and our chiefs told us that it would be advisable to go on in the evening by moonlight, and so avoid any chance of a night attack from the chief Lehisila, in whose district we then were; he, they said, would certainly expect us to follow the usual custom and spend the night at this halting-place, and might attempt a surprise visit. Perhaps he did, and found the birds flown! Our two boys, Jesse and Zephania, were strongly recommended to discard their straw hats, that they might not be mistaken for Hova. Some brilliant red handkerchiefs were found for them, and these they bound round their heads in the approved Sakalava fashion. These matters attended to, we settled down to a long rest and some food. Toera's messengers were made happy by a present of a little gunpowder and the promise of a soup tin when [46/47] empty. We found empty tins most valuable articles, and very much sought after by the men to serve as tobacco boxes, the small ones, such as those which contain Brand's essence of meat, were distinctly the favourites.
Before leaving we went to inspect the source of the stream--the Tomitsy--beside which we were encamped, about two hundred yards away. The Tomitsy becomes a considerable river before reaching the sea at Ibosy--a village at the southern limit of Ingreza's domain. The source was an interesting place. We found a circular pool very deep, and with water as clear as crystal, and full of fish, which it was "fady" (=taboo), we were told, to catch. Nearly in the centre of the pool could be seen the main spring boiling up strongly through the clear white sand, and showing no sign of failing, though it was then quite the driest time of the year. It would be a magnificent place for a settlement.
At about 4.30 we set off for our evening march. Just after sunset Toera's men called a halt in order to give us instructions how to behave in case of attack. They were to be allowed to hail the enemy, and our party were not to speak; also our porters were clearly to understand that any man who deserted his baggage and attempted to run away would be treated as an enemy, and promptly shot. We were soon moving on again in a long line--Indian file--under the bright moonlight, and in perfect silence, McMahon at the head of our party, Toera's men a little in advance of him, and I in charge of the rear to keep the men from straggling. My duty was light, for they did not show much inclination [47/48] to do so, but rather endeavoured to keep as close together as possible. I casually spoke to Zephania, who was next to me, and was answered in a very tremulous voice. Poor fellow! he was not a warrior, and just at the time we sighted at some distance to the right a camp-fire, and he no doubt expected that Lehisila and his braves were upon us.
We halted for the night about 8.30 and slept in the dry bed of a stream; the spot was well concealed from possible enemies, the soft dry sand made a delightful couch, and we were well sheltered from the heavy dew by the trees which grew thickly on the banks. Fortunately Lehiota knew of a spring some little way down the stream bed, so that we did not go waterless to bed. No one had energy enough to put up the tent, and some of the porters had had quite enough of it. Our fat chief Rabiby, who had been most anxious before starting, to impress us with the wisdom of making short stages, came in a bad last, very much distressed.
Next morning about 8 a.m., after starting at sunrise, we crossed the Manimbolo--a small tributary of the Tsiribihina; twice again we crossed it before the end of our journey, but here it formed the boundary of Lehisila's territory, and it was a relief to all to be clear of it. Our men, who, till then, had been as silent as last night, at once gave vent to their feelings by singing and yelling to their heart's content.
Soon after nine we had crossed the desert and reached the first village in Toera's dominions; the chief "Lehitsitoro" (= he who cannot be crushed), after keeping us waiting a long time, [48/49] received us well and presented us with several baskets full of "tavolo" (= arrowroot), and accepted in return the usual present of cloth and beads. After a little friendly talk we moved on.
Nearly two hours' more marching brought us to the town of Lehitsitendrea (= the Untouchable), a brother of Lehitsitoro. Here our reception was not so pleasant. It was, I am afraid, partly our own fault, for we did not send the usual message to him before passing his town. We were hot, tired, and very hungry, and did not relish the prospect of a long wait in the blazing sun; we therefore crossed the river--the Manimbolo--again, below the town, before halting under some trees just across, and thence despatched men to inform him of our presence.
Just as our food was cooked, the chief appeared with a large following, all fully armed with spears and flint-lock rifles.
The usual "kabary" followed. Mr. "the Untouchable" was very surly and inclined to be nasty. His town, he said, was the key to Toera's kingdom, and he could not allow us to pass, unless we took a solemn oath by the "tangena" [The famous shrub, of which the nut was formerly used as an ordeal among the Hova, and still is by the Sakalava. It is a powerful poison.] and the "tany masina" (= holy ground), etc., that we intended no harm to Toera or his kingdom. We answered him that we could have nothing to do with their superstitions, and that such an oath would have no weight whatever with us, but that we gave him our word, and he [49/50] must be content with that. He seemed hardly satisfied, but at last gave a grudging consent to our going on after our men had represented to him that Toera had sent for us, and was expecting us. Lehitsitendrea still seemed inclined to growl, so we begged him to excuse us for a while, for we were very hungry and wished to have some food. He sat for some little time, and then marched sulkily off without a word of farewell.
His surliness really did us no harm, for it brought out one of Toera's messengers, Filoha by name, who announced himself as chief of the "olo mainty" (= black people, i.e. Makoa) and a confidential servant of the king's.
"Don't mind the unfriendliness of that fellow," he said; "trust me, I am your friend, and will use my great influence with the king in your favour."
Probably this did not really mean much, but was only the preface to a request for one of the much-coveted tins, which we had just emptied.
During the afternoon, Jesse, to his great delight, managed to pot a couple of sand-grouse, and we, with the prospect of some meat in the evening, after two days without it, were quite ready to give him all the praise he desired.
About three hours' march in the evening brought us to a village, where we pitched our tent, and in addition to Jesse's game, feasted upon a couple of chickens procured from the inhabitants.
The country about here was much more [50/51] thickly wooded, and for an hour or so we were travelling through a regular tangle of forest, evidently a swamp in the wet season, and quite impenetrable, except along the narrow track; there was often barely room to pass between the trees or huge stems of creepers, and our march was enlivened by the bangs our unfortunate baggage received as the porters squeezed their way through.
Early next morning we reached a small village in sight of the Tsiribihina, and there had to await the messengers who would conduct us across the river into the royal town. We were well received by the leading men of the place, and McMahon was fortunate in finding a patient in the chief. We did not discover his real name, but dubbed him Mr. Scabs, and well the poor fellow's condition suited the name.
It was late in the afternoon before the messengers arrived with the news, astounding to us as yet unversed in Sakalava politics, that there had been some government business in the morning, and so (a significant expression) the king and his chiefs were too drunk to receive us that evening!
CHAPTER VI. ARRIVAL AT TOERA'S CAPITAL--INTERVIEWS--STIRRING TIMES--A REVOLUTION AND ITS SEQUEL--A ROYAL VISIT--RETURN.
SEPTEMBER 18th was the eventful day of our actual entry into Toera's town, called, we were told, Androngony (= at the hemp). It is more than possible that the name was invented by Itsarahomehy, our informant, for our benefit; there seems to be some superstitious objection to telling strangers the name of a town, just as throughout the island a native can hardly be persuaded to give his own name.
It was a long business getting our men and baggage across the Tsiribihina; only three small canoes were to be found, and it took a long time to find them. At length all was safely ferried over, and after several short halts, and about half an hour's walk, we entered Toera's town. It was not imposing!
There were probably some two hundred houses in it, but all of them miserably small; when, later in the day, our tent was pitched, we found [52/53] that it overtopped every roof in the place except the king's.
The position is good, the town lying on the slope of a hill which overlooks the river; at its foot is a level strip of land which showed signs of being flooded during the heavy rains, and is in consequence remarkably fertile. We passed some magnificent tobacco plants, and manioc which had grown into regular trees.
We were conducted to a little shanty, without walls, opposite the house of Ivongovongo, the chief; he took his seat on the ground against the wall of his house and waited to hear what we had to say. We were not over-pleased to see Lehitsitendrea on his right hand, looking surly as before, and not condescending to recognize us in the slightest degree; his brother Lehitsitoro was also present, and gave us a friendly greeting. Both men must have passed us on the road, though we had seen nothing of them.
After a very few words, Ivongovongo left us, saying that he would summon the Menabe and would meet us in the shade very soon.
There we sat in the sweltering heat for at least an hour. At last came the welcome summons. The promised shade was a fraud, for the huge time in the centre of the town, evidently the regular gathering-place for public business, was very old and well-nigh bare of leaves.
It was clearly intended that we should be much impressed by the power of the Menabe. Some three hundred warriors were ranged in a semicircle, all fully armed, and in the centre Ivongovongo and his fellow chief, Sambilo.
 We spoke very shortly, telling them how we had come according to McMahon's promise; that we only wanted them to listen to us; we had not come to buy or sell, but to give medicine to their sick and teach them what was good for them.
The chiefs with us also had their say, at somewhat greater length and not much to the purpose. Rabiby in his over-zeal made a mistake by suggesting that we wanted really to settle there, and hoped to bring our wives and children.
