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Full text of "Alone in West Africa"

mM*y&»- 



MARY GAUNT 



-ROUGH- 
SKETCH MAP 

OF 

AUTHORS ROUTE. 



OduirULS 
Sunyani 








ccruiSiL 




ALONE IN 
WEST AFRICA 




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-" » u«->imi. 



ALONE IN 
WEST AFRICA 



By 
MARY GAUNT 

AUTHOR OF "THE UNCOUNTED COST," ETC. 



New York: CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 
London: T. WERNER LAURIE 



DEDICATION 

To those who have helped me I dedicate this record 
of my travels in West Africa. Without their help I 
could have done nothing ; it was always most gra- 
ciously and kindly given and I know not how to show 
my appreciation of it. " Evermore thanks, the ex- 
chequer of the poor," is all I can give in return, unless 
some of them will take this book in very inadequate 
payment. Sir Charles Lucas, the head of the Col- 
onial Office, gave me letters of introduction, Elder 
Dempster and Co. gave me a free passage, their 
captains and their officers put themselves out to help 
me, Sir George Denton welcomed me to West Africa, 
and after these comes a long string of people who each 
and all contributed so much to my welfare that I feel 
myself ungracious not to mention them all by name. 
I must thank Messrs Swanzy and Co., who helped 
me up the Volta and across the unknown country 



vi DEDICATION 

on the German border, and I were churl indeed if I 
did not remember those men and women of another 
nation, who received me out of the unknown, fed me, 
welcomed me, and smoothed my way for me. To 
each and all then, with this dedication, I offer my most 
grateful thanks. 



Page 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER I 

SONS OF THE SEA WIFE 

Hereditary taste for wandering — A first adventure — 
" Little girls you must not be tired " — How Carlo 
was captured by savages in West Africa — Life in 
Ballarat — Nothing for a woman to do but marry 
— Marriage — Plans for wandering twenty years hence 
— Life in Warrnambool — Widowhood — May as well 
travel now there is nothing left — London for an 
aspirant in literature — Stony streets and drizzling 
rain — Scanty purse — Visit to the home of a rich 
African trader — Small successes — At last, at last on 
board s.s. Gando bound for the Gambia 



CHAPTER II 

THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 

Rejoicing, half-eastern and wholly tropical, on arrival 
of the Governor — Colonies governed and held as 
the Romans held their colonies of Britain — Great 
gulf between the black and the white — The barrier 
of sex — Received as a brother but declined as a 
brother-in-law— Lonely Fort St James— The strenuous 
lives led by the men of the past— Crinted walls— The 
pilot's wife— Up the river in the Mungo Park— The 
river devil's toll— " Pass friend and all's well" . 13-47 



CHAPTER III 

THE WHITE MAN'S GRAVE? 

The origin of Sierra Leone — The difficulties of disposing 
of freed slaves — One of the beauty-spots of the earth 
— Is it possible that in the future, like Jamaica, it may 

vii 



viii CONTENTS 



Page 



be a health-resort ?— Zachary Macauley's views— Few 
women in Freetown — Sanitary matters taken out of 
the hands of the Town Council and vested in a sani- 
tary officer — Marked improvement in cleanliness and 
health of the town — A remarkable man of colour — 
Extraordinary language of the Creole — Want of taste 
in dress when they ape the European — Mrs Abraham 
Freeman at home 48-58 



CHAPTER IV 

WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 

America's experiment in the way of nation-making — 
Exiles in their mothers' land — The forlorn little 
company on Providence Island — Difficulties of land- 
ing and finding accommodation — British Consul to 
the rescue — The path to tbe British Consulate and 
the Liberian College — An outrageously ill-kept town 
— " Lovely little homes up the river " — A stickler for 
propriety — Dress and want of dress — The little 
ignorant missionary girl — At prayer in Lower 
Buchanan — The failure of a race .... 59~7y 



CHAPTER V 

THE GUINEA COAST 

Every man's duty — " Three deaths in two days " — An 
old Portuguese settlement — A troubled District Com- 
missioner — What to do with a wandering white 
woman — The Judge's quarters — The kindly medical 
officer and his wife — A West-African town — " My 
outside wife " — Dangers ahead — The man who was 
never afterwards heard of — The Forestry officer's 
carriers — " Good man, bad man, fool man " — First 
night in the wilds — Hair in the soup .... 80-91 

CHAPTER VI 

THE KING'S HIGHWAY 

The burying of the village dead — For Ju-ju — The glory 
of the morning — The catastrophes by the way — The 
cook is condemned to death — Redeemed for two 



CONTENTS 



IX 



shillings — The thunderous surf — The charm of the 
shore — Traces of white blood — A great negro town 
— Our quarters — Water that would induce a virulent 
typhus in any but a negro community — The lonely 
German trader — Difficulties of entertaining a negro 
potentate — The lair of the hunted .... 



Page 



92-108 



CHAPTER VII 

ON THE FRENCH BORDER 

Very heavy going — Half Assinie — The preventive service 
station — The energetic officer — Dislike of Africa — 
The Tano River — -The enterprising crocodiles — The 
mahogany logs — Wicked waste — Gentlemen adven- 
turers — A primitive dinner-party — Forced labour — 
The lost carrier — " Make die and chopped "—A negro 
Good Samaritan — A matrimonial squabble — The 
wife who would earn her own living— Dissatisfied 
carriers ... 



109- 1 19 



CHAPTER VIII 

ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Cinderella — A troubled Commissioner — Few people along 
the Coast — No hotels — Nursing Sister to the rescue 
— Sekondi — A little log-rolling — A harassed hedge — 
Carriers — Difficulties of the way — A funeral palaver 
— No dinner and no light — First night alone — Unruly 
carriers — No breakfast — Crossing the Prah — A drink 
from a marmalade pot — " We no be fit, Ma " — The 
evolution of Grant— Along the Coast in the dark — 
Elmina at last— A sympathetic medical officer — " I 
have kicked your policeman " 



120-146 



CHAPTER IX 

AN OLD DUTCH TOWN 

But one man of the ruling race— Overlooked Elmina — 
Deadly fever — The reason why — Magnificent position 
— Ideal for a capital— Absence of tsetse— Loyal to 
their Dutch masters — Difficulty in understanding 
incorruptibility of English officials— Reported gold in 



CONTENTS 



Page 



Elmina — The stranded school-inspector — " Potable 
water " — Preferred the chance of guinea-worm to 
trouble — Stern German head-teacher — Cape Coast — 
Wonderful native telegraphy — Haunted Castle — 
Truculent people ........ 147-158 

CHAPTER X 

IN THE PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 

The glory of the morning — The men who have passed 
along this road — The strong views of the African 
pig — An old-world Castle — Thieving carriers — The 
superiority of the white man — Annamabu — A perfect 
specimen of a fort — A forlorn rest-hovise — A notable 
Coast Chief — Tired-out mammies — The medical officer 
at Salt Ponds — The capable German women — The 
reason of the ill-health of the English women — Kroo 
boys as carriers — Tantum — A loyal rest-house — Filthy 
Appam — A possible origin for the yellow fever at 
Accra — Winnebah — A check — The luckless ferryman 
— Good-bye to the road 1 S9' 1 77 

CHAPTER XI 

THE CAPITAL OF THE GOLD COAST COLONY 

The pains and penalties of landing in Accra — Negro 
officials, blatant, pompous, inefficient — Christiansborg 
Castle — The ghost of the man with eyes like bright 
stones — The importance of fresh air — Beautiful 
situation of Accra — Its want of shade-trees — The 
fences of Accra — The temptation of the cooks — 
— Picturesque native population — Striking coiffure — 
The expensive breakwater — To commemorate the 
opening of the waterworks — The forlorn Danish 
graveyard — A meddlesome missionary — Away to the 
east 178-193 

CHAPTER XII 

BLOOD FETISH OF KROBO HILL 

To Dodowah by motor lorry — Orchard-bush country — 
Negro tortures — The Basel Mission factor — A per- 
sonally conducted tour — Great hospitality — A dinner 



CONTENTS xi 

Page 

by moonlight — Plan a night journey — The roadway 
by moonlight — Barbarous hymns — Carriers who " no 
be fit " once more — Honesty of the African carrier — 
Extraordinary obedience — The leopard that cried at 
Akway Pool — A hard-hearted slave-driver — Krobo 
Hill — Blood fetishes — Terror of the carriers — Story 
of the hill — The dawning of a new day — Unexplained 
disappearances — Akuse at last — The arrival of a 
whirlwind — The fire on Krobo Hill .... 194-208 

CHAPTER XIII 

THE FEAR THAT SKULKED BENEATH THE MANGO TREE 

Up the Volta — Swanzy's trusting agent at Akuse — 
Amedika, the port of Akuse on the Volta — The trials 
of a trolley ride — My canoe — Paddling up-river — 
Rapids that raise the river thirty-four feet — Dangers 
of the river — Entrancingly lovely scenery — A wealthy 
land — The curious preventive service — Fears — Leav- 
ing the river — Labolabo — A notable black man — 
The British Cotton-growing Experimental Farm — 
The lonely white man — The fear that was catching 
— The lonely man's walk 209-224 

CHAPTER XIV 

INTO THE WILDS 

Anum Mountain — The Basel Mission — A beautiful spot — 
An old Ashanti raid — A desolate rest-house — Alone 
and afraid ; also hungry — A long night — Jakai — 
Pekki Blengo — The unspeakable Eveto Range — 
Underpaid carriers — A beautiful, a wealthy, and a 
neglected land— Tsito— The churches and the fetish 
— Difficulties of lodging in a cocoa-store — The lonely 
country between Tsito and the Border— Doubts of the 
hammock-boys— The awful road— Butterflies— The 
Border ..... 



225-241 



CHAPTER XV 

CROSSING THE BORDER 



German roads— German villages— The lovely valley of Ho 
—The kindly German welcome— German hospitality 
—An ideal woman colonist— Pink roses— The way it 



xii CONTENTS 



Pagb 



rains in Togo — An unfortunate cripple — Vain regrets 
— Sodden pillows — A German rest-house — A meal 
under difficulties — Travelling by night — The weird- 
ness of it — The sounds of the night — The fireflies — A 
long long journey — Palime by night — More German 
hospitality — Rail-head 242-252 



CHAPTER XVI 

ONE OF THE CURSES OF THE DARK CONTINENT 

The neat little town of Palime — The market — The break- 
fast — A luxury for the well-to-do — Mount Klutow — 
The German Sleeping Sickness Camp — The German's 
consideration for the hammock-boys — Misahohe, a 
beautiful road, well-shaded — A kindly welcome — The 
little boys that were cured — Dr von Raven, a devotee 
to science — The town of the sleeping sickness 
patients — " Last year strong man, this year finish " 
— Extreme poverty and self-denial — A ghastly, 
horrible, lingering and insidious disease — Dr von 
Raven's message to the English people . . 253-266 

CHAPTER XVII 

GERMAN VERSUS ENGLISH METHODS 

Lome, the capital of Togo — A bad situation but the best 
laid-out town on the Coast — Avenues of trees — 
Promising gardens — The simple plan by which the 
Germans ensure the making of the roads — The 
prisoner who feared being " leff " — The disappointed 
lifer — The A.D.C.'s kindness — The very desirable 
prison garb — The energetic Englishman — How to 
make a road — Building a reputation .... 267-275 



CHAPTER XVIII 

KETA ON THE SAND 

The safety of the seashore — Why they do not plant trees 
in English territory — The D.C.'s prayer — Quittah or 
Keta — The Bremen Sisters — The value of fresh air as 
a preventive of fever — A polygamous household — -The 
Awuna people — The backsliding clerk of the Bremen 



CONTENTS xiii 

Page 
Mission — Incongruity of antimacassars and polygamy 
—Naming the child—" Laughing at last " and " Not 
love made you " — Forms of marriage — The cost of a 
wife — How to poison an enemy — Loving and dutiful 
children — The staple industry of the place — Trading 
women — The heat of Keta 276-294 

CHAPTER XIX 

FACING DEATH 

The Spanish nuns — One of the loneliest settlements in 
West Africa — Hospitality and swamp — A capable 
English woman — A big future in store for Addah — 
The mosquitoes of Addah — The glorious skies — 
Difficulties of getting away — A tremendous tornado 
— The bar steamer — The boiling bar — " We've had 
enough ! " — Would rather be drowned in the open — 
The dismantled ship — Everybody stark — The gallant 
engineer — on the French steamer bound for Accra 295-313 

CHAPTER XX 

WITH A COMPANION 

The kindness of Sekondi — Swanzy's to the rescue — A 
journey to Dixcove — With a nursing Sister — The 
rainy season and wet feet — Engineering a steep hill 
in the dark — Rains, and brilliant fireflies — The 
P.W.D. man's taste in colours — The need of a 
woman in West Africa — Crossing the Whin River — 
My fresh-air theory confirmed 314-321 

CHAPTER XXI 

THE WEST-AFRICAN GOLDFIELDS 

A first adve. ure — Tarkwa — Once more Swanzy to the 
rescue — .Vomen thoroughly contented, independent, 
and well-to-do — The agricultural wealth of the land — 
The best bungalow in West Africa— Crusade against 
the trees — Burnt in the furnaces — Prestea — The sick 
women — A ghastly hill — Eduaprim— A capable fellow- 
countrywoman — " Dollying " for gold — Obuasi — 
Beautiful gardens — 75 per cent. — The sensible African 
snail 322-338 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Mary Gaunt 

Pilot's wife against crinted wall 
Grinning guns that defend their river 
Another woman's children in her yard 
Bala, Chief of Kantora 
Heap of Groundnuts 
Each man's own little heap of Groundnuts 
Cape Sierra Leone Lighthouse 
Freetown ...... 

Cotton Tree Station 

Providence Island .... 

Road to Liberian College 
Broad Street, Monrovia . 
Typical Liberian House . 
A house in Lower Buchanan . 
Principal Street, Lower Buchanan 
Bringing the toast .... 

To the memory of the dead . 

" France " ..... 

British Consulate, Tano River 
Courtyard, Kommenda Fort . 
Elmina ...... 

A Street in Elmina .... 

A Street in Elmina .... 

Playing Draughts .... 

Chickens for the Markets 
View from Basel Factory, Winnebah 
Launching a surf boat . 
Christiansborg Castle 

xvii 



Frontispiece 
Facing page 18 
20 
22 
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38 
40 



5° 
52 
60 
64 
66 
68 
72 

74 
106 
108 
112 
114 

138 
148 

150 
152 
158 
160 

174 
176 
178 



xviii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Author's Bungalow, Christiansborg 
Author in her Cart at Christiansborg . 
The Lagoon, Christiansborg 

Ruins on the seashore 

The only Avenue in the Capital of the Gold Coast 

A Remarkable coiffure 

James Fort and the breakwater . 

Sacrifice Rock, Accra 

Krobo Hill with Orchard Bush country in Fore 

ground 

Amedika, Volta River 

Author's canoe, Volta River .... 
Senchi Rapids, Volta River .... 

Chai Hill, Volta River 

British Cotton-growing experimental farm 

Labolabo 

Jakai 

Going to his Farm, Tsito .... 
Trees in German village on the way to Ho . 
Porridge sellers in the market, Palime . 
Kroo boys drawing cart on the way to Misahohe 
Dying of Sleeping Sickness .... 
Sleeping Sickness after nervous symptoms have set in 

A Street in Lome 

Compound of a house in Keta 

Weaving and Winding yarn, Keta . 

Corner of Market-place, Keta 

Chiefs' daughters selling beer, market, Keta 

The wharf at Addah 

Palms and sand and sea on the way to Dixcove 

Dixcove 

Main Street European Town, Tarkwa . 
Shops in Native Town, Tarkwa . 
Street in Native Town, Tarkwa . 
Rubber Plantation, Tarkwa .... 
Street in old Native Town, Prestea 



Facing page 180 
182 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xix 



Prestea, A Mining Camp 
On the way to Eduaprim 
Bridge on the way to Eduaprim . 
Dollying for Gold, Eduaprim . 

View of Obuasi 

The Fort, Kumasi 

Chief raised in his Hammock Chair 

Ashanti Chief 

Chief Commissioner and his Wife, Kumasi 
Great Fetish Chief, Kumasi 
Crossing the Ofin River, Ashanti . 

Path in the Forest 

Rubber Carriers in Potsikrom 
Headman in front of Author's Bedroom . 
Forest Path in Ashanti .... 
Rest House, Potsikrom .... 
Making pots in the Forest . 

Entrance to Insuta 

Ashanti woman and child in the forest . 

Breaking Camp, Bechem 

Entrance to Ashanti Village in the Forest 

Butcher's Shops, Nkwanta . . . 

Moulding in chief of Nkwanta 's House 

The Author crosses the Tano River 

The Medical officer crosses the Tano River 

A Break in the Forest beyond the Tano Ri 1 

Official Bungalows, Sunyani 

The Fort, Sunyani . 

Women making fu-fu 

Hausa resting his load 

Chief of Odumase . 

Ashanti Warriors 

Making Swish, Odumase 

Crossing the Ofin River in Flood 



Facing page 330 
33 2 
334 
336 
338 
340 
344 
346 
348 
35o 
352 
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3 62 
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3 6 6 
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37o 
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ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 



CHAPTER I 

SONS OF THE SEA WIFE 

Hereditary taste for wandering — A first adventure — " Little 
girls you must not be tired " — How Carlo was captured by 
savages in West Africa — Life in Ballarat — Nothing for a 
woman to do but marry — Marriage— Plans for wandering 
twenty years hence — Life in Warrnambool — Widowhood — 
May as well travel now there is nothing left — London for 
an aspirant in literature — Stony streets and drizzling rain — 
Scanty purse — Visit to the home of a rich African trader — 
Small successes— At last, at last on board s.s. Gando bound 
for the Gambia. 

" There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate, 
And a wealthy wife is she ; 
She breeds a breed o' rovin' men, 
And casts them over sea." 

Sometimes when people ask me with wonder why I 
went to West Africa, why I wanted to go, I feel as if 
that wife must have grown old and feeble and will 
bear no more men to send across the sea. I hope not. 
I trust not. More than ninety years ago she sent my 
mother's father into the Honourable East India Co.'s 
service, and then in later years with his ten children 
to colonise Van Diemen's Land. Nearly sixty years 
ago she sent my father, a slim young lad, out to the 
goldfields in Australia, and she breathed her spirit 
over the five boys and two girls who grew up in the 

1 A 



2 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

new land. I cannot remember when any one of us 
would not have gone anywhere in the world at a 
moment's notice. It would not have been any good 
pointing out the dangers, because dangers at a dis- 
tance are only an incentive. There is something in 
the thought of danger that must be overcome, that 
you yourself can help to overcome, that quickens the 
blood and gives an added zest to life. 

I can remember as a small girl going with my sister 
to stay with an uncle who had a station, Mannerim, 
behind Geelong. The house had been built in the 
old days of slabs with a bark roof, very inflammable 
material. I loved the place then because it spoke 
of the strenuous old days of the Colony. I love the 
memory of it now for old times' sake, and because 
there happened the first really exciting incident in 
my life. 

It was a January morning, the sky overcast with 
smoke and a furious hot wind blowing from the north. 
The men of the household looked out anxiously, but 
I sat and read a story-book. It was the tale of a boy 
named Carlo who was wrecked on the coast of West 
Africa — nice vague location ; he climbed a cocoa-nut 
tree — I can see him now with a rope round his waist 
and his legs dangling in an impossible attitude — 
and he was taken by savages. His further adven- 
tures I do not know, because a man came riding in 
shouting that the calf paddock was on fire and every- 
one must turn out. Everyone did turn out except 
my aunt who stayed behind to prepare cool drinks, 
and those drinks my little sister and I, as being use- 
less for beating out the flames, were sent to carry to 
the workers in jugs and " billies." 

" Now little girls," said my aunt who was tender- 



SONS OF THE SEA WIFE 3 

ness and kindness itself, " remember you are not to 
get tired." 

It was the first lesson I really remember in the 
stern realities of life. We had hailed the bushfire 
as something new and exciting ; now we were to be 
taught that much excitement brings its strenuous 
hard labour. The fire did not reach the house, and 
the men and women got their drink, but it was 
two very weary, dirty, smoke-grimed and triumphant 
little girls who bathed and went to bed that night. 
I never finished the story of Carlo. Where he 
went to I can't imagine, but I can't think the 
savages ate him else his story would never have 
been written ; and from that moment dated my deep 
interest in West Africa. 

We grew up and the boys of the family went 
a-roving to other lands. One was a soldier, two were 
sailors, and the two youngest were going to be 
lawyers, whereby they might make money and go to 
the other ends of the world if they liked. When we 
were young we generally regarded money as a means 
of locomotion. We have hardly got over the habit 
yet. Only for us two girls was there no prospect. 
Our world was bounded by our father's lawns and the 
young men who came to see us and made up picnic 
parties to the wildest bush round Ballarat for our 
amusement. It was not bad. Even now I acknow- 
ledge to something of delight to be found in a box- 
seat of a four-in-hand, a glorious moonlight night, and 
four horses going at full speed ; something delightful 
in scrambles over the ranges and a luncheon in the 
shade by a waterhole, with romantic stories for a 
seasoning, and the right man with a certain ad- 
miration in his eyes to listen. It was not bad, 



4 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

but it was not as good a life as the boys of the 
family were having, and it was giving me no chance 
of visiting the land Carlo had gone to that had been 
in my mind at intervals ever since the days of my 
childish bushfire. 

There was really nothing for a woman but to marry, 
and accordingly we both married and I forgot in my 
entrance into that world, which is so old and yet 
always so new, my vague longings after savage lands. 

I wonder sometimes would I have been contented 
to lead the ordinary woman's life, the life of the 
woman who looks after her husband and children. I 
think so, because it grew to be the life I ardently 
yearned for. The wander desire was just pushed a 
little into the back-ground and was to come off twenty 
years hence when we had made our fortune. And 
twenty years looked such a long long while then. It 
even looks a long time now, for it has not passed, 
and I seem to have lived a hundred years and many 
lives since the days in the little Victorian town of 
Warrnambool when my handsome young husband 
and I planned out our future life. But I was nearer to 
Carlo's land than I thought even then, and if I could 
have peeped into the future I would only have shrunk 
with unspeakable dread from the path I must walk, 
the path that was to lead me to the consummation of 
my childish hopes. In a very few years the home life 
I had entered into with such gladness was over, my 
husband was dead, and I was penniless, homeless, 
and alone. Of course I might have gone back 
to my father's house, my parents would have wel- 
comed me, but can any woman go back and take 
a subordinate position when she has ruled? I 
think not ; besides it would only have been 



SONS OF THE SEA WIFE 5 

putting off the evil day. When my father died, and 
in the course of nature he must die before me, there 
would be but a pittance, and I should have to start 
out once more handicapped with the added years. 
Again, and I think this thought was latent beneath 
all the misery and hopelessness that made me say 
I did not care what became of me, was I not free, free 
to wander where I pleased, to seek those adventures 
that had held such a glamour for me in my girlhood. 
True, I had not much money with which to seek them. 
When everything was settled up I found if I stayed 
quietly in Australia I had exactly thirty pounds a year 
to call my own. Thirty pounds a year, and I reckoned 
I could make perhaps fifty pounds by my pen. My 
mother pointed out to me that if I lived with my 
parents it would not be so bad. But it was not to be 
thought of for a moment. The chance had come, 
through seas of trouble, but still it had come, and 
I would go and see the great world for myself. I 
thought I had lived my life, that no sorrow or gladness 
could ever touch me keenly again ; but I knew, it was 
in my blood, that I should like to see strange places 
and visit unknown lands. But on thirty pounds a year 
one can do nothing, so I took a hundred pounds out 
of my capital and came to London determined to 
make money by my pen in the heart of the world. 

Oh, the hopes of the aspirant for literary fame, and 
oh, the dreariness and the weariness of life for a 
woman poor and unknown in London ! I lodged in 
two rooms in a dull and stony street. I had no one 
to speak to from morning to night, and I wrote and 
wrote and wrote stories that all came back to me, and 
I am bound to say the editors who sent them back 
were quite right. They were poor stuff, but how 



6 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

could anyone do good work who was sick and miser- 
able, cold and lonely, with all the life crushed out of 
her by the grey skies and the drizzling rain ? I found 
London a terrible place in those days ; I longed with 
all my heart for my own country, my own little home 
in Warrnambool where the sun shone always, the roses 
yellow and pink climbed over the wall, the white 
pittosporum blossoms filled the air with their fra- 
grance, and the great trees stood up tall and straight 
against the dark-blue sky. I did not go back to my 
father, because my pride would not allow me to own 
myself a failure and because all the traditions of my 
family were against giving in. But I was very near 
it, very near it indeed. 

Then after six months of hopelessness there came 
to see me from Liverpool a friend of one of my sailor 
brothers, and she, good Samaritan, suggested I 
should spend my Christmas with her. 

I went. She and her daughters were rich people 
and the husband and father had been an African 
trader. So here it was again presented to me, the 
land to which I had resolved to go when I was a little 
child, and everything in the house spoke to me of it. 
In the garden under a cedar tree was the great figure- 
head of an old sailing ship ; in the corridor upstairs 
was the model of a factory, trees, boats, people, houses 
all complete ; in the rooms were pictures of the rivers 
and swamps and the hulks where trade was carried 
on. To their owners these possessions were familiar 
as household words that meant nothing ; to me they 
reopened a new world of desire or rather an old de- 
sire in a new setting — the vague was taking concrete 
form. I determined quite definitely that I would 
go to West Africa. The thing that amazed me was 



SONS OF THE SEA WIFE 7 

that everybody with money in their pockets was not 
equally desirous of going there. 

About this time, too, I discovered that it was simply 
hopeless for me to think of writing stories about 
English life. The regular, conventional life did not 
appeal to me ; I could only write adventure stories, 
and the scene of adventure stories was best laid in 
savage lands. West Africa was not at all a bad 
place in which to set them. Its savagery called me. 
There and then I started to write stories about it. 
Looking back, I smile when I think of the difficulties 
that lay in my path. Even after I had carefully read 
every book of travel I could lay my hands on, I was 
still in deepest ignorance, because every traveller left 
so much undescribed and told nothing of the thousand 
and one little trifles that make ignorant eyes see the 
life that is so different from that in a civilised land. 
But if you will only look for a thing it is astonishing 
how you will find it often in the most unlikely places ; 
if you set your heart on something it is astonishing 
how often you will get your heart's desire. I sought 
for information about West Africa and I found it, 
not easily ; every story I wrote cost me a world of 
trouble and research and anxiety, and I fear me the 
friends I was beginning to make a world of trouble 
too. But they were kind and long-suffering; this 
man gave me a little information here, that one there, 
and I can laugh now when I think of the scenes that 
had to be written and rewritten before a hammock 
could be taken a couple of miles, before a man could 
sit down to his early-morning tea in the bush. It took 
years to do it, but at last it was done to some purpose ; 
the book I had written with great effort caught on, 
and I had the money for the trip I had planned many 



8 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

years before when I was a small girl reading about 
those distant lands. I hesitated not a moment. The 
day I had sufficient money to make such a thing 
possible I went up to the City to see about a passage 
to West Africa. 

And now a wonderful thing happened. Such a 
piece of good luck as I had not in my wildest dreams 
contemplated. Elder Dempster, instigated by the 
kind offices of Sir Charles Lucas, the permanent head 
of the Colonial Office, who knew how keen was my 
desire, offered me a ticket along the Coast, so that 
I actually had all the money I had earned to put into 
land travel, and Mr Laurie, my publisher, fired by 
my enthusiasm, commissioned a book about the 
wonderful old forts that I knew lay neglected and 
crumbling to decay all along the shores of the Gold 
Coast. 

As I look back it seems as if surely the fairy god- 
mother who had omitted to take my youth in charge 
was now showering me with good gifts, or maybe, 
most probably, the good gifts had been offered all 
along and I had never recognised them. We, some 
of us, drive in a gorgeous coach and never see any- 
thing but the pumpkin. 

At least I was not making that mistake now. I 
was wild with delight and excitement when, on a 
cold November day, when London was wrapped in 
fog, I started from Euston for Liverpool. One of 
the brothers who I had envied in my youth, a post 
captain in the Navy now (how the years fly), hap- 
pened to be in London and came down to the station 
to see me and my heaped impedimenta off. 

He understood my delight in the realisation of my 
dream. 



SONS OF THE SEA WIFE 9 

" Have you any directions for the disposal of your 
remains ? " he asked chaffingly, as we groped our 
way through the London fog. 

" Oh, that will all be settled," said I, " long before 
you hear anything about it " ; and we both laughed. 
We did not think, either of us, my adventure was 
going to end disastrously. It would have been 
against all the traditions of the family to think any 
such thing. 

He told me how once he had gone into action with 
interest because he wanted to see what it would be 
like to be under fire, and whether he would be 
frightened. He didn't have much time to contem- 
plate the situation, for presently he was so badly 
wounded that it took him six months to crawl off his 
bed, but it brought him a cross of honour from Italy. 
" And now," says he, with a certain satisfaction, " I 
know." So he sympathised. He felt that what- 
ever happened I would have the satisfaction of 
knowing. 

It is hardly necessary to describe to an English 
reader Liverpool on a cold, grey morning in Novem- 
ber. There is the grey sky and the grey streets and 
the grey houses, and the well-to-do shivering in their 
wraps, and the poor shivering in their rags, all the 
colourless English world, that is not really colour- 
less for those who know how to look at it, but which 
had driven me to sunnier lands ; and there was the 
ship with her wet decks, her busy officers in com- 
forters and sea-boots, her bare-footed sailors, and her 
gangways crowded with cargo, baggage, and numbers 
of bewildered passengers themselves. 

And I think as we crowded into the smoking-room 
for warmth I was the only enthusiastic person among 



10 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

them. The majority of the passengers on board 
s.s. Gando actually didn't want to go to West 
Africa. 

It seems strange, but so it was ; the greater part 
of them, if they could have afforded to stay at home, 
would actually have stayed. I was inclined to be 
impatient with them. Now I forgive them. They 
know not what they do. It is a pity, but it can be 
remedied. 

The Gando was not a mail boat. I had chosen 
her because she called at Dakar, and I thought I 
would like to go if possible to the first settlement on 
the Coast, and I wanted to see how the French did 
things. I may say here I never got to Dakar — still 
it is something to be looked forward to in the future, 
to be done when next I write a book that pays — for 
on board the Gando was Sir George Denton, the 
Governor of the Gambia, surely the nicest governor 
ever lucky colony had, and for such an important 
person the ship went a little out of her way and 
called first at Bathurst, port and capital of the Gambia 
colony. 

Now, I had a letter of introduction to Sir George 
and I presented it, and he promptly asked me to 
come ashore with him. I had never thought of 
staying in the Gambia beyond the day or two the 
ship would take to discharge her cargo — " a potty 
little colony," as I had heard it called, and it hardly 
seemed worth while to waste my time in a miniature 
Thames. How the Governor laughed when he 
found out my appalling ignorance, and how ashamed 
I was when I found it out ! 

" The Thames," said he ; " well, we only hold the 
mouth of the river about four hundred miles up, but 



SONS OF THE SEA WIFE 11 

the Gambia is at least a thousand miles in extent, 
and may be longer for all I know." 

I apologised to the Gambia. 

" But could I see the river? " 

" Why, of course ; we'll send you up in the Man- 
sikillah, the Government steamer " ; and I accepted 
his invitation with alacrity and with gratitude. 

Truly, my fairy godmother was more than waving 
her wand. I hadn't left English shores a week, and 
here was an invitation to go four hundred miles into 
the interior of the continent of my dreams. 

We went first to the Canary Islands, the islands of 
the blest of the ancients, but the Canaries were as 
nothing to me ; they have been civilised too long. 
They were only a stepping-stone to that other land, 
the land of romance, that I was nearing at last. 

And now I have an apology to make, an apology 
which very few people will understand, but those few 
will, and to them it is a matter of such importance 
that I must make it. I went to see a savage land. 
I went to seek material for the only sort of story I 
can write, and to tell of the prowess of the men who 
had gone before and left their traces in great stone 
forts all along three hundred miles of coast. I found 
a savage land, in some parts a very wild land indeed, 
but I found what I had never expected, a land of im- 
mense possibilities, a land overflowing with wealth, 
a land of corn and wine and oil. I expected swamp 
and miasma, heat, fever, and mosquitoes. I found 
these truly, but I found, too, a lovely land, an en- 
trancingly lovely land in places ; I found gorgeous 
nights and divine mornings, and I found that the 
great interest of West Africa lay not in the oppor- 
tunity it gave for vivid descriptions of heroes who 



12 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

fought and suffered and conquered, or fought and 
suffered and died, but in showing its immense value 
to the English crown in describing a land where 
every tropical product may be grown, a land with 
a teeming population and a generous soil, a land 
in fact that, properly managed, should supply raw 
material for half the workshops in England, a land 
that may be made to give some of its sunlight to 
keep alight the fires on English hearths in Decem- 
ber, a land that as yet only the wiser heads amongst 
us realise the value of. 

" A man comes to West Africa," said a Swiss to 
me once, " because he can make in ten years as much 
as he could make in thirty in England." 

That is the land I found, and I apologise if I have 
ever written or thought of it in any other way. 

" The White Man's Grave," say many still. But 
even the all-powerful white man must have a grave in 
the end. Live wisely and discreetly and it is, I think 
with wise old Zachary Macauley who ruled Sierra 
Leone at the end of the eighteenth century, no more 
likely to be in West Africa than in any other place. 

And the ship sailed on, and one morning early, 
before daylight, we heard the bell buoy that marks 
the mouth of the Gambia before lazy eyes can see 
there is a river, and knew that we had arrived at our 
destination. At last, at last I was on the very thres- 
hold of the land I had dreamed of years before. 



CHAPTER II 

THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 

Rejoicing, half-eastern and wholly tropical, on arrival of the Gov- 
ernor — Colonies governed and held as the Romans held their 
colonies of Britain — Great gulf between the black and the 
white — The barrier of sex — Received as a brother but declined 
as a brother-in-law — Lonely Fort St James — The strenuous 
lives led by the men of the past — Crinted walls — The pilot's 
wife — Up the river in the Mungo Park — The river devil's 
toll—" Pass friend and all's well." 

When I was a little girl the Queen held something 
the same place in my mind as the Almighty. The 
ruler of the nation hardly had any personality. She 
was there, of course, and people talked about her as 
conferring great benefits upon us ; but so we also 
talked about God in church and when we said our 
prayers at night. As a family, we objected to saying 
prayers in the morning. They were not supposed to 
be necessary till you had arrived at mature years, 
say, five, and by then, I suppose, we had imbibed 
the idea that we could really take care of ourselves 
very well during the day-time. So the Queen, too, 
was in the same category as God and Heaven, that 
distinctly dull place, which was to be the reward of 
good works on earth, and His Excellency the 
Governor took her place in the minds of all young 
colonials. Of course, as I grew older, I realised 
that the Governor was a man like unto other men, 
that he could be talked to like an ordinary man, 

13 



14 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

could ask you to dinner, and even take a polite in- 
terest in your future ; but, still, some of the rags of 
the childish vagueness and glory clung round him, 
and so I was quite pleased to find myself on board a 
steamer with a real live Governor. More, I sat next 
him at table ; we discussed the simple commonplace 
doings of ship-board life together, and as we arrived 
at the buoy I shared in the little fuss and bustle which 
the landing of such an exalted personage always 
makes. And he wasn't really such a very exalted 
personage in his own opinion. There was a merry 
twinkle in his nice brown eyes as he admitted that 
his gold-laced coat, made to be worn on state occa- 
sions such as this, was a great deal too hot for 
the Tropics, and that its donning must be left to 
the very last moment; and so I stood on the flag- 
dressed deck by myself and watched the land of my 
dreams come into view. 

A long, low shore is the Gambia — a jutting 
point, with palms upon it, running out into a glassy 
sea, from which is reflected the glare of the tropical 
sun. There was a little denser clump of greenery 
that marked the site of Bathurst, the capital ; and, 
as we drew closer, we could see the roofs of the 
houses peeping out, bright specks of colour that were 
the flags, and the long line of red on the wharf, 
the soldiers turned out to welcome the returning 
Governor. 

This is the only place along that line of surf-bound 
coast where a ship may come up to the wharf and 
land her passengers dry-shod; but, to-day, because 
the captain was in a hurry, he dropped us over the 
side in boats, and we landed to all the glory of a 
welcome that was half-eastern and wholly and 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 15 

emotionally tropical. The principal street of Bat- 
hurst, the only street worth mentioning, runs all 
along the river-side, with houses on one side and the 
wharfs and piers on the other ; and the whole place 
was thronged with the black inhabitants. The men 
shouted and tossed their hats and caps when they 
had any; and the women, the mammies, as I learned 
to call them later, flung their gaily coloured cloths 
from their shoulders for their dearly loved Governor to 
walk over; and the handful of whites — there are 
twenty-five English and some French and Swiss — 
came forward and solemnly shook hands. He had 
come back to them, the man who had ruled over them 
for the last ten years, and white and black loved 
him, and were glad to do him honour. 

In the midst of great rejoicing, a good omen 
for me, I set my foot on African shore. I began 
my journeying, and I looked round to try and 
realise what manner of country was this I had come 
to — what manner of life I was to be part and 
parcel of. 

These colonies on the West-African coast are as 
unlike as possible to the colony in which I first saw 
the light, that my people have helped to build up. 
I fancy, perhaps, the Roman proconsul and the 
officials in his train, who came out to rule over 
Britain in the first century before Christ, must have 
led lives somewhat resembling those of the Britons 
who nowadays go out to West Africa. One thing is 
certain, those Italians must have grumbled per- 
petually about the inclemency and unhealthiness of 
the climate of these northern isles ; they probably 
had a great deal to say about the fever and ague that 
was rife. They were accustomed to certain luxuries 



16 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

that civilisation had made into necessities, and they 
came to a land where all the people were traders and 
agriculturists of a most primitive sort. They were 
exiles in a cold, grey land, and they felt it bitterly. 
They came to replenish their purses, and when those 
purses were fairly full they returned to their own 
land gladly. The position describes three-quarters 
of the Englishmen in West Africa to-day ; but 
between the Roman and the savage Pict of Cale- 
donia was never the gulf, the great gulf, which is 
fixed between even the educated African and the 
white man of whatever nationality. It is no good 
trying to hide the fact ; between the white man and 
the black lies not only the culture and the knowledge 
of the west — that gulf might, and sometimes is 
bridged — but that other great bar, the barrier of sex. 
Tall, stalwart, handsome as is many a negro, no 
white woman may take a black man for her husband 
and be respected by her own people ; no white man 
may take a black girl, though her dark eyes be soft 
and tender, though her skin be as satin and her 
figure like that of the Venus of Milo, and hope to 
introduce her among his friends as his wife. Even 
the missionaries who preach that the black man is 
a brother decline emphatically to receive him as a 
brother-in-law. And so we get, beginning here in 
the little colony of the Gambia, the handful of the 
ruling race set among a subject people ; so the white 
man has always ruled the black ; so, I think, he must 
always rule. It will be a bad day for the white when 
the black man rules. That there should be any 
mingling of the races is unthinkable ; so I hope that 
the white man will always rule Africa with a strong 
hand. 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 17 

The Gambia is the beginning of the English 
colonies on the Coast, and, the pity of it, a very small 
beginning. 

In the old days, when Charles the Second was 
king, the English held none of the banks of the 
river at all, but contented themselves with a barren 
little island about seventeen miles from where 
Bathurst now stands. One bank was held by the 
French, the other by the Portuguese ; and the 
English built on the island Fort St James to protect 
their interest in the great trade in palm oil, slaves, 
and ivory that came down the river. Even then the 
Gambia was rich. It is richer far to-day, but the 
French hold the greater part of it. The colony of 
the Gambia is at the mouth of the river, twelve 
miles broad by four hundred long, a narrow strip 
of land bordering the mouth of a river set in the 
heart of the great French colony of Senegal — a veri- 
table Naboth's vineyard that our friends the other 
side of the Channel may well envy us. It brings us 
in about ^80,000 annually, but to them it would be 
of incalculable value as an outlet for the majority of 
their rich trade. 

At first I hardly thought about these things. I was 
absorbed in the wonder of the new life. I stayed at 
Government House with the Governor, and was 
caught up in the little whirl of gaieties that greeted 
his return. The house was tropical, with big, lofty, 
airy rooms and great wide verandahs that as a rule 
serve also as passageways to pass from one room to 
another; for Government House, Bathurst, is built 
as a tropical house should be — must be — built, if the 
builder have any regard for the health of its inmates. 
There were no rooms that the prevailing breeze could 

B 



18 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

not sweep right through. There was a drawing- 
room and a dining-room on the ground floor, but I 
do not think either Sir George or I, or his private 
secretary, ever used the drawing-room unless there 
were guests to be entertained. The verandahs were 
so much more inviting, and my bedroom was a de- 
lightful place. It ran right across the house. There 
was no carpet, and, as was only right, only just such 
furniture as I absolutely needed. The bed was en- 
closed in another small mosquito-proof room of wire- 
netting, and it was the only thing I did not like about 
the house. There, and at that season, perhaps it did 
not very much matter, for a strong Harmattan wind, 
the cool wind of the cold, dry season, was blowing, 
and it kept the air behind the stout wire-netting fresh 
and clean ; but I must here put on record my firm 
belief that no inconsiderable number of lives in 
Africa must be lost owing to some doctor's prejudice 
in favour of mosquito-proof netting. A mosquito- 
proof netting is very stout indeed, and not only 
excludes the mosquito, but, and this far more effec- 
tually, the fresh air as well. The man who has 
plenty of fresh air, day and night, will be in 
better health, and far more likely to resist infection 
if he does happen to get bitten by a fever-bearing 
mosquito, than he who must perforce spend at least 
a third of his time in the vitiated air of a mosquito- 
proof room. This I did not realise at Government 
House, Bathurst, or if I did, but dimly, for there 
in December the strong Harmattan would have 
forced its way through anything. I spent most of 
my time on the verandah outside my own room, 
where I had a view not only of the road that ran to 
to the centre of the town but right away across the 




PILOT S WIFE AGAINST I RINTED WALL. 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 19 

river. Here I had my breakfast and my afternoon 
tea, and here I did all my writing. 

In Africa your own servant takes charge of your 
room, gets your bath, and brings you your early- 
morning tea ; and here in Bathurst in this woman- 
less house my servant was to get my breakfast and 
my afternoon tea as well, so the first thing to be 
done was to look out for a boy. He appeared in 
the shape of Ansumanah Grant, a Mohammedan boy 
of three-and-twenty, a Vai tribesman, who had been 
brought up by the Wesleyan missionaries at Cape 
Mount in Liberia. When I engaged him he wore a 
pink pyjama coat, a pair of moleskin breeches, and 
red carpet slippers ; and, when this was rectified — 
at my expense — he appeared in a white shirt, khaki 
knicker-bockers, a red cummerbund, and bare feet, 
and made a very respectable member of society and 
a very good servant to me during the whole of my 
stay in Africa. 

I always made it a practice to rise early in West 
Africa, because the early morning is the most 
delightful time, and he who stays in bed till half- 
past seven or eight is missing one of the pure delights 
of life. When I had had my early breakfast, I 
went to inspect the town. The market lies but a 
stone's throw from Government House, and here all 
the natives were to be found, and the white men's 
servants buying provisions for the day. To me, 
before I went to Africa, a negro was a negro, and 
I imagined them all of one race. My mind was 
speedily disabused of that error. The negro has 
quite as many nationalities, is quite as distinct as the 
European. Here in this little colony was a most 
cosmopolitan gathering, for the south and north 



20 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

meet, and Yorubas from Lagos, Gas from Accra, 
mongrel Creoles from Sierra Leone meet the Sene- 
galese from the north, the Hausas from away far- 
ther east; and the natives themselves are the 
Mohammedan Jolloff, who is an expert river-man, 
the Mandingo, and the heathen Jolah, who as yet is 
low down in the scale of civilisation, and wears but 
scanty rags. And all these people were to be found 
in the market in the early morning. It is enclosed 
with a high wall, the interior is cemented, and 
gutters made to carry off moisture, and it is all 
divided into stalls, and really not at all unlike the 
alfresco markets you may see on Saturdays in the 
poorer quarters of London. Here they sell meat, 
most uninviting looking, but few butchers' shops 
look inviting ; fish — very strange denizens come 
out of the sea in the Gambia ; native peppers, 
red and green; any amount of rice, which is the 
staple food of the people, and all the tropical 
fruits, paws-paws, pine-apples, and dark-green Coast 
oranges, which are very sweet ; bananas, yellow and 
pink, and great bunches of green plantains. They 
are supposed to sell only on the stalls, for which they 
pay a small, a very small rental ; but, like true 
natives, they overflow on to the ground, and as you 
walk you must be careful not to tread on neat little 
piles of peppers, enamelled iron-ware basins full of 
native rice, or little heaps of purple kola-nuts — that 
great sustaining stimulant of Africa. 

There were about half a dozen white women in 
Bathurst when I was there, including one who had 
ostracised herself by marrying a black man ; but 
none ever came to the market, therefore my arrival 
created great excitement, and one good lady, in a 



22 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

are held, half the houses are owned by rich negroes, 
Africans they very naturally prefer to be called, 
but the poorer people live all crowded together in 
Jolloff town, whither my guide led me, and intro- 
duced me to her yard. A Jolloff never speaks about 
his house, but about his " yard." Even Govern- 
ment House he knows as " Governor's Yard." 

Jolloff town looks as if it were made of basket- 
work ; they call it here " crinting," and all the walls 
of the houses and of the compounds are made of this 
split bamboo neatly woven together. For Bathurst 
is but a strip of sand-bank just rescued from the 
mangrove swamp round, and these crinted walls 
serve excellently to keep it together when the strong 
Harmattan threatens to blow the whole place bodily 
into the swamp behind. My friend's home was a 
very nice specimen of its class, the first barbaric 
home I had ever seen. The compound was sur- 
rounded by the crinted walls, and inside again were 
two or three huts, also built of crinting, with a 
thatched roof. As a rule I am afraid the Jolloff is 
not clean, but my pilot's wife had a neat little home. 
There were no windows in it, but the strong sunlight 
came through the crinted walls, and made a subdued 
light and a pattern of the basket-work on the white, 
sanded floor ; there were three long seats of wood, 
neatly covered with white napkins edged with red, a 
table, a looking-glass, and a basket of bread, for it 
appeared she was a trader in a small way. It was 
all very suitable and charming. Outside in the com- 
pound ran about chickens, goats, a dog or two, and 
some small children, another woman's children, alas, 
for she told me mournfully she had none. 

It is easy enough to make a friend ; the difficulty is 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 23 

to know where to stop. I am afraid I had soon ex- 
hausted all my interest in my Jolloff woman, while to 
her I was a great source of pride, and she wanted me 
to come and see her every day. At first she told me 
she " fear too much " to come to " Governor's Yard," 
but latterly, I regret to state, that wholesome fear 
wore off, and she called to see me every day, and I 
found suitable conversation a most difficult thing to 
provide, so that I grew to look very anxiously indeed 
for the steamer that was to take me up the river. 

The Government steamer, the Mansikillah, had 
broken down. She was old, and it was, I was told, 
her chronic state, but I was bitterly disappointed till 
the Governor told me he had made arrangements 
for me to go in the French Company's steamer, 
the Mungo Park. She was going up the river with 
general cargo ; she was coming down again with 
some of the groundnut crop, little nuts that grow on 
the root of a trefoil plant, nuts the Americans call 
pea-nuts, and the English monkey-nuts. 

I had to wait a little till there came a messenger 
one day to say that the steamer was ready at last, and 
would start that afternoon. So I went down to the 
little wharf with my servant, my baggage, and the 
travelling Commissioner, who was also going up the 
river. 

The Mungo Park was a stern-wheeler of 1 50 tons, 
drawing six feet of water, and when first I saw her 
you could hardly tell steamer from wharf, so alive 
were they both with crowded, shrieking people, all 
either wanting to get on, or to get off, which was 
apparently not quite clear. After a little wait, out of 
chaos came a courteous French trader and a gang- 
way. The gangway took us on board, and the 



24 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

trader, whose English was as good as mine, explained 
that he, too, was going up the river to look after the 
houses belonging to his company along the banks. 
Then he showed me my quarters, and I was initiated 
into the mysteries of travelling in the interior of 
Africa. There was but one cabin on board the 
Mungo Park, a place about eighteen feet square 
amidship ; in it were two bunks, a table, a couple of 
long seats, a cupboard, and washing arrangements. 
The sides were all of Venetian shutters, which could 
be taken away when not wanted. It was all right in 
a way, but I must confess for a moment I wondered 
how on earth two men and a woman were to stow 
away there. Then the trader explained. I should 
have the cabin to sleep in, and we all three would 
have our meals there together, while arrangements 
might be made by which we could all in turn bathe 
and wash. I learned my first lesson: you accept 
extraordinary and unconventional situations, if you 
are wise, with a smile and without a blush in Africa. 
The Commissioner and the trader, I found on further 
inquiry, would sleep on the top of the cabin, which 
was also what one might call the promenade deck. 
I arranged my simple belongings, and went up on 
deck to look, and I found that it was reached by way 
of the boiler, across which some steps and a little, 
coaly hand-rail led. It would have been nice in the 
Arctic regions, but on a tropical afternoon it had its 
drawbacks. On the deck I was met by a vociferous 
black man, who was much too busy to do more than 
give an obsequious welcome, for it appeared he 
was the captain. I shall always regret I did not take 
his photograph as he leaned over the railing, shout- 
ing and gesticulating to his men, and to the would-be 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 25 

passengers, and to the men who were struggling to 
get the cargo on board. He cursed them, I should 
think, all impartially. The French trader said he 
was an excellent captain, and he remains in my mind 
as the most unique specimen of the genus I have ever 
seen. He wore a khaki coat and very elderly tweed 
trousers, split behind ; his feet were bare ; he did not 
pander to that vitiated taste which demands under- 
linen, or at least a shirt, but, seeing it was the cold 
weather, he adorned his black skull with a woolly 
cap with ear-flaps, such as Nansen probably took on 
his North-Pole expedition. 

There was a great deal of cargo — cotton goods, 
sugar, salt, coffee, dates ; things that the French 
company were taking up to supply their factories on 
the river, and long before it was stowed the deck 
passengers began crowding on board. Apparently 
there was no provision whatever made for them ; 
they stowed on top of the cargo, just wherever they 
could find a place, and every passenger — there were 
over ninety of them — had apparently something to 
say as to the accommodation, or the want of accom- 
modation, and he or she said it at the very top of 
his or her voice in Jolloff or Mandingo or that bastard 
English which is a lingua franca all along the Coast. 
Not that it mattered much what language they said 
it in, because no one paid the least attention ; such 
a babel have I never before heard. And such a 
crowd as they were. The steamer provided water 
carriage only for the deck passengers, so that they 
had their cooking apparatus, their bedding, their 
food, their babies, their chickens (unfortunate 
wretches tied by one leg), and, if they could evade 
the eagle eye of the French trader, their goats. The 



26 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

scene was bedlam let loose to my unaccustomed eyes. 
We were to tow six lighters as well, and each of them 
also had a certain number of passengers. As we 
started it seemed likely we should sweep away a few 
dozen who were hanging on in the most dangerous 
places to the frailest supports. Possibly they 
wouldn't have been missed. I began to understand 
why the old slaver was callous. It was impossible to 
feel humane in the midst of such a shrieking, howling 
mob. The siren gave wild and ear-piercing shrieks ; 
there were yells from the wharf, more heartrending 
yells from the steamer, a minor accompaniment from 
the lighters, bleating of goats, cackling of protesting 
fowls, crying of children, and we were off without 
casualty, and things began to settle down. 

I had thought my quarters cramped, but looking 
at the deck passengers, crowding fore and aft over 
the coals and on top of the boiler, I realised that 
everything goes by comparison, and that they were 
simply palatial. I had eighteen feet square of room 
all to myself to sleep in. It had one drawback. 
There was ^5000 worth of silver stowed under the 
seats, and therefore the trader requested me to lock 
the doors and fasten the shutters lest some of the 
passengers should take a fancy to it. His view was 
that plenty of air would come through the laths of 
the shutters. I did not agree with the French trader, 
and watched with keen interest those boxes of silver 
depart all too slowly. I would gladly have changed 
places and let him and the Commissioner have my 
cabin if only I might have taken their place on the 
deck above. But on the deck was the wheel, presided 
over by the black captain, or the equally black and 
more ragged mate, so it was not to be thought of. 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 27 

And that deck was something to remember. There 
were the large water-bottles there and the filter, the 
trader's bed in a neat little roll, the Commissioner's 
bed, draped with blue mosquito curtains, the hen- 
coops with the unhappy fowls that served us for food, 
the Commissioner's washing apparatus on top of one 
of the coops, for he was a young man of resource, 
the rest of his kit, his rifle, his bath, his cartridge- 
belt, his dog, a few plates and cups and basins, a 
couple of sieves for rice, two or three stools, the 
elderly black kettle, out of the spout of which the 
skipper and the mate sucked refreshment as if they 
had been a couple of snipe, and last, but not least, 
there was the French company's mails for their 
employees up river. I was told the correspondence 
always arrived safely, and so it is evident that in 
some things we take too much trouble. The captain 
attended to the sorting of the mails when he had 
time to spare from his other duties. I have seen him 
with a much-troubled brow sorting letters at night by 
the light of a flickering candle, and, when the mails 
overflowed the deal box, parcels were stacked against 
the railing, newspapers leaned for support against 
the wheel, and letters collogued in friendly fashion 
on the deck with the black kettle. 

For the first seventeen miles the little ship, towing 
her lighters behind and alongside, went up a river 
that was like a sea, so far away were the mangrove 
swamps that are on either side. Then we reached 
Fort St James, and the river narrows. Very pathetic 
are the ruins of Fort St James. No one lives there 
now ; no one has lived there for many a long day, but 
you see as you pass and look at the crumbling stones 
ol the old fort why West Africa gained in the minds 



28 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

of men so evil a reputation. The place is but a rocky 
islet, with but a few scanty trees upon it; above is 
the brazen sky, below the baked earth, on which the 
tropical sun pours down with all the added heat 
gathered from the glare of the river. They must 
have died shut up in Fort St James in those far-away 
days. Tradition, too, says that the gentlemen of the 
company of soldiers who were stationed there were 
for ever fighting duels, and that the many vacancies 
in the ranks were not always due to the climate. 
But the heat and the monotony would conduce to 
irritability, and when a hasty word had to be upheld 
at the sword's point, it is no wonder if they cursed 
the Coast with a bitterness that is only given to the 
land of regrets. But all honour to those dead-and- 
gone Englishmen. They upheld the might of Britain, 
and her rights in the trade in palm oil and slaves and 
ivory that even then came down the river. And if 
they died — now, now at last, after many weary 
years, their descendants are beginning dimly to 
realise, as they never did, the value of the land for 
which they gave their lives. 

It is the custom to speak with contempt of a 
mangrove swamp, as if in it no beauty could lie, as 
if it were only waste land — dreary, depressing, ugly. 
Each of those epithets may be true — I cannot say — 
except the last, and that is most certainly a falsehood. 
What my impressions would be if I lived in the midst 
of it day after day I cannot say, but to a passer-by 
the mangrove swamp has a beauty of its own. 

When first I saw the Gambia I was fascinated, 
and found no words too strong for its beauty; and, 
having gone farther, I would take back not one word 
of that admiration. But I am like the lover who is 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 29 

faithless to his first mistress — he acknowledges her 
charm, but he has seen someone else ; so now, as I 
sit down to write, I am reminded that the Volta is 
more ravishingly lovely, and that if I use up all my 
adjectives on the Gambia I shall have no words to 
describe my new mistress. Therefore must I modify 
my transports, and so it seems to me I am unfair. 

As we moved up the river we could plainly see the 
shore on either side, the dense mangrove swamp, 
doubled by its reflection, green and beautiful against 
its setting of blue sky and clear river. Crocodiles 
lay basking in the golden sunshine on the mud- 
banks, white egrets flew slowly from tree to tree, a 
brown jolah-king, an ibis debased for some sin in the 
youth of the world, sailed slowly across the water, a 
white fishing-eagle poised himself on high, looking 
for his prey, a slate-blue crane came across our 
bows, a young pelican just ahead was taking his first 
lesson in swimming, and closer to the bank we could 
see king-fishers, bright spots of colour against the 
dark green of the mangrove. 

" The wonder of the Tropics " — the river seemed to 
be whispering at first, and then fairly shouted — 
"can you deny beauty to this river?" and I, with 
the cool Harmattan blowing across the water to put 
the touch of moisture in the air it needed, was con- 
strained to answer that voice, which none of the 
others seemed to hear, " Truly I cannot." 

It would be impossible to describe in detail all the 
little wharves at which we stopped ; besides, they all 
bore a strong family resemblance to one another, 
differing only when they were in the upper or lower 
river. Long before I could see any signs of human 
habitation the steamer's skipper was wildly agitated 



30 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

over the mails, wrinkling up his brows and pawing 
them over with his dirty black hands — mine were 
dirtier, at least, they showed more, and the way to the 
deck was so coaly it was impossible to keep clean. 
Then he would hang on to a string, which resulted in 
the most heartrending wails from the steamer's siren ; 
a corrugated-iron roof would show up among the sur- 
rounding greenery, and a little wharf, or " tenda," as 
they call them here, would jut out into the stream. 
These tendas are frail-looking structures built of the 
split poles of the rhon palm. There seem to be as 
many varieties of palm as there are of eucalyptus, all 
much alike to the uninitiated eye. 

The tendas look as if they were only meant to 
be walked on by bare feet — certainly very few of 
the feet rise beyond a loose slipper ; and whether it 
was blazing noonday or pitchy darkness only made 
visible by a couple of hurricane lanterns of one candle- 
power, the tenda was crowded with people come to 
see the arrival of the steamer, which is a White- Star 
liner or a Cunarder to them — people in cast-off 
European clothing and the ubiquitous tourist cap, 
Moslems in fez and flowing white or blue robes, 
mammies with gaily coloured handkerchiefs bound 
round their heads and still gayer skirts and cloths, 
little children clad in one garment or no garments at 
all, beautiful grey donkeys that carry the ground- 
nuts or the trade goods, fawn-coloured country cattle, 
and goats and sheep, black, white, and brown — and 
every living creature upon that tenda did his little 
best towards the raising of a most unholy din. And 
the steamer was not to be beaten. Jolloff and Man- 
dingo too was shrieked ; the captain took a point of 
vantage, shook his black fist at intervals, and added 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 31 

his quota of curses in Jolloff, Mandingo, Senegalese, 
and broken French and English, and the cargo was 
unloaded with a clatter, clatter, punctuated by ear- 
piercing yells that made one wonder if the slaving 
days had not come back, and these lumpers were not 
shrieking in agony. 

But, when I could understand, the remarks were 
harmless enough. What the black man says to his 
friends and acquaintances when he speaks in his own 
tongue I cannot say, but when he addresses them in 
English I can vouch for it his conversation is banal 
to the last degree. In the general din I catch some 
words I understand, and I listen. 

" Ah, Mr Jonsing, dat you, sah ? How you do, 
sah ? " Mr Jonsing's health is quite satisfactory ; 
and Mrs Jonsing, and Miss Mabel, and Miss Gladys, 
and Mr Edward were all apparently in perfect health, 
for they were inquired after one by one at the top of 
the interested friend's voice. Then there were many 
wishes for the continuance of the interesting family in 
this happy state, and afterwards there was an excur- 
sion into wider realms of thought. 

" You 'member dat t'ing you deny las' mont', sah ? " 
The question comes tentatively. 

" I deny it dis mont', sah," Mr Jonsing answers 
promptly, which is, so far, satisfactory, as showing 
that Mr Jonsing has at least a mind of his own, and 
is not to be bounced into lightly changing it. I might 
have heard more, and so gleaned some information 
into the inner life of these people, but unfortunately 
Mr Jonsing now got in the way of the stalwart 
captain, and being assisted somewhat ungently by 
the collar of his ragged shirt to the tenda, he 
launched out into curses that were rude, to put it 



32 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

mildly, and my knowledge of his family affairs came 
to an abrupt conclusion. 

In the breaks in the mangrove, Balanghar is one 
of them, there is, of course, a little hard earth — the 
great shady ficus elasticus, beautiful silk-cotton trees, 
and cocoa-nut palms grow; the traders' yards have 
white stone posts at the four corners marking the 
extent of their leaseholds, and in these enclosures 
are the trading-houses, the round huts of the native 
helpers, and the little crinted yards, in which are 
poured the groundnuts, which are the occasion of all 
this clatter. 

One hundred and fifty miles up we came to 
M'Carthy Island, five miles long by a mile wide, and 
markedly noticeable because here the great river 
changes its character entirely, the mangrove swamps 
are left behind, and open bush of mahogany, palm, 
and many another tree and creeper, to me nameless, 
takes its place. On M'Carthy Island is a busy settle- 
ment, with the town marked into streets, lined with 
native shops and trading-houses. There are great 
groundnut stores along the river front, seven, or 
perhaps eight white people, a church, a hospital, 
obsolete guns, and an old powder magazine, that 
shows that in days gone by this island was only held 
by force of arms. 

They tell me that M'Carthy Island is one of the 
hottest places in the world, though that morning the 
river had been veiled in white mist, the thermometer 
was down to between 50 and 6o°, and my boy 
had brought in my early-morning tea with his head 
tied up in a pocket-handkerchief like an old woman ; 
and at midday it was but little over 90 , but this 
was December, the coolest season of the year. I dis- 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 33 

cussed the question with a negro lady with her head 
bound up in a red-silk handkerchief. She was one of 
our passengers, and had come up trading in kola- 
nuts. Kola-nuts are hard, corner-shaped nuts that 
grow on a very handsome tree about the size of an 
oak, which means a small tree in Africa. They are 
much esteemed for their stimulating and sustaining 
properties. I have tried them, and I found them only 
bitter, so perhaps I do not want stimulating. A 
tremendous trade is done in them, and all along the 
coast you meet the traders, very often, as in this 
case, women. I had seen it in her eye for some time 
that she wanted to exchange ideas with me, and at 
last the opportunity came. She told me she came 
from Sierra Leone. 

'You know Freetown?" That is the capital. I 
said I had heard it was the hottest place in the world. 

" Pooh ! " She tossed her head in scorn. " You 
wait two mont's ; it be fool to M'Cart'y ! You gat no 
rest, no sleep " ; and she showed her white teeth and 
stretched out her black hands as if to say that no 
words of hers could do justice to this island. 

Truly, I think the sun must pour down here in the 
hot season, judging by my experience in the cool. 
The hot season is not in June, as one might expect, 
for then come the rains, when no white man, and, 
indeed, I think no black man foreign to the place, 
stays up the river, but in March and April. I do 
not propose to visit McCarthy in the hot season. In 
the cool the blazing sun overhead, and the reflected 
glare from the water, played havoc with my com- 
plexion. I did not think about it till the District 
Commissioner brought the fact forcibly home to me. 
He was a nice young fellow, but the sort of man who 

c 



34 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

is ruin to England as a colonising nation, because he 
makes it so patent to everyone that he bitterly resents 
colonising on his own account, and will allow no 
good in the country wherein lies his work. 

I asked him if he did not think of bringing out his 
wife. 

He looked at me a moment, seeking words to show 
his opinion of a woman who insisted upon going 
where he thought no white woman was needed. 

" My wife," he said, with emphasis that marked 
his surprise ; " my wife ? Why, my wife has such a 
delicate complexion that she has to wash her face 
always in distilled water." 

It was sufficient. I understood when I looked in 
the glass that night the reproof intended to be con- 
veyed. In all probability the lady was not quite such 
a fool as her husband intimated ; but one thing is 
quite certain, she was buying her complexion at a 
very heavy cost if she were going to allow it to 
deprive her of the joy of seeing new countries. 

M'Carthy was very busy ; dainty cutters, frail 
canoes, and grimy steamers crowded the wharves, 
and to and fro across the great river, 500 yards wide 
here, the ferry, a great canoe, went backwards and 
forwards the livelong day, and I could just see 
gathered together herds of the pretty cattle of the 
country that looked not unlike Alderneys. 

When we left the island the river was narrower, so 
that we seemed to glide along between green walls, 
where the birds were singing and the monkeys bark- 
ing and crying and whimpering like children. Again 
and again we passed trees full of them, sometimes 
little grey monkeys, and sometimes great dog-faced 
fellows that rumour says would tear you to pieces if 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 35 

you offended them and had the misfortune to fall 
into their hands. Now and then a hippopotamus rose, 
a reminder of an age that has gone by, and always 
on the mud-banks were the great crocodiles. And 
the trading-stations were, I think, more solitary and 
more picturesque. The little tendas were even more 
frail, just rickety little structures covered with a mat 
of crinting, for the river rises here very high, and 
these wharves are sure to be carried away in the rainy 
season. And then come hills, iron-stone hills, and 
tall, dry grass ten and twelve feet high. Sometimes 
we stopped where there was not even the frailest of 
tendas, and one night, just as the swift darkness was 
falling, the steamer drew up at a little muddy landing- 
stage, where there was a break in the trees, and three 
dugouts were drawn up. Here she became wildly 
hysterical, and I began to think something would 
give way, until all shrieks died down as a tall black 
man, draped in blue, and with a long Dane gun 
across his shoulder, stalked out of the bush. Savage 
Africa personified. We had stopped to land a pas- 
senger, a mammy with her head tied up in a hand- 
kerchief, and a motley array of boxes, bundles, 
calabashes, chairs, saucepans, and fowls that made a 
small boat-load. She waved a farewell to the French 
trader as her friends congregated upon the shore and 
examined her baggage. 

" She is an important woman," said he ; " the wife 
of a black trader in the town behind there. He's a 
Christian." 

" He's got a dozen wives," said the Commissioner. 

" His official wife, then. Oh, you know the sort. 
I guarantee she keeps order in the compound." 

At Fatta Tenda, which is quite a busy centre, from 



36 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

which you may start for the Niger and Timbuctoo, 
we gave a dinner-party, a dinner-party under diffi- 
culties. Our cook was excellent. How he turned 
out such dainties in a tiny galley three feet by six, 
and most of that taken up by the stove, I do not 
pretend to understand, but he did, so our difficulties 
lay not there, but with the lamp. What was the 
matter with it I do not know, but it gave a shocking 
light, and the night before our dinner-party it went 
out, and left us to finish our dinner in darkness. 
Then, next day, word went round that the mate 
was going to trim the lamp, and when we, with two 
men from the French factory, went into dinner, an 
unwonted light shed its brilliancy over the scene. 
Unfortunately, there was also a strong scent of 
kerosene, which is not usually considered a very 
alluring fragrance. But we consoled ourselves ; the 
mate had trimmed the lamp. He had. He had also 
distributed most of the oil over the dinner-table — the 
cloth was soaked in it, and, worse than that, the salt, 
pepper, and mustard were full of it; and then, as we 
sat down to soup, there came in through the open 
windows a flight, I should say several flights, of flying 
ants. They died in crowds in the soup, they filled 
up the glasses, they distributed themselves over the 
kerosene-soaked table, till at last we gave them best 
and fled to the deck. Finally the servants reduced 
things to a modified state of order, but whenever I 
smell a strong smell of kerosene I am irresistibly 
reminded of the day we tried to foregather with our 
kind, and be hospitable up the Gambia. 

There were some Mandingo chiefs here. Bala, 
Chief of Kantora, and Jimbermang Jowlah, the local 
Chief, came to call. Bala dashed up on horseback, 




\ 1£ 

BALA, CHIEF OF KANTORA. 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 37 

with a large following, to complain that there was 
trouble on the Border, for the French had come in 
and said that his town should pay a poll tax of 500 
dollars. He ranged all his horses, with their high 
cantled saddles and their heavy iron stirrups, on the 
steep, red bank, and he and his chief man came on 
board the little steamer to talk to the Commissioner. 
They made a quaint picture — the fair, good-looking 
Commissioner, with his boyish face grave, as suited 
the occasion, and the Chief, a warrior and a gentle- 
man, as unlike Mr Jonsing in his tourist cap as the 
Gambia is unlike the Thames at Wapping. The 
Commissioner wore a blue-striped shirt and riding 
breeches, and the Chief was clad all in blue of 
different shades ; there was a sort of underskirt to his 
knees of dark-blue cotton patterned in white, over 
that was a pale-blue tunic, through which came his 
bare arms, and over that again a voluminous dark- 
blue cotton garment, caught in at the waist with 
a girdle, from which depended a very handsome 
sporran of red leather picked out in yellow ; on his 
bare feet were strapped spurs, a spur with a single 
point to it like a nail. He had a handsome, clean-cut 
face, his shaven head was bared out of courtesy, and 
at his feet lay his headgear, a blue-velvet cap, with 
a golden star and crescent embroidered upon it, and 
a great round straw hat adorned with red leather 
such as the Hausas farther east make. He was a 
chief, every inch of him. And his manners were 
those of a courtly gentleman too. He did not screech 
and howl like the men on the wharf, though he was 
manifestly troubled and desperately in earnest; but, 
sitting there on the deck of the little steamer, with the 
various odds and ends of life scattered around him, 



38 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

he stated his case, through an interpreter, to the 
young Commissioner seated on the hen-coop and 
taking down every word. When it was done he was 
assured that the Governor should be told all about 
it, and now rose with an air of intense relief. He 
had thrown his burden on responsible shoulders, and 
had time to think about the white woman who was 
looking on. He had seen white men before, quite a 
number, but never had he seen a white woman, and 
so he turned and looked at me gravely, with not half 
the rude curiosity with which I felt I had been 
steadily regarding him. I should like to have been 
a white woman worth looking at, instead of which I 
was horribly conscious that the coal dust was in my 
hair, that my hands had but recently grasped the 
greasy handrail of those steps across the boiler, and 
that my skirts had picked up most of the multifarious 
messes that were to be gathered there and on the 
unclean deck. There is no doubt skirts should not 
come much below the knees in the bush. 

"He wishes to make his compliments to you," 
said the interpreter, and the grave and silent Chief, 
with a little, low murmur, took my hand in both his 
delicate, cold, black ones, held it for a moment with 
his head just a little bent, and then went his way, 
and I felt I had been complimented indeed. 

The chief of Kantora, having done all he came to 
do, swam his horses across the river, trusting, I 
suppose, to the noise made by his numerous followers 
to scare away the crocodiles, and we went up the 
river to Kossun, which is within two miles of Yarba 
Tenda, where the British river ends. At Kossun 
there is a French factory only, and that managed by 
a black man, and here are the very beginnings of the 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 39 

groundnut trade. All around was vivid green — green 
on the bank, green reflected in the clear waters of the 
river ; the sun was only just rising, the air was cool, 
and grey mists like a bridal veil rent with golden 
beams lay across the water ; only by the factory was 
a patch of brown, enhancing the greenery that was 
all around it. 

The groundnut grows on a vine, and behind the 
factory this was all garnered into great heaps, and 
surrounded by crinted fences until time should be 
found to comb out the nuts. In the empty fields shy 
women, who dared not lift their faces to look at the 
strange, white woman, were gleaning, and the little, 
naked children were frankly afraid, and ran shriek- 
ing from the horrid sight. And just behind the factory 
were little enclosures of neatly plaited straw, and 
each of these contained a man's crop ready waiting 
to be valued and bought by the trader. Kossun was 
the only place where I saw the nuts as they belonged 
to the grower. All along the river there were heaps 
of them, looking like young mountains, but all these 
heaps were trader's property. At Nianimaroo, on 
the lower river, I saw a heap, which the pleased pro- 
prietor told me was worth ^"iooo. He apparently 
had finished his heap, and was waiting to send it 
down the river, but everywhere else men, picturesque 
in fluttering rags or grotesque in cast-off European 
garments, were bringing calabashes and sacks of 
groundnuts to add to the heaps ; and, since they can- 
not walk on the yielding nuts, which are like so many 
pebbles under their bare feet, little board ladders or 
steps of filled sacks were placed for them to run up. 
And no sooner were the heaps piled up than they 
had to be dug out again. 



40 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

At Fatta Tenda, on the way down, having got rid 
of her cargo and her deck passengers, the Mungo 
Park began to load again with groundnuts ; and 
men were busy through all the burning hot midday 
digging into the groundnut heap, filling up sacks, and 
as the sacks were filled stalwart, half-naked black 
men, like a line of ants, tramped laden down the 
steep bank and poured their loads into the steamer's 
hold in a cloud of gritty dust that penetrated every- 
where. The trader told me that when he wanted 
labourers he appealed to one of the principal men 
who live in the town a mile or so behind the wharf, 
and he sent in his " family," who are paid at the rate 
of a shilling a day. It is very, very doubtful whether 
much of that shilling ever reaches the man who actu- 
ally does the hard work. Things move slowly in 
the Gambia as in all Africa, and " family " is prob- 
ably a euphonious term for household slave. After 
all, it is possibly only like the system of serfdom 
that existed in Europe in days gone by and will 
not exist very long here, for knowledge is coming, 
though it comes slowly, and with wealth pouring 
into the country and a Commissioner to appeal to in 
cases of oppression the black man will presently free 
himself. Even the women are already beginning 
to understand the difference. The morals of the 
country, be it remembered, are the primitive morals 
of a primitive people. A man may have four legal 
wives by Mohammedan law. He may have ever so 
many concubines, who add to his dignity ; and then, 
if he is a big man — this was vouched for by the offi- 
cial native interpreter, who joined his Commissioner 
at M'Carthy — he has ever so many more women in 
his household, and these he expects to have children. 




pi. 

