BISHOP SMYTHIES with a large party left England on January 16, 1884, and after a prosperous voyage, which gave him his first experience of the charm of Oriental sights, reached Zanzibar on February 25. The approach to this beautiful island has been often described by travellers. As the ship draws near, a brilliant picture is spread forth--a picture in which stately buildings of dazzling whiteness stand out clear and sharp against the deep blue sky, whilst waving palms and vivid green bushes, smooth blue sea and red shore are aglow in the rich warmth of a tropical sun and the clearness of an atmosphere that knows no smoke or fog. Probably, on drawing near the harbour, the Bishop looked eagerly for the slender spire of Christ Church Cathedral, which, though standing far back in the town, can be seen from the sea, raising its silent testimony to the triumph of Christianity over slavery. As the steamer anchored, the usual noisy, busy clatter of landing began. Amid the countless crowd of boats swarming round the ship's sides came two large boats, containing the Mission clergy and some laymen, to meet the Bishop and his companions, and the greeting between the old workers and the new, amidst the deafening noise of chattering, shrieking, gesticulating natives, officials, sailors, porters, the scramble for luggage and the rush for boats in the blazing heat of a February noon, was to the Bishop the first of many subsequent similar experiences.
Arrived on shore, the party made their way through the strange Oriental alleys that in Zanzibar count for streets, penetrating through a maze of dirty, narrow ways gay with bazaars and shops, and crowded with jostling representatives of every nationality--soldiers, slaves, police, and traders, Persians, Egyptians, and Goanese, stately Arabs, rich Indians, merry Swahilis, graceful women in bright flowing garments bearing baskets or water jars on their heads--till at length they reached the head-quarters of the Mission, the clergy-house that in those days stood close to the Cathedral. Here were assembled the remaining members of the Mission staff, together with the boys from Kiungani and the girls from Mbweni. The excitement of the children, their picturesque appearance and bright colouring, the enthusiasm of clergy and laity, the evident joy of all at possessing once more, after the lapse of eighteen months, a Bishop to guide the work of the Church--all this formed an impressive welcome, which the Bishop did not fail to appreciate. [Bishop Steere died August 27, 1882.] Evensong in the Cathedral that day and the choral Eucharist next morning, offered in thanksgiving for the Bishop's safe arrival, made, as such services cannot fail to make on every new-comer, a profound impression on Bishop Smythies. 'How many people in England would give anything to be present at such a service as we had to-night!' he exclaimed on the evening after his arrival.
Let us think for a moment what it meant in the history of the world and in the history of the Church of Christ. Only a few years before, that site had been the scene of an open slave-market, 'rows of men, women, and children, sitting and standing, and salesmen passing in and out amongst them, examining them, handling them, chaffering over them, bandying their filthy jokes about them, and worse scenes still going on in all the huts around.' [Memoir of Bishop Steere, p. 131.] For centuries this had been going on, for centuries these people had been torn from their homes in the interior and carried by the Arabs for sale to Zanzibar. This was the last open slave-market in the world, and when, owing to the influence of the English Government, the market was closed, Bishop Steere did not rest until he had acquired its very site as the head-quarters of Christianity. A member of the Universities' Mission bought the land, and it was Bishop Steere's triumphant achievement to erect upon it that noble church which now so impressed Bishop Smythies and which has astonished travellers of all nationalities.' ['Past the Indian streets and the thatched native huts, we turned a corner suddenly. The scene changed as if by magic. In the midst of this wretched poverty and the crowded, dirty, odorous Indian bazaars and Arab dust-heaps, one suddenly comes upon a corner of England itself in the full flower of its culture. Amazement, admiration, and national jealousy overwhelmed me at this surprising sight. "Ah, if only we had got as far as this!" I cried. "We shall have to wait a few decades yet," said my companion laughingly, "that represents English money and many years' work." Reiseskizzen. Frl. von Bülow, 1887.]
Writing soon after his arrival, he says:
There are continually a good many Mohammedans and outsiders at our services, standing at the bottom of the church. The very sight of the choir of black boys singing every day in the grand, lofty church, which is so fitting a memorial of the work of the great Bishop who lies buried there, must have its effect. . . . The church is really fine and dignified, and this house is close to it. ... Sometimes I go to Mbweni, four or five miles off, a beautiful place where the school for girls and the village for people rescued from slavers is. It is an old Arab house added to, with a large mango before the door, and the sea seen between the cocoa-nut trees. Then half-way there is the other boys' school at Kiungani, where there are bigger boys and a greater number. . . . Considering that this is the hottest month, I have not felt the heat as much as I expected. Everything is new and strange. Some of the flowers are beautiful. The mangoes are very fine trees and the fruit very good and exceedingly plentiful, as are pines and bananas. I expect to be here for the present. Two Arabs have called to see me and made courteous speeches through an interpreter. I am to preach to the natives by that means on Sunday morning. I am feeling very well, thanks to God's great goodness.