Ivongovongo and his companions then answered us, and, though much was unintelligible, we gathered that while they professed to be pleased to see us, and to be fond of white men, they could not allow us to settle.
This was grievously disappointing, and was certainly to some extent owing to Rabiby's injudicious speech, who should have confined himself to some general remarks about friendship; there was still however the favour of the king to hope for.
Nothing more was said, and the assembly dispersed. We were at last allowed to pitch our tent near the royal enclosure, at one corner of which the royal standard was flying--the veriest rag of common white calico tied at one end to a very ordinary stick. We were strictly enjoined to arrange our beds so that we slept with our heads in the direction of royalty, and not to turn our feet towards the king--a dire offence and insult to his majesty.
There were other things about which we had been carefully warned; the most serious fault of [54/55] all was to step over any one's bundle of firewood, you must carefully go round it or take the consequences. To drink higher up a stream than a previous corner was also a breach of good manners. This was intelligible, but as one hardly fancied the alternative, we made a private resolution not to drink at all if a Sakalava were anywhere near.
As soon as the tent was up, a crowd gathered at either end and gazed as if they could never be satisfied. We were the first Europeans who had been in the place, and were doubtless a wonderlul and interesting spectacle. There they sat, constantly reinforced, until late in the evening, now and again making remarks, the reverse of complimentary, about our personal appearance, or expressing wonder and delight at the number and variety of our medicine bottles. After the crowd had dispersed, we had the business of paying off our porters, and then invited lvongovongo Into our tent in the hope of securing his good offices. He talked in the most friendly way, and seemed much pleased with the blankets and other presents which we gave him for himself and his wife, but we could get nothing like a definite promise of help from him. We discovered that he was a renegade Hova, and on that account no doubt his position was somewhat precarious, and he would have to be very cautious about opposing the popular will.
Soon after dark the "mpikáiky" (= towncrier) was sent by the king to make proclamation through the town of his friendship wan us.
"No one is to go near the tent of the white [55/56] men during the night," he yelled; "if any one does, and the white men shoot him, it is I, Toera, who slays him, not the white men, thus saith the king." The immediate result was a very quiet night and no disturbance whatever in the town.
Saturday, September 19th.--A very busy day. Almost with the daylight the crowd of yesterday gathered and never left us all day.
Early in the morning we were summoned to the king. This was the public audience, and a large crowd of chiefs were gathered round him. Toera was seated on a mat under a house without walls, and we were planted just outside the house, facing him. The Sakalava royal greeting is very striking, and we heard it then for the first time, for in Mahabo they have partially adopted the Hova form. It is not given until all are well settled in their several places, for it is very bad "form" in Madagascar to speak standing, and then "Tsérika Rany," with the "a" much prolonged, is spoken by all at once in a deep low voice, properly subdued by the sight of the king's majesty. When this is done, as we heard it on subsequent occasions, by some three hundred men simultaneously, the effect is remarkable.
Toera is a youngish man, pleasant but weak looking. His nose is not as flat as noses generally are in Madagascar, and his face suggests a strain of Arab blood in him. This is probably the case, for the Arabs had dealings with the west coast of Madagascar for many years before Europe knew anything of the island. It was only too evident that, like most Sakalava, the king was too fond of the native spirit, and we [56/57] found that during the whole of our stay not a night passed without its carouse, and more than once his Majesty was unfit to appear in public by ten in the morning.
Such was our first impression of Toera. At this audience he barely spoke, but left the talking to his chiefs. We also said little, but presented the musical-box, two dollars, and two pieces of cloth, one blue one white, merely saying that ours was a visit of friendship and not for trading purposes. The interview on the whole was more satisfactory than yesterday, though nothing definite was said but only friendship and good-will promised on both sides.
On returning to our tent we were followed by Ivongovongo, who gave us his word that all would be well, which we took for what it was worth. Very soon came the private audience with the king, and most uninteresting it proved. He seemed well satisfied with some jewelry we brought for his private adornment, but had very little to say for himself.
We found about twenty sick awaiting us on our return, and they occupied us fully for the rest of the morning; then appeared the great Sambilo, very eager for his share of presents but not much inclined to be friendly; his scowling, sulky expression at any rate did not give us the impression of friendliness. We were glad to get rid of him and find time for some food.
The next event was an invitation to visit the king's mother, a nice-looking old lady called Tinompo. The visit was a brief one. We found some difficulty in understanding one another, but she seemed fairly well-disposed.
 Then the chiefs from Mahabo who had acted as our escort had to be settled with, and a short "kabary" under the tree followed. There they were told that they might consider us as among friends; that the king would be responsible for our safety, and that they might return with this news to Rasinaotra at Mahabo.
After all this we fondly hoped for a quiet evening at our letters, but had to endure two long visits--one from Sambilo, rather grumpy as before, the other from Ivongovongo, effusively friendly, for which "toaka" (the native spirit) was responsible rather than affection.
Sunday the 2oth was a great rest and refreshment, for no business is done on the "andro foty" (= white day) until the afternoon, and we were left quite in peace all the morning; it was not until late in the afternoon that some sick appeared and those in no great numbers. Just before sunset, Itsarahomehy, who had been retained by the king, took us for a stroll to the north of the town. This was the side away from the river and the direction from which an enemy would make an attack. Here, in consequence, had been placed various charms, mere collections of sticks arranged, according to some fantastic plan, either on the trees or by the side of the foot-path. Several of the trees had at their foot low tables formed of twigs bound together, on which we were told that the people offered rice to the spirits of their dead ancestors. We saw one group of people actually engaged in these rites, and passed another group, in the centre of which a woman was squatting and making a most dismal howling, [58/59] bewailing, so Itsarahomehy said, her lately deceased husband.
Monday, 21st.--A very noisy and unquiet day. Crowds of sick began the morning, arriving before we were dressed; among them appeared the queen mother Tinompo, who came to have her eyes looked at. Sambilo also was in again and seemed insatiable. We managed to put him off for the time, at any rate, but he was a great nuisance and always surly. He was soon back again, this time with Ivongovongo, with a request for two dollars for Tinompo. Evidently we were to be bled freely, and though we sent the money we let it appear very plainly that our patience and stock of presents were alike nearly exhausted.
That morning, so our boy Zephania informed us, there had been a very excited "kabary," partly about us and partly about other weighty matters. Toera, it appeared, had offended the chiefs by stating his intention of moving to Ambiky, a place nearer the coast and close to the town where Ingreza was settled. Such a course was certain to precipitate a fight between the rival kings, and for this Toera's chiefs had no desire. Ivongovongo had also fallen foul of Sambilo by reproaching him in open "kabary" for constantly begging from us. This had led to recriminations, and altogether there was a good deal of electricity about. The visible result of the morning's council was that all the big men were drunk early in the afternoon, and made it very unpleasant for us; if the whole business had not been so disgusting, it would have been very ludicrous. Man after man came staggering [59/60] into the tent, trying hard to look mysterious and important, and all telling the same story.
"It is I who am really the great man here. I make Toera what he is; without me he would be nothing. I am the man to be your friend."
This. over and over again, with drunken reiteration and much handshaking. from a stream of men, occupied much of the afternoon. It was somewhat of a relief when, amongst others, came Lehiota, who had been detained in the neighbourhood by some business about cattle. He was on the point of returning to Mahabo, and told us that the fat gentleman, Rabiby, had been distinguishing himself by appropriating the cloth given to our escort, and claiming it as a personal present. We were sorry to lose Lehiota, for he was quite the most trustworthy of our men, and in many ways superior to the rest; he was not given to drink, as were all the others, and always seemed glad to talk with us, with a real wish, I believe, to learn about the truth.
The next arrival was the king's doctor, Itsarahomehy, who now appeared in his true colours; he, like all the other chiefs, was by no means sober, and somewhat inclined to bluster.
"I am the chief adviser of the king. He will do whatever I tell him; and if you do not give me such presents as the other chiefs have received, I shall recommend him not to help you."
We gave him to understand that he would gain nothing by bluster; that he had promised to help us, and would be rewarded, if all went well; but that we preferred his visits when he [60/61] was sober. He took the reproof very well, and departed.
Then followed the great Sambilo; he appeared, while some others were in the tent, portentously solemn, not to say surly, very doubtful about sitting down, and altogether very grotesque. He came as usual to beg; and when we did not respond, was seized with the brilliant idea that we did not understand him, and sent for Itsarahomehy to interpret. We contented ourselves with saying that there must be some mistake, for we could not believe that so great a chief would be always begging in this fashion. The interpreter left, but our surly friend sat fast. It was then late, and time for our meal. We tried him with food, offered him tea, but no! he refused everything, and simply sat on, blurting out a word of French now and then (we never heard him speak French when sober), and at length departing as suddenly and unreasonably as he had appeared. Evidently if "in vino veritas" holds good in Menabe-land, Sambilo was in the opposition, and there was no help to be expected from him.