; |vi ^ 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 41 

It is their business and he sees that they do it, and the 
children belong to him no matter who is the father. 
Children, it will be seen, are an asset, and the woman 
is now beginning to understand that the children 
are hers alone, and again and again a troubled 
woman, angry and tearful, walks miles to appeal to 
the travelling Commissioner, such and such a man, 
her master has taken away her children and she has 
heard that the great white master will restore them 
to her. And in most cases the great white master, 
who has probably a laughing, round, boyish face, 
fancies he has not a desire above good shooting, and 
speaks of the country as " poisonous," does all that 
is expected of him and often a good deal more also. 
And yet, only ten years ago, they were very doubt- 
ful still about the white man's protectorate in the 
Gambia, as graves in the Bathurst cemetery testify. 
Then was the last rising, when the district of San- 
nian Kunta was very disaffected, and two Commis- 
sioners, Mr Sitwell and Mr Silva, were sent with 
twelve native police to put matters straight. After 
the wont of the English, they despised their enemy 
and marched into a hostile village with the ammuni- 
tion boxes screwed down, sat themselves down under 
a tree, and called on the Chief and village elders to 
come up before them. But the chief and elders did 
no such thing. Hidden in the surrounding bush, 
they replied with a volley from their long Danes, 
killing both the Commissioners and most of the 
policemen, but one escaping got away to the next 
Commissioner, a young fellow named Price. Now, 
Mr Price had only four policemen, but he was by no 
means sure of the death of his comrades, so promptly 
he sent off to headquarters for help, and without 



42 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

delay marched back to the disaffected village. The 
white men were dead and shockingly mutilated, but 
with his four faithful policemen he brought their 
remains back for decent burial. He did not know 
what moment he might not be attacked. He had 
before him as object lessons in savage warfare the 
dead bodies of his comrades. He had to march 
through thick bush, and they say at the end of that 
day's work young Mr Price's hair turned white. 
Punishment came, of course. Six months later the 
new Governor, Sir George Denton, with a com- 
pany of W.A.F.F.'s — West African Field Force — 
marched to that disaffected village ; the chief was de- 
posed and exiled, and peace has reigned ever since. 

And now much farther away from Bathurst a 
woman may go through the country by herself in 
perfect safety. All the towns are still from one to 
four miles back from the tenda, away in the bush, 
from the old-time notion I suppose that there was 
danger to be dreaded by the great waterway, and 
early in the morning I used to take the narrow track 
through the long grass which was many feet above 
my head, and go and see primitive native life. 

Up at the head of the river our steamer filled 
rapidly. When our holds were full the groundnuts 
were put in sacks and piled on the decks fore and aft, 
half-way up the masts, almost to the tops of the fun- 
nels, and the only place that was not groundnuts was 
the little cabin and the deck on top. There were ,£600 
worth of groundnuts on board the Alungo Park, 
and we stowed on top of them passengers, men and 
women, and all their multifarious belongings, and then 
proceeded to pick up lighters also laden with ground- 
nuts bound down the river. 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 43 

Towards the evening of the second day of our home- 
ward journey we came to a big creek down which 
was being poled by six men a red lighter, deep in 
the water and laden to the very brim with ground- 
nuts. This the steamer was to tow behind. But 
it was not as simple as it sounds. The heavily 
laden lighter drifted first to one side and then to the 
other and threatened to fill, and the Commissioner's 
interpreter, sitting on deck, told me a long story of 
how here in the river there is a devil that will not 
allow a steamer or a cutter to go past unless the 
owner dances to placate him. If he do not care to 
dance himself he must pay someone else to dance 
for him. Unless someone dances, the engines may 
work, the sails may fill, but that vessel will not go 
ahead till the river devil has his toll. No one 
danced on board the Alungo Park, unless the 
black captain's prancing about and shaking his fist 
and shouting what sounded like blood-curdling 
threats at the skipper of the lighter might be con- 
strued into dancing. If so, it had not the desired 
effect, for the heavy lighter wouldn't steer, and pres- 
ently the captain decided to tow it alongside. The 
darkness fell ; all around us was the wide, weird, 
dark river, with the green starboard light just fall- 
ing upon the mast of the lighter alongside, and for a 
few brief moments there was silence and peace, for 
the lighter was towing all right at last. Then the 
mast bent forward suddenly, there was a stifled, 
strangled cry, the captain gave a wild yell, the en- 
gines were stopped, and there was no more lighter, 
only the smooth dark water was rough with floating 
groundnuts and the river devil had taken his toll. 
Five of the crew had jumped for the Mungo 



44 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Park and reached her, but the sixth, a tall Man- 
dingo, wrapped in a blue cloth, had gone down a prey 
for the wicked crocodiles or the cruel, strong under- 
currents. They launched a boat and we felt our im- 
potence and the vastness of the river, for they only 
had a hurricane lantern and it looked but a tiny 
speck on the waste of dark waters. The boat went 
up and down flashing its feeble light. Here was a 
patch of groundnuts, here a floating calabash, here 
a cloth, but the lighter and the man were gone, and 
we went on our way, easily enough now, because, of 
course, the steamer had paid toll. 

There are the beginnings, it seems to me, in the 
groundnut trade of the Gambia, of what may be in 
the future a very great industry. True, the value of 
the groundnut is regulated by the price of cotton-seed 
oil, for which the oil pressed from the groundnut 
makes a very excellent substitute. Last year the 
Gambia's groundnuts, the harvest of the simplest, 
most ignorant peasants but one remove from sav- 
agery, was worth between ,£500,000 and ,£600,000, 
and not one-twentieth of the soil was cultivated, but 
the colony's existence was fairly justified. The greater 
part of this crop goes into French hands and is ex- 
ported to Marseilles, where it is made into the finer 
sorts of soap. What wonder then if the French cast 
longing eyes upon the mighty river, for not only is 
the land around it rich, but they have spent large 
sums upon railways for their great colony of Senegal, 
and had they the Gambia as well they would have 
water carriage for both their imports and exports 
even in the dry season, and in the rains they could 
bring their heavy goods far far inland. 

I realised all this as I came back to Bathurst with 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 45 

the dust from the groundnuts in my hair and eyes 
and nostrils, and dresses that had not been worn an 
hour before they were shrieking for the washtub. 
But what did a little discomfort matter? 

I returned in time for the Christmas and New- 
Year festivities. On Christmas night all the English 
in the colony dined at Government House to cele- 
brate the festival. Exiles all, they would have said. 
I have been told that I judge the English in West 
Africa a little hardly, and of course I realise all 
the bitterness of divided homes, especially at this 
season that should be one of family reunions. 
But after all the English make their life in West 
Africa far harder than they need. Dimly I saw this 
on my visit to the Gambia ; slowly the feeling grew 
upon me till, when I left the Coast eight months 
later, I was fully convinced that if England is to hold 
her pride of place as a colonising nation with the 
French and Germans, she must make less of this 
exile theory and more of a home in these outlands. 
The doctors tell me this is impossible, and of course 
I must bow to the doctors' opinion, but it is saying 
in effect — which I will not allow for a moment — that 
the French and Germans — and especially the French 
and German women — are far better than the English. 

Here in the Gambia I began to think it, and the 
fact was driven in more emphatically as I went down 
the Coast. The Englishman makes great moan, 
but after all he holds a position in West Africa the 
like of which he could not dream of in England. He 
is the superior, the ruler ; men bow down before him 
and rush to do his bidding — he who would have a 
suburban house and two maid-servants in the old 
country, lives in barbaric splendour. Of course it is 



46 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

quite possible he prefers the suburban house and 
two maid-servants and his wife. And there, of 
course, the crux of the matter lies. Why, I know 
not, but English women are regarded as heroines 
and martyrs who go out to West Africa with their 
husbands. Possibly it is because I am an Australian 
and have had a harder bringing-up that I resent 
very much the supposition that a woman cannot go 
where a man can. From the time I was a little girl 
I have seen women go as a matter of course to the 
back-blocks with their husbands, and if, barring a 
few exceptions, they did not stay there, we all sup- 
posed not that it was the country that did not agree 
with them, but the husband. We all know there 
are husbands and wives who do not agree. And I 
can assure you, for I know both, life in the back- 
blocks in Australia, life in many of the towns of 
Australia, with its heat and its want of service, is 
far harder for a woman than it is in West Africa. 
Yet here in the Gambia and all along the Coast was 
the same eternal cry wherever there was a woman, 
" How long can she stay? " 

The difference between the French and the Eng- 
lish views on this vexed question was exemplified 
by the Commissioner's view and the French trader's. 
I have already given the former. Said the latter, " Of 
course my wife will come out. Why should she not. 
She is just waiting till the baby is a month old. 
What is the good of a wife to me in Paris? The 
rains? Of course she will stay the rains. It 
is only the English who are afraid of the rainy 
season." And I was sorry for the little con- 
tempt he put into his voice when he spoke of the 
English fear. I know this opinion of mine will 



THE GROUNDNUT COLONY 47 

bring down upon my devoted head a storm of wrath 
from West-Coast officials, but whether the Coast is 
healthy or not there is no denying the fact that the 
nation who takes its women is far more likely to hold 
a country, and in that the French and Germans are 
beating us hands down. 

But this I only realised dimly during my stay in 
the Gambia. I was to leave on New Year's Day 
and on New Year's Eve we all went to the barracks 
of the W.A.F.F.'s to see the New Year in. And 
then in the soft, warm night the Governor and I 
went back to Government House. The stars were 
like points of gold, the sky was like dark-blue velvet, 
and against it the graceful palms stood out like 
splashes of ink, the water washed softly against the 
shore, there was the ceaseless hum of insects in the 
air, and from the native town behind came a beating 
of tom-toms subdued by the distance. The sentry 
started out of the shadow at the gate as the rickshaws 
arrived, and there came his guttural hail, " Who 
goes dere ? " 

" Friend," said the Governor's voice. It was 
commonplace, everyday to him. 

" Pass friend and all's well," came the answer, 
and we went in and up the steps ; but surely, I 
thought, it was a very good omen, a very good omen 
indeed. " Pass friend and all's well." I was leav- 
ing that day that had not yet dawned ; I was going 
down the Coast and all should be well. 



CHAPTER III 

THE WHITE MAN'S GRAVE? 

The origin of Sierra Leone — The difficulties of disposing of freed 
slaves — One of the beauty-spots of the earth — Is it possible 
that in the future, like Jamaica, it may be a health-resort? — 
Zachary Macauley's views — Few women in Freetown — 
Sanitary matters taken out of the hands of the Town 
Council and vested in a sanitary officer — Marked improve- 
ment in cleanliness and health of the town — A remarkable 
man of colour — Extraordinary language of the Creole — Want 
of taste in dress when they ape the European — Mrs Abraham 
Freeman at home. 

I had no intention of going to Sierra Leone, but 
in West Africa as yet you make your way from one 
place to another along the sea-board, and not only 
did Sierra Leone lie directly on my way, but the 
steamer, the Zaria, in which I was travelling, stayed 
there for four days. 

In the old days, a little over one hundred years ago, 
England, successfully policing the world, was put- 
ting down the iniquitous slave-trade all along the 
coasts of Africa, and found herself with numbers of 
black and helpless men, women, and children upon 
her hands. They had been collected from all parts 
of the Coast ; they themselves often did not know 
where their homes lay, and the problem — quite a diffi- 
cult one — was to know what to do with them. To 
land them promiscuously on the Coast was to seal 

48 



THE WHITE MANS GRAVE? 49 

their fate ; either they would be killed or at the very 
best they would at once relapse into the condition 
from which they had been rescued. In this dilemma 
England did perhaps the only thing she could do. 
She bought from the chiefs a strip of land round the 
mouth of a river and landed there her somewhat 
troublesome charges to make for themselves, if they 
could, a home. Of course she did not leave them 
to their own devices ; to do that would have been to 
insure their destruction at the hands of the Mendi 
and Timini war-boys, but she planted there a Gover- 
nor and some soldiers, and made such provision as 
she could for the future of these forlorn people. Then 
the colony was but a little strip of land. It is but 
a small place still, but the British Protectorate now 
takes in those warlike Timinis and Mendis, and ex- 
tends some hundreds of miles inland and as far south 
as the negro republic of Liberia, which I was on my 
way to visit. 

I don't know who chose Sierra Leone, but who- 
ever he was the choice does him infinite credit. It 
is the most beautiful spot on all the west coast of 
Africa. I have seen many of the beautiful harbours 
of the world, Sydney, and Dunedin, and Hobart, 
which to my mind is the most beautiful of them all, 
Cape Town, and Naples, and Vigo, Genoa, Palermo, 
Messina, and lovely Taormina, which after all is not 
a harbour. I know them intimately, and with any 
of these Sierra Leone can hold her own. We entered 
the mouth of the river, passed the lighthouse, a tall, 
white building nestling among the palms, and all 
along the shore were entrancing little green bays, 
with green lawns. They looked like lawns from the 
ship, shaded by over-hanging trees. The blue sea 

D 



50 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

met softly the golden sands, and the hills behind 
were veiled in a most alluring mist. It lifted and 
closed down and lifted again, like a bride longing- 
yet fearing to disclose her loveliness to her lord. 
Here it seemed to me that a man might, when the 
feverish heat of youth is passed, build himself a 
home and pass the evening of his days resting from 
his labours ; but I am bound to say I was the only 
person on board who did think so. One and 
all were determined to impress upon me the fact 
that Sierra Leone was known as the White Man's 
Grave, and that it deserved the name. And 
yet Zachary Macauley, who ruled over it in the 
end of the eighteenth century, staunchly upheld its 
advantages. I do not know that he exactly recom- 
mends it as a health-resort, but something very near 
to it, and he is very angry when anyone reviles the 
country. Zachary Macauley was probably right. If 
a man is not prepared to stand a certain amount 
of heat he must not go to the Coast at all ; and if he 
does go he must be prepared so to guide his life that 
it is possible to conform to the rules of health de- 
manded of the white man in the Tropics. If he looks 
for the pleasures and delights of England and her 
temperate climate, he will find himself bitterly dis- 
appointed, but if he seeks for what Africa can give, 
and give with lavish hand, he will probably find 
that the country will treat him well. 

We cast anchor opposite the town appropriately 
named Freetown, and I landed, presented my 
letter, and was asked by the kindly Governor to stay 
for a few days at Government House. 

The majority of the Europeans, with the exception 
of the Governor, do not live in Freetown. They 



THE WHITE MANS GRAVE? 51 

have wisely built their bungalows on the healthier 
hillsides, and I suppose as the colony increases in 
importance the Governor will go too ; but I am glad 
when I was there he was still at Fort Thornton. 

Of the history of the fort I know nothing. The 
bungalow is raised on thick stone walls, and 
you go up steps to the dwelling-house, past great 
rooms that are railed off with iron bars. There are 
ornamental plants there now, but there is no dis- 
guising the fact these are evidently relics of old 
slave days ; I presume the barracoons of the slaves. 
But behind the one-time courtyard is filled up and 
sown with Bahama grass kept close-cropped and 
green, so that croquet and bowls may be played 
upon it. The bastions are now embowered in all 
manner of tropical greenery, and the great guns, the 
guns that Zachary Macauley used against the French 
privateers, peep out from a tangle of purple bougain- 
villea, scarlet hibiscus, fragrant frangipanni, and 
glorious white moon flowers. 

There are white women in Freetown, not very 
many, but still fifteen or sixteen — the wives of the 
soldiers, of the political officers, medical officers, and 
the traders, and their number is growing, so that 
when the Governor gives a garden-party, the lawn 
that was once the courtyard of the fort is gay with 
bright muslin dresses, ribbons, and flowers. They 
seemed to like it too, those to whom I spoke, and 
there is no doubt that the place is improving from 
a health point of view. Until within the last two or 
three years the management of sanitary affairs was 
in the hands of the Town Council, of whom a large 
number were negroes, and the average negro is ex- 
tremely careless about things sanitary ; at last, so 



52 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

evil a reputation did the most beautiful town on the 
Coast get that it was found necessary to vest all 
power in the hands of a strong and capable medical 
officer, and make him responsible for the cleanliness 
of the town. The result, I believe, has more than 
justified all hopes. Perhaps some day the town 
may be as healthy as it is beautiful. 

But I really know very little about Sierra Leone. 
I intended to come back and go up the railway that 
goes a couple of hundred miles up country, but as 
yet I have not had time, and all I can speak about 
with authority is its exceeding beauty. The streets 
are wide and rather grass-grown, for it is difficult 
to keep down vegetation in a moist and tropical 
climate, and I am glad to say there are, though the 
town is by no means well-planted, some beautiful 
trees to be seen. Government House is em- 
bowered in verdure, and the first station on the rail- 
way that runs up to the hill-top is " Cotton-tree." 

And the dwellers in this earthly paradise ? Know- 
ing their pathetic and curious history I was anxious 
to see this people sprung from men and women 
gathered from all corners of Africa, unfortunate and 
unhappy. 

Frankly, I share with the majority of Coasters a 
certain dislike to the educated negro. But many of 
the men I like best, the men whose opinion I have 
found well worth taking about things West-African, 
tell me I am wrong. You cannot expect to come 
up from savagery in a few decades, and the thing I 
dislike so in the negro clerk is but a phase that will 
pass. Here in Sierra Leone I met one man who 
made me feel that it would pass, that the time will 
come when the colour of the skin will make no differ- 



THE WHITE MANS GRAVE? 53 

ence, and that is the African known to all the world 
as Dr Blyden. He is an old man now and he was 
ill, so I went to see him ; and as I sat and talked to 
him one still, hot evening, looking down the busy 
street where men and women in all stages of dress 
and undress were passing to and fro, carrying bur- 
dens on their heads, shrieking and shouting at 
one another in the unintelligible jargon they call 
English, had I not looked and seen for myself that 
his complexion was the shadowed livery of the bur- 
nished sun, I should have thought I was talking to 
some professor of one of the older Universities of 
England. His speech was measured and culti- 
vated and there was no trace in it of that indescrib- 
able pompous intonation which seems peculiar to the 
educated black man. He gave me good advice, too. 

"What shall I write about?" I asked, and half- 
expected him to enter into a long dissertation upon 
the possibilities that lay latent in his race. But I 
might have known this man, who had conquered 
more difficulties on his way upwards than ever I had 
dreamed about, better than that. 

" Write about what you see," said he. " And if 
you do not understand what you see then ask until 
you do." 

So I have taken his advice and I write about what 
I have seen, and though afterwards I found reason 
to like much the peasant peoples of West Africa, I 
did not like the Creoles, as these descendants of 
freed slaves call themselves. Do I judge them 
hardly, I wonder? If so, I judge only as all the 
West Coast judges. They are a singularly arro- 
gant people, blatant and self-satisfied, and much dis- 
liked along the Coast from the Gambia to San Paul 



54 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

de Loando. But they have taken advantage of the 
peace which England has ensured to them, and are 
prosperous. Traders and town-dwellers are they if 
they can manage it, and they pursue their avocations 
up and down the Coast. A curious thing about 
them is their language. If you ask them they would 
tell you it is English, and they would tell you they 
know no other; and English it is, as to the words, 
but such an extraordinary jargon it is quite as diffi- 
cult to understand as any unknown tongue. Yet it 
is the peculiar bastard tongue that is spoken all over 
the Coast. Many who speak it as the only means of 
communication between them and their boys must 
have wondered how such a jargon ever came into 
existence, and it was not till Mr Migeod wrote his 
book on the languages of West Africa that anyone 
in fact ever thought of classing it as a separate 
language. But once pointed out, the fact is un- 
doubted. Sierra Leonese is simply English spoken 
with a negro construction. 

Listening very carefully, it took a great deal of 
persuasion to make me believe the words were 
English. When I bought bananas from a woman sit- 
ting under the shade of a spreading cotton tree and 
the man behind her came forward and held out his 
hand, saying : " Make you gi'e me heen ooman 
coppa all," I grasped the fact that he intended to 
have the money long before I understood that he 
had said, in the only English, the only tongue he 
knew: "Give me her money," even though I did 
know that " coppa " stood for money. Some of the 
words, of course, become commonplaces of everyday 
life, and I am sure the next time I call on a friend, 
who is rich enough to have a man-servant, associa- 



THE WHITE MANS GRAVE? 55 

tion of ideas will take me back, and I shall ask quite 
naturally, " Massa lib ? " instead of the customary 
" Is Mrs Jones at home ? " Of course, in the case 
of Mrs Jones it would be " Missus," but it was gener- 
ally a master I was inquiring for in Africa. 

Sunday or some high holiday is the day to see 
Freetown in its best clothes. Then the black 
gentleman appears in all the glory of a tall, black- 
silk hat, a frock coat, a highly starched waistcoat, 
the gayest of ties, scarlet or pink, the palest of dove- 
coloured trousers, and bright-yellow kid gloves ; and 
the negro woman hides her fine figure with ill-fitting 
corsets, over which she wears an open-work muslin 
blouse, through which her dark skin shows a dull 
purple. Of all the places in Africa to transgress the 
laws of beauty and art Freetown is the very worst, and 
if ever a people tried their best to hide their own 
charms it is the Creoles of Sierra Leone. It would 
be comic if it were not pathetic. And yet, that these 
clothes are not part and parcel of the lives of these 
children near bred to the sun is promptly seen if 
a shower of rain comes on. In a lightning flash 
I saw a damsel, who might have come out of 
Fulham Road, or, at the very least, Edgeware Road, 
strip off the most perishable of her precious 
finery, do them up in a neat parcel that would carry 
easily under her umbrella, and serenely and unem- 
barrassed march home in her white chemise and red 
petticoat. And she seemed to think as she passed 
me smiling she was doing the only right and proper 
thing to be done ; as indeed she was. 

I was a seeker after knowledge while I was in 
Freetown, and was always anxious to go anywhere 
and everywhere if a reason could be possibly con- 



56 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

trived, so it happened that on one occasion I went 
to Lumley in search of fish. Lumley is a little vil- 
lage in the environ of Freetown, and the fish was to 
be bought from one Abraham Freeman, who dwelt 
at the side of the lagoon there. I went in a ham- 
mock, of course, and the way was lovely, up hill and 
down dale, through country that looked like a gi- 
gantic greenhouse run wild. The village was mostly 
built of mud with thatched roofs, but sometimes the 
houses were of wood, and the upper parts very wisely 
of trellis-work so as to insure a free current of air. 
When I arrived I looked round and told my ham- 
mock-boys to set me down at a cottage where a negro 
clad in a white shirt and trousers was lolling in a 
hammock. He did not scream at the scenery. He 
was rather suitably clad, I thought. It seemed he 
was the schoolmaster and a person of authority in 
the place. 

" Can you tell me where Abraham Freeman 
lives ? " I asked. 

He corrected me gently but decidedly in his 
pompous English. 

" Mr Freeman's abode is a little farther on by 
the lagoon. I believe Mr Freeman is absent in 
his boat, but Mrs Freeman is at home and will 
receive you." 

So we went on a little farther through the tangle 
of greenery till the waters of the lagoon showed up. 
A dried mud-shack, thatched with palm leaves, stood 
between the row of cocoa-nut palms that fringed the 
lagoon and the roadway, and there my hammock- 
boys set me down. 

" Dis Abraham Freeman's?" They were Timini 
and did not waste their breath on titles for a Creole, 



THE WHITE MANS GRAVE? 57 

whom they would have eaten up save for the pres- 
ence of the white man. 

I got out and a tall, skinny black woman clad in 
a narrow strip of blue cloth round her hips came for- 
ward to meet me. Nothing was left to the imagina- 
tion, and all her charms had long since departed. 
She hadn't even a handkerchief round her head, and 
the negro woman has lost all sense of vanity when 
she leaves her wool uncovered. Mrs Abraham 
Freeman was at home! My boys found a box for 
me to sit upon, and I contemplated Mrs Freeman 
and her family. Rebecca Freeman, about fifteen, 
was like a bronze statue so beautifully moulded was 
she ; she really did not need anything beyond the 
narrow T cloth at her hips, and being very justifiably 
vain she wore a gaily coloured silk turban. Elkanah 
Freeman, when he took off his coat to shin up a cocoa- 
nut palm, wore no shirt, was built like a Greek 
god ; and " my little gran'-darter, Deborah," stark 
but for a string of green beads round her middle, 
was a delightful little cuddlesome thing, but 
" my sistah Esther an' Mistah Freeman's sistah 
Elizabeth " were hideous, skinny, and withered 
old hags, and the little strips of cloth they wore did 
not hide much. Each had a stone between her 
bony knees, and on it was breaking up some small 
sort of shell-fish like periwinkles. I got Mrs Free- 
man to show me the inside of her house. It was 
just four windowless rooms with openings under the 
eaves for air, with walls of dried clay, and for all 
furniture two wooden couches heaped up with rags. 
Outside on three stones a pot was boiling, and I 
asked her what was in it and could not make out her 
answer till she pointed out three skinny pigs rooting 



58 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

among the unsavoury refuse of the yard, then I 
grasped she was saying " hog," and I was thankful 
I was not going to have any of that dinner. She 
begged from me on the score of her poverty, and 
in pity I gave her a shilling, and then the little 
grand-daughter was so winsome, she had to have a 
penny, and then the two poor old souls, cracking 
shell-fish and apparently done with all that makes 
life good for a woman, begged so piteously that they 
had to have something ; so, on the whole, it was 
rather an expensive visit, but it was well worth it 
to see Mrs Freeman " at home." 

But I don't know Sierra Leone. I speak of all 
the West Coast as a passer-by speaks of it ; but 
I know less of Sierra Leone than any other place I 
visited. Only it charmed me — I am going back 
some day soon if I can afford it — and I went on with 
regret to the negro republic. 



CHAPTER IV 

WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 

America's experiment in the way of nation-making — Exiles in 
their mothers' land — The forlorn little company on Providence 
Island — Difficulties of landing and finding accommodation — 
British Consul to the rescue — The path to the British Con- 
sulate and the Liberian College — An outrageously ill-kept 
town — " Lovely little homes up the river " — A stickler for 
propriety — Dress and want of dress — The little ignorant 
missionary girl — At prayer in Lower Buchanan — The failure 
of a race. 

No one on board the Zaria really believed I 
would land in Liberia. When I heard them talk I 
hardly believed it myself, and yet being there it 
seemed a pity not to see all I could see. The cap- 
tain and officers were strongly of opinion there was 
absolutely nothing to see whatever. If it was mad- 
ness for a woman to come alone to the Coast, it was 
stark-staring madness that almost needed restraining 
in a strait-waistcoat to think of landing in Liberia, 
for Liberia of all the countries along the Guinea 
Coast is the one most disliked by the sailors, most 
despised, and since I have been there I am inclined 
to say not without reason. For of course I did land ; 
I should have been ashamed of myself if I had not, 
and I spent the best part of a fortnight there, and 
thanks to the kindness of His Britannic Majesty's 
Consul spent it very comfortably indeed. 

Liberia is America's experiment in the way of 

59 



60 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

nation-making even as Sierra Leone is Great 
Britain's, and if I cannot praise the Creole of Sierra 
Leone I have still less admiration for his American 
cousin. 

In the second decade of the last century philan- 
thropists began to consider the future of the freed 
slave in the United States, and it was decided that it 
would be wisdom to transport him back to the conti- 
nent from which his forefathers came, and let him try 
there to put into practice the lessons he had learned 
in the art of civilisation. Bitter is the slur of black 
blood in the States ; bitter, bitter was it ninety years 
ago when the forlorn little company who were to 
found a civilised negro state first set foot on their 
mothers' land. America was but young among the 
nations in 1822, so she took no responsibility, made 
no effort to launch these forlorn people in their new 
venture, or to help them once they were launched. 
Their leader was a quadroon with a fine face if one 
may judge from the picture in Executive Mansion, 
Monrovia, and he dreamed I suppose of wiping away 
the slur, the unmerited slur which lay across him 
and all like him with dark blood in their veins. With 
the chain and with the lash had America enforced 
the stern law that by the sweat of his brow shall man 
live, and she had seen to it that the personal toil of the 
negro and all with negro blood in their veins profited 
them only after their taskmasters had been satisfied. 
They belonged to a degraded subject race ; no wonder 
they came back gladly, hopefully to the land from 
which certainly all their mothers had sprung. But 
it was no easy task they had before them. For a 
strong, hopeful, virile people it would have been 
difficult; to a people burdened with the degradation 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 61 

of centuries of servitude it has proved a task well- 
nigh beyond their capabilities. And before we 
condemn as do all the men along the Coast, as very 
often I do myself, it is only fair to remember the past. 

It must have been a very forlorn little company of 
people who landed on a small island at the mouth of 
that unknown river in 1822. They called the island 
Providence Island, and there they were cooped up 
for some weeks, for the people on the shore, warlike 
savages who brooked no master, objected to the new- 
comers, and it was some little time before they could 
set foot on the mainland and found their principal 
town of Monrovia. That was nearly ninety years 
ago, but very far inland they have never been able 
to go, for though Liberia takes up quite a large 
space on the map it is only Liberia in name. The 
hinterland is held by fighting tribes who resent any 
interference with their vested rights, and make the 
fact particularly clear. 

The outlines of the history of Liberia I had known 
vaguely for many a long day even to the name of 
Monrovia their capital, so called after President 
Munro, and it seemed to give point to the story to 
sit on' trie deck of the ship that swung at her anchors 
just beyond the surf of the river mouth. At least 
they had chosen a very beautiful place. Blue sky, 
blue sea, snow-white surf breaking on the bar, and a 
hillside clothed in dense greenery with palms cutting 
the sky line and the roofs of houses peeping out from 
among the verdure, that is what I saw, and the captain 
was emphatic I had seen the best of it. I did not 
doubt his word then, and having been ashore I am 
bound to confess he was right. 

But the difficulty was to get ashore. I had a letter 



62 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

to the British Consul, but I had not sampled the 
kindliness of British Consuls as I had that of the 
Governors, and I did not know exactly what he would 
say. " I wonder if there is an hotel," I said doubt- 
fully to the captain, and he sniffed. 

" You couldn't stay in a negro hotel." 

I sent off my letter to the Consul and waited, and 
a little cloud came up out of the sea and spread over 
all the sky, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained, 
and it rained. The sky was dark and forbidding, the 
sea was leaden-coloured, the waves just tipped with 
angry, white foam, and the green hills were blotted 
out, the decks were awash, the awnings were sopping 
and wept coaly tears, and the captain said as if that 
settled it, " There, you can't possibly go ashore." 
But I was by no means sure. Still there was no letter 
from His Majesty's Consul. Morning passed on to 
afternoon, and afternoon waned towards evening 
and still there was no letter. A ship on a pouring 
wet day is just about as uncomfortable a place as 
one can be in, but still I was inclined to accept the 
captain's opinion that Monrovia without someone to 
act as guide, philosopher, and friend would be a worse 
place. 

No letter, and the captain came along. 

" I must get away before dark." He spoke as if 
that settled it, and he was right, but not the way he 
expected. 

I felt I simply could not go without seeing this 
place, and I decided. " Then I'll go ashore." 

" You can't possibly." 

" Oh yes, I can. They won't eat me." 

I don't know though that I was quite comfortable 
as I was dropped over the side in a mammy chair 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 63 

into a surf boat that was half-full of water. The rain 
had stopped at last but everything in that boat was wet, 
and my gear made a splash as it was dropped down. 

My soldier brother had lent me his camp-kit for 
the expedition. 

" Can't possibly hurt it," said he good-naturedly. 
" It's been through two campaigns. If you spoil it, it 
shall be my contribution ; but you won't." 

I accepted, but I thought as I sat on the bedding- 
roll at the bottom of that very wet boat, with my head 
not coming above the gunwale, that he did not know 
Africa. I hoped I should not have to sleep on that 
bed that night, because it was borne in on me it 
would be more than damp. 

Luckily I didn't. We crossed the bar, and the 
ragged, half-naked Kroo boys, than whom there are 
surely no better boatmen in the world, begged a 
dash, " because we no splash you," as if a bucket or 
two of salt water would have made much difference, 
and I gave it and was so absorbed in the wonder 
as to what was to become of me that I gave hardly 
any heed to the shore that was approaching. When 
I did it was to notice that all the beauty I had 
seen from the deck was vanishing. Man's handiwork 
was tumble-down, dirty, dilapidated, unfinished. I 
stepped from the boat to a narrow causeway of stone ; 
it is difficult to get out of a boat five feet deep with 
grace, more especially when your skirts are sopping, 
and I stepped from the causeway, it was not above 
a foot wide, into yellow mud, and saw I was sur- 
rounded by dilapidated buildings such as one might 
see in any poor, penniless little port. There were 
negroes in all stages of rags round me, and then out 
from amongst them stepped a white man, a neat and 



64 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

spick-and-span white man with soldier written all 
over him, the soldier of the new type, learned, 
thoughtful, well-read. 

"Mrs Gaunt?" 

I said " Yes " with a little gasp, because his im- 
maculate spruceness made me feel I was too much in 
keeping with the buildings and the people around us. 

" Did you get my note? I am sorry I only got 
yours a couple of hours ago." 

Oh, I understood by now that in Africa it is im- 
possible for a note to reach its destination quickly, 
and I said so, and he went on to arrange for my 
accommodation. 

" If you will stay at the Consulate I will be de- 
lighted, but it is a mile and a half from the town, and 
I have no wife ; or there is a boarding-house in the 
town, not too uncomfortable I am told." 

There could be but one answer to that. Of course 
I accepted his invitation ; there are but few conven- 
tions and no Mrs Grundy in out-of-the-way spots, 
thank heaven, and in the growing darkness we set 
off for the Consulate. It was broken to me regret- 
fully that I would have to walk ; there is no other 
means of progression in the negro republic. 

Such a walk as it was. Never have I met such a 
road. It was steep, and it was rough, and it was 
stony as a mountain torrent; now after the rain it 
was wet and slippery and the branches of the over- 
hanging trees showered us with water as we passed. It 
was lonely as a forest path in Ashanti, and the jungle 
was thick on either hand, the night birds cried, the 
birds that loved the sun made sleepy noises, the 
ceaseless insects roused to activity by the rain made 
the darkness shrill with their clamour, and there were 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 65 

mysterious rustlings as small animals forced their 
way through the bush or fled before us. My host 
offered me his stick to pull me over the steepest rocks, 
and also supplied the interesting information that 
round the Consulate the deer came down to lick the 
salt from the rocks, and the panthers, tigers they 
called them there, came down and killed the deer. I 
made a mental note not to walk in that path by night ; 
indeed I made a note not to walk in it ever again, as 
drenched and dripping with perspiration we emerged 
into a clearing and saw looming up before us a 
tropical bungalow and beyond the sea. It is an 
exquisite situation but is desperately lonely. 

My gear came on men's heads and the Consul's 
note was delivered to me in the bush. Neither he 
nor I understood why it had come by such a round- 
about path. One of his servants also met us half-way 
with a lantern, and since I had heard by then about 
the " tigers " I confess to thinking it was a wise pre- 
caution. 

The Consulate is a fine two-storied building with 
wide verandahs and a large hall where we generally 
sat, and that hall was very inadequately lighted by 
some excellent lamps. The Consul didn't understand 
them and the negro servants didn't understand them, 
and darkness was just visible and I determined as 
soon as I knew my host well enough to ask him to 
let me have a turn at his lamps. Such is the power of 
a little knowledge ; when I left the Consulate it was 
lighted as it should be, but that first night we spent 
in a dim, religious light, and I felt I was going to 
enjoy myself hugely, for here at last was something 
new. The Gambia and Sierra Leone had been too 
much regulation Tropics ; all that I had seen and done 

E 



66 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

I had at least read of before, but this was something 
quite different. This had all the glamour of the un- 
known and the unexpected. I am bound to say 
that His Majesty's Consul did not look at things with 
the same eyes. He didn't like Liberia, and he said 
frankly that things might be unexpected in a measure 
but he always knew they would be unpleasant. But 
I went to bed that night with the feeling I was really 
entering into the land of romance. 

Next morning I told my host I would go and see 
the town. 

" But I shan't go by the short cut," I added 
emphatically. 

"What shortcut?" 

" The way we came last night." 

" That's not a short cut," said he, and he smiled 
pitifully at my ignorance of what was before me. 
" That's the main road." 

And so it was. Afterwards I tried to photograph 
it, but in addition to the difficulty of getting an 
accurate picture of a steep slope, I had the misfortune 
to shake the camera, and so my most remarkable 
picture was spoiled. I give a picture of the road, 
but I always felt when I came to that part the worst 
was left behind. And yet on this road is the Liberian 
College where the youth of Liberia, male and female, 
are educated. It is a big building built of brick and 
corrugated iron, in a style that seems wholly un- 
suited to the Liberian climate, though viewed from a 
distance it looks imposing in its setting of greenery. 
They teach the children algebra and euclid, or pro- 
fess to do so — evil-tongued rumour has it that the 
majority of the Liberian women can neither read 
nor write — but to attain that, to them useless knowl- 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 67 

edge, they have to scramble over without exception 
the very worst road I have ever met. 

But the road only matches the rest of the place. 
Monrovia is not only an ill-kept town, it is an out- 
rageously ill-kept town. 

Many towns have I seen in the world, many, many 
towns along this west coast of Africa, so I am in a 
position to compare, and never have I seen such 
hopelessly miserable places as Monrovia and the 
other smaller Liberian towns along the Coast. The 
streets look pretty enough in a photograph ; they 
are pretty enough in reality because of the kindly 
hand of Nature and the tropical climate which makes 
vegetation grow up everywhere. There is no 
wheeled traffic, no possibility of getting about except 
on your own feet, and in consequence the roadways 
are generally knee-deep in weeds, with just a track 
meandering through them here and there, and be- 
tween the roadway and the side walk is a rough gutter, 
or at least waterway, about two feet deep, and of 
uncertain width, usually hidden by the veiling weeds. 
Occasionally they have little gimcrack bridges 
apparently built of gin cases across these chasms, 
but, as a rule, if I could not jump as the wandering 
goats did, I had to make my way round, even though 
it involved a detour of at least a quarter of a mile. 

And the houses in the streets were unlike the 
houses to be seen anywhere else on the West Coast, 
and, to my mind at least, are quite unsuited to a 
tropical climate. They are built of wood, brick, or, 
and this is the most common, of corrugated iron, are 
three or four stories high, steep and narrow, with 
high-pitched roofs, and narrow balconies, and many 
windows which are made with sashes after the fashion 



68 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

of more temperate climes. The Executive Mansion, 
as they call the official residence of the President, 
is perhaps as good a specimen as any and is in as 
good repair, though even it is woefully shabby, and 
the day I called there, for of course I paid my respects, 
clothes were drying on the weeds and grass of the 
roadway just in front of the main entrance. Two 
doors farther down was a tall, rather pretentious red- 
brick house which must have cost money to build, 
but the windows were broken and boarded up, and 
one end of the balcony was just a ragged fringe of 
torn and rotting wood. So desolate was the place I 
thought it must be deserted, but no. On looking up 
I saw that on the other end of the balcony were 
contentedly lolling a couple of half-dressed women 
and a man, naked to the waist, who were watching 
with curiosity the white woman strolling down the 
street. 

A great deal of the Liberian's life must be spent 
on his balcony, for the houses must be very stuffy in 
such a climate, and they are by no means furnished 
suitably ; of course it is entirely a matter of taste, 
but for West Africa I infinitely preferred the sanded, 
earthen floor of my friend the Jolloff pilot's wife to 
the blue Brussels-carpet on the drawing-room floor 
of the wife of the President of the Liberian republic. 
But, as I have said, this is a matter of taste, and 
I may be wrong. I know many houses in London, 
the furniture of which appears to me anything but 
suitable. 

It was quaint to me, me an Australian with strong 
feelings on the question of colour, to be entertained 
by the President's wife, a kindly black lady in a purple 
dress and with a strong American accent. She 




- B 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 69 

had never been out of Africa, she told me, and she 
had great faith in the future of Liberia. The President 
had been to England twice. And the President's sad 
eyes seemed to say, though he hinted no such thing, 
that he did not share his wife's optimism. 

" We have lovely little homes up the river," she 
said as she shifted the array of bibles and hymn- 
books that covered the centre-table in the drawing- 
room to make room for the tray on which was ginger- 
beer for my refreshment, " and if you will go up, we 
will make you very welcome." 

She would not let me take her photograph as I 
desired to do ; possibly she had met the amateur 
photographer before and distrusted the species. I 
could not convince her I could produce a nice picture. 

I never saw those " lovely little homes " either. 
They certainly were not to be found in my meaning 
of the words in Monrovia or any of the Coast towns, 
and up country I did not go ; there was no way of 
doing so, save on my own feet, and I felt then I could 
not walk in such a hot climate. There may be such 
homes, I do not know, for between this good, kindly 
woman and me was the great unbridgeable gulf fixed, 
and our modes of thought were not the same. In 
judging things Liberian I try to remember that. 
Every day it was brought home to me. 

The civilised black man, for instance, is often a 
great stickler for propriety, and I have known one 
who felt himself obliged to board up his front veran- 
dah because the white man who lived opposite was 
wont to stroll on his balcony in the early morning 
clad only in his pyjamas, and yet often passing along 
the street and looking up I saw men and women in 
the scantiest of attire lounging on their balconies 



70 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

doing nothing, unless they were thinking, which is 
doubtful. 

Dress or want of dress, I find, strikes one curi- 
ously. I have times without number seen a black 
man working in a loin cloth or bathing as Nature 
made him, and not been conscious of anything 
wrong. He seemed fitly and suitably clad ; he 
lacked nothing. But looking on those men in the 
balconies in only a pair of trousers, or women in a 
skirt pure and simple, among surroundings that to 
a certain extent spoke of civilisation, there was a 
wrong note struck. They were not so much bar- 
baric as indecent. It was as if a corner of the veil 
of respectability had been lifted, the thin veneer of 
civilisation torn off, and you saw if you dared to look 
the possibilities that lie behind. I believed all the 
horrible stories of Vaudooism of America and the 
West Indies when I saw the naked chest and shoul- 
ders of a black man leaning over a balcony in Mon- 
rovia, and yet I have been only moved to friendliness 
when the fetish man of an Ashanti village, with greasy 
curls flying, with all his weird ornaments jingling, 
tom-toms beating, and excited people shouting, came 
dancing towards me and pranced round me with 
pointing fingers that I hope and believe meant a 
blessing. Can anyone tell me why this was ? Was 
it because the fetish man was giving of his very best, 
while the half-civilised man was sinking back into 
barbarism and looking at the white woman gave 
her thoughts she would deeply have resented? Was 
it just an example of the thought-reading we are 
subconsciously doing every day and all day long 
without exactly realising it ourselves? 

The people of Monrovia, there are over 4000 of 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 71 

them, seem always lounging and idling, and the place 
looks as if it were no one's business to knock in a 
nail or replace a board. It is falling into decay. 
It is not deserted, for the people are there, and pre- 
sumably they live. They exist waiting for their 
houses to tumble about their ears. There is a 
market-place down in Waterside, the poorest, most 
miserable market-place on all the African coast. The 
road here, just close to the landing-place, is not 
made, but just trodden hard by the passing of many 
feet. Here and there the native rocks crop up, and 
no effort has been made to smooth them down. 
Above all, the stench is sickening, for the Coast 
negro, without the kindly, sometimes the stern guid- 
ance of the white man, is often intolerably dirty, and 
if my eyes did not recognise it, my nose would. In 
all the town, city they call it, there is not one garden or 
attempt at a garden. The houses are set wide enough 
apart ; any fences that have been put up are as a 
rule broken-down, invariably in need of repair, 
and in between those houses is much wild growth. 
The scarlet hibiscus covers a broken fence ; an 
oleander grows bushy and covered with pink rose- 
like flowers ; stately cocoa-nut palms, shapely man- 
goes are to be seen, and all over the streets and road- 
way in the month of January, I was there, as if it would 
veil man's neglect as far as possible, grew a creeping 
convolvulus with masses of pink cup-shaped flowers 
— in the morning hopeful and fresh and full of dew, 
in the evening wilted and shut up tightly as if they 
had given up the effort in hopeless despair. Never 
have I seen such a dreary, neglected town. It would 
be pitiful anywhere in the world. It is ten times 
more so here, where one feels that it marks the 



72 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

failure of a race, that it almost justifies the infamous 
traffic of our forefathers. It was all shoddy from the 
very beginning. It is now shoddy come to its inevi- 
table end. 

For all the great mark on the map, as I have said, 
the settlements at Monrovia do not extend more than 
thirty miles up the river; elsewhere the civilised ne- 
groes barely hold the sea-board. They are eternally 
at war with the tribesmen behind, and here in Mon- 
rovia I met half a dozen of the prisoners, dressed in 
rags, chained two and two with iron collars round 
their necks, and their guard, a blatant, self-satisfied 
person, was just about as ragged a scarecrow as they 
were. Not that the victory is by any means always to 
the Liberians, for a trader, an Englishman, who had 
been seeking fresh openings in the hinterland where 
no Liberian would dare to go, told me that though 
the tribes are not as a rule cannibals, they do make 
a practice of eating their best-hated enemies, and he 
had come across the hands and feet of not a few of 
the Liberian Mendi soldiery in pickle for future use. 

To keep these tribesmen in check, the Liberian, 
who is essentially a man of peace — a slave — has 
been obliged to raise an army from the Mendis 
who inhabit the British protectorate to the west, and 
so he has laid upon himself a great burden. For, 
unfortunately, there is not always money in the 
treasury to satisfy this army of mercenaries when 
they get tired of taking out their pay in trade gin or 
tobacco. Poor Liberians, threatened with a double 
danger. If they have no soldiers the tribesmen 
within their borders eat them up, and if they have 
soldiers, war they must have, to provide an outlet 
for energies that otherwise might be misdirected. 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 73 

I left my kind host with many regrets and Mon- 
rovia without any, and I went on board the Chama 
which was to call at Grand Bassa and Cape Palmas, 
and if I did not intend to view them entirely from 
the ship's deck, at least I felt after my visit to Mon- 
rovia it would hardly be necessary for me to stay in 
either of these towns. 

They bear a strong family resemblance to the 
capital, only they are " more so." The tribes see to 
it, I believe, that there is no communication with 
the capital except by sea, and the little communities 
with their pretensions to civilisation are far less in- 
interesting than the people of an Ashanti village who 
have seldom or never seen a white man. 

I landed at Lower Buchanan, Grand Bassa, early 
one morning. The beach simply reeked of human 
occupancy. They do not trouble about sanitation 
in Liberia, and the town itself looked as if the houses 
had been set down promiscuously in the primeval 
bush. Perhaps there were more signs of wealth 
than in Monrovia, for I did see three cows and at 
least half a dozen hairy, razor-backed pigs on the 
track that was by courtesy the principal street, and it 
must require something to support all the churches. 

I suppose it is the emotional character of the 
negro that makes him take so largely to religion, or 
rather, I think I may say, the observances of re- 
ligion. The question of the missionaries is a vexed 
one, and on board the Chama was a missionary 
who made me think. She was a pretty young girl 
who had left home and father and mother and sisters 
and brothers and lover — ah, the lover was evidently 
hard where all had been hard — to minister to the 
spiritual needs of the people who dwelt behind Cape 



74 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Palmas. She was sweetly ignorant of the world, of 
everything that did not apply to the little home in 
Canada that she had left with such reluctance, and 
was evidently immensely surprised to find the captain 
and officers of the ship kindly, honest gentlemen 
who treated her as tenderly and deferentially as they 
might have treated one of their own young sisters. 
I thought all sailors were bad men," she said 
wonderingly. " I have always been led to believe 
they were bad." 

Now, what could such a nice, ignorant little girl 
as that teach the negro ? And yet she had curiously 
hard ideas on some subjects. She talked about 
the missionary and his wife to whom she was going 
for five long years and to whom she was bringing 
out clothes for their baby. 

" If it is alive," she added naively. 

" Oh, I hope it will live," said I, the heathen who 
doubted the use of missionaries and all their works. 

" Well, I don't know " — and the cynicism sat curi- 
ously on the sweet, young face — " poor little kiddie, 
perhaps it is better dead. What sort of a life could 
it have out there, and what sort of an upbringing? 
Its mother has other work to do." 

And I tried to show her that one white child was 
worth a thousand problematical souls of negroes, 
and I tried in vain. 

But if ever I saw the wrong side of Christianity 
I saw it here in Liberia. Monrovia had many 
churches, all more or less unfinished, all more or less 
in decay, and here in Lower Buchanan three corru- 
gated-iron churches within a stone's throw of one 
another constituted one of the chief features of the 
town. It was early on a Tuesday morning, the best 




;&S 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 75 

time for work in a tropical climate, if work is going 
to be done at all. On the beach the Kroo boys 
were bringing from surf boats the piassava, the fibre 
that grows in the swamps and constitutes a large 
part of the Liberian export, but in Lower Buchanan 
itself the greater part of the inhabitants that I saw 
were in church. I entered that church. 

Such a tatterdemalion crew! God forbid that I 
should scoff at any man's faith, but here cleanliness 
is practically divorced from godliness, and I can 
honestly say that never in my life have I seen dirtier 
bundles of rags than that congregation. A woman 
in a costume a scarecrow would have despised, her 
head adorned with a baby's hat, the dirty white rib- 
bons fluttering down behind, was praying aloud with 
much unction, shouting that she was a miserable sin- 
ner, and calling upon the Lord to forgive her. The 
negro loves the sound of his own voice, and again 
I must claim that I do not scorn any man's sincere 
faith, but that negro lady was thoroughly enjoying 
herself, absolutely sure of her own importance. 
The ragged scarecrows who listened punctuated 
the prayer with groans of delight, and the only 
decent one amongst them was a small girl, whose 
nakedness was hidden by a simple blue-and-white 
cloth, and she was probably a household slave. For 
these descendants of a slave people make slaves 
in their turn, perhaps not men slaves, but women 
are saleable commodities among a savage nation, 
and for a trifling consideration, a bottle of trade gin 
or a few sticks of trade tobacco, they will hand 
over a girl-child who, taken into the household 
without pay, holds the position of a servant and is 
therefore to all intents and purposes a slave. This 



76 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

is really not as bad as it sounds ; her position is 
probably quite as good as it would be in her own 
tribe, and as she grows older she either marries or 
forms some sort of alliance with a Liberian. Loose 
connections and divorce are both so common that 
she is no worse off than the ordinary Liberian woman, 
and the admixture of good, strong virile blood may 
possibly help the future race. At least that is what 
I thought as I watched the congregation at prayer. 
They sang hymn choruses so beautifully as to bring 
tears to my eyes, and then they came outside and 
abused me because I wanted to photograph them. 
Had I been they, I should have objected to going out 
to the world as specimens of their people, but they need 
not have reviled me in the blatant, coarse manner 
of the negro who has just seen enough of civilisation 
to think he rules the universe. I did not press the 
matter, because I felt it would be ungracious to make 
a picture of them against their will. But clearly the 
lovely little homes were not in Lower Buchanan. 
Nor were they in Cape Palmas. 

Far be it from me to say that plantations of some 
useful description do not exist. They may ; I can 
only say I have seen no evidences of them in three 
of their towns or near those towns. I will put it on 
record that I did see some cabbage stalks behind 
some broken railings opposite the President's house 
in Monrovia, but that was absolutely the only thing 
in the shape of a garden, vegetable, fruit, or flower, 
that I did see in the environs of the towns. You 
can buy no fruit in Monrovia, no chickens, no eggs. 
Bananas and limes have to be imported. Meat is 
only to be had at rare intervals, and living is so 
frightfully dear that when the British Consul had, 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 77 

during my stay, to provide for a distressed British 
subject who had been unfortunate enough to get 
adrift in the land, he had to pay six shillings and six- 
pence a day for his board and lodging — a bare room, 
not over-clean, with a rough bed in it, and board that 
did not include meat, but consisted chiefly of manioc 
or cassava which is what the majority of the Liberians 
live on themselves. 

The country as a matter of fact lives on the 
Custom's dues which reach about ,£70,000 a year 
and are levied not only on the goods that they 
themselves use but on those the unfortunate natives 
of the hinterland require. No Liberian is a crafts- 
man even of the humblest sort. The Kroo men are 
fishermen and boatmen ; men from Sierra Leone, 
the Gold Coast, and Lagos, with an occasional 
Vai tribesman thrown in, are painters, smiths, and 
carpenters. The Liberian, the descendant of the 
freed slave, despises these things ; he aspires to 
be a gentleman of leisure, to serve in the Govern- 
ment Service, or in the Church, to walk about in a 
black suit with a high collar and a silver-mounted 
cane. Then apparently he is happy even if he come 
out of the most dilapidated house in Monrovia. 
There are, I believe, exceptions. I wonder, con- 
sidering their antecedents and the conditions under 
which they have had to exist, whether one could ex- 
pect more. Possibly it should be counted to them 
for great righteousness if any good men be found 
among them at all. But taken as a whole the Li- 
berians after close on ninety years of self-government 
must strike the stranger as an effete race, blatant 
and arrogant of speech, an arrogance that is only 
equalled by their appalling ignorance, a race that 



78 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

compares shockingly with the Mandingo or Jolloff of 
the Gambia, the stately Ashanti, a warrior with re- 
serve power, or the busy agricultural Yoruba. These 
men are gentlemen in their own simple, untutored 
way, courteous and dignified. The Liberian is only 
a travesty of the European, arrogant without proper 
dignity, boastful with absolutely nothing in the world 
to boast about unless it be the amazing wealth of the 
country he mismanages so shamefully. For Liberia 
is a rich country ; it has a soil of surpassing fertility, 
and it seems to me that almost anything in the way 
of tropical products might be produced there. That 
nothing is produced is due to the ignorance and idle- 
ness of these descendants of slaves who rule or mis- 
rule the land. Since the days of the iniquitous trade, 
that first brought her into touch with civilisation, West 
Africa has been exploited for the sake of the nations 
of the western world. No one till this present genera- 
tion seems to have recognised that she had any rights. 
Now we realise that the black man must be considered 
at least as much as the white man, who has made him- 
self his master. Now most settlements along the 
Coast are busy, prosperous, and, above all, sanitary. 
Only in Liberia, the civilised black man's own 
country, does a different state of things prevail ; only 
here has the movement been retrograde. 

An end must come, but who can say what this end 
will be. 

The missionary girl who had given up all she held 
most dear, who had joined the noble band of martyrs 
and heroes for Africa, said she had done so because 
she had seen a letter from a black man just mention- 
ing a chapter and verse of the New Testament. She 
had looked it up and read the prayer of the Mace- 



WHERE THE BLACK MAN RULES 79 

donians. Strange, strange are the workings of the 
Unseen, cruel sometimes the penalties poor human 
nature takes upon itself. Who shall say that a 
Guiding Hand had not made that girl choose wisely 
for the development of her own character, and 
who shall say that some ultimate good may not yet 
come for beautiful, wealthy, poverty-stricken Liberia. 
That the civilised nations, sinking their own jeal- 
ousies, may step in and save her despite herself, I 
think, is the only hope. But it must be as Paul would 
have saved, not as the pitiful Christ. For the pendu- 
lum has swung too far back ; the fathers have eaten 
sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge. 
She does not know it herself, she will resent bitterly 
the imputation, but to me Liberia seems to be 
stretching out her hands crying dumbly to the white 
man the cry that came across the water of old, the 
cry the missionary girl listened to, the cry of Mace- 
donia, " Come over and help us." 

But I was one who only heard the cry in passing, 
who felt that I at least could not help. I went on 
in the Chptma to Axim, interested with what I had 
seen, but forgetting much in what I thought was to 
be my first hammock-trip alone. For I wanted to 
go to Half Assinie, and since no one may be sure of 
landing all their gear in safety on that surf-bound 
coast, I had to land at Axim and go back overland 
the fifty miles to the French border, and I thought 
I should have to do it alone. 



CHAPTER V 

THE GUINEA COAST 

Every man's duty — " Three deaths in two days " — An old Portu- 
guese settlement — A troubled District Commissioner — What 
to do with a wandering white woman — The Judge's quarters 
— The kindly medical officer and his wife — A West-African 
town — " My outside wife " — Dangers ahead — The man who 
was never afterwards heard of — The Forestry officer's carriers 
— " Good man, bad man, fool man " — First night in the wilds 
— Hair in the soup. 

A great German philosopher has remarked that you 
very seldom get a human being who has all the 
qualities of his own sex without a trace of the charac- 
teristics of the other. Such a being would be hardly 
attractive. At least I consoled myself with that reflec- 
tion when I found stirring within me a very masculine 
desire to be out of leading strings and to be allowed 
to take care of myself. It is pleasant to be taken 
care of, but it is decidedly uncomfortable to feel that 
you are a burden upon men upon whom you have 
no claim whatever. They were looking after me 
because they were emphatically "sure that the Coast 
is no place for a lone woman. At the bottom of my 
heart, grateful as I was to the individuals, I didn't 
like it. I thought my freedom was coming at Axim, 
but it didn't. 

Every man felt it his duty to impress upon me the 
unhealthiness of the Coast, and every man did his 
duty manfully, forgetting that I have a very excellent 

80 



THE GUINEA COAST 81 

pair of eyes and an inquiring mind. The hot, still 
morning we arrived at Axim the captain, having dis- 
cussed matters with the Custom officer, came to me 
solemnly shaking his head. 

" A terrible place, Mrs Gaunt, a terrible place. 
Three deaths in Axim in the last two days." 

It was quite a correct Coast speech, and for the 
moment I was shocked, though not afraid, because 
naturally it never occurs to me that I will die, at least 
not just yet, and not because the people round me are 
dying. The captain was gloomily happy as having 
vindicated the evil reputation of the country, and I 
looked ashore and wondered what was wrong with 
so attractive a place. 

The Portuguese, those mariners of long ago, chose 
the site and, as they always did, chose wisely. A 
promontory, on which is the white fort, juts out into 
the sea, and behind is all the luxuriant greenery of the 
Tropics, for the land rises just sufficiently to give 
beauty to the scene. I wondered why those three 
people had died, and I inquired. The whole incident 
is so characteristic of the loose talk that builds up 
an evil reputation for a country. Those deaths 
were held up to me as a warning. It would 
have been quite as much to the point if they had 
warned me against getting frost-bitten or falling into 
a cauldron of boiling sugar. One man died of a 
disease he had contracted twenty years before, and 
was exceedingly lucky to have lived so long, another 
had died of drink, and the third was a woman. She, 
poor thing, was the wife of a missionary from Sierra 
Leone, and had not been in a cooler climate for two 
years. There was a baby coming, and instead of 
going home she had come to Axim, had a bad go of 

F 



82 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

blackwater, and when the baby came, her constitution 
could not stand the double strain, and she died. 
Only her death was directly attributable to the climate, 
and the exercise of a little common sense would have 
saved her. 

So I landed and was not afraid. 

But my arrival was a cause of tribulation to the 
District Commissioner. There was no hotel, so I 
appealed to him for quarters. It really was a little 
hard on him. He sighed and did his best, and the 
only time I really saw him look happy was about three 
weeks later when he saw me safely in a surf boat 
bound for the out-going steamer. But when I landed, 
the need for shelter was pressing, and he gave me a 
room in the Judge's quarters where it seems they be- 
stow all homeless white strangers in Axim. Already 
the Forestry officer was there, and he had a sitting- 
room and a bedroom, so that I could only have a 
bedroom and a bathroom. Now, with a verandah 
and such a large room at my disposal, I could make 
myself more than comfortable ; then, because I did 
not know African ways, I accepted the very kind 
invitation of the medical officer and his wife, 
the only white woman in Axim, to " chop " with 
them. 

African ways are very convenient when you come 
to think of it. Here was a big empty room with a 
wardrobe and a little cane furniture in it. I went in 
with my brother's kit and set up my camp-bed, my 
bath, laid down my ground sheet and put up my table 
and chair, and I had all that was really necessary. 
Outside was the ragged garden, haunted they said, 
though I never saw the ghost, and because it was 
usually empty the big rats scrambled up the stairs. 



THE GUINEA COAST 83 

and the birds sat in the oleander bushes and called 
" Be quick, be quick " continually. 

I couldn't take their advice because it is impossible 
to hurry things on the Coast and I must wait for the 
carriers. 

The first night I had dinner — chop— with the 
medical officer and his wife and went to bed reflect- 
ing a little regretfully I had made no preparations 
for my early-morning tea. However, I concluded it 
might be good discipline to do without it. But it is 
a great thing to have a capable boy. Just as it began 
to get light Grant appeared outside my mosquito 
curtains as usual with a cup of tea and some fruit. 
The cup and teapot were my own ; he had stolen all 
the materials from the Forestry officer next door, and 
I was much beholden to that young man when, on 
apologising, he smiled and said it was all right, he was 
glad I liked his tea. 

Axim is a pretty little town with the usual handful 
of whites and the negroes semi-civilised with that 
curious civilisation which has probably persisted for 
centuries, which is not what we would call civilisation 
and yet is not savagery . It is hardly even barbarism. 
These Coast towns are not crowded with naked 
savages as many a stay-at-home Briton seems to 
imagine ; they are peopled with artisans, clerks, 
traders, labourers, people like in many ways to those 
in the same social scale in other countries, and 
differing only when the marked characteristics of the 
negro come in. All along in these Coast towns the 
negroes are much the same. To their own place they 
are suitable ; only when they try to conform too much 
to the European lines of thought do they strike one 
as outre or objectionable. I suppose that is what 



84 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

jars in the Christian negro. It is not the Chris- 
tianity, it is the striving after something eminently 
unsuited to him. Left to himself though, he naturally 
goes back to the mode of life that was his forefathers', 
and sometimes he has the courage to own it. I re- 
member a man who called in the medical officer about 
his wife. The ordinary negro has as many wives as 
he can afford, but the Christian is by way of only 
having one, and as this man was clothed in the 
ordinary garb of the European, unnecessary coat, 
shirt, and hat, I naturally set him down as a Christian. 
" I Christian," he told me. " Mission-teacher 
once." 

"Not now?" 

" No, Swanzy's agent now. You savey my wife ; 
she get well ? " 

I said I had no doubt she would, and I rejoiced in 
this sign of marital affection, when he dashed it all to 
the ground. 

" She not my real wife ; she my outside wife," said 
he as one who would explain their exact relations. 

My views on negro homes received a shock, but 
after all if the women don't object, what matter? It 
is the custom of the country. 

I looked round the town and took photographs, 
wasted many plates trying to develop, in too hot a 
place, and declared my intention of going west just 
as soon as ever I could get carriers. I didn't quite 
know how I should manage, but I concluded I should 
learn by experience. 

Even now, though I have travelled since then 
close on 700 miles in a hammock, I cannot make up 
my mind whether it would have been safe for me to 
go alone. Undoubtedly I should have made many 



THE GUINEA COAST 85 

mistakes, and in a country where the white man holds 
his position by his prestige it is perhaps just as well 
that a woman of his colour should not make mistakes. 

" Not suitable," said one who objected strongly to 
the presence of any white women on the Coast. 

" Hardly safe," said another. 

" Not safe," said a third emphatically, and then they 
told a story. Axim has been settled and civilised 
many years, and yet only last year a man disappeared. 
He was one of a party dining with his friends. 
After dinner they started a game of cards, and up the 
verandah steps came this man's house-steward. His 
master was wanted. The company protested, but 
he left declaring he would return immediately. He 
did not return and from that day to this neither he 
nor his house-boy have been seen by mortal eyes. 
Thq story sounds fearsome enough. It sounded 
worse to me preparing to go along the Coast by my- 
self, but now, thinking it over calmly, I see flaws. 
Investigated, I wonder if it would turn out like the 
story of the three people dead in two days ; true, but 
admitting of quite a different construction being put 
upon it than that presented for my edification. One 
thing I do know and that is that I would feel very 
much safer in an Ashanti village that has only been 
conquered in the last ten years than I would alone 
in any of those little towns along the Guinea Coast, 
between Axim and Half Assinie, that have been in 
contact with the white man for the last three hundred 
years. 

Anyhow, Axim decided for me I should not go 
alone, and the Forestry officer, like the chivalrous, 
gracious gentleman he was, came forward and pre- 
tended he had business at Half Assinie and that it 



86 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

would be a great pleasure to have a companion on the 
road. And so well did he play his part that it was not 
till we were bound back from the Border that I dis- 
covered he had simply come to look after me. 

Then I was initiated into the difficulties of carriers. 
The Omahin, that is to say the Chief of Beyin, had 
sent me twenty men and women, and the Forestry 
officer had two separate lots of Kroo boys and 
Mendis, and early one morning in January we made 
preparations for a start. We didn't start early. It 
seems to me how ever carefully you lay your plans, 
you never do. First no carriers turned up ; then some 
of the Forestry officer's men condescended to ap- 
pear. Then the orderly, a man from the north with 
his face cut with a knife into a permanent sardonic 
grin, strolled up. He was sent out to seek 
carriers, and presently drove before him two or three 
women, one with a baby on her back, and these 
it appeared were the advance contingent of my gang. 
A Beyin woman-carrier or indeed any woman along 
the Coast generally wears a printed-cotton cloth of 
a dark colour round her by way of a skirt, and one of 
the little loose blouses that the missionaries intro- 
duced on to the Coast over a hundred years ago 
because they regarded it as indecent for a woman to 
have her bosom uncovered. Now her shoulders are 
often covered by the blouse, but that many a time 
is of such skimpy proportions that it does not 
reach very far, the skirt invariably slips, and there is 
a gap, in which case — well, shall we say the result is 
not all the originators desired. A woman can carry 
anything but a hammock, but these carriers of mine 
were not very good specimens of the class. They 
looked at the loads, they went away, they came back, 



THE GUINEA COAST 87 

they altered, they grumbled, and at last about two 
hours late we started, I going ahead, the Forestry 
officer fetching up the rear to round in all stragglers, 
and in between came our motley array of goods. 
There is a family resemblance among all travellers 
on the Gold Coast. They all try to reduce their loads 
to a minimum and they all find that there are certain 
necessaries of life which they must have, and certain 
other things which may be luxuries but which they 
cannot do without, and certain other little things 
which it would be a sin not to take as it makes all 
the difference between comfort and savagery. So the 
procession comes along, a roll of bedding, a chop 
box, a kitchen box with pots and pans, a bath, a 
chair, a table, the servant's box, a load of water, 
a certain amount of drink, whisky, gin, and if the 
traveller is very luxurious (I wasn't) some claret, 
a uniform case with clothes, a smaller one containing 
the heavier things such as boots and the various 
goods that pertain to the European's presence there. 
Before the Commissioner goes his orderly, carrying 
his silver-topped stick, the insignia of his rank. I 
had a camera and a lot of heavy plates but I don't 
think the Forestry officer had anything special ex- 
cept a tent which took three men to carry and which 
we could never set up because we found on the first 
night that the ridge poles had been left behind. It 
is not supposed to be well to sleep in native houses, 
but it did us no harm. 

The carrier divides the masters he serves into three 
divisions. " He be good man," " he be bad man," 
and " he be fool man." My carriers decided I was 
a fool man and they were not far wrong. Less than 
an hour after leaving Axim, distance as yet is always 



88 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

counted by time in Africa, we came to the Ancobra 
River and my first difficulty arose. My hammock 
had not yet been brought across and I, walking on a 
little way, came to a swampy bit which it was difficult 
to negotiate without wetting my feet above the 
ankles. My headman stooped and offered a brawny, 
bare back for my acceptance. I hesitated. My 
clothes were not built for riding pick-a-back. I 
looked back ; there was no hammock, neither, thank 
heaven, was there any sign of the Forestry officer. I 
tried to show them how to cross their hands and carry 
me as in a chair, but no, they would have none of 
my methods, and then I gave in hastily lest my 
travelling companion should appear, accepted the 
back, rode across most ungracefully, and was set 
down triumphantly on the other side. And then they, 
began to take advantage of me. 

" Missus," explained one, " you walk small. If 
man tote hammock, plenty broken bottle cut feet." 
And so I walked all through the outskirts of that 
little river-side village. It was the hottest part of 
a very hot day, the sand made the going heavy, and 
the sun poured down mercilessly out of a cloudless 
sky. I was soon exceedingly tired, but I was filled 
with pity for the unfortunates who had to carry me. 
They walked beside me happily enough or dawdled 
behind scorning the fool woman who employed them. 
I may say when I came back my men carried me 
over every foot of the path, but they set me down a 
dozen times that day, and when my companion came 
up and found me sitting under a cocoa-nut palm, as 
he did pretty frequently, he remonstrated with me and 
remonstrated with my men, but the thing rested with 
me. It took me all day long to learn that the men 



THE GUINEA COAST 89 

must do the work they had undertaken to do, and un- 
til I was convinced of it in my own mind they certainly 
were not. We had luncheon in the house of the 
headman of a fishing village ; at afternoon tea-time 
we were sitting on the sand waiting for the tide to run 
out so that we might cross the Twin Rivers, and we 
waited nearly two hours, and at last as the darkness 
was falling we arrived at a village where we must 
stop the night. My first night in the wilds. 

It was a small fishing village on the sands of the 
seashore, built of the stalks of the raffia palm which 
here the people call bamboo. The Chief had a com- 
pound cleared out for us, and I do not know now 
whether that compound was clean. In my mind it 
remains as clean, because till then I had always ex- 
pected a native house to be most uninhabitable, and 
was surprised to find any simple comforts at all. 
The floors were of sand, the walls of the stalks of 
the raffia, and the thatch of the fronds. I prefer palm 
to mud for a wall ; for one thing, it is nice and airy, 
the wind can blow right through it and you might 
almost be in the open air, but then again, you must 
make your toilet and have your bath in the dark, for 
if you have a light everything is as clearly visible to 
the outside world as if you had been placed in a cage 
for their special benefit. However, my bed was put 
up, my bath and toilet things set out, and I managed 
to dress and come outside for dinner which we had 
in the open. The grey sand was our carpet, the 
blue-black sky dotted with twinkling diamonds our 
canopy, and the flickering, chimneyless Hinkson 
lamp lighted our dinner-table. I was more than 
content. It was delightful, and then the serpent 
entered into our paradise. 



90 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

" Kwesi," said the Forestry officer angrily, 
" there's a hair in the soup." 

Kwesi had only brought the soup from the kitchen 
to the table, so it was hardly fair to blame him, but 
the average man, if his wife is not present, is apt to 
consider the nearest servant is always responsible 
for his little discomforts, and he does not change 
his character in Africa I find. Kwesi accepted 
the situation. 

" It not ploper hair, sah," he protested as apologeti- 
cally as if he had sought diligently for a hair without 
success and been obliged to do the best he could with 
negro wool. 

I, not being a wife and therefore not responsible, 
was equal to suggesting that it probably came off the 
flour bag and he might as well have his dinner in 
peace, but he was not easily soothed. 

That first night, absolutely in the open, everything 
took on a glamour which comes back to me when- 
ever I think of it. A glorious night out in the open 
in the Tropics is one of the pure delights of life. A 
fire flickered in the centre of the compound ; to the 
right in a palm-thatched hut we could see the cook 
at work, and we had hors d'oeuvre, which here they 
call small chop, and the soup which my companion 
complained of, and fish and chicken and sweets and 
fruit as good as if we had been in a London restau- 
rant. Better, for the day's hammocking on the beach 
with the salt spray wetting our faces and the roar of 
the turbulent West-Coast surf in our ears had given 
us an appetite that required no tempting. The hair 
was but an incident ; the sort of contrast that always 
marks West Africa. We dined luxuriously. 

Around us were strewn our camp outfit, all the 



THE GUINEA COAST 91 

thousand and one things that are required to make 
two people comfortable. It had taken sixteen men 
to carry us twenty miles in our hammocks ; it had 
taken five-and-twenty more to minister to our com- 
fort. The headman of the village regarded us as 
honoured guests. He provided a house, or rather 
several houses in a compound, he told the carriers 
where they could get wood and water, he sold us 
chickens at exorbitant prices, but still chickens, and 
plantains and kenky and groundnuts for the men. 
And so we dined in comfort and talked over the 
incidents of the day. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE KING'S HIGHWAY 

The burying of the village dead — For Ju-ju — The glory of the 
morning — The catastrophes by the way — The cook is con- 
demned to death — Redeemed for two shillings — The thun- 
derous surf — The charm of the shore — Traces of white blood — 
A great negro town — Our quarters — Water that would induce 
a virulent typhus in any but a negro community — The lonely 
German trader — Difficulties of entertaining a negro potentate 
— The lair of the hunted. 

The King's Highway is along the shore here easy 
enough going when the tide is out and the golden 
sand is hard ; very heavy indeed when the roaring 
waves break almost at the foot of the cocoa-nut palms 
that stand in phalanxes tall and stately, or bending 
somewhat towards the sea that is their life, all the 
way from Axim to Half Assinie, and beyond again 
to the French border. There is no other way than 
this way along the shore. Occasionally, if the " sea 
be too full," as the carriers say, they may go up to a 
rough path among the cocoa-nut palms, but it is a 
very rough path. Husks of the cocoa-nuts lie there, 
palm fronds drying and withering in the sun, a great 
creeping bean flings its wandering stalks across the 
path as a trap to the unwary, and when there is 
other greenery it stands up and stretches out thorny 
branches to clutch at the passer-by. Besides, the 
villagers — and there are many villages — bury their 
dead here, and they consider two feet a deep enough 

92 



THE KING'S HIGHWAY 93 

grave, so that the odour of decay rises on the hot air. 
All along the shore, which is the highway, just under 
the cocoa-nut palms, I saw tiny miniature sloping 
thatches over some pots — a sign that someone has 
been buried there. At first I was touched to think 
so many of the living mourned the dead ; but my 
sentimental feelings are always receiving rude 
shocks, and I found that these thatches had not been 
raised in tender remembrance, but to placate the 
ghosts of the dead and to prevent them from haunting 
the living. They must be rather foolish ghosts, too, 
and easily taken in ; for I observed that a bunch of 
cock's feathers evidently simulated a chicken, and the 
pots were nearly always rather elderly and often 
broken. There were more gruesome signs of Ju-ju 
too ; a crow suspended with outspread wings, a kid 
with drooping head and hanging legs. I hope these 
things were not put up while they were alive and left 
to suffer in the tropical sunshine, but I fear, I fear. 
The negro is diabolically cruel. 

When we were children we always ate the things 
we liked least first, bread and butter, and then cake ; 
and there is much to be said for the plan. After- 
wards I found it was much easier and nicer travelling 
in the bush, but on that first journey travelling along 
the shore had great charms for me. In the early 
morning a whitish mist hangs over the sea and veils 
the cocoa-nut palms, and there is a little chill in the 
air which makes travelling pleasant. We always got 
up before dawn. At the first streak of light we were 
having our breakfast, porridge and eggs and marma- 
lade and fruit, bananas, pines, or oranges, quite as 
comfortably as if we were in civilised lands, though 
the servants were waiting to pack our breakfast 



94 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

equipage, and we watched our beds and boxes and 
baths borne away on men's heads as we drank our 
coffee. There were catastrophes sometimes, of 
course. 