After being so long without episcopal guidance, the Mission naturally presented many anxious questions for decision. Chief amongst these questions in Zanzibar was the industrial training of those boys and girls who were by nature more fitted for manual than for intellectual work. Bishop Steere had already contemplated changes in this direction, but it was left to Bishop Smythies to take the first step. He therefore drew up plans for the removal of the industrial boys from Kiungani College to another house, and their training in definite trades to which they could be apprenticed in the town; and for the girls he advised house, laundry, and field work for those who were not likely to become teachers. The industrial side of the Mission, which began thus, was afterwards more fully developed, and has since become a marked feature of the Universities' Mission, as distinguished from certain other African Missions. For experience has proved that an African, if partly civilised and not taught the value of work, rapidly deteriorates into an idle and vain imitation of a European, a less attractive and less profitable member of society than he was before he learnt to read. [Sir Harry Johnston, criticising certain British Missions in Africa, writes: 'You may find it hard to take an interest in or suppress a repugnance for the hulking youths or plump girls who, instead of being--as they ought to be--engaged in hard, wholesome manual labour, are dawdling and yawning over slate and primer, and in whose faces sensual desires struggle for expression with hypocritical sanctimoniousness.'--British Central Africa, p. 198. And in considering the influence of Missions as a whole on the African races: 'Almost invariably it has been to missionaries that the natives of Interior Africa have owed their first acquaintance with the printing press, the turning lathe, the mangle, the flat-iron, the saw-mill, and the brick mould. Industrial teaching is coming more and more into favour, and its immediate results in British Central Africa have been most encouraging.'--Ibid. p. 205.]
But the Bishop did not wait in Zanzibar to see his plans fully carried out. Anxious to visit as soon as possible the distant parts of his vast diocese, he started at the end of March with Archdeacon Farler and Mr. Travers for the Usambara country, intending to spend Easter at Magila. Then began the first of those journeys on the mainland, in which the Bishop's great physical strength and remarkable powers of endurance were a constant source of wonder to his less gifted fellow-workers. The crossing from Zanzibar to Pangani was full of the delays and contretemps that almost invariably accompany African travelling: the start postponed, the engines broken down, the boat aground on the bar, the tide adverse--such little incidents are noted in the Bishop's account of this journey, and were rarely absent from any of his subsequent journeys. After landing safely at Pangani, then a primitive trading town under the dominion of the Sultan of Zanzibar, they proceeded to walk towards Mkuzi, and his first mainland walk is described as follows in the Bishop's letter:
The way lay through a grove of cocoa-nut trees, and then over a flat cultivated country. After a few miles we climbed a steep cliff and skirted the top of it, getting a beautiful view over the valley and the sea. For the first ten miles the country was more or less cultivated. There were no villages, but the land was probably owned by Arabs on the coast, who leave the cultivation to their slaves. These live in huts upon the shambas, or in the fields, as we should say in England.
After going ten miles we dismounted for a little while at a stream, and then entered upon a long stretch of country called the nyika, a wilderness which, though wooded and fertile in many parts, is uninhabited. The journey was continued for some hours after dark until a camping-place was reached under a tree, beside what should have been a stream of water, but now quite dry after the long drought. There the men lit a fire and some of them prepared supper, and then all lay down to sleep.
In the middle of the night there was a stir and warning was given, and all woke and sat up. But it was only a small number of men passing, and all lay down again.
Very early in the morning, before it was .light, we continued our journey. It was now Sunday morning, and I was anxious to get to Mkuzi, the nearest Mission station, about ten miles off, in time for service.
It was very pleasant in the early morning with strange vegetation around, and curious birds of different colours, new to us waking up as the day dawned. I have noticed that there seem to be birds here corresponding to our old friends in England, bearing a general likeness to them, and yet being different. Yesterday I saw a sort of magpie. Then there are what seem to be finches of a bright gold colour. There is a sort of African long-tailed titmouse, with a very long tail, which looks like feathers stuck in, as if they did not belong to it. Then there is a little bird with a very red breast, only quite a different red from a robin, not brick-red, but a sort of dark purple. Every now and then one sees a very large sort of a crow with a white breast, and I have noticed two kinds of hornbill. Shrikes are very common, and seem exactly like the English shrike.
Gradually, as we neared the edge of the nyika, signs of cultivation were to be seen, and then was heard that which is so strange a sound in African woods, the sound of the church bell, and presently a large group, mostly women, round about the well, which friends in England have enabled these people to have, told us that we were close to the station of Mkuzi.
Already the few Christians were in church, but a man ran up from the well to fire a gun to announce our approach, and the women saluted us with the strange whistling cry with which they welcome the men when they return home from any expedition. This was the first time they had been heard to use this cry for Europeans. Mkuzi is a Mission in its first stage, a church of mud and poles, a thatched mud hut for a house, though with the luxury of two storeys, which marks it off as a wonder of architecture to the neighbouring gentry, but which is quite necessary for health. The ladder by which I reached my bedroom was very much like that by which one gets up into a hay loft in England. The settlement was surrounded by a stockade of pointed poles, and there were two other houses in the enclosure, in one of which Swedi and his wife lived.
After a celebration next morning, we set off for Magila, about another fifteen miles off. . . . As we approached Magila many of the people whom we passed in the fields gave a smile of welcome, and there was a sort of tone in the familiar salute of 'Jambo,' with which one is everywhere greeted, which showed that they did not look upon us as strangers; and now the hill came in sight, with the Mission church and buildings crowning it, and an avenue of orange trees leading to it, lying under the beautiful range of blue mountains which we had had before us all the way. The people at the village had been warned of our approach, and in the distance could be seen the boys and all belonging to the Mission standing in their white kanzus, drawn up on each side of the path under the orange trees, looking like a large choir at some choral festival in an English village.