All through the afternoon there was a great row going on in the town; but it seemed goodhumoured. Some one, Itsarahomehy probably, distinguished himself by firing off his gun close to our tent; and it was impossible not to feel uncertain as to what might be the next move, with a lot of drunken ruffians dancing about with their loaded guns, and gradually working themselves up into a great state of excitement. However, as it grew darker they gradually settled down, and comparative peace reigned.
 Things were much the same during the next two days, for drinking was going on each afternoon. Our visitors were not, perhaps, quite as numerous; and Itsarahomehy seemed to realize that he had made a mistake on Monday, and was much more amenable. He told us that the king was determined to go to Ambiky, in spite of the opposition of his people; and he assured us that we were to go with him.
"This, however, is not yet settled definitely," he said, "but will be the subject of a 'kabary' to-morrow, Thursday morning."
This promised some excitement on Thursday morning, and the promise was amply fulfilled. At the "kabary" the king announced that he intended to go to Ambiky; and the remonstrances of the chiefs failed to move him. Finally the people dispersed without consenting, and feeling ran pretty high. The chiefs consulted together and devised a plan for forcing the king to yield and change his decision. Our first intimation of it was a visit from Ivongovongo, soon followed by Filoha and Itsarahomehy. Their communication was shortly this:
"Don't be disturbed, if you see the people leaving the place. Stay quietly where you arc; you will be quite safe. We are going to bring the king to reason by leaving him, if he will not do what we wish."
This was their notable plan, and it had been arranged with some care. About midday there was a general move throughout the town, and the people began streaming out of the place, until it was soon deserted by all except some of the immediate attendants of the king.
 The demonstration was so far successful, that late in the afternoon the king gave way and consented to remain where he was. The people were soon recalled, for they had taken care not to go too far afield, and things soon resumed their normal condition.
The chiefs were in high feather, and Ivongovongo, at his usual evening visit, called upon us to admire his skill in managing the king.
"You see," said he, "what I told you is quite true. I am the man to tame the king; mine is the real power."
His self-congratulation was, as events proved, rather premature, for the king's turn was yet to come. Ivongovongo also told us that the question of our staying was to be settled next day, now that this serious business was out of the way, and, as was his wont, gave us "toky" (assurance). In spite of his assurances, we received no message next day, and could hear nothing of what had taken place till late in the evening. Itsarahomehy then appeared, very much excited, and as usual not quite sober.
"The king is going to send you away at once. He says you are Hova or their friends, but I am your friend. I have asked for time, and I will manage the business."
We took this to be the usual self-glorification and did not believe it, and when a little later an old lady, whose eyes McMahon was treating, came in, she absolutely contradicted it, saying that Toera liked us and would be glad to keep us, but that the Menabe were suspicious of us. She did not deny that we were to be sent away, but said that it was the work of the chiefs and [63/64] not of the king. Jesse had heard the same report from others, and we got him to fetch his relation, the king's personal attendant. He duly arrived, but was not sober enough to be of much use; still, we got a little sense out of him, and probably more truth than if he had been sober. The king still intended to go to Ambiky, in spite of his apparent agreement with the people, and his idea was to send us back to Rasinaotra meanwhile. He considered, and rightly, that we should not be safe after he had gone, and it would be impossible to take us with him, but he hoped certainly to send for us again as soon as he was settled at Ambiky.
We hardly believed all this, but it was evident that things were going wrong, and we decided to have a serious talk to the two chiefs in the morning and discover if possible what was really intended.
The interview took place but with little result, for we could get nothing definite out of Sambilo and Ivongovongo beyond the usual "toky," of which we were getting rather wearied. Finally we got them to promise to speak to the king and arrange, if possible, for our return by sea if we really had to go.
Among our patients, who had been coming regularly in considerable numbers, were some of the Arabs (always called Karany by the Sakalava), who had a trading settlement on the banks of the Tsiribihina just outside the town. These promised to provide us with "laka-piaro" for the journey, and fixed the price at twelve fathoms of cloth, but seemed to think that matters might still be arranged for us to stay. Jesse [64/65] discovered from them that the opposition came from the outside chiefs, probably jealous of our presence at headquarters. We had been daily expecting the arrival of some of McMahon's friends from the Betsiriry, but in spite of several messages, which however may not have reached them, we expected in vain.
In the course of the evening Itsarahomehy came in several times, as usual the reverse of sober, with quite a different story to that of yesterday, viz. that our affairs were now quite settled, and that we were to live in the village to the west. This seemed too good news to be true, and on the face of it hardly probable.
Sunday, September 27th.--We had the usual quiet morning and services in our tent, very welcome after the constant interviews with drunken chiefs during the past week; but the day ended with anything but quiet.
Late in the afternoon we went down to see the Karany in their settlement, and prescribe for the sick there. Some of them returned with us to get their medicine, and after they had left, McMahon went out for a few minutes to visit some other sick close at hand. I had just settled down to write when Jesse rushed in, crying out in English (he was always ready to air his small knowledge of it), "his Majesty!" In a moment Toera appeared, supported by one of his followers, and evidently hardly in a condition to make an afternoon call. He staggered into the tent and stumbled into the one hammock-chair we possessed, which fortunately did not collapse under his weight. One of his men signed to Inc to sit on the ground, in order that my [65/66] head might be lower than the king's--the usual mark of respect to a Malagasy monarch.
Though his Majesty could hardly walk, he could talk and did talk freely. He began about McMahon's former visit to the Betsiriry, and how he had not come to pay his respects to him then. McMahon returned when I had just finished explaining that this was from no disrespect to him, but simply because my companion was not then prepared with any present suitable for so great a personage. Then followed a long conversation with much repetition, and rather incoherent at times, on the king's part, but very friendly and interrupted by frequent handshaking. [It is rather remarkable that the Sakalava have a peculiar mode of shaking hands; the hand is clasped twice, the first time in the ordinary way, At the second each grasps the thumb of the other.]
"First," he said, "I want you to go back to Rasinaotra for a while, and I will send for you very soon. I don't want at all to send you away," he went on; "I like you, and you shall be my own vazaha ( foreigner), but Sambilo and these other chiefs won't let me go to Ambiky and I will not endure it."
He became a good deal excited, and was clearly very angry with the chiefs who opposed him.
"It is I on one side," he said, "and they on the other; it will come to guns and spears (i.e. fighting) and I don't want anything to happen to you. You saw what they did to me on Thursday, didn't you? To me Toera! I am [66/67] very angry with them, and whether they or I be killed I don't know."
This he repeated in substance over and over again, shook hands frequently, and assured us that he would send for us very soon, "the day after to-morrow," he said. Then he calmed down and inspected our belongings, begged for a tune on the musical-box, a companion one to his own, and asked to see the Chinese lantern which we had hung once or twice in the tent, and which he had noticed from his house. At his request it was lighted. He was pleased as a child with it, and hinted that he should like it. The hint was not to be disregarded, and we sent it after him by Jesse.
After a visit of about an hour, he left, getting out with much difficulty, and nearly causing a terrible catastrophe by grasping the tent-pole in his efforts to rise, and nearly bringing the tent down about his ears. Had he done so, the consequences for us would have been most serious; for we should have been held responsible for the accident, and treated as "mpamprika," i.e. people who use evil charms, especially against the king, or insult him in any way.
As soon as Jesse came back from presenting the lantern, he told us that about midday the king had sent for Sambilo and Ivogovongo, intending to shoot them. His forced assent on Thursday clearly rankled in his mind, and the chiefs who boasted how well they could manage the king, were not going to have it all their own way. The two chiefs had received timely warning of the king's intention, and instead of obeying his summons went at once into hiding.
 A short time after dark we were startled by seeing the king rush past our tent, still supported by his man, but armed with a spear. Almost immediately our next door neighbour, a patient and one of our best friends, came to us and begged us to keep quiet, and on no account to go outside the tent, for the king was looking for his chiefs in order to spear them, and they had all run away.
This, then, was the sequel to the quiet revolution of Thursday last, and the king's turn had come.
One thing was certain. There was no immediate prospect of our being able to settle, or do any mission work among the people at present, and there was nothing for it but to wend our way back to Mahabo or Morondava, and make the best of the king's assurance that he would send for us. At any moment a civil war might break out, and even if Toera carried his point without bloodshed, and went down to Ambiky, there would probably be trouble with his half-brother Ingreza, who would resent his proximity. In any case we should, by remaining, run a great risk with no corresponding advantage, and it really looked as if the king's friendship was genuine, and he would summon us as soon as possible.
We talked it over, and decided to get away as soon as we could arrange with our Karany friends about boats, and with a view to that requested to have an interview with Toera the next morning.
It was an exciting ending to an otherwise quiet Sunday.