There was the morning when the coffee had been 
made on top of the early-morning tea, and the even- 
ing when the peaches were agreeably flavoured with 
household soap ; the day when some unknown hand 
had conveyed native peppers, which are the hottest 
things in creation outside the infernal regions, into 
the sparklet bottle ; and the day when the drinking 
water gave out altogether, and was replaced by the 
village water, black and greasy, and sufficient to 
induce in any but a negro community a virulent 
typhus. But all disasters paled before the day when 
neither the dinner nor the cook were forthcoming at 
Beyin. 

The Forestry officer, in the kindness and hos- 
pitality of his heart, had asked me to be his guest, so 
that we always had chop together, and I gained ex- 
perience without any trouble to myself. 

I was sorry there was no dinner, because it seemed 
a long time since we had had tea, but otherwise I was 
not troubled. 

"Where be cook, Kwesi?" asked the Forestry 
officer of his immediate attendant. 

Kwesi spluttered and stammered; he was so full 
of news. Round at a little distance stood the people 
of the town of Beyin — men in cloths ; women, some 
with a handkerchief round their heads, but some with 
a coiffure that suggested the wearer had been per- 
manently surprised, and her hair had stood up on 
end and stayed there ever since ; little children, who 
shyly poked their heads round their mothers' legs to 



THE KING'S HIGHWAY 95 

look at the strange white woman. The truth was 
hardly to be told in Kwesi's agitated pigeon English. 
It was awful. The cook had marched into the town 
on business bent and demanded chickens for the 
white master and the white missus, and the inhabi- 
tants, with a view to raising the market price, had 
declared there was not a chicken within miles of the 
place, and they had not seen such a thing for years. 
Cook was aggravated, for the chickens were walking 
about under his very eyes, not perhaps well-bred 
Dorkings or Buff Orpingtons, but the miserable 
little runt about the size of a self-respecting pigeon 
that is known as a chicken all over West Africa, and 
the sight was too much for him. He seized one of 
those chickens and proceeded to pluck and dress it, 
and before he was half-through the Omahin's men 
had come down and hauled him off to durance vile, for 
he had committed the iniquitous offence of stealing 
one of the Omahin's guard's chickens, and public 
opinion was almost agreed that only death could ex- 
piate so grievous a crime. Of course, there was the 
white woman to be considered, an unknown quantity, 
for many of them had never seen a white woman be- 
fore ; and there was the Forestry officer, by no means 
an unknown quantity, for it was pretty certain he 
would resent any harm to his cook. Finally, with 
much yelling and shouting and tremendous gesticu- 
lation, the case was laid before him and the demand 
made that his cook should be handed over to the 
powers he had offended. I am bound to say that young 
man held the scales of justice with a niceness that is 
only to be properly appreciated when we remember 
that it was his dinner that was not forthcoming and 
his cook whose life was threatened. He listened to 



96 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

both sides, and then decreed that the cook was to 
be redeemed by the payment of two shillings, that 
the crowd was to disperse, and dinner to come up 
forthwith. 

" Two shillings," said the next white man we met, 
the preventive officer at Half Assinie, close to the 
Border, " two shillings ! I should think so indeed. 
The price of a chicken is sixpence, and it's dear at 
that." 

They are such arrant savages, these people of the 
King's Highway ; often enough they are stark save 
for a loin cloth, and I have seen men without even 
the proverbial fig leaf. The very decencies of life 
seem unknown to them, and yet they calculate in 
sixpences and shillings, even as the man in the 
streets in England does. 

They have touched the fringe of civilisation for 
so many hundred years ; for this is the Coast of the 
great days of the slave trade, and along this seashore, 
by this roaring surf, beneath the shade of these cocoa- 
nut palms, have marched those weary companies of 
slaves, whose descendants make the problem of 
America nowadays. It must have been the same 
shore, the very same. Here is the golden sand and 
the thunderous surf that only the men of the Coast 
will dare, and between Axim and the French 
Ivory Coast not always they. The white scallop 
shells are tossed aside by the feet of the carriers ; 
the jellyfish that twinkle like lumps of glass in the 
strong sunshine must be avoided, for they sting; 
plover and little wading birds like snipe dart into the 
receding wave, or race back from its oncoming; and 
the little crabs, like brown pincushions on stilts, run 
to hide themselves in the water. Here are crows, 



THE KING'S HIGHWAY 97 

too, with neat black coats and immaculate white 
waistcoats and white collars, who fly cawing round 
the villages. We saw an occasional vulture, like a 
ragged and very dissipated turkey, tearing at the 
carcass of a goat or sheep. Such is the shore now. 
So was it four hundred years ago. The people must 
have changed a little, but very, very little in this 
western portion of the Gold Coast, which is given 
over to the mahogany cutters, the gold-seekers, and 
the men who seek mineral oil. And the people are 
born, and live, and die, and know very, very little 
more than their forefathers, who lived in fear of 
the trader who would one day tear them from their 
homes, and force civilisation upon them with the 
cat and with the branding iron. In the old days they 
got much of their sustenance from the sea, and so do 
they get it still ; and when the surf was not too bad we 
saw the dark men launching their great surf boats, 
struggling to get them into the surf, struggling to keep 
them afloat till they got beyond it, when they were 
things of life. And when the surf was too bad, as it 
was on many days, they contented themselves with 
throwing in hand-nets, racing back as the sea washed 
over them, racing forward as it receded ; and the 
women and children gathered shell-fish just where 
sand and surf met, carrying in their hands calabashes, 
or cocoa-nut shells, or those enamelled iron-ware 
basins which are as common now on the Coast as they 
are in London town. It seems to me that enamelled 
iron ware is one of the great differences between 
now and the days when the English and Dutch and 
Portuguese adventurers came first to this coast trad- 
ing for gold and ivory and slaves. 

There are other traces of them, too, though they 

G 



98 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

only built forts and dared hardly go beyond the 
shelter of their walls. Not infrequently the skin of 
the man who bore me was lightened to copper colour ; 
every now and then I saw straight features and thin 
lips, though the skin was black, and I remembered, 
I must perforce remember, that these traders of old 
time made the dark women minister to their passions, 
and that the dark women bore them children with 
pride, even as they do to-day. 

Beyin is one of the biggest purely negro towns 
along the Coast. It is close on the shore, a mass of 
negro compounds huddled close together ; the walls 
of the compounds and of houses are alike made of 
raffia palm, and the roofs are thatched with the fronds, 
looking not unlike peasant cottages in Somerset or 
Brittany. 

And the people who live in them are simple 
savages. They chatter and shriek, talking at the top 
of their voices about — God knows what ; for it seems 
as if nothing in the nature of news could have hap- 
pened since the long-ago slave-raiding days. In the 
street they pressed me close ; only when I noticed any 
particular one, especially a woman or a child, that 
one fled shrieking to hide behind its neighbour. We 
sent our orderly forward to tell the Omahin we pro- 
posed to honour them with our presence for two days, 
and to ask for a house to live in. The house was 
forthcoming, a great two-storied house, built of swish, 
and whitewashed. It was right in the centre of the 
town, so closely surrounded by the smaller houses 
that, standing on the balcony, I could drop things 
easily on to the roofs below ; but it had this 
advantage, that unless the people climbed on 
their roofs — they did as a matter of fact — we could 



THE KING'S HIGHWAY 99 

not be overlooked. We had three rooms: an enor- 
mous centre room that someone had begun to 
paint blue, got tired, and finished off with splashes 
of whitewash, the council chamber of the town ; 
and two side-rooms for bedrooms. And words 
fail me to describe those bedrooms. There were 
iron beds with mattresses, mattresses that looked as 
if they had been rescued from the refuse heap 
specially to accommodate us, and tables covered 
with dirt and the most wonderful collection of odds 
and ends it has ever been my fortune to come across. 
They were mostly the cheapest glass and china orna- 
ments, broken-down lamps that in their palmy days 
must have been useless, and one of those big gaily 
painted china sitting hens that humble households 
sometimes serve up their breakfast eggs under. The 
first thing was to issue strict orders that not even the 
ground sheet was to touch that bed ; the next was to 
clear away the ornaments, wipe down the table, cover 
it with clean paper and a towel, sweep the floor, lay 
down the ground sheet, put up the bed, and decide 
whether I would wash in sea water or in the black 
and greasy liquid which comes from a mile away 
across the swamp, and which was the only alterna- 
tive. I may say I tried them both, and found them 
both unsatisfactory ; and I finished with the sea water 
because I knew that, however uncomfortable, it was 
at least clean. 

Here we used the last of our drinking water and 
had to beg a little from the only white trader in the 
town, who gave generously of his small store, as 
white men do help each other beyond civilisation. 
He was German, and somewhat difficult to under- 
stand at times when he grew excited ; but he stood 



100 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

on the same side of the gulf as we other two, while 
the black people, those who served us, and those 
who stared at us, were apart on the other side. A 
weary, dreary life is the trader's. He had a house 
just on the edge of the surf. His " factory " was 
below it. His only companions were a beautiful 
green-crested clock-bird and a little old-man mon- 
key with a white beard. The ghastly loneliness of 
it! Nothing to do but to sell cotton stuffs and 
enamel ware and gin to the native, and count the 
days till it was time to tramp to Axim and take the 
steamer that should bear him back to the Fatherland 
and all the joys of wife and children. 

" I saw the homeward-bound steamer to-day," he 
said pathetically, though he did not know he was 
pathetic. " I always look for it." 

" The steamer ! I did not know it came close 
enough in." 

" It doesn't. Of course it was only the smoke on 
the horizon." 

Surely, surely, the tragedy of the exile's life lay in 
those words. 

We had sent our orderly forward to say we were 
going to visit the Omahin, and soon after our arrival 
we called upon him. His palace is a collection of 
swish huts with palm-thatched roofs, built round a 
sanded compound; and we were ushered into a 
cramped, whitewashed room — his court. The 
population packed themselves into the body of 
the court to stare at the white people and native 
royalty ; and the Omahin and his councillors 
were crowded up in the corner, whence, I 
presume, justice is dispensed. The exalted per- 
sonage was clad in a dark robe of many-coloured 



THE KING'S HIGHWAY 101 

silks, with a band of the same material round his 
black head. Round his neck was a great, heavy gold 
chain, on his arms bracelets of the same metal, and 
on his fingers heavy gold rings. Some of his coun- 
cillors were also dressed in native robes, and they 
carried great horns of gold and the sticks that mark 
his rank with gold devices on top of them. The in- 
congruity was provided by the " scholars " among 
his following — the linguists, the registrar, and other 
minor officials. These functionaries were clad in 
the most elderly of cast-off European garments, 
frock coats green with age, shirts that simply shrieked 
for the washtub, and trousers that a London un- 
employed would have disdained. However, they 
interpreted for us, and we explained to the Chief 
how pleased the white lady was with his country 
and how much she wished to visit the lake village, 
which was three hours away on the trade route to the 
back-country. He expressed his willingness to give 
us a guide through the swamp that lay behind the 
town, and then with a great deal of solemnity we took 
our leave and retired to our own somewhat delayed 
afternoon tea. 

We were mistaken if we thought we were going 
to be allowed to have it in peace. We had not sat 
down a moment, the Forestry officer, the German 
trader, and I, when the ragged travesty of a Gold 
Coast policeman, who was the Omahin's messenger, 
came dawdling upstairs to announce that the Omahin 
was coming to return our call ; and he and his coun- 
cillors and linguists followed close on his heels. The 
linguist explained that it was the custom to return a 
ceremonial call at once, and custom rules the roost 
in West Africa. That might be, but our conversa- 



102 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

tional powers had been exhausted a quarter of an 
hour before, and not the most energetic ransacking 
of our brains could find anything to say to this negro 
potentate, who sat stolidly in a chair surrounded by 
an ever increasing group of attendants. I asked him 
if he would have tea. No. Cake, suggested the 
Forestry officer frantically. No. Toast and butter 
we both offered in a breath. No ; he had no use for 
toast and butter, or for biscuits or oranges, which 
exhausted our tea-table. And then the Forestry 
officer had a brilliant idea : " You offer him a whisky - 
and-soda." I did, and the dusky monarch weighed 
the matter a moment. Then he agreed, and a glass 
of whisky-and-soda was given him. We did not offer 
any refreshment to his followers. It would have left 
us bankrupt, and then not supplied them all. For 
a moment the Omahin looked at his whisky-and- 
sparklet, then he held out the glass, and a man stepped 
forward, and, bending low, took a sip ; again he 
held out the glass, choosing his man apparently quite 
promiscuously from among the crowd, and again the 
man bent low and sipped. It was done over and 
over again. I did not realise that a glass could have 
held so much liquid as one after another, the chosen 
of the company, among whom was my most trouble- 
some hammock-boy, sipped. At last there was but 
a teaspoonful left, and the Omahin put it to his own 
lips and drank with gusto, handed it to one of his 
attendants, took it back, and, tipping it up, drained 
the very last dregs; then, solemnly holding out a 
very hard and horny hand, shook hands with us and 
departed. 

The next day we visited Lake Nuba. Beyin 
stands upon a narrow neck of land between the sea 



THE KING'S HIGHWAY 103 

and a swamp that in the rainy season is only passable 
in canoes, but when I was there in the middle of 
the dry season a winding path took us through the 
dense swamp grasses to the place that is neither land 
nor water, and it is difficult to say whether a ham- 
mock or a canoe is the least dangerous mode of pro- 
gression. Be it understood that this is a trade route. 
Rotting canoes lay among the grasses ; and there 
passed to and fro quite an array of people laden with 
all manner of goods, plantains, and cassava, stink- 
fish (which certainly does not belie its name), piles 
of cotton goods for the interior, and great enamelled- 
ware basins piled with loam to make swish houses in 
Beyin. Most often these heavily laden folks are 
women who stalk along with a child up on their 
backs, or suckling it under their arms. They stared 
with wonder at the white woman in the hammock and 
moved into the swamp to let her pass, but I should 
think they no more envied me than I envy the Queen 
of England driving in the Park. Presently the way 
was ankle-deep in water, knee-deep in mud. Raffia 
palm, creepers, and all manner of swamp grasses 
grew so close that the hammock could barely be 
forced through, and only two men could carry it. 
We went up perhaps twenty feet in squelching, 
slippery mud. We came down again, and the 
greenery opened out into an expanse of water, where 
starry-white water-lilies opened cups to the sky 
above, and the great leaves looked like green rafts 
on the surface of the water. There were holes hidden 
by that water, but it is the trade route north all the 
same ; and has been the trade route for hundreds of 
years since the Omahins of Beyin raided that way, 
and brought down their strings of slaves, carrying 



104 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

the tiny children lest they should be drowned, to the 
Dutch and Portuguese and English traders on the 
Coast. Presently we came to a more marked water- 
way, and here were canoes waiting for us. I draw a 
veil over the disembarking out of a hammock into an 
extremely crank and wet canoe. I was up to my 
knees in water, but the Forestry officer expressed 
himself as delighted. I held up a dripping skirt, and 
he made his men paddle over, and inspected. It 
was, of course, as we might have expected; the 
natives had seen that the most important person in 
their eyes, the man, got the only fairly dry canoe, 
and my kindly guardian was shocked, and insisted 
on an immediate change being made. And if it is 
necessary to draw a veil over the disembarking from 
a hammock to a canoe it is certainly necessary to 
draw one over the changing from one crank canoe 
to another. I can assure you it cannot be done 
gracefully. Even a mermaid who had no fear of 
being drowned could hardly accomplish that with 
elegance. But it was done at last, and we set off 
up the long and picturesque waterway fringed with 
lilies and palms and swamp grasses that led to Lake 
Nuba. And sometimes the waterway was deep, 
sometimes shallow. The canoe was aground, and 
every man had to jump overboard to help push it 
over the obstruction, but more than one man went 
over his head in slime and water. At each accident 
the lucky ones who had escaped roared and yelled 
with laughter as if it were the best of jokes. Perhaps 
it was. It was so hot that it could have been no 
hardship to have a bath, and they had nothing on to 
spoil. But at last we got out on the lake. It looked 
a huge sheet of water from the little canoe, and it 



THE KING'S HIGHWAY 105 

took a good hour's paddling till we came to the lake 
village. 

This is the lair of the hunted, though it does lie on 
the trade route. Behind it lies the swamp which is 
neither land nor water in the dry season, and it looks 
just a tangle of raffia palm and swamp grass, and 
all manner of tropical greenery. The huts, like the 
huts of Beyin are, are built of raffia palm, but they 
go one better than Beyin and the fishing villages, 
even the flooring is of the stems ; and the whole 
village is raised on stakes, so that it hangs over the 
water, and the houses can only be reached by a 
framework of poles. 

" If you will go exploring," said the Forestry 
officer, as I gathered up my skirts and essayed the 
frail ladder. 

I here put it on record that I think savage life can 
by no manner of means be recommended, save and 
except for its airiness. There is plenty of air. It is 
easy enough to see through those lightly built walls 
of raffia palm, and the doings of the occupants 
must be fairly open to the public. Also, except in 
one room, where a hearth had been laid down about 
six feet by three in extent, the flooring is so frail that 
in trying to walk on it I slipped through, and was 
nipped tightly by the ankles. I couldn't rescue 
myself. I was held as in a vice till the grinning 
King's messenger and a Kroo-boy carrier got me 
out, wherefore I conclude the inhabitants of those 
villages must spend the most of their time on their 
backs. In the dry season there is a little bit of hard 
earth underneath the huts. In the wet season there 
is nothing but water and the raffia palm flooring or 
a crank canoe for a resting-place. No wonder even 



106 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

the tiny children seem as much at home in a canoe 
as I am in an easy chair. And yet the village is 
growing, so there must be a charm about it as 
a dwelling-place. We had " chop " on the verandah 
of the Chief's house. The Chief had apparently quite 
recently buried one of his household, for at the end 
of the platform close against the dwelling-chambers 
was erected one of the miniature sloping roofs with 
offerings of cock's feathers, shells, and pots to 
placate the ghost. It was quite a new erection, too, 
for the palm-leaf thatch was still green ; but where 
the dead body was I do not know, probably sunk 
in the swamp underneath, and why so close I do not 
know either, since the people evidently feared his 
ghost. However, even if we were lunching over a 
grave, it did not trouble us half so much as the fate 
of the toast which was being brought across from 
another hut in a particularly crank canoe, and was 
naturally an object of much curiosity. 

The people were very courteous. It seems to me 
that the farther you get from civilisation the more 
courteous the population. Village children eager to 
see the lions in a circus could not have been more 
keen than the people of this lake village to see the 
white woman, but they did not even come and look 
till our linguist went forth and announced that the 
white people had had their chop, and were ready to 
receive the headman. He came, bringing his little 
daughter — a rough-looking, bearded old man, who 
squatted down in front of me and rammed the tail 
of his cloth into his mouth ; and immediately there 
followed in his train, I should think, the entire 
village, men, women, and children, and ranged 
themselves in rows on the bamboo flooring, and 



THE KING'S HIGHWAY 107 

looked their fill. Rows of eyes staring at one are 
embarrassing ; I don't care whether they be those of 
a cultured people or of savages clad in scanty gar- 
ments. If you stand up before an audience in a 
civilised land you know what you are there for, and 
you either succeed or fail, so the thing marches and 
comes to an end. But sitting before a subdued 
crowd clad in Manchester cotton or simply a smile, 
with all eyes centred on you, I at least feel that my 
role is somewhat more difficult. What on earth am 
I to do? If I move they chatter; if I single one out 
to be touched, he moves away, and substitutes a 
neighbour, who is equally anxious to substitute 
someone else, and the production of a camera causes 
a stampede. Looking back, I cannot consider that 
my behaviour at the lake village reflected any par- 
ticular credit upon me. I felt I ought really to have 
produced more impression upon a people who had, 
many of them, never in their lives set eyes on a white 
woman before. They tell me, those who know, that 
for these people, whose lives move on in the same 
groove from the cradle to the grave, the coming of 
the Forestrv officer and the white woman was a 
great event, and that all things will bear date from 
the day when the white missus and the white master 
had chop on the Chief's verandah. 

Before we left Bey in, I promised to take the 
Omahin's photograph. Early in the morning, when 
we had sent on our carriers, we wended our way to 
his house, where an eager crowd awaited us. They 
kept us waiting, of course ; I do not suppose it would 
be consistent with an African chief's dignity to show 
himself in any hurry. When I grew tired of waiting 
and was turning away, the linguist came out to know 



108 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

if 1 would promise a picture when it was taken. I 
agreed. Certainly. More waiting, and then out came 
the linguist with a dirty scrap of paper and a lead 
pencil in his hand, and demanded of the Forestry 
officer his name and address. 

" Why ? " asked the astonished young man. 
So we can write to you when pictures no come." 

It was lucky I was pretty sure of my own powers, 
but it was a little rough to make the Forestry officer 
responsible for any accident that might happen. It 
was a great relief to my mind when there came back 
to me from Messrs Sinclair a perfect picture of the 
Omahin and his following and his little son. I sent 
them the picture enlarged, but I never heard from 
that respectable linguist what they thought of it. 



CHAPTER VII 

ON THE FRENCH BORDER 

Very heavy going — Half Assinie — The preventive service station 
— The energetic officer — Dislike of Africa— The Tano River 
— The enterprising crocodiles — The mahogany logs — Wicked 
waste — Gentlemen adventurers — A primitive dinner-party — 
Forced labour— The lost carrier—" Make die and chopped "_— 
A negro Good Samaritan — A matrimonial squabble — The wife 
who would earn her own living — Dissatisfied carriers. 

We were bound to Half Assinie and the French 
border and the way was all along the shore, which is a 
narrow strip of land between the roaring surf and a 
mangrove-fringed lagoon, and on this strip are the 
palm-built fishing villages and the cocoa-nut groves 
that are so typical of the Coast. The last day out from 
Half Assinie the way was very heavy going indeed. 
We had our midday meal in the street of a village 
with the eyes of the villagers upon us, and by 
the afternoon the " sea was too full," the sun was 
scorching, and the loose sand was cruel heavy going 
for the carriers and the hammock-boys. The sun 
went down, the cool of the evening came, but the 
bearers were staggering like drunken men before a 
shout went up. We had reached Half Assinie, the 
last important town in the Gold Coast Colony. 

Half Assinie is just like any other Western Prov- 
ince Gold Coast town, built close down to the roar- 
ing, almost impassable surf, because the people draw 

109 



110 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

much of their livelihood from the sea, and built of 
raffia-palm bamboo, because there is nothing else to 
build it of. Only there is this difference, that here is 
a preventive station, with a white man in command. 
There is a great cleared square, which is all sand and 
cocoa-nut palms, men in neat dark-blue uniforms 
pass to and fro, and bugle calls are heard the livelong 
day. We arrived long before the rest of our follow- 
ing, and we marched straight up to the preventive 
officer's house only to find that he was down with 
fever. But he was hospitable. All white men are 
in West Africa. The house was ours. It consisted 
of a square of sun-dried, white-washed mud, divided 
into three rooms with square openings for windows, 
mud floor and no ceiling, but high above the walls 
the palm-thatched roof is raised and carried far out 
beyond them to form a verandah where we could sit 
and eat and entertain visitors. It was big enough, 
never less than twelve and often quite eighteen feet 
wide, and could be made quite a comfortable living- 
room were a woman there, but Englishmen and the 
English Government do not encourage wives. The 
rooms assigned to the guests were of necessity empty, 
for men cannot carry furniture about in West Africa, 
and our host being sick and our gear not yet arrived, 
the Forestry officer and I, comforted with whisky- 
and-soda, took two chairs and sat out in the com- 
pound under the stars and watched for the coming 
of our carriers. The going had been so hard they 
straggled in one by one, bath and bed and chairs 
and tables and boxes, and it was nine o'clock before 
we were washed and dressed and in our right minds, 
and waiting " chop " at a table on the big verandah 
that the faithful Kwesi, who had been properly in- 



ON THE FRENCH BORDER 111 

structed, had decorated with yellow cannas from the 
garden. 

There is something about Half Assinie that gives 
the impression of being at the end of the world. Of 
course I have been in places much farther from civil- 
isation, but nowhere has the tragedy of the English- 
man's life in West Africa so struck me as it did here, 
and again I must say I think it is the conditions of the 
life and not the climate that is responsible for that 
tragedy. The young man who ran that preventive 
station was cheerful enough ; he got up from his bed 
of fever when he could hardly stagger across the room 
to entertain his visitors. When he could barely 
crawl, he was organising a game of cricket between 
some white men who had unexpectedly landed and 
the " scholars " among the black inhabitants ; and he 
was energetic and good-tempered and proud of his 
men, but he hated the country and had no hesitation 
in saying so. He had no use for West Africa ; he 
counted the days till he should go home. He would 
not have dreamt of bringing his wife out even if she 
had wished to come. He was, in fact, a perfect speci- 
men of the nice, pleasant Englishman who is going 
the way that allows France and Germany to beat us 
in colonising all along the line. It was his strong 
convictions, many of them unspoken, that impressed 
me, his realisation of his own discontent and discom- 
fort and hopelessness that have tinged my recollec- 
tions of the place. 

It should be a place of great importance, for it is 
but a short distance from the Tano River, and down 
the Tano River, far from the interior, come the great 
mahogany logs that rival the logs of Honduras and 
Belize and all Central America in value. They are 



112 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

cut far away in the forests of the interior; they are 
floated down the Tano River, paying toll to the 
natives who guide them over the falls and rapids ; 
they come between tall, silk-cotton trees and fan 
palms and raffia palms, where the chimpanzee hides 
himself and the dog-faced monkeys whimper and 
cry, the crocodile suns himself on the mud-banks, 
and great, bell-shaped, yellow flowers lighten the 
greenery. They come past the French preventive 
station, that the natives call France, a station thriftily 
decorated with a tiny flag that might have come out 
of a cracker, past the English station built of raffia 
palm like the lake village, for this ground is flooded 
in the rains, through a saving canal, for the Tano 
River enters the sea in French territory, into a lagoon 
behind Half Assinie. The lagoon is surrounded by 
swamp, and the crocodiles, they say, abound, and are 
so fierce and fearless they have been known to take 
the paddler's arm as he stoops to his stroke. I did 
not know of their evil reputation as I sat on a box in 
the frail canoe, that seemed to place me in the midst 
of a waste of waters, rising up to the greenery in the 
far distance, and the blue-white sky above shut down 
on us like a lid. I was even inclined to be vexed 
with the men's reluctance to jump out and push when 
we ran ashore on a sand-bank. They should be able 
to grow rice in these swamps at the mouth of the 
Tano River and behind Beyin, and so raise up a 
new industry that shall save Half Assinie when the 
mahogany trade is a thing of the past. 

From the lagoon to Half Assinie, a couple of 
miles away, the logs are brought on a tramway line, 
and where they land the men are squaring them, cut- 
ting off the butts where the journey down the river 



ON THE FRENCH BORDER 113 

has split and marred them, and making them ready 
to be moved down to the beach by the toilsome 
application of many hands. It reminded me of the 
way they must have built the pyramids as I watched 
the half-naked men toil and sweat and push and 
shriek, and apparently accomplish so little. Yet all 
in good time the beach is strewn with the logs, great 
square-cut baulks of red timber with their owners' 
marks upon their butts and covered generally with a 
thatch of cocoa-nut palm fronds to keep them from 
the all-powerful sun. The steamer will call for them 
some day, but it is no easy thing to get them through 
the surf, and steamer after steamer calls, whistles, 
decides that the surf is too heavy to embark such 
timber, and passes on. And where they have been 
cut and trimmed, the mammies come with baskets 
to gather pieces of the priceless wood to build their 
fires. It seems to me that the trimming is done 
wastefully. The average savage and the ignorant 
white is always wasteful where there is plenty, and it 
is nothing to them that the mahogany tree does not 
come to maturity for something like two hundred 
and fifty years, and that the cutters have denuded 
the country far, far beyond the sea coast. 

There are other phases of life in Half Assinie. 
Usually there is but one white man there, the pre- 
ventive officer, but when I visited it actually ten 
white people sat down one night to dinner. For 
there had landed some white people bound on some 
errand which, as has been the custom from time 
immemorial in Africa, was veiled in mystery. They 
were seeking gold ; they hoped to find diamonds ; 
their ultimate aim was to trade with the natives, 
and cut out every other trading-house along the 

H 



114 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Coast. Frankly, I do not know what they had landea 
for — their leader talked of his wealth and how he grew 
bananas and pines and coffee, and created a tropical 
paradise in Devonshire, and meanwhile in Africa con- 
ferred the inimitable benefits of innumerable gramo- 
phones and plenty of work upon the guileless savage 
— but I only gathered he was there for the purpose of 
filling his pockets, how, I have not the faintest idea. 
His dinner suggested Africa in the primitive days 
of the first adventurers and rough plenty. Soup in a 
large bowl, from which we helped ourselves, a dozen 
tins of sardines flung on a plate, a huge tongue from 
a Gargantuan ox, and dishes piled with slices of 
pine-apple. The table decorations consisted of beer 
bottles, distributed at intervals down the table be- 
tween the kerosene lamps ; the boys who waited 
yelled and shrieked and shouted, like the untamed 
savages they were, and some of the white men were 
unshaven and in their shirt sleeves, and the shirts, 
to put it mildly, needed washing. 

" Gentlemen adventurers," said I to my companion 
under my breath, thinking of the days of old and the 
men who had landed on these shores. 

" Would you say gentlemen ? " said he. 

And I decided that one epithet would be sufficient. 

How the bugles called. Every hour almost a 
man clad in the dark-blue preventive service uniform 
stood out in the square with his bugle and called to the 
surf and the sky and the sand and the cocoa-nut palms 
and the natives beyond, saying to them that here 
was the representative of His Britannic Majesty, here 
was the white man powerful above all others who 
kept the Borders, who was come as the forerunner 
of law and cleanliness and order. For these things 



ON THE FRENCH BORDER 115 

do not come naturally to the native. He clears the 
land when he needs it and then he leaves it to itself 
and the quickly encroaching bush. The mosquito 
troubles him not. Dirt and filth and evil smells are 
not worth counting weighed in the balance against 
a comfortable afternoon's sleep, and so it came that 
when I commented on the neatness of Half Assinie, 
the preventive officer laughed. 

" Forced labour," said he. " The place was in a 
frightful state a month ago and I couldn't get any- 
body to do anything, so I just turned out my men, 
put a cordon round, and forced everyone to do an 
hour's labour, men, mammies, and half-grown chil- 
dren, till we got the place clear. It wasn't hard on 
anyone, and you see." He was right. Sometimes in 
Africa, nay, as a rule, the powers of a dictator are 
needed by the white man. If he is a wise and clever 
dictator so much the better, but one thing is certain, 
he must not be a man who splits hairs. Justice, yes, 
rough crude justice he must give — must have the sort 
of mind that sees black and white and does not 
trouble about the varying shades in between. 

We came back from the Border by the road that 
we had gone, the road that is the King's Highway, 
and an incident happened that shows how very, 
very easily a wrong impression of a people may be 
gathered. 

When we were in Beyin on our way out, the two 
headmen who were eternally at war with each other 
suddenly appeared in accord leading between them a 
man by the hands. 

" This man be very sick." 

This man certainly was very sick, and it seemed 
to the Forestry officer that the simplest thing would 



116 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

be to leave him behind at Beyin and pick him up on 
our return journey. He thought his decision would 
be received with gratitude. Not at all. The sick 
carrier protested that all he wanted was to be relieved 
of his load and allowed to go on. The men of Beyin 
were bad people ; if he stayed they would kill him 
and chop him. The Forestry officer was inclined to 
laugh. Murder of an unoffending stranger and can- 
nibalism on a coast that had been in touch with 
civilisation for the last four hundred years ; the idea 
was not to be thought of. But the frightened sick 
man stuck to his point and his brother flung down 
his load and declared if he were left behind he should 
stay with him. There was nothing for it then but to 
agree to their wishes. He was relieved of his load 
and he started, and he and his brother arrived at 
Half Assinie long after all the other carriers had got 
in. The gentlemen adventurers numbered among 
them a doctor, and he was called in and prescribed 
for the sick man. After the little rest there he 
was better, and started back for Axim, his brother, 
who was carrying the Forestry officer's bath, in close 
attendance. By and by we passed the bath aban- 
doned on the beach, and its owner perforce put 
another man on to carry it. 

That night there were no signs of the missing men, 
but next morning the brother, the man who ought to 
have carried the bath, turned up. His face was sodden 
with crying. A negro is intensely emotional, but this 
man had some cause for his grief. He had missed 
his brother, abandoned the bath, and gone right back 
to Half Assinie to look for him. The way was by 
the seashore, there is no way to wander from it ; on 
one side is the roaring surf that no man alone may 



ON THE FRENCH BORDER 117 

dare, and on the other, just beyond the line of cocoa- 
nut palms, a mangrove-fringed lagoon, and beyond 
that a bush, containing perhaps a few native farms to 
be reached by narrow tracks, but a bush that no 
stranger would lightly dare. But no trace of his 
brother could this man find. What had become of 
^ie sick carrier? That was the question we asked 
ourselves, and to that no answer could we find except 
the sinister verdict pronounced by his fellows, " Make 
die and chopped." And that I believed for many 
months, till just before I left the Coast the Forestry 
officer and I met again and he told me the end of 
the story. He had made every inquiry, telegraphed 
up and down the Coast, and given the man up for lost, 
and then after four or five weeks a miserable skeleton 
came crawling into Axim. The lost carrier. He 
had felt faint by the wayside, crawled into the shade 
of a bush and become insensible, and there had been 
found by some man, a native of the country and a 
total stranger to him. And this Good Samaritan 
instead of falling upon him and making him die as 
he fully expected, took him to his own house, fed and 
succoured him, and when he was well enough set him 
on his way. So he and I and all his fellows had 
wronged these men of the shore. Greater kindness 
he could not have found in a Christian land, and in 
all probability he might easily have found much 
less. 

But Beyin too furnished another lesson for me, 
not quite so pleasant. All my carriers had come 
from here, and on our way back they struck. In 
plain words they wanted to see the colour of my 
money. Said the Forestry officer, " Don't pay them, 
else they'll all run away and you will have no one to 



118 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

carry your things into Axim." That was a contin- 
gency not to be thought of, so the ultimatum went 
forth — no pay until they had completed their contract. 
That night I regret to state there was a row in 
the house, a matrimonial quarrel carried on in the 
approved matrimonial style all the w T orld over, with 
the mother-in-law for chorus and general backer-up. 
There was a tremendous racket and the principal 
people concerned seemed to be one of my women- 
carriers and the Omahin's registrar in whose house 
we were lodged. Then because Fanti is one of the 
Twi languages, and an Ashanti can understand it 
quite well, Kwesi interpreted for me. This woman, 
it appeared, was one of the registrar's wives, and he 
disapproved of her going on the road as a common 
carrier. It was not consistent with his dignity as 
an official of the court, he said at the top of his 
voice ; he had given her a good home and she had 
no need to demean herself. She shrilly declared he 
had done no such thing, and if he had, had shamefully 
neglected her for that last hussy he had married, and 
her mother backed her and several other female 
friends joined in, and whether they settled the dispute 
or not to their own satisfaction I do not know, but the 
gentleman cuffed the lady and the lady had the ex- 
treme satisfaction of scattering several handfuls of his 
wool to the winds. 

Next morning none of my carriers turned up ; there 
lay the loads under a tree in front of the house with 
the orderly looking at them with his sardonic grin, but 
never a carrier. It was cool with the coolness of early 
morning. We had our breakfast in the great room, 
we discussed the disturbance of the night before, the 
things were all washed up, still no carriers ; at last, 



ON THE FRENCH BORDER 119 

just as it was getting hot and our tempers were giving 
out, came a message. The carriers would not go 
unless they were paid. 

"And it's a foregone conclusion they won't go if 
they are paid," sighed the Forestry officer as he set 
off to interview the Omahin and tell him our decision. 
If the carriers did not come in at once, it ran, we would 
leave all the loads, making him, the Omahin, re- 
sponsible for their safety, and we would push on with 
the Mendi and Kroo-boy carriers in the Forestry 
officer's employ. Those left behind not having 
carried out their contract of course would then get 
no pay at all, and this would happen unless they 
returned to work within a quarter of an hour. The 
effect was marvellous. The Omahin, of course, did 
not grasp how exceedingly uncomfortable it would 
have been for us to leave our gear behind us, and as 
we had sixteen Kroo boys and Mendi boys the feat 
was quite feasible, and promptly those Beyin people 
returned to work and were as eager to get their loads 
as they had before been to leave them. So I learned 
another lesson in the management of carriers, and 
we made our way without further incident back to 
Axim. 



CHAPTER VIII 

ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Cinderella — A troubled Commissioner — Few people along the 
Coast — No hotels — Nursing Sister to the rescue — Sekondi — 
A little log-rolling — A harassed hedge — Carriers — Difficulties 
of the way — A funeral palaver — No dinner and no ligjit — 
First night alone — Unruly carriers — No breakfast — Crossing 
the Prah — A drink from a marmalade pot — " We no be fit, 
Ma " — The evolution of Grant — Along the Coast in the 
dark — Elmina at last — A sympathetic medical officer — " I 
have kicked your policeman." 

West Africa is Cinderella among the colonies. No 
one goes there for pleasure, and of those who gain 
their livelihood from the country three-fourths regard 
themselves as martyrs and heroes, counting the days 
till the steamer shall take them home again for that 
long leave that makes a position there so desirable. 
The other quarter perhaps, some I know for certain, 
find much good in the country, many possibilities, 
but as yet their voice is not heard by the general 
public above that chorus that drowns its protest. 
That any man should come to the Gold Coast for 
pleasure would be surprising ; that a woman should 
come when she had no husband there, and that she 
should want to go overland all along the sea-board, 
passed belief. " Why ? why ? " asked everyone. 
" A tourist on the Coast," a surprised ship's captain 
called me, and I disclaimed it promptly. My pub- 
lisher had commissioned a book and I was there 

120 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 121 

to write it. And then they could not make up their 
minds whether I or my publisher were the greater 
fool, for but very few among that little company saw 
anything to write about in the country. 

In Axim the troubled Commissioner set his foot 
down. I had been to Half Assinie and he felt that 
ought to satisfy the most exacting woman ; but since 
I was anxious to do more he stretched a point and 
took me as far as Prince's, an abandoned Branden- 
burgher fort that is tumbling into ruins, with a native 
farm in the courtyard, but no farther could I go. 
Carriers he could not get me, and for the first time I 
saw a smile on his face, a real relieved smile, when 
he saw me into the boat that took me to the steamer 
bound for Sekondi. 

No one goes along the Coast except an occasional 
Public Works Department man or a School Inspec- 
tor ; nobody wants to, and it is not easy of accomplish- 
ment. 

Even in the towns it is difficult for the stranger. 
I do not know what would happen if that stranger 
had not friends and letters of introduction, for though 
there are one or two hotels, as yet no one who is 
not absolutely driven to it by stern necessity stays 
in a West-African hotel. In Sekondi it is almost 
impossible, for at this town is the Coast terminus of 
the railway that runs to the mines at Tarkwa and 
Kumasi, and the miner both coming and returning 
seems to require so much liquid refreshment that he 
is anything but a desirable fellow-housemate, where- 
fore was I deeply grateful when Miss Oram, the 
nursing Sister at the Sekondi Hospital, asked me to 
stay in her quarters. 

Sekondi straggles up and down many hills, and 



122 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

by and by if some definite plan of beautifying be fol- 
lowed may be made rather a pretty place. Even now 
at night, from some of the bungalows on the hillsides 
when the darkness gently veils the ugly scars that 
man's handiwork leaves behind, with its great sweep 
of beach, its sloping hillsides dotted with lights, the 
stars above and the lights in the craft on the water 
that lie just outside the surf, it has a wonderful charm 
and beauty that there is no denying. And yet there 
is no doubt Sekondi should not be there. Who is 
responsible for it I do not know, but there must 
have been some atrocious piece of log-rolling before 
Elmina and Cape Coast were deprived of the bene- 
fit of the railway to the north. At Sekondi is no 
harbour. It is but an open roadstead where in days 
gone past both the Dutch and English held small forts 
for the benefit of their trade. At Sekondi was no 
town. At the end of the last century the two little 
fishing villages marked the Dutch and English forts. 
Now the English fort is gone, Fort Orange is used 
as a prison, and a town has sprung into existence that 
has taken the trade from Cape Coast and Elmina. 
It is a town that looks like all the English towns, as if 
no one cared for it and as if everyone lives there be- 
cause perforce he must. In the European town the 
roads are made, and down their sides are huge gutters 
to carry off the storm waters ; the Englishman, let it 
be counted to him for grace, is great on making 
great cemented gutters that look like young rivers 
when it rains, and one enterprising Commissioner 
planted an avenue or two of trees which promise 
well, only here and there someone has seen fit to 
cut a tree or two down, and the gap has never been 
replaced. Some of the bungalows are fairly com- 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 123 

fortable, but though purple bougainvillia, flame- 
coloured flamboyant trees, and dainty pink corrallitis 
will grow like weeds, decent gardens are few and far 
between. Instead of giving an impression of tropi- 
cal verdure as it easily might, Sekondi looks some- 
what hot and barren. This, it is only fair to say, I 
did not notice so much till I had visited German 
territory and seen what really could be done with the 
most unpromising material in a tropical climate. 
But German territory is the beloved child, planned 
and cared for and thought much of; English terri- 
tory is the foster-child, received into the household 
because of the profit it will bring, and most of the 
towns of the Gold Coast shore bear these marks 
plain for everyone to read. They suffer, and suffer 
severely from the iniquitous system that is for ever 
changing those in authority over them in almost every 
department. 

Sekondi Hospital for instance is rather a nice- 
looking building but it is horribly bare-looking and 
lacks sadly a garden and greenery. There is, of 
course, a large reserve all round it where are the 
houses of the medical officers and nursing Sisters, 
and in this reserve many things are growing, but the 
general impression is of something just beginning. 
This I hardly understood, since the place has been 
in existence for the last ten years, till I found out that 
in the last eight months there had been four different 
doctors head of that hospital, and each of those doc- 
tors had had different views as to how the grounds 
should be laid out. So round the medical officer's 
bungalow the hedge had been three times planted and 
three times dug up. Just as I left, the fourth 
unfortunate hedge was being put in. That, as I 



124 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

write, is nearly six weeks ago, so in all probability 
they are now considering some new plan. If only 
someone with knowledge would take in hand the 
beautifying of these West-African towns and insist 
on the plans being adhered to ! In one of the prin- 
cipal streets of Sekondi is a tamarind tree standing 
alone, a pleasant green spot in the general glare and 
heat, a reminder of how well the old Dutch did, a 
reproach that we who are a great people do not do 
better. It seems to me it would want so little to 
make these towns beautiful places, the moral effect 
would be so great if they were. 

But I had come to go along the Coast, and the 
question was carriers ; I appealed to the transport. 
My friend, Mr Migeod, the head of the transport, was 
on leave, and his second in command shook his head 
doubtfully. The troops in the north were out on 
manoeuvres and they had taken almost very carrier 
he could lay his hands on ; but he would see what he 
could do. How few could I do with? Seventeen, I 
decided, with two servants, was the very fewest I 
could move with, and he said he would do his best. 
I wanted to start on the following Monday, and I 
chose the hour of ten ; also because this was my first 
essay entirely alone I decided I would not go farther 
than Chama, nine miles along the Coast to the east. 

So, on a Monday morning early in March, behold 
me with all my goods and chattels, neatly done up into 
loads not weighing over 60 lbs., laid out in a row in 
the Sister's compound, and waiting for the carriers. 
I had begged a policeman for dignity, or protection, 
I hardly know which, and he came first and ensconced 
himself under the house, and I sat on the verandah 
and waited. Presently the carriers came and began 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 125 

gingerly turning over the loads and looking at me 
doubtfully. They were Mendis and Timinis, not the 
regular Government carriers, but a scratch lot picked 
up to fill up gaps in the ranks. I didn't like the looks 
of them much, but there was nothing else to be done 
so I prepared to accept them. But it always takes 
two to make a bargain, and apparently those carriers 
liked me less than I liked them, for presently they 
one and all departed, and I began a somewhat heated 
discussion across the telephone with the head of the 
transport. Looking back, I don't see what he could 
have done more than he did. It is impossible to 
evolve carriers out of nothing, but then I didn't see it 
quite in that light. I wanted carriers ; I was looking 
to him to produce them, and I hadn't got them. He 
gave me to understand he thought I was unreason- 
able, and we weren't quite as nice to each other as 
we might have been. The men, he said, were 
frightened, and I thought that was unreasonable, for 
there was nothing really terrifying about me. 

At three o'clock another gang arrived with a note 
from the transport officer. They were subsisted for 
sixteen days, and I might start there and then for 
Accra. 

I should have preferred to have subsisted my men 
myself ; that is, given them each threepence daily, as 
I had on the way to the French border, seeing that 
they were not regular Government men; but as the 
thing was done there was nothing for it but to make 
the best of it, and I went down, hunted up my police- 
man, and saw the loads on to the men's heads. I 
saw them start out in a long string, and then the thing 
that always happens in Africa happened. Both my 
servants were missing. 



126 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Zacco, a boy with a scarred face from the north, 
did not much matter, but Grant knew my ways and I 
could trust him. Clearly, out in the wilds by myself 
with strange carriers and without even a servant, I 
should be very badly off, and I hesitated. Not for 
long though. If I were going to let little things con- 
nected with personal comfort stand in my way I knew 
I should never get to Accra, so I decided to start; 
my servants might catch me up, and if they did not, 
I would rely on the ministrations of the hammock- 
boys. If the worst came to the worst, I supposed I 
could put my dignity in my pocket and cook myself 
something, or live on tinned meat and biscuits ; and 
so, leaving directions with my hostess that those boys 
were to be severely reprimanded when they turned 
up, I got into my hammock and started. 

The road to Accra from Sekondi is along the sea- 
shore, and so, to be very Irish, there is no road. Of 
a truth, very few people there are who choose to go by 
land, as it is so much easier to go by steamer, and the 
way, generally speaking, is along the sand. Just out- 
side Sekondi the beach is broken by huge rocks that 
run out into the sea, apparently barring the way 
effectually, and those rocks had to be negotiated. 
My hammock-boys stopped, and I got out and 
watched my men with the loads scrambling over the 
rocks, and one thing I was sure of, on my own feet 
I could not go that way. I mentioned that to my 
demurring men, and insisted that over those rocks 
they had to get me somehow, if it took the eight 
hammock-boys to do it. And over those rocks I was 
got without setting foot out of my hammock, and I 
fairly purred with pride, most unjustly setting it down 
to my own prowess and feeling it marked a distinct 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 127 

stage on my journey eastwards. We were, all of us, 
pleased as we went on again in all the glare of a 
tropical afternoon, and I mentally sniffed at the men 
who had hinted I was not able to manage carriers. 
There was not a more uplifted woman in all Africa 
than I was for about the space of half an hour. It 
is trite to say pride goes before a fall. We have all 
heard it from our cradles and I ought to have remem- 
bered it, but I didn't. Presently we came to a village, 
or rather two villages, with a stream dividing them, 
and there was a tremendous tom-toming going on, 
and the monotonous sound of natives chanting. The 
place was surrounded by thick greenery, only there 
was a broad way between the houses, a brown road 
with great waterways and holes in it, and the occa- 
sional shade-tree, under which the village rests in the 
heat of the day, and holds its little markets and its 
little councils and even does a stray job of cooking. 
The tom-toming went on, and men appeared blowing 
horns. They were evidently very excited, and I re- 
member still, with a shudder, the staring, bloodshot 
eyes of two who passed my hammock braying on 
horns. Most of my men could speak a little English, 
so I asked not without some little anxiety, " What is 
the matter?" 

" It be funeral palaver, Ma." 

Oh, well, a funeral palaver was no great matter, 
surely. I had never heard of these Coast natives 
doing anything more than drink palm wine to cele- 
brate the occasion. Some of those we passed had 
evidently drunk copiously already, and I was thankful 
we were passing. We came to the little river, we 
crossed the ford, and then we stopped. 

" We go drink water, Ma," said my men, 



128 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

I ought to have said " No," but it was a very hot 
afternoon, and the request was not unreasonable. 
They had had to work hard carrying me over those 
rocks so I got out and let them go. And then, as 
I might have known, I waited. I grew cross, but it 
is no good losing your temper when there is no one 
to be made uneasy by it, and then I grew frightened ; 
but, if it is foolish to lose one's temper, it is the 
height of folly to be afraid when there is no help 
possible. I was standing on the bank of the little 
river that we had just forded, my hammock was at 
my feet, all around was greenery, tropical greenery of 
palm and creeper, not very dense compared to other 
bush I have seen, but dense enough to prevent one's 
stepping off the road ; before me was the village, 
with its mud walls and its thatched roofs, and behind 
me were the groves of trees on the other side of the 
water that hid the village, from which came the sound 
of savage revelry. Never have I felt more alone, and 
yet Sekondi was a bare five miles away. I com- 
forted myself with the reflection that nothing would be 
likely to happen, but the thought of those half-naked 
men with the bloodshot, staring eyes was most un- 
pleasantly prominent in my mind. Some little naked 
boys came and bathed and stared at me ; I didn't 
know whether to welcome them as companions or not. 
They understood no English, and when asked where 
were my men only stared the harder. I tried to take 
a photograph, but the policeman, who carried my 
stand, was also absent at the funeral, and I fear my 
hand shook, for I have never seen that picture. Then, 
at last, when I was absolutely despairing, a hammock- 
boy turned up. He was a most ragged ruffian, with 
a printed cloth by way of trousers, a very openwork 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 129 

singlet, all torn away at one arm, a billycock hat in 
the last stages of dilapidation, and a large red woollen 
comforter with a border of black, blue, and yellow. 
That comforter fascinated me, and I looked at it as 
I talked to him, and wondered where it had been 
made. It had been knitted, and many of the stitches 
had been dropped, and I pictured to myself the sew- 
ing-party sitting round the fire doing useful work, 
while someone read aloud one of Father Benson's 
books. My hammock-boy looked at me as if he 
wondered how I was taking it, and wiped his mouth 
with the tail of the comforter, where they had used 
up the odd bits of wool. He flung it across his 
shoulder and a long, dropped red stitch caught over 
his ear. 

" Where be the men ? " I was very angry indeed, 
which was very rough on the only one of the crowd 
who had turned up. He was very humble, and I 
suggested he should go and look for them, and tell 
them that if " they no come quick, they get no pay." 
He departed on his errand, and I waited with a 
sinking heart. Even if there was no danger, and I 
was by no means sure of that, with that tom-toming 
and that chant in my ears, I could not afford to go 
back and announce that I had failed. All my outlay 
had been for nothing. Another long wait, and more 
little boys to look at me. The evening was coming ; 
here in the hollow, down among the trees, the gloom 
was already gathering, and I began to think that 
neither Chama nor Sekondi would see me that night. 
I wondered what it would be like to spend the night 
under the trees, and whether there were any beasts 
that might molest me. 

" Toom, toom, toom," went the village drum, as if 

I 



130 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

to remind me there might be worse things than spend- 
ing the night under the trees, and then my friend 
with the comforter appeared, leading two of the other 
hammock-boys ; one wore a crocheted, red tam-o'- 
shanter that fell over his face — probably made at the 
same sewing-party. It was the same wool. 

I talked to those three men. Considering they 
were the best behaved of the lot, it comes back to 
me now that I was rather hard on them. I pointed 
out the dire pains and penalties that befell hammock- 
boys who did not pay proper attention to their duties, 
and I trusted that the fact that I was utterly incap- 
able of inflicting those penalties was not as patent to 
them as it was to me, and then I decreed that my 
friend with the comforter should go back and try and 
retrieve a fourth man while the other two stayed with 
me. After another long wait he got that fourth man 
and we started off, I dignifiedly wrathful — at least I 
hope I was dignified ; there was no doubt about 
the wrath — and they bearing evident marks of having 
consumed a certain quantity of the funeral palm wine. 
It was dark when we reached Chama, at least as 
dark as it ever is on a bright, starlight night in the 
Tropics, and we came out of the gloom of the trees to 
find a dark bungalow raised high on stilts on a cement 
platform, looming up against the star-spangled sky, 
and then another surprise, a comforting surprise, 
awaited me : on that cement platform were two white 
spots, and those white spots rose up to greet me, 
shamefaced, humble, contrite, my servants. They 
had evidently slunk past me without being seen, and 
I was immensely relieved. But naturally I did not 
say so. I mentioned that I was very angry with them, 
and that it would take a long course of faithful service 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 131 

to make up for so serious a lapse, and they received 
my reproof very humbly, and apparently never 
realised that I was just about as lonely a woman as 
there was in the world at that moment, and would 
gladly have bartered all my wild aspirations after 
fame and fortune for the comfortable certainty that 1 
was going to spend a safe night. It certainly does 
not jump with my firm faith in thought transference 
that none of those men apparently ever discovered I 
was afraid. I should have thought it was written all 
over me, but also, afraid as I was, it never occurred 
to me to turn back ; so, if the one thought impressed 
them, perhaps the other did too. 

Then I waited on that dark verandah. There was 
some scanty Government furniture in the rest-house, 
and my repentant servant fetched me out a chair, and 
I sat and waited. I looked out ; there was the clear- 
ing round the house, the gloom of the dense greenery 
that grew up between the house and the seashore, 
while east ran the road to the town of Chama, about 
a ten minutes' walk distant, and on the west a narrow 
track hardly discernible in the gloom came out of the 
greenery. Up that I had come and up that I expected 
my men. And it seemed I might expect them. No 
one was going to deny me that privilege. Still, I 
began to feel distinctly better. At least I had arrived 
at Chama, and four hammock-boys and two servants 
were very humbly at my service. I wasn't going to 
spend the night in the open at the mercy of the trees 
and the unknown beasts, and I laughed at the idea of 
being afraid of the trees, though to my mind African 
trees have a distinct personality of their own. Well, 
there was nothing to be done but wait, and I waited 
in the dark, for as no carriers had come in there was 



132 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

no possibility of a light, or of dinner either for that 
matter. Grant was extremely sympathetic and most 
properly shocked at the behaviour of the carriers. 
No punishment could be too great for men who could 
treat his missus in such an outrageous manner. In 
the excitement and bustle of getting off I had eaten 
very little that day, so I was very hungry now; it 
added to my woes and decreased my fear. Nothing 
surely could be going to happen to a woman who was 
so very commonplacely hungry. At last, about ten 
o'clock, I saw my loads come straggling out of the 
gloom of the trees on to the little path up to the 
platform, and then, before I quite realised what was 
happening, the verandah was full of carriers, drunk 
and hilarious, and not at all inclined to recognise the 
enormity of their crime. Something had to be done, 
I knew. It would be the very worst of policies to 
allow my verandah to be turned into pandemonium. 
The headman had lighted a lantern, that I made 
Grant take, and by its flickering light I singled out 
my policeman, cheerfully happy, but still, thank good- 
ness, holding on to the sticks of my camera. Him I 
tackled angrily. How dared he allow drunken car- 
riers on my verandah, or anywhere near me ? Every- 
one, on putting down his load, was to go downstairs 
immediately. How we cleared that verandah I'm sure 
I don't know. The four virtuous hammock-boys and 
Grant and Zacco, I suppose, all took a hand, backed 
by their stern missus, and presently I and my servants 
had it to ourselves with a humble and repentant 
policeman sitting on the top of the steps, and Grant 
set about getting my dinner. It was too late, I 
decided, to cook anything beyond a little coffee, so 
I had tinned tongues and tinned apricots this my first 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 133 

night alone in Africa. Then came the question of 
going to bed. There were several rooms in the rest- 
house, but the verandah seemed to me a pleasanter 
place where to sleep on a hot night. Of course, I 
was alone, and would it be safer inside? The doors 
and windows were frail enough, besides it would be 
impossible to sleep with them shut, so I, to my boy's 
intense astonishment, decided for the verandah, and 
there I set up my bed, just an ordinary camp-bed, 
with mosquito curtains over it, and I went to bed and 
wondered if I could sleep. 

First I found myself listening, listening intently, 
and I heard a thousand noises, the night birds calling, 
the skirl of the untiring insects, a faint tom-toming 
and sounds of revelry from the village, which gave 
things an unpleasant air of savagery, the crash of the 
ceaseless surf on the beach. I decided I was too 
frightened to sleep and I heartily wished myself back 
in England, writing mystery stories for a livelihood, 
and then I began to think that I was most desperately 
tired, that the mosquito curtains were a great pro- 
tection, and before I realised I was sleepy was sound 
asleep and remembered no more till I awakened 
wondering where I was, and saw the first streaks 
of light in the east. Before the first faint streaks of 
light and sunrise is but a short time in the Tropics, 
and now I knew that everything depended upon me, 
so I flew out of bed and dressed with great prompti- 
tude, and there was Grant with early-morning tea and 
then breakfast. But no carriers ; and I had given 
orders we were to start at half-past five. It was long 
past that ; six o'clock, no carriers, half-past. I sent 
Zacco for the headman and he like the raven from 
the ark was no more seen. I sent Grant and he 



134 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

returned, not with an olive branch but with the 
policeman. 
" Where are the carriers ? " I demanded. 
" They chop," said he nonchalantly, as if it were 
no affair of his. 

" Chop ! At this hour in the morning ? " It was 
close on seven. 

He signified that they did. 

" Bring the headman." And I was a very angry 
white missus indeed. Since I had got through the 
night all right I felt I was bound to do somthing to- 
day and I was not nearly so afraid as I had been. 

The headman wept palm-wine tears. " They 
chop," he said and he sobbed and gulped and wiped 
his face with the back of his hand like a discomfited 
Somersetshire lab urer. His condition immensely 
improved my courage. I was the white woman all 
over dealing with the inferior race, and I had not a 
doubt as to what should be done. 
" Policeman, you follow me." 

He did not like it much, my little Fanti policeman, 
because he feared these Mendis and Timinis who 
could have eaten him alive, but he followed me how- 
ever reluctantly. I wanted him as representing law 
and order. The thinking I intended to do myself. 

We walked down to the village and there in the 
middle of the road were my carriers in two parties, 
each seated round a large enamelled-iron basin full 
of fish and rice. They did chop. They looked up at 
me with a grin, but I had quite made up my mind. 

" Policeman," I said, " no man chops so late. 
Throw away the chop." 

He hesitated. He could not make up his mind 
which he was most afraid of, me or the men. Finally 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 135 

he decided that I was the most terrifying person and 
he gingerly picked up one of those basins and care- 
fully put it down under a shrub. 

" Policeman," I said, and I was emphatic, " that's 
not the way to throw away chop. Scatter it round," 
and with one glance at me to see if I meant what 
I said, he scattered it on the ground. What sur- 
prised me was that the men let him. Certainly 
those round the second dish seized it and fled up 
towards the rest-house, and we came after them. 
When we arrived the men were still eating, but 
there was still some rice in the dish, and I made 
the policeman seize it and fling it away, and then 
every one of those men came back meekly to work, 
picked up their loads or waited round the hammock 
for me. 

I saw the loads off with the headman, and told him 
to get across the Prah River if he could and on to 
Kommenda, where I proposed to have my luncheon, 
and then I stayed behind to take some photographs 
of the old fort. It took me some time to take my 
pictures. The heat was intense, and beyond the 
fort, which is quaintly old-world, there is not much 
to see. The town is the usual Coast village built of 
clay, which they call swish, with thatched roofs ; the 
streets between the houses are hot and dry and bare, 
and little naked children disport themselves there 
with the goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens. There are 
the holes from which the earth has been taken to 
make the swish — man-traps in the night, mosquito- 
breeding places at all times — and there are men and 
women standing gossiping in the street, wondering 
at the unusual sight of a white woman, just for all 
the world as they might do in a remote Cornish 



136 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

village if a particularly smart motor passed by. They 
are fishing villages, these villages along the Coast, 
living by the fishing, and growing just a little maize 
and plantains and yams for their own immediate 
needs ; and it is a curious thing to say, but they give 
one the same sleepy, out-of-the-world feeling that a 
small village in Cornwall does. There is not in them 
the go and the promise there is in an Ashanti village, 
the dormant wealth waiting to be awakened one 
feels there is along the Volta. No, these places were 
exploited hundreds of years ago by the men who built 
the fort that frowns over them still, and they are con- 
tent to live on from day to day with just enough to 
keep them going, with the certain knowledge that no 
man can die of starvation, and when a young man 
wants distraction I suppose he goes to the bigger 
towns. So I found nothing of particular interest in 
Chama, and I went on till I reached the Prah River, 
just where it breaks out across the sands and rushes 
to meet the ocean. 

I wondered in that journey to Accra many times 
whether my face was set hard, whether my lips were 
not one firm, stern line that could never unbend and 
look kindly again. My small camp mirror that I 
consulted was exceedingly unflattering, but if I had 
not before been certain that no half-measures were of 
any use I should have been certain of it when I 
reached the river. There lay my loads, and sitting 
down solemnly watching them like so many crows, 
rather dissipated crows, were my men. They rose up 
as my hammock came into view. 

" Missus, men want drink water. It be hot." 
It was hot, very hot, and the river it seemed was 
salt ; moreover, the only house in sight, and that was 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 137 

a good way off, was the hut apparently belonging to 
the ferryman. I looked at them, and my spirits rose ; 
it was borne in on me that I had them well in hand, 
for there was no reason why they should not have 
gone off in a body to get that much-needed water. 

But I gave the order, " One man go fetch water." 

Why they obeyed me I don't know now, and why 
they didn't take the bucket I don't know now. I ought 
to have sent one man with a bucket ; but experience 
always has to be bought, and I only realised that 
I was master of the situation, and must not spoil it by- 
undue haste. So I solemnly stood there under my 
sun umbrella and watched those men have a drink 
one by one out of an empty marmalade pot. When- 
ever, in the future, I see one of those golden tins, 
it will call up to my memory a blazing hot day, a waste 
of sand and coarse grass, a wide river flowing through 
it, and a row of loads with a ragged company of black 
men sitting solemnly beside them waiting while one 
of their number brought them a drink. That drink 
was a tremendous piece of business, but we were 
through with it at last, and though I was rather weary 
and very hot I was inclined to be triumphant. I felt 
I had the men fairly well in hand. 

Still, they weren't all that I could have desired. 
The road was very, very bad indeed, sometimes it 
was down on the heavy sand, sometimes the rocks 
were too rough — the hammock had to be engineered 
up and down the bank by devious and uncomfor- 
table ways, sometimes we stopped to buy fruit in a 
village, and sometimes the men stopped and declared : 
" Missus, oder hammock-boy, he no come." 

Then I was hard. I knew it was no good being 
anything else. 



138 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

" If hammock-boy no come you go on. I no stop." 
And they went, very slowly and reluctantly, but 
they went. It seemed cruel, but I soon grasped the 
fact that if I once allowed them to wait for the relief 
men who lingered there always would be lingerers, 
and we should crawl to Accra at the rate of five miles 
a day. 

They sang songs as they went, and this my first 
day out the song took a most personal turn. 

" If man no get chop," they intoned in monot- 
onous recitative, " he go die. Missus frow away our 
chop " 

The deduction was obvious and I answered it at 
once. " All right, you go die. I no care. If men 
no come to work they may die." 

But they went very badly indeed, and it was after 
two o'clock in the afternoon before we arrived at 
Kommenda on the seashore, where there is a village 
and a couple of old forts falling into decay. Here, 
inside the courtyard of one of them, which is Ju-ju, 
I had my table and chair put out and my luncheon 
served. The feeling of triumph was still upon me. 
Already I was nearer Elmina than Sekondi and I felt 
in all probability, bad as they were, the men would 
go on. But, before I had finished my luncheon, my 
serenity received another shock. Of course no one 
dared disturb so terrible a person at her chop, but, 
after I had finished, while I was endeavouring to 
instruct Zacco in the way in which a kettle might 
be induced to boil without letting all the smoke 
go down the spout — I wanted some coffee — Grant 
came up with a perturbed countenance and said 
the headman wanted to speak to me. I sent for 
him. 



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R JgV V. J, Wiii'irifff > 



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m i i 




ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 139 

" Missus," he began propitiatingly, " man be tired 
too much. You stop here to-night ; we take you 
Cape Coast to-morrow." 

For the moment I was very properly wrathful. 
Then I reflected — the white men did not understand, 
the majority of them, my desire to see Elmina, the 
most important castle on the Coast, how then should 
these black men understand. There was a tiny rest- 
house built on the bastion of the fort here, and look- 
ing at it I decided it was just the last place I should 
like to spend the night in. I did not expect to meet a 
white man at Elmina, but at least it must be far 
nearer civilisation than this. 

I looked at my headman more in sorrow than in 
anger. He was a much-troubled person, and evi- 
dently looked upon me as a specimen of the 
genus " Massa." I said : 

" That is a very beautiful idea, headman, and does 
you credit. The only drawback I see to it is that I 
do not want to go to Cape Coast to-morrow, and I 
do want to go to Elmina to-night." 

He scratched his head in a bewildered fashion, 
transferring a very elderly tourist cap from one hand 
to the other in order that he might give both sides 
a proper chance. 

" Man no be fit," he got out at last. 

" Oh, they no be fit. Send for the Chief," and I 
turned away and went on with Zacco's instructions 
in the art of making coffee. Still, in my own mind, 
I was very troubled. That rest-house on the bastion 
was a horrid-looking hole, and I had heard it whis- 
pered that the men of Kommenda were very trucu- 
lent. If I had been far from a white man at Chama, I 
was certainly farther still now at Kommenda. Still, 



140 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

my common sense told me I must not allow I was 
dismayed. 

Presently I was told the Chief had arrived, and I 
went outside and interviewed him. He wasn't a very 
big chief, and his stick of office only had a silver top 
to it with the name of the village written on it in large 
letters. He could speak no English, but with my 
headman and his linguist he soon grasped the fact 
that I wanted more carriers, and agreed to supply 
them. Then I went back inside the fort and he joined 
the group outside who had come to look at the white 
woman, and who, I am glad to say, all kept respect- 
fully outside. I seated myself again and sent for the 
headman. 

" Headman, you bring in man who no be fit." 

The headman went outside and presently returned 
with the downcast, ragged scarecrow who had been 
carrying my bed. 

"You no be fit?" 

" No, Ma." 

I pointed out a place against the wall. 

" You go sit there. You go back to Sekondi. I 
get 'nother man. Headman, fetch in other man who 
no be fit." 

The culprit sat himself down most reluctantly, 
afraid, whether of me or the Ju-ju that was supposed 
to reign over the place, I know not, and the headman 
brought in another man. 

"You no be fit?" 

" No, Ma " ; but it was a very reluctant no. 

" Sit down over there. Another man, headman," 
but somehow I did not think there would be many 
more. And for once my intuitions were right. The 
headman came back reporting the rest were fit. I 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 141 

felt triumphant. Then the unfortunate scarecrows 
against the wall rose up humbly and protested 
eagerly : " Ma, we be fit." 

But I was brutally stern. It cost me dear in the 
end, but it might have cost me dearer if I had taken 
them on. However, I had no intention of doing any 
such thing. They had declared themselves of their 
own free will " no fit." I was determined they should 
remain " no fit " whatever it cost me to fill their 
places. I must rule this caravan, and I must decide 
where we should halt. I engaged two Kommenda 
men to carry the loads, and when I had taken photo- 
graphs of the fort — how thankful I was that they 
turned out well, for Kommenda is one of the most 
unget-at-able places I know, and before a decent 
photographer gets there again I don't suppose there 
will be one stone left on another — I started after my 
men to Elmina. 

The carriers who were " no fit " came with us. 
Why, I hardly know, but they were very, very 
repentant. 

It was four o'clock before we left Kommenda, and 
since we had twelve miles to go I hardly expected to 
arrive before dark, but I did think we might arrive 
about seven. I reckoned without my host, or rather 
without my carriers. There was more than a 
modicum of truth in the statement that they were 
no fit. The dissipation of the day before, and the 
lack of chop to-day — carriers always make a big meal 
early in the morning — were beginning to tell ; besides 
they were very bad specimens of their class, and they 
lingered and halted and crawled till I began to think 
we should be verv lucky indeed if we got into Elmina 
before midnight. The darkness fell, and in the little 



142 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

villages the lights began to appear — these Coast vil- 
lagers use a cheap, a very cheap sort of kerosene 
lamp — and more than once my headman appealed to 
me. " We stop here, Ma." 

I was very tired myself, now, very tired, indeed, 
and gladly would I have stopped, but those negro 
houses seen by the light of a nickering, evil-smelling 
lamp were impossible ; besides I realised it would be 
very bad to give in to my men. Finally we left the 
last little village behind, and before us lay a long, 
crescent-shaped bay, with a twinkling point of light 
at the farther horn — Elmina, I guessed. It was 
quite dark now, sea and sky mingled, a line of white 
marked the breakers where the water met the sands, 
and on my left was the low shore hardly rising 
twenty feet above the sea-level, and covered with 
short, wiry sea-grasses, small shrubs, and the creeping 
bean. The men who were carrying me staggered 
along, stumbling over every inequality of the ground, 
and I remembered my youthful reading in " Uncle 
Tom's Cabin," and felt I very much resembled 
Legree. There was, too, a modicum of sympathy 
growing up in my mind for Legree and all slave- 
drivers. Perhaps there was something to be said 
for them ; they certainly must have had a good deal 
to put up with. Presently my men dropped the 
hammock, and I scrambled out and looked at them 
angrily. The carriers were behind, the policeman — 
my protection and my dignity — was nowhere to be 
seen, my two servants were just behind, where they 
ought to have been, and my four hammock-boys 
looked at me in sullen misery. 

" We no be fit." 

The case was beyond all words at my command, 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 143 

and I set my face to the east, and began to walk in 
the direction of the feeble little light I could see 
twinkling in the far distance, and which I concluded 
rightly, as it turned out, must be Elmina. 

My servants overtook me, and Grant, who had 
been a most humble person when first I engaged him, 
who had been crushed with a sense of his own un- 
worthiness the night before, now felt it incumbent 
upon himself to protest. 

" You no walk, Ma. It no be fit." 

How sick I was of that " no be fit." 

" Grant," I said with dignity, at least I hope it was 
with dignity, abandoning pigeon English, "there is 
no other way. Tell those boys if I walk to Elmina 
they get no pay," and I stalked on, wishing at the 
bottom of my heart I knew something of the manners 
and customs of the African snake. In my own 
country I should have objected strongly to walking 
in such grass, when I could not see my way, and it 
just shows the natural selfishness of humanity that 
this thought had never occurred to me while my 
hammock-boys were carrying me. I don't suppose 
I had gone half a mile when Grant and the boys 
overtook me. 

" Ma," said Grant with importance, the way he 
achieved importance that day was amazing, " you get 
in. They carry you now." 

" They no be fit." 

" They carry you," declared he emphatically. 

" We try, Ma," came a humble murmur from the 
boys, and I got in once more and we staggered along. 

How I hated it all, and what a brute I felt. I 
thought to offer a little encouragement, so I said 
after a little time, when I thought the light was getting 



144 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

appreciably larger : " Grant, which of these men carry 
me best?" and thought I would offer a suitable 
reward. 

' They all carry you very badly, Ma," came back 
Grant's stern reply; "that one," and he pointed to 
the unfortunate who bore the lefthand front end of 
the hammock, " carry you worst." 

Now, here was a dilemma. The light wasn't very 
far away now, and I could see against the sky the 
loom of a great building. 

" Very well," I said, " each of the other three shall 
have threepence extra," and the lefthand front man 
dropped his end of the hammock with something 
very like a sob, and left the other three to struggle on 
as best they might. We were close to Elmina now. 
There was a row of palms on our right between us 
and the surf, and I could see houses with tiny lights 
in them, and so could the men. 

" I will walk," I said. 

But the three remaining were very eager. " No, 
Ma ; no, Ma, we carry you." 

Then there appeared a man in European clothes, 
and him I stopped and interviewed. 

" Is that the Castle of Elmina? " 

" Yes," said he, evidently mightily surprised at 
being interviewed by a white woman. 

" Who is in charge ? " and I expected to hear some 
negro post office or Custom official. 

" Dr Dove," said the stranger in the slurring tones 
of the negro. 

" A white man ? " 

" Yes, a white man." 

For all my weariness, I could have shouted for joy. 
Such an unexpected piece of good luck! I had 



ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 145 

not expected to meet a white man this side of Cape 
Coast. I had thought the great Castle here was 
abandoned to the tender mercies of the negro official. 

" You can get in," went on my new friend ; " the 
drawbridge is not down yet." 

A drawbridge! How mediaeval it sounded, quite 
in keeping with the day I had spent, the day that had 
begun in Chama fifty years ago. 

We staggered along the causeway, the causeway 
made so many hundreds of years ago by the old 
Portuguese adventurers ; the sentry rose up in aston- 
ishment, and we staggered across it into the old 
courtyard ; I got out of my hammock at the foot of 
a flight of broad stone steps, built when men built 
generously, and a policeman, not mine, raced up 
before me. All was in darkness in the great hall, 
and then I heard an unmistakable white man's voice in 
tones of surprise and unbelief. 

" A missus, a " 

I stepped forward in the pitchy darkness, wonder- 
ing what pitfalls there might be by the way. 

" I am a white woman," I said uncertainly, for I 
was very weary, and I had an uneasy feeling that this 
white man, like so many others I had met, might 
think I had no business to be there, and I didn't 
feel quite equal to asserting my rights just at that 
moment, and then I met an outstretched hand. It 
needed no more. I knew at once. It was a kindly, 
friendly, helpful hand. Young or old, pretty or plain, 
ragged, smart, or disreputable, whatever I was, I felt 
the owner of that hand would be good to me. Dr 
Duff, for the negro had pronounced his name after 
his kind, led me upstairs through the darkness, with 
many apologies for the want of light, into a big 

K 



146 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

room, dimly lighted by a kerosene lamp, and then we 
looked at each other. 

" God bless my soul ! Where on earth did you 
come from? " said he. 

" No one told me there was a white man in 
Elmina," said I ; " and the relief of finding one was 
immense." 