But to me no English village could bring the same feelings of strange emotion as that first sight of Magila. To see Christ our Lord enthroned in the midst of heathen Africa; to see here, far away from civilisation, a civilised Christian village; to see the men and women rush forward from their work in the fields to greet the man whom they look upon as their father, and who for all these years has devoted his life to them, to hear their strange shrill cry of welcome; this was something quite different from anything else one has ever experienced, something so full of pathetic appeal to us Christians, that I feel sure if people in England could only see it, many more would be moved to come and help in the work, and many more would give the means for extending it.
If Magila is the result very much of one man's energy and devotion, we might indeed hope that if missionary zeal were again to stir the hearts of Christians in England as it stirred them in days of old, within a lifetime we might see the heathen tribes which people this hot country stretching far away on all sides of us, accepting the blessings of the Gospel.
When we reached the village we were met with every demonstration of joy; guns were fired, everyone pressed forward to shake hands with us, and on every face was the smile of genuine pleasure. I cannot help thinking how much Magila would be sought after if it were within reach of people in England.
All around are wooded hills dotted with African villages, and just above tower beautiful mountains with great stretches of forest on them, showing at times shades of the deepest blue in the distance. As the village is at the very top of the hill, it gets the advantage of wind from every quarter, and just now there is so much air that I have to put books on the pages of my letters to keep them from blowing away, and I should think that to most people in fair health it would prove a very healthy place, if they will only protect themselves from the sun. So near are the mountains that on the first evening I climbed up one of the lower heights, from which I had a splendid view of all the beautiful country, and right away to Zanzibar Island, eighty miles off.
Thus the Bishop made acquaintance with that fair Usambara country which captivates all who come to it. Named by the Germans 'African Switzerland,' it is in general features perhaps more like the highlands of Bavaria (indeed, Magila mountain bears a striking resemblance to the Kofelberg at Oberammergau), and surpasses the countries of Europe by possessing that indescribable clearness of atmosphere which gives a peculiar feeling of exhilaration to the climate. The intense blue of the sky, the vivid green of the trees and shrubs near at hand, the softer green of waving palms and distant hills, the rugged grey rocks of the nearer hill, the foaming white of the rushing waterfall, the warm reddish tint of the stone buildings form a picture of sunny brilliance that once seen can never be forgotten; and one can readily imagine the Palm Sunday service, at which the Bishop held his first mainland confirmation. A mingling of simplicity and dignity, brightness and seriousness, characterises these Church functions. Inside, the contrast between the spotless white worn by the Confirmation candidates, and the many-coloured garments of the rest of the natives, gave variety to the scene, while the outdoor procession of palms--great waving palm branches cut down from the trees close at hand--in which the whole population took part, led by the choir, with their slow, languid, graceful movements, dark faces, bare feet and scarlet cassocks, though it might appear a little strange in England, must have seemed to the Bishop, with his eye for the picturesque, as natural and as appropriate to the surroundings as it could possibly be.
In Easter week the Bishop left for Zanzibar, being this time carried part of the journey, as he was suffering from his first attack of fever. In Zanzibar he was met by Mr. Porter and Mr. Maples from the Rovuma country, and for the clergy thus assembled he held a three days' Retreat, followed by the ordination of Mr. Jones-Bateman to the priesthood--the first ordination in the Swahili language--and on May 5 the whole clerical staff of the Mission assembled in the Cathedral for the first Synod of the Diocese of Zanzibar. At this Synod important questions relating to polygamy, heathen marriages, baptism of adults, and Church services were decided.
Writing afterwards about it, the Bishop says:
The Synod was a great blessing. The solemnity of the place and the circumstances gave us a feeling of responsibility in our discussions, so that there was nothing to break the harmony. Though many of us began with very different opinions on some of the subjects brought forward, yet, after we had heard one another's opinions, some way of reconciliation was found, so that all the resolutions of the Synod were passed without a dissenting voice. We all felt, I think, that it was a very great blessing to have met together and discussed with such harmony matters of great importance to our work here. We finished our last Session this morning (May 7) by singing the Te Deum with deep thankfulness to God who had so manifestly guided our deliberations.
On the completion of the business of the Synod, Bishop Smythies was naturally anxious to proceed to the Rovuma country, which he had not yet seen, and where there was plenty of work awaiting him. But there happened to be no available steamer at the time, so he decided instead to go back to Magila, where the whole country had been thrown into a state of agitation on account of the threatening attitude of the Wakilindi. The renowned chief of this powerful family, Kimweri, had, on his death, left the kingdom to his son Semboja; in the year 1884 Semboja was an old man and put forward his son, the young Kimweri, as the next heir to the throne: the Bondei tribe, however, preferred another grandson of the elder Kimweri, Kinyasi by name, and the rivalry between these two claimants was causing civil war in the country. It was in the endeavour to settle this dispute that Bishop Smythies visited Magila so suddenly and unexpectedly. After a consultation with the head men from various villages, it was decided that the Bishop should journey to Kimweri's camp and endeavour to persuade him to desist from his raids upon the Bondei tribe. The distance was said to be but two and a half hours, so the party set out, little thinking what an undertaking was before them. The account of this expedition is given in the Bishop's own words:
As the case was urgent and the work one of charity, we decided that I should start the next afternoon (Sunday, July 6). This I accordingly did, accompanied by Mr. Woodward, Susi, the invaluable servant of the Mission (and one of those who, years ago, brought down Livingstone's body to the coast), a Bondei chief and porters, and one or two boys from Magila.