 Monday, September z8tb.-\Ve were up earlier than usual, expecting the promised summons from the king, but nothing came. One of the Karany, who came early for medicine, promised us boats, and Jesse went down to see about them. Meanwhile, we got hold of Jesse's relation, and told him our plans, asking him to tell the king that the Karany were ready to supply boats, and that we begged his permission to travel by that route.
He went, and got a prompt refusal.
Then the headman of the Karany was summoned to the king, with the result that he came to us and told us that he was afraid of taking us by water past Ingreza's town, and at any rate could not go without Toera's permission. So our hopes of the easier journey by water were dashed, for it was evident that our friends had been forbidden to take us.
In the evening there was much noise and shouting in the royal enclosure, and it was not long before the cause of it transpired. Sambilo, Ivongovongo, and their companions had returned and made their submission. They had wisely brought a large supply of drink with them, and they and the king were celebrating the restoration of friendship with a great carouse. When this had been going on for some time, Jesse's relation came to say that the king wished to see us. We went rather reluctantly, and were much relieved by being met on the way by Ivongovongo, who told us that the king was not at to see us, and that the party had dispersed.
There was now no urgent need for our departure at once, seeing that Toera and his [69/70] chiefs had buried the hatchet; but as it was now certain that the move to Ambiky would sooner or later be made, we decided to proceed leisurely with our preparations for returning to Mahabo, and getting our heavy baggage at least taken round by sea. Ivongovongo came to see us next day, and told us that there would be no objection to that course.
We then asked him definitely as to their intentions, and he assured us that the king would send for us, probably in a month's time, when he ought to be settled at Ambiky, and the fighting with Ingreza, if there were any, would be over.
The next two days passed quietly, the only variety being the doubtful pleasure of a visit to the king on Thursday evening. He sent for us late, and was very friendly, and not quite so drunk as usual. He readily agreed to our sending our baggage by sea, and again assured us that he would send for us very soon.
Toera was seated in very unkinglike fashion on the threshold of his house, and we, with his other visitors, including Itsarahomehy, had to squat on a mat placed in front of the door. After a while his Majesty felt musically inclined, and ordered his musical-box to be set going. This was not lively enough, and he asked for ours to be fetched to play with his. The two boxes playing together different airs, and accompanied by a concertina belonging to one of his men, produced anything but a musical effect. However, it seemed to please Toera vastly, and we parted on the best possible terms.
 The following evening, Friday, Itsarahomehy advised us to dispose our luggage in the centre of the tent, where it could not be easily reached from the outside.
There are many strangers," he said, "in the place, and some of them are casting longing eyes upon your goods."
We were not greatly alarmed, but made the best arrangements we could. Itsarahomehy had only just returned from some business in the west, on which he had been sent by the king, so that he had taken no share in the exciting events of the past few days. Some one must have heard of his friendly warning to us, and resented his interference; for in the middle of the night we heard a disturbance near, and discovered that some one had attempted to murder him while asleep. A spear had been driven through the wall of the house in which he was lying. It had pierced right through the bed upon which he was sleeping, but most fortunately without injuring him. It was a narrow shave, for the spear-head just grazed his side.
On Saturday, October 3rd, we had a farewell visit from Toera. He came to our tent quite early in the morning, and, wonderful to relate, was almost sober. McMahon asked hint plainly whether he meant us to go for good, or whether we were to await a message from him; and he answered with some astonishment--
"Why should you go? Wait till I send for you. I will send for you as soon as I can."
After a Sunday spent quietly as usual, we were ready to start in good time on Monday. Toera sent us a farewell message to the effect [71/72] that we were to trust him, and that it would not be long before he summoned us. With Itsarahomehy's help, we soon got sufficient porters for the small amount of baggage we were taking with us; and early on Monday we struck our tent. We could not help noticing that the chiefs seemed more ready to say good-bye than they had been to welcome us. We were, however, leaving behind us a number of friends among the women and sick. They appeared 'really sorry to part with us, and there were many wishes expressed for our speedy return.
So, on October the 5th, we turned our backs upon Androngony, hoping that Toera would prove as resolute in demanding our return as he had been in the matter of the move to Ambiky.
CHAPTER VII. BACK TO BETANIA--THE RAINY SEASON--DISAPPOINTMENT--NEW PLANS.
HAVING crossed the Tsiribihina, we followed exactly our former route, and by Tuesday at noon reached Lehitsitendrea's town, where we halted for our midday meal. Here our porters struck work and left us; they pretended that they wanted something to buy food, and for the sake of peace and quietness we gave them a few beads. In spite of this seven of them departed, singing and blowing a conch shell as soon as they were safely across the river. Filoha, who had been sent as our escort in charge of these men, neither said nor did any thing to stop them; so we proceeded to give him, in plain language, our ideas about his conduct; upon which he went off also. So we were stranded less than half way on the road back to Mahabo. One way out of the difficulty was to go on with the two men left; but that meant probably sacrificing the remainder of our baggage; and the idea did not commend itself to [73/74] us. We therefore sent Jesse and one of the men back to Androngony to get men in the place of the runaways, and resigned ourselves to wait.
We were fortunate enough to get a decent house belonging to Lehitsitendrea, whom we had met on the road. His wife was at home, and very friendly. She had a strange and wonderful erection on her head, something quite new to us in the way of hair-dressing. The hair was tightly rolled up into balls, some quite the size of a hen's egg, and plastered thickly with grease, black with time, or possibly ashes mixed with it. These balls were arranged in the form of a coronet--three rows of very large, and one of small; the general effect very much like the Duchess in "Alice in Wonderland," only more so. We had already seen something in the same style in the case of the men, but nothing quite so marvellous; and in their case the balls were much larger, and the grease generally left in its native whiteness, or greyness. I saw some afterwards having knobs of hair or grease, it was hard to say which, quite as large as a cricketball.
The next day, by great good fortune, our old friend Tsilaitra appeared, with a number of followers, on his way back to Analatsivalana. He had been to recover some stolen cattle, and was returning partially successful. His total loss, it appeared, had been seventeen head of cattle; of these seven were recovered; but three had to go as a present to the chief by whose good offices these had been restored, and two to the under-chiefs, so that the nett total which [74/75] he was driving home came to two: a curious instance of Sakalava justice. Tsilaitra was anxious to proceed homewards with all speed, not feeling quite sure that the chief in question would not repent of his honesty (?) and seize the two oxen remaining.
We soon came to an agreement with him and his men, and set off late in the afternoon, leaving word for Jesse to follow us with all convenient speed.
After three hours' march we reached the banks of the Manimbolo river, and spent a quiet night under the trees hard by.
Starting by moonlight on Thursday morning, and making a forced march, we reached Analatsivalana at sunset that day, and received a warm welcome and many presents of food from our old friends and patients there. We had done about nine hours' and a half actual walking at a good pace and must have covered something over thirty miles; and I am afraid that our numerous visitors found us very sleepy and not at all lively company.
By 8.30 a.m. on Friday we were at Mahabo again, and were hospitably entertained by the governor, who also found us two "lakana" large enough to carry us and our goods down the river to Morondava.
The remnant of the mining expedition we found still at Mahabo in a very deplorable condition; one had died of dysentery the previous day, and five others were so ill that McMahon was detained till late in the afternoon, doctoring them as well as circumstances allowed.
We completed the journey down the river by [75/76] the evening of Saturday. The water was very shallow, and travelling very slow. The only excitement was running a rapid--a new channel cut for itself by the river a few years before, where the current ran strong and the river-bed was studded with tree trunks, some of them just below the surface. Our baggage "lakana" was almost capsized, but fortunately without the loss of our goods, for Jesse and his companion soon righted the boat. While anxiously watching their efforts we came into collision with a submerged snag, and nearly shared the same fate; but Zephania just saved us by promptly jumping overboard and holding the "lakana." Just after sunset we reached our former starting-point at Betela, and found that our good host had moved to his other station, Betania, nearer the coast. We left our craft to follow with the baggage, and walked down, guided by Jesse; and soon after dark were rejoicing in the warm welcome accorded us by our good Norwegian friend, and the delights of returning to comparative civilization--bread-and-butter, after seven weeks without it!
Betania is a small Christian settlement standing on rising ground--a sand hill, some three hundred yards from the sea; a stretch of scrub, mostly composed of fan-palms, lies between, and opposite, right on the shore, is a small Vezo village. The sea-breeze was delicious, and the temperature, only a little over 8o°, refreshingly cool after the tent-life in Androngony. Here we decided to await news from the Tsiribihina.
Two days after our arrival our Karany friends appeared with the baggage we had entrusted to [76/77] them; they had safely passed the dreaded Ingreza, having left by water a few days after we started. They brought us no news of consequence, but said that the move to Ambiky had been really decided upon, but would probably not be made for some little time.