But not till I was washed and bathed, dressed, fed, 
and in my right mind did we compare notes, and then 
we sat up till midnight discussing things. 

It seemed to me I had sounded the depths, I had 
mastered the difficulties of African travel. My new 
friend listened sympathetically as he drank his 
whisky-and-soda, and then he flattered my little 
vanities as they had never been flattered since I had 
set out on my journeyings. 

" Not one woman in ten thousand would have got 
through." 

I liked it, but I think he was wrong. Any woman 
who had once started would have got through simply 
and solely because there was absolutely nothing else 
to be done. It is a great thing in life to find there is 
only one way. 

Then Dr Duff descended to commonplace matters. 

" I hope you don't mind," said he ; " I've kicked 
your policeman." 

"That," said I, "is a thing he has been asking 
someone to do ever since we left Sekondi a thousand 
years ago." 



CHAPTER IX 



AN OLD DUTCH TOWN 



But one man of the ruling race — Overlooked Elmina — Deadly 
fever — The reason why— Magnificent position — Ideal for a 
capital — Absence of tsetse — Loyal to their Dutch masters — 
Difficulty in understanding incorruptibility of English officials 
—Reported gold in Elmina — The stranded school-inspector— 
" Potable water " — Preferred the chance of guinea- worm to 
trouble — Stern German head-teacher— Cape Coast — Wonder- 
ful native telegraphy — Haunted Castle — Truculent people. 

Elmina means, of course, the mine, and the reason 
for the name is lost in the mist of ages. Certain it is 
there is no mine nearer than those at Tarkwa, at least 
two days' journey away, but in the old Portuguese 
and Dutch days Elmina was a rich port. It is a port 
still, though an abandoned one, and you may land 
from a boat comfortably on to great stone steps, as 
you may land in no other place along the Guinea 
Coast. On the 17th of May in this year of our Lord, 
191 1, there raged along the Coast a hurricane such as 
there has not been for many a long day, and the after- 
math of that hurricane was found in a terrific surf, 
which for several days made landing at any port 
difficult, in some cases impossible. The mail steamer 
found she could land no mails at Cape Coast, and 
then was forgotten, neglected Elmina remembered, 
and the mails were landed there, eight miles to the 
west, and carried overland to their destination. 

Yet is there but one man of the ruling race in 

147 



148 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Elmina, and the fine old Castle, where the Portuguese 
and Dutch governors of Guinea reigned, is almost 
abandoned to the desecrating hand of the negro 
officials — Custom and post office men ! Why, when 
the Gold Coast was looking for a capital, they over- 
looked Elmina is explained usually by the declaration 
that yellow fever was very bad there ; and I conclude 
it was for the same reason that they passed it by when 
they wanted a seaport for the inland railway. Some- 
how it seems an inadequate reason. It would have 
been cheaper surely to search for the cause of the ill- 
health than to abandon so promising a site. The reason 
lies deeper than that. It is to be found in that strong 
feeling in the Englishman — that feeling which is going 
to ruin him as a colonising nation now that rivals are 
in the field, unless he looks to his ways — that one place 
in " such a poisonous country " is as good or as bad 
as another, and therefore if people die in one place, 
" let's try another beastly hole." Die they certainly 
did in Elmina. It was taken over from the Dutch 
in 1 874, and in 1 895 the records make ghastly reading. 
" Yellow fever, died," you read, not once but over 
and over again. Young and strong and hopeful, and 
always the record is the same, and now, looking at 
it with seeing eyes and an understanding mind, the 
explanation is so simple, the cure so easy. 

Round this great Castle is a double line of moats, 
each broad and deep and about half a mile in extent, 
and these moats were full to the brim of water, stag- 
nant water, an ideal breeding place for that entirely 
domesticated animal, the yellow-fever mosquito — 
stegmia, I believe, is the correct term. Get but 
one yellow-fever patient, let him get bitten by a mos- 
quito or two, and the thing was done. But sixteen 



AN OLD DUTCH TOWN 149 

years ago they were not content with such simple 
ways as that. It seems there was a general sort of 
feeling then along the Coast, it has not quite gone 
yet, that chill was a thing greatly to be dreaded, and 
so instead of taking advantage of the magnificent 
position so wisely chosen by the Portuguese mariners, 
where the fresh air from the ocean might blow night 
and day, they mewed themselves up in quarters on 
the landward side of the Castle, so built that it is 
almost impossible to get a thorough draught of air 
through them. The result in such a climate is languor 
and weariness, an ideal breeding ground for malaria or 
yellow fever. And so they died, God rest their souls ; 
some of them were gallant gentlemen, but they died 
like flies, and Elmina, for no fault of its own, was 
abandoned. 

And yet the old Portuguese were right. It is an 
ideal site for a capital. The Castle is on a promon- 
tory which juts out into the sea, and is almost sur- 
rounded by water, for the Sweetwater River, which 
was very salt when I was there, runs into the sea in 
such a fashion as to leave but a narrow neck of land 
between the Castle and the mainland. The land 
rises behind the town, it is clear of scrub and under- 
growth, so that horses and cattle may live, as there is 
no harbour for that curse of West Africa, the tsetse 
fly ; there is sufficient open space for the building of 
a large town, and it is nearer to Kumasi, whence 
comes all the trade from the north, than Sekondi, 
which was chosen, instead of it, as a railway terminus. 
A grievous pity! It is England's proud boast that 
she lets the man on the spot have a free hand, 
knowing that he must be the better judge of local 
conditions and needs ; it is West Africa's misfortune 



150 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

that she had so evil a reputation that the best and 
wisest men did not go there ; and hence these grave 
mistakes. 

I had always believed that every coloured man 
was yearning to come under the British flag, therefore 
was I much astonished to hear that in 1874, when 
Britain took over this part of the Coast, the natives 
resented the change of masters very bitterly. They 
would not submit, and the big village to the west 
of the fort, old Elmina native town, was in open rebel- 
lion. At last the guns from the fort were turned 
upon it, the inhabitants evacuated it hastily, it was 
bombarded, and the order went forth that no one 
should come back to it. 

Even now, thirty-seven years later, the old law 
which prohibits the native from digging on the site 
of the old town is still in force, and since the natives 
were in the habit of burying their wealth beneath 
their huts, great store of gold dust is supposed to be 
hidden there. Again and again the solitary official 
in charge of Elmina has been approached by some- 
one asking permission to dig there, generally with 
the intimation that if only the permission be granted, 
a large percentage of the hidden treasure shall find 
its way into the pockets of that official. 

" It is hard," said Dr Duff, " for the native mind to 
grasp the fact that the English official is incorruptible, 
and the law must be kept — but I confess," he added, 
" I should like to know if there really is gold in old 
Elmina." 

The town has been a fine town once. The houses 
are substantially built of stone, they are approached 
by fine flights of stone steps, there are the ruins of 
an old casino, and picturesque in its desolation is an 



AN OLD DUTCH TOWN 151 

old Dutch garden. If I were to describe the mag- 
nificent old Castle, I should fill half the book; it is 
so well worth writing about. I walked up the hill 
behind the Castle where they have built up the road- 
way with discarded cannon, and there I took photo- 
graphs and wished I had a little more time to spare 
for the place, and vowed that when I reached 
England the British Museum should help me to find 
out all there is to be known about this magnificent 
place and the men who have gone before. 

For the man of the present it must be a little 
difficult to live in, if it is only for the intense lone- 
liness. It must be lonely to live in the bush with the 
eternal forest surrounding you, but at least there a 
man is an outpost of Empire, the trade is coming to 
him, he may find interest and amusement in the break- 
ing of a road or the planning of a garden, while 
the making of a town would fill all his time, but in 
Elmina there are no such consolations. The place 
is dead, slain by the English ; the young men go away 
following the trade, and the old mammies with 
wrinkled faces and withered breasts lounge about 
the streets and talk of departed glories. 

I had not expected to find one white man here, 
and I found two, the other being a school-inspector 
who was on his way along the Coast inspecting the 
native schools. He was in a fix, for he had sent on 
his carriers and stores and could get no hammock- 
boys. They had promised to send them from Cape 
Coast and they had not come. The medical officer 
made both us strangers hospitably welcome, but stores 
are precious things on the Coast and one does not like 
to trespass, so he was a troubled school-inspector. 

'* I think I'll walk on to Kommenda," said he. 



152 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

" I wouldn't," said I, the only one who knew that 
undesirable spot. 

We made a queer little party of three in that old- 
world Castle, in the old Dutch rooms that are haunted 
by the ghosts of the dead-and-gone men and women 
of a past generation. At least, I said they were 
haunted, the school-inspector was neutral, and the 
medical officer declared no ghosts had ever troubled 
him. I don't know whether it was ghosts that 
troubled me, but the fact remains that I, who could 
sleep calmly by myself in the bush with all my carriers 
drunk, could not sleep easily now that my troubles 
were over, and I set it down to the haunting unhappy 
thoughts of the people who had gone before me, who 
were dead, but who had lived and suffered in those 
rooms; and yet in the day-time we were happy 
enough, and the two men instructed me as one who 
had a right to know in things African. The school- 
inspector was very funny on the education of the 
native. His great difficulty apparently was to make 
the rising generation grasp the fact that grandiloquent 
words of which they did not understand the meaning 
were not proofs of deep knowledge. The negro is 
like the Hindoo Baboo dear to the heart of Mr Punch. 
He dearly loves a long word. Hygiene is a subject 
the Government insist upon being taught, only it 
seems to me they would do more wisely to teach it 
in the vernacular so that it might be understood 
by the common people. As it is, said my school- 
inspector, the pupils are very pat ; and when solemnly 
asked by the teacher what are the constituents of 
drinking water, rap out a list of Latin adjectives the 
only one of which he can understand is " potable." 
" Tut, tut," said the inspector, " run along, Kudjo, 




STREET IN EL.M1XA. 



AN OLD DUTCH TOWN 153 

and bring me a glass of drinking water " ; and then it 
was only too evident that that youthful scion of the 
Fanti race who had been so glib with his adjectives 
did not understand what " potable " meant. 

Afterwards in the eastern portion of the Colony 
I was told of other difficulties and snares that lie in 
the way of the unlucky schoolmaster. In Africa it 
is specially necessary to be careful of your water, as 
in addition to many other unpleasant results common 
in other lands there is here a certain sort of worm 
whose eggs may apparently be swallowed in the 
water. They have an unpleasant habit of hatching 
internally and then working their way out to the 
outer air, discommoding greatly their unwilling host. 
Therefore twice a week in every English school the 
qualities of good water and the way to insure it are 
insisted upon by the teacher. But does that teacher 
practise what he preaches? He doesn't like guinea- 
worm, but neither does he like trouble, wherefore he 
chooses the line of least resistance and chances his 
water. If the worst come to the worst and he has 
guinea-worm, a paternal Government will pay his 
salary while he is ill. 

At least up till lately it always has. But a change 

is coming over the spirit of the dream. The other 

day there arose in Keta, a town in the Eastern 

Province, a German head-teacher who got very 

tired of subordinates who were perpetually being 

incapacitated by guinea-worm, a perfectly preventible 

disease, and, as the Germans are nothing if not 

practical, there went forth in his school the cruel 

order that any teacher having guinea-worm should 

have no salary during his illness. There is going 

to be one more case of guinea-worm in that school, 



154 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

then there is going to be a sad and sorry man fallen 
from his high estate and dependent on his relatives, 
and then the teachers will possibly learn wisdom and 
practise what they preach. But in Elmina my school- 
inspector seemed to think the Golden Age was yet 
a long way off. 

I left him and the medical officer with many hopes 
for a future meeting, and one afternoon took up my 
loads and having sent a telegram to the Provincial 
Commissioner — how easy it seemed now — set out for 
Cape Coast eight miles along the shore. 

There is very little difference in the scenery all 
along the shore here. The surf thunders to the right, 
and to the left the land goes back low and sandy, 
covered with coarse grass and low-growing shrubs, 
while here and there are fishing villages with groves 
of cocoa-nuts around them, only the houses instead 
of being built of the raffia palm are built of swish, 
that is mud, and as you go east dirtier and dirtier 
grow the villages. 

It took us barely two hours and a half to reach 
Cape Coast, one of the oldest if not the oldest English 
settlement on the Coast. It was the original Capo 
Corso of the Portuguese, but the English have held it 
since early in the seventeenth century, and the natives, 
of course, bear English names — in Elmina they have 
Dutch names — and remember no other masters. 

Cape Coast is a great straggling untidy town with 
rather an eastern look about it which comes, I think, 
from the fact that many of the houses have flat roofs. 
But it is a drab-looking town without any of the 
gorgeous colouring of the east. The Castle is built 
down on the seashore behind great walls and bas- 
tions, and here are the Customs, the Commissioner's 



AN OLD DUTCH TOWN 155 

Court, the Post Office, all the mechanism required 
for the Government of a people, but the old cannon 
are still there, piles of shot and shell and great 
mortars, and in the courtyards are the graves of the 
men and women who have gone before, the honoured 
dead. Here lies the lady whom the early nineteenth 
century reckoned a poet, L. E. L., Laetitia Landor, 
the wife of Captain Maclean who perished by 
some unexplainable misadventure while she was 
little more than a bride, and here lies Captain 
Maclean himself, the wise Governor whom the 
African merchants put in when England, in one of 
her periodic fits of thriftless economy, would have 
abandoned the Gold Coast, and here are other 
unknown names Dutch and English, and oh, curious 
commentary on the hygiene of the time, in the same 
courtyard is the well whence the little company of 
whites, generally surrounded by a people often hos- 
tile, must needs in time of siege or stress always draw 
their water. 

The)' say Cape Coast like Elmina is haunted, and 
men have told me tales of unaccountable noises, of 
footsteps that crossed the floor, of voices in conversa- 
tion, of sighs and groans and shrieks for help that 
were unexplained and unexplainable. One man who 
had been D.C. there told me he could keep no 
servant in the Castle at night they were so terrified, 
but as I only paid flying visits to take photographs 
I cannot say of my own knowledge whether there is 
anything uncanny about it. There ought to be, for 
there are deep dungeons underground, dark and 
uncanny, where in old days they possibly kept their 
slaves and certainly their prisoners-of-war. There was 
no light in them then, there is very little now, only 



156 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

occasionally someone has knocked away a stone 
from the thick walls, and you may see a round of 
dancing sunlight in the gloom and hear the sound of 
the ceaseless surf. An officer in the Gold Coast 
regiment told me he wanted to have a free hand to 
dig in the earth here, for he was sure the pirates who 
owned it in the old days must have buried much 
treasure here and forgotten all about it, but he was 
a hopeful young man and looked forward to the days 
when the Ashantis should come down and besiege 
Cape Coast again as they had done in the old days, 
and he pointed out the particular gun on the bastion 
that in case of such an event he should train on the 
Kumasi road and blow those savages into the next 
world. I have seen those fighting men of Ashanti 
since then and I do not think they are ever 
coming to Cape Coast, at least as enemies, which 
perhaps is just as well, for the gun which that gay 
young lieutenant slapped so affectionately and called 
" Old Girl " is pretty elderly and I fancy might do 
more damage to those loading than to those at the 
other end of her muzzle. 

But I did not lodge at the fort. The medical 
officer, it was always the medical officer to the rescue, 
very kindly took charge and I was very comfortably 
lodged in the hospital. And here I had proof of 
the wonderful manner in which news is carried by the 
birds of the air in West Africa. I had thought that 
the Provincial Commissioner was going to put me up, 
and I instructed my boys to that effect. 

" Ask way to Government House," which I 
thought lay to the west of the town. As we passed 
the first houses a man sprang up. 

" Dis way, Ma, I show you," and off he went, we 



AN OLD DUTCH TOWN 157 

following, and I thought my men had asked the 
question. Clearly Government House was not to 
the west, for we went on through the town and up a 
hill and up to a large bungalow which I was very 
sure was not Government House, unless we had 
arrived at the back. 

I got out protesting, but my boys were very sure 
and so was our guide. 

" Dis be bungalow, Ma. Missus come." 

Then I knew they were wrong, for I knew the 
Commissioner had no wife. But they weren't after 
all, for down the steps breathing kindly welcome came 
the medical officer's wife, a pretty bride of a couple 
of months, and she smilingly explained that the 
Commissioner had asked her to take me in because 
it would be so much more comfortable for me where 
there was another woman. " I suppose he sent you 
on," said she. 

But not only had he not sent me on, but he knew 
nothing of my coming, and was waiting in Govern- 
ment House for my arrival. The town, then, knew 
of my expected coming and his intentions with regard 
to me almost before he had formulated them himself. 
At any rate, it was none of his doing or his servants' 
doings that I went straight to the hospital, and the 
telegram stating my intention had only been sent that 
morning. So much for native telegraphy. 

Round Cape Coast, in my mind, hangs a mist of 
romance which will always sharply divide it from the 
town as I saw it. When I think of it I have to remind 
myself that I have seen Cape Coast and that, apart 
from kindly recollections of the hospitality with which 
I was received, I do not like it. The people are 
truculent and abominably ill-mannered, and I do not 



158 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

think I would ever venture to walk in the streets 
again without the protection of a policeman. 

There were two white women there, so they had 
hardly the excuse of curiosity, as we must have been 
familiar sights, yet they mobbed me in the streets, 
and when I tried to take photographs of the quaint, 
old-world streets, hustled and crowded me to such 
an extent that it was quite out of the question. And 
they did this even when I was accompanied by my 
two servants and my hammock-boys. 

" These Fanti people catch no sense," said Grant 
angrily, when after a wild struggle I had succeeded 
in photographing a couple of men playing draughts, 
and utterly failed to get a very nice picture of a 
man making a net. I quite agreed with Grant ; these 
Fanti people do catch no sense, and I got no photo- 
graphs, for which I was sorry, for there are corners 
in that old town picturesque and quaint and not 
unlike corners in the towns along the Sicilian coast. 
What they said of me I do not know, but I am afraid 
it was insulting, and if ever my friends the Ashantis 
like to go through Cape Coast again I shall give them 
a certain amount of sympathy. At least it would give 
me infinite satisfaction to hear of some of them getting 
that beating I left without being able to inflict. 

I do not think a white woman would be safe alone 
in Cape Coast, and this I am the more sorry for 
because it has belonged so long to the English. Per- 
haps Dr Blyden is right when he says, and I think 
he spoke very impartially when speaking of his own 
people, that the French have succeeded best in deal- 
ing with the negro, I beg his pardon, the African. 
They have succeeded in civilising him, so says Dr 
Blyden, with dignity. The English certainly have not. 



CHAPTER X 

IN THE PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 

The glory of the morning — The men who have passed along this 
road — The strong views of the African pig — An old-world 
Castle — Thieving carriers — The superiority of the white man 
— Annamabu — A perfect specimen of a fort — A forlorn rest- 
house — A notable Coast Chief — Tired-out mammies — The 
medical officer at Salt Ponds — The capable German women 
— The reason of the ill-health of the English women — Kroo 
boys as carriers — Tantum — A loyal rest-house — Filthy Appam 
— A possible origin for the yellow fever at Accra — Winne- 
bah — A check — The luckless ferryman — Good-bye to the 
road. 

The carriers from Kommenda were only to come as 
far as Cape Coast, so here I had to find fresh men 
or rather women to replace them. I know nothing 
more aggravating than engaging carriers. Ap- 
parently it was a little break in the monotony of life 
as lived in an African town to come and engage as a 
carrier with the white missus, come when she was 
about to start, an hour late was the correct thing, look 
at the loads, turn them over, try to lift them, say 
" We no be fit," and then sit down and see what would 
happen next. The usual programme, of course, was 
gone through at Cape Coast, the mammies I had 
engaged smiling and laughing as if it were the best 
joke in the world, and I only kept my temper by 
reflecting that since I could not beat them, which I 
dearly longed to do, it was no good losing it. They 
had had three days to contemplate those loads and 

159 



160 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

they only found " we no be fit " as I wanted to start. 
Of course the men who had come on from Sekondi 
with me were now most virtuous ; they bore me no ill- 
will for my harsh treatment, indeed they respected me 
for it, and they regarded themselves as my prop and 
my stay, as indeed they were. 

With infinite difficulty I got off at last, taking 
three new carriers, mammies, where two had sufficed 
before. 

Travelling in the early morning is glorious. The 
dew is on all the grass ; it catches and reflects the sun- 
beams like diamonds, and there is a freshness in the 
air which is lost as the day advances. I loved going 
along that coast too. 

I was thrown upon myself for companionship, for 
my followers could only speak a little pigeon English, 
and of course we had nothing in common, but the 
men and women who had gone before walked beside 
me and whispered to me tales of the strenuous days 
of old. Perhaps the Phoenicians had been here, 
possibly those old sea rovers, the Normans, and cer- 
tainly the Portuguese ; they had marched along this 
shore, even as I was marching along, only their own 
homes were worlds away and the bush behind was 
peopled for them with unknown monsters, such as 
I would not dream of. They had feared as they 
walked, and now I, a woman, could come alone and 
unarmed. 

Leaving Cape Coast that still, warm, tropical 
morning, we passed the people coming into town 
to the markets with their wares upon their heads, all 
carried in long crates, chickens and fowls and un- 
happy pigs strapped tightly down, for the African pig, 
like the pig in other lands, has a mind of his own ; he 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 161 

will not walk to his own destruction, he has to be 
carried. These traders were women usually, and 
they looked at me with interest and no little astonish- 
ment, for I believe that never before had a white 
woman by herself gone alone along this path. 

My carriers had been instructed to go to Accra and 
to Accra they went by the nearest way, sometimes 
cutting off little promontories, and thus it happened 
that, looking up on one of these detours, I saw on a 
hill, between me and the sea, a ruined fort. Of course 
I stopped the hammock and got out. I had come to 
see these forts, and here I was passing one. I wanted 
to go back. My headman demurred. Had I not 
distinctly said I wanted to go to Accra, and were we 
not on the direct road to Accra? To get to that old 
fort, which he did not think worth looking at, we 
should have to go back an hour's journey, and the 
men " no be fit." I am regretful now that I only saw 
that fort from a distance. It was very very hot, and I 
don't think I felt very fit myself; at any rate, the 
thought of two hours extra in the hammock dismayed 
me and I decided to take a long-distance photograph 
from where I stood. It was an old Dutch fort — Fort 
Mori — and was built on high ground overlooking a 
little bay. I think now it would have been easier for 
me to do that two hours than to climb as I did, with 
the assistance of Grant and my headman, to the 
highest point on the roadside, through long grass, 
scrub, and undergrowth, there to poise myself uneasily 
to get a photograph of the ruins. An ideal place, 
whispered the men of old, for a fort in the bygone 
days, for it overlooked all the surrounding country, 
there was no possibility of surprise, and at its feet 
was a little sheltered bay. Now, on the yellow sands, 

L 



162 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

in the glare of the sunshine, I could see the great 
canoes that dared the surf drawn up, the thatched 
roofs of the native town that drew its sustenance from 
the sea and in old times owed a certain loyalty to the 
fort and derived a certain prestige from the presence 
of the white men. 

Regretfully I have only that distant memory of 
Fort Mori, and I went on. Those men who were 
" no fit " to take me back behaved abominably. 
Whenever they neared a village they endeavoured 
to steal from the inhabitants — a piece of suger-cane, 
a ball of kenky, or a few bananas — and again and 
again a quarrel called me to intervene. It is very 
curious how soon one gets an idea of one's own im- 
portance. In England, if I came across a crowd of 
shouting, furious, angry men, I should certainly pass 
by on the other side, but here in Africa when I was 
by myself I felt it my bounden duty to interfere and 
inquire what was the matter. It was most likely 
some trouble connected with my carriers. I dis- 
liked very much making enemies as I passed, and I 
endeavoured to catch them and make them pay for 
what they had stolen. And now I understood at last 
how it is white people living among a subject race are 
so often overwhelmed in a sudden rising. It is hard 
to believe that these people whom you count your 
inferiors will really rise against you. Here was I, 
alone, unarmed, only a woman, and yet immediately 
I heard a commotion I attended at once and dis- 
pensed justice to the very best of my ability. I 
fully expected village elders to bow to my decision, 
and I am bound to say they generally did. 

Most of the villages along the Coast bore a strong 
family resemblance to the one in which I had spent 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 163 

an unhappy hour while my men attended the funeral 
palaver, and all the shore is much alike. Between 
Axim and Sekondi is some rough, rugged, and pretty 
country, but east and west of those points the shore is 
flat, and the farther east you go the flatter it becomes, 
till at the mouth of the Volta and beyond it is all 
sand and swamp. The first day out from Cape Coast 
it was somewhat monotonous, possibly if I went over 
it again I should feel that more ; but there was grow- 
ing up in me a feeling of satisfaction with myself — 
I do trust it was not smug — because I was getting on. 
I was doing the thing so many men had said I could 
not possibly do, and I was doing it fairly easily. Of 
course, I was helped, helped tremendously by the 
freehanded hospitality of the people in the towns 
through which I passed, for which kindness I can 
never be sufficiently grateful, but here with my car- 
riers I was on my own, and I began to regard them 
as the captures of my bow and spear, and therefore 
I at least did not find the country uninteresting. Who 
ever found the land he had conquered dull? 

In due course I arrived at Annamabu, an old Eng- 
lish fort that the authorities on the Gold Coast hardly 
think worth preserving, and have given over to the 
tender mercies of the negro Custom and post office 
officials. Like Elmina, I could write a book about 
Annamabu alone, and I was the more interested in 
it because it is the most perfect specimen of the 
entirely English fort on the Coast, and is built at 
the head of a little bay, where is the best landing on 
the Coast for miles round. 

There is a curious difference between the sites 
chosen by the different nations. The other nations 
apparently always chose some bold, commanding 



164 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

position, while the English evidently liked, as in 
this instance, the head of a little bay and a good 
landing. 

Annamabu is quite a big native town, ruled over, 
I believe, by a cultured African, a man who is well 
read and makes a point of collecting all books about 
the Coast, and has, so they say, some rare old edi- 
tions. I tried to see him and went to his house, a 
mud-built, two-storied building, where I sat in a 
covered courtyard and watched various members of 
his family go up and down a rickety staircase that 
led to the upper stories, but the Chief was away on 
his farm, and even though I waited long he never 
made his appearance. I should like to have seen 
the inside of his house, seen his books ; all I did see 
was the courtyard, all dull-mud colour, untidy and un- 
kempt, with a couple of kitchen chairs in it, a goat 
or two, some broken-down boxes and casks, and the 
drums of state that marked his high office piled up 
outside the door. 

In the fort itself is the rest-house on the bastion, 
as untidy and dirty as the Chiefs courtyard. There 
are three rooms opening one into the other, and in the 
sitting-room, a great high room with big windows — 
those men of old knew how to build — there is a table, 
some chairs, a cupboard, and a filter, on which is 
written that it is for the use of Europeans only, and 
behind in the bedroom is the forlornest wreck of a 
bed, and some remnants of crockery that may have 
been washed about the time when Mrs Noah held the 
first spring cleaning in the ark, but apparently have 
never been touched since. It is only fair to say that 
every traveller, they are like snow in summer, carries 
his own bedding, and in fact all he needs, so that all 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 165 

that is really wanted for these rest-houses along the 
shore is a good broom and a good stout arm to wield 
it, and if a place is left without human occupancy the 
dirt is only clean dust, for the clean air along these 
coasts is divine. 

But at Annamabu the usual difficulties came in 
my way; my old men were well broken-in now, but 
my new mammies were — well — even though I am a 
woman, and so by custom not permitted to use bad 
language, I must say they were the very devil. They 
carried on with the men and then they complained of 
the men's conduct, and when they arrived at An- 
namabu — late, of course, and one of them had the 
chop box — they sent in word to say they " no be fit " 
to go any farther, and there and then they wanted to 
go back to Cape Coast. 

I said by all means they might go back to Cape 
Coast, but the loads would have to be left here and 
sent for from Salt Ponds, and therefore, as they had 
not completed their contract, they should be paid 
nothing. 

They came and lay down before me in attitudes of 
intense weariness calculated to move the heart of a 
sphinx, but I came to the conclusion I must be a 
hard-hearted brute, for I was adamant, and those 
weeping women decided they would go on to Salt 
Ponds. 

At Salt Ponds there is a little company of white 
people, and, so says report, the very worst surf on 
the Coast, with perhaps the exception of Half Assinie. 
The D.C. was away, so the Provincial Commissioner 
had telegraphed to the medical officer asking him to 
get me quarters. I arrived about three o'clock on a 
Sunday afternoon, when the place was apparently 



166 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

wrapped in slumber; the doctor's bungalow was 
pointed out to me, built on stilts on a cement founda- 
tion, and on that foundation I established myself and 
my loads, and made my way upstairs. A ragged and 
blasphemous parrot, with a very nice flow of lan- 
guage, was in charge, and he did not encourage me 
to stop, nor did he even hint at favours to come, 
so I went down again and waited. Apparently I 
might wait ; towards evening I made my way — I was 
homeless — towards another bungalow, where a white 
man received me with astonishment, gave me the 
nicest cup of tea I have ever drunk, and sent for the 
medical officer, who had lunched off groundnut soup 
and had gone into the country to sleep it off. We all 
know groundnut soup is heavy. 

The medical officer remains in my mind as a man 
with a grievance ; he was kind after his fashion, but 
he did hate the country. If I had listened to him, I 
should have believed it was unfit for human habita- 
tion, and I couldn't help wondering why he had 
honoured it with his presence. In his opinion it was 
exceedingly unbecoming in a woman to be making 
her way along the Coast alone. To drive in these 
facts he found me house-room with the only white 
woman in the place, the charmingly hospitable wife 
of the German trader who had been on the Coast for 
a couple of years, who was perfectly well, healthy, 
and happy, who always did her own cooking, and 
who gave me some of the most delicious meals I have 
ever tasted. Thus I was introduced to the German 
element in West Africa, and began to realise for the 
first time that efficiency in little things which is going 
to carry the Germans so far. This fair-haired, plump 
young woman, with the smiling young face, was one 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 167 

of a type, and I could not help feeling sorry there 
were not more English women like her. I do not 
think I have ever met an English woman, with the 
exception of the nursing Sisters, who has spent a year 
on the Coast. The accepted theory is they cannot 
stand it, and in the majority of cases they certainly 
can't. They get sick. With my own countrywomen 
it is different ; the Australian stays, so does the Ger- 
man, so does the French woman. At first I could not 
understand it at all, but at last the explanation slowly 
dawned upon me. 

" Hans-fraus" said many a woman, and man, too, 
scornfully, when I praised those capable German 
women who make a home wherever you find them, 
and it is this haus-frau element in them that saves 
them. A German woman's pride and glory is her 
house, therefore, wherever she is she has to her hand 
an object of intense interest that fills her mind and 
keeps her well. An Australian does not take so keen 
an interest in her house, perhaps, but she has had no 
soft and easy upbringing ; from the time she was a 
little girl she has got her own hot water, helped with 
the cooking, washing, and all the multifarious duties 
of a houshold where a servant is a rarity, therefore, 
when she comes to a land where servants are plenti- 
ful, if they are rough and untaught, she comes to 
a land of comfort and luxury. Besides, it is the 
custom of the country that a woman should stand 
beside her husband ; she has not married for a live- 
lihood, men are plentiful enough and she has chosen 
her mate, wherefore it is her pleasure and her joy 
to help him in every way. She is as she ought 
to be, his comrade and his friend, a true help- 
mate. God forbid that I should say there are not 



168 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

English women like that, because I know there are, 
but the conditions in England are also very different. 
The girl who has been brought up in an English 
household, even if it be a poor one, is not only 
brought up in luxury, but is the victim of many con- 
ventions. Any ruffled rose leaf makes her unhappy. 
The servants that to the Australian are a luxury to be 
revelled in are very bad indeed to her. Whenever 
I saw one of these complaining English women, I 
used to think of the Princess of my youth. We all 
remember her. She was wandering about lost, as 
royalty naturally has a habit of doing, and she came 
to a little house and asked the inmates to give her 
shelter because she was a princess. They took her 
in, but being just a trifle doubtful of her story — when 
I was a little girl I always felt that was rather a slur 
upon those dwellers in the little house — they put on 
the bed a pea and then they put over it fourteen hair 
mattresses and fourteen feather beds — it doesn't seem 
to have strained the household to provide so much 
bedding — and then they invited the princess to go 
to bed, which she did. In my own mind I drew the 
not unnatural conclusion that princesses were accus- 
tomed to sleeping in high beds. Next morning they 
asked her how she slept. She, most rudely, I always 
thought, said she had not been able to sleep at all, 
because there was such a hard lump in the bed. And 
so they knew that her story was true, and she was a 
real princess. Now, the English women in West 
Africa always seem to me real princesses of this order. 
Certain difficulties there always are for the white race 
in a tropical climate, there always will be, but there 
is really no need to find out the peas under twenty- 
eight mattresses. In a manless country like England, 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 169 

many a woman marries not because the man who 
asks her is the man she would have chosen had she 
free right of choice, but because to live she must 
marry somebody, and he is the first who has come 
along. He may be the last. Her African house in- 
terests her not, her husband does not absorb her, she 
has no one to whom to show off her newly wedded 
state, no calls to pay, no afternoon teas, no matinees, 
in fact she has no interest, she is bored to death ; 
she is very much afraid of " chill," so she shuts out the 
fresh, cool night air, and, as a natural result, she goes 
home at the end of seven months a wreck, and once 
more the poor African climate gets the credit. 

No, if a woman goes to West Africa there is a 
great deal to be said for the German haus-frau. At 
least they always seem to make a home, and I have 
seen many English women there who cannot. 

At Salt Ponds one of my carriers came to me say- 
ing he was sick and wanting medicine, and I regret 
to say, instead of sending him at once to the doctor, 
I casually offered him half a dozen cascara tabloids, 
all of which to my dismay he swallowed at one gulp. 
The next morning he was worse, which did not sur- 
prise me, but I called in the medical officer and found 
he was suffering from pneumonia — cascara it appears 
is not the correct remedy — and I was forced to leave 
him behind. The mammies I had engaged at Cape 
Coast also declined to go any farther, so I had to look 
around me for more carriers, and carriers are by no 
means easy to come by. Finally the Boating Com- 
pany came to the rescue with four Kroo boys, and 
then my troubles began. 

I set out and hoped for the best, but Kroo boys are 
bad carriers at all times. These were worse than 



170 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

usual. One of my hammock-boys hurt his foot, or 
said he had, and had for the time to be replaced by a 
Kroo boy, and we staggered along in such a fashion 
that once more I felt like a slave-driver of the most 
brutal order. Again and again we stopped for him 
to rest, and my hammock-boys remarked by way of 
comforting me : 

" Kroo boy no can tote hammock." 
" Why can Kroo boy no tote hammock? " 
" We no know, Ma. We no be Kroo boy." 
We scrambled along somehow, out of one village 
into another, and at every opportunity half the carriers 
ran away and had to be rounded up by the other half. 
In eight hours we had only done fifteen miles. I felt 
very cheap, very hungry, very thirsty, and most 
utterly thankful when we arrived late in the afternoon 
at a dirty native town called Tantum. The carriers 
straggled in one by one, and last of all came my chop 
box, so that, for this occasion only, luncheon, after- 
noon tea, and dinner were all rolled into one about 
six o'clock in the evening. 

The rest-house was a two-storied house, built of 
swish and white-washed, and was inside a native com- 
pound, where both in the evening and in the morning 
the women were most industriously engaged in crush- 
ing the corn, rolling it on a hard stone with a heavy 
wooden roller. 

And the rest-house, though very loyal, there were 
four coloured oleographs of Queen Alexandra round 
the walls of the sitting-room and two at the top of the 
stairs, all exactly alike, was abominably dirty. It had 
a little furniture — two mirrors, well calculated to 
keep one in a subdued and humble frame of mind, a 
decrepid bed that I was a little afraid to be in the 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 171 

same room with lest its occupants would require no 
invitation to get up and walk towards me, a table, and 
some broken-down chairs. Also on the wall was a 
notice that two shillings must be paid by anyone 
occupying this rest-house. Someone had crossed this 
out and substituted two shillings and sixpence, and 
that in its turn had been erased, so, as the sum went 
on increasing at each erasure, at last eighteen shil- 
lings and sixpence had been fixed as the price of a 
night's lodging in this charming abode. I decided in 
my own mind that two shillings would be ample, and 
that if the people were civil I should give them an 
extra threepence by way of a dash. 

I photographed Tantum with the interested assis- 
tance of a gentleman clad in a blue cloth and a tourist 
cap. He seemed to consider he belonged to me, so at 
last I asked him who he was. 

" P'lice," said he with a grin, and then I recognised 
my policeman in unofficial dress. 

I didn't like that village. The people may have 
been all right, but I didn't like their looks and I made 
my " p'lice " sleep outside my door. My bedroom 
had the saving grace of two large windows, and I 
put my bed underneath one of them in the gorgeous 
moonlight ; but a negro town is very noisy on a moon- 
light night and the tom-toms kept waking me. I 
always had to be the first astir else my following 
would have cheerfully slumbered most of the day, but 
on this occasion so bright was the moonlight, so noisy 
the town, that I proceeded to get up at two o'clock, 
and it was only when I looked at my travelling clock, 
with a view to reproaching Grant with being so long 
with my tea, that I discovered my error and went back 
to bed and a troubled rest again. 



172 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Two shillings was accepted with a smile by the 
good lady of the house, who was a stout, middle-aged 
woman with only one eye, a dark cloth about her 
middle, and a bright handkerchief over her head. She 
gave me the impression that she had never seen so 
much money in her life before. Possibly she had 
only recently gone into the rest-house business, say 
a year or two back, and I was her first traveller with 
any money to spend. We parted with mutual com- 
pliments, and I bestowed on her little grand-daughter 
the munificent dash of threepence. 

There is a story told of a man who went out to 
India, and as he liked sunshine used to rise up each 
morning and say to his wife with emphasis, " Another 
fine day, my dear." 

Now, she, good woman, had been torn from her 
happy home in England, and loved the cool grey 
skies, so at last much aggravated she lost her temper, 
and asked : " What on earth else do you expect in this 
beastly country ? " 

So, along the Guinea Coast in the month of March, 
the hottest season, there is really nothing else to 
expect but still, hot weather : divine mornings, glori- 
ous evenings, but in between fierce hot sunshine. And 
of course it was not always possible to travel in the 
coolest part of the day. To sit still by the roadside 
in the glare of the sunshine, or even under a tree, with 
a large crowd looking on, was more than I could have 
managed. So I started as early as I could possibly 
induce my men to start — one determined woman can 
do a good deal — and then went straight on if possible 
without a stop to my next point. I would always, 
when I am by myself, rather be an hour or two late 
for luncheon than bother to stop to have it on the way, 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 173 

and if a breakfast at half-past five or six and a morn- 
ing in the open air induces hunger by eleven, it is 
easily stayed by carrying a little fruit or biscuits or 
chocolate to eat by the way. 

It was fiercest noonday when I came to a town 
called Appam, where once upon a time was an old 
Dutch lodge worth keeping, if only to show what a 
tiny place men held garrisoned in the old days. It 
is hardly necessary to say that the Gold Coast 
Government do not think so, and have handed this 
old-time relic over to negro Custom and post office 
officials ; and, judging by the condition of the rest of 
the town, much has not been required of them, for 
Appam is the very filthiest town I have ever seen. 
The old lodge is on the top of a hill overlooking the 
sea, splendidly situated, but you arrive at it by a 
steep and narrow path winding between a mass of 
thatched houses, and it stands out white among the 
dark roofs. As a passer-by, I should say the only 
thing for Appam is to put a fire-stick in the place ; 
nothing else but fire could cleanse it. Many of the 
young people and children were covered with an out- 
break of sores that looked as if nasty-looking earth 
had been scattered over them and had bred and 
festered, and they told me the children here were 
reported to be suffering and dying from some disease 
that baffled the doctors, what doctors I do not know, 
for there is no white man in Appam. It seems to me 
it is hardly necessary to give a name to the disease. 
I should think it was bred of filth pure and simple, 
and my remedy of the fire-stick would go far towards 
curing it. But there is a graver side to it than merely 
the dying of these negro children. Appam is not 
very far from Accra ; communication by surf boat 



174 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

must go on weekly, if not daily, and Appam must be 
an ideal breeding ground for the yellow-fever mos- 
quito. I know nothing about matters medical, but I 
must say, when I heard Accra was quarantined for 
yellow fever, I was not surprised. I had come all 
along the Coast, and filthier villages it would be 
difficult to find anywhere, and of these filthy villages 
Appam, a large town, takes the palm. I left it with- 
out regret, and though I should like to see that little 
Dutch lodge again, I doubt if I ever shall. 

My carriers were virtue itself now. The Kroo boys 
were giving so much trouble that they posed as 
angels. I must admit they were a cheery, good- 
tempered lot, and it was impossible to bear malice 
towards them. They had forgotten that 1 had ever 
been wrathful, and behaved as if they were old and 
much-trusted servants. Munk-wady, a Ju-ju hill on 
the shore between Appam and Winnebah, is steep 
and the highest point for many miles along the Coast, 
and over its flank, where there was but a pretence at 
a road, we had to go. 

" You no fear, Ma ; you no fear," said the men 
cheerily, " we tote you safe " ; and so they did, and 
took me right across the swamp that lay at the other 
side and right into the yard of the Basel Mission 
Factory at Winnebah, where a much-astonished 
manager made me most kindly welcome. It amused 
me the astonishment I created along the road. No 
one could imagine how I could get through, and yet 
it was the simplest matter. It merely resolved itself 
into putting one foot before the other and seeing that 
my following did likewise. Of course, there lay the 
difficulty. " Patience and perseverance," runs the old 
saw, " made a Pope of his reverence " ; and so a little 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 175 

patience and perseverance got me to Accra, though 
I am sometimes inclined to wonder if it wasn't blind 
folly that took me beyond it. 

But at Winnebah I received a check. Those Kroo 
boys gave out, and it was plain to be seen they could 
travel no longer with loads on their heads. I had no 
use for their company without loads. There were 
white men in Winnebah, but none of them could help 
me, for the cocoa harvest in the country behind was 
in full swing, and carriers there were not. The only 
suggestion was that there was a ship in the roadstead, 
and that I should embark on her for Accra. There 
seemed nothing else for it, and, regretful as I was, 
I felt I must take their advice. The aggravating part 
was that it was only a long day's journey from Winne- 
bah to Accra, but as I had no men to carry my loads 
I could not do it. One thing I was determined to do, 
however, and that was to visit an old Dutch fort 
there was at a place called Berraku, about half-way 
to Accra. I could do it by taking my hammock- 
boys and my luncheon, and that I did. 

That day's journey is simply remarkable for the 
frolicsomeness of my men and for the extreme filth 
of the fishing villages through which we passed. 
They rivalled Appam. As for the fort, it was built of 
brick, there was a rest-house upon the bastion for 
infrequent travellers, and it was tumbling into dis- 
repair. There will be no fort at Berraku presently, 
for the people of the town will have taken away the 
bricks one by one to build up their own houses. But 
it must have been a big place once, and there is in 
the town a square stone tomb, a relic of the past. 
The inscription is undecipherable, but it was evi- 
dently erected in memory of some important person 



176 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

who left his bones in Africa, and lies there now 
forgotten. 

There was a river to cross just outside the town of 
Winnebah, and crossing a river is a big undertaking 
in West Africa, even when you have only one load. 
I'm afraid I must plead guilty to not knowing my men 
by sight ; for a long time a black man was a black man 
to me, and he had no individuality about him. Now 
they all crowded into the boat to cross the river, and 
it was evident to my mind that we were too many; 
then as no one seemed inclined to be left behind, I 
exercised my authority and pointed out the man who 
was to get out, and out he got, very reluctantly, but 
cheerily helped by his unfeeling fellows. It took us 
about a quarter of an hour to cross that river, for it 
was wide and we had to work up-stream, and once 
across they all proceeded to go on their way without 
a thought for the man left behind. And then I dis- 
covered what I had done. I had thrown the aegis of 
my authority over, putting the unfortunate ferryman 
out of his own boat, and to add injury to insult my 
men were quite prepared to leave him on one side of 
the stream and his boat on the other. When I dis- 
covered it was the ferryman I had put out I declared 
they must go back for him, and my decision was 
received with immense surprise. 

" You want him, Ma?" as if such a desire should 
be utterly impossible ; but when they found I really 
did, and, moreover, intended to pay him, two of them 
took the boat and he was brought to me with shouts 
of laughter, and comforted with an extra dash, which 
was more than he had expected after my high-handed 
conduct. 

One could not help liking these peasant peoples ; 



PATHS OF THE MEN OF OLD 177 

they were such children, so easily pleased, so anxious 
to show off before the white woman. Here all along 
the beach the people were engaged in fishing, and 
again and again I saw a little crowd of men launching 
a boat, or hauling it in and distributing their catch 
upon the beach. I always got out and inspected the 
catch, and they always made way to let me look when 
they saw I was interested. Of course, we could not 
speak to each other, but they spread out the denizens 
of the deep and pointed out anything they thought 
might be specially curious. I can see now one flat 
fish that was pulled out for my benefit. One man, 
who was acting as showman, caught him by the tail 
and held him out at arm's length. He was only a 
small fish about the size, I suppose, of a large dish, 
but that thorny tail went high over the man's head 
while the body of the fish was still flapping about on 
the sand, and the lookers-on all laughed and shouted 
as if they had succeeded in showing the stranger a 
most curious sight, as indeed they had. 

I was sorry to turn my back on the road, sorry to 
go back to Winnebah — Winnebah of the evil reputa- 
tion, where they say if a white man is not pleasing 
to the people the fetish men poison him — sorry to 
pay off my men and send them back, sorry to take 
ship for Accra ; but I could not get carriers, there 
was nothing else for it, and by steamer I had to go, 
and very lucky indeed was I to find a steamer ready 
to take me, so I said good-bye to the road for some 
considerable time and went to Accra. 



M 



CHAPTER XI 

THE CAPITAL OF THE GOLD COAST COLONY 

The pains and penalties of landing in Accra — Negro officials, 
blatant, pompous, inefficient — Christiansborg Castle — The 
ghost of the man with eyes like bright stones — The impor- 
tance of fresh air — Beautiful situation of Accra — Its want 
of shade-trees — The fences of Accra — The temptation of the 
cooks — Picturesque native population — Striking coiffure — 
The expensive breakwater — To commemorate the opening of 
the waterworks — The forlorn Danish graveyard — A meddle- 
some missionary — Away to the east. 

I don't like landing in Accra. There is a good deal 
of unpleasantness connected with it. For one thing, 
the ships must lie a long way off for the surf is bad, 
and the only way to land is to be put into a mammy- 
chair, dropped into a surf boat, and be rowed ashore 
by a set of most excellent boatmen, who require to 
be paid exorbitantly for their services. I don't know 
what other people pay, but I have never landed on 
Accra beach under a ten-shilling dash to the boat 
boys, and then I had to pay something like sixpence 
a load to have my things taken up to the Custom 
house. In addition to that you get the half-civilised 
negro in all his glory, blatant, self-satisfied, loqua- 
cious, deadly slow, and very inefficient. As well as 
landing my goods from the steamer, I wanted to inquire 
into the fate of other goods that I had, with what I 

178 



GOLD COAST COLONY 179 

considered much forethought, sent on from Sekondi 
by a previous steamer, and here I found myself in a 
sea of trouble, for, the negro mind having grasped 
the fact that a troublesome woman was looking for 
boxes that had probably been lost a couple of months 
ago, each official passed me on from one department 
to another with complacency. Accra is hot, and 
Accra is sandy, and Accra as yet does not understand 
the meaning of the text, " the shadow of a great rock 
in a thirsty land," so for a couple of hours I was 
hustled about from pillar to post, finding traces of 
luggage everywhere, and no luggage. Then, a little 
way from the port office, a large placard in blue and 
white, announcing " Post and Telegraph Office " 
caught my eye, so I thought I would by way of re- 
freshment and interlude send a telegram telling of my 
safe arrival to my friends in Sekondi, and, in all the 
heat of a tropical morning, I toiled down one flight of 
steps and up another and at last found that the 
telegraph office, in spite of that big placard, was not 
at the port at all but at Victoriaborg, about a couple 
of miles away. I could not believe it, but so it was. 
Whether that placard is previous, or hints at past 
greatness, I cannot tell. I also found later on that 
you cannot send a telegram after four o'clock in the 
afternoon in the Gold Coast. Government takes a 
most paternal care of its negro subordinates and sees 
that the poor things are not worked too hard, but when 
I found they closed for luncheon as well, I was apt 
to inquire why it should be so hard-hearted as ever 
to require them to open at all. I think this matter 
should be inquired into by someone who has the 
welfare of the negro race at heart. 

When my temper was worn to rags, and I was 



180 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

thoroughly hot and unhappy, wishing myself with all 
my heart out in the open again with only carriers 
who " no be fit " to deal with, at last a surprised 
white man found me, straightened things out in a 
moment, and assured me that I should have evening 
dresses to wear at Government House. 

The Acting Governor and his wife put me up for 
a day or two, and then found me quarters, and I here- 
by put it on record that I really think it was noble of 
the Acting Governor, for he had no sympathy with 
my mission, and I think, though he was too polite to 
say so, was inclined to regard a travelling woman as a 
pernicious nuisance. I am sure it would have been 
more convenient for him if I had gone straight on, 
but I did not want to do the capital of the Colony 
like an American tourist, and so protested that I must 
have somewhere where I could rest and arrange my 
impressions. 

Government House is old-world. It is Christians- 
borg Castle, which was bought from the Danes, I 
think, some time in the seventies, when a general 
rearrangement of the Coast took place. It is one 
of the nicest castles on the Coast, bar, of course, 
Elmina, which none can touch, and has passed 
through various vicissitudes. I met at Kumasi the 
medical officer who had charge of it some years 
back, when it was a lunatic asylum. 

" Such a pity," said he, " to make such a fine place 
a lunatic asylum. But it was a terrible care to me. 
I was so afraid some of the lunatics would smash 
those fine old stained-glass windows." 

I stared. Stained-glass windows on the Coast! 
But there is not a trace of them now, nor have I ever 
met anyone else who knew of them. I suppose they 




* 



GOLD COAST COLONY 181 

are some of those things no one thought worth caring 
about. 

There are ghosts at Christiansborg too. It used 
to be Government House, and then, because some 
Governor did not like it, a lunatic asylum, and 
Government House again. A man once told me how, 
visiting it while it was a lunatic asylum, he spoke to 
the warder in charge and said, " You must have an 
easy time here." 

" No, sah ; no, sah," said the man earnestly, " it 
no be good." 

" Why ? " asked my curious friend. 

And then the negro said that as soon as the place 
was locked up quiet for the night, and he knew there 
could not possibly be any white men within the walls, 
two white men, he described them, one had eyes like 
bright stones, walked up and down that long corridor. 
And the strange part of the story, said my friend, was 
that he described unmistakably two dead-and-gone 
English Governors, men who have died in recent 
years, one, I think, in the West Indies, and the other 
on the way home from West Africa ! 

Christiansborg Castle is close down on the sea- 
shore, so close that the surf tosses its spray against 
its windows, and thus it came about that I learned 
what seems to me the secret of health in West Africa. 

All along the Coast I had wondered ; sometimes I 
felt in the rudest health, as if nothing could touch me, 
sometimes so weary and languid it was an effort to 
rouse myself to make half a dozen steps, and here 
in Christiansborg Castle I was prepared to agree 
with all the evil that had ever been said about the 
climate. 

" In the morning thou shalt say, ' Would to God it 



182 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

were even,' and at even thou shalt say, 'Would to 
God it were morning.' " 

That just about expressed my feelings while I was 
staying at Christiansborg Castle. My room, owing to 
the exigencies of space was an inside one, and though 
the doors were large, wide, and always open, still it 
had no direct communication with the open air. All 
the windows along the sea side of the Castle were 
tight closed, for the Acting Governor's wife did not 
like her pretty things to be spoiled by the damp sea 
breeze, so she stirred her air by a punkah. But at 
night of course there was no punkah going and I spent 
nights of misery. The heat was so oppressive I could 
not sleep, and I used to get up and wander about the 
verandah, where the air was cool enough, but I could 
not sleep there as it was by way of being a public 
passage-way. After a day or two they very kindly 
gave me for my abode a tumble-down old bungalow, 
just outside the Castle walls. It was like a little fort, 
and probably had been built for defence in the days 
that were passed and gone. There was a thick stone 
wall round the front of a strongly built stone house, 
that was loopholed for defence, and here lodged some 
of the Government House servants and their families, 
but on top of this stone house had been built a wooden 
bungalow, now rapidly falling into decay. Here were 
two big rooms and wide verandahs with a little furni- 
ture, and here I lodged, engaging a cook, and running 
my own establishment, greatly to my own satisfaction. 
The bungalow was as close to the seashore as the 
Castle, and I opened all the windows wide, and let 
the cool, health-giving fresh air blow over me day 
and night. 

After the first night the languor and weariness at 



GOLD COAST COLONY 183 

once disappeared and I felt most wonderfully well, 
a feeling that I kept always up so long as I could sleep 
in the uninterrupted fresh air. Put me to sleep in 
a closed-in room with no possibility of a direct draught 
and I was tired at once, wherefore I believe and be- 
lieve firmly that to insure good health in West Africa 
you must have plenty of fresh air. I go further and 
would advise everybody to sleep as much in the open 
as possible, or, at the very least, in a good, strong 
draught. After that experience, I began to notice. 
I had a habit of getting up very early in the morning 
and going out for walks and rides in my cart, and as 
I went down the streets of towns like Sekondi, Tarkwa, 
and Accra, it was surprising the number of shutters I 
saw fast closed against the health-giving air. I con- 
cluded the people behind were foolishly afraid of chills 
and preferred to be slowly poisoned, and I looked too 
later on in the day at the pallid, white-faced men and 
women who came out of those houses. For myself, 
West Africa agreed with me. I have never in my 
life enjoyed such rude health as I found I had there. 
I set the reason down to the care I took to live al- 
ways in the open. The conclusion I draw is this — of 
course I may be wrong — the margin of health in West 
Africa is narrow and therefore you cannot do without 
a supply of the invigorating elixir supplied by Nature 
herself. Could I live in England as I did there it 
is quite likely my health would be still better. Now, 
when I hear a man is ill in West Africa, I ask several 
questions before I condemn the place. First, of 
course, there is the unlucky man who would be ill in 
any climate, then there is the dissipated man who 
brings his ailments upon himself, and, while in Africa 
men set his illness down to the right cause, when they 



184 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

are this side of the water they are only too ready to 
add another nail to their cross and pity the poor devil 
who has succumbed to the terrible climate they have 
to face. Next comes the man who, while not exactly 
dissipated, does himself too well, burns the candle at 
both ends, and puts upon his constitution a strain it 
certainly could not stand in a cooler climate, and then, 
when all these eliminated, there is to my mind the man 
and the woman, for the women are still greater offen- 
ders, who will sleep in too sheltered a spot, and spend 
their sleeping hours in the vitiated air of a mosquito- 
proof room. 

Of course other things tend to ill-health — lone- 
liness, want of occupation for the mind, that per- 
petual strain that is engendered when a man is not 
contented with his surroundings and is for ever count- 
ing the slowly moving days till he shall go home; 
but that must come in any land where a man counts 
himself an exile, and I finally came to the conclusion 
that pretty nearly half the ill-health of West Africa 
would be cured if men would but arrange their sleep- 
ing-quarters wisely. 

At any rate, in this old tumble-down bungalow I 
was more than happy. I engaged a cart and boys, 
and I used to start off at six o'clock in the morning, 
or as near to it as I could get those wretches of Kroo 
boys to come, and wander over the town. 

Accra, which is the principal town of the Ga people, 
must have been for some centuries counted a town 
of great importance, for three nations had forts here. 
The English had James Fort, now used as a prison, 
the Dutch had Fort Crevecoeur, now called Vssher 
Fort and used as a police barracks, and the Danes 
had Christiansborg Castle close to the big lagoon 



GOLD COAST COLONY 185 

and three miles away from the town of Accra. And 
in addition to these forts all along the shore are ruins 
of great buildings. Till I went to Ashanti, between 
Christiansborg and Accra was the only bit of good 
road I had seen on the English coast of Guinea, and 
that was probably made by the Danes, for there is 
along part of it an avenue of fine old tamarind trees, 
which only this careful people would take the trouble 
to plant. They are slow-growing trees, I believe, 
and must be planted for shelter between other trees 
which may be cut down when the beautiful tamarinds 
grow old enough to take care of themselves. Some 
of the trees are gone and no one has taken the trouble 
to fill in the gaps, but still with their delicate greenery 
they are things of beauty in hot, sun-stricken Accra. 
For if ever a town needed trees and their shade it is 
this capital of the Gold Coast. 

Accra might be a beautiful city. The coast is not 
very high, but raised considerably above sea-level, 
and it is broken into sweeping bays ; the country be- 
hind gradually rises so that the bungalows at the 
back of the town get all the breeze that comes in from 
the ocean and all that sweeps down from the hills. In 
consequence, Accra, for a town that lies within a few 
degrees of the Equator, may be counted compara- 
tively cool. The only heat is between nine o'clock in 
the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon; at 
night, when I was there, the hottest time of the year, 
March and the beginning of April, there was always 
a cool sea breeze. A place is always bearable when 
the nights are cool. 

But on landing, Accra gives the impression of fierce 
heat. Shade-giving trees are almost entirely absent, 
the sun blazes down on hot, yellow sands, on hot, red 



186 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

streets lined with bare, white houses, and the very 
glare makes one pant. In the roadways, here and 
there, are channels worn by the heavy rainfall, the 
streets are not very regular, and many of the houses 
are ill-kept, shabby, and sadly in need of a coat of 
paint ; when they belong to white men one sees 
written all over them that they are the dwellings of 
men who have no permanent abiding place here, but 
are " just making it do," and as for the native houses, 
every native under English rule has yet to learn the 
lesson that cleanliness and neatness make for beauty. 
When in the course of my morning's drive I looked at 
the gardens of Accra, for there are a good many ill- 
kept gardens, I fancied myself stepping with Alice 
into Wonderland. The picket fences are made of the 
curved staves that are imported for the making of 
barrels, and therefore they are all curved like an 
" S," and I do not think there is one whole fence in 
all the town ; sometimes even the posts and rails are 
gone, but invariably some of the pickets are missing. 

" All the good cooks in Accra," said a man to me 
with a sigh, " are in prison for stealing fences." 

" Not all," said his chum ; " ours went for stealing 
the post office, you remember. He'd burnt most 
of it before they discovered what was becoming of it." 

They say they are importing iron railings for Accra 
to circumvent the negro; for the negro, be it 
understood, does not mind going to prison. He is 
well-fed, well-sheltered, and the only deprivation he 
suffers is being deprived of his women ; and when he 
comes out he feels it no disgrace, his friends greet him 
and make much of him, much as we should one who 
had suffered an illness through no fault of his own, 
therefore the cook who has pocketed the money his 




HH 



GOLD COAST COLONY 187 

master has given him to buy wood, and stolen his 
neighbour's fence, begins again immediately he 
comes out of prison, and hopes he will not be so 
unlucky as to be found out this time. 

This is the capital of a rich colony, so in business 
hours I found the streets thronged, and even early in 
the morning they were by no means empty, for the 
negro very wisely goes about his business while yet 
it is cool. Here, away from the forest, is no tsetse fly, 
so horses may be seen in buggies or drawing produce, 
but since man's labour can be bought for a shilling 
a day, it is cheaper, and so many people, like I was, 
are drawn by men. I, so as to feel less like a slave- 
driver, bought peace, of mind in one way and much 
aggravation in another by having three, but many 
men I saw with only two, and many negroes, who are 
much harder on those beneath them than the white 
men, had only one. Produce too is very often taken 
from the factory to the harbour in carts drawn by 
eight or a dozen men, and goods are brought up 
frcm the sea by the same sweating, toiling, shouting 
Kroo boys. 

They are broad-shouldered, sinewy men, clad 
generally in the most elderly of European garments 
cast off by some richer man, but always they are to be 
known from the surrounding Ga people by the broad 
vertical band of blue tattooing on their foreheads, 
the freedom mark that shows they have never been 
slaves. In Accra the white people are something under 
two hundred, the Governor and his staff, officials, 
teachers, merchants, clerks, missionaries, and artisans, 
and there are less than thirty white women, so that in 
comparison the white faces are very few in the streets. 
They are thronged with the dark people who call this 



188 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

place home. Clad in their own costumes they are 
very picturesque, the men in toga-like cloths fastened 
on one shoulder, the women with their cloths fastened 
under the arms, sometimes to show the breasts, some- 
times to cover them, and on their head is usually 
a bright kerchief which hides an elaborate coiffure. 
When I was strolling about Christiansborg one day 
I saw a coiffure which it was certainly quite beyond 
the power of the wearer to hide under a handkerchief. 
She was engaged in washing operations under a tree, 
and so I asked and obtained permission to photograph 
her. It will be seen by the result that, in spite of 
her peculiar notions on the subject of hair-dressing, 
she is not at all ungraceful. Indeed, in their own 
clothes, the Africans always show good taste. How- 
ever gaudy the colours chosen, never it seems do 
natives make a mistake — they blend into the picture, 
they suit the garish sunshine, the bright-blue sky, 
the yellow beach, the cobalt sea, or the white foam 
of the surf breaking ceaselessly on the shore ; only 
when the man and woman put on European clothes 
do they look grotesque. There is something in the 
tight-fitting clothes of civilisation that is utterly un- 
suited to these sons and daughters of the Tropics, 
and the man who is a splendid specimen of manhood 
when he is stark but for a loin cloth, who is dignified 
in his flowing robe, sinks into commonplaceness when 
he puts on a shirt and trousers, becomes a caricature 
when he parts his wool and comes out in a coat and 
high white collar. 

Money is spent in Accra as it is spent nowhere 
else in the Colony. Of course I do not know much 
about these matters, therefore I suppose I should not 
judge, but I may say that after I had seen German 



GOLD COAST COLONY 189 

results, I came to the conclusion that money was 
not always exactly wisely spent. Most certainly the 
people who had the beautifying of the town were 
not very artistic, and sometimes I cannot but feel 
they have lacked the saving grace of a sense of 
humour. 

The landing here was shockingly bad ; it is so still, 
I think, for the last time I left I was drenched to the 
skin, so the powers that be set to work at enormous 
cost to build a breakwater behind which the boats 
might land in comparative safety. Only compara- 
tive, for still the moment the boat touches the 
shore the boatmen seize the passenger and carry him 
as swiftly as possible, and quite regardless of his 
dignity, beyond the reach of the next breaking wave. 

" Ah," said a high official, looking with pride at the 
breakwater, " how I have watched that go up. Every 
day I have said to myself, ' something accomplished, 
something done ' " ; and he said it with such heartfelt 
pride that I had not the heart to point out the sand 
pump, working at the rate of sixty tons a minute, that 
this same costly breakwater had necessitated, for the 
harbour without it would fill up behind the break- 
water; not exactly, I fancy, what the authorities in- 
tended. The breakwater isn't finished yet, but the 
harbour is filling fast ; by the time it is finished I 
should doubt whether there will be any water at all 
behind it. 

I did Accra thoroughly. I lived in that little 
bungalow beside the fort, and I went up and down 
the streets in my cart and I saw all I think there 
was to be seen. But for one good friend, a medical 
officer I had known before, the lady who was head 
of the girls' school, a thoroughly capable, practical 



190 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

young woman, and the one or two friends they 
brought to see me, I knew nobody, and so I was 
enabled to form my opinions untrammelled, and I'm 
afraid I had the audacity to sit in judgment on that 
little tropical capital and say to myself that things 
might really be very much better done. The Club 
may be a cheerful place if you know anyone, but it is 
very doleful and depressing if the only other women 
look sidelong at you over the tops of their papers as 
if you were some curious specimen that it might per- 
haps be safer to avoid, and I found the outside of the 
bungalows, with their untidy, forlorn gardens, the 
houses of sojourners who are not dwellers in the land, 
anything but promising. Yet money is spent too — 
witness the breakwater — and in my wanderings I came 
across a tombstone-like erection close to James Fort, 
which I stopped and inspected. Indeed it is in a 
conspicuous place, with an inscription which he who 
runs may read. At least he might have read a little 
while ago, but the climate is taking it in hand. The 
stone is of polished granite, which must have cost a 
considerable amount of money, and by the aid of that 
inscription I discovered that it was a fountain erected 
to commemorate the opening of the waterworks in 
Accra. Oh Africa ! Already it is difficult to read that 
inscription; the unfinished fountain is falling into 
decay, and the water has not yet been brought to the 
town ! When future generations dig on the site of the 
old Gold Coast town, I am dreadfully afraid that 
tombstone will give quite a wrong impression. Now it 
is one of the most desolate things I know, more deso- 
late even than the forlorn Danish graveyard which 
lies, overgrown and forgotten, but a stone's throw 
from my bungalow at Christiansborg. A heavy brick 




A REMARKABLE COIFFURE. 



GOLD COAST COLONY 191 

wall had been built round it once, but it was broken 
down in places so that the people of Christiansborg 
might pasture their goats and sheep upon it, and I 
climbed through the gap, risking the snakes, and read 
the inscriptions. They had died, apparently most of 
them, in the early years of the nineteenth century, 
men and women, victims probably to their want of 
knowledge, and all so pitifully young. I could wish 
that the Government that makes so much fuss about 
educating the young negro in the way he should go, 
could spare, say ten shillings a year to keep these 
graves just with a little respect. It would want so 
little, so very little. Those Danes of ninety years 
ago I dare say sleep sound enough lulled by the surf, 
but it would be a graceful act to keep their graves in 
order, and would not be a bad object-lesson for the 
Africans we are so bent on improving. 

Behind the town are great buildings — technical 
schools put up with this object in view. They are very 
ugly buildings, very bare and barren and hot-looking. 
Evidently the powers who insist so strongly upon 
hand and eye training think it is sufficient to let the 
young scholars get their ideas of beauty and form by 
sewing coloured wools through perforated cards or 
working them out in coloured chalks on white paper ; 
they have certainly not given them a practicallesson in 
beauty with these buildings. They may be exceedingly 
well-fitted for the use to which they are intended, but 
it seems to me a little far-fetched to house young 
negroes in such buildings when in such a climate a 
roof over a cement floor would answer all purposes. 

If I had longed to beat my hammock-boys, my feel- 
ings towards them were mild when compared with 
those I had towards my cart-boys. They were terrible- 



192 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

looking ruffians, clad in the forlornest rags, and they 
dragged me about at a snail's pace. What they 
wanted of course was a master who would beat them, 
and as they did not get it, they took advantage of me. 
It is surprising how one's opinions are moulded by 
circumstances. Once I would have said that the 
man who hit an unoffending black man was a brute, 
and I suppose in my calmer moments I would say so 
still, but I distinctly remember seeing one of my cart- 
boys who had been on an errand to get himself a 
drink, or satisfy some of his manifold wants, strolling 
towards me in that leisurely fashion which invariably 
set me longing for the slave-driver's whip to hasten 
his steps. In his path was a white man who for some 
reason bore a grudge against the negro, and, with- 
out saying a word, caught him by the shoulder and 
kicked him on one side, twisted him round, and kicked 
him on the other side, and I, somewhat to my own 
horror, found myself applauding in my heart. Here 
was one of my cart-boys getting his deserts at last. 
The majority of white men were much of my way of 
thinking, but of course I came across the other sort. 
I met a missionary and his wife who were travelling 
down to inquire into the conditions of the workers in 
the cocoa plantations in Ferdinando Po. I confess I 
thought them meddlesome. What should we think 
if Portugal sent a couple of missionaries to inquire 
into the conditions of the tailoring trade in the East 
End of London, or the people in the knife trade in 
Sheffield ? I have seen both these peoples and seen 
just as a passer-by far more open misery than ever I 
saw on the coast of West Africa. The misery may 
be there, but I have not seen it, as I may see it 
advertising itself between Hyde Park Corner and 



GOLD COAST COLONY 193 

South Kensington any day of the week. Since I was 
a tiny child I have heard the poor heathen talked of 
glibly enough, but I have never in savage lands come 
across him. 

After nearly a month at Accra I decided I must go 
on, and then I found it was impossible to get carriers 
to go along the beach eastward ; the best I could do 
was to go up by the Basel Mission motor lorry to a 
place called Dodowah, and here the Acting Governor 
had kindly arranged with the Provincial Commis- 
sioner at Akuse to send across carriers to meet me 
and take me to the Volta. 

So one still, hot morning in April I packed up 
bag and baggage in my nice little bungalow, had one 
final wrangle with my cart-boys, a parting breakfast 
with the Basel Mission Factory people whose women- 
kind are ideal for a place like West Africa and make 
a home wherever you find them, and started in the 
lorry north for Dodowah in the heart of the cocoa 
district. 



N 



CHAPTER XII 

BLOOD FETISH OF KROBO HILL 

To Dodowah by motor lorry — Orchard-bush country — Negro tor- 
tures — The Basel Mission factor — A personally conducted 
tour — Great hospitality — A dinner by moonlight — Plan a 
night journey — The roadway by moonlight — Barbarous 
hymns — Carriers who "no be fit " once more — Honesty of 
the African carrier — Extraordinary obedience — The leopard 
that cried at Akway Pool — A hard-hearted slave-driver — 
Krobo Hill — Blood fetishes — Terror of the carriers — Story of 
the hill — The dawning of a new day — Unexplained dis- 
appearances — Akuse at last — The arrival of a whirlwind — 
The fire on Krobo Hill. 

Inland from Accra the country is what they call 
orchard bush, that is to say, it was rather flat country 
sloping in gradual gradation to the hills behind, 
covered now, in the end of the dry season, with yellow 
grass and dotted all over with trees, not close 
together as in the forest country but just far enough 
apart to give it a pleasant, park-like look. There 
were great tall ant heaps too, or rather the homes of 
the termite, the white ant which is not an ant at all 
I believe, and these reminded me of the ghastly form 
of torture sometimes perpetrated by the negroes. A 
Provincial Commissioner once told me that he had 
several times come across on these hills, which are 
often ten or twelve or twenty feet high, the skeleton 
of a man who had undoubtedly been fastened there 
while he was alive ; and another went one better and 
told me how another form of torture was to place 

194 



FETISH OF KROBO HILL 195 

a man on the ant heap without any fastening what- 
ever and then to surround it with men and women 
with knives, so that when he tried to escape he was 
promptly driven back. In this last case I am glad to 
think that the torturers are bound to have run their 
share of risk, and must have received many a good 
hard nip. But the negro mind seems to rather revel 
in secret societies, trial by ordeal, and tortures. 
Christianity, the religion of love and pity, has been 
preached on the Coast for many a long day now, and 
yet in this year of our Lord 191 1 there is behind the 
Church of England in Accra, down on the sea beach, 
a rock which is generally known as Sacrifice Rock, 
and here those who know declare that every yam 
festival, which takes place just after the rains in 
September, they sacrifice a girl in order that the crops 
may not fail. 

Riding in a lorry I had plenty of time to consider 
these matters. My kind Basel Mission Factory 
hans-frau had provided me with luncheon to eat by 
the way, and I knew that all my goods and chattels 
would arrive safely at their destination without my 
having to worry about them. Grant was the only 
servant I had left. I had dismissed the cook, and 
Zacco had quarrelled with Grant and dismissed him- 
self, and so while I sat on the front seat of the lorry 
alongside the negro driver, Grant and my goods and 
chattels were packed away in odd corners on top of 
the merchandise that was going to Dodowah. The 
road was bad, deeply cut by the passing of these 
lorries, but I arrived there about midday and was cor- 
dially received by a Basel Mission Factory man who 
told me my carriers had arrived, and suggested I 
should come to his house and have luncheon. 



196 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

He was a kindly, fair-haired young German who 
had been in the Colony about a month and was learn- 
ing English on Kroo-boy lines. The result was a 
little startling, but as it was our only means of com- 
munication I was obliged to make the best of it. 

My carriers had been here waiting for me since 
Friday ; this was Monday, and they wanted " sissy " 
money. I paid up and declared I should start the 
moment they had broken their fast. Meanwhile my 
German friend undertook to show me the sights. 

Dodowah is a very pretty little place at the foot 
of the hills ; it is embowered in palm trees and is 
the centre of the cocoa industry. In the yard of the 
factory the cocoa was lying drying in the blazing 
sun, and when I had been duly instructed in its 
various qualities, my host suggested I should 
" walk small." " I take you my house." 

It was very kind of him, but I was cautious. I do 
not like walking in the blazing noonday. 

"How far is it? "I asked. 

" Small, small," said he, with conviction. 

Grant was a very different person now from the 
boy in a pink pyjama coat, meek and mild and bullied 
by Kwesi, whom I had engaged in the distant past. 
He was my body servant; evidently supposed by 
everyone else who came in contact with me to hold 
a position of high trust, and thinking no end of him- 
self. So to him I gave strict instructions. All the 
loads were to start at once, the hammock-boys were 
to follow me to the factor's house, and he was to go 
on with the carriers. We had left the protection 
of the " p'lice " behind, and on the whole I thought 
I could do just as well without. 

So I set out with my new friend and accompanied 



FETISH OF KROBO HILL 197 

by my new headman who evidently thought it his 
duty to follow in my wake, though he could under- 
stand no English and I could understand not one 
word of his tongue. That walk remains in my mind 
as one long nightmare ; I only did one worse, and 
then I thought I must be going to die. We left the 
plain country and plunged uphill, it was blazing noon- 
day in April, and though there were palms and much 
growth on either side of the road, on the road itself 
was not a particle of shade. Still we went up and 
up and up. 

" I show you, I show you," said my friend. 

Frankly I wished he wouldn't. It was a splendid 
view from that hillside, with the town nestling em- 
bowered in palms at our feet, but a personally con- 
ducted walking-tour on the Coast at midday on an 
April day was the very last thing I desired. 