We were not long in discovering that the two and a half hours' walk was a myth, and when we asked how soon we should reach the Wakilindi camp, we received the ominous answer, 'Perhaps to-morrow.' Our way lay through a beautiful country, round the spurs of the mountains, up and down wooded hills, into and along the valley of the Zigi--a wide hilly valley with mountains wooded to their summits on either side. We went on through this valley till nightfall, and then pitched our tent and lit our fire at a village of about fifteen huts on a hill, with woods and mountains all round it. There were no women in this village, no young children; the men were very silent. When we questioned them, they all professed to be strangers, and perhaps they were, as the village had been visited by the Wakilindi, and probably those who lived there had fled, or had been taken captive or killed, and these were fugitives from other ruined villages, who had found the empty huts. After a time one man told us he had come some distance, hearing of our errand; that five days before the Wakilindi had come upon his village, and carried off his father, wife, and children. . . .
I found the great comfort of having brought a tent and bedstead, as I slept almost as comfortably as at home, and I see that those who travel ought to have those things, as I put it down very much to that that I kept my health and felt so fresh for my work in the morning. We were up at sunrise, and walked on through the beautiful valley of the Zigi, sometimes through very high grass, sometimes through fields of ripening Indian corn. Except for the high grass at times, it was very pleasant travelling. I have noticed that one has very little trouble from flies, either when walking or resting here. There is also a dearth of animal life. We saw no small animals of any kind, and comparatively few birds. Sometimes it was like going through a thick English shrubbery, with here and there very tall trees whose tops were out of sight above the underwood; but on looking closely we could see that not a leaf was the same as those of the box, and elm, and Portugal laurel, &c., which would be around us in England. Now and then we came upon gigantic ferns, though only very few which could be called trees; they grow higher up and further inland. The great leaves of the bananas, not very beautiful in themselves, when the setting sun touched them, and lighted up their delicate shades of green, gave quite a character to parts of the country. They were the only fruit trees we saw. Every now and then I noticed a fresh variety of butterfly. It is not the time for the orchids to be in flower. I saw one handsome bunch of white flowers hanging from a tree, and that was all. The one familiar object in the vegetation was a quantity of brake fern which I noticed in one place.
Now we began to see the signs of war--the sites of burnt villages, with nothing left but numbers of earthenware cooking pots which had stood the fire. We met three Wakilindi, who looked much alarmed, though fully armed. Mr. Woodward remarked that one had a small leathern shield which I wanted to buy, so we called to them. On my advancing towards them, one prepared to escape into the bush, and all took to their heels as soon as we turned to go on. They told the men that they were alarmed at my large sun hat, which apparently they thought was part of my head. Naturally they had never seen such a monstrosity in human form before. We all laughed heartily, and I told the men I supposed it was a bad conscience which made them so frightened. Soon after, we met another troop, all armed with bows, spears, and guns, probably on a raid, as they had Indian corn carried behind them. They looked at us suspiciously as we passed.
At 11 A.M. we halted at a pool of sweet water under shady trees, and sent on messengers with our letter up the mountain to the camp, marked by a great rock towering out of the trees. Four Wakilindi came by, two of them pleasant fine-looking men, with whom we talked. They took .good-temperedly our joking them about their war-charms. They said 'they deceived the heart,1 by which apparently they meant that when they wore them they fancied they were safe, though there might not be much in it.
We started again about three o'clock, and halfway up the mountain met our messenger, who told us we were not to go to the camp, but Kimweri would send down to meet us. The path now became very steep and slippery from constant passing up and down, so that it was difficult to keep one's footing, though the porters with their naked feet seemed to make little of it, even with their loads, which they carried up bravely. On each side were rich fields of Indian corn, planted on the steep slopes.
First we were met by an advanced guard, and then came to the place where the men from the camp were waiting. They all looked very suspicious and not at all pleased. One, who seemed superior to the rest, sat, whilst the others stood around. Presently two men of greater authority, the uncles of Kimweri, appeared, and an interpreter, a chatty, smiling little Arab, who at once greeted Mr. Woodward with great friendliness, as they had once travelled to Zanzibar in a dhow together. The two great men affected state, and would only talk through an interpreter. We told them we had brought a letter from the Sultan to Pangani to be forwarded to Semboja, to say that Magila was not to be invaded. They asked, 'Why, then, had we come ourselves?' We said, 'Because we feared it might reach the chief too late to save us from invasion.' They then said Kimweri would see us in the morning. So we pitched our tent on the mountain side, where we looked down on the beautifully wooded valley, and across to the great bare mountain of Mlinga over Misozwe, thought by the people round to have a cavern with brazen doors at the top, where all the spirits of the dead are imprisoned.
In the morning about eight o'clock the Arab and one of Kimweri's uncles arrived with others to take us up to the camp.