Then followed another period of waiting, of which we were rather impatient, but the rest and splendid sea-bathing were very enjoyable, and the sick gave us a fair amount of occupation. There was another contingent of the gold miners at Anosimiandroka who had made their way back thither, and like their companions at Mahabo were suffering much from malarial fever and required careful nursing.
Four weeks passed before any news came of Toera and his movements, and then McMahon, who had gone to Mahabo to doctor a relation of the governor, met our friend Itsarahomehy. His news was to some extent satisfactory, if we could have been quite sure that it was genuine. Toera, he said, would be ready to receive us after four "moons," when he would be settled in his new home. There had been a great "kabary," and the people had agreed to our settling amongst them, and had assigned as our home Tsitakabasia (=that cannot be reached by shot)--a remarkable and precipitous hill on the south bank of the Tsirbihina. The last piece of information made us doubt his story, for we had heard previously that the said hill was considered sacred, and so far from allowing any white man to visit it, the Sakalava always tried to prevent any stranger from setting eyes upon it. The first part of his story, being unfavourable, [77/78] was probably true, and four months' waiting would bring us into the worst of the rainy season, and travelling would then be very unwise if not impossible. The rivers would be in flood, and some of the country which we had traversed would be under water, while the heavy rain which falls, generally at night, would make it madness to live under canvas. It seemed best, on the whole, to separate and seek more substantial quarters for the rainy season; so McMahon returned overland to his home at Ramainandro, while I took the French mail steamer up the coast to Mojanga. We agreed to meet again at Betania as soon as the rains were really over, probably in March, by which time Toera, if he really intended to recall us, would have established himself at Ambiky.
The rainy season on the west coast of Madagascar proved a reality. The rain was not continuous, but came in aserics of storms, lasting each a week or more. The heaviest fall I remember was in February, when 10.95 inches fell between 6 p.m. one Thursday and 8 a.m. on the following Saturday--38 hours! Any one who takes an interest in the subject, will find full details published by the meteorological office, from careful observations taken by my host, Stratton C. Knott, the British Vice-Consul at Mojanga. During the same month, a strong wind occurring at the time of spring tides did a great deal of damage; the heavy sea either washed away or buried in sand many of the native houses on the sand spit to the northwest of Mojanga and on the shore facing westwards.
 March 13th, 1892, saw me back at my old quarters at Betania, and two days later some news arrived from the Tsiribihina, brought by two men who landed with wood for sale from Ibosy. Their story was that Toera and Ingreza had settled their differences and made a regular compact of friendship by the exchange of seven bullets; this, they said, is the strongest possible bond of union between two kings, for if one is guilty of breaking the compact, these seven bullets in the hands of the injured party will prove fatal to the success of the aggressor's arms.
They further reported that Ingreza had removed across the river and was on the southern bank. Toera had long ago left Androngony but was still at a town called Ankazoberavina ( = at the trees with many leaves), but next moon intended to go to Ambiky. Very many of his people were already settled there and had begun to plant. Toera had had a serious quarrel with his mother Tinompo, and, some said, had actually attempted her life, regarding her as the chief obstacle to his friendship with Ingreza. He had, it seemed, tried to insist upon her entering into the bloodcovenant with Ingreza's mother, and she had indignantly refused, on the ground that it was a degradation to her to mingle her blood with that of a Makoa woman.
This was a considerable budget of news, but not very reliable; our informants knew us and our object, and it is the common practice to cook a story so as to be acceptable to the recipients of it.
 A few days later we received further news from a trader who had been up by sea to the mouth of the Tsiribihina. He told us that Toera had gone north to the Manambolo river on business about some stolen cattle, and was not expected to return for three weeks at least. He had taken with him on his journey the relics of the late king, which looked as if he did not trust Ingreza, even if he had, as reported, made an alliance with him, and also as if Toera himself were in no hurry to take possession of Ambiky.
While waiting for reliable news and McMahon, I took the opportunity of spending a Sunday at the Hova garrison town, Andakabe, between six and seven miles off. It is by no means wisely chosen for defence. The town is small and stands in a circular clearing surrounded by reeds ("bararata") over fifteen feet high, and so close together as to be impassable by anything larger than a cat; a long winding path through these reeds forms the approach, easily enough defended against an open attack, but the place is in reality a veritable death-trap; it is badly supplied with water, and if an attacking force of Sakalava adopted their usual tactics of setting fire to the reeds not a soul could possibly escape.
On Monday April 18th McMahon arrived from the interior, via Mahabo, bringing with him Itsarahomehy. He assured us that Toera was really at Ambiky, but could not say so of his own knowledge, and we were beginning to be more than doubtful about our friend's information.
Our first idea was to send Itsarahomehy to Toera as our messenger; but he demurred, if he [80/81] was also to be our escort north, when matters had been arranged for our journey. We therefore set about finding other messengers, and at last came to an agreement with two Sakalava, known to our host, who consented to go up by sea and tell Toera that we were there awaiting his promised summons and ready to obey it at once. It was ten days before we heard or saw anything more of them.
Meanwhile the little Christian community was much excited by an attack upon a party taking goods by water up to Mahabo; one of the Christians was shot and badly wounded in the breast by robbers concealed among the tall reeds on the river bank. Fortunately a white trader, on his way down the river, came in sight just after the first shot had been fired, and the thieves decamped, otherwise all the goods would have been lost, and probably many lives. The wounded man was brought down to Betania, and under McMahon's care soon made a good recovery.
At length, on May 1st, our messengers appeared and their news was most disappointing, and proved once more how utterly unreliable native accounts invariably are. They had been detained for two days by Ingreza, and declared that they would not have been suffered to go on, if they had allowed it to transpire that they came from us. Ingreza and his men were, it seems, on the look-out for messengers from us, and intended, if possible, to prevent us from communicating with Toera, at any rate by sea. All or nearly all the information given us previously had been false: the people had not [81/82] gone to Ambiky, but were still at Ankazoberavina, and apparently intended to stay there for the present; Toera's return was quite indefinite and he had not made friends with Ingreza: by taking his ancestral relics with him northwards he had shown too obviously Ms mistrust of his half-brother, and Ingreza made no secret of being very sore about it. Hence it was almost certain that on Toera's return there would be trouble between the brothers, and therefore no immediate prospect of the country becoming quiet.
Our messengers said that they had pressed for an interview with Ivongovongo, who had been left in charge of the "lapa" at Ankazoberavina; but he refused to see them and simply acknowledged their message from us, declining to give a definite reply, good or bad.
Altogether their account of the state of affairs was most unpromising, and afforded little prospect of our being able to establish ourselves with Toera during the current dry season.
This led to the consideration of another plan. Southwards the country was left to be occupied by the Norwegian Mission, but north of Toera's dominions there reigned a queen, by name Andrisa, who had some years back sent an embassy to Antananarivo, and asked for missionaries to come and teach her people. We instituted inquiries and heard that Andrisa had lately died, and her daughter Bibiasy was reigning in her stead. Her capital was some way inland, and the road to it lay through Maintirano, an island seaport town, in the hands of a certain Alidy, half Arab, half Sakalava, and, unless report belied him, a great rascal. There would [82/83] certainly be trouble with him at starting, and, as we could not be sure that Bibiasy inherited her mother's sentiments, we abandoned that idea.
An alternative plan was to establish ourselves at Ibosy, under the protection of a blind chief Maromiha, who was reported to be well disposed to foreigners and to have great influence with both kings. Though Ibosy was nominally in Ingreza's territory, Maromiha held an almost neutral position and was equally friendly with both.
This promised fairly well, and at any rate it seemed worth while to go up there and see him on the subject. Ibosy is an easy day's sail from Anosimiandroka, if the wind serves; on this coast one can always reckon upon the land breeze in the early morning, but by midday it drops, and there is then always a doubt whether the sea breeze will come from the north-west or south-west.
On the second attempt we succeeded in concluding an agreement with a man to take us to Ibosy and back for six fathoms and a half of cloth, and left soon after sunrise. There was only a light breeze, but the clean-cut "laka piaro" made good way under its huge square sail. Our steersman made a short morning of it, for he declared that the wind would not hold until we reached Ambato, a Hova settlement some miles north of Anosimiandroka, and so put back and landed us at the latter place to wait for the change of wind. Early in the afternoon we were off again, but did not reach Ibosy until just after sunset, for the wind, though fair, was very light.
 Almost immediately upon our landing, old Maromiha was led down to the beach to greet us, and soon provided us with a small house as our night's quarters. We found that the old gentleman, who in former years acted as pilot and purveyor to passing ships at Nosivey, had picked up a little English, of which he was immensely proud. It was the most unintelligible stuff possible, for the first personal pronoun was always represented by the third, and the words were pitch-forked into the sentence anyhow: but we could not persuade him to talk to us in Malagasy and had to make the best of it. He was very friendly, and promised us all possible help if we would settle there.