I was dripping with perspiration, I was panting 
and breathless before we had been on that road 
five minutes ; in the next five I would have bartered 
all my prospects in Africa for a glass of iced water, 
and then my companion turned. " You like go 
through bushway, short cut." It looked cooler, so 
I feebly assented and we turned into the bush which 
was so thin it did not shut out the sun, and the walk- 
ing was very much rougher. I had given up all 
hopes of ever coming to the end when my companion 
stopped, flung up his head like a young war-horse, 
and said cheerfully, " Oh I tink I go lookum road." 

I sank down on a log ; my new headman, an awful- 
looking ruffian, stood beside me, and that aggressively 
active young German went plunging about the bush 
till he returned still cheerful and remarking, " I tink 
we lose way. We go back." 



198 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

I draw a veil over the remainder of that walk. We 
did arrive at his house finally after two and a half 
hours' march over very rough country, and then he 
gave me wine to drink and fed me and was good to 
me, but I was utterly tired out and didn't care for 
the moment what became of me. He showed me a 
bedroom and I lay down and slept, rose up and had 
a bath, and felt as if I might perhaps face the world 
again. At half-past four we had some tea and I 
contemplated all my new hammock-boys sitting in 
a row under some palm trees on the other side of the 
road. They looked strapping, big, strong men, and 
I was thankful, for Akuse they said was twenty-seven 
miles away and I had to do it in one march. The 
question was, when I should start? 

" If you start now," said the factor, " you get there 
one — half-past one in the morning — very good time." 

Now I really could not agree with him. To 
launch yourself on totally unknown people at half- 
past one in the morning and ask them to take you 
in is not, I think, calculated to place you in a favour- 
able light, and I demurred. But what was I to do ? 
I did not want to inflict myself any longer on this 
hospitable young man, and already I had paid my 
carriers for four days while they did nothing. It 
was a full moon. Last night had been gorgeous ; 
this night promised to be as fine. I asked the ques- 
tion, why could I not travel all night ? 

" Oh yes, moon be fine too much " ; and then 
he went on to tell me a long story about his Kroo 
boys being frightened to travel that road by them- 
selves. " But it all be foolishness." It took me so 
long to discover the meaning of the words that I 
really paid no attention to the gist of what he was 



FETISH OF KROBO HILL 199 

saying, besides I could not see that a Kroo boy being 
afraid was any reason why I should be. Finally we 
figured it out that I should start at nine o'clock, which 
would bring me to Akuse at a little after six in the 
morning. This did not seem so bad, and I agreed 
and cordially thanked the kindness which made him 
plan a nice little dinner in the moonlight on the 
verandah. It comes back to me as one of the most 
unique dinners I ever had ; we had no other light 
but that of the moon, the gorgeous moonlight of the 
Tropics. It shone silver on the fronds of the palms, 
the mountains loomed dimly mysterious like moun- 
tains in a dream, and the road that ran past the house 
lay clear and still and warm in the white light. 

My host asked leave to dine in a cap ; he said the 
moon gave him a headache, and strongly advised me 
to do likewise, but though I have heard other people 
say the moon affects them in that manner, it never 
troubles me and I declined. And he translated his 
German grace into English for my benefit, and I 
could not even smile so kindly was the intention ; and 
we ate fruit on the verandah, and nine o'clock came 
and I had the top taken off my hammock and started. 

' Yi, yi, yi, ho, ho, ho," cried the hammock-boys, 
clapping their hands as they went at a fast trot, far 
faster than the ordinary man could walk without any 
burden on his head, and we were off to Akuse and 
the Volta. The night was as light as day, and it 
never occurred to me that there was any danger in 
the path. We went through the town, and here and 
there a gleam of fire showed, and here and there was 
a yellow light in one of the window places, and the 
people were in groups in the streets, dancing, sing- 
ing, or merely looking on. Generally they sang, 



200 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

and no one knows how truly barbaric a hymn can 
sound sung by a line of lightly clad people keeping 
time with hands and feet to the music. It might 
have been a war song, it might have been a wail 
for those about to die ; it was, I realised with a start, 
" Jesu, lover of my soul," in the vernacular. I sup- 
pose the missionaries know best, but it always seems 
to me that the latest music-hall favourite would do 
better for negro purposes than these hymns that 
have been endeared tc most of us by old association. 
These new men were splendid hammock-men ; they 
stopped for no man, and the groups melted before 
them. 

A happy peasant people were these, apparently 
with just that touch of mysterious sadness about them 
that is with all peasant peoples. Their own sorrows 
they must have, of course, but they are not forced 
upon the passer-by as are the sordid sorrows of the 
great cities of the civilised world. At the outside 
ring of these dancers hung no mean and hungry 
wretches having neither part nor parcel with the 
singers. 

Through the town and out into the open country 
we went, and the trees made shadows clear-cut on 
the road like splashes of ink, or, where the foliage was 
less dense, the leaves barely moving in the still night 
air made a tracery as of lace work on the road be- 
neath, and there was the soft, sleepy murmur of the 
birds, and the ceaseless skirl of the insects. Occa- 
sionally came another sound, penetrating, weird, 
rather awe-inspiring, the cry of the leopard, but the 
hammock-boys took no heed — it was moonlight and 
there were eight of them. 

" Yi, yi, yi, ho, ho, ho." They clapped their hands 



FETISH OF KROBO HILL 201 

and sang choruses, and by the time we arrived at 
the big village of Angomeda, a couple of hours out, 
I was fairly purring with satisfaction. I have no- 
ticed that when things were going well with me I 
was always somewhat inclined to give all the credit 
to my perfect management ; when they went wrong I 
laid the blame on Providence, my headman, or any 
other responsible person within reach. Now my 
self-satisfaction received a nasty shock. 

The village of Angomeda was lying asleep in the 
moonlight. The brown thatch glistened with mois- 
ture, the gates of the compounds and the doors of 
the houses were fast shut ; only from under the dark 
shadow of a great shade-tree in the centre of the 
village came something white which resolved itself 
into Grant apologetic and aggrieved. 

" Carriers go sleep here, Ma. They say they no 
fit go by night." 

My fine new carriers " no fit." How are the 
mighty fallen! And I had imagined them pretty 
nearly at Akuse by now! Clearly, they could not 
be allowed to stay here. I have done a good many 
unpleasant things, but I really did not feel I could 
arrive at Akuse at six o'clock in the morning with- 
out a change of clothing. 

But I restrained myself for the moment. 

"Why?" 

" I not knowing, Ma." 

I debated a moment. I realised the situation. I 
was a woman miles from any white man, and I could 
not speak one word of the language. Still, I had 
sent those carriers to Akuse and I could not afford 
to be defied, therefore I alighted. 

" Where are those carriers ? " 



202 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Nine pointing fingers indicated the house. Evi- 
dently the hammock-boys had been here before, and 
one of them pushed open a door in the wall. Black 
shadows and silver-white light was that compound. 
Heaped in the middle, not to be mistaken, were my 
loads, and from under the deeper shadows beneath 
the surrounding sheds came tumbling black figures 
which might or might not have been my erring 
carriers. I did not know them from the people 
about them, neither did I know one word of their 
language, and only one of my hammock-boys spoke 
any pigeon English. But that consideration did not 
stay me. I singled out my headman, and him I 
addressed at length and gave him to understand that 
I was pained and surprised at such conduct. Never 
in the course of a long career had I come across 
carriers who slept when they should have been on the 
road, and before I was half-way through the haran- 
gue those sleepy and reluctant men and women were 
picking up the loads. I confess I had been doubt- 
ful. Why should these carriers pay any attention 
to me? Now that I know what they risked by their 
obedience I have no words to express my astonish- 
ment. I did not know the carriers, but I did know 
the loads, and before I got into my hammock I stood 
at the gate and counted them all out. I need not 
have worried. The African carrier is the most honest 
man I have ever met. Never have I lost the smallest 
trifle entrusted to him. When my goods were well 
on the road I got into my hammock and started 
again. 

Oh, such a night ! On such a night as this Romeo 
wooed Juliet, on such a night came the Queen of the 
Fairies to see charm even in the frolicsome Bottom. 



FETISH OF KROBO HILL 203 

All the glories of the ages, all the delights of the 
world were in that night. The song of the carriers 
took on a softness and a richness born of the open 
spaces of the earth and the glorious night, and for 
accompaniment was the pad-pad of their feet in the 
dust of the roadway, and in one long, musical mon- 
otonous cadence the cheep of the insects, and again a 
sharper note, the cry of a bat or night bird. 

It was orchard-bush country that lay outspread in 
the white light, with here and there a cocoa planta- 
tion. Here a tree cast a dark shadow across the 
road, and there was a watercourse through which 
the feet of the men splashed — only in German West 
Africa may you always count on a bridge — and, 
again, the trees would grow close and tunnel-like over 
the road with only an occasional gleam of moonlight 
breaking through. But always the hammock-boys 
kept steadily on, and the carriers kept up as never 
before in two hundred miles of travel had carriers 
kept up. We went through sleeping villages with 
whitewashed mud walls and thatched roofs gleaming 
wetly, and even the dogs and the goats were asleep. 

It was midnight. It was long after midnight; the 
moon was still high and bright, like a great globe of 
silver, but there had come over the night that subtle 
change that comes when night and morning meet. 
It was night no longer ; nothing tangible had changed, 
but it was morning. The twitter of the birds, the cry 
of the insects, had something of activity in it; the 
night had passed, another day had come, though the 
dawning was hours away. And still the men went 
steadily on. 

A great square hill rose up on the horizon, and we 
came to a clump of trees where the moonlight was 



204 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

shut out altogether ; we passed through water, and 
it was pitch-dark, with just a gleam of moonlight 
here and there to show how dense was that darkness. 
It was Akway Pool, and a leopard was crying in the 
thick bush close beside it. It was uncanny, it was 
weird ; all the terror that I had missed till now in 
Africa came creeping over me, and the men were 
singing no longer. Very carefully they stepped, and 
the pool was so deep that lying strung up in the 
hammock I could still have touched the water with 
my hand. Could it be only a leopard that was crying 
so? Might it not be something even worse, some- 
thing born of the deep, dark pool, and the night? 
Slowly we went up out of the water, and we stood a 
moment under the shade of the trees, but with the 
white light within reach, and Krobo Hill loomed up 
ahead against the dark horizon. The only hammock- 
boy who could make himself understood came up. 

'" Mammy, man be tired. We stop here small." 

It was a reasonable request, but the leopard was 
crying still, and the gloom and fear of the pool was 
upon me. 

" No, go on." They might have defied me, but 
they went on, and to my surprise, my very great sur- 
prise, the carriers were still with us. Presently we 
were out in the moonlight again ; I had got the better 
of my fears and repented me. " Wait small now." 

" No, Mammy," came the answer, " this be bad 
place," and they went on swiftly, singing and shout- 
ing as if to keep their courage up, or, as I gathered 
afterwards, to give the impression of a great company. 
Only afterwards did I know what I had done that 
night. Krobo Hill grew larger and larger at every 
step, and on Krobo Hill was one of the worst, if not 




t*. 4 










-^ 






4 ? 

I 






FETISH OF KROBO HILL 205 

the worst blood fetish in West Africa. Every Krobo 
youth before he could become a man and choose a 
wife had to kill a man, and he did it generally on 
Krobo Hill. There the fetish priests held great 
orgies, and for their ghastly ceremonies and initiations 
they caught any stranger who was reckless enough 
to pass the hill. How they killed him was a mystery ; 
some said with tortures, some that only his head was 
cut off. But the fear in the country grew, and at 
the end of the last century the British Government 
interfered; they took Krobo Hill and scattered the 
fetish priests and their abominations, and they de- 
clared the country safe. But the negro revels in 
mystery and horror, and the fear of the hill still 
lingers in the minds of the people ; every now and 
then a man disappears and the fear is justi- 
fied. Only three years ago a negro clerk on his 
bicycle was traced to that hill and no further trace 
of him found. His hat was in the road, and the 
Krobos declared that the great white baboons thai 
infest the hill had taken him, but it is hardly reason- 
able to suppose that the baboons would have any 
use for a bicycle, whereas he, strong and young, and 
his bicycle, together emblems of strength and swift- 
ness, made a very fitting offering to accompany to 
his last resting-place the dead chief whose obsequies 
the Krobos were celebrating at the time. Always 
there are rumours of disappearances, less known men 
and women than a Government clerk and scholar, 
and always the people know there is need of men and 
women for the sacrifices, sacrifices to ensure a plen- 
teous harvest, a good fishing, brave men, and fruitful 
women. 

My men were afraid — even I, who could not under- 



206 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

stand the reason, grasped that fact ; very naturally 
afraid, for it was quite within the bounds of possibility 
that a straggler might be cut off. 

" Would they have touched me?" I asked after- 
wards. 

" Not with your men round you. Some might 
escape, and the vengeance would have been terrible." 

" But if I had been by myself? " 

" Ah, then they might have said that the baboons 
had taken you ; but you would not have been by 
yourself." 

No, it was extremely unlikely I should be here by 
myself, but here were my men, sixteen strong and 
afraid. Akway Pool had been the last water within 
a safe distance from the hill, and I had not let them 
halt ; now they dared not. A light appeared on the 
hill, just a point of flickering fire on the ridge, above 
us now, and I hailed it as a nice friendly gleam telling 
of human habitation and home, but the men sang 
and shouted louder than ever. I offered to stop, but 
the answer was always the same : " This be bad place, 
Mammy. We go." 

At last, without asking my leave, they put down 
the hammock, and the carriers flung themselves down 
panting. 

" We stop small, Mammy " ; and I sat on my box 
and watched the great, sinewy men with strapping 
shoulders as they lay on the ground resting. They 
had been afraid I was sure, and I knew no reason for 
their fear. 

But the night was past and it was morning, morn- 
ino- now though it was only half-past three and the 
sun would not be up till close on six o'clock. On 
again. The moon had swung low to the dawn, and 



FETISH OF KROBO HILL 207 

the gathering clouds made it darker than it had yet 
been, while the stars that peeped between the clouds 
were like flakes of newly washed silver. People 
began to pass us, ghostlike figures in the gloom. 
Greetings were exchanged, news was shouted from 
one party to the other, and I, in spite of the discomfort 
of the hammock, was dead with sleep, and kept 
dropping into oblivion and waking with a start to the 
wonder and strangeness of my surroundings. Deeper 
and deeper grew the oblivion in the darkness that 
precedes the dawn, till I wakened suddenly to find 
myself underneath a European bungalow, and knew 
that for the first time in my experience of African 
travel I had arrived nearly two hours before I 
expected to. 

My people were wild with delight and triumph. I 
had forced them to come through the Krobo country 
by night, but my authority did not suffice to keep 
them quiet now they had come through in safety. 
They chattered and shouted and yelled, and a 
policeman who was doing sentry outside the Pro- 
vincial Commissioner's bungalow started to race up- 
stairs. I tried to stop him, and might as well have 
tried to stop a whirlwind. Indeed, when I heard him 
hammering on the door I was strongly of opinion 
that the Commissioner would think that the whirlwind 
had arrived. But presently down those steps came 
a very big Scotchman in a dressing-gown, with his 
hair on end, just roused from his sleep, and he re- 
solved himself into one of those courteous, kindly 
gentlemen England is blessed with as representatives 
in the dark corners of the earth. 

Did he reproach me? Not at all. He perjured 
himself so far as to say he was glad to see me, and he 



208 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

took me upstairs and gave me whisky-and-soda be- 
cause it was so late, and then tea and fruit because it 
was so early. And then in the dawning I looked out 
over Krobo Hill, and my host told me its story. 

" I cleared them out years ago. I have no doubt 
they have their blood sacrifices somewhere, but not 
on Krobo Hill. But the people are still afraid." 

" I saw a fire there last night." 

He shook his head unbelieving. 

" Impossible ; there is a fine of fifty pounds for 
anyone found on Krobo Hill." 

The dawn had come and the sun was rising rosy 
and golden. The night lay behind in the west. 

I looked out of the window at the way I had come 
and wondered. I am always looking back in life 
and wondering. Perhaps it would be a dull life 
where there are no pitfalls to be passed, no rocks to 
climb over. 

" I see smoke there now." In the clear morning 
air it was going up in a long spiral ; but again my 
host shook his head. 

" Only a cloud." 

But there were glasses lying on the table, and I 
looked through them and there was smoke on Krobo 
Hill. 

So I think my men were right to fear, and I am 
lost in wonder when I remember they obeyed me and 
came on when they feared. 

And then when the sun had risen and another hot 
day fairly begun, I went over to the D.C.'s house ; he 
had a wife, and they were kindly putting me up, and 
I had breakfast and a bath and went to bed and 
slept I really think more soundly than I have ever 
in my life slept before. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE FEAR THAT SKULKED BENEATH THE 
MANGO TREE 

Up the Volta — Swanzy's trusting agent at Akuse — Amedika, the 
port of Akuse on the Volta — The trials of a trolley ride — My 
canoe — Paddling up-river — Rapids that raise the river thirty- 
four feet — Dangers of the river — Entrancingly lovely scenery 
— A wealthy land — The curious preventive service — Fears — 
Leaving the river — Labolabo — A notable black man — The 
British Cotton-growing Experimental Farm — The lonely white 
man — The fear that was catching — The lonely man's walk. 

At Akuse I changed my plans. I had intended 
to come here, drop down the Volta in the little river 
steamers that run twice a week to Addah, and then 
pursue my way along the coast to Keta where there 
was an old Danish castle, and possibly get across 
the German border and see Lome, their capital. But 
there is this charm or drawback — which ever way you 
like to look at it — about Africa: no one knows any- 
thing about the country beyond his immediate dis- 
trict. The Provincial Commissioner had gone to 
Addah, and I discussed my further progress with 
the D.C. and his wife as we sat on the verandah that 
night and looked over the country bathed in the most 
gorgeous moonlight. The D.C.'s wife, a pretty little 
woman who had only been out a couple of months, 
was of opinion that the vile country was killing her 
and her husband, that it was simply a waste of life to 

209 o 



210 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

live here, and she could not get over her surprise 
that I should find anything of interest in it. The 
D.C. thought it wouldn't be half bad if only the 
Government brought you back to the same place, so 
that you might see some result for your labours, and 
he strongly advised me to go a day or two up the 
river in a canoe just to see the country. 

" It is quite worth seeing," said he, and his wife 
smiled. She had seen all she intended to see of the 
country at Akuse, and did not want to go farther in. 

The next day I went into the town, the official 
quarters are some distance away, and called on a 
couple of the principal merchants. 

The factor at Miller Bros, put a new idea into my 
head. 

" Oh yes, go up the Volta," said he ; " you can get 
up as far as Labolabo, then cut across-country and 
come out at Ho in German territory. You can get to 
Palime from there, and that is rail-head, so you can 
easily make your way down to Lome." 

It sounded rather an attractive programme. 

" You go and see Rowe about it," he suggested. 

So I went and called upon Swanzy's agent, a nice 
young fellow, who first laughed, then looked me up 
and down doubtfully, and finally said it could be 
done. Mr Grey, one of their principals, had come 
across that way the other day, but it was very rough 
going indeed. No one else that he knew of had 
ever ventured it. 

If I liked to try he would get me a canoe to go up 
the river in, and give me letters to their black agents, 
for I must not expect to meet any white men. And 
again he looked doubtful. 

If I liked ; of course I liked. I am always ready 



BENEATH THE MANGO TREE 211 

to plunge in and take any risks in the future, pro- 
vided the initial steps are not too difficult, and once 
he found I wanted to go, Mr Rowe made the initial 
steps very easy indeed. 

First he very nobly lent me twenty-five pounds in 
threepenny bits, for I had got beyond the region of 
banks before I realised it, and had only two pounds 
in hand ; he engaged a canoe and six men for me ; 
he gave me letters to all Swanzy's agents in the 
back-country ; and finally, when I had said good- 
bye to the D.C. and his wife, he gave me luncheon 
and had me rolled down on a trolley by the little hand 
railway, if I may coin a word, that runs through the 
swamp and connects Akuse with its port Amedika on 
the Volta. 

This was a new mode of progression rather pleas- 
ant than otherwise, for as it was down-hill to the 
river it couldn't have been hard on the men who were 
pushing. I had come from the Commissioner's to the 
town on a cart, proudly sitting on top of my gear, and 
drawn by half a dozen Kroo boys ; now my luggage 
went before me on another trolley, and my way was 
punctuated by the number of parcels that fell off. My 
clothes were in a tin uniform case supposed, mis- 
takenly, I afterwards found, to be air-tight and water- 
tight, and I did not want this to fall off and break 
open, because in it I had stowed all my money — 
twenty-five pounds all in threepenny bits is somewhat 
of a care, I find. It escaped, but my bedding went, 
making a nice cushion for the typewriter which 
followed it. 

The port Amedika, as may be seen from the pic- 
ture, is very primitive, and though twice a week the 
little mail steamer comes up coaly and black as her 



212 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

own captain, on the occasion of my departure there 
were only canoes in the harbour. 

My canoe was one of the most ordinary structures, 
with a shelter in the middle under which I had my 
chair put up. My gear was stowed fore and aft, and 
six canoe-men took charge. 

Starting always seems to be a difficulty in Africa, 
and when I was weary of the hot sun and the glare 
from the water, and was wondering why we did not 
start, the canoe-men, true to their kind, found they 
had no chop, and they had to wait till one of their 
number went back and got it. But it was got at 
last and I was fairly afloat on the Volta. 

To be paddled up a river is perhaps a very slow 
mode of progression, but in no other way could I 
have seen the country so well ; in no other way could 
I have grasped its vast wealth, its wonderful 
resources. It is something of an adventure to go up 
the Volta too, for as soon as we started its smooth, 
wide reaches were broken by belts of rock that made 
it seem well-nigh impassable. Again and again from 
the low seat in the canoe it looked as if a rocky 
barrier barred all further progress, but here and there 
the water rushed down the narrow chasm as in a mill- 
race. Wonderful it was to find that a canoe could be 
poled up those rocky stairways against the rushing 
water. The rapids before you reach Kpong are in- 
numerable ; it seems as if the going were one long 
struggle. But the river is wonderfully beautiful ; it 
twists and turns, and first on the right hand and then 
on the left I could see a tall peak, verdure-clad to its 
very summit, Yogaga, the Long Woman. First the 
sun shone on it brilliantly, as if it would emphasise its 
great beauty, and then a tornado swept down, and 



BENEATH THE MANGO TREE 213 

the mist seemed to rise up and swallow it. The 
Senchi Rapids raise the river thirty-four feet in 
a furlong or two, and the water, white and foaming, 
boils over the brown rocks like the water churned up 
in the wake of a great ocean steamer. I could not 
believe we were going up there when we faced them, 
but the expert canoe-men, stripped to a loin cloth, 
with shout and song defying the river, poled and 
pulled and pushed the canoe up to another quiet 
reach, and when they had reached calm water flung 
themselves down and smoked and chattered and 
looked back over the way we had come. We seemed 
to go up in a series of spasms ; either the men were 
working for dear life or they were idling so as to 
bring down upon them the wrath of Grant who, after 
that trip along the Coast, felt himself qualified to 
speak, and again and again I had to interfere and 
explain that if anybody was going to scold the men it 
must be me. But indeed they worked so hard they 
needed a spell. 

Many a time when the canoe was broadside on and 
the white water was boiling up all round her, I thought, 
" Well, this really looks very dangerous," but nobody 
had told me it was, so I supposed it was only my 
ignorance, but I heard afterwards that I was right, it 
is dangerous. Many a bag of cotton has gone to the 
bottom here, and many a barrel of oil has been dashed 
to pieces against the rocks, and if many a white man's 
gear has not gone to the bottom too, it is only because 
white men on this river are few and far between. I 
had one great advantage, I did not realise the danger 
till we were right in it, and then it was pressing, it 
absorbed every thought till we were in smooth water 
again, with the men lying panting at the bottom of 



214 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

the canoe, so that I really had not time to be afraid 
till it was all over. Frankly, I don't think I could 
enter upon such a journey again so calmy, but I am 
glad I have gone once, for it was such a wonderful 
and enchanting river. Some day they dream the 
great waterway will be used to reach Tamale, a ten 
days' journey farther north, but money must be spent 
before that happy end is arrived at, though I fancy 
that if the river were in German hands something 
would be attempted at once, for the country is un- 
doubtedly very rich. 

" Scratch the earth it laughs a harvest." Cocoa 
and palm oil and rubber all come to the river or grow 
within a short distance of its banks, and all tropical 
fruits and native food-stuffs flourish like weeds. 
Beauty is perhaps hardly an asset in West Africa, 
but the Volta is a most beautiful river. The Gambia 
is interesting, the Congo grand, but the Volta is en- 
trancingly lovely. I have heard men rave of the 
beauty of the Thames, and it certainly is a pleasant 
river, with its smooth, green lawns, its shady trees, 
and its picturesque houses ; but to compare it to the 
Volta is to compare a pretty little birch-bark canoe to 
a magnificent sailing ship with all her snowy canvas 
set, heeling over to the breeze. Sometimes its great, 
wide, quiet reaches are like still, deep lakes, in whose 
clear surface is mirrored the calm, blue sky, the fleecy 
clouds, the verdure-clad banks, and the hills that are 
clothed in the densest green to their very peaks. 
Sometimes it is a raging torrent, fighting its way over 
the rocks, and beneath the vivid blue sky is the gor- 
geous vegetation of the Tropics, tangled, luxuriant, 
feathery palms, tall and shapely silk-cotton trees 
bound together with twining creeper and trailing 



BENEATH THE MANGO TREE 215 

vine in one impenetrable mass. A brown patch pro- 
claims a village, and here are broad-leaved bananas, 
handsome mangoes, fragrant orange trees, lighter- 
coloured cocoa patches, and cassada that from the 
distance might be a patch of lucerne. Always there 
are hills, rising high, cutting the sky sharply, ever 
changing, ever reflected faithfully in the river at their 
feet. There is traffic, of course, men fishing from 
canoes, and canoes laden with barrels of oil or kernels, 
or cocoa going down the river, the boats returning 
with the gin and the cotton cloths for the factories 
run by the negro agents of the great trading-houses ; 
and every three or four hours or so — distance is as 
yet counted by time in West Africa — are the stations 
of the preventive service. 

This preventive service is rather curious, because 
both banks of the river, in the latter part of its 
course, are owned by the English, and the service 
is between the two portions of the Colony. But 
east of the Volta, whither I was bound, the country 
is but little known, and apparently the powers that 
be do not feel themselves equal to cope with a very 
effective preventive service, so they have there the 
same duties, a 4 per cent, one that the Germans have 
in Togo land, while west of the Volta they have a 
10 per cent. duty. 

I hope there is not much smuggling on the Volta, 
for with all apologies to the white preventive officers, 
I doubt the likelihood of the men doing much to 
stop it. The stations match the river. They have 
been picturesquely planned — the plans carefully car- 
ried out ; the houses are well kept up, and round them 
are some of the few gardens, in English hands, on the 
Gold Coast that really look like gardens. Though I did 



216 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

not in the course of three days' travel come across 
him, I felt they marked the presence of some careful, 
capable white man. The credit is certainly not due 
to the negro preventive men. In the presence of 
their white officer they are smart-looking men ; 
seen in his absence they relax their efforts and look 
as untidy and dirty as a railway porter after a hard 
day's struggle with a Bank Holiday crowd. After 
all one can hardly blame the negro for not exerting 
himself. Nature has given him all he absolutely 
requires ; he has but to stretch out his hand and take, 
it, using almost as little forethought and exertion 
as the great black cormorants or the little blue-and- 
white king-fishers that get their livelihood from the 
river. 

And I was afraid of those men. I may have 
wronged them for they were quite civil, but I was 
afraid. Again and again they made me remember, 
as the ordinary peasants never did, that I was a woman 
alone and very very helpless. Nothing would have in- 
duced me to stay two nights at one of those stations. 
These men were half-civilised. They had lost all awe 
of a white face, and, I felt, were inclined to be pre- 
suming. What could I have done if they had for- 
gotten their thin veneer of civilisation, and gone back 
to pure savagery. Nothing — I know it — nothing. At 
Adjena I had to have my camp-bed put up on the 
verandah, because I found the house too stuffy, and 
the moonlit river was glorious to look upon, but I 
was anything but happy in my own mind ; I 
wondered if I wanted help if my canoe-men, who 
were very decent, respectable savages, would come to 
my help. I wonder still. But the morning brought 
me a glorious view. The sun rose behind Chai Hill, 



BENEATH THE MANGO TREE 217 

and flung its shadow all across the river, and I at- 
tempted feebly to reproduce it in a photograph, and 
gladly and thankfully I went on my way up the river, 
and I vowed m my own mind that never if I could 
help it would I come up here again by myself. If any 
adventurous woman feels desirous of following in 
my footsteps, I have but one piece of advice to give 
her — " Don't." I don't think I would do it again for 
all the money in the Bank of England. I may do 
him an injustice, but I do not trust the half-civilised 
black man. I got through, I think, because for a 
moment he was astonished. Next time he will not 
be taken by surprise, and it will not be safe. 

At Labolabo I left the river. Dearly I should 
have loved to have gone on, to have made my way 
up to the Northern Territories, but for one thing, 
my canoe-men were only engaged as far as Labolabo ; 
for another, I had not brought enough photographic 
plates. I really think it was that last consideration 
that stopped me. What was the good of going with- 
out taking photographs ? Curiously enough, the fact 
that I was afraid did not weigh much with me. I 
suppose we are all built alike, and at moments our 
mental side weights up our emotional side. Now, 
my mental side very much wanted to go up past 
the Afram plain. I should have had to stay in the 
preventive service houses, which grew farther and 
farther apart, and I was afraid of the preventive 
service men, afraid of them in the sordid way one 
fears the low-class ruffian of the great cities, but there 
was that in me that whispered that there was a doubt, 
and therefore it might be exceedingly foolish to check 
my search after knowledge for a fear that might only 
be a causeless fear. But about the photographic 



218 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

plates there was no doubt ; I had not brought nearly 
enough with me, and therefore I landed very meekly 
at Labolabo. 

There was rather a desolate-looking factory, but 
it did not look inviting enough to induce me to 
go inside it, so I sat down under a tree on the high 
bank of the river and interviewed the black factor to 
whom Swanzy's agent had given me a letter. He 
was mightily surprised, but I was accustomed to being 
received with surprise now, and began to consider 
the making of a cup of tea. Then the factor brought 
another man along and introduced him to me as 
Swanzy's agent at Pekki Blengo, Mr Olympia. And 
once more I feel like apologising to all the African 
peoples for anything I may have said against them. 
Mr Olympia came from French Dahomey. He was 
extremely good-looking, and had polished, courteous 
manners such as one dreams of in the Spanish hidal- 
gos of old. If you searched the wide world over I do 
not think you could wish to find a more charming man 
than Swanzy's black agent at Pekki Blengo. I know 
very little of him. I only met him casually as I met 
other black men, men outside the pale for me, a white 
woman, but I felt when I looked at him there might 
be possibilities in the African race ; when I think of 
their enormous strength and their wonderful vigour, 
immense possibilities. 

I explained to Mr Olympia that I wanted to get to 
the rest-house at Anum, that I had arranged for my 
canoe-men to carry my kit there, and that Mr Rowe 
had told me that he, Mr Olympia, could get me car- 
riers on to Ho. He said certainly, but he thought I 
ought at least to go up to the British Cotton-growing 
Experimental Farm, about ten minutes' walk away 



BENEATH THE MANGO TREE 219 

from the river. He felt that the white man in charge 
would be much hurt if I did not at least call and 
see him. 

A white man at Labolabo ! How surprised I was. 
Of course I would go, and Mr Olympia apologising 
for the absence of hammock or cart, we set off to walk. 

Those African ten minutes! It took me a good 
forty minutes through the blazing heat of an African 
afternoon, and then I was met upon the steps of the 
bungalow by a perfectly amazed white man in his 
shirt sleeves, who hurriedly explained that when he 
had seen the luggage coming along in charge of the 
faithful Grant, who made the nearest approach to a 
slave-driver I have ever seen, he had asked him, 
" Who be your master? " 

" It be no massa," said Grant, " it be missus." 

" And then," said my new friend, " I set him at the 
end of the avenue and told him he was to keep you 
off till I found a coat. But I couldn't find it. I don't 
know where the blamed thing's got to." 

He went on to inquire where I had come 
from and how I had come. I told him, " Up the 
river." 

" But," he protested, " it requires a picked crew of 
ten preventive service men to come up the Volta." 

I assured him, I was ready to take my oath about it, 
you could do it fairly easily with six ordinary, hired 
men, but he went on shaking his head and declared 
he couldn't imagine what Rowe was thinking of. He 
thought I had really embarked on the maddest jour- 
ney ever woman dreamt of, and while getting me a cool 
drink, for which I blessed him, went on murmuring, 
" Rowe must have been mad." I think his surprise 
brought home to me for the first time the fact that I 



220 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

was doing anything unusual. Before that it had 
seemed very natural to be going up the river, to be 
simply wanting to get on and see the great waterway 
and the country behind. 

I did not go on to Anum as I had intended. It 
was Easter Saturday, and my new friend suggested I 
should spend Easter with him. I demurred, and he 
said it would be a charity. He had no words to ex- 
press his loneliness, and as for the canoe-men, who 
could not stay to carry my things to Anum, let them 
go. He would see about my gear being taken up 
there. And so I stayed, glad to see how a man 
managed by himself in the wilderness. 

The British Cotton-growing Experimental Farm 
at Labolabo is to all intents and purposes a failure. It 
was set there in the midst of gorgeously rich country 
to teach the native to grow cotton, and the native see- 
ing that cocoa, with inhnitively less exertion, pays 
him very much better, naturally firmly declines to do 
anything of the sort. So here in this beautiful spot 
lives utterly alone a solitary white man who, with 
four inefficient labourers, tries desperately to keep the 
primeval bush from swallowing up the farm and 
entirely effacing all the hard work that has been done 
there. This farm should be a valuable possession 
besides being a very beautiful one. The red-roofed 
bungalow is set in a bay of the high, green hills, which 
stretch out verdure-clad arms, threatening every 
moment to envelop it. The land slopes gently, and 
as I sat on the broad verandah, through the dense foli- 
age of the trees I could catch glimpses of the silver 
Volta a mile and a half away, while beyond again the 
blue hills rose range after range till they were lost in 
the bluer distance. Four years ago this man who 



BENEATH THE MANGO TREE 221 

was entertaining me so hospitably had planted a mile- 
long avenue to lead up to his bungalow, and now the 
tall grape-fruit and shaddock in front of his verandah 
meet and have regularly to be cut away to keep the 
path clear. I am too ignorant to know what could 
be grown with profit, only I can see that the land is 
rich and fruitful, and should be, with the river so 
close, a most valuable possession. As it is, it is one of 
the most lonely places in the world. I sympathised 
deeply with the man living there alone. The loneli- 
ness grips. If I went to my room I could hear him 
tramping monotonously up and down the verandah. 
" Tramp, tramp, tramp," and when I went out he 
smiled queerly. 

" I can't help doing it," said he ; " it's the lonely 
man's walk. And when I can't see those two lines," 
he pointed to two boards in the verandah, " I know 
I'm drunk and I go to bed." 

It was like the story of the man who kept a frog in 
his pocket and every time he had a drink he took it out 
and looked at it. 

" What the dickens do you do that for? " asked a 
companion. 

" Well, when I see two frogs," said he, " I know 
I've had enough." 

Now I don't believe my friend at Labolabo did ex- 
ceed, judging by his looks, but if ever man might be 
excused it was he. He had for servants a very old 
cook and a slave-boy with a much-scarred face ; the 
marks upon his face proclaimed his former status, but 
no man could understand the unintelligible jargon he 
spoke, so no man knew where he came from. It was 
probably north of German territory. At any rate, he 
flitted about the bungalow a most inadequate steward, 



222 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

and he laid the table in the stone house — or rather 
the shelter with two stone walls, a stone floor, and a 
broken-down thatch roof, where we had our meals. 
It was perhaps twenty yards from the bungalow, and 
on the garden side grew like a wall great bushes of 
light-green feathery justitia with its yellow, bell-like 
flowers, while on the other side a little grass-grown 
plain stretched away to the forest-clad hills behind. 

Oh, but it was lonely ! and fear is a very catching 
thing. 

" There is nothing to be afraid of in Africa," said 
my host, " till the moment there is something, and 
then you're done." 

Whether he was right or not I do not know, but I 
realised as I had never done before why men get sick 
in the bush, worse, why they take to drink and why 
they go mad. I looked out from the verandah, and 
when I saw a black figure slip silently in among the 
trees I wondered what it portended. I looked behind 
me to see if one might not be coming from behind the 
kitchen. The fool-bird in the bush crying, " Hoo ! 
hoo ! hoo ! " all on one note seemed but crying a suit- 
able dirge. Fear hid on the verandah ; I could hear 
him in the creak of a door, in the " pad, pad " of the 
slave-boy's feet ; I could almost have sworn I saw 
him skulking under the mango tree where were kept 
the thermometers ; and when on Easter Sunday a tor- 
nado swept down from the hills, blotting out the vivid 
green in one pall of grey mist, he was in the shrieking 
wind and in the shuddering rain. 

Never was I more impersonally sorry to leave a 
man alone, for if I saw my host again I doubt if he 
would recognise me, but it seemed wicked to leave 
a fellow white man alone in such a place. If there 



BENEATH THE MANGO TREE 223 

had been any real clanger, of course I should only 
have been an embarrassment, but at least I was 
company of his own kind and I kept that haunting 
fear at bay. 

I stayed two days and then I felt go I must. I 
was also faced with my own carelessness and the 
casual manner in which I had dropped into the wilder- 
ness. Anum mountain was a steep climb of five 
miles, and beyond that again I had, as far as I could 
gather, several days' journey in the wilds before I 
could hope to reach rail-head in German Togo, and 
I had actually never remembered that I should want 
a hammock. The Cotton-growing Association didn't 
possess one, and, like Christian in the " Pilgrim's Pro- 
gress," I " cast about me " what I should do. I could 
not fancy myself walking in the blazing noonday sun. 
My host smiled. He did not think it was a matter of 
any great consequence because he felt sure I could 
not get through, but he came to my rescue all the same 
and sent up a couple of labourers to the Basel Mis- 
sion at Anum to see what they could suggest. The 
labourers came back with a hammock — rather a 
dilapidated one — on their heads, and an invitation to 
luncheon next day. 

" It's as far as you'll go," said my friend, " if 
nothing else stops you ; you can't possibly get carriers. 
Remember, I'll put you up with pleasure on your way 
back." 

But I was not going to face the Volta again by my- 
self, though I did not tell him that. Those black 
men insulted me by making me fear them. 

It was a very hot morning when we started to climb 
up Anum mountain. The bush on either side was 
rather thick, and the road was steep and very bad 



224 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

going. It was shaded, luckily, most of the way, and 
there arose that damp, pleasant smell that comes 
from moist earth, the rich, sensuous, insidious scent 
of an orchid that I could not see, or the mouselike 
smell of the great fruitarian bats that in these day- 
light hours were hidden among the dense greenery of 
the roadside. It was a toilsome journey, and my new 
friend walked beside me, but at last we reached Anum 
town, a mud-built, native town, bare, hot, dirty, un- 
kempt, and we passed beyond it to the grateful shade 
once more of the Basel Mission grounds. 



CHAPTER XIV 

INTO THE WILDS 

Anum Mountain — The Basel Mission — A beautiful spot — An old 
Ashanti raid — A desolate rest-house — Alone and afraid; also 
hungry — A long night — Jakai — Pekki Blengo — The unspeak- 
able Eveto Range — Underpaid carriers — A beautiful, a wealihy, 
and a neglected land — Tsito — The churches and the fetish — 
Difficulties of lodging in a cocoa-store — The lonely country 
between Tsito and the Border — Doubts of the hammock-boys 
— The awful road — Butterflies — The Border. 

Frankly, my sympathies are not as a rule with the 
missionaries, certainly not with African missionaries. 
I have not learned to understand spiritual misery, 
and of material misery there is none in Africa to be 
compared with the unutterable woe one meets at every 
turn in an English city. But one thing I admire 
in these Swiss and German teachers is the way they 
have improved the land they have taken possession 
of. Their women, too, make here their homes and 
bear their children. " A home," I said as I stepped 
on to the wide verandah of the Mission Station at 
Anum ; " a home," as I went into the rooms decor- 
ated with texts in German and Twi ; " a home," as I 
sat down to the very excellent luncheon provided by 
the good lady whom most English women would have 
designated a little scornfully as a haus-frau. Most 
emphatically " a home " when I looked out over the 
beautiful gardens that were nicely planted with man- 
goes, bananas, palms, and all manner of pretty shrubs 

225 p 



226 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

and bright-foliaged trees. It seems to me almost a 
pity to teach the little negro since he is so much 
nicer in his untutored state, but since they feel it 
must be done these Basel Mission people are going 
the very best way about it by beautifying their own 
surroundings. 

From their verandah over the scented frangipanni 
and fragrant orange trees you may see far far away 
the winding Volta like a silver thread at the bottom 
of the valley, and the great hills that control his 
course standing up on either side. It is an old station, 
for in the late sixties the Ashantis raided it, captured 
the missionary, Mr Ramseyer, his wife and child, 
and held them in captivity for several years. But 
times are changed now. The native, even the fierce 
Ashanti warrior, has learned that it is well for him 
that the white man should be here, and up in the 
rest-house on the other side of the mountain a white 
woman may stay alone in safety. 

Why do the powers that be overlook Anum moun- 
tain? The rest-house to which my kind friend from 
Labolabo escorted me after we had lunched at the 
Basel Mission was shabby and desolate with that 
desolation that comes where a white man has been and 
is no longer. No one has ever tried to make a garden, 
though the larger trees and shrubs have been cleared 
from about the house and in their stead weeds have 
sprung up, and the vigour of their growth shows the 
possibilities, while the beauty of the situation is not 
to be denied. Away to the north, where not even a 
native dwells, spreads out the wide extent of the 
Afram plain, a very paradise for the sportsman, for 
there are to be found numberless hartebeests, leo- 
pards, lions, and even the elephant himself. It lies 



INTO THE WILDS 227 

hundreds, possibly thousands of feet below, and 
across it winds the narrow streak of the Volta, while to 
the north the hills stretch out as if they would keep the 
mighty river for England, barring its passage to the 
east and to German territory. 

And here my friend from Labolabo left me — left 
me, I think, with some misgivings. 

" Come back," he said ; " you know I'll be glad to 
see you. Mind you come back. I know you can't 
get through." 

But I had my own opinion about that. 

" What about the carriers Mr Olympia is going to 
send me to-morrow morning ? " 

And he laughed. " Those carriers ! don't you wish 
you may get them ? I know those carriers black men 
promise. Why, the missionary said you needn't 
expect them." 

The Basel missionary had said I might get through 
if I was prepared to wait, and as I said good-bye I 
was prepared to wait. 

The rest-house was on top of a mountain in the 
clouds, far away from any sign of habitation. The 
rooms were large, empty, and desolate with a desola- 
tion there is no describing. There was a man in 
charge living in a little house some way off, the dis- 
penser at the empty hospital which was close to the 
rest-house, and the Basel missionary spoke of him 
with scorn. 

" He was one of my boys," he said ; " such a fool 
I sent him away, and why the Government have him 
for dispenser here I do not know." 

Neither do I, but I suspect he was in a place where 
he could do the very minimum of harm, for very few 
people come to Anum mountain. There is a Ju-ju 



228 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

upon it, and my first experience was that I could get 
no food. 

No sooner were we alone than Grant appeared 
before me mightily aggrieved. 

" This bush country no good, Ma. I no can get 
chop." 

I hope I would have felt sorry for him in any case, 
but it was brought home to me by the fact that he 
could get no chop for me either. 

I had come to the end of my stores and there was 
not a chicken nor an egg nor bread nor fruit to be 
bought in the village down the hill. The villagers 
said they had none, or declined to sell, which came 
to the same thing. I dined frugally off tea and 
biscuits, and I presume Grant helped himself to the 
biscuits — I told him to — tea he hated — and then as 
the evening drew on I prepared to go to bed. 

Oh! but it was lonely, and fear fell upon me. A 
white mist came softly up, so that I could not see 
beyond the broad, empty verandahs. I knew the 
moon was shining by the white light, but I could not 
see her and I felt shut in and terrified. Where Grant 
went to I don't know, but he disappeared after provid- 
ing my frugal evening meal, and I could hear weird 
sounds that came out of the mist, and none of the 
familiar chatter and laughter of the carriers to which I 
had grown accustomed. It was against all my principles 
to shut myself in, so I left doors and windows wide 
open and listened for the various awful things that 
might come out of the bush and up those verandah 
steps. What I feared I know not, but I feared, 
feared greatly; the fear that had come upon me 
at Labolabo worked his wicked will now that I 
was alone on Anum mountain, and the white 



INTO THE WILDS 229 

mist aided and abetted. I could hear the drip, 
drip, as of water falling somewhere in the silence ; 
I could hear the cry of a bird out in the bush, but it 
was the silence that made every rustle so fraught with 
meaning. It was no good telling myself there 
was nothing to fear, that the kindly missionaries 
would never have left me alone if there had been ; 
I could only remember that on this mountain had 
raided those fierce Ashanti warriors, that terrible 
things had been done here, that terrible things might 
be done again, that if anything happened to me there 
was no possibility of help, that I was quite power- 
less. I wondered if a Savage, on these occasions 
one spells Savage with a very large " S," did come on 
to the verandah, did come into my bedroom, what 
should I do. I felt that even a bush-cat would be 
terrifying, and having got so far I realised that a 
rabbit would probably send me into hysterics. At the 
thought of the rabbit my drooping spirits recovered 
themselves a little, but I spent a very unpleasant 
night, dozing and listening, till my own heart-beats 
drowned all other sounds. But I never thought of 
going back. I don't suppose I should have given up 
in any case, it is against family tradition, but if I had, 
there was the Volta behind me, and those preventive 
service men made it imperative to go on. 

But when morning dawned I felt a little better. 
True, I did not like the thought of tea and biscuits 
for breakfast, but I thought hopefully of the Basel 
Mission gardens. I was sure, if I had to stay here, 
those hospitable people would give me plenty of 
fruit, and probably a good deal more than that, so 
I was not quite as depressed as Grant when I 
dressed and stood on the verandah, looking across 



230 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

the mysterious mist that still shrouded the valley of 
the Volta. 

And before that mist had cleared away, up the steps 
of the rest-house came the Basel missionary, and 
at their foot crowded a gang of lightly clad, chatter- 
ing men and women. My carriers ! Mr Olympia had 
been as good as his word, the missionary kindly came 
to interpret, and I set out for Pekki Blengo, away in 
the hills to the east. 

It was all hill-country through which we passed; 
range after range of hills, rich in cocoa and palm 
oil, while along the track, that we English called a 
road, might be seen rubber trees scored with knives, 
so that the milky rubber can be collected. Very 
little of this rich country is under cultivation, the 
vegetation is dense and close, and the vivid green 
is brightened here and there by scarlet poinsettas 
and flamboyant trees, then at the beginning of the 
rains one mass of flame-coloured blossom. It was a 
tangle of greenery, like some great, gorgeous green- 
house, and the native, when he wants a clearing, burns 
off a small portion and plants cocoa or cassada, yams, 
bananas, or maize, with enough cotton here and there, 
between the lines of food-stuffs, to give him yarn for 
his immediate needs. When the farmer has used up 
this land, he abandons it to the umbrella trees and 
other tropical weeds, and with the wastefulness of the 
native takes up another piece of land, burning and 
destroying, quite careless of the value of the trees that 
go to feed the fire. Such reckless destruction is not 
allowed by the Germans, but a few miles to the east. 
There a native is encouraged to take up a farm, but 
he must improve it year by year. Our thrifty neigh- 
bours will have no such waste within their borders. 



INTO THE WILDS 231 

In the course of the morning I arrived at Jakai, and 
the whole of the village turned out to interview me, 
and I in my turn took a photograph of as few as I 
could manage of the inhabitants under the principal 
tree. That was always the difficulty. When they 
grasped I was going to take a picture, and there was 
generally some much-travelled man ready to instruct 
the others, they all crowded together in one mass 
in front of the camera — if they did not object 
altogether, when they ran away — and I always had 
to wait, and perjure myself, and say the picture was 
taken long before it was done. But always they were 
kindly. If I grew afraid at night I always reminded 
myself of the uniform goodwill of the villages through 
which I passed; their evident desire that I should 
be pleased with my surroundings. And at Jakai 
Grant, with triumph, bought so many eggs that I 
trembled for my future meals. I foresaw a course 
of " fly " egg, hard-boiled egg, and egg and bread- 
crumbs, but after all that was better than tea and 
biscuits, and when I saw a pine-apple and a bunch of 
bananas I felt life was going to be endurable again. 

At Pekki Blengo, an untidy, disorderly village, 
where the streets are full of holes and hillocks, strewn 
with litter and scarred with waterways, Mr Olympia 
met me, and conducted me to an empty chief's house, 
where I might put up for the night. It was a two- 
storied house of mud, with plenty of air, for there were 
great holes where the doors and windows would have 
been, and I slept peacefully once more with the hum 
of human life all around me again. But I can hardly 
admire Pekki Blengo. It is like all these villages of 
the English Eastern Province. The houses are of 
mud, the roofs of thatch, and fowls, ducks, pigs, goats, 



232 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

and little happy, naked children alike swarm. That 
is one comfort so different from travelling in the older 
lands — these villagers are apparently happy enough. 
They are kindly and courteous, too, for though a 
white woman was evidently an extraordinary sight 
equal in interest to a circus clown, or even an ele- 
phant, and they rushed from all quarters to see her, 
they never pushed or crowded, and they cuffed the 
children if they seemed likely to worry her. 

And beyond Pekki Blengo the road reached its 
worst. Mr Olympia warned me I should have to 
walk across the Eveto Range as no hammock-boys 
could possibly carry me, and I decided therefore that 
the walking had better be done very early in the 
morning, and arranged to start at half-past five, as 
soon as it was light. 

The traveller is always allowed the privilege of 
arranging in Africa. If he does not he will certainly 
not progress at all, but at the same time it is sur- 
prising how seldom his well-arranged plans come off. 
True to promise my hammock-boys and carriers 
turned up some time a little before six in the morning, 
and the carriers, swarming up the verandah, turned 
over the loads, made a great many remarks that I 
was incapable of understanding, and one and all de- 
parted. Then the hammock-boys apparently urged 
me to get into the hammock and start, as they were in 
a hurry to be off and earn the four shillings they were 
to have for taking me to Ho in German territory. I 
pointed out, whether they understood I did not know, 
that I could not stir without my gear, and I went off 
to interview Mr Olympia, who was sweetly slumber- 
ing in his house about a mile away. He, when he 
was aroused, said they thought I was not giving them 



/ <:■ m 




INTO THE WILDS 233 

enough ; that they said they would not carry loads to 
Ho for one shilling and sixpence and two shillings a 
load. I said that that was the sum he had fixed. I 
was perfectly willing to give more ; and he set out to 
interview the Chief, and see if he could get fresh 
carriers, but he was not very hopeful about getting any 
that day. I retired to my chief's house, grew tired of 
making mental notes of the people and the surround- 
ing country, and got out a pack of cards and solaced 
myself with one-handed bridge, which may be educa- 
tional, but is not very exciting. My hammock-boys 
again pleaded to be taken on, but I was firm. It was 
useless moving without my gear ; and finally when I 
was about giving up hope Mr Olympia returned. He 
had found eight men and women who were bound 
across the Eveto Range to get loads at Tsito. Six- 
pence, he explained, was the ordinary charge for a load 
to Tsito, but if I would rise to say ninepence for my 
heavier loads — he hesitated as if such an enormous 
expenditure might not commend itself to my purse. 
But naturally I assented gladly, and off went my loads 
at sixpence and ninepence a head. For a moment I 
rejoiced, and as usual began to purr over my excellent 
management. Not for long though. It was my turn 
now, and where were my hammock-boys? Inquiry 
elicited the awful fact that they had gone to their 
farms and could not be prevailed upon to start till 
next day ; Mr Olympia was sure I could not hope to 
move before to-morrow morning. 

The situation was anything but comfortable. I 
had had nothing to eat since earliest dawn. I had 
now not even a chair to sit upon, nor a pack of cards 
to solace the dull hours. I dare not eat and, worse still, 
dare not drink. Then I sent word to Mr Olympia 



234 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

that if he would get me a couple of men to carry my 
hammock I would walk. 

I sat on the steps of that house and waited, I 
walked down the road and waited, and the tropical 
day grew hotter and hotter, the sun poured down 
pitilessly, and I was weary with thirst, but still I would 
not drink the native water. At last, oh triumph, in- 
stead of two, eight grinning hammock-boys turned up, 
and about 1.30 on a blazing tropical afternoon we 
started. Ten minutes later I was set down at the foot 
of the unspeakable Eveto Range, and my men gave 
me to understand by signs they could carry me no 
longer. 

I cannot think that the Eveto Range is perpendicu- 
lar, but it seemed pretty nearly so. It was thickly 
wooded, as is all the country, and the road was the 
merest track between the walls of vegetation, a track 
that twisted and turned out of the way of the larger 
obstacles, the smaller ones we negotiated as best we 
might, holes, and roots, and rocks, and waterways, 
that made the distance doubly and trebly great. In 
five minutes I felt done ; in ten it was brought home 
to me forcibly that I was an unutterable fool ever to 
attempt to travel in Africa. In addition to the rough- 
ness there was the steepness of the way to be taken into 
consideration, and the constant strain of going up, up 
compelled me again and again to lie down flat on 
my back to recover sufficient strength and breath to 
go on. What matter if the view was delightful— it 
was — when I had neither time, nor strength, nor 
energy to raise my eyes from the difficulties that beset 
my feet. But there was nothing to be done except 
to crawl painfully along with the tropical sun pouring 
pitilessly down, and not a breath of wind stirring. 



INTO THE WILDS 235 

And I was dead with thirst. We came across a bunch 
of bananas, laid beside the track, and my men offered 
me one by way of refreshment, but I was too done to 
eat, and I thought what a fool I was not to carry a 
flask. When I had given up all hope of surviving, 
and really didn't much care what became of me so 
long as I died quickly, we reached the top where were 
native farms with cotton bushes now in full bloom 
planted among the food-stuffs, and I rested a little and 
gathered together my energies for the descent. And 
if the going up was bad, the going down was worse. 
There w T ere great rocks and boulders that I would 
never have dared in England, and when I could spare 
time from my own woes I reflected that the usual 
charge for taking a load to Tsito was sixpence, and 
decided between my own gasps it was the most iniqui- 
tous piece of slave-driving I had ever heard of. 
Twenty pounds, I felt, would never pay me for carry- 
ing myself across this awful country, and there were 
those wretched carriers toiling along for a miserable 
sixpence, or at most ninepence. I was thoroughly 
ashamed of myself. And the view was beautiful. 
Before us, in the evening light, lay the wealthy land 
where no white man goes, and the beautiful, verdure- 
clothed hills dappled with shadow and sunshine. 
The light was going, but, weary as I was, I had to 
stop and look, for never again might I see a more 
lovely view. 

And at last, just as the darkness was falling, we 
had crossed the range, and I thankfully and wearily 
tumbled into my hammock and was carried through 
the village of Tsito to the trader's store. It was a 
humble store, presided over by a black man who 
spoke English, and here they bought cotton and 



236 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

cocoa, and sold kerosene and trade gin, cotton cloths, 
and the coarsest kinds of tinned fish. I had a letter 
from Mr Olympia to this black man, and he offered 
me the hospitality of the cocoa-store ; that is to say, 
a space was cleared among the cocoa and cotton and 
other impedimenta, my bed and table and bath set 
up. Grant brought me something to eat — hard- 
boiled eggs, biscuits, and bananas, with tea to drink. 
How thankful I was for that tea! I dined with an 
admiring crowd looking on, and I remembered my 
repentance on the mountain and sent for my carriers 
and paid them all double. I still think it was too 
little, but in excuse it must be remembered that I was 
alone and hardly dared risk a reputation for immense 
wealth. 

There are difficulties connected with lodging in a 
cocoa-store, especially when you are surrounded by 
a population who have never seen a white woman 
before. I needed a bath, but how to get it I hardly 
knew, with eyes all over the place, so at last I put out 
the lights and had it in the dark, and I went to bed in 
the dark, and as I was going to sleep I heard the 
audience dispersing, discussing the show at the top 
of their voices. As I did not understand what they 
said I did not know whether they had found it satis- 
factory. At least it was cheap, unless Swanzy's agent 
charged them. 

I was not afraid now, curiously enough, right away 
from civilisation, entirely at these peoples' mercy. I 
felt quite safe, and after my hard day I slept like the 
dead. It is mentally very soothing, I notice, to say 
to oneself, " Well done ! " and our mental attitude 
has a great effect upon our physical health. At least 
1 found one thing — I had pitied myself most unneces- 



INTO THE WILDS 237 

sarily. My exertions had done me no harm, and I 
never felt in better health than when I waked up next 
morning in Swanzy's cocoa-room and proceeded to 
get dressed in the dark. That was necessary, be- 
cause I knew the sound of my stirring would bring 
an interested audience to see how the white woman 
did things. I really don't think the White City 
rivalled me as a provider of amusement for the people 
in the eastern district of the Volta and the western 
district of Togo in the end of April and beginning of 
May last. 

I had picked up a discarded map on the floor of the 
rest-house at Anum, and here I saw that many of 
the villages were marked with crosses to show that 
there was a church, but I saw no church here in Tsito, 
though I doubt not there was one. What I did see, 
not only in Tsito but at the entrance to every village 
I passed through, was a low, thatched shed, under 
which were the fetish images of the village. These 
were generally the rough-cut outline in clay or wood 
of a human figure seated. Sometimes the figure had 
a dirty rag round it, sometimes a small offering in 
front of it, and dearly should I have liked to have 
had a picture, but the people, even Swanzy's agent, 
objected, and I did not like to run counter to local 
prejudice. And yet Swanzy's agent is by way of 
being a Christian, but I dare say Christianity in these 
parts of Africa, like Christianity in old-time Britain or 
Gaul, conforms a good deal to pagan modes of thought. 

I met a picturesque gentleman starting out for his 
farm, and him I photographed after he had been 
assured that no harm could possibly happen to him, 
though he begged very anxiously that he might be 
allowed to go home and put on his best cloth. I 



238 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

think he is a very nice specimen of the African 
peasant as he is, but I am sure he would be much 
troubled could he know he was going into a book in 
his farm clothes. 

It was just beginning to get hot as I got back to 
the store after wandering round the village, and I 
found Grant and the carriers with all my gear had 
already started and were nowhere to be seen. It was, 
perhaps, just as well that it never occurred to Grant 
that I might be afraid to be left alone with strange 
black men. But to-day my strange black men were 
not forthcoming. I had expected them to come gaily 
because, to celebrate the crossing of the Eveto Range, 
while I had paid the carriers double, I had given the 
hammock-boys, who had had a very easy time, a 
couple of shillings to buy either gin or rum or palm 
wine, whichever they could get. It stamped me as 
a fool woman, and now, after a long delay, they 
came and stood round the hammock without offering 
to lift it from the ground. 

" There is trouble," said the black agent senten- 
tiously. 

I had come out into the roadway, prepared to get 
into the hammock. 

"What is the matter? " 

" They say Ho be far. Four shillings no be 
enough money to tote hammock to Ho." 

I was furious. They had made the agreement. I 
had given exactly what they asked, but where I had 
made the mistake was in doing more. Now what was 
to be done? I did not hesitate for a moment. I 
marched straight back to the cocoa-store. 

" Tell them," I said, " they can go home and I will 
pay them nothing. I will walk." 







GOING TO HIS FARM, TSITO. 



INTO THE WILDS 239 

Now if either the agent or those hammock-boys had 
given the thing a moment's thought, they must have 
seen this was sheer bluff on my part. It would have 
been a physical impossibility for me to walk, at least 
I think so ; besides, I should have been entirely alone 
and I had not the faintest notion of the way. How- 
ever, my performance of yesterday had apparently 
not impressed them as badly as it had impressed me, 
and just as I was meditating despairingly what on 
earth I should do, for I felt to give in would be fatal, 
into the store came those men bearing the hammock, 
and it did not need Swanzy's interpreter to tell me, 
" You get in, Mammy. They go quick." 

We were out of the village at once and into the 
country. It was orchard-bush country, thick grass 
just growing tall with the beginning of the rains, and 
clumps of low-growing trees, with an occasional patch 
of miniature forest that grew so close it shut out the 
fierce sun overhead and gave a welcome and grateful 
shade. We passed the preventive service station on 
the Border — an untidy, thatched hut, presided over by 
a black man, who looked not unlike a dilapidated, a 
very dilapidated railway porter who had been in store 
for some time and got a little moth-eaten — and I con- 
cluded we were at the end of British territory ; but not 
yet. The road was bad when we started, and it grew 
steadily worse till here it was very bad indeed. It 
became a mere track through the rough, grass country 
on either side, a track that admitted of but one man 
walking singly, and my boys dropped the hammock 
by way of intimating that they could carry me no 
farther. They could not, I could see that for my- 
self, for not only was the track narrow, but it 
twisted and turned and doubled on itself, so that a 



240 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

corkscrew is straight in comparison with the road 
to Ho. 

And once more fear fell upon me. I was alone 
with men who could not understand a word that I 
said, who could not speak a word that I could under- 
stand, and since only in a Gilbertian sense could this 
track be called a road at all, that it could lead to any- 
where seemed impossible. There were no farms, no 
villages, not a sign of habitation. A fool-bird called 
cynically, " Hoo ! hoo ! hoo ! " and I hesitated whether 
I would rather these eight men walked in front of me 
or behind me. I decided they should walk in front, 
and they laughingly obeyed, and we walked on 
through the heat. Many-coloured butterflies, large 
as small birds, flitted across the track. Never have 
I seen such beautiful butterflies, blue as gentian, or as 
turquoise with a brilliancy the turquoise lacks ; purple, 
red, yellow, and white were they, and it was only the 
utter hopelessness of keeping them prevented my 
making any attempt to catch them. Evidently I was 
not as afraid as I thought I was because I could reflect 
upon the desirability of those butterflies in a collec- 
tion. But I was afraid. Occasionally people, men 
or women, in twos or threes, came along with loads 
upon their heads, and I tried to speak to them and 
ask them if this really was the road to Ho, but I 
could make no one understand and they passed on, 
turning to stare with wonder at the stranger. There 
were silk-cotton trees and shea-butter trees and many 
another unknown tree, but it seemed I had come right 
out into the wilds beyond human ken or occupation, 
and I had to assure myself again and again that these 
carriers were decent peasants, just earning a little, 
something beyond what came from cocoa or palm oil, 



INTO THE WILDS 241 

with wives — probably many wives — and children, 
and the strange white woman was worth a good deal 
more to them safely delivered at her destination than 
in any way else. We came to a river, and by a merci- 
ful interposition of Providence it was dry, and we 
were able to ignore the slippery, moss-grown tree- 
trunk that did duty as bridge, and, scrambling down 
into its bed, cross easily to the other side, and there, 
in the midst of a shady clump of trees, was Grant with 
all the carriers. 

So it was the road to Ho after all, and, as usual, I 
had worried myself most unnecessarily. I sat down 
on my precious black box that contained all my 
money, and Grant got out a tumbler, squeezed the 
last orange I possessed into it, filled it up from the 
sparklet bottle, and I was ready to laugh at my fears 
and face the world once more. 

Again we went along the tortuous path, and then 
suddenly the Border ! 



CHAPTER XV 



CROSSING THE BORDER 



German roads — German villages — The lovely valley of Ho — The 
kindly German welcome — German hospitality — An ideal 
woman colonist — Pink roses — The way it rains in Togo — 
An unfortunate cripple — Vain regrets — Sodden pillows — A 
German rest-house — A meal under difficulties — Travelling by 
night — The weirdness of it — The sounds of the night — The 
fireflies — A long long journey — Palime by night — More Ger- 
man hospitality — Rail-head. 

There was nothing to mark the border between the 
Gold Coast Colony and Togo. The country on the 
one side was as the country on the other, orchard- 
bush country with high grass and clumps of trees 
and shrubs ; the lowering sky was the same, the 
fierce sun the same, only there was a road at last. 

The Germans make roads as the Romans made 
them, that their conquering legions might pass, and 
here, in this remote corner of the earth, where neither 
Englishman nor German comes, is a road, the like 
of which I did not find in the Gold Coast Colony. It 
is hard and smooth as a garden-path, it is broad 
enough for two carts or two hammocks to pass 
abreast, it runs straight as a die, on either side the 
bushes and grass are kept neatly trimmed away, and 
deep waterways are cut so that the heavy rainfall 
may not spoil the road. 

After a short time we came to a preventive station, 
neat and pretty as a station on the Volta, higher 

242 



CROSSING THE BORDER 243 

praise I cannot give it, and beyond that was a village ; 
a village that was a precursor of all the villages that 
were to come. As a Briton I write it with the deepest 
regret, but the difference between an English village 
and a German village is as the difference between 
the model village of Edensor and the grimy town 
of Hanley in the Black Country. Here, in this first 
little village on the Togo side, all the ground between 
the houses was smoothed and swept, the houses 
themselves looked trim and neat, great, beautiful, 
spreading shade-trees of the order ficw elasticus 
were planted at regular intervals in the main street, 
and underneath them were ranged logs, so that 
the people who lounge away the heat of the day in 
the shade may have seats. Even the goats and the 
sheep had a neater look, which perhaps is no wonder, 
for here is no filthy litter or offal among which they 
may lie. 

As I passed on my wonder increased. Here was 
exactly the same country, exactly the same natives, 
and all the difference between order and neatness 
and slatternly untidiness. 

I went on through this charming country till I found 
myself looking across a lovely valley at a house set 
high on a hill, the Commissioner's house at Ho at last. 
I went down into the valley, along a road that was bor- 
dered with flamboyant trees, all full of flame-coloured 
blossom, and then suddenly the curtain of my ham- 
mock was whisked up, and there stood before me a 
bearded white man, dressed in a white duck suit with 
a little red badge in his white helmet — the Com- 
missioner, he told me in his halting English, at Ho. 

Now I had come into that country without a letter 
or a credential of any sort, a foreigner, speaking not 



244 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

one word of the language, and I wondered what sort 
of reception I should meet with. I tried to explain 
that I was looking for a rest-house, but he waved 
my remarks aside with a smile, made me understand 
that his wife was up in the house on the hill, and that 
if I would go there she could speak English, and 
would make me welcome. And so I went on through 
country, lovely as the country round Anum mountain, 
only in the British colony there is this great differ- 
ence — there the land is exactly as Nature made it, 
bar the little spoiling that man has done, innocent 
of roads, and exceedingly difficult to traverse, while 
here in German territory everything is being carried 
out on some well-thought-out plan. Ho was a 
station straggling over hill and valley, with high hills 
clothed with greenery near at hand, high hills fading 
into the blue distance, and valleys that cried out to 
the Creator in glad thankfulness that such beauty 
should be theirs. The road up to the Commissioner's 
bungalow was steep, steep as the Eveto Range, but 
it had been graded so that it was easy of ascent as a 
path in Hyde Park. Every tree had been planted or 
left standing with thought, not only for its own beauty 
but for the view that lies beyond ; flamboyant, mango, 
palm, frangipanni, that the natives call forget-me-not, 
all have a reason for their existence, all add to the 
beauty and charm of the scene. And when I got to 
the top of the hill I was at the prettiest of brown 
bungalows, and down the steps of the verandah came 
a rosy-cheeked, pretty girl, ready to welcome the 
stranger. 

" Of course you stay with us," she said in the 
kindness of her hospitable heart, though there was 
certainly no of course about it. 



CROSSING THE BORDER 245 

She took me in and gave me coffee, and as we sat 
eating cakes, home-made German cakes, I asked her, 
' You have not been out very long ? " because of the 
bright colour of her cheeks. 

" Oh, not long," she said, " only a year and two 
months. But it is so nice we are asking the Govern- 
ment to let us stay two years." 

" And you do not find it dull? " 

" Oh no, I love it. The time goes so quick, so 
quick. There is so much to do." 

And then her husband came and added his wel- 
come to hers, and paid off my carriers in approved 
German official style, and they took me in to " even- 
ing bread," and I found to my intense surprise they 
had wreathed my place at table with pink roses. 
Never have I had such a pretty compliment, or such 
a pretty welcome, and only the night before I had 
been dining off hard-boiled eggs and biscuits in 
Swanzy's cocoa-house at Tsito. 

Bed after dinner, and next morning my hostess 
took me round, and showed me everything there was 
to be seen, and told me how she passed her time. 
She looked after the house, she saw to the food, she 
went for rides on her bicycle, and she worked in the 
garden. It was the merry heart that went all the 
day, and I will venture to say that that pretty girl, 
with her bright, smiling face and her bright, charming 
manners, interested in this new country to which she 
had come, keen on her husband's work, was an asset 
to the nation to which she belonged ; worth more 
to it than a dozen fine ladies who pride themselves 
on not being haus-frau. And as for the Com- 
missioner, if I may judge, he was not only a strong 
man, but an artist. He had the advantage over an 



246 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

English Commissioner that his tour extended over 
eighteen months, instead of a year, and that he 
always came back to the same place. His bungalow 
looked a home ; round it grew up a tropical garden, 
and behind he had planted a grove of broad-leaved 
teak trees, and already they were so tall the pathway 
through the grove was a leafy tunnel just flecked 
with golden sunshine, that told of the heat outside. 

Those Germans were good to me. I feel I can 
never be grateful enough for such a warm welcome, 
and always, for the sake of those two there in the 
outlands, shall I think kindly of the people of the 
Fatherland. 

They helped me to take photographs ; the Com- 
missioner mended my camera for me, and he got me 
more carriers, and told me that they were engaged to 
take me on thirty miles to Palime for the sum of two 
shillings a piece, that it could be done in one day if I 
chose, indeed it must be done in one day unless I stayed 
in the rest-house at Neve, and he warned me that I 
carried about with me a great sum of money, and 
asked if I were sure of my boy. I did not think it 
was likely Grant would rob me at this stage of the pro- 
ceedings, but I suddenly realised with a little uncom- 
fortable feeling what implicit trust I was putting in 
him ; and then they gave fresh instructions for my com- 
fort. It would rain, they said it always rained in Togo at 
this season in the afternoon ; and I evidently did not 
realise how it rained, so they tied up my camera in 
American cloth and instructed me to put my Burberry 
on at the first drop of rain. Then with many good 
wishes we parted, and I set off on the road to Palime. 

The road was most excellent, and anyone who has 
travelled for miles along a track that is really little 



CROSSING THE BORDER 247 

better than a hunter's trail can understand the delights 
of smooth and easy going. We passed through villages 
where the villagers all turned up to see the show, but 
I fancied, it may have been only fancy, that the 
people were not as lightheartedly happy as in English 
territory, and whenever we came to a stream my 
men stopped and begged in pantomime that they 
might be allowed to bathe. I should like to have 
bathed myself, so I assented cheerfully, and the result 
was that we did not get over the ground very quickly. 
One of them spoke a little, a very little Twi, the 
language of the Fantis and Ashantis, and Grant 
spoke a little, and that was my only means of com- 
munication, lost of course when he was not with me, 
but they were most excellent men and went on and 
on untiringly. 

Presently the clouds began to gather, a great relief, 
because the sun had been very hot, a few drops of 
rain fell, and I, remembering instructions, flew out of 
my hammock and put on my Burberry. By the time 
it was on the few drops were many drops, and by 
the time I was in my hammock again, the water was 
coming down as if it had been poured out of a bucket. 
Such sheets of rain fairly made me gasp. Now, my 
hammock was old. I had forgotten the need of a 
hammock when I started up the Volta, and finding 
this elderly one at Anum, marked " P.W.D. " Public 
Works Department, and there being nobody to say 
me nay, I commandeered it. Now, far be it from me to 
revile a friend who carried me over many a weary 
mile of road, but there is no disguising the fact, the 
poor old hammock was not in the first bloom of youth, 
and the canopy was about as much use against a 
rainstorm as so much mosquito-netting. The water 



248 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

simply poured through it. Now the canvas of which 
the hammock was made, of course, held water, so did 
the Burberry, the water trickled down my neck, and, 
worse still, carried as I was, with my feet slightly 
raised, trickled down my skirts, and the gallant Bur- 
berry held it like a bucket. When the water rose up 
to my waist, icy-cold water, I got out and walked. 

The sky was heavily overcast, and it was raining as 
if it had never had a chance to rain before, and never 
expected to have a chance to rain again, so I walked 
on, hatless, because I did not mind about my hair get- 
ting wet. I thought to myself, "when the sun comes out, 
it will dry me," and I looked at the string of dejected- 
looking carriers tailing out behind with all their loads 
covered with banana leaves. And I walked, and I 
walked, and I walked, and there seemed no prospect 
of the rain stopping ; apparently it proposed to go on 
to doomsday, or at least the end of the rainy season. 
An hour passed, two hours, three, my pillows were 
simply sodden masses, my hammock was a wisp of 
wet canvas, and I was weary to death ; then a village 
came into view, a little neat German village, and 
the people came out to look at me with interest, 
though they had certainly seen a white woman before. 
I always think of that village with regret. A man 
passed along through the mud, working his way in a 
sitting posture, and having on his hands a sort of 
wooden clog. So very very seldom have I seen misery 
in Africa that I was struck as I used to be struck 
when first I came to England, and I put my hand in 
my pocket for my purse, but all my money with the 
exception of threepence was in my box, and that 
threepence I bestowed upon him. Now there re- 
mains with me the regret that I did not give him 



CROSSING THE BORDER 249 

more, for never have I seen such delight on any 
man's face. He held it out, he called all his friends 
to look, he bowed obeisance before me again and 
again. I was truly ashamed of so much gratitude for 
so small a gift, and while I was debating how I could 
get at my box to make it a little more, he clattered 
away, as happy apparently as if someone had left him 
a fortune. But I always think of it sadly. Why didn't 
I manage to give him two shillings. It would have 
meant nothing to me, and so much to him. 