At first the great man looked unpleasant as before. We managed to get a smile out of him before long. Our Bondei companions followed rather tremblingly. We had already seen many men passing, down by our encampment, with the poor captive women taken to their own fields to gather corn for their masters.
We had a very steep climb up to the rock. As we got near we were told to fire off guns in token of our approach, which was the custom there. We then entered the camp by the one path by which it could be reached. It was fortified here by a strong palisade. The place, which was called Mkalamu, was simply a great rock with every nook and ledge round covered with temporary huts of poles and leaves. Through these we wound up round the rock to its perpendicular side, and came upon one of the most striking and romantic sights I have ever seen.
The rock was the projecting summit of a mountain, the end of the range of mountains which formed one side of the valley along which we had been walking. On the side of the path by which we entered the camp it was connected with this range by a narrow depressed neck, so that it stood out, a pinnacle by itself. On every other side except this connecting neck it looked sheer down into the deep wooded valleys far below, beyond which again, and at no great distance, rose an amphitheatre of irregularly peaked mountains clothed with wood, except where the great rocky heights jutted out. Only in one direction was there an opening where one could see the great wooded expanse of the nyika with the sea beyond, thirty or forty miles distant.
But if the surrounding country was thus striking and full of interest, so was the sight we saw as we rounded the rock and came opposite to its perpendicular face rising in steep ledges one above another. The whole of this was covered with the followers of Kimweri, and in the very centre, surrounded by his head men, was the chief himself. There was no difficulty in recognising him, not only because of the difference of his dress, but because of the character and power in his face and the extraordinary contrast it presented to those of all around. I certainly thought him the most striking-looking man I have seen in these parts, while his followers were very ordinary-looking natives. He had evidently carefully got himself up to meet the Europeans, and with decided success. For real picturesqueness of effect it is doubtful if any European sovereign could come up to him; they certainly could not so well throw into the picture the force of contrast. The people all around him were in ordinary kanzus (i.e. a sort of long shirt) or else naked to the waist, some with arms, most with charms on their necks, arms, or legs, all more or less soiled by war and camping out. But the chief wore over his white kanzu a loose scarlet coat or joho, trimmed with gold braid. On his head he had a large coloured turban, and round his neck a heavy silver chain from which hung massive silver charms of wrought Indian work. His feet and legs were, of course, bare. We soon found he not only looked the chief, but could talk like one too. We told him we had come as representing the Bondeis, being men of peace. He asked who gave us a right to Magila. We answered, his grandfather, Kimweri. He asked for the letter which showed our right. We contended that, first, he could not write, nor anyone else in the country; secondly, it was not usual to ask for a letter after twenty years of peaceful occupation. He then said he claimed to be the rightful chief of the whole country--if we would acknowledge him as such that was all he wanted. We told him it was not for us to acknowledge anyone, that we held our land by the gift of Kimweri and the permission of the Sultan, and accepted the order of things we found. If once we acknowledged one, we should give up our position as friends of all. It was not for us to judge between him and the other members of his family, or to decide whose claims were most just. We had no wish to meddle in such matters. All we wanted was to plead for the harmless people who lived around us, who were suffering from famine and helpless against him--that they should not have their houses burnt and be sold into slavery like their neighbours. He asked what power or lands we had. We answered that we had one little shamba, that we wanted no lands or power, that we meddled with no politics or affairs of government; we were simply teachers come from God, from our distant country, to try and do good to the people in Africa and teach them about God; that we had as much interest in his people as in the Bondeis, but we happened to live amongst the latter and it made us very sad to think the dreadful fate of their neighbours might fall upon them. He then said he had no quarrel with us, should be glad to see us at Vuga, his town, but that he claimed to be chief of the whole country as his grandfather was. The chiefs had only to send in their submission and they would be unmolested. We got him to promise he would wait for the Sultan's letter, and would not descend upon the Bondeis without letting us know.
I then asked to be allowed to say a few words to him, and when granted permission I said that men who were really great rulers, when they had gained their power by force, aimed at ruling by gaining the love of their subjects. Evidently Kimweri was a wise man, who had become a great chief; if he wanted to be really great would he not try to gain the love of the people over whom he ruled? I then asked for a private audience, and all but a few head men went away. Then I said, 'Can anything be done to bring about peace?' I pointed out that it was a very sad spectacle to the whole country to see him fighting with the members of his own family. Two of his cousins are Christians and head men of towns near Magila. He said if we would come with any of his relations they should be safe from harm, but that he should have to fight with all who would not submit to him sooner or later, as he claimed to be chief over all his grandfather's dominions, and he was supported by the Sultan. We then gave the customary present of cloth, kanzu, and blanket, and went to the top of the rock to look at the view, and for Mr. Woodward to take observations (which excited great interest), with a view to a picture map of the district. . . .
I believe, from what we could gather, Kimweri was much pleased at our visit. He pressed us very much to stay another day that he might have a talk with us, but I told him I should hardly get back in time for the mail which was to take me south, and I dare not stay, though I should much like to do so.
This satisfactory interview ended, the Bishop hastened with unflagging energy on his return journey, reaching Magila after midnight and starting off for the coast next day. Not for months afterwards did he know the result of his mission. On returning from a visit to Newala, he heard, in the middle of October, that 'Kimweri did not come down on the Bondei country, but attacked Kibanga, the general on the other side, in his fortified town, and was repulsed with what is considered in Africa a great loss, viz. fifteen men, so that he retired and left the country alone.'