Ibosy is built on a low, sandy island, formed by the two mouths of the Tomitsy, the source of which we had seen on our way to Toera. The island averages not much more than fifty yards across at high water, and is about a mile and a half in length; but it is all sand, with a few tufts of grass, creepers, and stunted bushes, with no attempt at cultivation. The people plant their rice and other crops on the mainland, and during the daytime the town is quite deserted by all but a few women and children. The shore is a splendid stretch of clean, firm sand, an excellent place, as we soon discovered, for bathing.
We met at Ibosy three of our Karany friends from Androngony. They had been attacked a night or two after Toera left the place, but had managed with some difficulty to beat off the robbers. They could give us no definite account of the state of affairs in Toera's country, [84/85] but had heard that he was likely to return to Ankazoberavina soon; some said that he had already returned, and would go on to Ambiky the following month.
Maromiha told us much the same, and also promised us that Ingreza would give us no trouble as long as we remained at Ibosy. This being so far satisfactory, we returned to Betania next morning, and by making an early start, before the sun was up, and having a brisk wind, we were there before midday.
CHAPTER VIII. VISIT TO IBOSY AND RETURN--INGREZA'S MESSENGER--MESSAGE FROM TOERA--EXCUSES--WE RETIRE.
A WEEK later we had made all our preparations, and were ready to try the experiment of settling at Ibosy. We got a passage in a native-built schooner, owned by one of the Christian Sakalava from Betania, and bound for Maintirano. She was the veriest old tub imaginable, and with an enormous amount of unnecessary timber in her clumsy frame; her sailing powers were just what her appearance suggested, and after a long day at sea, it was just dark before we were at anchor inside the island of Ibosy, and due east of Maromiha's house.
The old wretch had not kept his word, and no house was to be found for us. He put us up in a miserable little room, indescribably filthy, in his own house, which was full of rather a noisy crowd of people, and we spent a by no means comfortable night. Next morning, before daybreak, we saw to the landing of what baggage [86/87] we had brought, chiefly medicines, and were rejoiced at the promise of a house to be vacated next day by one of our Tsiribihina friends, who was returning thither.
In the evening we had a palaver with the chiefs of the village, when they returned from their rice-planting on the mainland. Old Maromiha had, in the usual way, exaggerated his own influence, and the majority of the leading men were clearly not inclined to follow his lead. They were decidedly not pleased to see us, and made no secret of it; talked about Ingreza being angry, if they received us without permission from him, and were altogether most unfriendly. The end of a long talk, and some grumbling on their part, was that it was arranged that we should send messengers to Ingreza, with a complimentary present, to inform him of our arrival at Ibosy. This ended the "kabary," but the real cause of dissatisfaction never came out, viz. that Maromiha was suppossed to have received a large present from us, and the other chiefs had had nothing, and moreover did not quite see their way to making anything out of us.
There were other considerations which told against us. In the afternoon a group was conversing just outside our house and one said--
"Remember that -- told us that where these white men settle, the `Ambaniandro' (Hova) will soon follow."
This, from a trusted man with whom they all had dealings, accounted for a good deal of the opposition, direct and indirect, with which we had to contend.
 All things considered, there seemed little prospect of ally adequate result from our stay at Ibosy, but we decided, at any rate, to despatch our messengers and await their return.
Next morning we took possession of our new quarters--not very charming ones, and somewhat thickly populated, but a welcome change from the dirt and noise of Maromiha's abode. A few patients appeared and were doctored.
Our messengers returned the following day, with a very brief message that the king was glad to hear of our arrival, and would send chiefs the next day to visit us. This message struck us as not being genuine, especially as the men had gone straight to Maromilffi on their arrival, and had had a long talk with him before approaching us. No one appeared from Ingreza the next day, and as Zephania, who accompanied us, had received a hint from a friendly native that that gentleman meant mischief; we decided to return to Anosimiandroka, and give up the idea of making Ibosy a centre for our work. It had hardly anything to recommend it. Being an island it was almost isolated from the other places near, and its position, with a wide stretch of mud to the east, exposed at low tide, made it anything but a desirable home in the matter of health. Last, but not least, the people appeared very unwilling to have anything to do with us, and even the sick had either been warned to keep away from us, or were too suspicious to avail themselves of our help.
On Saturday, May 2 1st, we were back at [88/89] Betania. We hoped that one good result of our journey to Ibosy might be that Toera would hasten his arrangements for receiving us when he heard that there was a possibility of our settling in his rival's dominions.
On Sunday evening we had a visit from one of Ingreza's men. We were sitting, smoking, when there was a shout of "hody" at the gate, and one of our Ibosy messengers appeared; with him was an old man who introduced himself as Isila, one of Ingreza's rather numerous fathers-in-law. Failing to find us at Ibosy, he had followed us to Betania, though, apparently, he had very little to say of any consequence. The gist of his message, which took very long in the telling, was that Ingreza would like to see us, but that he could not ask us to visit him, because Toera was close to him.
"Tell the vazaha," he said, "that when this moon is dead, I mean to meet Toera and settle this matter one way or the other." Clearly there was no love lost between the two kings, and the settlement would probably mean civil war, continued until one king was killed or driven out of the country. Isila professed himself a friend of the white man, and really did seem a little less of a ruffian than most of the men whom we had seen at Ibosy. We gave him a few small presents for himself; something also for the king, and some food, and also found a small house for him to sleep in. He seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly, and was charmed with the musicalbox, which we set going while he was feeding. Very early next morning he took his departure.
Another weary time of waiting followed, only [89/90] varied by a fight in a neighbouring village on Monday in Whitsun-week. An inhabitant of this village had, on Sunday, caught a man stealing his sugar-cane, and had fired on him. On the Monday he returned with a party of friends, and a pitched battle followed. We heard, while in church, the firing, which was pretty brisk, but soon over. The villagers beat off the others, killing one of them and wounding two, while two were wounded on their own side. A fair instance of the lawless state of the country.
At length, on July 16th, Itsarahomehy appeared with a message, as he said, from Toera, to the effect that he was going to send chiefs to fetch us at the next full moon, a fortnight hence, and asking us to meet his messengers at Mahabo. We answered that we would be there in ten days, and be prepared to accompany his men by land. We had quite hoped to avoid the land journey, and were also anxious to see something of the Tsiribihina, but found it was useless to expect it. Toera's men are not sailors, and besides being afraid of the sea, were also afraid of Ingreza, with whom Toera has not yet made friends, in spite of all the reports to the contrary.
On Monday, July 25th, we started on foot for Mahabo, leaving all our heavy baggage at Betania. It was easily sent for if required, and experience had taught us that Itsarahomehy's communications must not be taken too literally.
The following day, early in the afternoon, we arrived at Mahabo without adventure; we made it out to be about thirty miles by land, but it must be considerably more by the river, [90/91] the route we followed on our first visit. We paid our duty visit to Rasinaotra the morning after our arrival, but could get no information from her; in fact, she seemed by no means so friendly on this occasion as on our previous visits.
While we were waiting at Mahabo, an interesting ceremony was going on in Rasinaotra's court-yard. Her subjects were coming up in detachments of about three hundred men each "mino volamena" (= drink gold, i.e. water in which some of the golden ornaments of the deceased king had been placed). This, it seems, is the form for renewing the oath of allegiance to the sovereign, and promising obedience to her laws, and instant death is firmly believed to follow the breach of an oath so taken.
The various troops passed very near our house--a wild-looking crowd, very lightly clad, and all without weapons of any kind. They came swinging round the corner with a quick, short half-dancing step, timed by a rude chant. This raised in a few moments such a cloud of dust, that little else could be seen. In dead silence they filed into Rasinaotra's court-yard and sat down; then, when the last man had taken his seat, the deep, low greeting, "tserika rany," coming simultaneously from three hundred throats was very effective. These bodies of men kept arriving at intervals during the next fortnight, and opened our eyes to the fighting power of the Sakalava. Rasinaotra does not possess one of the largest kingdoms in the west, but all those we saw were young and vigorous warriors, accustomed from childhood to carry [91/92] and use a gun; they would prove very formidable opponents, apart from their intimate knowledge of the country. This also would be of the greatest value to them in the desultory skirmishing, which would be the only possible method of conducting a campaign against the Sakalava. They are moreover used to shifting their quarters on the slightest provocation, and there are no large towns in the Menabe country with a settled population, the capture of which would crush the power of the people.
The full moon came and passed. There were no signs of Toera's messengers, and we began to be pretty certain that Itsarahomehy had deceived us. A few days later, a Mahabo man, who had been sent on some business to Ingreza, returned home. According to his account, the two kings were really going to make an alliance, and their respective mothers were about to enter into the blood covenant. This, if true, would mean much drinking and feasting, and would quite account for the non-appearance of the expected messengers. For this reason, and also because it would mean a peaceful solution of all differences, we hoped that the report was true, but were not very sanguine about it.