But now I was very tired, and when the rest-house 
was pointed out to me, I hailed it with delight. I have 
seen many weird rest-houses on my travels, but that 
was the most primitive of them all. A mud floor 
was raised a little above the surrounding ground, 
and over it was a deep thatch, a couple of tiny 
windowless rooms were made with mud walls, and 
just outside them was a table, made by the simple 
process of sticking upright stakes into the ground 
and laying rough boards across them; two chairs 
alongside the table were also fixtures, but I sat down 
wearily, and Grant promptly produced a pack of 
cards, and went away to make tea. 

Bridge was not a success ; I was so wet and cold, 
but the tea came quickly along with a boiled egg and 
biscuits and mangoes, for the Germans it appears, 
after their thorough fashion, always insist that wood 
and water shall be ready in their rest-houses. I was 
sorry for the carriers, wet and shivering, and I was 
sorrier for my own servant, for the rain was still 
coming down pitilessly. I suggested he should have 
some tea to warm him, but he did not like tea, 
and the other egg he also rejected, quite rightly I 
decided when I tried to partake of the specimen he 



250 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

brought for me. But the tea was most refreshing, 
and I was prepared to try and understand what the 
carriers wanted. Briefly, they wanted to stop here. 
Though I could not understand their tongue, I could 
understand that. 

" They say Palime be far, Ma," said Grant. 

Yes, I reckoned Palime must be about fifteen 
miles, but I looked at the dismal house and decided 
it was an impossible place to stay. I would rather walk 
that fifteen miles. I looked at my bedding roll, and 
decided it must be wet through and through, and 
then I got into that dripping and uninviting hammock, 
among the sodden pillows, and gave the order to go 
on. I was wet through, and I thought I could hold 
out if we got to Palime as quickly as possible, but I 
knew we could not possibly do it under five hours, 
probably longer. However, it was not as hard on me 
as on the men who had to walk with loads on their 
heads. Of course I was foolish. I ought either to 
have changed in one of those dismal-looking little mud 
rooms, or to have filled my hot-water bottle — I always 
carried one to be ready for the chill I never got — with 
hot water and wrapped myself up in a rug ; but I 
foolishly forgot all these precautions, and my remem- 
brance of that tramp to Palime is of a struggle against 
bitter cold and wet and weariness. It was weird, too, 
passing along the bush in the dark. Grant and the car- 
riers dropped behind, the rain stopped, and the ham- 
mock-boys lighted a smoky lantern which gleamed 
on the wet road ahead, and was reflected in the pools 
of water that lay there, and made my two front 
boys throw gigantic shadows on the bush as they 
passed along. Strange sounds, too, came out of the 
bush ; sometimes a leopard cried, sometimes one of 



CROSSING THE BORDER 251 

the great fruitarian bats bewailed itself like a woman 
in pain, there was the splash, splash of the men's 
feet in the roadway, the deep croak of the African 
bull-frog, there was the running of water, a drip, drip 
from the trees and bushes by the roadside, and always 
other sounds, unexplained, perhaps unexplainable, 
that one hears in the night. Sometimes tom-toms 
were beating, sometimes we passed through a village 
and a few lights appeared, and my men shouted 
greetings I suppose, but they might have been male- 
dictions. It is an experience I shall never forget, 
that of being carried along, practically helpless, and 
hearing my men, whom I could not understand, 
exchange shouts that I could not understand with 
people that I could not see. It was hot I dare say, 
but I was wet to the skin and bitter cold, and I know 
the night after the rain was beautiful, but I was too 
tired and too uncomfortable to appreciate it. Then 
the fireflies came out, like glowing sparks, and again 
and again I thought we were approaching the lights 
of a town only to look again and see they were 
fireflies. 

Such a long journey it was. It seemed years since I 
had left Ho that morning, aeons since I had unhappily 
struggled across the Eveto Range, but I remembered 
with satisfaction I had crossed the Eveto Range, and 
so I concluded in time I should reach Palime, but it 
seemed a long night, and I was very cold. 

At last, though it was wrapped in darkness, I saw 
we had entered a town ; we passed up a wide roadway, 
and finally got into a yard, and my men began bang- 
ing on a doorway, and saying over and over again, 
" Swanzy's." 

The German Commissioner had suggested I 



252 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

should go to Swanzy's ; and was it possible we had 
really arrived ? It seemed we had. 

I can never get over the feeling of shyness when 
I go up to a total stranger's house and practically 
demand hospitality. True, I had in my pocket a 
telegram from Mr Percy Shaw, one of Swanzy's 
directors, asking his agents to give me that hospi- 
tality, but still I felt dreadfully shy as I waited there 
in the yard for some sign of life from out of the dark 
building. It came at last, and in English too. 

" Who is dere ? " said a voice, and my heart sank. 
I thought it must be a negro, since I knew the agent 
was a German, and thought he would be sure to hail 
in his own tongue. Somehow I felt I could not have 
stood a negro that night. Prejudices are very strong 
when one is tired. 

But I was wrong. The agent was a German, and 
down long flights of stairs he came in his dressing- 
gown, welcoming me, and presently was doing all he 
could for my comfort. He roused out an unwilling cook, 
he got cocoa and wine, South-Australian wine to my 
surprise, and hot cakes, and bread, and fruit, and then 
when I was refreshed, my baggage not yet having 
come in, he solemnly conducted me to my bedroom, 
and presented me with a couple of blankets and a very 
Brodbignag pair of slippers. I was far more tired than 
when I had'crossed the Eveto Range, and I undressed, 
got into bed, wrapped myself up in those warm blan- 
kets, and slept the sleep of the woman who knows she 
has arrived at rail-head, and that her difficult travelling 
is over. 



CHAPTER XVI 

ONE OF THE CURSES OF THE DARK CONTINENT 

The neat little town of Palime — The market — The breakfast — A 
luxury for the well-to-do — Mount Klutow— The German 
Sleeping Sickness Camp — The German's consideration for the 
hammock-boys — Misahohe, a beautiful road, well-shaded — 
A kindly welcome — The little boys that were cured — Dr von 
Raven, a devotee to science — The town of the sleeping sick- 
ness patients — " Last year strong man, this year finish " — 
Extreme poverty and self-denial — A ghastly, horrible, linger- 
ing and insidious disease — Dr von Raven's message to the 
English people. 

Palime is the neatest of little towns, set at the foot 
of some softly rounded hills. Not hills clothed 
with dense bush such as I had come across farther 
west, but hills covered with grass, emerald in the 
brilliant sunshine, with just here and there a tree to 
give it a park-like appearance. And the town, it is 
hardly necessary to say, was spotlessly neat and tidy. 
All the streets were swept and garnished, and all the 
fences were whole, for if a German puts up a picket 
fence, he intends it for a permanency, and not for a 
fuel supply for the nearest huts. That the streets 
were neat was perhaps a little surprising, for every 
morning, beginning at dawn, in those streets there 
was held a market in which all manner of goods, 
native and European, were exposed for sale, spread 
out on the ground or on stalls. I looked with interest 
to see if I could notice any difference between the 

253 



254 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

native under English and under German rule in 
the markets, and I came to the conclusion that there 
was none whatever. Here, at rail-head, both native 
and European goods were bought and sold, and here 
too the people took their alfresco meals. The native 
of West Africa usually starts the morning with a little 
porridge, made of cassada, which is really the same 
root from which comes our tapioca, but his tapioca is 
so thin you can drink it, and it looks and smells rather 
like water starch. It was being made and served out 
" all hot " at a copper a gourd, the customer providing 
his own gourd, and the porridge being in a good- 
sized earthen pot fixed on three stones over a little 
fire of sticks, or else the fire was built inside another 
pot out of which one side and the top had been 
knocked. Porridge of course is not very staying, so 
a little later on good ladies make their appearance 
who fry maize-meal balls in palm oil, and sell them for 
two a " copper," the local name for a pfennig, which 
is not copper at all, but nickel. Very appetising 
indeed look these balls. The little flat earthenware 
pan on the fire is full of boiling palm oil, and the 
seller mixes very carefully the maize meal, water, a 
little salt, and some native pepper, till it is smooth 
like batter, such as a cook would make a pancake of, 
then it is dropped into the boiling oil, and the result, 
in a minute or so, is a round, brown ball, which looks 
and smells delicious. Sometimes trade is brisk, and 
they are bought straight out of the pan, but when it 
slacks they are taken out and heaped up on a cala- 
bash. I conclude that it is only the aristocracy who 
indulge in such luxuries, for I am told that the 

o 

average wage of a labourer in Palime here is ninepence 
a day, but judging by what I saw, there must have 



THE DARK CONTINENT 255 

been a good many of the aristocracy in Palime. After 
all, the woman from the time she is a tiny child is always 
self-supporting, so in a community where every man 
and woman is self-supporting, I conclude that many 
luxuries are attainable that would not be possible 
when one man has to provide for many. 

The butchers' shops presided over as they are on the 
Gold Coast by Hausas are not inviting, and tend to 
induce strong vegetarian views in anyone who looks 
upon them, and the amount of very highly smelling 
stink-fish makes the vegetarian regime very narrow. 
But there are other things beside food-stuffs for sale ; 
from every railing flutter gay cloths from Man- 
chester, or its rival on the Coast, Keta, and there 
were several women selling very nice earthenware 
pots, that attracted me very much. They were the 
commonest household utensils of the native woman ; 
she uses the smaller ones as plates and dishes, and 
the larger ones for water, for washing, or for storage. 
The big ones were terribly expensive and cost a 
whole sixpence, while a penny brought me a big store 
of small ones. I thought how very quaint and pretty 
my balcony at home would look with plants growing 
in these pots from such a far corner of the earth, and 
so I bought largely, even though I knew I should 
have to engage a couple of extra carriers for them, 
and my host applauded my taste. 

That young German was very kindly. I showed 
him my telegram, but he laughed at it, and gave me 
to understand that of course I was welcome anyhow, 
though again I can certainly see no of course about 
it. Why should he, in the kindness of his heart, put 
himself out for me, a total stranger, who did not even 
belong to his nation? Still he did. 



256 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

I was bent on going on to Mount Klutow, the 
German Sleeping Sickness Camp, and he said he had 
never seen it, though it was only a short distance 
away, so he would get carriers and come with me. 
Accordingly we got carriers, paying them threepence 
extra because it was Sunday, and went up to Mount 
Klutow. They were very good carriers, but since I 
have heard so much about the German's inconsiderate- 
ness to the native, I must put it on record that when 
we came to a steep part of the road, and it was very 
steep, though a most excellent road, that German 
not only got out and walked himself, but expected me 
to do the same. I did of course, but many and many 
a time have I made my men carry me over far worse 
places, and many an Englishman have I seen doing 
likewise. 

Again I must put it on record that these German 
roads are most excellent. They are smooth and 
wide, well-rolled and hard, and they are shady, a 
great boon in such a climate. Every native tree 
that is suitable has been allowed to stand, and others 
have been planted, shapely, dark-green mangoes 
and broad-leaved teak, and since all undergrowth 
has been cleared away, the road seems winding 
through a beautiful park, while there is absolutely 
no mosquito. During all my stay in German terri- 
tory I never slept under a mosquito curtain, and I 
never saw that abomination, a mosquito-proof room. 
The Germans evidently think it is easier to do away 
with the mosquito. 

Misahohe is a little Government station, set on 
the side of the mountain up which we were climbing. 
It looks from a distance something like a Swiss chalet, 
and the view from there is as magnificent as that from 



THE DARK CONTINENT 257 

Anum mountain itself, only here there are white men 
connected, I think, with the German medical station to 
see and appreciate its beauties. On and on went the 
beautiful road ; but even the Germans have not yet 
succeeded in getting rid of the tsetse fly, and so though 
the roads are good, there are as yet no horses. We 
met great carts of trade goods going to Kpando, 
fifteen miles away, and they were drawn and pushed 
their slow, slow journey by panting, struggling Kroo 
boys. Strongly as I should object to carrying a load 
on my head, I really think it would be worse to turn 
the wheels of a laden cart, spoke by spoke, while you 
slowly worked it up-hill. 

At Mount Klutow, the German Sleeping Sickness 
Camp, there is no timber, and the first impression is 
of barrenness. We went up and up, and I, who had 
not yet recovered from my long day's journey to 
Palime, was exceedingly thankful when my escort 
allowed me to lie in my hammock till we arrived at a 
plateau surrounded by low hills. It was really the 
top of the mountain. There was a poor-looking 
European bungalow, a very German wooden kiosk 
on the other side of the road, and a winding road, with 
on either side of it little brown native huts built 
of clay, and thatched. It is just a poor-looking 
native village, with the huts built rather farther apart 
than the native seems to like his huts when he can 
choose, and none of the usual shelter trees which 
he likes about his village. After the magnificent 
tropical scenery we had just passed through it looked 
dreary in the extreme, but the young man who came 
out of the bungalow and made us most kindly 
welcome, Dr von Raven, the doctor in charge, ex- 
plained that this barrenness was the very reason of 

R 



258 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

its existence. They wanted a place that the cool 
winds swept, and they wanted a place that gave no 
harbour to the glossina palpalis, the tsetse fly that 
conveys the disease. Mount Klutow was ideal. 

I had hesitated a little about visiting a doctor and 
asking him for information. I had no claim, no letters 
of introduction, and I should not have been surprised 
if he had paid no attention to me, but, on the contrary, 
Dr von Raven was kindness itself. He took us to 
the little kiosk and sent for wine and cakes and beer, 
so that we might be refreshed after our hot journey, 
though it was hardly hot here. The good things were 
brought by two small boys, and the doctor put his 
hand first on one shoulder and then on the other, 
and turned the little laughing black faces for me 
to see. 

" Sleeping sickness," said he. " Cured," and he 
gave them a friendly cuff and let them go. He knew 
very little English, and I knew no German, and Mr 
Fesen's, even though he was agent for an English 
firm, was of the scantiest ; so that it was a process of 
difficulty to collect information, and it was only done 
by the infinite kindness and patience of the two Ger- 
mans. Dr von Raven produced papers and showed 
me statistics, and so by degrees I learned all there is 
to be known, and then he took me round and showed 
me the patients. 

Many men in Africa count themselves exiles, but 
never saw I more clearly the attributes of exile than 
in Dr von Raven. Comforts he had none, and his 
house was bare almost to poverty. Here he had lived 
for two and a half years without going home, and here 
he intended to live till some experiments he had in 
hand were complete. A devotee to science truly, but 



THE DARK CONTINENT 259 

a cheerful, intensely interested one, with nothing of 
the martyr about him. Very few white people he 
must have seen, and he said himself he had only been 
down to the nearest town of Palime three times 
in two years, but he looked far better in health than 
many a man I have seen who has been on the Coast 
only as many months. 

From the doctor's house there curves a road about 
a kilometre in length, and off this are the houses of 
the sleeping sickness patients. Two and two they 
are built, facing each other, two rooms in each 
house and plenty of space between. They are built 
of mud, with holes for doors and windows, and the 
roofs are of grass — native huts of the most primitive 
description. Each patient has a room, and each is 
allowed one relative to attend him. Thus a husband 
may have a wife, a mother her daughter, and between 
them they have an allowance of sevenpence a day for 
food, ample in a country where the usual wage for a 
day labourer is ninepence. There are one hundred 
and fifty-five patients in all, and besides them there 
are a few soldiers for dignity, because the neighbour- 
ing chiefs would think very lightly of a man who had 
not evidences of power behind him, and so whenever 
the doctor passes they come tumbling out of the 
guard-room to salute him. There are also a certain 
number of labourers, because though many of the sick 
are quite capable of waiting on themselves, it would 
never do for them to go beyond the confines of the 
camp, and possibly, or probably, infect the flies that 
abound just where wood and water are to be had. 

Of course there is a market where the women meet 
and chat and buy their provisions ; there are cook- 
houses and all the attributes of a rather poor native 



260 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

village, but a village where the people are among the 
surroundings to which they have been accustomed all 
their lives and in which they are more thoroughly at 
home than in a hospital. Part of the bareness may 
be attributed to economy, but the effect is greatly 
heightened by the absence of all vegetation. Any- 
thing that might afford shelter for the flies or shut 
out the strong, health-giving breezes that blow right 
across the plateau is strictly forbidden. And here 
were people in all stages of the disease — those who 
had just come in, who to the ordinary eye appeared to 
have nothing wrong with them, great, strong, healthy- 
looking men, men of thews and sinews who had been 
completely cured, and those who were past all help 
and were lying waiting for death. 

" You would like to see them ? " asked the doctor. 

I said I would, and I would like to take a photo- 
graph or two if I might. My stock of plates was get- 
ting woefully scarce. 

" Yes," he said, and we went down the roadway. 

A man was borne out of one of the huts and laid on 
the ground in the brilliant sunshine. He was wasted 
to skin and bone, his eyes were sunken and half-open, 
showing the whites, his skeleton limbs lay helpless, 
and his head fell forward like a baby's. The doctor 
pointed to him pitifully. 

" Last year," he said, " strong man like this," in- 
dicating the men who bore him ; " this year — finish." 

" He will die?" 

" Oh, he will die — soon." 

And the great brawny savages who carried the 
stretcher, stark but for a loin cloth and a necklace, 
with their hair cut into cock's combs, had come 
there with sleeping sickness and were cured. They 



r 



■ 




a 



THE DARK CONTINENT 261 

brought them out of all the huts to show the visitor — 
women in the last stages after epilepsy had set in, with 
weary eyes, worn faces, and contracted limbs, happy 
little children with swollen glands, a woman with 
atoxyl blindness who was cured, a man with atoxyl 
blindness who, in spite of all, will die. They were 
there in all stages of the disease, in all stages of 
recovery. Some looked as if there was nothing the 
matter with them, but the enlarged glands in the neck 
could always be felt. The doctor did not seem very 
hopeful. " We could cure it," he said ; " it is quite 
curable if we could only get the cases early enough. 
Not 2 per cent, of the flies are infected, and of 
course every man who is bitten by an infected fly does 
not necessarily contract the disease." 

It comes on very insidiously. Three weeks it takes 
to develop, and then the patient has a little fever every 
evening. In the morning his temperature is down 
again, only to rise once more in the evening. Some- 
times he will have a day without a rise, sometimes 
three or four, but you would find, were you to look, 
the parasites in the blood. After three or four months 
the glands of the neck begin to swell, and this is the 
time when the natives recognise the danger and excise 
the glands. But swollen glands are not always 
caused by sleeping sickness, and, in that case, if the 
wounds heal properly, the patient recovers ; but if 
the parasites are in the blood then such rough surgery 
only causes unnecessary suffering without in any way 
retarding the progress of the disease. Slowly it pro- 
gresses, very slowly. Sometimes it takes three or four 
months before nervous symptoms come on, sometimes 
it may be twelve months, and after that the case is 
hopeless. Not all the physicians in the world in the 



262 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

present state of medical knowledge could cure it. In 
Europeans — and something like sixty Europeans are 
known to have contracted the disease — very often 
immediately after the bite of the fly, symptoms have 
been noticed on the skin, red swellings, but in the 
black man apparently the skin is not affected. 

The treatment is of the simplest, but the doctor 
only arrived at it after careful experiment. After 
having ascertained by examination of the blood that 
the patient has sleeping sickness he weighs the 
patient and gives him five centigrams per kilogram of 
his own weight of arsenophenylycin. This is divided 
into two portions and given on two consecutive days, 
and the treatment is finished. Of course the patient is 
carefully watched and his blood tested, and if at the 
end of ten days the parasites are still found, the dose 
is repeated. Sometimes it is found that the toxin has 
no effect, and then the doctor resorts to atoxyl, which 
he administers the same way every two days, with 
ten days between the doses. This has one grave 
drawback, for sometimes in conjunction with sleeping 
sickness it causes blindness. Out of eighty-five cases 
that have taken atoxyl since 1908 five have gone 
blind. I saw there one young man cured and stone- 
blind, and one woman also cured and but just able to 
see ' : men as trees walking." Apparently there was 
nothing wrong with their eyes, but the blank look of 
the blind told that they could not see. 

At first this camp here up among the hills was 
looked upon with suspicion by the natives, and they 
resisted all efforts to bring them to it. They feared, 
as they have always feared, all German thorough- 
going methods. But gradually, as is only natural, a 
good thing makes its own reputation, and the natives 




SLEEPING SICKNESS AFTER NERVOUS SYMPTOMS HAVE SET IN. 



THE DARK CONTINENT 263 

who were before so fearful come long distances to 
seek help where they know only help can be found. 
After we had walked all round the camp and got 
well soaked with the ordinary Togo afternoon shower, 
of which none of us took any notice, we went back 
to the kiosk for more refreshment, and here we found 
waiting us one of the Roman Catholic Fathers from 
Palime. He was a fair-bearded man in a white helmet 
and a long, white-cotton soutane, which somehow, 
even in this country of few clothes, gave the appear- 
ence of extreme poverty and self-denial. He had 
come up on a bicycle and had a great deal to say 
about the sleeping sickness. A day or two before he 
had been travelling two days west of Palime and he 
was asked by a native if he could speak English, and, 
when he assented, was taken to see a sick man. The 
man was a stranger to the people round and could 
only make himself understood in pigeon English. 
He told the Father he lived six days away, in British 
territory, and as he talked he perpetually took snuff. 
: ' Why," asked the Father, " do you take snuff when 
you talk to me ? " Because, the man explained, he 
had the sickness, and unless he took the strong, pun- 
gent snuff into his nostrils he could not talk, his head 
would fall forward, and he would become drowsy at 
once. This, he went on to say, was his reason for 
being here, so far from his home. He had heard there 
was a doctor here who could cure the sickness, and he 
was journeying to him as fast as he could. It is sad 
to think after such faith that he had probably left it 
too late. 

" It is very difficult, indeed," said the doctor, " to be 
sure of a cure." The patient is discharged as cured 
and bound over to come back every six months for 



264 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

examination, and if each time his blood is examined 
it is free from parasites, all is well. He is certainly 
cured. But he has gone back to his home in an 
infected district, and if after six months or twelve 
months the parasite is again found, who is to say 
whether he has been re-infected or whether there has 
been a recrudescence of the old disorder? Occasion- 
ally, says the doctor, it is impossible to find the para- 
site in the blood, while the patient undoubtedly dies of 
sleeping sickness ; the parasite is in the brain. 

Since 1908 there have been four hundred cases 
through the doctor's hands. Of these 19 per cent, 
have died of sleeping sickness, 67 per cent, have been 
sent away as cured, and about 3 per cent, have died of 
other causes. Only ten of those sent away as cured 
have failed to present themselves for re-examination, 
and in this land where every journey must be made on 
foot, and food probably carried for the journey, it 
speaks very well, I think, for both doctor and patients 
that so many have come back to him. He is far 
kinder, probably, than the natives would be to each 
other — too kind for his own convenience, for the 
natives fear his laboratory, and will not come there 
at night, because when a patient is dying and past 
all other help he has him brought there to die. 
" Why ? " I asked. " I may be able to help a little," 
he said. " But how kind! " He shrugged his 
shoulders with a little smile. " It is nothing, it is 
doctor," and he waved the thought aside as if I 
were making too much of it. 

The disease comes, so says Dr von Raven, from 
west to east, and was first noticed in the Gambia in 
1 90 1. As long ago as 1802 a Dr Winterbottom de- 
scribed the sleeping sickness, and in 1850 a slave- 



THE DARK CONTINENT 265 

trader noticed the swelling of the glands and refused 
to take slaves so afflicted. Undoubtedly cases of 
sleeping sickness must have been imported to the 
West Indies or America, but owing to the absence 
of the glossina palpalis to act as host the disease did 
not spread. That it is a ghastly, horrible, lingering, 
and insidious disease, that every man who has it where 
the glossina palpalis abounds is a danger to the com- 
munity among whom he dwells, no one can doubt. 
They say that after a certain time the natives of a 
district may acquire immunity, but as this immunity 
comes only after severe suffering, it is perhaps better 
to stop the spread of the disease. The Germans have 
no hesitation in restricting the movements of the 
native if he is likely to become a public danger, but 
the British Government is very loath to interfere with 
a man's rights, even though it be the right to spread 
disease and death. Dr von Raven and the English 
Dr Home met in conference a few months ago with 
the object of urging upon their respective Govern- 
ments the absolute necessity for allowing no man to 
cross the Volta unless he have a certificate from a 
medical man that he is free from sleeping sickness. 
They contend, probably rightly, that a little trouble 
now would ensure the non-spread of the disease and 
assist materially in stamping it out. The Volta is a 
natural barrier ; there are only two or three well-known 
crossing places where the people pass to and fro ; and 
here they think a man might well be called upon to 
present his certificate. Against this is urged the un- 
doubted fact that large numbers of the people are at 
no time affected, and, therefore, it would be going to 
a great deal of trouble and expense to effect a small 
thing. But is it a small thing? 



266 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

" You write," said the doctor as he bid me farewell ; 
" you write ? " 

I said I did a little. 

"Then tell the English people," said he, "how 
necessary it is to stamp out this disease while it is yet 
small." 

And so to the best of my ability I give his message, 
the message of a man who is denying himself all 
things that go to make life pleasant, for the sake of 
curing this disease, and if that sacrifice is worth while, 
and he says it is well worth while, then I think it 
should be well worth the while of us people, who are 
responsible for these dark children we govern, to put 
upon them, even at cost to themselves and us, such 
restrictions as may help to save in the future even 
2 per cent, of the population from a ghastly and 
lingering death. 



CHAPTER XVII 

GERMAN VERSUS ENGLISH METHODS 

Lome, the capital of Togo — A bad situation but the best laid-out 
town on the Coast— Avenues of trees — Promising gardens — 
The simple plan by which the Germans ensure the making 
of the roads — The prisoner who feared being " leff " — The 
disappointed lifer — The A.D.C.'s kindness — The very desir- 
able prison garb — The energetic Englishman — How to make 
a road — Building a reputation. 

People who sigh, " I am such a bad traveller," as if 
it were something to be proud of, and complain of the 
hardships of a railway journey, should come upon the 
railway after they have had several days in a canoe, 
some hard walking, and some days' hammock jour- 
neying, and then they would view it in quite a differ- 
ent light. I felt it was the height of luxury when I 
stepped into a first-class railway carriage on the little 
narrow gauge railway, that goes from Palime to 
Lome, the capital of Togo. 

My host had insisted on telegraphing to Swanzy's 
there. 

" They meet you. More comfortable." 
Undoubtedly it would be more comfortable, but I 
wondered what I had done that I should merit so 
much consideration for my comfort from men who 
were not only total strangers, but belonged to a 
nation that has not the reputation for putting itself 
out for women. I can only say that no one has been 
kinder to me than those Germans of Togo, and for 
their sakes I have a very soft corner in my heart for 

267 



268 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

all their nation, and when we English do not like them 
I can only think it is because of some misunderstand- 
ing that a little better knowledge on both sides would 
clear away. 

You do not see the country well from a railway 
train even though the stoppages are many. I have 
a far better idea of the country between the English 
border and Palime than of the country between 
Palime and Lome. I was the only first-class passen- 
ger ; the white men travelled second class, and all the 
coloured people third, that is in big, empty, covered 
trucks where they took their food, their babies, their 
bedding, their baggage, and in fact seemed to make 
themselves quite as comfortable as if they were at 
home. 

And at Lome a young German from Messrs 
Swanzy's met me with a cart and carriers for my gear, 
and carried me off and installed me at their fine house 
on the sea-front as if I had every right to be there, 
which I certainly had not. 

Lome is the most charming town I have seen in 
West Africa. It is neat and tidy and clean, it is 
beautifully laid out, and the buildings are such as 
would do credit to any nation. Very evident it is that 
the German does not consider himself an exile, but 
counts himself lucky to possess so fine a country, 
and is bent on making the best of it. For Lome has 
certainly been made the very best of. Only fifteen 
years ago did the Germans move their capital from 
Little Pope in the east to Lome in the west of their 
colony, not a great distance, for the whole sea-board 
is only thirty-five miles in length, and all that length 
is, I believe, swamp. Lome is almost surrounded by 
swamp ; its very streets are rescued from it, but with 



GERMAN METHODS 269 

German thoroughness those streets are well-laid-out, 
the roads well-made and well-kept, and are planted 
with trees, palms, flamboyant, and the handsome ficus 
elasticus. Here is a picture of a street in Lome, and 
the trees are only four years old, but already they 
stretch across the road and make a pleasant shade. 
The gardens and the trees of Lome made a great im- 
pression on me. Any fences one sees are neat, but 
as a rule they do not have many fences, only round 
every bungalow is a well-laid-out, well-kept, tropical 
garden ; if it is only just made you know it will be 
good in the future because of the promise fulfilled in 
the garden beside it. 

All the Government bungalows look like young 
palaces, and are built to hold two families, the higher- 
class man having the choice of the flats, and generally 
taking the upper. Indeed I could find no words to 
express my admiration for this German capital 
which compared so very favourably with the English 
capital I had left but a short time before. 

When I had talked to the Commissioner at Ho 
about the magnificent roads, I had hinted at the 
forced labour which is talked of so openly in the 
English colony as being a sin of the Germans. But 
he denied it. 

" How do you make your roads then? " I asked. 

' There is a tax of six shillings a head or else a fort- 
night's labour a year. It is right. If we have no 
roads how can we have trade ? " and I, thinking of the 
25 per cent, of the cocoa harvest left up the Afram 
river because " we no be fit to tote," quite agreed. 

Every English village has some sort of tax by which 
the roads are kept in order, why object if that tax is 
paid in the most useful sort of kind, namely labour. 



270 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Very very wisely it seems to me have the Germans 
laid the foundations of their colony, and though it 
has not paid in the past, it is paying now and in the 
future it will pay well. 

But a certain set of people were not quite as happy 
as those in the English towns, and that was the 
prisoners working in the streets. They had iron 
collars round their necks and were chained together 
two and two, and though they were by no means 
depressed, they were not as cheery as the English 
prisoners. The English negro prisoner is unique. 
His punishment has been devised by people at home 
who do not understand the negro and his limita- 
tions, and the difficulty of adequately punishing is 
one of the difficulties of administration in an English 
colony. 

" How do you keep your villages so neat? " I asked 
the Germans. 

" If they are not neat we fine them." 

" But if they do not pay the fine ? " 

" Then we beat them." 

And though it may sound rather brutal, I am 
inclined to think that is the form of teaching the 
negro thoroughly understands. He is not yet edu- 
cated up to understanding the disgrace of going to 
prison, and regards it somewhat in the light of a 
pleasant change from the ordinary routine. 

The German prisoner is clad in his own rags, the 
garb an ordinary working-man usually wears. The 
English prisoner is at the expense of the Government 
clad in a neat white suit ornamented with a broad 
arrow. He can hardly bring himself to believe that 
this is meant for a disgrace, and rather admires him- 
self I fancy in his new costume. Many many are the 



GERMAN METHODS 271 

tales told of the prisoner and his non-realisation of 
the punishment meted out to him. Once a party of 
three or four were coming along a street in Freetown, 
under the charge of a warder, and they stopped to talk 
to someone. Then they went on again, but one of 
the party lingered behind to finish his gossip. 

The warder looked back. They were still in 
earnest conversation. 

" No. 14," he called, warningly. 
No. 14 paid no attention. 
" No. 14," a little more peremptorily. 
Still No. 14 was interested in his friend. 
" No. 14," called the warder sternly, as one who 
was threatening the worst penalties of the law, " if 
you no come at once, I leff you, No. 14." 

And No. 14 with the dire prospect of being " leff" 
to his own devices, shut out of paradise in fact, ran 
to join the others. 

There is another story current in Accra about an 
unfortunate prisoner who got eight months extra. 
He had been " leff," and, finding himself shut out, 
promptly broke into prison ; what was a poor man to 
do? At any rate, the authorities gave him an extra 
eight months, so I suspect all parties were entirely 
satisfied. 

Then there was the man who was in for life, and 
was so thoroughly well-behaved that after sixteen 
years the Government commuted his sentence and 
released him. Do you think that prisoner was 
pleased? He was in a most terrible state of mind, 
and the mournful petition went up — What had he 
done to be so treated? He had served the Govern- 
ment faithfully for sixteen years, and now they were 
turning him away for absolutely no fault whatever. 



272 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

He prayed them to reconsider their decision and re- 
store him to the place he had so ably filled ! 

The fact of the matter is, the negro is very much 
better for a strong hand over him. He is a child, 
and like a child should have his hours of labour and 
his hours of play apportioned to him. The firm 
hand is what he requires and appreciates. What he 
may develop into in the future I do not know, with 
his mighty strength, his fine development, and his 
superb health ; if he had but a mind to match it he 
must overrun the earth. Luckily for us he has not as 
yet a mind to match it, he is a child, with a child's wild 
and unrestrained desires, and like a child it is well for 
him that some stronger mind should guide his ways. 
So he thoroughly appreciates prison discipline, but 
it never occurs to him that it is any disgrace. Even 
when he has reached a higher standing than that of 
the peasant, it is hard to make him understand that 
there is anything disgraceful in going to prison. 

Not so very long ago there was a black barrister 
in one of the West-African capitals who had been 
home to England. He was naturally a man of some 
education and standing. Now the Governor's A.D.C. 
had been for some little time inspector of prisoners. 
There was a dinner-party at Government House, and 
what was this young man's astonishment to have his 
hand seized and shaken very warmly by the black 
barrister who was a guest. 

" I have to thank you," said he, " for your great 
kindness to my mother while she was in prison, when 
I was in England last year." 

Clearly, then, it seems that the Germans are on the 
right track when they do not dress their prisoners 
in any special garb. If you come to think of it, a 



GERMAN METHODS 273 

white suit marked with a broad arrow is quite as 
smart and a good deal cheaper than a red cloth 
marked with a blue broom, and the black man natu- 
rally feels some pride in swaggering round in it. 

A good sound beating is of course the correct thing, 
and though a good sound beating is not legal in 
English territory, luckily, say I very luckily — for the 
negro does not understand leniency, he regards it as 
a sign of weakness — it is many a time administered 
sub rosa, and the inferior respects the kindly man 
who is his master, who if he do wrong will have no 
hesitation in having him laid out and a round dozen 
administered. If English administrati n was not 
hampered by the well-meaning foolishness of folks at 
home, I venture to think that native towns would be 
cleaner and West-African health would be better. 
Because much as I admire the Germans and the won- 
derful fixed plan on which they have built up their 
colony, I have known Englishmen who could get just 
as good results if their hands had not been tied. And 
occasionally one meets or hears of a man who will not 
allow his hands to be tied. 

In a certain district by the Volta there are excel- 
lent roads much appreciated by the natives. Now 
these roads were extra vile and likely to remain so 
before Government could be prevailed upon to stir 
up the local chiefs to a sense of their duty. But there 
was an officer in that district who thoroughly under- 
stood how to deal with the black man, and he was far 
enough away from headquarters to make sure of a 
free hand. He found the making of those roads 
simple enough. He bought a few dozen native hoes 
and set a sentry on the road to be made with a rifle 
over his shoulder and a watch upon his wrist. His 

s 



274 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

orders were to stop every man who passed, put a 
hoe into his hand, and force him to work upon that 
road for half an hour by the watch. History sayeth 
not what happened if he rebelled, but of course he 
did not rebel. Once, so says rumour, this mighty 
coloniser came to a place where the roads were worse 
than usual, which from my experience is saying 
they were very bad indeed, and he sent for the Chief. 
The Chief said he could not make his people come to 
work — the English had destroyed his power. 

" All right," said the energetic Englishman, " the 
fine is £$. If they are not in in half an hour it'll be 
£io> and I'll bring 'em in in handcuffs." He began 
to collect them — with the handcuffs — but the second 
fine was not necessary. They were both illegal, but, 
as I have said, he was far away from headquarters, 
and he made those roads. The native bore no 
malice. It was exactly the treatment he understood. 
There was a rude justice in it. It was patent to 
every eye that the road was bad. It was common 
sense that the man who used it should mend it, and 
as long as that official was in the country there were 
in his district roads and bridges as good as any in 
German Togo ; and bridges as a rule are conspicuous 
by their absence in English territory. Also, as the 
Government never sends a man back to the same 
place, this man's good work is all falling back into 
disrepair, for it is hardly to be expected that Govern- 
ment will be lucky enough to get another man who 
will dare set its methods at defiance. 

Lome, like Accra, has made an effort to get the 
better of the fierce surf that makes landing so difficult 
all along the African coast, and they, instead of a 
useless breakwater, have built a great bridge out 



GERMAN METHODS 275 

into deep water, and at the end of this bridge 
a large wharf pier or quay, high above the waves, 
where passengers and goods can be lifted by cranes, 
and the men can walk the half-mile to the shore dry- 
shod, or the goods can be taken by train right to the 
very doors of the warehouses for which they are in- 
tended. This cost the much less sum of ,£100,000. 
It was highly successful, and a great source of pride 
to all Togo till a tremendous hurricane a week or so 
after I had left, swept away the bridge part and left 
Lome cut off from communication with the rest of the 
coast, for so successful had this great bridge been 
they had no surf boats. Still, in spite of that disaster, 
I think the Germans have managed better than the 
English, for the bridge even after the necessary 
repairs have been done will have cost scarcely 
£"150,000, much less than Accra's breakwater, and of 
course there is no necessity for the sand-pump. 

I feel it is ungracious to abuse my own nation and 
not to recognise all they have done for the negro — all 
they have done in the way of colonisation, but after 
that journey across the little-known part of the Gold 
Coast into the little-known part of German Togo, 
I can but see that there is something much to be 
admired in the thorough German methods. Par- 
ticularly would I commend the manner in which they 
conserve the trees and preserve the natural beauties 
of the country. A beauty-spot to them is a beauty- 
spot, whether it be in the Fatherland or in remote 
West Africa, while England seems indifferent if the 
beautiful place be not within the narrow seas. Pos- 
sibly she has no eyes ; possibly she is only calm in her 
self-conceit, certain of her position, while Germany 
is building — building herself a reputation. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

KETA ON THE SAND 

The safety of the seashore — Why they do not plant trees in 
English territory — The D.C.'s prayer — Quittah or Keta — The 
Bremen Sisters — The value of fresh air as a preventive of 
fever — A polygamous household — The Awuna people — The 
backsliding clerk of the Bremen Mission — Incongruity of 
antimacassars and polygamy — Naming the child — " Laugh- 
ing at last " and " Not love made you "■ — Forms of marriage 
—The cost of a wife — How to poison an enemy — Loving and 
dutiful children — The staple industry of the place — Trading 
women — The heat of Keta. 

Having got into Lome the question was how to get 
out of it. I wanted to go to Keta, twenty-seven miles 
away in British territory, and my idea was to go by 
sea as I could do it in three hours at the very most, 
and Elder Dempster, having very kindly franked me 
on their steamers, it would cost me nothing save the 
tips to the surf boats that landed me ; but there was 
one great thing against that — my hosts told me that 
very often the surf was so bad it was impossible to 
land at Keta. The head of Swanzy's had a man 
under him at Keta, and when he went to inspect he 
invariably went overland. That decided me. I too 
must go overland. 

But carriers were by no means cheap. I had got 
hammock-boys to carry me the thirty miles from Ho 
to Palime for two shillings, and here for twenty-seven 
miles along the shore I paid my hammock-boys six 

276 



KETA ON THE SAND 277 

shillings and sixpence and my carriers five shillings 
and sixpence, so that my pots were adding to their 
original price considerably. 

So on a fine, hot morning in May I was, with my 
train of carriers, on the road once more. First the 
going was down between groves of palms by the 
Governor's palace, which is a palace indeed, and must 
have cost a small fortune. A very brief walk brought 
us to the Border, and then the contrast was once more 
marked. The English villages were untidy and filthy, 
with a filth that was emphasised now that I had seen 
what could be done by a little method and orderliness ; 
those Coast villages remain in my mind as a mixture 
of pigs, and children, and stagnant water, and all 
manner of litter and untidiness. One saving grace 
they had was that they were set among the nice clean 
sand of the seashore that absorbed as much as pos- 
sible all the dirt and moisture, and we passed along 
through groves of cocoa-nut palms that lent a certain 
charm and picturesqueness to the scene. I am never 
lonely beside the sea ; the murmur of its waves is 
company, and I cannot explain it, but I am never 
afraid. I do not know why, but I could not walk in 
a forest by myself, yet I could walk for miles along 
the seashore and never fear, though I suppose many 
deeds of violence have been done along these 
shores ; but they have been done on the sand, and 
the waters have swept over them, and washed all 
memory of them away. 

Soon it was evident that we were travelling along 
almost as narrow a way as that which led along the 
shore to Half Assinie. There was a lagoon on the 
right hand, and the sea on the left, and the numerous 
villages drew their sustenance from the sea and 



278 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

from the cocoa-nut palms in which they were em- 
bowered. 

All the hot long day we travelled, and at last, to- 
wards evening, on either side of the road, we came 
upon fine shade-trees of an order of ficus, planted, it 
is hardly needful to say, by the Danes who owned this 
place over thirty years ago. It makes such a wonder- 
ful difference, this tree-planting, that I have preached 
it wherever I went. I met one young D.C. who 
agreed with me heartily, but explained to me the 
difficulties of the job in English territory. 

I had suggested they might get trees from the agri- 
cultural stations that Government is beginning to dot 
over the country, and he said it was quite possible. 
In fact they had planted three hundred the year 
before. The place I was in was rather barren-look- 
ing, so I asked where they were. He shrugged his 
shoulders and pointed to the native sheep and goats ; 
they are only to be distinguished by their tails, and a 
certain perkiness about the goats. 

" But," said I, surprised, " if you plant trees, you 
should certainly protect them." 

"How?" said he. 

" Barbed wire," was my idea. 

" And where are we to get the money for barbed 
wire ? We put cactus all round those three hundred 
trees we planted, and then the medical officer got on 
to us because the cactus held water and became a 
breeding place for mosquitoes, and so we had to take 
it away, and I don't believe six of those trees are alive 
now. You see it is too disheartening." 

Another thing that is very disheartening is the fact 
that tours, as they call a term of service among the 
English, last twelve months, and that a man at the 



KETA ON THE SAND 279 

end of a tour goes away for five months, and very 
often never again returns to the same place, so that he 
has no permanent interest in its welfare. 

" Give peace in my time, oh Lord," they declare is 
the prayer of the West-African D.C., and can we 
wonder? A man is not likely to stir up strife in a 
place if he is not going to remain long enough to 
show that he has stirred it up in a good cause. Fancy 
a German D.C. explaining his failure to have proper 
shade-trees by the fact that the native sheep and 
goats had eaten them ! 

The English have decided that Keta shall be 
called Quittah, which means nothing at all, but the 
native name is, and I imagine will be for a long time 
to come, Keta, which means " On the sand," and on 
the sand the town literally is. It is simply built on 
a narrow sand-bank between the ocean and a great 
lagoon which stretches some days' journey into the 
interior, and at Keta, at its widest, is never more than 
a quarter of a mile in extent. 

I appealed to the D.C. for quarters, and he very 
kindly placed me with the Bremen Mission Sisters, 
and asked me to dinner every night. I feel I must 
have been an awful nuisance to that D.C., and I am 
most grateful for his kindness, and still more grateful 
for his introduction to those kindly mission Sisters. 
" Deaconesses " they called themselves ; and they 
had apparently vowed themselves to the service of 
the heathen as absolutely as any nun, and wore simple 
little cotton dresses with white net caps. Sister 
Minna, who had been out for ten long years, going 
home I think in that time twice, spoke the vernacular 
like a native, and Sister Connie was learning it. 
They kept a girls' school where some three hundred 



280 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

girls, ranging from three to thirteen, learned to read, 
and write, and sew, and sum, and I was introduced 
to quite a new phase of African life, for never before 
had I been able to come so closely in touch with the 
native. 

Again I have to put it on record that I have ab- 
solutely no sympathy with missionaries. I cannot 
see the necessity for missions to the heathen ; as yet 
there should be no crumbs to fall from the children's 
table while the children of Europe are in such a 
shameful state as many of them are, far worse than 
any heathen I have ever seen in Africa. But that did 
not prevent me admiring very much these Sisters, 
especially Sister Minna. It was a pity her services 
were lost to Germany, and given to these heathen, 
who, I am bound to say, loved and respected her 
deeply. 

But Keta was hot. Never in my life have I lived 
in such a hot place, and the first night they put me to 
sleep in their best bedroom, in which was erected a 
magnificent mosquito-proof room, also the window 
that looked on the back verandah was covered care- 
fully with coloured cretonne to ensure privacy. In 
spite of all their kindness I spent a terrible night ; the 
want of air nearly killed me, and I arose in the morn- 
ing weary to death, and begging that I might be 
allowed to sleep in the garden. There there was a 
little more air, but the ants, tiny ones that could get 
through the meshes of my mosquito curtains, walked 
over me and made life unbearable. Then I put up 
a prayer that I might be allowed to sleep on the 
verandah. The good Sisters demurred. It was, in 
their opinion, rather public ; but what was I to do ? 
Sleep I felt I must get, and so every night Grant came 



KETA ON THE SAND 281 

over and put up my camp-bed on the verandah, or 
rather balcony, and every night I slept the comfor- 
table, refreshing sleep of the fresh-air lover, and if a 
storm of rain came up, as it did not infrequently, this 
being the beginning of the rainy season, I simply 
arose and dragged my bed inside, and waited till it 
was over. I admit this had its drawbacks, but it was 
better than sleeping inside. The Sisters were per- 
petually making remarks on my healthy colour, and 
contrasting it with their own pale faces, and their not 
infrequent attacks of fever with my apparent im- 
munity, and they came to the same conclusion that I 
did, that it was insured by my love of fresh air. Why 
they did not do likewise I do not know, but I suspect 
they thought it was not quite proper ; not the first time 
in this world that women have suffered from their 
notions of propriety. 

Under the guidance of Sister Minna I began a 
series of calls, visiting first one of the head chiefs, 
who had about sixty wives. Some dwelt in little 
houses off his compound, some were scattered over 
the town, and some were away in the country. It 
was the first time I had really been introduced into a 
polygamous household with understanding eyes, and 
I went with interest. It is approaching the vital 
points of life from an entirely different angle. 

The Chief received us most graciously. He was a 
big man, old, with a bald head on which was a horrid 
red scar, got, he explained, in a big fight. He said he 
was very pleased to see me, spoke for a moment to 
one of his attendants, and then presented me with a 
couple of florins, and wished me well. After all, that 
was certainly a most substantial sign of goodwill. Then 
I called upon his wives, young, old, and middle-aged, 



282 ALONE IIS WEST AFRICA 

and I don't even now understand how he managed to 
have so many without interfering seriously with the 
natural distribution of men and women. Of course 
his descendants are many, and many are the com- 
plications, for I have seen a married woman, the 
grand-daughter of the Chief, nursing on her knee her 
little great-aunt, his daughter, and well spanking her 
too if she did not come to school quick enough. 

One of his old wives had broken her leg, and we 
visited her; she had a room in his house, and was 
lying on her bed on the floor, while beside her sat 
another wife who had come to see how she was get- 
ting on. 

" If I were a wife," said I, from the outlook of a 
monogamous country, " I should not call upon another 
wife a man chose to take, even if she were sick." 

" I don't know," said kind-hearted Sister Minna. 
" I have lived so long in a country like this that I think 
I should. It is only kind." 

And we went from one household to another, and 
were received most graciously, and generally Sister 
Minna was given some small sum of money to enter- 
tain me. Sometimes it was sixpence, sometimes it 
was a shilling, sometimes it even rose as high as two 
shillings, and she was instructed to buy chickens and 
bananas that I might be well fed. Also they can 
never tell a white person's age, and many a time she 
was asked, because I was short, whether I was not a 
child. 

Altogether I was most agreeably struck with these 
Awuna people, and found there was even something to 
be said for the polygamous system. I have always, 
from my youth upwards, admired the woman who 
worked and made a place for herself in the world, 



KETA ON THE SAND 283 

and here were certainly some of my ideals carried 
out, for every woman in this community was self- 
supporting for the greater part of her life, and not 
only did she support herself, but her children as well. 
It was in fact not much of a catch to marry a chief; 
of course, being a rich man, he probably gave her a 
little more capital to work upon in the beginning, but 
she had to pay him back, and work all the same. 

We visited another household, the home of a clerk 
in the Bremen Mission Factory, a gentleman who 
wore a tweed suit and a high collar, and who once 
had been a pillar of the mission church. He had 
four wives, and he lived inside a compound with 
small houses round it, and his house, the big house, 
on one side. Each wife had her own little home, 
consisting of two rooms and a kitchen place ; the 
wife without children was the farthest away from him, 
and the last wife, just married, had a room next his. 
His sitting-room was quite gorgeous, furnished Euro- 
pean fashion with cane chairs, and settee, coloured 
cushions, an ordinary lamp with a green shade, and 
a rack, such as one sees on old-fashioned ships, hung 
with red and green wineglasses. I don't know why 
I should have felt that antimacassars and table- 
cloths were out of place with polygamy, but I did, 
especially as the wives' houses were bare, native 
houses, where the women squatted on the floor, their 
bedrooms were dark and dismal hot places, with any 
amount of girdle beads hanging against the walls. 
For clothes are but a new fashion in Keta, and the 
time is not far off when a woman went clothed solely in 
girdle beads, and so still it is the fashion to have 
many different girdle beads, though now that they wear 
cloths over them they are not to be seen except 



284 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

upon the little girls who still very wisely are allowed 
to go stark. Each woman's children, not only in this 
house, but in the Chief's house, ran in and out of 
the other wives' houses in very friendly fashion, 
and they most of them bore English names — 
Grace, Rosina, and Elizabeth. And the names, 
when they are not English, are very curious and well 
worth remembering. A couple had been married 
for many years, and at last the longed-for child came. 
" Laughing at last," they called it. " Come only " is 
another name. " A cry in my house " — where so long 
there had been silence. " Every man and his," mean- 
ing with pride, " this is mine, I want nothing more." 
But they are not always pleased. " God gives bad 
things " — a girl has been born and they have been 
waiting for a boy. " A word is near my heart," 
sounds rather tender, but " I forgive you " must 
have another meaning, and the child would surely not 
be as well loved as the one its mother called " Sweet 
thing." Then again girls do not always marry the 
man they love or would choose, and they will perhaps 
call their child " Not love made you," but on the 
whole I think pleasant names predominate, and many 
a child is called " So is God," " God gives good 
things," or merely " Thanks." Often too a child is 
called after the day of the week upon which it is born. 

" What day were you born ? " asked the Chief of me. 

" Wednesday," I said. 

" Then your name is Aquwo," said he. 

Marriage in a country like this has a somewhat 
different status from what it does, say in England. 
What a woman wants most of all is children ; mother- 
hood is the ideal, and the unmarried woman with 
a child is a far more enviable person than the married 



KETA ON THE SAND 285 

woman without, and even in this land, where mother- 
hood is everything, there was in every household that 
I visited an unhappy woman without children, be- 
cause vice has been rampant along the Coast for 
hundreds of years. You may know her at once by her 
sad face, for not only is she deeply grieved, but every- 
one despises her, as they do not despise the woman 
who has had a child without being married. Of 
course parents prefer their daughters to be chaste, and 
if a man marries what the Sister described as a 
" good " girl, he will probably give her a pair of hand- 
some bracelets to mark his appreciation of the fact, 
but if on the other hand a daughter, without being 
married, suddenly presents the household with an 
addition, they are not more vexed than if the daughter 
in civilised lands failed to pass her examination, 
outran her allowance, or perhaps got herself too 
much talked about with the best-looking ineligible in 
the neighbourhood. It is a natural thing for a girl to 
do, and at any rate a child is always an asset. 

There is one binding form of marriage that is 
absolutely indissoluble. If the man and woman, in 
the presence of witnesses, drink a drop or two of 
each other's blood, nothing can part them ; they are 
bound for ever, a binding which tells more heavily 
upon the woman than the man, because he is always 
free to marry as many wives as he likes, while she is 
bound only to him, and whatever he does, no one, 
after such a ceremony, would give her shelter should 
she wish to leave him. All other marriages are quite 
easily dissolved, and very often the partings occasion 
but little heart-burnings on either side. The great 
desire of everyone is children, and once that is 
attained, the object of the union is accomplished, 



286 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

wherefore I fancy it is very seldom couples, or rather 
women, take the trouble to bind themselves so indis- 
solubly. The most respectable form of marriage is 
for a man to take a girl and seclude her with an old 
woman to look after her for from five to nine months 
after marriage. She does no work, but gives herself up 
to the luxury and enjoyment of the petted, spoiled wife. 
Her brothers and sisters and her friends come and see 
her, but she does not pass outside the threshold, and 
being thus kept from the strong sunlight, she becomes 
appreciably lighter in colour, and is of course so 
much the more beautiful. He may take several women 
after this fashion, and all the marriages are equally 
binding, but of course this means that he must have 
a little money. xA.nother kind of marriage is when 
the man simply gives the woman presents of cloths, 
and provides her with a house. It is equally binding 
but is not considered so respectful ; there is some- 
thing of the difference we see between the hasty 
arrangement in a registry office and the solemn cere- 
mony at St George's, Hanover Square. 

One thing is certain, that when an Awuna man asks 
a girl to marry him, she will most certainly say " No." 
Formerly the parents were always asked, and they 
invariably said " No," and then the man had to ask 
again and again, and to reason away their objections 
to him as a suitor. Now, as women are getting freer 
under English rule, the girl herself is asked, and she 
makes a practice of saying " No " at least two or 
three times, in order to be able to tell him afterwards 
she did not want him. Even after they are Christians, 
says Sister Minna, the women find it very hard to give 
up this fiction that they do not want to marry, and 
the girl finds it very difficult to say " Yes " in church, 



KETA ON THE SAND 287 

She likes to pretend that she does not want the man. 
As a rule this is, I believe, true enough. There is no 
trust or love between the sexes ; you never see men 
and women together. A woman only wants a man in 
order that she may have children, and one would do 
quite as well as another. 

After marriage the woman has a free time for a little. 
She does not have to begin cooking her husband's 
meals at once, and this also holds good after the first 
baby is born. A man is considered by public opinion 
a great churl if he does not get somebody to wait on 
his wife and fetch her water from the well at this 
time. After the second baby they are not so parti- 
cular, and a woman must just make her own arrange- 
ments and manage as best she may. It is a woman's 
pride to bear children, and to the man they are a 
source of wealth, for the boys must work for the 
father for a time at least, and the girls are always 
sold in marriage, for a wife costs at least five or six 
pounds. 

With all due deference to these kindly missionaries, 
I cannot think that Christianity has made much pro- 
gress, for these Awuna people have the reputation of 
being great poisoners. One of the Chief's wives 
offered me beer, stuff that looked and tasted like thin 
treacle, and she tasted it first to show me, said the 
Sister, that it was quite safe ; but also she explained 
they insert a potent poison under the thumb nail, drink 
first to show that the draft is innocuous, and then 
offer the gourd to the intended victim, having just 
allowed the tip of the thumb nail to dip beneath the 
liquid. 

The early morning is the correct time to do the 
most important things. Thus if a man wants a girl 



288 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

in marriage he appears at her parents' house at the 
uncomfortable hour of four o'clock in the morning, 
and asks her hand. The morning after the Chief 
had given me a dash, I sent Grant round early, not at 
four o'clock I fear, when in the Tropics it is quite 
dark, with a box of biscuits and two boxes of choco- 
lates and the next morning early he sent me his 
ring as a sign that he had received my dash and was 
pleased. If by any chance they cannot come and 
thank you in the morning, they say, " To-morrow 
morning, when the cock crows, I shall thank you 
again." They use rather an amusing proverb for 
thanking ; where we should say, " I have not words 
to thank you," they say, " The hen does not thank 
the dunghill," because here in these villages, where 
they do not provide food for the fowls, the dunghill 
provides everything. Sister Minna once received a 
very large present of ducks and yams from a man, so 
she used this proverb in thanking him, as one he 
would thoroughly understand. Quick came the re- 
sponse, " Oh please do not say so. I am the hen, 
and you are the dunghill," which does not sound 
very complimentary translated into English. 

It was delightful staying here at the Mission 
House, and seeing quite a new side of African life, 
seeing it as it were from the inside. Every day at 
seven o'clock in the morning the little girls came to 
school, and I could hear the monotonous chant of 
their learning, as I sat working on the verandah. 
Somewhere about nine school was out and it was 
time for the second breakfast. The second breakfast 
was provided by the little markets that were held in 
the school grounds, where about a dozen women or 
young girls came with food-stuffs to sell at a farthing, 



KETA ON THE SAND 289 

or a copper, for they use either English or German 
money, a portion. They were rather appetising I 
thought, and quite a decent little breakfast could be 
bought for a penny. There were maize-meal balls 
fried in palm oil, a sort of pancake also made of 
maize meal and eaten with a piece of cocoa-nut, 
bananas, split sections of pine-apple, mangoes, little 
balls of boiled rice served on a plantain leaf, and 
pieces of the eternal stink-fish. Every woman 
appears to be a born trader, and I have seen a little 
girl coming to school with a platter on her head, on 
which were arranged neatly cut sections of pine-apple, 
She had managed to acquire a copper or two, and 
began her career as a trader by selling to the children 
for their school breakfast. She will continue that 
career into her married life, and till she is an old old 
woman past all work, when her children will look 
after her, for they are most dutiful children, and 
Christian or heathen never neglect their parents, 
especially their mother. 

Old maids of course you never see, and it is con- 
sidered much more natural, as I suppose it is, that a 
woman should have a child by a man whom she has 
met just casually, than that she should live an old 
maid. There was a good missionary woman who took 
a little girl into her household and guarded her most 
carefully. The only time that girl was out of her sight 
was once or twice a week for half an hour when she 
went to fetch water from the well. Presently that 
girl was the mother to a fine, lusty boy, and the mis- 
sionary's wife was told and believed that she did not 
know the father. He was a man she had met casually 
going to the well. 

When they asked me, as they often did, how my 

T 



290 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

husband was, I always explained that he was very 
well, and had gone on a journey ; it saved a lot 
of trouble, but it amused me to find that Sister 
Minna, when she was among strangers, always did the 
same. She explained that once on her way to Lome 
she stopped her hammock and spoke to a woman. 
This woman brought up a man, who asked her how 
her husband was, and in her innocence she explained 
she had none. The man promptly asked her to 
marry him, and as she demurred, the ten or twelve 
standing round asked her to choose among them 
which man she would have for a husband. The situa- 
tion was difficult. Finally she got out of it by explain- 
ing that she was here to care for their children, and if 
she had to cook her husband's dinner it would take up 
too much of her time. Of course in Keta they now 
know her, and appreciate her, and respect her eccen- 
tricities if they do not understand them, but if she goes 
to a strange place she is careful to hide the fact that 
she has not a husband somewhere in the background. 
It is embarrassing to be single. 

She is a firm believer in the good that the missions 
are doing ; I am only a firm believer in the good that 
a woman like Sister Minna could not help doing in 
any land. 

Keta is the place whence come all the cloths of the 
Guinea Coast, and again and again in a compound, in 
a little, sheltered dark corner, you may come across a 
man working his little loom, always a man, it is not 
women's work, and often by his side another winding 
the yarn he will use, and the product of their looms 
goes away, away to far Palime and Kpando, and all 
along the Coast, and up the railway line to Kumasi, 
and into the heart of the rubber country beyond. 



KETA ON THE SAND 291 

But here, being an enterprising people, they are be- 
ginning to do their own weaving, and have imported, 
I am told, men from Keta to show them the best way. 
I shall not soon forget Keta. If I shut my eyes I can 
see it now. The bare hot sand with the burning hot sun 
pouring pitilessly down upon it ; the graceful cocoa- 
nut palms ; the great ficus trees that stand in rows 
outside the little Danish fort that is so white that it 
makes your eyes blink in the glare ; the flamboyant 
tree, all red blossom, that grows beside it. Some 
Goth of a D.C. took the guns from the walls, and 
stood them upside down in the earth in a row lead- 
ing down to the beach, and subsequent Commis- 
sioners, making the best of a bad job, have painted 
them carefully with tar to keep them from rusting. 
At the wells the little naked girls with beads round 
their middles draw the water, and in the streets, 
making the best of every little patch of shade, though 
they have not initiate enough to plant for themselves, 
are the women sitting always with some trifle to sell, 
early-morning porridge, or maize-meal balls, or por- 
tions of pine-apple, or native sweets made from 
imported sugar. Once I went into a chief's house 
and wanted to photograph the people at work under 
the shade of the central tree in the courtyard. He 
sent word to say he would like to be photographed 
too, and as there was nothing particularly striking 
or objectionable about his shirt and trousers, I agreed. 
He kept me waiting till the light was almost gone, and 
then he appeared in a tourist cap, a light-grey coat, a 
red tie, a pink shirt, khaki breeches, violent green 
socks pulled up over the ends of his breeches, and 
a pair of red-and-yellow carpet slippers. I sent the 
plate home, but have been unable to discover that 



292 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

photograph anywhere, and I think in all probability 
the plate could not stand him. So I did not get the 
people at work. The market is held on a bare piece 
of ground close to the lagoon, and whenever there is 
a high tide it is half under water, and the Chief calls 
upon the people to bring sand from the seashore to 
raise the ground, and after about six hundred cala- 
bashes have been spilled, it looks as if someone had 
scattered a handful of sand there. Indeed, though 
Keta has existed for many years, it looks as if at any 
moment an extra high tide might break away into the 
lagoon behind, and the whole teeming population, 
for whose being there I can see no possible reason, 
might be swept into the sea. 

It was hotter in Keta than any other place I 
visited along the Coast, as there are no cool sea 
breezes for all they are so close to the sea. The 
sand-bank on which it is built runs almost north and 
south, and the prevailing wind, being from the south, 
blows always over hot-baked sand instead of over 
the cool sea. But yet I enjoyed life in that Mission 
House very much. It was a new piece of the world 
to me, and kind Sister Minna told me many things 
about the native mind. When first she came she had 
tried to do without beating the children, tried to ex- 
plain to them that it was a shame that a girl should be 
beaten, but they would have none of her ways. All 
they thought was that she was afraid of them, the chil- 
dren despised her, and the school was pandemonium. 
Now she has thoroughly grasped their limitations, 
and when a girl does wrong she beats her, and they 
respect and love her, and send their children to her 
to be corrected. 

" I have beaten thirty to-day," she would say with a 



KETA ON THE SAND 293 

sigh, as we sat down to dinner, or if we were going 
to the Commissioner's there was generally one in 
prison who had to be released before we could go. 
Sometimes, if she were specially bad, a girl was kept 
in prison all day and all night, in addition to her beat- 
ing. Once in the compound opposite I saw a little 
stark-naked girl about thirteen stand screaming appa- 
rently without any cause. The Sisters stood it for about 
half an hour, then' I saw them stealing across the road ; 
they entered the compound, and promptly captured 
the small sinner. Her aunt, who was the owner of 
the compound, had apparently given her up as hope- 
less, and she looked on with interest. I had thought 
the captive's lungs must have given out long before, 
but as they crossed the road she put on a fresh spurt, 
and she yelled still more heartrendingly when she was 
beaten. But the next day she came trippingly along 
the verandah, confident, and happy, and apparently 
all the better for the correction she had received the 
day before. I do not know what her sin was. 
Probably she had not obeyed her aunt when she 
told her to rub the beads. Beads are bought in 
strings in Germany or England, and then every 
bead has to be rubbed smooth with water on a stone. 
It must be a dull job, but the women and children are 
largely occupied in doing it ; the stones you see in 
every compound are worn hollow, and the palms of 
the woman's hands are worn quite hard. But it 
is part of a woman's education and she must do it 
just as a man must do the weaving. 

The day came at last when I had to go, and I sat 
on the beach, surrounded by my goods and chattels, 
waiting for the surf boat that was to take me to the 
ship. Grant was bidding regretful farewells to the 



294 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

many friends he had made, and I was bidding my 
kind Sisters good-bye. Then I was hustled into a 
boat in a man's arms, hastily we dashed through the 
surf, and presently I was on board the Bathurst 
bound for Addah at the mouth of the Volta River. 



CHAPTER XIX 

FACING DEATH 

The Spanish nuns — One of the loneliest settlements in West 
Africa— Hospitality and swamp— A capable English woman — 
A big future in store for Addah — The mosquitoes of Addah 
— The glorious skies — Difficulties of getting away — A tre- 
mendous tornado — The bar steamer — The boiling bar — 
" We've had enough ! " — Would rather be drowned in the 
open — The dismantled ship — Everybody stark — The gallant 
engineer — On the French steamer bound for Accra. 

At Addah, at the mouth of the Volta, a place that 
exists solely for the transport, there is the very worst 
surf on all this surf-bound coast. There is a big 
native town a few miles up the river, but here at its 
entrance live the handful of Europeans, either right 
on the beach or on the banks of the river, over a mile 
away, with a great swamp between. The river is 
wide at its mouth, and the miles of swamp lend to the 
country an air at once weird and austere. 

" Enter not here," cries the surf ; " enter not here." 

But when its dangers have been dared, and the 
white man has set foot on the Dark Continent, the 
swamp takes up the refrain in another key, more 
sullenly threatening. 

"In spite of warning you have crossed the out- 
works. Now, see how you like the swamp and the 
mosquito, the steaming heat and the blazing sun." 

And men come still, as they came three or four 
hundred years ago. 



296 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

But I, for one, did not much like the landing. The 
Captain of the Bathurst explained that he had had 
no intention of calling at Addah, but hearing that 
there was a white woman on the beach wanting to 
go, he of his courtesy had decided to take her, and 
he wanted to be off as he wished to discharge cargo 
at Pram- Pram before it grew dark. And here, for 
once, on board an African steamer I found the women 
passengers largely outnumbering the men, for they 
had on board a number of nuns who had been exiled 
from San Paul de Loanda. They were Spanish, 
French, and German Sisters in the costume of their 
order; gentle, kindly women with faces that bore 
evident marks of an indoor life in the Tropics, a 
mark that cannot be mistaken. They had been very 
very frightened at first, and they were still very sea- 
sick, but the sailormen had made them most kindly 
welcome, for their sakes were staunch Monarchists 
when Portugal was spoken of, and they brought 
them the captain's cat to play with, and looked with 
deepest admiration on their wonderful embroidery. 
Never was so much sewing before seen on an African 
steamer. 

I unwittingly added to their woes, for the surf was 
bad at Addah. 

" We'll whistle and the bar steamer will come out 
for you," said the captain, and the steamer gave vent 
to the most heartrending wails. 

In the distance I could see a most furious white 
surf, a palm or two cutting the sky line, and a speck 
or two that were probably bungalows, but it was a 
typical African shore and I didn't like the look of it 
at all. It is bad enough to go to a place uninvited, 
not to know where you are going to be put up, but 



FACING DEATH 297 

when to that is added a bad surf, you wish — well, you 
wish it was well over. The ship rolled sickeningly 
in the swell ; the Sisters, first one and then another, 
disappeared, to come back with faces in all shades of 
green whiteness, and the ruddy-faced captain paced 
the deck with an impatience that he in vain tried to 
control, and I felt an unutterable brute. If I had 
been seasick it would have crowned things ; luckily 
for myself I am not given that way. At intervals 
the Bathzirst let off shrieks, plaintive and angry, and 
we went to lunch. I felt I might as well have 
luncheon, a luncheon to which I really had a right. 

" You'll have to come on with us to Pram-Pram," 
said the captain ; " the beach is evidently too bad." 

But presently, after luncheon, we saw a surf boat 
making its way towards us, and the captain through 
the glasses proclaimed, " Custom's boat. No white 
man. The surf is very bad." 

When the boat same alongside, the black Custom 
officer said the captain was right. The surf was bad. 
They had rather hesitated about coming out, but the 
bar steamer in the river could not come out till 
to-morrow. 

" Will you land," said the captain, " or shall we 
take you on ? " 

It seemed a pity to pass Addah, now I had come 
so near, and if the Customs could get through I did 
not see why I should not, so I got into the mammy- 
chair and was lowered into the surf boat with my 
servant and my gear. A surf boat is about five feet 
deep, and this time, as no one had expected a white 
woman to land, no chair had been provided, so 
I was obliged to balance myself on one of the 
narrow planks that ran across the boat and served 



298 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

as seats, and of course my feet dangled uncomfor- 
tably. Also, as we approached it, the surf looked 
most threatening. We were going straight into a 
furiously boiling sea with white, foam-lashed waves 
that flung themselves high into the air. I did not 
like the look of it at all, but as we were bound to go 
through it, I whisked myself round on my seat so 
that I sat with my back to the thing I was afraid of. 
Then the Custom-house officer, a black man, edged 
his way close beside me, and stretching out his hand 
put it on my arm. I did not like it. I object to being 
touched by black men, so I promptly shook it off, 
and as promptly the boat was apparently flung crash 
against a stone wall ; she had really hit the beach, 
and over I went backwards and head first into the 
bottom of the boat. The man's help had been kindly 
meant ; he would have held me in my place. But 
there is no time for apologies when a surf boat 
reaches the beach. Before 1 had realised what was 
happening, two Kroo boys had dived to the bottom 
of the boat, seized me without any ceremony what- 
ever, and raced me up to the shore, where they 
put me down in all the blazing sun of an African 
afternoon, without even a helmet or an umbrella to 
protect my head. Grant followed with the helmet, 
and I endeavoured to smooth my ruffled plumes. At 
least, I had landed in safety, and the thing was now 
to find the Commissioner and see what he would do 
for me. We were on a beach where apparently was 
not even a boat, only the forlorn remains of the 
wreck of an iron steamer rapidly coming to its last 
end. The shore, rising to a height of about six or 
eight feet, was all sand with a little sparse, coarse 
grass upon it. We climbed up the yielding bank, and 



FACING DEATH 299 

then I saw a native town, Beachtown, on my right, 
and on my left three or four bungalows built after 
the English fashion, on high posts rising out of 
cement platforms. Those bungalows at Beachtown, 
Addah, are perhaps the forlornest places on all the 
West-African coast. The wild surf is in front of 
them, the coarse grass all around them, and behind 
is a great swamp. Brave, brave, it seemed to me, 
must be the men and women who lived here and kept 
their health. The strong sea breeze would be health- 
giving, but the deadly monotony of life must be 
something too terrible. But here the doctor, who was 
going home by the next steamer, had his wife, and 
the doctor who had just come out had brought his 
bride ; two women, and I was told there was a 
third at the transport station. The Commissioner 
came forward, and I looked at him doubtfully. I 
had thought I should have known him and I didn't. 

" You have forgotten me ? " 

Yes ; I certainly ought to know him, but — it came 
on me with a flash, and I spoke my thoughts. " Ah, 
but you have grown a beard since I met you." 

He laughed and blushed. 

" I've just come off trek and I've lost my 
razors." 

It was so like Africa. The dishevelled woman 
from the sea met the unkempt man from the bush, 
and we foregathered. 

They were awfully good to me. Packed they were 
already with two more people than the bungalows 
were intended to hold, and so they considered what 
they should do for me, and while they were consider- 
ing, hearing I had had luncheon, they gave me coffee 
and other drinks and offered cigarettes, and then they 



300 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

wrote to the transport company and asked them if 
they would take in a stray woman. 

The kindness of these people in Africa! Can I 
ever repay it? I know, of course, I never can. The 
head of Swanzy's transport and his pretty wife sent 
over to say they would be delighted to have me, and 
I was to come at once and consider myself at home. 
And, moreover, they had sent a cart for me, drawn by 
three Kroo boys. 

I have said many hard things about the English 
women in West Africa. I had begun to think, after 
my visit to Accra, that only the nursing Sisters were 
worthy of the name of capable women ; but, when 
I went to Addah, my drooping hopes revived. For 
I met there, in Mrs Dyson, the transport officer's 
wife, a woman, charming, pretty, and young, who yet 
thought it not beneath her dignity to look after her 
husband's house, to see that he lived well here in the 
wilderness, and who enjoyed herself and made the 
very best of life. 

And Addah, I must admit, takes a deal of making 
the best of. It has been settled for long years. In 
Beachtown you may see old guns ; in Big Addah, a 
native town six miles up the Volta, you may see more 
of them lying about the rough, uncared-for streets, 
and you may see here a clump of tamarind trees that 
evidently mark the spot where once the fort has been. 
Not one stone of it remains. The authorities say 
that these " old shells of forts " are not worth pre- 
serving, and the natives have taken them literally at 
their word, and incorporated the very stones in their 
own buildings. 

I am sorry, for Addah at the mouth of the great 
river must have been a great slaving station once ; 



FACING DEATH 301 

trade must have come down the river in the past, 
even as it does now, as it will do, doubled and trebled, 
in the future. 

The house I stayed in was close on the river, 
and my bedroom opened out on to a verandah that 
overlooked it. In the shipbuilding yard below per- 
petually rings the clang of iron on the anvil, for 
always there are ships to be built or repaired; and 
there, grown into a great cotton tree in that yard, 
may be seen the heavy chains that the slavers of old- 
time used to hold their ships to the shore. The 
slavers have gone, the past is dead ; but, knowing 
that wonderful river, I do not mind prophesying that, 
in spite of that dangerous surf, in spite of those 
threatening swamps, there is a big future in store for 
that lonely outpost of the Empire. That sixty-five 
miles of unimpeded waterway that lies between it and 
Akuse is not to be lightly disregarded, and the rich 
country goes far beyond that. 

But, at present, there is not much to see at Addah. 
There is the swamp, apparently miles of it, there is 
a great, wide, mangrove-fringed river, and there are 
the never-to-be-forgotten mosquitoes. The mos- 
quitoes of Addah are the sort that make you feel you 
should go about armed, and that made me feel for once 
that a mosquito-proof house was an actual necessity. 
One thing, there is always a strong breeze blowing at 
Addah, and my hostess was always very particular 
to have her wire-netting swept down carefully every 
day so that every scrap of air that could come in did 
so, and I conclude it was owing to this that I did not 
feel the air so vitiated and oppressive as I have in 
other houses. I hope one of the next public works 
of the Gold Coast will be to fill in that swamp, and 



302 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

so rid the place of those terrible mosquitoes. One 
solace the white people have, if there are mosquitoes, 
there is no undergrowth, and so there are no tsetse 
flies, and they can keep horses. My hostess's two 
solitary amusements — because she was a smiling, 
happy-faced girl she made the best of them — were to 
ride along the beach and to play tennis after it had 
grown cool in the evening, as it always does in Africa 
before the sun goes down. And those sunsets across 
the swamp, too, were something to wonder at. 
Purple and red and gold were they. Every night the 
sun died in a glory over swamp and heath ; every 
morning he rose golden and red across the wide river, 
as if he would say that if Addah had naught else to 
recommend it there was always the eternal beauty of 
the skies. 