On his arrival at Zanzibar the Bishop writes further:
It shows how well I am, considering especially that I did so little walking in England, that after all this I was able to confirm an old woman from Umba, who had failed to come when I was at Magila before, then to celebrate the Holy Communion in Swahili and to walk three hours to Mkuzi, and to start again the next day to Pangani, more than twenty miles off, and feel none the worse. God be praised for His great goodness! In fact, I have never before walked with such comfort and so little fatigue, and, what will surprise people in England, without feeling the heat as I did in summer there.
At Mkuzi we met the mail with my dear and welcome letters from England, delayed by a break-down at Aden, and, tired as I was, I was obliged to sit up, or rather recline, till nearly midnight to devour them, though I had to be up at 5.30 A.M. and off soon after 6 A.M. At Pangani we found there was no dhow to Zanzibar (Town), so we had to take one to Mwanda, eighteen miles off. We had on the whole a very favourable passage, but were not able to start on our walk home till nearly dark on Friday, July 12. We therefore soon encamped for supper, and started again when the moon rose. I was so tired that half-way I called a halt for those who were with me, and we lay down on the roadside and slept for two hours. The nights are so warm and fine that it is easy to do that sort of thing here. The whole way lay through mango and cocoa-nut trees, varied by an immense clove plantation. We got to Mkunazini about five o'clock, and I lost no time in getting to bed, and made up for my broken nights by sleeping till mid-day.
I am afraid in all this some people may say there is not much about preaching the Gospel, and that I feel very keenly. I hope, as I get to know more of the language, I may be able to make opportunities for doing that which is our first work here more directly. But still I do hope that such an expedition as that I have described may be impressing upon people our love of the poor, our readiness to help the distressed, our desire for righteousness and peace, and prepare the way for them to accept our teaching more and more. I hear on all hands that our present action in the matter of the Pangani imprisonment, when through our means forty people were released, also our action in the matter of the relief of those suffering from the famine, has made a great difference, and I have no doubt that this visit to the Wakilindi will help in the same direction. God grant that it may be for His glory and the extension of His kingdom!
The Bishop was most anxious to complete the survey of the eastern part of his diocese within the first year. Accordingly, he left Zanzibar on July 19, and, after a prosperous passage southwards to Lindi, proceeded on the five days' inland journey to Newala. [For a full account of the early days of this part of the Mission work, the reader is referred to Bishop Maples' Life.] This part of the country afterwards became so familiar to him, through his frequent journeys to Lake Nyasa, that it is interesting to note his first impressions of it, and to note also the development of his wonderful powers of walking. After describing the landing at Lindi and the first part of the walk, the Bishop continues as follows:
One thing strikes me as most curious. A fortnight ago I was at Magila, and all was bright and green--a late spring with ripening crops everywhere. Here, three hundred miles south, all is dry and bare--the trees lifting their bare and white branches up into the sunlight--and this will go on till the rains in October or November. I suppose the rains are earlier here. The country is not nearly so much cultivated, but what crops there were have been gathered in. I do not mean there is no green--sometimes we came to a stream, with beautiful over-reaching trees and ferns climbing all up them, and in all the woods there are patches of green--then again are some with falling and reddening leaves like autumn.
Mr. Williams arrived late in the evening, and we went on the next afternoon. The chiefs came to see me in the morning. It is wonderful how news flies in Africa, as I believe among all tribes in a primitive state, and we had an illustration of the sort of way in which it is carried. When the chiefs were with us, one man, who had accompanied us in our walk to the river earlier in the morning, talked most volubly, and Mr. Williams said he was giving the most minute description of our walk--how I stopped to look at the butterflies, asked to be shown the india-rubber vines (of which there appeared to be two kinds in the wood), down to the smallest things which I should not remember myself. If everyone hands on the story it accounts a little for the extraordinary way in which everything is known. I fancy many of the people have not much else to do.
On our afternoon walk we twice saw large monkeys sitting high up in the bare trees. They let us get close to them, then plunged down into the underwood. We also saw something still more interesting, though the interest was of a different kind. We passed two slave-caravans. Of the first we only saw a few of the slaves, who came out of the wood to look at us. But we actually went into the encampment of the other. It was a caravan from Mataka's with tobacco and slaves. I saw some sitting with the forks on their necks, not yet tamed, poor things! But they were kept out of sight as much as possible, and when I looked again they had been quite hidden behind the chief man's hut. It was getting dark, but though it would have been perfectly safe, we did not like to encamp in such a proximity, and struggled on through the almost total darkness of the thick wood to reach this place.