Having waited another fortnight, and got no news of any sort, we approached Rasinaotra with the idea of sending our former escort, Lehiota, to Toera to discover his real intentions. However, just when, after several days spent in negotiations, this had been satisfactorily arranged, reliable news arrived that Toera's messengers were on their way, and might be expected in a few days. A new reason also [92/93] appeared for the delay: Toera's house and royal enclosure had been destroyed by firenot, as one would imagine, a very serious loss, but it had caused a ferment in the place, because it was declared that the fire had been the work of an incendiary, a secret friend of Ingreza.
It was the end of August before Toera's messengers arrived in Mahabo, and were received by the governor in the evening with all due honours. We were thoroughly disgusted to discover, which we did very speedily, that the main object of their visit was certainly not to fetch us; in fact, they said nothing about us before Rasinaotra in the morning, or in the governor's house in the afternoon, until they were directly questioned; then, with profuse professions of friendship, as usual, they offered the very lame excuse that Toera, having lost his royal abode by fire, had no fitting place in which to receive us. Considering that, on our former visit, we never set foot in his house, and, as he well knew, had no intention of trespassing upon his royal hospitality, nothing could have been much feebler.
The following day we had a private interview with the messengers, with no satisfactory result. It involved an immense amount of talking, many proteststions of the sincerest friendship, but still nothing more than excuses. A Norwegian missionary, who had just arrived on a visit, and spoke Sakalava well, made it quite clear to them that we had no connection of any sort with the Hova, and had not come on government business; he also pointed out to [93/94] them that we could not go on awaiting the king's pleasure for an indefinite length of time.
Later in the day, our old friend Filoha came alone to us and assured us that he should be back to fetch us very soon, probably in a week's time. We had not quite forgotten his conduct on the way back to Mahabo, and he rather spoiled the effect of his communication by at once proceeding to beg for a present. We told him that he would not be forgotten when we reached Toera's town, but gave him nothing then, for we had come to the conclusion that "payment by results" was the only workable principle among the Sakalava. We promised, however, to await news from Toera for another fortnight, which would give him ample time to go and return, but after that, we said, we must go and work somewhere else in the island.
Two days later the whole posse of messengers came to us to say "good-bye," and not a word was mentioned about returning to fetch us; old Filoha's story was evidently a pure invention, by which he hoped to net something in the way of a present. We were quite convinced of this by his subsequent conduct--a whole week passed, and the party were still lingering in the neighbourhood of Mahabo, and had clearly no idea of hastening back to the king.
It was now September, and the rainy season was again drawing near. Toera would certainly not be in a position to receive us for some months, and were he ready, it was more than doubtful whether his influence would be strong enough with his chiefs to induce them to accept us. There was no doubt that the mass of the [94/95] people and the chiefs were opposed to our coming, whatever might be the personal feelings of the king, and we had begun to believe that king and people had come to an agreement about the two disputed points--they had given way on the matter of the change of residence, while he was to yield on the question of our return. This, of course, would not appear on the surface, but the late embassy had certainly nothing to do with our return. In addition to this, there would almost certainly be trouble sooner or later between Toera and Ingreza: two kings could not by any possibility quietly occupy the same territory. Meanwhile, there was a general state of suspense throughout the country, neither king would settle down permanently while his rival was in the neighbourhood, and the condition of the whole people, never particularly restful, would be more than usually disturbed.
After due consideration of all these points, we decided to wait the stipulated fortnight, and then, unless we heard something really definite from Toera, abandon our attempt for the present. Needless to say, we heard nothing whatever, except a report that the two Icings were no nearer a settlement of their rival claims than before, and that the ill-feeling between them had been further increased by the burning of Toera's house, and the reported murder of the incendiary by his messengers on the way back from Mahabo. It was there that he had been captured, and they had promised to conduct him safe and sound to Toera, to be duly tried by him as a "mpamorika."
 We had now waited over seven months beyond the time first mentioned by Toera, and had received no message direct from him during the whole time; all the reliable accounts we received were distinctly unfavourable; and so on September zest we very reluctantly embarked at Morondava on the French mail steamer, and thus our attempt to establish a mission station in Toera's country came to an end. Our journeyings so far had proved a failure, but we by no means considered that the thirteen months spent on the west coast had been time wasted. Apparent failures have often proved in the end the foundation of great successes. We had at any rate broken the ground. Our visit to Toera's town is talked of by many there; we had won some friends, and not a few, especially among the women, would welcome our return. Others, if not we, may in God's good time be enabled to reap the fruits of our attempt, make our failure a success, and begin mission work among the Sakalava north of the Tsiribihina.
CHAPTER IX. SOME CUSTOMS AND SUPERSTITIONS.
A BRIEF account of some of the peculiar customs and superstitions, which we had an opportunity of observing among the Sakalava, deserve a separate chapter. Some have been incidentally mentioned in the course of the narrative, but others are worth a more detailed account.
We were able, while at Betania, to inspect two of the Sakalava burial grounds in the neighbourhood, some of the tombs of which are shown in the illustrations. These tombs are very curious and represent a great amount of labour. Each tomb is enclosed by a square wooden fence, about breast high, the upright posts and the top rail of which are very elaborately carved. At the eastern end of the tomb is a narrow board, planted upright in the ground and carefully carved like the rest of the tomb. On this board occurs the figure of the bird which forms the ornament at the top of several upright posts; of the presence of this bird, called [99/100] "mijoha" by the natives, a rusty black in colour, and apparently akin to the heron, the people could give no explanation. The summits of the corner posts are generally fashioned into very rudely carved figures of men and women. The idea of the human figures, in which the sex is very prominently shown, is, we were told, intended to point to the fact that the dead chief had left offspring to succeed him, and still lives in his descendants.
On all the tombs we inspected, except one, the figures were one male and one female, the latter generally represented with a water-jar on her head; one had in addition a child upon her back, and the usual fashion of doing the hair up into tight knobs was clearly shown. In one solitary instance the figures were both females, probably marking the resting-place of a childless widow of high rank, or a spinster.
If the tomb belonged to a Vezo, the sea-going clan that lines the coast, there is erected at the western end of the tomb a paddle or blade of an oar.
The various ornaments on the top rail, mostly carved out of the solid wood, represent the possessions, pursuits, and the likes or dislikes of the dead person. We could recognize a house, a canoe, a dhow, an ox, a crocodile, a man in the act of shooting (the gun nearly as large as the man), and various utensils, probably used in the manufacture of native spirit; one such, a water-jar, with the peculiarity of two long, narrow necks, crowned the top of one of the uprights.
On every tomb were scattered fragments of [100/101] crockery ware, probably the things used by the deceased while alive; these are never kept for use by the survivors, but are brought to the tomb and there broken.
The feeling against using or even touching any of the possessions of the dead is very strong, and is markedly exhibited in the custom of burning the house in which a person has died. It is usual also for the surviving inhabitants to leave the spot when a death has occurred in a village. They do not, as a rule, move far, sometimes only a few yards; and as they take their houses with them, and there is room enough and to spare for all, the flitting does not involve any lengthy journey or serious labour even for a Sakalava, who is assuredly one of the laziest, as he is one of the most superstitious, beings under the sun.
The royal privileges and authority are very jealously guarded and fenced in with all sorts of superstitious observances, both by people and sovereign. Much of the regal power, if not all, owes its existence to the possession of what is commonly called the "dady," that is, the relics of a former sovereign, as already mentioned above, generally, as we were told, consisting of some hair and nails. These are most religiously preserved, and the keeper of the relics, often a female, is always a personage of considerable influence with the chiefs and rulers.
During our second visit to Mahabo, we noticed one morning much blowing of horns and conch shells in Rasinaotra's court, and saw a procession leaving the town. On inquiring, we were told that it was a great occasion, [101/102] for they were taking the "dady" down to the river to be bathed. What ceremonies were performed on this occasion I cannot report, for we were unable to witness them, and our presence there would have been strongly resented.
The most terrible accusation that can be brought against a Sakalava is that he is "mpamorika," a word derived from vorika = an insult offered to, or a charm employed against any one, but more particularly against the sovereign. Among the Menabe ruled over by Rasinaotra, there are six things strictly forbidden, any one of which is "vorika." In olden times the penalty was death and the forfeiture of all the offender's goods to the crown. By Rasinaotra the penalty has been reduced to a fine of ten oxen. The reasons for some of these being considered offences are sufficiently obvious, of the rest the natives can give no satisfactory explanation.
1. Mambeta laona = to carry a "laona," the native wooden mortar in which rice is pounded to remove the husk. The "laona" must be rolled not carried, for, said the charm-makers' any one who could carry a "laona" could carry or master the king.
2. Mitafy tsihy--to cover yourself with a mat. A former king being unwell tried the experiment of covering himself with a native mat by the advice of the "mpisikidy" (=the workers of the "sikidy," a very elaborate system of divination), As he received no benefit from this somewhat unusual remedy, he forbade any one to try the plan in the future.