But having got there it was rather difficult to get 
away. 

The Sapele, they said, should come and take me 
back to Sekondi or, at least, to Accra, but the Sapele 
did not come, and if my hosts had not been the 
kindest in the world I should have begun to feel un- 
comfortable. I would gladly have gone overland, but 
carriers were not, even though some of my precious 
pots had been broken in the surf, and so my loads 
were reduced. 

But every day there was no steamer, till at last a 
German steamer was signalled, and the bar steamer, 
a steamer of 350 tons, which usually lay at the little 
wharf just outside my bedroom window alongside the 
shipbuilding yard, prepared to go out. All my gear 
was carried down and put on board, and then sud- 
denly the captain appeared on the verandah and 
pointed out to us two waiting women a threatening 



FACING DEATH 303 

dark cloud that was gathering all across the eastern 
sky. 

He shook his head. " I dare not go out till that 
is over." And so we stood and waited and watched 
the storm gather. 

It was a magnificent sight. The inky sky was 
reflected in an inky river, an ominous hush was over 
everything, one felt afraid to breathe, and the half- 
naked workmen in the yard dropped their tools and 
fled to shelter. The household parrot gave one loud 
shriek, and the harsh sound of his call cut into the 
stillness like a knife. 

From the distance we could hear the roaring of 
the surf, as if it were gathering strength, and then 
the grasses in the swamp to the west bent before a 
puff of air that broke on the stillness. There was 
another puff, another, and then the storm was upon 
us in all its spendour. Never have I seen such a 
storm. Though it was only four o'clock in the after- 
noon, it was dark as night, and the lightning cut 
across like jagged flame, there came immediately the 
crash of thunder, and then a mighty roaring wind, a 
wind that swept everything before it, that bent the 
few trees almost to the ground, that stripped them of 
their leaves as if they had been feathers shaken out 
of a bag, that beat the placid river into foam, and 
tore great sheets of corrugated iron from the roofs of 
the buildings and tossed them about the yard as if 
they had been so many strips of muslin. 

The bar steamer's captain had gone at the first 
"Agn to see that his moorings were safe, and we two 
women stood on the verandah and watched the fury 
of the elements, while my hostess wondered where 
her husband was, and hoped and prayed he was not 



304 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

out in it. The inky blackness was all over the sky 
now, the wind was shrieking so as to deaden all other 
sounds, and the only thing we could hear above it 
was the crash of the thunder. And then I looked at 
the horizon away to the south-west. There, about a 
mile away as the crow flies, was the shore, and there 
against the inky darkness of the sky I could see 
tossed high into the air great sheets of foam. The 
surf on that shore must have been terrific. I would 
have given a good deal to go and see it, but, before 
I could make up my mind to start, down came the rain 
in torrents, the horizon was blotted out, the road 
through the swamp was running like a mill race, and 
it looked as if it would be no light task to beat my 
way through wind and rain to the shore. 

And when the storm was subsiding back came the 
bar steamer's captain. 

" No going out to-day," said he ; "I wouldn't dare 
risk the bar. Look at the surf ! " and he pointed 
across the swamp to where we could again see the 
great white clouds of foam rising against the horizon. 
" To-morrow," he said, " very early " ; and he went 
away, and my host, soaked through and through, 
came back and told us what the storm had looked 
like from Beachtown. 

The next morning was simply glorious. The 
world was fresh and clean and newly washed, and the 
river, from my window, looked like a brightly polished 
mirror. 

" It'll be a bad bar, though," said my host, shaking 
his head. " Better stay." 

It was very kind of him, but I felt I had trespassed 
on their kindness long enough ; besides, there were 
other parts of the Coast I wished to see, and I felt 



FACING DEATH 305 

I must take this opportunity of getting out of Addah. 
What was a bad bar? I had faced the surf before. 
So I bid them farewell, with many grateful thanks, 
and went on board, and in all the glory of the morning 
we set off down the river. 

I was the only white passenger on board, and was 
allowed to stand on the bridge beside the wheel. 
Behind me was a little house wherein I might have 
taken shelter, but I thought I might as well see all 
there was to be seen ; besides, I held my camera in 
my hand and proposed to take photographs of this 
" bad bar." 

The mouth of the Volta is utterly lonely looking. 
A long sandpit ran out on the right hand, whereon 
grew a solitary bush, blighted, for there was not a 
sign of a leaf upon it, and to the left was also sand, 
with a few scattered palms. I fancy there must have 
been a native hut or two, though I do not remember 
them, for I remember the captain saying, " We have 
to make our own marks. When you get a hut in 
line with a certain tree you know you are in the 
channel." I was glad to hear there was a channel, 
for to my uninitiated eyes we seemed heading for a 
wild waste of boiling water, worse than anything I 
had ever conceived of, and yet I was not unaccus- 
tomed to surf, and had faced it before now in a 
surf boat. Never again shall I face surf with equa- 
nimity. I tried to carry out my programme, but I fear 
I must have been too upset to withdraw the slides, 
for I got no photographs. Presently we appeared to 
be right in the middle of the swirl. The waves rose 
up like mountains on either side, and towards us 
would come a great smooth green hill of water which 
towered far above our heads and then, breaking, 

u 



306 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

swept right over us with a tremendous crash. I can 
see now the sunlight on that hill ; it made it look like 
green glass, and then, when the foam came, there 
were all the colours of the rainbow. Again and again 
the two men at the wheel were flung off, their cloths 
seemed to be ripped from them as if they had been 
their shells, and the ship trembled from stem to stern 
and stood still. I thought, " Is this a bad bar? I'm 
afraid, I'm afraid," but as the captain came scram- 
bling to the wheel to take the place of the men who 
had been thrown off I did not quite like to say any- 
thing. It is extraordinary how hard it is to make 
one believe there really is anything to fear, and I 
should hate to be a nuisance at a critical moment, 
so I said to the captain — he and I and the German 
engineer were the only white people on board : 
" It's magnificent." 

He was holding on to the wheel by my side and 
a naked black man, stripped by the ruthless water, 
was holding on to it on the other, and I could see 
the moisture on his strained face. Was it sweat or 
sea water? 

" Magnificent! " said he. " Don't you see we can't 
stand it ? We've had enough ! " 

So that was it. We were going down. At least, 
not exactly going down, but the water was battering 
us to pieces. I learned then that what I was afraid of 
was fear, for now I was not afraid. It had come, 
then, I thought. This was the end of the life where 
sometimes I had been so intensely happy and some- 
times I had been so intensely miserable that I had 
wanted to die. Not so very long ago, and now I 
was going to die. Presently those waters that were 
soaking me through and through would wash over 



FACING DEATH 307 

me once for all and I was not even afraid. I thought 
nothing for those few moments, except how strange 
that it was all over. I wondered if I had better go 
into the little house behind me, but no, I saw I was 
not in the way of the men at the wheel. I could hear 
the crashing of broken wood all round me, and I 
thought if I were to be drowned I would rather be 
drowned in the open. Why I held on to my camera 
I do not know. That, I think, was purely mechanical. 
The waves beat on the ship from all quarters, and so 
apparently held her steady, and I might just as well 
hold on to the camera as to anything else. I certainly 
never expected to use it again. Crash, crash, crash 
came the tons of water, there was a ripping of broken 
wood, and a human wail that told me that crew and 
black passengers had realised their danger. Crash, 
crash, crash. It seemed to me the time was going 
very slowly, and then suddenly the ship seemed to 
give a leap forward, and instead of the waves crash- 
ing on to us we were riding over them, and the captain 
seized me by the arm. 

" Come inside. You're wet to the skin." 

" But " 

" We're all right. But, my God, you'll never be 
nearer to it." 

And then I looked around me to see the havoc 
that the bar had wrought. The bulwarks were swept 
away, the boats were smashed, the great crane for 
working cargo was smashed and useless, the galley 
was swept overboard, the top of the engine-house was 
broken in, and, transformation scene, every solitary 
creature on board that little ship, with the exception 
of the captain and me, was stark. Custom-house 
officers had stripped off their uniforms, clerks who 



308 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

had come to tally cargo in all the glory of immaculate 
shirts and high-starched collars were nude, and the 
black men who worked the ship had got rid of their 
few rags as superfluous. Everyone had made ready 
to face the surf. 

" Much good would it have done 'em," opined the 
captain ; " no living thing could have got ashore in 
that sea." 

Then up came the chief engineer, a German ; his 
face was scalded and his eyes were bloodshot, and it 
was to him we all owed our lives. 

The waves had beaten in the top of the engine- 
room, and the water had poured in till it was flush 
with the fires ; a gauge blew out — I am not sure if I 
express myself quite rightly, but the place was full 
of scalding steam, and all those educated negro 
engineers fled, but the white man stuck to his job. 

" I tink it finish," said he, " when I see the water 
come close close to the fires, but I say, ' well, as well 
dis vay as any oder,' so I stick to do my job, an' I not 
see, I do it by feel." 

And we all three shook hands, and the captain 
and engineer had a glass of whisky, and though it was 
so early in the morning, never did I think it was more 
needed. I had been but an onlooker. On them had 
fallen the burden and heat of the day. 

And then came boats, bringing on board the cap- 
tains of the French and German steamers that lay 
in the roadstead, far out, because the surf was so bad. 

They had been watching us. They thought we 
were gone, but though they had out their boats they 
confessed they would have been powerless to aid. 
No boat could have lived in such a sea, and the 
captain declared that though he was swept bare of all 



FACING DEATH 309 

food nothing would induce him to go back. It would 
be certain death. 

We looked a rather forlorn wreck, but the German 
captain came to the rescue with a seaman-like good- 
will, lending men to work the cargo in place of the 
broken-down crane, and giving food to the hungry 
ones. He had come from Lome, and he brought 
news that the hurricane of the night before had swept 
away the bridge that had been the pride and delight 
of the people of Togo, and that never for many a 
long year had there been such a storm along the 
Guinea Coast. He had been unable to get his 
papers and had come away without them. He would 
take me if I liked, but he must go back to Lome. 

But I was rather feeling I had had enough of the 
sea, and so I turned to the Frenchman. He was just 
as kind and courteous. His ship was small, he said, 
and he was not going to Sekondi, but I might tran- 
ship at Accra if I liked. The captain of the bar 
steamer advised my going on board at once, for his 
ship was in a state of confusion, and also he was going 
to tranship cargo. 

Then Grant took a hand in the proceedings. 
Whether he had stripped I don't know, for I did not 
see him, but he presented himself before me in a very 
wet and damp condition. 

" Medicine chest gone, Ma." 

Now, the medicine chest was my soldier brother's, 
the pride of my heart. I had proposed to bring it 
back to him and show him that the only time it had 
been used in this unhealthy climate was when the 
carrier had inadvertantly got cascara for his pneu- 
monia. Well, it was gone, and there was nothing- 
more to be said. Its pristine beauty had been lost in 



310 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

the rains in Togo. Grant departed, but presently he 
was on the bridge again. 

" Pots be all bruck, Ma." 

" Oh, Grant ! " I had got them so far only to 
lose them in the end. Grant was like one of Job's 
comforters. He seemed to take a huge delight in 
announcing to me fresh disasters. My things were 
all done up small for carrying on men's heads, and 
the sea had played havoc with them. The bucket 
was gone ; the kettle, an old and tried servant, was 
gone ; the water-bottle was gone, so was the lantern ; 
the chop box had been burst open, and the plates and 
cups smashed ; while the knives and forks had been 
washed overboard, and the majority of my boots, for 
some reason or other, had followed. After Grant had 
made about his tenth journey, announcing fresh 
disasters, I said : 

" Oh, never mind, Grant. We must make the best 
of it ; I'm rather surprised we are not gone ourselves," 
and with a grin he saw to the handing of the remains 
of my goods into the boat, and getting them on board 
the steamer. 

That steamer was tiny. I looked at the cabin 
assigned me, and determined if I had to sit up all 
night I would not occupy it, and then I had my 
precious black box brought on deck, and proceeded 
to count the damage. It was locked and it was 
supposed to be air-tight and water-tight. I can't say 
about the air-tight, but water-tight it certainly was not, 
for every single thing in that box was soaked through 
and through. I took them out one by one ; then, as 
no one said me nay, I tied them on to the taffrail, and 
let my garments flutter out in the breeze and the sun- 
shine. There were four French women on board, 



FACING DEATH 311 

bound from the French Congo to Konakri, and they 
took great interest and helped me with suggestions 
and advice, but I must say I was glad that I was bound 
for Sekondi, where my kind friend the nursing Sister 
was keeping fresh garments for me. As for my poor 
little typewriter, it was so drenched with water that, 
though I stood it out in the sun, I foresaw its career 
in West Africa was over. 

As the sun was setting, came on board the captain 
of the bar steamer to bid me God-speed. We had 
never met till the day before, but that morning we 
had faced death together, and it made a bond. 

" Go back to-night? " said he; "not if I know it. 
Not for a week, if that surf doesn't go down. I 
couldn't face it." 

I wanted him to stay and dine, because I knew he 
had nothing, but he told me how good the German 
had been, and said he did not like leaving his own 
ship after dark ; so we said " good-bye " with, I hope, 
mutual respect, and, after dinner, I began to consider 
how I should spend the night. I knew my own 
bedding must be rather wet, but I knew, also, the 
camp-bed would be all right, and I told Grant to 
bring it up on deck and make it up with bedding from 
the Frenchman's bunk. 

' They no give you cabin, Ma," said he, surprised. 

Nothing would induce a child of Nature to sleep in 
the open as long as he can find any sort of a cuddy- 
hole to stew in. I was a little afraid of what the 
French captain might say, but he took my eccen- 
tricity calmly enough. 

"Ah, zat your bed? Ah, zat is good idea"; and 
left me to a night rolling beneath the stars, when I 
tossed and dreamed and woke with a start, thinking 



312 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

that the great green hills of water were about to 
overwhelm me ; and " ^as about twenty times more 
terrified of the dream than I had been of the reality. 

Next morning found us outside Accra, a long way 
outside, because the surf was bad, and I found to 
my dismay there was no mail in yet, and I must land, 
for there was no cargo for the Gergovia, and she 
wanted to go on her way. 

I found the landing terrible. I can frankly say 
I have never been so frightened, and I had no nerve 
left to stand up against the fear. But it was done. 
I saw my friend in Accra, and again recounted with 
delight my travels. For the first time I began to feel 
I had done something, and I felt it still more when 
the people in Schenk & Barber's, a great trading firm, 
held up their hands and declared that I had done a 
wonderful thing to cross by Krobo Hill at night. I 
had done well, then, I kept saying to myself, I had 
accomplished something; but I must admit I was 
most utterly done. When the mail steamer arrived, 
the port officer made it his business to see me off to 
the ship himself; we were drenched to the skin as 
we rounded the breakwater, and I was so nervous 
when the mammy-chair came dangling overhead from 
the ship's deck, that I hear he reported I was the 
worst traveller he had ever been on board with. 
Then, in addition to my woes, instead of being able 
to sit and chat and tell my adventures comfortably 
to the friends I met, I was, for the first time for many 
a long year, most violently seasick. 

But, when I went to bed, I slept dreamlessly, and 
when I awakened we were rising to the swell outside 
Sekondi, and I felt that even if I had to face the surf 
again I should be among friends presently, and there 



FACING DEATH 313 

was a feeling of satisfaction in the thought that I had 
at least seen something of the most beautiful river in 
the world, and some unknown country in the east of 
the Colony. 

Always there is that in life, for, good or evil, 
nothing can take away what we have done. We have 
it with us, good or bad, for ever. Not Omnipotence 
can alter the past. 



CHAPTER XX 

WITH A COMPANION 

The kindness of Sekondi — Swanzy's to the rescue — A journey to 
Dixcove — With a nursing Sister — The rainy season and wet 
feet — Engineering a steep hill in the dark — Rains and 
brilliant fireflies — The P.W.D. man's taste in colours — The 
need of a woman in West Africa — Crossing the Whin River 
— My fresh-air theory confirmed. 

Sekondi, from the nursing Sister outwards, was as it 
always has been, awfully good to me, and I felt as 
if I were come home. I had the kindest offers of help 
from all sides, and the railway company took my 
damaged goods in hand and did their level best to 
repair damages. I was bound for the goldfields and 
Ashanti, but I had still uneasily in my remembrance 
that little bit of coast to the west of Sekondi that I 
had left unvisited. If I had not written so much 
already about the carrier difficulties, I might really 
write a book, that to me would be quite interesting, 
about that day's journey to Dixcove. Swanzy's tran- 
sport came to the rescue and provided me with 
carriers, a most kindly gift, for which I am for ever 
grateful, and I took with me a young nursing Sister 
who was anxious to see something of bush travel. 

There is always a fascination about the shore, the 
palm trees and the yellow sand and the blue sky and 
bluer sea, but now the difficulties were being added 
to daily and hourly, because it was the beginning of 

314 




PALMS AND SAM) \\I> SEA ON THE WAY TO DIXCOVE 



WITH A COMPANION 315 

the rainy season, and all the little rivers had " broken 
out," and to cross from one bank to another when a 
river is flooded, even if it is only a little one, is as 
a rule no easy matter. To my great amusement I 
found my companion had a great objection to get- 
ting her feet wet. I am afraid I laughed most un- 
sympathetically. 

" You can't," I decided, and I fear she thought me 
a brute, " travel in the rainy season in Africa and hope 
to keep dry " ; and I exhorted her not to mind if the 
water were up to her ankles, but to wade through. 
She brought home to me difficulties of travel that 
I had never thought of before. It had never occurred 
to me to worry as to whether I was likely to get 
wet before ; a little water or a little discomfort 
never seemed to matter. The seat of the canoe I 
was sitting in broke and let me down into the waist- 
deep puddle of water in the bottom, and somehow 
it seemed a less thing to me than that her feet should 
get wet did to her. She was a nice, good-looking 
girl, pleasant and smiling, but I decided that never 
again as long as I lived would I travel with another 
woman. I know my own shortcomings, but I never 
know where another woman will break out. 

And we went along that coast, where, two hundred 
years ago, quaint, gossipy old Bosman had found so 
much of beauty and interest. Tacorady Fort was 
deserted in his day. It is overgrown and forgotten 
now. Boutry is on a high hill, the place of the old 
fort only marked by a thick clump of trees, dark- 
green against the sky line ; but it was getting dark 
when we reached Boutry, there was a river to cross, 
and I was obsessed with a sense of my responsi- 
bilities, such as I had never felt when I had only my 



316 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

own skin to look after, and I was very thankful that a 
doctor who was going to Dixcove had overtaken us. 
If I damaged my travelling companion in any way, 
I felt that he at least could share responsibility. We 
crossed the river, and the darkness fell, pitchy, black 
darkness ; it rained in a businesslike way as it does 
in the Tropics, and there was a high hill to climb. It 
was a very steep hill, with a very shocking track that 
did duty as a road, and my companion expressed her 
utter inability to get up it. I was perfectly sure that 
our Kroo hammock-boys could never get us up 
it, and I was inclined to despair ; then that doctor 
came to our aid. He had four Mendi boys, the best 
carriers on the Coast, and we put them on to my com- 
panion's hammock, and gaily she went off. She knew 
nothing of the dangers of the way. I did, but I did not 
feel it necessary to enlighten her. I don't know what 
the doctor did, but I put on my Burberry and in- 
structed two of my carriers that they must help me 
over the road. It was a road. When I came back 
over it in the light, three days later, I wondered 
how on earth we had tackled it in the dark ; still more 
did I wonder how a heavily laden hammock — for she 
was a strapping young woman, a good deal bigger than 
I am — had been engineered up and down it. But 
Mendi carriers are wonderful, and there was a certain 
charm in walking there in the night. When the rain 
stopped, the fireflies came out, and the gloom beneath 
the trees was lightened by thousands of brilliant 
sparks of fire. I don't know whether fireflies are more 
brilliant after rain, but I remember them most dis- 
tinctly on those two wet nights when I was travelling, 
once on my way to Dixcove and once on the way to 
Palime. 



WITH A COMPANION 317 

Up the hill we went and down the hill, along the 
sands, across the shallows of a river just breaking 
out — and the lantern light gleamed wetly on the sand 
— through little sleepy villages and across more hilly 
country, and at last, just as the moon was rising 
stormily in the clouded sky, we were opposite a long 
flight of wide steps, and knew we had reached 
Dixcove. 

There was one white man, a P.W.D. man, in Dix- 
cove, and a surprised man was he. Actually, two 
women had come out of the night and flung them- 
selves upon him. Of course, we had brought servants 
and provisions and beds, so it was only a question of 
providing quarters. Now I smile when I think of 
it. We crossed the courtyard, we climbed the stairs, 
we entered the modern house that was built on top 
of the little fort, and out of a sort of whirlpool a 
modified disorder emerged, when we found ourselves, 
two men and two women, by the light of a fluttering, 
chimneyless Hinkson lamp, all assembled in the 
room that two camp-beds proclaimed the women's 
bedroom, and we all partook of a little whisky to 
warm ourselves while we waited for dinner. The 
P.W.D. man was fluttered and, I think, pleased, for 
at least our coming broke the monotony, and the 
nursing Sister undertook the commissariat and inter- 
viewed his cook. Altogether we made a cheerful 
little week-end party in that romote corner of the 
earth, and when it rained, as rain it did most of the 
time, we played bridge as if we had been in London. 

Dixcove is a pretty little place, literally a cove, 
and the fort is built on high ground on a neck of 
land that forms the head of the cove. Round it grow 
many orange groves, and altogether it is a desirable 



318 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

and delightful spot, but it must be very lonely for 
the only white man who was there. He had just re- 
painted the bungalow on top of the fort, and whether 
he had used up the odds and ends of paints, or 
whether this was his taste, or whether he had desired 
something to cheer him, or whether he was actu- 
ated by the same spirit that seems to move impres- 
sionist painters, I do not know, but when I got up 
next morning and walked on the bastion, that bunga- 
low fairly took my breath away. It was painted 
whole-heartedly a violent Reckitt's blue ; the uprights 
and the other posts that criss-crossed across it were a 
bright vivid green, and they were all picked out in 
pink. There was the little white fort set in the midst 
of tropical greenery, everything beautiful, with the 
bungalow on top setting the discordant note. It was 
pitiful, but at the same time the effect was so comic 
that the nursing Sister and I laughed till we cried, 
and then our host came out and could not understand 
what we were laughing about. We came to the 
charitable conclusion he must be colour-blind. 

The two men wanted us to stay. They said it was 
more comfortable, and when I compared the luncheon 
the doctor gave us to the meals we had when I pro- 
vided the eatables and the nursing Sister gave her 
attention to the cuisine, I must say I agreed with 
them, and resolved once again to proclaim the 
absolute necessity for having women in West Africa. 
But she had to go back to her work, and I had to go 
on my travels, and so, like the general who marched 
his army up the hill and marched it down again, 
presently I was on my way back. And not a 
moment too soon. It was raining when we started, 
and our host and the doctor pressed us to stay, but 



WITH A COMPANION 319 

I had not been on the Coast all this time without 
knowing very well what that rain would mean. The 
rivers that had been trickles when we set out would 
be roaring torrents now, and I knew in a little time 
they would be impassable ; then the only thing would 
be to go back to Sekondi by surf boat, and I had had 
enough of the surf to last me for many a long day. 
Besides, our provisions were getting low. We started 
early ; we had less to carry, for we had eaten most of 
the provisions, and we had more men, for we brought 
back most of the doctor's following, but still it took 
us all we knew to get across those rivers, and the 
Whin River was nearly too much for us. It had 
been bad when we came, now the sea was racing 
across the sands, the flooded, muddy water of the 
river was rushing to meet it, and the two black 
men who were working a surf boat as a ferry 
came and asked an exorbitant sum to take us 
across. My headman demurred and said we wouldn't 
go. I left it to him, and the bargaining was con- 
ducted in the usual slatternly Coast English at the 
top of their voices. I must confess, as my companion 
and I sat on the sand and watched the wild waters, 
I wondered what we would do if we did not cross, 
for Dixcove was fully fourteen miles behind us. 
Down came the price by slow degrees, in approved 
fashion, till at last it appeared I, my companion, our 
goods, chattels, hammocks, and our followers, num- 
bering fully twenty men, were to be taken across for 
the sum of two shillings and sixpence. I sent the gear 
first, and then some of the men, and finally the nursing 
Sister and I went. Unfortunately there was not room 
in the boat for the two last men, and I could not help 
being amused when the ferryman came to be paid, and 



320 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

the men all clustered round vehemently demanding 
that I should do no such thing till their two com- 
panions were also brought ove*\ Not a scrap of faith 
had they in the ferryman keeping his word, so I had 
to sit down on the sand among the short, coarse grass 
and the long stalks of the wandering bean, and wait 
till those two men were fetched, when I paid up, and 
we went on to Sekondi. 

The journey was short ; it is hardly worth record- 
ing, hardly worth remembering, but for those wonder- 
ful fireflies, and for another thing that bears strongly 
on my theory regarding health in West Africa. 

The nursing Sister I took with me was a tall, good- 
looking girl, considerably younger than I am, and 
she looked as if she ought to have been very much 
stronger. She had barely been on the Coast a short 
three months, but she had already had one or two 
goes of fever, a thing I have never had, and she did 
not like it. She was very careful of herself, and she 
abominated the climate. At night I noticed she 
shut herself away from all chance of draughts, draw- 
ing curtains and shutting doors so as to insure herself 
against chill. When we started on our journey she 
was not well, " the climate was not agreeing with 
her," and they were beginning to think she " could 
not stand it." We spent a day in the open and we 
got somewhat wet. When night came we shared a 
room and she wanted to close, at least, a shutter. 
Partly that was to have privacy and partly to keep 
away draughts. Then I brutally put down my foot. 
I considered it dangerous to be shut in in Africa, and 
as I was engineering that expedition I thought I 
ought to have my way. One thing I did not insist 
upon, I did not have the windows open all round, 



WITH A COMPANION 321 

but I had them wide on two sides, so that a thorough 
draught might blow through the room. My bed I 
put right in it, but I allowed her to put hers in the 
most sheltered part of the room she could find, and, 
of course, I could not prevent her wrapping her head 
in a blanket. 

She put in those two nights in fear and trembling, 
I know, but she went back to Sekondi in far better 
health than she had left it. That she acknowledged 
herself, but she does not like Africa ; the charm of 
it had passed her by, and I wonder very rrnch if she 
will complete her term of service. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE WEST-AFRICAN GOLDFIELDS 

A first adventure — Tarkwa — Once more Swanzy to the rescue — 
Women thoroughly contented, independent, and well-to-do — 
The agricultural wealth of the land — The best bungalow in 
West Africa — Crusade against the trees — Burnt in the fur- 
naces — Prestea — The sick women — A ghastly hill — Eduaprim 
— A capable fellow-countrvwoman — •" Dollying " for gold 
— Obuasi — Beautiful gardens — 75 per cent. — The sensible 
African snail. 

I was born and brought up on the goldfields. My 
first adventure — I don't remember it — was when my 
nurse, a strapping young emigrant from the Emerald 
Isle, lost me and herself upon the ranges, and the 
camp turned out to search, lest the warden's precious 
baby and her remarkably pretty nurse should spend 
an unhappy night in the bush. As a small girl, 
I watched the men wash the gold in their cradles, 
and I dirtied my pinafore when the rain turned the 
mullock heaps into slimy mud. As I grew older, I 
escorted strangers from the Old Country who wanted 
to go down the deep mines of Ballarat. I watched, 
perforce, the fluctuations of the share market, and 
men who knew told me that the rise and fall had very 
often nothing whatever to do with the output of gold ; 
so that I grew up with the firmly fixed idea — it is still 
rather firmly fixed — that the most uninteresting in- 
dustry in the world was goldmining. 

Wherefore was I not a bit keen on going to the gold- 

322 



THE GOLDFIELDS 323 

mines of West Africa, and I only went to Tarkwa 
because I felt it would never do to come away not 
having seen an industry which I am told is going 
up by leaps and bounds. The question was, where 
could I go for quarters ? There are no hotels as yet, 
and once more I am deeply indebted to Messrs Swanzy 
and their agent in the mining centre of the Gold Coast. 
He put me up and entertained me right royally, and 
not only did he show me round Tarkwa, but he saw 
to it that I should have every chance to see some of 
the other mines, Prestea and Eduaprim. 

Tarkwa is set in what we in Australia should 
call a gully, and the high hills rise up on either 
side, while the road, along which straggles the Euro- 
pean town, runs at the' bottom of the gully. For 
there are several towns in Tarkwa. There is the 
European town where are all the. stores, the rail- 
way station, and the houses of the Government 
officials, and in this town there is some attempt at 
beautifying the place ; some trees have been planted 
along the roadside, grass grows on the hillsides, 
whether by the grace of God or the grace of the town 
council I know not, and round most of the bungalows 
there is generally a sort of garden, and notably in 
one or two, where there are white women who have 
accompanied their husbands, quite promising begin- 
nings of tropical gardens. 

There is the native town, bare and ugly, without a 
scrap of green, just streets cutting each other at right 
angles, and small houses, roofed with corrugated iron 
or thatch, and holding a teeming and mixed popula- 
tion that the mines gather together, and then every 
mine has its own village for its workers ; for the labour 
difficulty has reached quite an acute stage in the gold- 



324 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

fields, and the mines often import labour from the north, 
which they install in little villages, that are known by 
the name of the mine where the men work, and are 
generally ruled over by a white officer appointed by 
the mine. These villages, too, are about as bare and 
ugly as anything well could be that is surrounded by 
the glorious green hills and has the blue sky of Africa 
over it. 

Tarkwa gives the impression of a busy, thriving 
centre ; trains rush along the gully and the hills echo 
their shrill whistles, the roadways are thronged with 
people, and the stores set out their goods in that open 
fashion that is half-eastern, so that the hesitating 
buyer may hesitate no longer but buy the richest 
thing in sight. In all my travels I never saw such 
gorgeously arrayed mammies as here. The black 
ladies' cloths, their blouses, and the silken kerchiefs 
with which they covered their heads, all gave the 
impression of having been carefully studied, and my 
host assured me they had. Many of them are rich, 
and in this comfortable country they are all of them 
self-supporting wives. They sell their wares, or 
march about the streets, happy, contented, important 
people, very sure of themselves. Let no one run 
away with the impression that these women are in 
any way down-trodden. They look very much the 
reverse. We may not approve of polygamy, but I 
am bound to say these women of Tarkwa were no 
down-trodden slaves. They looked like women who 
had exactly what they wanted, and, curiously enough 
whenever I think of thoroughly contented, thoroughly 
independent, well-to-do women, I think of those 
women in the goldmining centre of West Africa. 

My host told me they spent, comparatively speak- 



THE GOLDFIELDS 325 

ing, enormous sums on their personal adornment, 
were exceedingly particular as to the shade and pat- 
tern of their cloths, and were decided that everything, 
cloth, blouse, and head kerchief, should tone properly. 
They lay in a large store of clothes too, and when Mr 
Crockett wrote the other day of " The Lady of the 
Hundred Dresses," he might have been thinking 
of one of these Fanti women. The reason of this 
prosperity is of course easy to trace. The negro does 
not like working underground, for which few people 
I think will blame him, therefore high wages have to 
be paid, and these high wages have to be spent, 
and are spent lavishly, much to the advantage of these 
women traders. 

Because Tarkwa is a great centre of industry, 
Government have very wisely made it one of their 
agricultural stations, and there, set on a hill, and run- 
ning down into rich alluvial flats, are gardens where- 
in grow many of the plants that will in the future 
contribute largely to the industrial development of 
the Colony. There is a rubber plantation, a great 
grove of dark trees already in bearing, plantations of 
bananas, pine-apples, hemp, and palm trees, and the 
director, set in his lonely little bungalow on the hill- 
top, rejoices over the wealth and fertility of the land, 
which he declares is not in her gold, but in her agri- 
cultural products which as yet we are but dimly 
realising, and then he mourns openly because the 
Government will not let him bring out his wife. " She 
would be ready to start in an hour if I might send for 
her," he sighed, " and I would want nothing more. 
But I mayn't. Oh, think of the dreary days. And I 
could work so much better if she were here. I should 
want nothing else." 



326 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

And I sympathised. Think of the dreary days 
for him, and the still more dreary days for her, for at 
least he has his work. It would surely I think pay 
the Government to give a bonus to the woman who 
proved that she could see her year out without com- 
plaint, and who was to her husband what a woman 
ought to be, a help and a comfort. 

Another thing in Tarkwa I shall never forget 
is Messrs Swanzy's bungalow, where I stayed for 
nearly a fortnight. My host had superintended the 
building of it himself, and it was ideal for a West- 
African bungalow. It was built of cement raised 
on arches above the ground ; floors and walls were 
of cement. There was a very wide verandah that 
served as a sitting-room and dining-room, and the bed- 
rooms, though they were divided from each other by 
stout walls of cement, were only shut off from the 
verandah by Venetian screens that could be folded 
right away. They did not begin till a foot above the 
floor, and ended six feet above it, consequently there 
was always a thorough draught of air, and Messrs 
Swanzy's bungalow at Tarkwa is about the only house 
I know in West Africa where one can sleep with as 
much comfort as if in the open air. Needless to say, 
they are not so foolish as to go in for mosquito-proof 
netting. They keep the mosquitoes down by keep- 
ing the place round neat and tidy, and though the 
verandah is enclosed with glass, it is done in such 
fashion that the windows may be thrown right open 
and do not hinder the free passage of air. Flies and 
mosquitoes there were, but that, when I was there, 
was attributed to the presence of the town rubbish 
tip on the next vacant allotment, and my host hoped 
to get it taken away. Why the Government had a 




- 

■ i — 



THE GOLDFIELDS 327 

town rubbish tip close to the handsomest bungalow 
in the Colony, I do not pretend to say. It was just 
one of those things that are always striking you as 
incongruous in West Africa My host used to fret 
and fume at every evil fly that came through his 
windows, and, when I left, was threatening to stand 
a gang of Hausas round that tip with orders to kick 
anyone who desired to deposit any more rubbish 
there. 

It is hardly necessary to say there had been at the 
same time a great crusade against the trees in Tarkwa. 
But a short time ago the whole place had been dense 
forest, very difficult to work, and after the usual fashion 
of the English everyone set to work to demolish the 
forest trees as if they were the greatest enemies to 
civilisation. The mines, of course, I believe burn 
something like a hundred trees a day, and the soft- 
wood trees are no good to them. What their furnaces 
require are the splendid mahogany, the still harder 
kaku, a beautiful wood that is harder than anything 
but iron, and indeed any good hard-wood tree ; the 
worth of the wood is no business of theirs. They 
consider the wealth of Africa lies beneath the soil, 
and they must get it out ; wherefore into their 
furnaces goes everything burnable, even though 
the figured mahogany may be worth £\ a foot, 
and the tree be worth ^iooo. It is a pity, it is a 
grievous pity, but Tarkwa is certainly prosperous, 
and I suppose one cannot make omelettes, and look 
for chickens. Only I cannot help remembering 
that never in our time, nor in our children's time, 
nor their children's time, will the hills of Tarkwa 
be covered with such trees as she has ruthlessly 
consigned to the flames. Even the soft-wood trees 



328 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

such as the cotton, that might have added beauty to the 
slopes, have gone because an energetic doctor waged 
war upon them as shelterers of the mosquito, and the 
hill-sides lie in the blazing sun for close on twelve hours 
of a tropical day. Oh for a sensible, artistic German 
to come and see to the beautifying of Tarkwa, for 
never saw I a place that could lend itself more readily 
to the hand of an artist. 

But if Tarkwa is being ruthlessly treated, what shall 
I say of beautiful Prestea, which lies but a short 
railway journey right away in the heart of the hills. 
Prestea is a great mine, so large that the whole of 
the one hundred and eighty white people who 
make up the white town are employed upon it. 
It is so hilly that there are hardly any paths, and 
the people seem to move about on trolleys, wind- 
ing in and out of the hills, and, it was reported 
once, one of the unhealthiest places in West Africa. 
The doctor very kindly gave me hospitality, and we 
promptly agreed to disagree on every subject. I 
hate to be ungracious to people who have been kind 
to me, but with all the will in the world I have to 
keep my own opinion, and my opinion was diametri- 
cally opposed to the doctor's. The nursing Sister 
who ran the hospital, a nice-looking, capable, sensible 
Scotch woman, whom it did my heart good to meet, 
was one of the few I have met who put the sickness 
of the average English woman in West Africa down 
to the same causes as I did. 

" They come from a class who have nothing to 
think of, and when they have nothing to do they 
naturally fall sick," said she. " Every woman on this 
camp has been sent home this year." 

I debated with her whether I should give my 



THE GOLDFIELDS 329 

opinion of the climate to the world in my book. It 
meant I was up against every doctor in the place, 
who ought to know better than I, a stranger, and a 
sojourner. 

" If you don't," said she, " someone else will come 
along presently and do it." 

That decided me. I am doing it. 

This nursing Sister, while she had to have the 
hospital mosquito-proof, in deference to the doctor's 
opinion, sternly declined to have any such abomina- 
tion anywhere near her little bungalow, and so the 
cool, fresh night air blew in through her great win- 
dows, and we had an extensive view of the glorious 
hillsides, all clothed in emerald green, and if a clammy 
white mist wrapped us close when we waked in the 
early morning so that we could not see beyond our 
own verandahs, the rolling away of that mist was a 
gorgeous sight, ever to be remembered. 

Needless to say, the doctor's house was carefully 
enclosed in mosquito-proof wire, and I dined in an 
oppressive atmosphere that nearly drove me dis- 
tracted. The bungalow was set high on a hilltop, 
in the middle of a garden that should one day be 
beautiful, but he has of course cut down every 
native tree, and owing to the mosquito-proof wire 
we got no benefit from the cool breeze that was 
blowing outside. He took me to see the new native 
village he was building, a place that left an impression 
of corrugated iron and hard-baked clay. Trees, of 
course, and all vegetation were taboo, but I am bound 
in justice to say that the old village, a place teeming 
with inhabitants, drawn from all corners of West Africa, 
attracted by the lust for gold, was just as bare and 
ugly, and a good deal more unkempt. 



330 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

He took me out, and pointed out to me the principal 
hill in the centre of Prestea, on which are the mining 
manager's and other officials' houses, and he pointed 
it out with pride. 

" There's a nice clean hill for you." 

The sun glared down fiercely on corrugated-iron 
roofs, the soil of the hill looked like a raw, red scar, 
and there was not so much as a blade of grass to be 
seen. I did not wonder that the unfortunate women 
of Prestea had gone home sick if they had been com- 
pelled to live in such a place. 

I said, " It's a horrible place. I never saw a 
beautiful place more utterly spoiled." 

He looked at me with surprise, and his surprise 
was thoroughly genuine. " Why, what's the matter ? 
It's nice and clean." 

I pointed to the beautiful hills all round. 

" Mosquitoes," said he, with a little snort for my 
ignorance. 

" But you want some shade ? " 

He shook his head doubtfully. 

" You can't have trees. The boys would leave 
pots under them. Breeding places for mosquitoes." 

He was my host, so I did not like to say all I felt. 

" I'd rather die of fever than sunstroke any day," 
was the way it finally came out. 

" My dear lady," he said judicially, as one who was 
correcting a long-standing error, " no one dies of fever 
in Africa." 

" Exactly what I always maintain," said I ; " you, 
with your ghastly hills are arranging for them to die 
of sunstroke." 

But he only reiterated that they could not have 
the trees, because the boys would leave pots and 










\l * 




THE GOLDFIELDS 331 

pans under them, and so turn them into mosquito 
traps. Personally, I didn't arrive at the logic of that, 
because it has never seemed to me to require trees 
for boys to leave pots about. The theory was, I 
suppose, that they would not walk out into the hot 
sun, while they might be tempted to do work and 
make litter under shade-trees. And again I did not 
wonder that there were no women save the nursing 
Sister in Prestea. To live on that hill and keep one's 
health would have been next door to impossible. 

" It doesn't matter," said the doctor, " we don't 
want women in West Africa. I keep my wife at 
home. It isn't a white man's country." 

But I'm bound to say that they very often arrange 
it shall not be a white man's and emphatically not 
a white woman's country. It suits somebody's plan 
that the country should have an evil reputation. 

Goldfields, too, must never be judged in the same 
category as one judges the ordinary settlements in a 
country. When I was a tiny child I learned to dis- 
criminate, and to know that " diggers " must not be 
judged by the rules that guide the conduct of ordinary 
men. The population of a goldfield are a wild and 
reckless lot, and they lead wild and utterly reckless 
lives, and die in places where other people manage to 
live happily enough. 

When the gold first " broke out " in Victoria, my 
father was Gold Commissioner on the Buckland 
River, among the mountains in the north-eastern 
district, and I have heard him tell how the men used 
to die like flies of " colonial " fever, and the theory 
was that there was some emanation from the dense 
vegetation that was all around them. Nowadays 
the Buckland is one of the healthiest spots in a very 



332 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

healthy country, and no one ever gets fever of any 
sort there. Now I do not wish to say that West 
Africa is one of the healthiest countries in the world, 
but I do say that men very very often work their 
own undoing. 

' You should see Tarkwa," said a man to me, who 
was much of my way of thinking, " when an alcoholic 
wave has passed over it ! " 

Eduaprim was another mine I went to see from 
Tarkwa. But it was in direct contrast to Prestea, 
though it too was in the heart of the forest country. 
No railway led to it ; I had to go by hammock, 
and so I got my first taste of forest travelling, and 
enjoyed it immensely. 

It is a solitary mine about nine miles from Tarkwa, 
and I started off early in the morning, and noticed as 
I went that the industry is, for good or ill, clearing 
the forests of West Africa, opening up the dark 
places, even as it did in my country over fifty years 
ago. Along the hillsides we went to Eduaprim, past 
mines and clearings for mining villages ; sometimes 
the road was cut, a narrow track on the side of the 
hill, with the land rising up on one side and falling 
sheer on the other, sometimes a little river had to be 
bridged, and the road went on tunnel-like through 
the forest that must disappear before the furnaces, 
but at last I arrived at the top of the hill, and on it, 
commanding a wonderful view over the surrounding 
country, stood a bungalow, in a garden that looked 
over the tops of range upon range of high hills. I 
saw a storm come sweeping across the country, break 
and divide at the hilltop upon which I stood, and 
pass on, veiling the green hills in mist, which rolled 
away from the hills behind, leaving them smiling and 




i IN I HE W \V TO EDUAPRIM, 



THE GOLDFIELDS 333 

washed and clean under a blue sky. If for no other 
sight than that, that journey into the hills was worth 
making. The wife of the manager of the mine was 
a fellow-countrywoman of mine. She liked West 
Africa, kept her health there, and felt towards it 
very much as I did. No one likes great heat. The 
unchanging temperature is rather difficult to bear 
for one unaccustomed to it, but she thought it might 
be managed by a woman interested in her work and 
her husband, and as for the other discomforts — like 
me, she smiled at them. ' The people who grumble 
should live in Australia," said she, " and do their own 
work, cooking, washing, scrubbing. Do it for a week 
with the temperature averaging ioo degrees in the 
shade, and they wouldn't grumble at West Africa, and 
wouldn't dream of being sick." And yet this contented 
woman must have led a very lonely life. Some 
wandering man connected with the mines, or a stray 
Commissioner, would come to see her occasionally, 
and the news of the world would come on men's 
heads from Tarkwa. And, of course, I suppose there 
was always the mine, which was her husband's liveli- 
hood. They took me into the bush behind the 
bungalow and showed me a great mahogany tree 
they had cut down, and then they showed me what I 
had seen many and many a time in my life before, 
but never in Africa — men washing the sand for gold. 
They were " dollying " it first, that is crushing the 
hard stone in iron vessels and then washing it, and 
the " show," I could see for myself, was very good. 

I lingered in Eduaprim ; the charm of talking with 
a woman who found joy in making a home in the 
wilderness was not to be lightly foregone, and I only 
went when I remembered that it was the rainy season, 



334 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

the roads were bad, and Tarkwa was away over those 
forbidding hills. 

And from Tarkwa I went up the line to Obuasi. 

This railway line that runs from Sekondi to 
Kumasi, the capital of Ashanti, is a wonderful 
specimen of its class. Every day sees some improve- 
ment made, but, being a reasonable being, I cannot 
help wondering what sort of engineers laid it out. It 
presents no engineering difficulties, but it was ex- 
tremely costly, and meanders round and round like 
a corkscrew. They are engaged now in straighten- 
ing it, but still they say that when the guard wants a 
light for his pipe all he has to do is to lean out of 
his van and get it from the engine. It was laid 
through dense forest, but the forest is going rapidly, 
the trees being used up for fuel. In the early days, too, 
these trees were a menace, for again and again, when a 
fierce tornado swept across the land, the line would 
be blocked by fallen trees, a casualty that grows less 
and less frequent as the forest recedes. When first 
the line was opened they tell me all passengers were 
notified that they must bring food and bedding, as 
the company could not guarantee their being taken 
to their destination. There is also the story of the 
distracted but pious negro station-master, who tele- 
graphed to headquarters, " Train lost, but by God's 
help hope to find it." It is a single line of 168 miles, 
so I conclude his trust in the Deity was not misplaced. 

Obuasi, on the borders of Ashanti, is the great mine 
of West Africa, a mine that pays, I think, something 
like 75 per cent, on its original shares, and even at 
their present value pays 12 per cent. It is enough 
to set everyone looking for gold in West Africa. 

And like Prestea, Obuasi is the mine, and the mine 



THE GOLDFIELDS 335 

only. There are, I think, between eighty and one hun- 
dred white men, all, save the few Government officials 
and storekeepers, in some way or another connected 
with the mine, and the place at night looks like a 
jewel set in the midst of the hills, for it is lighted by 
electricity. Every comfort of civilisation seems to 
be here, save and except the white woman, who is 
conspicuous by her absence. " We want no white 
women," seems to be the general opinion ; an 
opinion, I deeply regret to say, warranted by my 
experience of the average English woman who goes 
to West Africa. 

The place is all hill and valley, European bunga- 
lows built on the hills, embowered generally in 
charming gardens such as one sees seldom in the 
Colony, and the native villages — for there are about 
five thousand black men on the books of the mine — in 
the valleys. There are miles of little tramway rail- 
ways too, handling about 35,000 tons a month, more, 
they tell me, than the Government railway does, and 
the mine pays Government a royalty of ,£25,000 
a year. 

Obuasi is a fascinating, beautiful place ; I should 
have liked to have spent a month there, but it is not 
savagery. It is as civilised in many ways as London 
itself. I stayed in the mining manager's bungalow, 
and am very grateful to him for his hospitality, and 
the manager's bungalow is a most palatial place, set 
on the top of a high hill in the midst of a beautiful 
garden. Palm and mango and grape-fruit trees, 
flamboyant, palms, dahlias, corallita, crotons, and 
roses, the most beautiful roses in the world, red, white, 
yellow, pink, everywhere ; a perfect glory of roses is 
his garden, and the view from the verandah is delight- 



336 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

ful. His wide and spacious rooms are panelled with 
the most beautiful native woods, and looking at it 
with the eyes of a passer-by, I could see nothing but 
interest in the life of the man who had put in a year 
there. He will object strongly, I know, to my writing 
in praise of anything West-African, and say what can 
I know about it in a brief tour. True enough, what can 
I know ? But at least I have seen many lands, and I 
am capable of making comparisons. 

Every man I met here pointed out to me the evils 
of life in Africa. 

" You make the very worst of it," said I, and pro- 
ceeded to tell the story of a bridge party in a Coast 
town that began at three o'clock on Friday afternoon 
and ended up at ten o'clock on Monday morning. 

" And if those men have fever," said I, feeling I 
had clinched my argument, " they will set it down to 
the beastly climate." 

" So it is," said my opponent emphatically ; " we 
could always do that sort of thing in Buluwayo." 

I thereby got the deepest respect for the climate 
of Buluwayo, and a most doubtful estimate of the 
character of the pioneer Englishman. Perhaps I 
look on these things with a woman's narrow outlook, 
but I'm not a bit sorry for the men who cannot dis- 
sipate without paying for it in Africa. I heartily wish 
them plenty of fever. 

The manager took me on a trolley along one of 
these little lines, right away into the hills. This was 
a new form of progression. A seat for two people 
was fixed on a platform and pushed along the line, 
uphill or on the flat, by three or four negroes, and 
fairly flew by its own weight downhill. It was a 
delightful mode of progression, and as we flew along 




nfellttir 



THE GOLDFIELDS 337 

my host, while pointing out the sights, endeavoured 
to convert me, not to the faith that West Africa was 
unfit for the white woman, that would have been 
impossible, but that the mining industry was a very 
great one and most useful to the Colony. And here 
he succeeded. I admired the forests and regretted 
their going, but he showed me the farms that had 
taken their place. Bananas and maize and cassada, 
said he truly enough, were far more valuable to the 
people than the great, dark forests they had cleared 
away — ten people could live now where one had lived 
before ; and so we rolled on till we came to the Justice 
mine, where all the hillside seemed to be worked, a 
mine that has been paying ,£10,000 a month for the 
last three years. Truly, it is a wonderful place, that 
Obuasi mine with its nine shafts, an industry in the 
heart of savage Africa. They pay £ 11,000 a week 
in wages, and when I was thinking how closely in touch 
it was with civilisation, the manager told me how the 
chiefs had just raised a great agitation against the mine 
because it worked on Friday, their sacred day. They 
complained that the snails were so shocked at this 
act of sacrilege that they were actually leaving the 
district. Now the snails in Ashanti are very impor- 
tant people, boundaries are always calculated with 
reference to them, and if a chief can prove that his 
men are in the habit of gathering snails over a certain 
area, it is proof positive that he holds jurisdiction over 
that land. That the snails should leave the district 
shocked would be a national calamity. The African 
snail looks like an enormous whelk, he haunts the 
Ashanti forest, and is at his best just at the commence- 
ment of the rains, when he begins to grow fat and 
succulent, but is not yet too gross and slimy. He is 



338 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

hunted for assiduously, and all along the forest paths 
may be seen men, laden with sticks on which are 
impaled snails drawn from their shells, dried, and 
smoked. Luckily also these African snails appear 
to be very sensible, and when it was put to them 
that the mines could not possibly stop working on a 
Friday, but a small monetary tribute would be paid 
to them regularly through the principal chief, they 
amiably consented at once to stay and meet their final 
end, as a self-respecting snail should, by impalement 
on a stick. 




«* 



VIEW IN OBUASI. 



CHAPTER XXII 

A NEW TRADING CENTRE 

The siege of Kumasi — The Governor in 1900 — The rebellion — 
The friendlies under the walls of the fort — The Ashanti 
warrior of ten years ago and the trader of to-day — The 
chances of the people in the fort — The retreat — The gallant 
men who conducted it — The men who were left behind — The 
rescue — Kumasi of to-day — The trade that comes to Kumasi 
as the trade of Britain came to London in the days of Augus- 
tus — The Chief Commissioner — The men needed to rule West 
Africa. 

And when I had been to Obuasi nothing remained 
but to go up the line and see Kumasi and go as far 
beyond as the time at my disposal would allow. 

I wonder if English-speaking people have forgot- 
ten yet the siege of Kumasi. For me, I shall never 
forget, and it stands out specially in my mind because 
I know some of the actors, and now I have seen the 
fort where the little tragedy took place ; for, put it 
what way you will, it was a tragedy, for though the 
principals escaped, some with well-merited honour, 
the minor actors died, died like flies, and no man 
knoweth even their names. 

It was dark when I reached Kumasi and got out 
on to the platform and was met by the kind canton- 
ment magistrate, put into a hammock, and carried up 
to the fort, and was there received by the Chief Com- 
missioner and his pretty bride, one of the two white 
women who make Kumasi their home, 

339 



340 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

I had seen many forts, old forts along the Coast, but 
this fort was put up in 1896, and in 1900 its inmates 
were fighting for their lives. In it were shut up the 
Governor, his wife, two or three unfortunate Basel 
missionary women, a handful of troops, and all the 
other white people in the place. Standing on the 
verandah overlooking the town to-day, with a piano 
playing soft music and a dining-table within reach 
set out with damask and cut-glass and flowers and 
silver, it is hard to believe that those times are only 
ten years back. I have heard men talk of those days, 
and they are reticent ; there are always things it 
seems they think they had better not tell, and I gather 
that the then Governor was not very much beloved, 
and that no one put much faith in him. The rebellion 
started somewhere to the north, and by the time it 
reached Kumasi it was too late to fly, for it was a good 
eight days' hard march to the Coast through dense 
forest. The nearest possible safety outside that fort 
lay beyond the River Prah, at least three or four days' 
march away. Every white man and many of the black 
who were not Ashantis had taken refuge in the fort, 
which was crowded to suffocation, and outside, in 
front of the fort, camped the friendlies, safe to a 
certain extent under the white man's guns, but dying 
slowly because the white man could not give what he 
had not got himself — food ; and here they died, died 
of disease and hunger and wounds, and the reek of 
their dying poisoned the air so that the white man, 
starving behind his high walls of cement, was like to 
have his end accelerated by those who stood by him. 

And out beyond, where the English town now stands, 
with broad streets planted with palms and mangoes 
and ficus, were the encampments of fierce Ashanti 



A NEW TRADING CENTRE 341 

warriors, their cloths wound round their middles, 
their hair brushed fiercely back from their foreheads, 
their powder-flasks and bullet-bags slung across their 
shoulders, and their long Danes in their hands, the 
locks carefully covered with a shield of pigskin. The 
same man, very often the very same individual, walks 
about the streets of Kumasi to-day, and if he wears a 
tourist cap and a shirt, torn, ragged, and dirty, he is at 
least a peaceful citizen, and ten years hence he will 
probably, like the Creoles in Sierra Leone, be talking 
of " going home." But it was ghastly in the fort then. 
It was small and it was crowded to suffocation. The 
nearest help was at Cape Coast, nigh on 200 miles 
away, and between lay the dense forest that no man 
lightly dared. The Ashanti too was the warrior of the 
Coast, and the difficulty was even to get carriers who 
would help to move a force against him. Shut up in 
the fort there they looked out and waited for help 
and waited for death that ever seemed coming closer 
and closer. 

Kumasi is set in a hollow, and round it, pressing 
in on every side, was the great forest. Away to 
the south went the road to Cape Coast, but it was 
but a track kept open with the greatest difficulty, 
and hidden in the depths of the forest on either hand 
were these same warriors. Truly the chances of the 
people in the fort seemed small, small indeed. And 
day after day passed and there was no sign of help. 
Provisions were getting low, ammunition was running 
short, and from the Ashanti no mercy could be ex- 
pected. It was war to the death. Any man or 
woman who fell into their hands could expect nothing 
but torture. I gather that his advisers would have 
had the Governor start for the Coast at once on the 



342 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

outbreak of hostilities, but he could not make up his 
mind, and lingered and lingered, hoping for the help 
that did not, that could not come. No one has ever 
had a word of praise for that Governor, though very 
gallantly the men under him came out of it. Starva- 
tion and death stared them all in the face ; the gallant 
little garrison, heavily handicapped as it was, could 
certainly hold out but little longer, and the penalty of 
conquest was death — death, ghastly and horrible. 

At last the Governor gave in and they started, a 
forlorn little company, for the River Prah, which had 
generally set a bound to Ashanti raids. The Gover- 
nor's wife was carried in a hammock, but the Basel 
missionary women, who had escaped with only the 
clothes they stood up in, walked, for the hammock- 
boys were too weak to carry them, and they had to 
tramp through mud and swamp. The soldiers did 
their best to protect the forlorn company, the friend- 
lies crowded after, a tumultuous, disorderly crew 
fleeing before their enemies, and those same enemies 
hung on their flanks, scrambled through the forest, 
ruthlessly cut off any stragglers, and poured volleys 
from their long Danes into the retreating company. 
Knowing the forest, I wonder that one man ever 
escaped alive to tell the tale ; that the principal actors 
did, only shows that the Ashanti was not the practised 
warrior the Coast had always counted him. Had 
those Ashantis been the lean Pathan from the hills of 
northern India, not a solitary man would have lived 
to tell the tale, and the retreat from Kumasi would 
have taken its place with some of those pitiful stories 
of the Afghan Border. But one thing the Ashanti is 
not, he is not a good marksman. He blazes away 
with his long Dane, content to make a terrific row 



A NEW TRADING CENTRE 343 

without making quite sure that every bullet has 
reached its billet. And so, thanks to the bad marks- 
manship of the Ashantis, that little company got 
through. 

But let no man think I am in any way dis- 
paraging the men who fought here, who by their gal- 
lantry brought the Governor and his wife through. 
Major Armitage and his comrades were brave men of 
whom England may well be proud, men worthy to 
take their places beside Blake and Hawkins and all 
the gallant Britons whose names are inscribed on the 
roll of fame ; they fought against desperate odds, they 
were cruelly hampered by the helpless people under 
their care, and they stuck beside them, though by so 
doing they risked not only death, but death by ghastly 
torture. Some of them died, some of them got 
through — they are with us still, young men, men in 
the prime of life — and when we tell our children tales 
of the way England won her colonies, we may well 
tell how that little company left the fort of Kumasi, 
every man who was wise with cyanide of potassium 
in his pocket, and fought his way down to the 
Prah. 

But even though they went south they were not 
going to abandon Kumasi, which had been won at 
the cost of so much blood, and in that fort were left 
behind three white men and a company of native 
soldiers. All in good time the relief must come, and 
till then they must hold it. 

A verandah hangs round the fort nowadays that the 
piping times of peace have come, but still upstairs 
in the rooms above are the platforms for the gun- 
carriages, and I climbed up on them and walked 
along the verandahs and wondered how those men 



344 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

must have felt who had looked out from the self-same 
place ten years ago. If no help came, if waiting were 
unduly prolonged, they would die, die like rats in a 
hole, and the men in their companies were dying daily. 
They were faithful, those dark soldiers of the Em- 
pire, but they were dying, dying of disease and 
hunger, and their officers could not help them, for 
were they not slowly dying themselves? Rumours 
there were of the relief force, but they were only 
rumours, and the spectres of disease and starvation 
grew daily. Could they hold out? Could they hold 
out? The tale has been told again and again, 
and will probably be told yet again in English story, 
and at last when they had well-nigh given up to 
despair they heard the sound of English guns, so 
different from the explosions of the long Danes, and 
presently there was the call of the bugles, and 
out into the open trotted a little fox terrier, the 
advance guard of the men who had come to save 
Kumasi. 

And now the change. Kumasi has a train from 
the coast port of Sekondi every day, it has a popula- 
tion that exceeds that of the capital of the Gold Coast 
itself, every day the forest is receding and in the 
streets are growing up great buildings that mark only 
the beginning of a trade that is already making the 
wise wonder how it was when wealth lay on the 
ground for the picking up, England, who had it all 
within her grasp, was amiable enough to allow the 
greater portion of this wonderful land to fall to the lot 
of the French and Germans. 

The forest used to close Kumasi in on every side. 
It is set in a hollow, and the tall trees and luxuriant 
green in the days that I have just spoken of threat- 



A NEW TRADING CENTRE 345 

ened to overwhelm it. Now that sensation has 
passed away. Whatever Kumasi may be in the 
future, to-day it is a busy centre of life and trade. 
Where the fetish tree stood, the ground beneath its 
branches soaked with human blood and strewn with 
human bones, is now the centre of the town where 
the great buildings of the merchant princes of West 
Africa are rising. They are fine, but they are a blot 
on the landscape for all that. The nation that prides 
itself on being the colonising nation of the earth 
never makes any preparation for the expansion of its 
territory or the growth of its trade, so here in this 
conquered country, bought at the cost of so much 
sweat and blood, the authorities are allowing to go up, 
in the very heart of the town buildings, very hand- 
some buildings without doubt, so close together that 
in a tropical land where fresh air is life itself they are 
preparing to take toll of the health of the unfortunates 
who will have to dwell and work there. But beyond 
that one grave mistake Kumasi promises to be a very 
pretty place as well as a very important one. Its 
wide, red roads, smooth and well-kept, are planted 
with trees, mangoes and palms ; its bungalows are 
set well apart, surrounded by trees and shrubs and 
lawns, their red-brown roofs and verandahs toning 
picturesquely with the prevailing green. 

Curious it is when one thinks of its history to see 
the white painted sign-posts on which are recorded 
the names of the streets. There is " Kingsway " for 
one, and " Stewart-avenue," after the man who deeply 
loved the country, for another, and there are at least 
two great roads that lead away to the fruitful country 
in the north, roads that push their way through the 
dense forest and must even compel the admiration 



346 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

of our friends the Germans, those champion road- 
makers. And down those roads comes all the won- 
derful trade of Kumasi, not as the trade of London, of 
course, but as the trade of London was, perhaps, 
when Augustus ruled at Rome. The trade of the 
world comes to London nowadays, the trade of 
the back-country came to London then, and so does 
the trade of all the country round come to the Ashanti 
capital. Its streets are thronged with all manner of 
peoples, dark, of course, for the ruling whites are 
but an inconsiderable handful, and only the Chief 
Commissioner and one missionary have been daring 
enough to bring their wives. 

Ashanti is a conquered country, and it seems to me 
it has got just the right sort of Government, a Gov- 
ernment most exactly suited to the requirements of 
the negro in his present state of advancement. What 
a negro community requires is a benevolent despotism, 
but as a rule the British Government, with its feeling 
for the rights of the individual, does not see its way to 
give it such a Government. But Ashanti was con- 
quered at great cost, wherefore as yet England has 
still to think of the rights of the white men who dwell 
there as against the rights of the black man, and the 
result to me, an onlooker, appears to be most satisfac- 
tory for both white and black. Of course, such a 
Government requires to administrate not only excel- 
lent men, not only honest and trustworthy men, but 
men who have the interests of the country at heart, 
and who devote themselves to it, and such men she 
has got in the Chief Commissioner, Mr Fuller, and 
the subordinates chosen by him. Only an onlooker 
am I, a woman, a passer-by, but as a passer-by I 
could not but be struck by the difference between the 



A NEW TRADING CENTRE 347 

feeling in the Gold Coast Colony and the feeling in 
Ashanti. The whole tone of thought was different. 
Everywhere on the Gold Coast men met me with the 
question, " What did I think of this poisonous coun- 
try ? Wasn't it a rotten place ? " and they seemed 
bitterly disappointed if I did not confirm their worst 
blame. 

But in Ashanti it was different. The very clerks 
in the mercantile houses had some good word to 
say for the country, and were anxious that I should 
appreciate it and speak well of it, and this I can but 
set down to the example and guidance of such men as 
the Chief Commissioner and the men he chooses to 
serve under him. Had the rest of West Africa always 
had such broad-minded, clever, interested men at 
the head of affairs, I think we should have heard a 
great deal less about its unhealthiness and a great 
deal more about the productiveness of the country. 
Since I have seen German methods I am more than 
thankful that I have been to Ashanti and learned that 
my own country is quite equal to doing as well, if not 
beating them at their own methods. The Ashanti 
himself, the truculent warrior of ten years ago, has 
under the paternal and sympathetic Government of 
this Chief Commissioner become a man of peace. If 
he has not beaten his long Dane gun into a plough- 
share he has at least taken very kindly to trade and is 
pleased, nay eager that the white man should dwell 
in his country. He stalks about Kumasi in his 
brightly coloured, toga-like cloth still, very sure that 
he is a man of great importance among the tribes, and 
his chiefs march through the streets in chairs on 
men's heads, with tom-toms beating, immense gaily 
coloured umbrellas twirling, their silken cloths a 



348 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

brilliant spot in the brilliant sunshine, their rich gold 
ornaments marking them off from the common herd, 
and all their people who are not Christian still give 
them unquestioned devotion. But Kumasi, as I 
said, is the centre of a great trade, and the native 
town, which is alongside but quite apart from the 
European town, is packed with shops, shops that are 
really very much in the nature of stalls, for there are 
no fronts to them, and the goods are exposed to the 
street, where all manner of things that are attractive 
to the native are set out. 

And here one gathers what is attractive to the 
native. First and foremost, perhaps, are the necessi- 
ties of life, the things that the white man has made 
absolute necessaries. First among them, I think, 
would be kerosene and bread, so everywhere, in 
market-place and shop, or even just outside a house, 
you may see ordinary wine and whisky bottles full of 
kerosene, and rows and rows of loaves of bread. 
Then there comes men's clothing — hideous shirts and 
uglier trousers, tourist caps that are the last cry in 
hooliganism, and boots, buttoned and shiny, that 
would make an angel weep. Alas! and alas! The 
Ashanti in his native state, very sure of himself, has a 
certain dignity about him even as must have had the 
old Roman. You might not have liked the old Roman, 
probably you would not unless he chose to make him- 
self pleasant, but you could not but recognise the fact 
that he was no nonentity, and so it is with the Ashanti 
till he puts on European garments. Then how are 
the mighty fallen! for like all negroes, in the garb 
of civilisation, he is commonplace when he is not 
grotesque. What they are to wear I cannot say, but 
the better-class among them seem to realise this, for I 



A NEW TRADING CENTRE 349 

have often heard it said, not only in Ashanti but in 
other parts of the Coast : " The Chief may not wear 
European clothes." 

And beside clothes in the native shops are 
hurricane lanterns, ordinary cheap kerosene lamps, 
and sewing machines which the men work far 
more often then the women, accordions, mouth har- 
moniums, and cotton goods in the strange and weird 
patterns that Manchester thinks most likely to attract 
the native eye. I have seen brooms and brushes and 
dustpans printed in brilliant purple on a blue ground, 
and I have seen the outspread fingers of a great hand 
in scarlet on a black ground. But mostly there is 
nothing of very great interest in these shops, just 
European goods of the commonest, cheapest descrip- 
tion supplied apparently with the view of educating 
the native eye in all that is ugliest and most repre- 
hensible in civilisation. 

There are horses in Kumasi, for the forest and 
undergrowth have been cleared away sufficiently to 
destroy the tsetse fly, and so most evenings, when the 
heat of the day has passed, the Chief Commissioner 
and his wife go for a ride, and on occasions many of 
the soldiermen play polo and hold race-meetings, but 
as yet there is no wheeled traffic in the streets. Most 
of the goods are carried on men's heads, and the road- 
ways are crowded. There are women with loads on 
their heads and generally children on their backs, 
walking as if the world belonged to them, though in 
truth they are little better than their husbands' slaves. 
There are soldiers all in khaki, with little green caps 
like condensed fezes, for the place is a great military 
camp and the black soldier swaggers through the 
street ; there are policemen in blue uniforms with red 



350 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

fezes, their feet bare like those of the soldiers, and 
their legs bound in dark-blue putties ; and there are 
black men from all corners of West Africa. There 
are the Kroo boys, those labourers of the Coast, with 
the dark-blue freedom mark tattooed on their fore- 
heads, never carrying anything on their heads, but 
pushing and pulling heavily laden carts, in gangs 
that vary from four to a dozen, and their clothing is 
the cast-off clothing of the white man ; there are 
Hausas and Wangaras, than whom no man can carry 
heavier loads, and they wear not a flowing cloth like 
the Ashanti, but a long, shirt-like garment not unlike 
the smock of the country labourer. It is narrower 
and longer, but is usually decorated with the same 
elaborate needlework about the neck and shoulders ; 
if their legs are not bare they wear Arab trousers, full 
above and tight about their feet, and the flapping of 
their heelless slippers makes a clack-clack as they 
walk. There are Yorubas, dressed much the same, 
only with little caps like a child's Dutch bonnet, and 
there are even men from the far north, with blue 
turbans and the lower part of their faces veiled. Far 
beyond the dense forest lies their home, away possibly 
in French territory, but the trade is coming to this 
new city of the Batouri, and they wander down with 
the cattle or horses. For all the cattle and horses 
come down through the forest, driven hastily and fast 
because of the deadly tsetse, and many must perish 
by the way. A herd of the humped, long-horned 
cattle come wearily through the streets. Whatever 
they may have been once, there is no spirit left in 
them now, for they have come down that long road 
from the north ; they have fed sparely by the way, 
and they are destined for the feeding of the popula- 




1 pj .^ 

GRE VI I E "I IMI i 1IJI-.J , KUMASI. 



A NEW TRADING CENTRE 351 

tion that are swarming into Kumasi to work the mines 
in the south. 

Three towns are here in Kumasi : the European 
quarter, the Ashanti town, and the Mohammedan 
town or zonga. Here all the carrying trade that is 
not done by Government is arranged for — by a 
woman. Here the houses are small and unattractive, 
nondescript native huts built by people who are only 
sojourners in the land, come but to make money, 
ready to return to their own land in the north the 
moment it is made. And they sit by the roadside 
with little things to sell. Food-stuffs often, balls of 
kenki white as snow, yams and cassada, which is the 
root of which we make tapioca, cobs of Indian corn, 
and, of course, stink-fish that comes all the way from 
the Coast and is highly prized as a food, and does 
not appear to induce ptomaine poisoning in African 
stomachs. Some of these dainties are set out on 
brass trays made in Birmingham ; others on wooden 
platters and on plates delicately woven in various 
patterns of grass dyed in many colours. But most 
things they have they are ready to sell, for the negro 
has great trading instincts, and that trading instinct 
it is that has made him so easy to hold once he is 
conquered. 

Kumasi is peaceful enough now, and the only re- 
minder of the bad days of ten years back is the fort 
just above the native town, but it looks down now 
across a smooth green lawn, on which are some great, 
shady trees, where chiefs assembled whom I photo- 
graphed. One was a great fetish chief with gold 
ornaments upon his head and upon his feet, and 
knowledge of enough magic, had this been the fif- 
teenth century instead of the twentieth, to drive the 



352 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

white man and all his following back to the sea from 
whence he came ; but it is the twentieth, and he is 
wise enough to know it, and he flings all the weight of 
his authority into the scales with the British raj. But 
at the gate of the fort still stands a guard of black 
soldiers in all the glory of scarlet and yellow which 
stands for gold, for the Chief Commissioner lives 
here, and in a land where a chief is of such importance 
it is necessary to keep up a certain amount of state, 
and the Chief Commissioner ruling over this country 
and receiving obeisance from the chiefs, clad in their 
gorgeous silken cloths, laden with golden jewellery, 
men looked up to by their followers as half-divine, 
must feel something like a Roman proconsul of old 
carrying the eagles into savage lands, and yet allow- 
ing those savages as far as possible to govern them- 
selves by their own laws. Africa has always been 
the unknown land, but now at last the light is being 
let into dark places, the French have regenerated 
Dahomey, and the railway comes to Kumasi. I sat 
on that verandah and thought of the old days that 
were only ten years back, and learned much from the 
Commissioner, and I felt that civilisation was coming 
by leaps and bounds to Ashanti, and if it be true, as 
old tradition has it, that a house to be firmly built 
must have a living man beneath its foundation stone, 
then must the future of Kumasi be assured, for its 
foundations were well and truly laid in rivers of 
human blood. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

IN THE HEART OF THE RUBBER COUNTRY 

Bound for Sunyani — The awe-inspiring- forest — The road through 
the forest — The people upon that road — Ofinsu and an 
Ashanti house — Rather a public bedroom — Potsikrom — A 
night of fear — Sandflies — Attractive black babies — A great 
show at Bechem — A most important person — The Hausa who 
went in fear of his life — Coronation night at Tanosu — A 
teetotal party — The medical officer's views on trees — Beyond 
the road — Sunyani. 

I talked to the Commissioner, and those talks with 
him made me want to go somewhere out into the 
wilds. Kumasi was beginning to look strangely 
civilised to me. It was a great trading-centre, and 
presently it would be as well known, it seemed to me, 
as Alexandria or Cairo, or at the other end of the Con- 
tinent, Buluwayo. I should like to have gone into 
the Northern Territories, but the rainy season was 
upon us, and if that did not daunt me — and it would 
not have done so — I had to consider the time. I 
ought to be back in London. I had intended to be 
away for six months, and now it was close on eight 
since I had come out of the mouth of the Mersey. 

" Go to Sunyani," said the Chief Commissioner, 
" and go on to Odumase, where the rising began at the 
beginning of the century. You will be the first white 
woman to go there, and I think you will find it worth 
your while." 

So I interviewed the head of the transport service, 
:;•"»:; z 



354 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

and by his kindness was supplied with seventeen 
carriers, and one hot day in June started north. 

They had doubts, these kind friends of mine, about 
my capabilities as a traveller, at least they feared that 
something might happen to me while I was in their 
country, and they told me that a medical officer was 
starting north for Sunyani that day and would go 
with me. 

I looked up the medical officer and found him in 
the midst of packages that he was taking with him 
beyond civilisation to last for a year. He was most 
courteous, but it seemed to me that he felt the 
presence of a woman a responsibility, and I was so 
sure of myself, hated to be counted a nuisance, that 
when he said he had intended to go only as far as 
Sansu that night, I expressed my intention of going 
on to Ofmsu, and hinted that he might catch me up 
next morning if he could. 

So by myself I set out into the heart of the rubber 
country north of Kumasi. I was fairly beyond civil- 
isation now. Ten years ago this country was in open 
rebellion against English rule, and even now there 
are no European stores there ; there is no bread, no 
kerosene, no gin — those first necessities of an oncom- 
ing civilisation ; it was simply the wild heart of the 
rubber country, unchanged for hundreds of years. It 
has been known, but it has not been lightly visited. It 
has been a country to be shunned and talked of with 
bated breath as " the land of darkness." The desert 
might be dared, the surf might be ventured, the black 
man might be defied, but the gloom of the forest 
the white man feared and entered not except upon 
compulsion. The Nile has given up its secrets, the 
Sahara yields to cultivation, but still in Africa are 




I' VI II IN Till I i »KI- ST, \SII WTI. 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 355 

there places where the all-conquering white man is 
dwarfed, and one of them is the great forest that lies 
north of the capital of Ashanti. 