Our porters now overtook us and we started early in the afternoon, so as to lessen our long waterless tramp the next day as much as possible. It was dark before we made our fire, and pitched our tent in the forest. The whole country is covered with trees, and we walked through woodland glades all day long. There were a great many large spreading trees, but at some distance apart as a rule--sometimes in clumps, with smaller timber and often underwood between. There were many open places, especially where the grass and trees had been burnt by the passers-by, apparently to keep the path clear. I saw one antelope of a very red colour, shorter than a fallow deer, but more stoutly made, so far as I could see. When we came again to an inhabited district, which we did long before we came to water, as the people do not seem to mind going great distances for it, we saw another caravan taking slaves and ivory to the coast, the third we had come across in our journey. This was on July 26. The next day was Sunday, but we were a long way from water, and that not at all good, in the midst of a noisy town surrounded by gazers, so we thought it was better to start at daybreak, and walk three or four hours to a better place for our Sunday halt. During this walk we had, for the first time, to wade through water. We were ahead of our faithful attendant, Susi, one of the men who had brought down Livingstone's body to the coast, and who had carried him over many such places. Some who read this will remember the picture on the outside of the book of the notes of his Journal, where the caravan is crossing just such a place, with Susi carrying Livingstone on his shoulders. We thought it best not to wait, so we divested ourselves of such clothes as were necessary, and easily got over. We were now in a populous country, with the sound of many villages around us. Certainly the ornaments of the women here are a good example of the slavery of fashion, or a remarkable illustration of the truth of the saying that there is no accounting for taste. They wear immense round pieces of wood or metal let into the middle of the upper lip, which makes it protrude enormously, sticking straight out from the face. The more elaborately dressed ladies wear in addition a sort of spike with a knob of brass, stuck into the flesh under the lower lip, and hanging straight down. They also cover their legs with rings of brass, so as to give the effect of brass gaiters. The whole appearance is most extraordinary.
But all this was absent at the village we reached this (Sunday) morning. As we entered it, two bright, intelligent-looking men came up breathless, having run after us for some distance. They looked so different from the other people we had seen that I thought at once they must be Christians. I had no reason to think so except their look and manner. When our people came up, I found I was right, as to one of them at least, and that he was the chief of the large village where we were going to stay for the rest of the day. He took us to a large baraza made of bamboos, groves of which we had begun to pass through. He and his people seemed most glad to see us; I congratulated him on the absence of the hideous lip-rings, and he said he did not allow them in his village. He was much amused when I said I was describing them to my sisters in my letter, and should ask them how they would like to adopt them, and still more amused when Weigall showed him a sketch of one he had made in his letter home. This chief has a son at Newala being brought up in our house there. In the evening I told him we would have service, so he collected his people together outside the baraza. There were about one hundred and fifty men, women, and children--the men on one side, the women with their babies on the other. After a short evensong in Swahili I preached to them, all sitting on the ground, Acland, my interpreter, translating into Swahili, and then Mataka, the chief, afterwards putting it into Yao.
The next day we had a long walk of twenty-four miles to Newala, as, though the porters seemed inclined to divide it, I was determined to push on if possible. As we got near Newala we got out on the brow of a line of high hills, the edge of the tableland we had been crossing, from which we had a beautiful view over the country. At our feet was a deep valley; to the left, at a distance of twenty miles, flowed the broad stream of the Rovuma; to the right, still further off, a conical mountain with a jagged irregular top rose alone out of the plain; and beyond, again, in the far distance we could see a line of solitary mountains, each separate and distinct, looking shadowy and mysterious in the mist which hung on the horizon. All the country seemed one great sea of wood, here much greener than nearer the coast. I noticed a great many birds as we went down into the valley. A large flock of the greater hornbills flew over, and presently we came upon five or six green parrots, chattering and screaming on the trees. There seem to be three kinds of hornbill, one larger and two smaller ones, all common. The larger kind have a cry like a child's. At the bottom of the hill we met some of the men from the village, and we soon reached Newala, where the men and women ran forward with friendly greetings to receive us.
The church is a thoroughly missionary church, made chiefly of bamboos and cleverly rounded into an apse. There are no seats in the nave; the people sit on the ground during the lessons and sermon. I feel most thankful to God that I am so well; I did not feel at all tired or even stiff after my walk, and never walked with greater ease and comfort. . . . The people do not feel quite safe here from the Magwangwara. Only the other day there was an alarm without any foundation for it, and all the women ran away and hid themselves for the night in the woods. A day or two after I came we had a meeting of the men to consider whether it was best to move to a safer place or remain here. They almost unanimously came to the conclusion that, as there was plenty of food here and great scarcity in the Makonde country, to which they thought of moving, they would remain here till next May. It would be too late now to clear the new ground for cultivation before the rain, and they thought there was no real fear of the Magwangwara coming this year.
I have been several times to see an old chief, Mtuma, who evidently has not long to live. He has had a hut built for him on the top of the hills by itself in the wood, that he may be quiet. I have to take Acland [A native Christian.] and a Yao interpreter with me. He used often to come to the services before he was ill, and seems anxious to hear about God and how he must prepare for death. It was very touching to hear him say that he had lived in ignorance of God all his life because there was no one to teach him, and now when he was old and it seemed too late the teachers had come. They built a new and larger hut for him, but he was only in it for a few days. I think it was in too exposed a place. The last time I went they were carrying him down the hill to another. The next morning I heard he was dead.
One day a caravan of three hundred people passed through the village, carrying a quantity of ivory, There were some large tusks which it took two men to carry. They encamped near, and some of the men came to the baraza, which is open to everyone. They disclaimed having any slaves, but there were certainly a number of boys with them, for we found them in the evening all sitting round the bell watching it with the greatest interest as it rang for evensong. Clarke told one of the leading men of the caravan, as he had no slaves, he supposed he had taken all these boys merely for a walk, as they were too young to carry burdens; at which the other men laughed, and he had nothing to say.