 3. To spear a red ox. Of the origin of this I could get no explanation.
4. Mibory loha = to crop the head, i.e. to wear the hair cut short. The Sakalava, as mentioned above, wear the hair long and elaborately plaited and knotted. When the nation is in mourning for a dead sovereign, it is customary to cut the hair as short as possible, hence to do this in his lifetime is tantamount to wishing him dead.
5. Cultivating the white castor-oil plant. The origin of this prohibition is given thus: A former king was milking a young cow, which became excited and attacked him. He attempted to escape by climbing a castor-oil plant, which, very naturally, broke under his weight. After several attempts, all equally unsuccessful, he was obliged to call for assistance, and was rescued by his people. In consequence of this adventure he cursed the shrub and forbade any of his subjects to plant it, as it had failed to save him in his hour of danger.
6. Miompy omby bory = to keep hornless cattle. Of this also no reasonable explanation was forthcoming, except that a former king had been particularly unfortunate with a herd of such oxen.
There are also certain things which it is "vorika" to mention in the presence of the sovereign. Before reaching Toera's town we were strictly charged to remember that it was a serious offence to speak to the king of his "loha" (= head), it must be called "kabeso." To ask him if he were "marary loha" (=had a headache), which must have been the case many [105/106] a morning, would be improper. A euphemism of some sort must be employed.
So, again, the names of any of the king's ancestors who had died must on no account be mentioned, and should such a name involve the word for any object in ordinary use, a new term must be found to express it.
Nearly all illness, as well as accidental injuries, is regarded as the result of charms applied in various ways, and generally, though not always, with malicious intent.
Probably to this belief must be attributed the curious custom of using the "bilo," described on pages 39-40, one or more of which we found in every village through which we passed.
I came across instances of one particular charm which goes by the name of "barika tampaka" (barika = the French "barrique," a barrel, and tampaka = the Hova "tapaka," broken). I could get no explanation of this curious and apparently irrelevant title.
The charm is firmly believed in and much dreaded; its application and effects, as well as the cure for it, are so curious and inexplicable that some account of it may be interesting.
I can only give the facts as related to me by the sufferers themselves; probably closer investigation and actual observation of a case might afford some natural explanation of what at first sight appears very mysterious.
This charm is said to produce convulsions and finally death, when applied in its worst form. All that is required to put it in operation is that the person or persons applying it should give the usual greeting to the person to be [106/107] affected, and receive the usual reply. In both the cases, of which I received an account, the charm appears to have been in the mind of the persons affected, for they both, half in joke as they declared, said, after answering the greeting, "Now don't you put the `barika tampaka' on me!"
The effects were somewhat different in the two cases, being rather more violent in the second.
The first man, a European, described his sensations as of pungent vapour issuing from his nostrils. This was shortly followed by utter unconsciousness of his surroundings, though he went with a number of natives some distance into the forest on a wood-cutting expedition. Of this he had not the least recollection, though he took some food with his companions on the road. He had a hazy idea of having crossed a stream at which he tried to drink. This he actually did do and fell in the attempt; he then became quite senseless and powerless to move, was carried by his companions into a house, where the cure was applied and he recovered.
In the other case, that of a young native, the charm was, he said, applied in the morning. In the afternoon of the same day he complained of feeling unwell and refused food. Shortly after, he became unconscious and lay partly convulsed and drawing his breath in sobs and apparently with great difficulty. These symptoms increased to such a degree that at length, fearing for his life, the missionary who was nursing him, consented to the application of the cure or antidote for this particular charm. The cure, [107/108] known only to certain persons, is something in the shape of an ointment, and is kept in one of the small horns usually carried as charms. Its application was described as follows: The wrists are first anointed by drawing a circle round them; the ointment is then applied to the forehead in a crescent, then down to the nose, mouth, and neck, to the Adam's apple; there a pause is made while one can count seven, and then the anointing is carried on to the pit of the stomach. Mr Aarnes, the Norwegian missionary, who was present when the ointment was applied, describes the cure as absolutely instantaneous.
There is apparently a less deadly operation of the same charm, and in this form it was said to have been applied to a native woman during our visit. She was washing clothes in the river and declared that the charm was effected by making some mysterious marks in the sand near her. The visible result was the contraction of the muscles of one leg, drawing it backwards, but the consequent lameness gradually passed away without treatment.
I offer no explanation of these three cases, but simply give the stories as they were told to me. It was unfortunate that we had no opportunity of observing the patients while under the power of the charm; the cure seems even less capable of a rational explanation than the charm itself, but doubtless many significant facts were omitted in the relation of both operations.
Charms can be purchased as a protection against almost any mishap, and the charm-seller is never at a loss for an explanation if they [108/109] fail to give the desired protection. One of the men who accompanied us as luggage carrier on our visit to Toera, had a very elaborate charm to protect him from the various dangers of the road. It consisted of or was contained in the usual small horn, elaborately decorated with a beautifully worked pattern in green and white beads. This charm he most carefully strapped on to his left arm above the elbow, before starting on the march. He would not allow us to touch it, much less to investigate its contents; probably the contact with an unbelieving white man would have quite destroyed its efficacy.
It is one of the duties of the charm-maker to arrange specimens of his work near the tracks by which an enemy might approach the town. One of these, near Toera's town, our friend Itsarahomehy showed us with complacent pride one evening and claimed it as his work. It was not a striking object to look at--a few short sticks and twigs, some stuck in the ground, others fastened to them, and pointing in various directions, but, said he, "no enemy could pass that!"
"You;" he continued, "make medicine to benefit people's bodies, why should I not do the same to benefit the king's land?"
The obvious answer was that there was no reason why he should not, if he could!
The powers of these charm-makers are firmly believed in and held in great awe, and it is quite certain that many people who offend or resist them pay for it with their lives. This result they of course attribute to the power of their charms, but in reality it is owing to the very [109/110] extensive knowledge of various vegetable poisons, which they undoubtedly possess. One plant was pointed out to me; it was a low, straggling bush, called "lombiro" by the natives, with a white milk-like juice in the stems. The poisonous properties of this are very generally known, and it is commonly used in the case of the not infrequent suicides among the Sakalava. It is apparently a narcotic poison, for it is generally taken at night, and the person who has drunk it passes away quietly during sleep.
Polygamy is commonly, though not universally, practised among the Sakalava, and the condition pf women in the country is most miserable and degraded. The various wives are not treated as all equal, one being considered the principal wife, called "vály be" (=big wife), the rest occupying more or less subordinate positions. At the best, however, a wife is little better than a slave; in many cases she actually is a slave.
We were astounded, when in Toera's town, to find a very large number of Hova women, stolen from the borders of Imerina, and living as the wives of Sakalava. We estimated that considerably more than half of the women in the place were Hova or descendants of Hova. Some had been taken when quite children, and had forgotten or never remembered their homes; others had been carried off recently. A certain number of women, thus captured, are taken down to the coast and sold to Arab slave-dealers, for slave-dealing is still alive on the west coast of Madagascar; but their condition can hardly be said to be worse than that of those who are retained [110/111] in the Sakalava villages as wives nominally, slaves in reality.
As a natural result of this state of things, morality is at a low ebb; it would, in fact, be truer to say that it is non-existent. Mutual consent of individuals, more rarely of two families, appears to be the only marriage tie practically recognized, though a more binding form of wedlock is said to exist. Separation and re-marriage on the most trivial grounds are of constant occurrence. Unchastity among the young is the rule, and is spoken of without shame and as a matter of course.
Another means of self-degradation these unhappy people have found for themselves in the almost universal drunkenness. Drinking, and with them drinking means excess, seems to be an essential part of all gatherings--religious, political, or social.
They are very skilful in distilling, and will make spirit from almost any fruit. The most fiery and deleterious spirit is obtained from the fruit of the "satrana" (fan-palm), which grows in abundance all over the country; but sugarcane, wild raspberries, and a fruit called "lamòty" (something like a damson in colour and flavour), are all in common use. The still is an earthen pot, the opening covered with clay, while an old gun-barrel, passing through water in a trough hollowed out of the trunk of a tree, serves as the worm, and the liquor distils through the touch-hole.
With all their superstition, immorality, and drunkenness, the Sakalava are physically a fine race; very lazy, it is true, but capable of [111/112] wonderful endurance and exertion when required--as for instance, on a cattle-stealing expedition. They are naturally brave, and seem to love fighting, especially if there is a chance of plunder. Their friendship, once won, may be relied upon, for they are not basely treacherous, though their definition of treachery would probably be narrower than a European's. Degraded, savage, and unquiet as they are, there are not wanting traces of the nobler qualities, and the Sakalava offer a grand if difficult field for missionary enterprise.
May the field soon be strongly occupied!