Here we know not the meaning of the word forest. 
England's forests are delightful woods where the deer 
dwell in peace, where the rabbits scutter through the 
fern and undergrowth, and where the children may 
go for a summer's holiday; in Australia are trees 
close-growing and tall ; but in West Africa the forest 
has a life and being of its own. It is not a thing 
of yesterday or of ten years back or of fifty years. 
Those mighty trees that dwarf all other trees in the 
world have taken hundreds of years to their growth. 
When a slight young girl came to the throne of Eng- 
land, capturing a nation's chivalry by her youth and 
innocence, the mahogany and kaku and odoum trees 
were old and staid monarchs of the forest. When the 
first of the Georges came over from Hanover, unwel- 
come, but the nation's last hope, they were young and 
slim but already tall trees stretching up their crowns 
to the brilliant sunlight that is above the gloom, and 
now at last, when the fifth of that name reigns over 
them, at last is their sanctuary invaded and the seclu- 
sion that is theirs shall be theirs no longer. For 
already the axe is laid to their roots, and through the 
awe-inspiring forest runs a narrow roadway kept clear 
by what must be almost superhuman labour, and 
along that roadway, the beginning of the end, the 
sign that marks the peaceful conquest of the savage, 
that marks also the downfall of the forest though it is 
not even whispered among the trees that scorn them 
yet, flows a perpetual stream of traffic, men, women, 
and children. Backwards and forwards from the 
north to Kumasi and the sea they come, and they 



356 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

bear on their heads, going north, corrugated iron and 
cotton goods, kerosene, and flour, and chairs, all the 
trifles that the advance of civilisation makes absolute 
necessaries ; and coming down they bring all in their 
season, hides, and heavy cakes of rubber, and sticks 
of dried snails, and all the other articles of native 
produce that a certain peace has made marketable 
along the way or in the markets of Kumasi. 

The spell was upon me the moment I left the 
town. That road is like nothing else in the world. 
The hammock and the carriers were dwarfed by the 
great roots and buttresses of the trees to tiny, crawl- 
ing ants, and overhead was a narrow strip of blue sky 
where the sunlight might be seen, but only at noon 
did that sunlight reach the roadway below. We 
travelled in a shadow pleasant in that heat; and on 
either side, close on either side, were the great trees. 
Looking down the road I could see them straight as a 
die, tall pillars, white and brown ; ahead of me and 
close at hand the mighty buttresses that supported 
those pillars rose up to the height of perhaps ten men 
before the tree was fairly started, a tall trunk with 
branches that began to spread, it seemed to me, hun- 
dreds of feet above the ground. And between those 
tree-trunks was all manner of undergrowth, and all 
were bound and matted together with thickly growing 
creepers and vines. It was impossible to step an inch 
from that cleared path. There would be no getting 
lost in the bush, for it would be almost impossible for 
the unpractised hand to get into the bush. There is 
nothing to be seen but the brown, winding roadway, 
the dense green of the undergrowth, and the trunks of 
the trees tall and straight as Nelson's column and 
brown or white against the prevailing green. And 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 357 

there are all shades of green, from that so pale that it 
is almost golden to that so dark it is almost black, but 
never a flower breaks the monotony, the monotony 
that is not monotony but dignity, and the flowers of an 
English spring or an autumn in Australia would but 
cheapen the forest of the Gold Coast. There must 
have been orchids, for sometimes as I passed their 
rich, sensuous smell would come to my nostrils, but I 
only knew they were there by my sense of smell just 
as sometimes I smelt a strong smell of mice, and 
knew, though I could not see them, that somewhere 
in the depths of the gloom were hidden away a great 
colony of fruitarian bats that would not come out into 
the daylight. 

When there was a village there was, of course, a 
clearing, and on the first day I passed several villages 
until at last I came to Ofinsu, where I had arranged 
to spend the night. Ofinsu is on the banks of a river, 
and the road comes out of the forest and passes 
broadly between two rows of mud-walled houses with 
steeply pitched, high-thatched roofs, and my carriers 
raced along and stopped opposite a small wooden 
door in a mud wall and rapped hard. 

For the first time on my travels I had really 
excellent carriers. They were Krepis from beyond 
the German border, slight, dark men with slim 
wrists and ankles, and crosses cut as tribal marks on 
each cheek, and they were cheerful, smiling, willing. 
When I remembered my before-time tribulations I 
could hardly believe these were actually carriers who 
were going along so steadily and well, who were al- 
ways up before me in the morning, and in as soon as 
I was at night, who never lingered, never grumbled, 
never complained, but were simply ideal servants such 



358 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

as I had never had before in my life save perhaps for 
a day, as when I went to Palime from Ho, and such 
as I shall count myself extremely lucky if I ever have 
again. 

" We have got good carriers," the transport officer 
had said, " though you don't seem to believe it " ; and 
he proved his words, for never have I travelled more 
comfortably than I did on that one hundred and sixty 
miles to Sunyani and back. 

The knocking at the little door brought a black 
lady with a shaven head and a blue cloth wrapped 
round her middle. She was a woman past all beauty, 
and very little was left to the imagination, but she 
threw open the door and indicated that we were to 
enter, and she looked at me very curiously. Never 
before had a white woman come to Ofinsu. 

I entered, and this was my first introduction to an 
Ashanti house, a house that seems to me singularly 
suited to the climate and people. It is passing 
away, they tell me, and I for one am sorry. 

We went into a courtyard open to the sky, and 
round it, raised at least two feet from the ground, were 
the rooms, I suppose I must call them, but though 
there was a roof overhead and walls on three sides, 
walls without windows, the fourth side was open to 
the central courtyard. When I entered the place 
was crowded ; Hausas or Wangaras — I never could 
tell one from the other — were settled down on the 
platforms, and their loads— long bundles made up for 
carrying on the head — were all over the place. I said 
nothing. I am generally for the superiority of the 
white man and exact all the deference that is my due, 
but clearly these people were here first, and it seemed 
to me they had it by right, only how I was to bathe 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 359 

and sleep in a house where everything was so public 
among such a crowd I did not know. 

But my hostess had other views. No sooner had 
I entered than she began clearing out the former 
guests, and in less than a quarter of an hour the place 
that had seemed so crowded was empty, swept and 
garnished for my accommodation. My bed was put 
up on one platform, my table and chair on another. 
" Get table quick and chair, so can play cards," Grant 
instructed my headman, and behind, through a little 
door that may be seen in the picture, was a place that 
answered for a kitchen, and a cup of tea was quickly 
produced for my comfort. It was weird going to 
sleep there in the open, but it was very, very delight- 
ful. I rigged up in the corner of one of the rooms — ■ 
I have no other names for them — with ground sheet 
and rugs, a little shelter where I could have my bath 
in comfort, but I undressed without a qualm and went 
to bed and slept the sleep of the woman who has been 
in the open air the livelong day and who, happily for 
herself, can indulge her taste and sleep in the open air 
all night. 

I took a picture of my open-air bedroom with 
my valuable headman and two small children who 
belonged to the household I had invaded in the fore- 
ground. But that was before I went to bed at night. 
At earliest dawn, before the dawn in fact, my head- 
man was at my bedside wanting to pack up and 
start. 

That night's lodging cost me one shilling and three- 
pence. The headman told me one shilling was 
enough, so I bestowed the extra threepence as a dash 
on the shaven old woman who had done all for me 
that my servants could not do, and she seemed so 



360 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

delighted that I was left wondering what the Wan- 
garas who had given place to me had paid. 

Just as the sun was rising we crossed the Ofin River, 
and I found there assembled the entire population of 
the village to look at the strange sight — a perfectly 
courteous, polite people who never crushed or 
crowded though they looked their fill. I can only 
hope I was a success as a show, for certainly I at- 
tracted a great deal of attention, but of course I had 
no means of knowing whether I came up to expecta- 
tions. It took some time to get my goods and fol- 
lowers across the river in the crank canoe which is 
only used in the rainy season, for usually the Ofin 
River can be waded, and while I waited on the farther 
shore I looked with interest at the other people who 
were waiting for their loads to be ferried across. 

The men were Hausas or Wangaras, some wearing 
turbans, some with shaven heads, and clad in long, 
straight, shirt-like garments, while the women excited 
my deepest compassion. They may have been the 
men's wives, I know not ; but by whatever name they 
were called they were slaves if ever I saw slaves. 
They had very little on besides a dirty, earthen- 
coloured cloth hitched round their loins, their dark 
faces were brutalised and depressed with that speech- 
less depression that hardly realises its own woes, and 
their dusty hair that looked as if it had not been 
washed for years was generally twisted into short, 
thick, dusty looking plaits that were pressed down- 
wards by the weight of the load they one and all 
carried. They carried children, too, on their backs, 
tiny babies that must have been born on the journey, 
or lusty youngsters that were a load in themselves. 
But a Hausa will carry an enormous load himself — 





TOC^NVttsft 



i - i PATH i \ \ s 1 1 \ \ i i . 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 361 

sometimes up to 240 lbs. — so it is not likely he will 
have much consideration for his women. It may be, 
of course, that their looks belied them, but it seemed 
to me that they cared little whether Fate drowned 
them there in the swirling brown waters of the river 
or brought them safely through to the other side to 
tramp on, footsore, tired, weary, heartsick — if these 
creatures who looked like dumb beasts had life 
enough in them to be heartsick — to their destination 
three months away in the north. 

They waited there as I passed, and they looked at 
me dully and without interest ; presently their loads 
would be brought across and they would be on the 
march again, and I went on pitying to Potsikrom. 

The forest was getting denser and denser. There 
were fewer towns and clearings on this day — nothing 
but the great trees and the narrow ribbon of road with 
the strip of blue sky far, far away. It was very 
awe-inspiring, the forest. I should have been un- 
speakably terrified to pass through it alone, but my 
chattering men took away all sense of loneliness. There 
was not much to see, but yet the eternal trees had a 
most wonderful charm. It was like being in some 
lofty cathedral where the very air was pulsating with 
the thought of great and unseen things beyond the 
comprehension of the puny mortals who dared rashly 
to venture within the precincts. No wonder the 
Ashanti gave human sacrifices. Sacrifice, we all 
know, is the basis of all faith, and what lesser thing 
than a man could be offered in so great a sanctuary? 

And that afternoon we came to Potsikrom, a little 
village deep in the forest. 

The rest-house was a mud building with a thatch 
roof somewhat dilapidated, and built not after the 



362 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

comfortable, suitable Ashanti fashion, but after the 
European fashion, possibly in deference to some 
foolish European who probably regarded all the 
country as " poisonous." That is to say, it was 
divided into two rooms with holes in the clay, very 
small holes for windows, and, saving grace, a door at 
each side of one of the rooms. In the corner of one of 
these impossible rooms I saw, to my surprise, a camp- 
bed put up, and for the moment thought it was mine. 
Then I saw a suit of striped pyjamas which certainly 
were not mine, and realised it must belong to the 
medical officer whom I had left at Kumasi the day 
before. His boys had stolen a march ahead, and, 
thinking to do better than the white woman, had put 
up his bed in what they considered the most desirable 
place, thinking doubtless that possession was nine 
points of the law. 

I certainly didn't desire that corner, but I felt my 
authority must be maintained, and so I asked : 

" Who that bed belong to ? " 

" Massa," said a grinning boy. 

" Take it down," said I. 

Up came the Chief's clerk. All these Ashanti 
chiefs now have a clerk who can write a little English 
and so communicate for them with Government, 
and the clerk, interested as he was to see a white 
woman, was very certain in his own mind that the 
white man was the more important person. He prob- 
ably regarded me as his wife come on ahead, and 
said that the Chief had another house for me. 

I didn't like that rest-house, but pride has suffered 
pain since the beginning of the world, so I distinctly 
declared my intention of staying there and ordered 
them to clear out the medical officer's bed forthwith. 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 363 

My boys were very anxious to assert my superiority 
and out went that bed in the twinkling of an eye, and 
my men proceeded to put up mine between the two 
doors, and, having had a table set out for tea, I 
awaited the arrival of the medical officer with a quiet 
mind. 

Presently he arrived and we laughed together over 
the struggle for supremacy between our men, and 
pledged our future good fellowship in tea. The Chief 
sent me in eggs and chickens and yams as dash, the 
people came and looked at me, and presently the 
evening fell and I had my evening meal and went 
to bed. 

And when I went to bed I repented me of having 
stood on my dignity. What on earth had I wanted 
the rest-house for? It was the last house in the 
village, a little apart from the rest, the great solemn 
forest was all around me, and I was all alone, for 
Grant and the men had retired with the darkness to 
somewhere in the village. My bed stood under a 
roof certainly, but I should not have dared put up the 
door of the rest-house for fear of making it too close, 
and so it meant, of course, that I was sleeping with 
nothing between me and that awe-inspiring forest. I 
do not know what I was afraid of any more than I 
know what I feared at Anum, but I was afraid of 
something intangible, born of the weird stillness and 
the gloom. I put a hurricane lantern at the door to 
scare away any wandering pigs and goats — I did not 
really in my heart think there would be any wild 
beasts — and then I proceeded to put in a most un- 
pleasant night. First there was too much light, it 
fell all over my bed, and though I did not like it, I 
still felt a comfortable sense of safety in the light. 



364 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Then I began to itch. I twisted and turned and 
rolled over, and the more I moved about the more 
uncomfortable I became. I thought to myself, 
" There, it serves you right ! You are always nur- 
sing the fat little black babies and now you have got 
some horrible disease." The thought was by no 
means consoling, but I was being driven so frantic 
that I began to think that no disease could really ad- 
vance with such rapidity. Besides, all sorts of great 
insects were banging themselves against my mosquito 
curtains, so I came to the conclusion that probably 
the tiny sandflies were also attracted by the light 
and were getting through the meshes. There was 
nothing for it but to screw up my courage, get out of 
bed, and take that lantern away. I did it, crept back 
to bed again, listened for a little to the weird noises of 
the night, was relieved to find the appalling irritation 
showed no signs of increasing, and finally, in spite of 
my fears, dropped off into so sound a sleep that I was 
only awakened by Grant endeavouring to drive away 
by fair words my energetic headman, who was evi- 
dently debating whether it was not his bounden duty 
to clear me away, bed and all. 

I told the doctor my experiences in the morning, 
and he confirmed my supposition that it was only 
sandflies and not horrible disease that had troubled 
my slumbers. 

Very much relieved was I, for the little black babies 
are dear little round souls, and I should have been 
loath not to take them when their mothers trusted them 
to me. I should hesitate much before I took a baby 
of the peasant class in this country, but there, in the 
heart of Africa, it is always safe to cuddle the little, 
round, naked thing that has for all clothing a few 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 365 

beads or a charm or two tied to its hair. They are 
always clean and soft and round and chubby, and they 
do not invariably yell with terror at the white woman, 
though I am bound to say they often do. 

We were in the heart of the forest now. There 
were but one or two villages and only one or two 
places that could be dignified by the name of clear- 
ings. At one, as big, perhaps, as a tiny London 
square, three or four huts had been erected, and an 
old woman was making pots. They were all set out 
in the sun to dry, and the good lady was very nervous 
when I wanted to take her photograph. She con- 
sented at last, and sat there shivering, in her hand a 
great snail shell which she used to ornament the 
pots. They were such a lonely little company, so cut 
off from all their kind, and we must have been such 
wondrous figures breaking in on their life and then 
passing on again. I gave them the last bright new 
pennies I had, and left them wondering. 

And so we went on again through the forest, past 
Insuta, until, as the evening was falling, we created 
immense astonishment by arriving at Bechem. 

Here again the rest-house was built uncomfortably, 
European fashion, and again my only alternative was 
to have my bed put up between the two doors so that 
I might get plenty of air. But at Bechem the town 
was full. It was a big town set in the midst of a great 
clearing, and to-day it was swarming with people, for 
the next day was Coronation Day, and the Chief had 
sent out word that all his sub-chiefs were to come in 
and celebrate. And here was another excitement — 
a white woman! How many chiefs came to see me 
that day I really would be afraid to say, and the Chief 
sent me in by way of dash a sheep, a couple of 



366 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

chickens, piles of plantains, yams, eggs, and all 
manner of native edibles. It was very amusing to 
stand there in the midst of the swarming people, re- 
ceiving these offerings. Of course they all have to 
be returned with presents of value, and I was thank- 
ful they did not think me important enough to receive 
a cow; as it was it cost me a pound to get out of 
Bechem, but my carriers were delighted for I pre- 
sented them with the sheep. He was an elderly ram 
with long horns, and I think he was the only person 
who did not thoroughly enjoy the entertainment. 

The Chief sent in word through his interpreter to 
say that the people had never seen a white woman 
before ; there were many people here because of the 
Coronation, might they come and " look " ? Never 
have I been so frankly regarded as a show. There 
was nothing for it but to go outside and let them look, 
and once more I can only hope they were satisfied. 
I had never seen such crowds of natives before, 
crowds that had not seen much of the white man and 
as yet were not arrayed in his cast-off clothes. All 
round us long Dane guns were popping off in honour 
of the great occasion, and tom-toms were beating half 
the night. When I waked next morning — I slept in 
the passage to get plenty of air, but I was not afraid 
because the rest-house was near the centre of the 
village — I found that at the earliest glimpse of dawn 
long lines of people had assembled outside my house 
and were patiently waiting for me to come out. I 
had my breakfast in the little courtyard behind the 
house, the people peeping through the fence of palm- 
poles, and when we set out on our way the Chief, in 
all the glory of silken robes and great umbrella, came 
a little way to do us honour. 




ptgh 



ENTR \N( 1 TO [NSI I V. 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 367 

Never, not even when I was married, have I been 
such an important person. The tom-toms beat, the 
umbrellas twirled, long Danes went off, horns blew, 
and as far as the eye could see were the villagers trail- 
ing away behind us. 

The Chief escorted us for about a mile, we walking 
in the cool, misty morning, and then he turned, 
slipped his cloth from his left shoulder as a mark 
of respect, shook hands, wished us a prosperous 
journey, and bid us good-bye like the courteous 
gentleman he was, and we went on into the mighty 
forest again. 

It is always cool in the early morning, and very 
pleasant here among the trees, so the medical officer 
and I walked on chatting about Bechem, when we 
came upon another little party of travellers, who 
stopped us and asked help. It was a Hausa with 
a couple of women, his wives in all probability, and a 
couple of other men, presumably his slaves. He was 
a tall, strong man in the prime of life, upon whose 
shaven head were deep lines graven by the loads 
he had carried. Our headman, who could speak 
Hausa, interpreted. 

Men were following him from Nkwanta, he said, to 
kill him. A child had died in the town, and they said 
he " had put bad medicine upon it," that is, had be- 
witched it, and the penalty was death. 

It was rather startling in this twentieth century to 
be brought face to face with the actors in such a 
tragedy, especially when we were powerless to help. 
We were unarmed and had with us only carriers and 
servants ; it was the prestige of the white man that 
was carrying us through. The Hausa was going 
away from Nkwanta as fast as he possibly could, and 



368 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

apparently he did not want to trust himself within its 
bounds, even under the protection of a white man. 
He declined to come back with us, and what could 
we do ? The medical officer, I think, did all that he 
could when he promised to report things to the Com- 
missioner at Sunyani, and recommended the Hausa, 
since he would not avail himself of our protection, to 
get the Chief's clerk at Bechem to write his account 
of the affair to Sunyani and Kumasi. 

And so in the early morning we went our way, and 
he went his, and he disappeared into the gloom of 
the forest, a much troubled man. I wondered how 
he would ever get back to his home in the north, for 
there is but this one road, and that road leads through 
Nkwanta. He would only dare it, I think, with a large 
body of his own people, for who is to report to Govern- 
ment if a travelling Hausa should disappear? 

We put in a long day that day, and in the full heat 
of the noontide arrived at Nkwanta, a most important 
place, whose Chief rules over a large tract of country. 
We came upon the butchers' stalls first, all kept by 
Hausas or Wangaras. This country, on account of 
the tsetse fly, will allow but few cattle to live, and these 
men from the north drive them down, kill them, 
and sell them, for the Ashantis are rich, and like to 
buy meat. I had hardly taken a photograph of these 
stalls, when from all sides I saw the people assembling, 
and presently the Chief appeared. He brought 
offerings, a sheep, fowls, eggs, yams, and plantains ; 
but this time I pointed out that I was on a journey, 
and could not take the presents, as I had no means 
of carrying them. He was very anxious indeed we 
should stay for that night ; said he, they were celebra- 
ting the Coronation, and there would be a big dance. I 




■ 



AMIWII WOMAN \M) CHILD IX THE FOREST 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 369 

went into his house and took a photograph of the 
moulded clay that ornaments the walls, and a small 
slave-boy was proud to stand in the corner so as to 
give life to the picture, and I think Nkwanta was 
sorry we elected to go on. I was a little sorry my- 
self afterwards, for as we passed along the forest 
path we met sub-chiefs going in to the Coronation 
ceremonies, men carried high in their hammock- 
chairs, followed by a motley assemblage of men and 
women, bearing long Danes, horns, drums, house- 
hold utensils, and all the paraphernalia of a barbaric 
chief. 

And at last we came to a place where the forest was 
ruthlessly cleared for about a hundred feet on either 
side of the road, and the tropical sun poured down 
in all its fierceness. I did not like it. The mighty 
monarchs of the forest had simply been murdered 
and left to lie, and already Nature was busily veiling 
them with curtains of greenery. Why those trees had 
been so slaughtered I do not know. That the forest 
would have been better for thinning, I have no doubt, 
but why not leave the beautiful trees ? I am sure the 
Germans would have done so, but the Englishman 
seems to have no mean. If there are too many trees 
he cuts them all down and makes a desert. The 
medical officer of course did not agree with me. 

" Must get rid of the trees," said he with 
enthusiasm. 

I looked at him. He was a young fellow, pleasant 
and kindly, sallowed by life in the Tropics. He 
wore a drab-coloured helmet, coming well down over 
his back, which was further protected by having a 
quilted spinal pad fastened down the back of his bush 
shirt. 

2a 



370 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

" Why," I said, " do you wear so big a helmet, 
and a spinal pad ? " 

He looked at me tolerantly, as if he had always 
known that woman asked silly questions, and I was 
only confirming a preconceived idea. But he was in 
a way my host, so he was patient with me. 

" To keep off the sun, of course," said he. 

" The trees," I began ; and then he felt I really was 
silly, for every medical man knows the proper thing 
is to get rid of the trees, and have some artificial form 
of shade. At least, that is what I gathered from his 
subsequent explanation. The idea is apparently to 
cut down all the forest trees, and when the place is 
bare, they can be replaced by fresh trees, planted 
exactly where they ought to grow. Since they are 
not English trees it does not matter how beautiful 
they are, and that they take at least two hundred and 
fifty years to come to perfection is a matter of small 
moment. So the medical officer and I disagreed, till 
we came to Tanosu, a little town on the Tano River. 

The Chief here had just built a new rest-house, 
thank heaven, on the comfortable Ashanti pattern, 
and I was given it by the courteous medical officer, 
who disapproved of me on trees, while he sought 
shelter in the village. 

The people were very curious. The Chief, who it 
appears is a poor man, sent the usual presents, and 
then the people came and looked, and looked, till 
after about a couple of hours of it I grew weary, and 
shut the doors of the courtyard. Then they applied 
their eyes to every crank and cranny, and I had an 
uneasy feeling that whatever I did unseen eyes were 
following me. I wanted to rejoice in the Coronation, 
so I asked the doctor to come to dinner and celebrate, 



THE RUBBER COUNTRY 371 

but unfortunately my kitchen was at least a quarter 
of a mile away, and there were such terrible long 
waits between the courses that again and again I 
had to ask my guest if he would not go and see 
what had happened. We finished at last, and I 
wanted to drink the King's health in whisky-and- 
soda which was the only drink I had, but my guest 
was a teetotaller, so I sent for the servants, only 
to be informed that every one of them refrained 
from liquor. And as a rule I approve so highly of 
temperance. Only for this once did I find it rather 
depressing. However, we stood up and drank the 
King's health, and I expect the eyes that were watch- 
ing us wondered what on earth we were doing. 
They performed on tom-toms after that, and I fell 
asleep in the pleasant, damp night air, to a sort of 
barbaric fantasia on horns and drums. 

We were nearing our journey's end. Early next 
morning we crossed the Tano River, which is full of 
sacred fish, and the medical officer took my photo- 
graph in the stream, and I took his, as he crossed on 
his boy's shoulders, and when we crossed to the other 
side we found we had left every vestige of the road, 
the good road that had so surprised me, behind. 
We went along a track now, a track that wound in 
and out in the dense, tropical forest. Generally 
the trees met overhead and we marched through a 
tunnel, the ground beneath our feet was often a quag- 
mire, and if we could not see the sun often, neither 
could we feel the rain that fell on the foliage above 
our heads. On either side we could see nothing but 
the great trunks and buttresses of the trees, and 
the dense undergrowth. Possibly to go for days and 
days through a forest like this might give a sense of 



372 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

oppression, but to go as I did, for but a short time, 
was like peeping into a new world. Never a bird 
or beast I saw, nothing but occasionally a long stream 
of driver ants, winding like a band of cut jet across 
the path. And so we went on and on, through the 
solemn forest, till at last it cleared a little. There 
was the sky above again, and then no forest, but on 
my left cornfields and the brown splash of a native 
town, and in front a clearing, with the rim of the 
forest again in the distance, and right ahead, on the 
top of the gently sloping rise, the European bunga- 
lows of Sunyani. I had arrived, the first white 
woman who had come so far off the beaten track. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

AN OUTPOST 

The white men at Sunyani — Contrast between civilisation and 
barbarism — The little fort — The suffrage movement — " I am 
as mud in the sight of my people! " — The girl who did not 
wish to marry the King— The heavy loads carried by the 
Hausas— The danger of stubbing a toe — An Ashanti welcome 
— The Chief's soul — The unpleasant duties of the Chief's soul 
— The blood of sheep versus the blood of men — A courteous 
lady of Odumase — The Commissioners of Ashanti — Diffi- 
culties of crossing flooded streams — One way of carrying 
fowls — The last night in the wilds. 

At Sunyani there are usually six white men, namely 
a Provincial Commissioner, a medical officer — the 
relief had come up with me — three soldiermen, and a 
non-commissioned officer, and I think my sympathies 
are rather with that colour sergeant. The other men 
are all of one class, but he must be utterly alone. 
The houses and the men were equally delightful. I 
was taken into a mud-built house with a thatched roof, 
large and spacious. There were, of course, only 
holes for windows and doors, and the floors were of 
beaten earth, but it was most wonderfully comfor- 
table and homelike. The Commissioner was a great 
gardener, my room was a bower of roses, and there 
were books, the newest books and magazines, every- 
where. I should like to have stayed a month at 
Sunyani. Think of it! everything had to be carried 
eighty miles on men's heads, through a dense forest, 

373 



374 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

across all manner of watercourses, where the white 
ant refused to allow a bridge to remain more than a 
fortnight, and yet one felt in the midst of civilisation. 
They told me I was brave to come there, but where 
was the hardship ? none, none. It was all delightful. 
But there was another side. Close to the European 
bungalows was a little fort to which the men might 
retire in case of danger. They did not seem to think 
that they would ever be likely to require it, but there it 
was, and I, who had seen the old-time forts along the 
Coast, looked at this one with interest. It had a ditch 
round it, and walls of mud, and these were further 
strengthened by pointed stakes, bound together with 
barbed wire. An unpleasant place for a naked man 
to rush would be the little fort at Sunyani. Close 
against its wall so as to shelter the office, and yet out- 
side so as not to embarrass the people, is the post 
and telegraph office, and so fast is civilisation 
coming to that outpost, that they take there for 
stamps, telegrams, and postal orders something like 
fourteen pounds a week. 

I wandered round seeing everything, from the 
company of Waffs, exercising in the morning, to the 
hospital compound where the wives of the dresser 
and the wives of the patients were busily engaged in 
making fu-fu. For this is a primitive place, and here 
are no nursing Sisters and European comforts, and I 
must say the patients seem to do very well without 
them. 

And only ten years ago, here and behind at 
Odumase, was the centre of the great rebellion 
against the white man's power ; but things are moving, 
moving quickly. Only a week before I went up 
Messrs Swanzy had opened, with a black agent in 



AN OUTPOST 875 

charge, a store in the native town, and the day I 
arrived the agent brought his takings to the Com- 
missioner for safe keeping in the treasury within the 
fort. It was such a tiny place, that store, simply a 
corrugated-iron shack, wherein were sold cotton 
cloths, odds and ends of cheap fancy goods, such as 
might be supposed to take the eye of the native, and 
possibly a little gin. Everything had to Come on 
men's heads, so the wares were restricted, but the 
agent was well pleased with his enterprise, for that 
first week he had taken over ^150, and this from a 
people who were utterly unaccustomed to buying. 

" Things are changing, things are changing fast," 
said the Commissioner, and then he laughed and 
said that what bothered him most was the advance 
the suffrage movement was making. It wasn't yet 
militant, but he didn't know how it was going to end. 
The women had actually arrived at some idea of their 
own value to the community, and refused to marry 
the men their fathers had provided, if they did not 
happen to meet with their approval. Again and 
again a Chief would come to the Commissioner — a 
girl had declined to marry the man chosen for her, 
her father had appealed to the Chief, and the young 
lady, relying on the support of the British Govern- 
ment, had defied them both. 

" If this woman do not marry the man I tell her 
to, then am I as mud in the sight of my people ! " 
the Chief would say, flinging out protesting hands, 
and the Commissioner was very often as puzzled as 
he was. 

On one occasion he came down to his court to find 
sitting there a good-looking girl of about seventeen, 
with a baby on her back. She waited patiently all 



376 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

through the sitting of the court, and then, when he had 
time to give attention to her, explained herself. She 
had a complaint to make. The King, or head Chief, 
had married her. Now the Commissioner was 
puzzled to know why this already much-married man 
had burdened himself with a wife who manifestly did 
not want him, and why the lady objected to a regal 
alliance. The King was brief and to the point. He 
considered himself a much injured man. The girl's 
parents had betrothed her to a man in her childhood, 
and when she grew up she did not like him, and pre- 
ferring someone else, had declined to marry him. 
The King had been appealed to, but still she defied 
them, so, willy-nilly, to prevent further trouble, he 
had married her himself. 

How that case ended I do not know. But I asked 
one question : " Whose is the baby ? " And the baby 
it appeared was child to the man whom her parents 
and the King had rejected, so that Nature had settled 
the matter for them all. Whoever had her there was 
no getting over that baby. 

Sunyani is one of the great halting places for the 
Hausas and Wangaras who come down from Wenchi, 
so on the French border and here I was introduced 
into great compounds, where the men who bring down 
cattle and horses and other goods from the north 
take up their abode, and rest before they start on 
their wearisome journey through the forest to Kumasi. 
I had come through in five days, but these men 
generally take very much longer. The Hausa carries 
tremendously heavy loads, so heavy that he cannot 
by himself lift it to his head, and therefore he always 
carries a forked stick, and resting his load on this, 
rests it also in the fork of a tree, and so slips out from 



AN OUTPOST 377 

underneath it. Again and again on our way up had 
we come across men thus resting their heavy loads. 
He must walk warily too, for they say so heavy 
is the load that the Hausa who stubs his toe breaks 
his neck. Slowly he goes, for time as yet is of no 
consequence in West Africa. A certain sum he ex- 
pects to make, and whether he takes three months or 
six months to make it is as yet a matter of small 
moment to the black man, apparently, whatever his 
race. 

After I had been all round Sunyani, and dined 
at the mess, and inspected the fort and the hospital, 
they arranged for me to go to Odumase, five miles 
away. 

Odumase is on the extreme northern border of 

Ashanti, and in fact the inhabitants are not Ashanti 

at all, calling themselves after their own town, but it 

was here that the rising that overwhelmed Kumasi 

in 1 900- 1 was engineered and had its birth. Here, as 

a beginning, they took sixty unfortunate Krepi traders, 

bound them to a tree, and did them slowly to death 

with all manner of tortures, cutting a finger off one 

day, a toe the next, an arm perhaps the next, and 

leaving the unfortunate victims to suffer by the 

insects and the sun. And here, when they had taken 

him, they brought back the instigator of that 

rebellion, and showed him captive to his own people. 

He was no coward, whatever his sins, and he stood 

forth and exhorted his people to rescue him, reviling 

the white men, and spitting upon them. But his 

people were awed by the white man's troops, and 

they let him be taken down to Kumasi, where he 

was tried, and hanged, not for fighting against 

the British raj, but for cold-blooded murder. 



378 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

So to Odumase Mr Fell took me, explaining that 
because I was the first white woman to go there, the 
people would greet me in Ashanti fashion, and I was 
not to be afraid. 

It was well he explained. Long before we could 
see the town, running along the forest path came the 
Ashanti warriors to meet me, and they came with 
yells and shouts, firing off their long Danes, so that 
presently I could see nothing but grey smoke, and 
I could hear nothing much either for the yells and 
shouts, and blowing of horns, and beating of tom-toms. 
It is just as well to explain an Ashanti welcome, 
else it is apt to be terrifying, for had I not been 
told I certainly should never have realised that 
a lot of guns pointing at me from every conceivable 
angle and spouting fire and smoke, were emblems of 
goodwill. But they were ; and then I was intro- 
duced to the chiefs, and took their photographs. 
And now I have an awful confession to make. I 
have taken so many Ashanti chiefs that I do not 
know t'other from which. They were all clad in the 
most gorgeous silken robes, woven in the country, 
in them all the colours of the rainbow, and they 
were all profusely decorated with golden ornaments. 
They had great rings like stars and catfish on their 
fingers, they had all manner of gold ornaments on 
their heads, round their necks, round their arms, and 
on their legs, and they had many symbolical staffs 
with gold heads carried round them. Always, of 
course, they sat under a great umbrella, and their 
attendants too wore gold ornaments. Some of the 
latter were known as their souls, and the Chief's soul 
wore on his breast a great plate of gold. What his 
duties are now I do not know, I think he is King's 



AN OUTPOST 379 

messenger, but in the old times, which are about ten 
years back, his duties were more onerous. He was 
beloved of the Chief, and lived a luxurious life, but 
he could not survive his Chief. When his master 
died, his sun was set, and he was either killed or 
buried alive with him. Moreover, if the Chief had 
an unpleasant message to a neighbouring chief, he 
sent his soul to carry it, and if that chief did not like 
the message, and desired war, he promptly slew the 
messenger, put his jaw-bone in a cleft stick and sent 
it back. Altogether the Chief's soul was by no means 
sure of a happy life, and on the whole I think must 
infinitely prefer the fax Britannica. 

It takes a little time though before peace is 
appreciated. The last time Mr Fell had been to 
Nkwanta, the big town I had passed through, he 
found the place swimming in blood, and many stools 
reeking in it. It was only sheep's blood luckily, for 
Nkwanta had quarrelled with a sub-chief, and this was 
celebrating his reconciliation. 

" If the white man not be here," said Nkwanta 
through his interpreter, " plenty men go die to-day." 
" Oh, sheep are just as good," said the Provincial 
Commissioner. 

"Well perhaps," said Nkwanta, but there was no 
ring of conviction in his tones. 

Odumase the white men almost razed to the 
ground as punishment for the part it took in the 
great rebellion, but it is fast going up again. Many 
houses are built, ugly and after the white man's 
fashion, and many more houses are building. We 
passed one old man diligently making swish, that is 
kneading earth and water into sort of rough bricks 
for the walls, and I promptly took a photograph of 



380 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

him, for it seemed to me rather remarkable to see 
him working when all the rest of the place was look- 
ing at the white woman. And then I saw an old 
woman with shaven head and no ornaments whatever ; 
she was thin and worn, and I was sorry for her. " No 
one cares for old women here," I thought, I believe 
mistakenly, so I called her over and bestowed on 
her the munificent dole of threepence. She took my 
hand in both hers and bowed herself almost to the 
ground in gratitude or thanks, and I felt that com- 
fortable glow that comes over us when we have done 
a good action. 

T was a fool. There are no poor in West Africa, 
and she was quite as great a lady as I was, only more 
courteous. As I left Odumase she came forward 
with a small girl beside her, and from that girl's head 
she took a large platter of most magnificent plantains, 
ripe and ready for eating, which she with deep obei- 
sance laid at my feet. If I could give presents so could 
she, and she did it with much more dignity. Still, 
I flatter myself she did like that threepenny bit. 

I was very very loath to leave Sunyani. It was a 
place on the very outskirts of the Empire, and the 
highest civilisation and barbarism mingled. It must 
be lonely of course, intensely lonely at times, but 
it must be at the same time most interesting to carve 
a province out of a wilderness, to make roads and 
arrange for a trade that is growing. 

They are wonderfully enthusiastic all the Com- 
missioners in Ashanti, and when I praise German 
methods, I always want to exempt Ashanti, for here 
all the Commissioners, following in the footsteps of 
their Chief, seem to work together, and work with love. 
In the very country where roadmaking seems the most 







Mil \i I I > I f \i. OFFICER CROSSES I HI-: two ki\IK 



AN OUTPOST 381 

difficult, roadmaking goes on. The Commissioner 
at Sunyani had sent to the King of Warn telling him he 
wanted three hundred men to make a road to the Tano 
River, and the King of Warn sent word, " Certainly " ; 
he was sending a thousand, and I left the Commis- 
sioner wondering what on earth he was to do for tools. 
So is civilisation coming to Ashanti, not by a great 
upheaval or desperate change, but by their own 
methods, and the wise men who rule over them, rule 
by means of their own chiefs. I have no words strong 
enough to express my admiration for those Ashanti 
Commissioners and the men I met there in the forest. 
We differed only, I think, on the subject of tree- 
felling, and possibly had I had opportunity to learn 
more about things, I might have found excuses even 
for that. 

The rainy season was upon us, and it was time for 
me to go back. The medical officer, who had just 
been relieved, was coming down with me, and this 
medical officer was very sick with a poisoned hand. 
It was my last trek in the bush, and I should have 
liked to linger, but the thought of that bad hand made 
me go faster, for I would not keep him from help 
longer than I could help. So we retraced our steps 
exactly, doing in four days what I had taken five to do 
on the way up, and this was the more remarkable 
because now it rained. It rained heavens hard, and 
the little streams that our men had carried us through 
quite easily on the way up, were now great, rushing 
rivers that sometimes we negotiated with a canoe, and 
sometimes laboriously got over with the aid of a log. 
It really is no joke crossing a flooded African stream 
on a slimy log. I took a picture of one, with the 
patient Wangara crossing. Then my men carried 



382 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

me in my hammock to the log, and with some little 
difficulty I got out of that hammock on to it. I 
had to scramble to my feet, and the man beside me 
made me understand that I had better not fall over, 
as on the other side the water was deep enough to 
drown me. I walked very gingerly, because the water 
beneath looked unpleasantly muddy, up that tree- 
trunk, scrambled somehow round the root and down 
the other branch, till at last I got into water shallow 
enough to allow of my being transferred to my ham- 
mock and carried to dry land, there to sit and watch 
my goods and chattels coming across the same way. 
I felt a wretch too, for it had taken close on twenty 
men, more or less, to get me across without injury, 
and yet here were a company of Wangaras or Hausas, 
and the patient women had loads on their heads and 
babies on their backs. No one worried about them. 

For perhaps the first time in my life I was more than 
content with that station in life into which it had pleased 
my God to call me. I do not think I could wish my 
worst enemy a harder fate than to be a Wangara 
woman on trek, unless perhaps I was extra bitter, and 
wished him to taste life as an African fowl. That 
must be truly a cruel existence. He scratches for a 
living, and every man's hand is against him. I used 
to feel sometimes as if I were aiding and abetting, for 
I received on this journey so many dashes of fowls 
that neither I nor the medical officer could possibly 
eat them all, and so our servants came in for them. 
More than once I have come across Grant sitting 
resting by the roadside with a couple of unfortunate 
fowls tied to his toes. In Grant's position I should 
have been anything but happy, but he did not seem 
to mind, and as I never saw the procession en route, I 




\ BREAK IX THE FOREST BEYOND THE TANO RIVER 



AN OUTPOST 383 

was left in doubt as to whether he carried them, or 
insisted on their walking after him. I saw that he 
had rice for them, and told him to give them water, 
but I dare say he did not trouble. 

The last night out, my last night in the bush I fear 
me for many a long day, we stopped at a village called 
Fu-fu, and I went to the rest-house, which was built 
European fashion, and was on the edge of the forest, 
at some distance from the village. 

I found my men putting up my bed in a room where 
all the air came through rather a small hole in the mud 
wall, and I objected. 

" Where ? " said my patient headman, who after 
nearly a fortnight had failed to fathom the white 
woman's vagaries. 

There was a verandah facing the town and a 
verandah facing the forest, and I promptly chose the 
bush side as lending itself more to privacy. Very 
vehemently that headman protested. 

" It no be fit, Ma, it no be fit. Bush close too 
much " ; so at length I gave in, and had the bed put 
up on the verandah facing the town. On the other 
end, I decided, the medical officer and I would chop. 
For we had been most friendly coming down, and 
had had all our meals together. 

Before dinner I think the whole of the women of 
that village had been to see me, and had eaten up 
the very last of my biscuits, but I did not mind, for 
was it not the end of the journey, and they were so 
interested, and so smiling, and so nice. We had 
dinner, and we burned up the last of the whisky to 
make a flare over the plum-pudding ; and then the 
medical officer wished me good night and wended 
his way to his house somewhere in the town, Grant 



384 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

and the cook betook themselves to another hut nearer 
the town and barricaded the door, and then suddenly 
I realised that I was entirely alone on the edge of this 
vast, mysterious, unexplainable forest. And the head- 
man had said " the bush no be fit." I ought to have 
remembered Anum Mount and Potsikrom, but I 
didn't. I crept into bed and once more gave myself 
up to the most unreasoning terror. What I expected 
to come out of that forest I do not know. What 
I should have done had anything come I'm sure I do 
not know, but never again do I want to spend such 
a night. The patter of the rain on the iron roof made 
me shiver, the sighing of the wind in the branches 
sent fingers clutching at my heart ; when I dropped 
into a doze I waked in deadly terror, my hands 
and face were clammy with sweat, and I dozed 
and waked, and dozed and waked, till, when the 
dawn came breaking through the clouds at last, it 
seemed as if the night had stretched itself into an 
interminable length. And yet nothing had happened ; 
there had been nothing to be afraid of, not even a 
leopard had cried, but so tired was I with my own 
terrors that I slept in my hammock most of the way 
into Kumasi. 

And here my trip practically ended. I stayed a 
day or two longer, wandering round this great, new 
trading-centre, and then I took train to Sekondi, 
stayed once more with my kind friend, Miss Oram, 
the nursing Sister there, gathered together my goods 
and chattels, and on a day when it was raining as if 
never again could the sun shine, I went down in the 
transport officer's hammock for the last time ; for the 
last time went through the surf, and reached the deck 
of the Dakar, bound for England. 



CHAPTER XXV 

THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES 

The enormous wealth of West Africa— The waste— The need of 
some settled scheme — Competitive examination for the West- 
African Civil Service— The men who come after the pioneers 
— One industry set against another— The climate — The need 
of women — The dark peoples we govern — The isolation of 
the cultivated black man — The missionaries — The Roman 
Catholics — The Basel missionaries — West Africa the country 
of raw material — An answer to the question, " What shall I 
do with my son? " — The fascination of Africa. 

And so I have visited the land I had dreamed 
about as a little child in far-away Australia. But 
no, I have never been to that land. It is a won- 
derful country that lies with the long, long thoughts 
of childhood, with the desires of youth, with the 
hopes that are in the heart of the bride when she 
draws the curtain on her marriage morning. Beau- 
tiful hopes, beautiful desires, never to be fulfilled. 
We know, as we grow older, that some of our long- 
ings will never be granted exactly in the way we 
have expected them to be granted, but that does 
not mean that good things will not come to us, 
though not in the guise in which we have looked 
for them. Therefore, though I have never visited 
Carlo's country, and never can visit it, still I have 
seen a very goodly land, a land flowing with milk 
and honey, a land worthy of a high place in the 

385 2B 



386 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

possessions of any nation, and yet, I think, a land 
that has been grievously misjudged. 

Why does no one speak of the enormous wealth 
of West Africa? When America was but a faint 
dream of the adventurous voyager, when Australia 
was not on the maps, the west coast of Africa was 
exploited by the nations growing in civilisation for 
her wealth of gold, and slaves, and ivory, and the 
wealth that was there in those long-ago days is 
there to-day. There is gold as of yore, gold for the 
working ; slaves, but we recognise the rights of man 
now and use them only as cheap labour; and there 
is surely raw material and vegetable products that 
should bring food and wealth to the struggling 
millions of the older world. The African peasant is 
passing rich on threepence a day, and within reach 
of his hand grow rubber and palm oil, groundnuts 
and cotton, cocoa and hemp, and cocoa-nuts and all 
manner of tropical fruits. These things, I know, 
appertain to other lands, but here they are simply 
flung out with a tropical lavishness, and till this 
century I doubt if they have been counted of any 
particular value. If the English colonies of West 
Africa were cultivated by men with knowledge and 
patience, bringing to the work but a fiftieth of 
the thought and attention that is given to such 
matters in France, the return would be simply amaz- 
ing. I have seen 25 per cent, of an ignorant 
peasant community's cocoa harvest wasted be- 
cause there were no roads ; I have seen cocoa-nut 
plantations useless, " because the place isn't suit- 
able," when in all probability some parasite was 
killing the palms. I have seen lives and money 
lost in a futile endeavour to teach the native to 



LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES 387 

grow cotton, when the climate and conditions cried 
out that cocoa was the proper product to be 
encouraged. 

What the portion of West Africa I know well 
wants is to be worked on some settled scheme, a 
scheme made by some far-seeing mind that shall 
embrace, not the conditions of five years hence, but 
of fifty years hence ; the man who works there should 
be laying the foundations of a plan that shall come 
to fruition in the time of our children's children, 
that should be still in sound working order in their 
grandchildren's time. The wheat of the Canadian 
harvest-field may bring riches in a year, the wool 
of Australia's plains wealth in two or three, but the 
trees of the African forest have taken hundreds of 
years to their growth, and, when they are grown, are 
like no other trees in the world. With them none 
may compare. So may these tropical dependencies 
of England be when rightly used, they shall come 
to their full growth. But we must remember they 
are tropical dependencies. The ordinary Englishman, 
it seems to me, is apt to expect to gather apples 
from a cocoa-nut palm, potatoes from a groundnut 
vine, and to rail because he cannot find those 
apples and potatoes. He will never find them, and 
the man who expects them is the man in the wrong 
place. 

I hope some day soon to find there is a compet- 
itive examination for positions in the West-African 
Civil Service. Does any man grumble who has 
won a place in the Indian Civil Service? I think 
not. A competitive examination may not be the 
ideal way of choosing your political staff, but as yet 
we have evolved none better. The man who passes 



388 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

high in a competitive examination must at least 
have the qualities of industry and self-denial, and 
who will deny that these are good qualities to bring 
to the governing of a subject people ? 

It is curious to watch English methods of colonisa- 
tion, and whether we will or no we must sit in judg- 
ment upon them. The first men who go out are 
sometimes good, sometimes bad, but all have this 
saving grace — that strong spirit of adventure, that 
dash and go which made England a colonising nation 
and mistress of the seas. It would be like asking a 
great cricketer to play tiddly-winks to ask one of 
the men who fought for Ashanti to take part in a 
competitive examination. They have competed and 
passed in a far sterner school. But the men who 
follow in the footsteps of the pioneers are sometimes 
made of different stuff. They are often the restless, 
discontented ones of the nation, men who complain 
of the land they leave, complain of the land they 
come to, find no good in West Africa, seek for no 
good, exaggerate its drawbacks, are glad to regard 
themselves as martyrs and to give the country an 
evil name. Such men, I think, a competitive exam- 
ination would weed out. 

There must be continuity of service. That is a 
foregone conclusion. At present England thinks 
so little of the land that is hers that she puts a man 
in a place but for a year, and the political officer has 
no chance of learning the conditions and needs of 
the people over whom he rules ; he is a rolling stone 
perpetually moving on. Then it is the height of folly 
to set one industry against another. All should 
surely, in a new country, be worked for the common 
good. For instance, there is a railway running 



LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES 389 

between Kumasi and Sekondi, a Government railway, 
and behind Kumasi lies a vast extent of country un- 
explored and unexploited, with hardly a road in it. 
One would have thought that it would simply be 
wisdom and for the good of the whole community 
that the railway which is Government property should 
be used for the opening up of the country behind. 
Such is the plan in Canada; such is the prac- 
tice in Australia. But in West Africa Government 
holds different views. Ashanti wants to build a road 
to the Northern Territories, a road such as the Ger- 
mans have made all over Togo, but Government, 
instead of using the railway to further that project, 
charge such exorbitant freight on the road material, 
that the road-making has come to a standstill. 
It is typical of the country. Each department is 
pitted against the other, instead of one and all work- 
ing for the good of the whole. The great mind that 
shall be at liberty to plan, that I fear sometimes lest 
the Germans and French have found, has yet to 
come. 

There are many prejudices to break down, and 
first and foremost is the prejudice against the climate. 
Now I am not going to say that West Africa is a 
health resort, though I went there ill and came away 
in the rudest health. Still I do recognise that a 
tropical climate is hard for a European, more espec- 
ially, perhaps, for people of these northern isles, to 
dwell in. A man cannot afford to burn the candle 
at both ends there, and if he would keep well he 
must of necessity live in all soberness and temperance. 
He does not always do that, but at present, whatever 
his illness is due to, it is always set down to the cli- 
mate, and he is always sure of a full measure of pity. 



390 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

Once I stayed for a short time next to a hospital, and 
the Europeans in the little town were much exercised 
because that hospital was so full. At last it occurred 
to me to ask what was the matter with the patients. 
I was not told what was the matter with them, but I 
found that the only one for whom anyone had much 
pity was the gentleman who had D.T. But even 
the worst of them you may be sure would have full 
measure of pity in England. " Poor fellow, that 
awful climate! " 

Doctors tell me fever is rife, and I feel they must 
know more about it than I do, but it has been dis- 
covered in England that a life in the open air 
is an almost certain preventive of phthisis, and I can- 
not help thinking that a sane and sober life in the 
open air day and night would be a more certain 
preventive against fever than all the quinine and 
mosquito-proof rooms that were ever dreamt of. Ob- 
serve, I say, a sane and sober life ; and a sane and 
sober life means most emphatically that a man does 
not rush at his work and live habitually at high 
pressure. For this is a temptation that the better- 
class of man is peculiarly liable to in West Africa. 
" Let us succeed, let us get on, and let us get home " ; 
and who, in the present conditions, can blame him 
for such sentiments. They are such as do any man 
credit, but they very often, in a hot climate more 
especially, spell destruction as surely as the wild 
dissipation of the reckless man who does not care. 
And there is only one cure for that — the cure the 
French and Germans are providing. The women 
must be encouraged to go out. Every woman who 
goes and stays makes it easier for the woman who 
follows in her footsteps, and I can see no reason why 




II\IS\ RESTING III-- LOAD. 



LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES 391 

a woman should not stand the climate of West Africa 
as well as she does that of India. Women are the 
crying need ; quiet, brave, sensible women who are not 
daunted because the black cook spoils the soup, or 
the black laundryman ruins the tablecloth, who will 
take an intelligent view of life, and will make what is 
so much needed — a home for their husbands. I know 
there are men who say that Africa is no place for a 
woman. I have met them again and again. Some 
of those men I respected very much ; some I put in 
quite another category. The first evidently regarded 
a wife as a precious plaything, not as a creature who 
was helpmeet and friend, whose greatest joy must be 
to keep her marriage vows and share her husband's 
life for good or ill, whose life must of necessity be 
incomplete unless she were allowed to keep those 
marriage vows. The other sort, I am afraid, like the 
freedom that the absence of white women gives them, 
a freedom that is certainly not for the ultimate wel- 
fare of a colony, for the mingling of the European and 
the daughter of Ham should be unthinkable. It is 
good for neither people. 

And here we come to the great difficulty of a tropi- 
cal dependency, the question that as yet is unan- 
swered and unanswerable. What of the dark peoples 
we govern? They are a peasant people with a 
peasant people's faults and a peasant people's charm, 
but what of their future ? The native untouched by 
the white man has a dignity and a charm that there 
is no denying ; it seems a great pity he cannot be kept 
in that condition. The man on the first rung of civilisa- 
tion has points about him, and on the whole one can- 
not help liking him, but the man who has gathered 
the rudiments of an education, as presented to men 



392 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

in an English school on the Coast, is, to my mind, 
about as disagreeable a specimen of humanity as 
it is possible to meet anywhere. He has lost the 
charming courtesy of the untutored savage, and re- 
placed it by a horrible veneer of civilisation that is 
blatant and pompous ; and it is only because I have 
met such men as Dr Blyden and Mr Olympia that I 
am prepared to admit that education can do some- 
thing beyond spoiling a good thing. Between black 
and white there is that great, unbridgeable gulf fixed, 
and no man may cross it. The black men who attain 
to the higher plane are as yet so few and scattered 
that each must lead a life of utter intolerable loneli- 
ness, men centuries before their time, men burdened 
with knowledge like Galileo, men who must suffer 
like Galileo, for none may understand them, and the 
white man stands and must stand — it is inevitable — 
too far off even for sympathy. 

All honour to those men who go before the pion- 
eers ; but for them, as far as we can see, is only 
bitterness. 

The curious thing is that most people who have 
visited West Africa or any other tropical depen- 
dency will recognise these facts, and yet England 
continues to pour into Africa a continuous stream 
of missionaries. Why? For years Christianity has 
been taught on the Coast, and it is now a well-recog- 
nised fact that on the Coast dishonesty and vice are 
to be found, while the man from the interior is at 
least honest, healthy, and free from vice. I am not 
saying that religion as taught by the missionary 
has taught vice, but I am declaring emphatically that 
it has failed to keep the negro from it. Why en- 
courage missionaries? As civilisation advances the 



LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES 393 

native must be taught. Very well, let him pay for 
his own teaching, he will value it a great deal more ; 
or, since the merchants want clerks and the white 
rulers want artisans, let them pay for the native to 
be taught. But very, very strongly do I feel, when 
I look at the comfortable, well-fed native of West 
Africa and the wastrel of the English streets, that 
the English who subscribe to missions are taking 
the bread from the children's table and throwing it 
to the dogs. 

Hundreds and thousands of people are ready to 
give to missions, but I am very sure not a fraction of 
them have the very faintest conception of what they 
are giving to. Their idea is that they are giving to 
the poor heathen who are sunk in the deepest misery. 
Now there is not in all the length and breadth of 
Africa, I will venture to swear, one-quarter of the 
unutterable misery and vice you may see any day in 
the streets of London or any great city of the British 
Isles. There is not a tribe that has not its own 
system of morals and sees that they are carried out ; 
there is not the possibility of a man, woman, or child 
dying of starvation in all West Africa while there is 
any food among the community. Can we say that 
of any town in England? What then are we trying 
to teach the native? Christianity. But surely a 
man's god is only such as his mind can appreciate ; 
a high-class mind has a high-class god, a kindly 
mind a kindly god, and an evil mind an evil god. 
No matter whether we call that god Christ, or by 
any other name, he will have the attributes the 
mind that conceives him gives him ; wherefore why 
worry ? 

Of course I know that a large number of people 



394 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

feel that religion comes from without and not from 
within, and a larger number still say as long as a 
mission is industrial it is a good thing, and to both 
of these I can only point out the streets and alleys 
and tenement houses of the towns of England. It 
seems to me the most appalling presumption on the 
part of any nation with such ghastly festering sores at 
its own heart to try and impose on any other people 
a code of morals, a system of ethics, a religion, if 
you will, until its own body is sweet and clean. 
An industrial mission is doubtless a good thing, 
but until there are no men clamouring for the post 
of sandwich-men in London, no women catering to 
a shameful traffic in Piccadilly, I think we should 
keep the money for our industrial missions at 
home. 

Let us look the thing straight in the face. They 
talk of human sacrifices. Are there no human sacri- 
fices in our own midst ? We lie if we say there are none. 
Every day we who pride ourselves upon having been 
a Christian nation for the last thousand years con- 
demn little children to a life of utter hopelessness, to 
a life the very thought of which, in connection with 
our own children, would make us hide our faces in 
shuddering horror. So if any man is appealed to to 
give to missions, I would have him look round and 
see that everyone in his immediate neighbourhood 
is beyond the need of help, that there are no ghastly 
creatures at his own gate that the heathen he is try- 
ing to convert would scorn to have at his side. Be- 
lieve me, if Christianity is to justify itself there is not 
yet one crumb to spare from the children's table for 
the dogs that lie outside. 

For the individual missionary I have — in many 




0* 



LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES 395 

cases, I must have — a great respect. The trouble to 
my mind is that Christianity presented in so many 
guises must be a little confusing to the heathen. 
There are the Roman Catholics. They are pawns in 
the great game played by Rome ; no individual 
counts. They have given themselves to the mission- 
ary service to teach the heathen, and they stay until 
they die or until they are too sick to be of further 
use in the land. Of course they are helpful, any life 
that is oblivious of self and is utterly devoted to others 
must needs be helpful, and they have my deepest 
respect, because never, never have I been called upon 
to sympathise with a Roman Catholic father or sister. 
They have given their lives, no man can do more, 
and all I can say is, I would prefer they gave it to the 
civilising of the submerged folks of their own nations 
than to civilising the black man. 

Then at the other end of the social scale are the 
Basel Missions. They combine business and reli- 
gion very satisfactorily in a thoroughly efficient 
German spirit, and while the missionaries attend to 
the souls of the heathen and set up schools to teach 
them not only to read and write, but various useful 
trades as well, the Basel Mission Factories do a 
tremendous trade in all the necessaries of life. 
These Basel missionaries are most kindly, worthy 
people, and to their kindness I owe much. Occa- 
sionally I have come across a man of wide reading 
and with clever, observant eyes, but as a rule they 
are chosen from the lower middle classes among the 
Swiss and Germans ; very often the missionary spirit 
runs in the families, and it passes on from father to 
son, from mother to daughter. These people, too, 
come out if not for life, like the Roman Catholics, at 



396 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

least for long periods of years. It is generally be- 
lieved on the Coast, and I have never heard it con- 
tradicted, that when a man attains a certain standing 
he is allowed to marry, even though he is not due for 
a holiday in Europe. They have at headquarters 
photographs of all the eligible maidens in training for 
the mission field, and the candidate for matrimony 
may choose his wife, and she is duly forwarded to him, 
for the heads of the Basel Missions, like me, believe 
in matrimony for Africa. And most excellent wives 
do these Basel missionary women make. They bear 
their children here in West Africa where no English 
woman thinks she can stay more than six months, 
and their homes are truly homes in the best sense of 
the word. If example is good for the heathen, then 
he has it in the Basel Missions. Another thing, they 
must make the most excellent nucleus for German 
interests, for no one who has been in a Basel Mission 
Station or Factory can but respect these men and 
women and little children who make a home and 
a garden in the wilderness. And what I have said 
about the Basel Missions applies to the Bremen 
Missions, except that these are more pronouncedly 
German. But better women may I never hope to 
meet in this wide world than those in the Bremen 
Missions. And in between these two extremes are 
missionaries of every class and description. Against 
the individuals I have nothing to say, save and ex- 
cept this — I want to discount the admiration given to 
the " poor missionary." They are good men I doubt 
not, but they are earning a living just as I who write 
am earning a living, or you who read, and to my mind 
they are earning a living in the halo of sanctity very 
much more comfortably than the struggling doctor 



LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES 397 

or the poor curate in an East-End parish. Whatever 
their troubles, they have never the bitterness of see- 
ing the ghastly want that they cannot relieve, and if 
they do not live in England, they have always the 
joy of making a home in a new country, and that is 
a joy that those who talk so glibly about exile do not 
seem to realise. 

" But we must have the negroes taught reading 
and writing and trades," said a man to me once when 
we were discussing the missionary question ; and I 
agree it is necessary, but I do not see why I am to 
regard the teacher as on a higher plane than he who 
teaches the same in England. And as for the reli- 
gion that is taught, the only comment I have to make 
upon it is that no man that ever I heard of would take 
a mission boy or a Christian for a servant when he 
could get a decent heathen. Finally, considering 
the amount of destitution and terrible want in the 
streets of England, if I had my way I would put a 
heavy tax on all money contributed for the conver- 
sion of the heathen. Before it was allowed to go out 
of the country I would if I could take heavy toll, and 
with that toll give the luckless children of my own 
colour a start in life in the Colonies. 

Finally, West Africa is the country of raw ma- 
terial. It should be England's duty so to work that 
country that it be complementary to England, the 
great manufacturing land. The peasant of the Gold 
Coast burning the bush to make his cocoa plantations 
is absolutely necessary to the girl fixing the labels on 
the finished product ; her very livelihood depends 
upon him. The nearer these two are brought to- 
gether in a commercial sense the better for both, and 
what we say of cocoa we may say of palm oil and 



398 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

groundnuts and other vegetable fats, of rubber, of 
hemp, of gold, of tin. This country which produces 
with tropical luxuriance should be, if properly worked, 
a source of immense wealth to the nation that pos- 
sesses it. 

And as we rise in the social scale, think of the 
openings this country, thickly populated, well culti- 
vated, flourishing, would offer for the young men of 
the middle classes seeking a career. A political ser- 
vice like the Civil Service of India, officered by men 
who have won places there by strenuous work and 
high endeavour, who are proud of the positions they 
have won, and a busy mercantile community, serving 
side by side with these political officers, would go 
some way to answering the question on the lips of 
the middle-class father, " What shall I do with my 
son ? " The work of women is widening every day, 
and I, who honestly believe that an ordinary woman 
may go where an ordinary man can, may with profit 
take up work even as a man may do, see scope for 
the women of the future there too, not only as wives 
and helpmeets to the men, but as heads of indepen- 
dent enterprises of their own. 

I have finished my book, ended the task that I 
have set myself to do, and I hope I have been able to 
convey to my readers some of the fascination that 
Africa has always held for those who have once 
visited her shores. But hitherto it has been the fas- 
cination of the mistress, never of the wife. She held 
out no lure, for she was no courtesan. A man came 
to her in his eager youth asking, praying that she 
would give him that which should make all life good ; 
and she trusted and opened her arms. What she 
had to give she gave freely, generously ; there was no 



LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES 399 

stint, no lack. And he took. Her charm he counted 
as a matter of course, her tenderness was his due, 
her passion was for his pleasure ; but the fascination 
he barely admitted could not keep him. Though 
she had given all she had no rights, and when 
other desires called he left her, left her with words 
of pity that were an injury, of regret that were an 
insult. 

But all this is changing. Africa holds. The man 
who has once known Africa longs for her. In the 
sordid city streets he remembers the might and lone- 
liness of her forests, by the rippling brook he re- 
members the wide rivers rushing tumultuous to the 
sea, in the night when the rain is on the roof plashing 
drearily he remembers the gorgeous tropical nights, 
the sky of velvet far away, the stars like points of 
gold, the warm moonlight that with its deeper sha- 
dows made a fairer world. Even the languor and the 
heat he longs for, the white foam of the surf on the 
yellow sand of the beaches, the thick jungle growth 
densely matted, rankly luxuriant, pulsating with the 
irrepressible life of the Tropics. All other places 
are tame. The fascination that he has denied comes 
back calling to him in after years. Thus " the whirli- 
gig of time brings in his revenges." This mistress he 
will have none of has spoiled him for all else. And 
here the analogy fails. Africa holds, and the man 
whom she holds may yield to the fascination not only 
without shame, but with pride. Before her lies a 
great future ; to the man who knows how to use her 
gifts she offers wealth and prosperity. To be won 
easily? Well, no. These gifts lie there as certainly 
as there is a sky above us, as that the sun will 
rise to-morrow, but there lie difficulties in the way, 



400 ALONE IN WEST AFRICA 

obstacles to be overcome. Africa offers the oppor- 
tunities — success is for the 

" One who never turned his back but marched breast forward, 
Never doubted clouds would break, 
Never dreamed though right were worsted wrong would 

triumph, 
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better, 
Sleep to wake. 

Now at noonday in the bustle of man's work- time 

Greet the unseen with a cheer ! 
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be, 
4 Strive and thrive ! ' cry ' Speed— fight on — ' " 



INDEX 



Accra, 178 

, Breakwater at, 189 

, Cause of yellow fever 

at, 173 

, Cooks of, 186 

, Difficulties of landing 

at, 178 

, Fences of, 186 

, Government House at, 

180 

, Half-civilised negroes 

at, 178 

, Possibilities of, 185 

, Sacrifice Rock at, 195 

, Streets of, 188 

, Technical schools at, 191 

Addah, 295^301 

, Crossing the bar at, 305, 

306, 307, 308 

, Landing at, 298 

, Swamp at, 301 

, Swanzy's transport offi- 
cer at, 300 

Afram plain, 217, 226 

Agricultural station, 325 

Akuse, 209 

Alcoholic wave, 332 

Amedika, 21 1 

America's attempt at nation- 
making, 60 

Amusing proverb, 288 

Annamabu, 163, 164, 165 

, Chief at, 164 

, Rest-house at, 164 

Anum mountain, 223, 225 

Appam, Filthy, 173 

Ashanti, Commissioners of, 
380 

forest, 355, 356, 357, 361 

, Mr Fuller, Chief Com- 
missioner of, 346 

snails, 337, 338 

warriors, 341 

welcome, 378 

Axim, 81, 117 



401 



Barbarism versus inde- 
cency, 70 
Basel Mission grounds, 224 

methods, 225 

women, 193 

Bathurst Government House, 

17 

market, 20 

, Town of, 21 

Beach, Life on the, 97 

Beauty of mangrove swamp, 28 

Bechem, 365 

Berraku, 175 

Beyin, 94, 98, 103, 105, 107 

US, 117 
Black babies, 364 

captain, A,- 24 

Border, The, 241 

Bremen Mission Sisters, 279 

girls' school, 279, 

280 

British Cotton-growing Ex- 
perimental Farm, 218-222 
Burying of the village dead, 92 

Canoeing, 212 
Cape Coast, 154 

, Truculent people at, 158 

Cape Palmas, 73 

Carriers, 88, 124, 125, 150, 

162, 357, 358 
, Aggravating mammv, 

l6 S 
, Honesty of, 202 

, Sick, 116 

, Unruly, 118 

Cart-boys, 191 

Castles, Haunted, 155 

Cemented gutters, 122 

Chama, 130, 135 

Changing those in authority, 

Iniquitous system of, 123 

Charming country, 243 

Children, Desire for, 28 

-, Dutiful, 289 



2C 



402 



INDEX 



Christian, Backsliding of a, 84 
Christianity, Progress of, 287 

, Wrong side of, 74 

Christiansborg, Danish grave- 
yard at, 190 

, Ghosts at, 181 

, Stained-glass windows 

at, 180 
Church and fetish, 237 
Cleanliness, 89 
Climate, 389 
Coast of the great days of the 

slave trade, 96 
Coast, Road along, 137 
Coiffure, Remarkable, 188 
Colour question, 16, 68, 391, 

392 

Commissioner, Troubled Dis- 
trict, 82 

Commissioners, Death of, 41 

Competitive examination for 
Civil Service, 387 

Condemned to death, 95, 367 

Continuity of service, Need 
of, 388 

Contrast between the Coast 
and Ashanti, 136 

Coronation, 366 

dinner, 370 

Creoles of Sierra Leone, 49 

, Dress of, 56 

, Language of, 54 

Dangers of the way, 85 
Definite plan for beautifying 

needed, 124 
Denton, Sir George, 42 
Dinner in the open, 89 
Disappearances, 205 
Dixcove, 315, 317 
Dodowah, 196 
Dr Duff, 146 
Dutch, Native affection for 

the, 150 

Eccentricities of the 
Telegraph Service, 179 

Eduaprim, 332, 333 

Effect of moon, 199 

Elmina, 147 

Castle, 148 

, Reasons for its abandon- 
ment, 147 

, Reasons for the death- 
rate, 149 

England, Man who is ruin to, 

34 
Englishman, Position of, 45 



English prisoners, 271, 272, 

273 

representatives, 207 

women in West Africa ; 

46 

Eveto Range, 234 

Fatta Tenda, 40 

Fear, 204, 363, 384 

Forced labour, 115 

Forest, 355, 356, 357. 361, 365 

, Passing of, 337 

Forestry officer, 85 

Fort at'Kumasi, 340, 341, 342, 

343 

Sunyani, 374 

Forts along the Coast, 163, 185 

, Danish, 291 

, Sites chosen by differ- 
ent nations for, 163 

" France," 1 12 

French and English as civil- 
isers, Dr Blyden on, 158 

French and Germans as colon- 
ists, 45 

French border, 109 

Fu-fu, 383 

Funeral palaver, 127 

Gambia, a wonderful river, 29 
, Chiefs in the, 36 

colony, The beginning 

of the, 17 

, Dinner party on the, 36 

, Last rising in the, 41 

Gardens, 21 

Gentlemen adventurers, 113 

German Commissioner, 246 

element in West Africa, 

166 

engineer, Plucky, 308 

, English, and Australian 

women compared, 167, 168, 
i6g 

fences, 253 

hospitality, 243, 252, 267 

markets, 254, 255 

methods, 242, 243, 267, 

270, 275, 380 

prisoners, 270 

rest-house, 24g 

roads, 26g, 270 

trader, Lonely, 106 

— ■ — - woman, 244, 245 

Gold Coast school-inspector, 

151 
Goldfields, 322 
Governor, Landing of a, 14 



INDEX 



403 



Grand Bassa, 73 
Grave, The White Man's, 48 
Groundnut colony, 13 
, Gathering of the, 39 

industry. 44 

soup, Effect of, 166 

Guinea Coast, 80 
Guinea-worm, 153 

Half Assinie, 109-116 

, preventive officer at, 

no, III 
Half-civilised black men, 217 
Hands and feet in pickle, 72 
Haus-frau, 167 
Health, 1S1, 182, 183, 280, 

336, 390 

, Causes of ill-, 183 

Ho, 243 

, Road to, 240 _ 

Hospital at Sekondi, 123 
Hospitality, 163 
Hotels, 121 
Hunger, 229 

Inhabitants of Coast 
town, 85 

Ju-ju, Signs of, 95 

Keta, 276, 288 
— — , Life at, 292 

, Weaving in, 288 

Kindliness of the people of 

the shore, 177 
Kindly welcome, 282 
King's Highway, 92 

soul, 379 

Kommenda, 138 
Krobo Hill, 194 
Kroo boys, 169, 187 
Kumasi, 339-352 
, Streets of, 345 

Labolabo, 217 

Lair of the hunted, 105 

Liberia, 58 

, difficulties of the first 

settlers, 61 
, Idleness of the people 

of, 71 

, Slavery in, 75 

Liberian soldiery, 72 
Liberians, Only plea for the, 

77 
Lome, 267, 268 
, Bridge over the surf 

at, 274 



Luckless hedge, 125 

Mahogany logs, hi, 112 

, Shameful waste in 

trimming, 113 
Marriage, 284-287 
Married by the King, 376 
M'Carthy Island, 32 
Meddlesome missionary, 192 
Men of old, Paths of, 159 
Miners and liquid refresh- 
ment, 121 
Misfortune, West Africa's, 149 
Missionary effort, 392, 303, 

394, 395, 3QD 
Missionary girl, 73 
Mode of carrying live stock, 

160 
Monrovia, British Consul at, 

64 

, Landing at, 03 

, Road in, 64 

Mosquito-proof rooms, 280, 

301, 329, 390 
Mount Klutow, 257 

Names, 284 
Native telegraphy, 156 
Need of women, 391 
Negro conversation, 31 

prisoners, 186 

resembles Hindoo Ba- 
boo, 152 

tortures, 194 

Night journey, 199, 250 
Nkwanta, ^67, 368, 369, 370 
Notable African, 53 

Nuba, Lake, 102 
Nursing Sister, 121, 313 

OBUASI, 334, 335, 336, 337 
Odumase, 377 
Ofinsu, 357 
Old maids, 28g 
Old-time raid, 226 
Opportunities, Land of, 385 
Orchard-bush country, 194, 
203, 239 

Palime, 252, 253 

Pekki Blengo, 231 

Polvgamous households, 281, 
282, 283 

Possibilities, Land of im- 
mense, 1 1 

Potsikrom, 361 

Powers of a dictator needed 
by the white official, 115 



404 



INDEX 



Prestea, 328 

Preventive service, Curious, 
215 

Railway, 334 

Resemblance of West-African 
colonies to Roman colonies, 

15 
River mail, 27 
River steamer, 23 

, Life on, 24, 25 

Roses, 335 

Rubber country, 353-372 

Ruling race, 162 

Salt Ponds, 165 

Sandflies, 364 

Scenery along the shore, 154 

Sekondi, 314 

Sex, The great gulf of, 16 

Sierra Leone, Beautiful har- 
bour of, 49 

, Reasons for the colony 

of, 49 

Sister Minna, 290 

Sleeping quarters, 280 

sickness, 257-266 

Stations, Picturesque, 215 
Sunyani, 372, 373, 374, 375 
, Suffrage movement at, 

375 
Swanzy's, 210 

bungalow at Tarkwa, 

326 

Tano River, hi, 112, 371 
Tantum, 171 

, Rest-house at, 170 

Tarkwa, 323-327 



Tatterdemalion crew, 75 

Tendas, 50 

Thought-reading, 70 

Three deaths in two days, 81 

Togo, rain in, 247, 248 

Toll, River devil's, 43 

Tornado, 303 

Tours, 278, 279 

Traces of occupation in the 

past, 98 
Traders, Hausa, 358, 360 

, Wangara, 358, 360 

Transport, 124 

Trees, 278, 327, 329, 330, 331 

, Medical officer on, 369 

Tsito, 235 

Vandalism of a D.C., 291 
Villages on the shore, 277 
Volta River, 209, 212, 213, 

214, 215, 297 

, Mouth of, 295 

, Roads in district of, 

2/4 

Wealth of West Africa, 

386 
Wealthy country, 214, 230 
What West Africa can give, 

50 
Women, 328, 331 
, Crying need of, 325* 

391 • • c , 

— — , Inferiority of, 362 

in Freetown, White, 51 

, Self-supporting, 283 

, Well-to-do, 324 

, Wretched, 359, 361 



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