On leaving Newala, the Bishop, with Mr. Porter and Mr. Irving, started for Masasi. Writing of this walk he says:
It would have seemed strange if anyone had told me in England of the sense of security one would have, even when uncertain of the path and without a guide, in an African forest. But so it is--at least in a district where there are villages like this. The natives are always kind and obliging, and do their best to show us the way. They are great walkers themselves and know their way about. They have not very much to do, and when they get tired of sitting still they start off for a walk of fifty miles or so. They are full of vivacity, and talk a great deal with much action. When we halt at a village we are always surrounded by a group of bright, intelligent-looking men of different ages. I have quite lost any feeling of their blackness making any difference to their good looks, and I think the men and boys are as pleasant-looking as white people. I cannot say the same for the women, who disfigure themselves with lip-rings and ugly head-dresses. Perhaps if some of my friends were to see me halting on the road they would say I was surrounded by half-naked savages; but the smooth, bronze skins are a wonderful substitute for dress, and I have never seen anything which was not perfectly consistent with propriety and good manners. Curiosity ceases to be impertinent when it is only the common sign of interest, where everyone lives so much in public, and I have often seen men sign to the boys to move off when we have sat down to a meal. They always seem generous to one another. If I give a boy a biscuit, he will break it into pieces so that all may taste. It is a novelty to them, as they have no kind of bread themselves, only a thick porridge made of grain, which is very good when well done.
Mkomoindo is on the most striking site I have seen in Africa, and it must have cost a pang to leave it, both to the missionaries and their people. It is on high ground between two of the great rocks I have mentioned. Through one of the open sides there is a view over a long open stretch of country, on the other is a flat cultivated valley with a picturesque group of mountains rising from it about a mile or a mile and a half off. The garden is still beautiful--the mango trees imported by the missionaries in full flower--the lemon and citron trees a sight of real beauty, full of great golden fruit, strewing the ground as it falls all around. It is sad in the midst of all this to see the deserted buildings, some of them already tumbling down.
The return journey from Masasi to Newala occupied several days, as the Bishop was anxious to explore the country with a view to extending the work of the Mission: and from Newala (where he held a confirmation) he visited Lumanga, one of the great Makonde chiefs. Of this walk he writes;
Most of the walk was over the Makonde plateau, a flat country, after the first steep climb, with the brushwood so thick in some places that there is continual danger of knocking one's head against boughs and creepers crossing over the path. There is a very large population, as yet untouched by any missionary effort, as we have no one who knows the Makonde language, and no one who can interpret it sufficiently.
From Newala the Bishop writes later:
The other day one of our men ran down the yard with his gun, in great excitement, and fired, to the manifest danger of the fowls. The result was the death of a large snake. We had a much worse alarm a few days ago--a caravan encamped here in which were several cases of small-pox; Matola's people made them move on very soon, but this is a danger we may be subject to, as many caravans have lately passed this way. Most of them have slaves, and from all I have heard and seen I fear the slave trade must be carried on very briskly between the Lake district and the coast. I felt very thankful to hear a remark which Bakali, the chief at Mauta, made yesterday. He said before the Europeans came there was nothing but fighting and quarrelling here, but since they had come people had lived at peace, and I believe that is certainly so.
Swinny, Williams, and I came upon a dead body in the woods the other day, which had been carried there tied to a slave yoke and left to decay. It had been exposed a long while, probably left there by a passing caravan. All we could do was to dig a hole and bury it--Williams doing most of the work with his fingers, we helping with our sticks. The people of the country always give the dead decent burial.
On the return journey towards the coast the Bishop had interviews with Machemba, a powerful chief whose name was well known to all travellers in that region.
Machemba soon came to see us, and saw us again in the evening with a man who was a friend of ours, as he had been with Maples, and to Zanzibar to be treated for bad eyes. I said I heard Machemba was at war with the Makonde and Lumanga, and could I do anything towards peace? He told me it was all finished, but I fear that is doubtful. I then asked him if he would let me take two boys from his village to Zanzibar to be taught. He said he would try and get them; he had none young enough of his own.
The next morning we went back to Machemba's in showers of rain, which detained us there the rest of the day--quite an exceptional event. One young man, a relation of Machemba, had been very polite to us, trying to get us anything we wanted from the beginning. He wished very much to come to Zanzibar, so at last I consented, though I fear he is too old to learn to read. Yet we thought he might learn something, and perhaps be taught Christianity or the elements of it before he comes back. This might have the effect, at any rate, of making things better at his home in future, as possibly he might be chief one day. He, like numbers of these people, has been baptized and named by the Mohammedans, but that seems all they care for. He had learnt nothing more, and never thought of saying a prayer. Machemba consented to his coming, and at the last moment got us another pleasant-looking little boy of the age we wanted.
The walk to Lindi was accomplished without noticeable incident, and on October 24 the Bishop reached Zanzibar in excellent health. The remainder of the year was spent on the island, where the ordinary episcopal work of the Mission was varied by a first, interview with the Sultan, and efforts to investigate the state of the slave trade.