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Full text of "Travels in West Africa, Congo Fran├žais, Corisco and Cameroons"

[Frontispiece. 



AN ANGOLA FISHERMAN AT HOME. 



TRAVELS 
IN WEST AFRICA 

Congo Francais, Corisco and Cameroons 



MARY H. KINGSLEY 



WITPI ILLUSTRATIONS 



SECOND THOUSAND 



MACMILLAN AND CO, LIMITED 

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 
1897 

All rights reserved 



RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED, 
LONDON AND BUNGAY. 






TO MY BROTHER, C. G. KINGSLEY 

THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED 



429324 



PREFACE 

To THE READER. What this book wants is not a 
simple Preface but an apology, and a very brilliant 
and convincing one at that. Recognising this fully, 
and feeling quite incompetent to write such a master- 
piece, I have asked several literary friends to write 
one for me, but they have kindly but firmly declined, 
stating that it is impossible satisfactorily to apologise 
for my liberties with Lindley Murray and the Queen's 
English. I am therefore left to make a feeble 
apology for this book myself, and all I can personally 
say is that it would have been much worse than it is 
had it not been for Dr. Henry Guillemard, who has not 
edited it, or of course the whole affair would have 
been better, but who has most kindly gone through 
the proof sheets, lassoing prepositions which were 
straying outside their sentence stockade, taking my 



PREFACE 



eye off the water cask and fixing it on the scenery 
where I meant it to be, saying firmly in pencil on 
margins " No you don't," when I was committing 
some more than usually heinous literary crime, and so 
on. In cases where his activities in these things may 
seem to the reader to have been wanting, I beg to 
state that they really were not. It is I who have 
declined to ascend to a higher level of lucidity and 
correctness of diction than I am fitted for. I cannot 
forbear from mentioning my gratitude to Mr. George 
Macmillan for his patience and kindness with me, a 
mere jungle of information on West Africa. Whether 
you my reader will share my gratitude is, I fear, doubt- 
ful, for if it had not been for him I should never have 
attempted to write a book at all, and in order to 
excuse his having induced me to try I beg to state 
that I have written only on things that I know from 
personal experience and very careful observation. I 
have never accepted an explanation of a native custom 
from one person alone, nor have I set down things as 
being prevalent customs from having seen a single 
instance. I have endeavoured to give you an honest 
account of the general state and manner of life in 
Lower Guinea and some description of the various 
types of country there. In reading this section you 



PREFACE 



must make allowances for my love of this sort 
of country, with its great forests and rivers and its 
animistic-minded inhabitants, and for my ability to 
be more comfortable there than in England. Your 
superior culture-instincts may militate against your 
enjoying West Africa, but if you go there you will 
find things as I have said. 



CONTENTS 



INTRODUCTION 

CHAPTER I 



LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE 



CHAPTER II 

THE GOLD COAST ..................... ' 26 

CHAPTER III 

FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS ................... 42 

CHAPTER IV 

LAGOS BAR ........... ................. 73. 

CHAPTER V 

VOYAGE DOWN COAST ....................... 8 



CHAPTER VI 

LIBREVILLE AND GLASS 



CHAPTER VII 

THE OGOWE I2 > 

CHAPTER VIII 

TALAGOUGA I 5 2 

CHAPTER IX 

THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE . l66> 



xii CONTENTS 



CHAPTER X 

PAGE 

I.EMBARENE IQ2 



CHAPTER XI 

FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI . 231 

CHAPTER XII 

FROM NCOVI TO ESOON , 257 

CHAPTER XIII 

FROM ESOON TO AGONJO 294 

CHAPTER XIV 

BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS 308 

CHAPTER XV 

DOWN THE REMBW& 333 

CHAPTER XVI 

CONGO FRANCAIS 353 

CHAPTER XVII 

THE LOG OF THE Lafayette 382 

CHAPTER XVIII 

FROM CORISCO TO GABOON 4IO 

CHAPTER XIX 

FETISH ! 429 

CHAPTER XX 
FETISH (Continued) . . 458 

CHAPTER XXI 
FETISH (Continued] 483 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER XXII 

PAGK 

FETISH (Continued) 501 

CHAPTER XXII 
FETISH (Concluded) 521 

CHAPTER XXIV 

ASCENT OF THE GREAT PEAK OF CAMEROONS 548 

CHAPTER XXV 

ASCENT OF THE GREAT PEAK OF CAMEROONS (Continued) 567 

CHAPTER XXVI 

THE GREAT PEAK OF CAMEROONS (Continued) 581 

CHAPTER XXVII 

THE GREAT PEAK OF CAMEROONS (Concluded) 592 

CHAPTER XXVIII 

THE ISLANDS IN THE BAY OF AMBOISES 609 

APPENDIX 

I. TRADE AND LABOUR IN WEST AFRICA 631 

II. DISEASE IN WEST AFRICA 68l 

III. DR. A. GUNTHER ON REPTILES AND FISHES 692 

IV. ORTHOPTERA, HYMENOPTERA, AND HEMIPTERA 7^ 

V. THE INVENTION OF THE CLOTH LOOM 734 

INDEX 737 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



The illustrations to which asterisks are attached are published by kind permission 
of the Mission Evangelique of Paris 



PLATES 

TO FACE PAGE 

I. A. CTENOPOMA KINGSLEY/E. B. CT. NANUM. C. CT. GABOXENSE . 692 

II. A. MORMYRUS KINGSLEY^E. B. ALESTES KINGSLEY^E. C. BARILIUS 

BIBIE 694 



FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS 

AX AXGOLA FISHERMAN AT HOME Frontispiece 

TO FACE PAGE 

CAPE COAST 26 

FERXAXDO PO AXD AMBAO ISLAND FROM THE X.E 42 

CALLE DE LA MARINA, CLARENCE, FERNANDO PO 50 

CALLE DE SACRAMENTO, CLARENCE, FERNANDO PO 71 

A TYPICAL WEST AFRICAN RIVER BANK I2J 

*FAN CHIEF AND FAMILY l66 

FANS 257 

M. DE BRAZZA 353 

CARAVAN FOR STANLEY POOL, PALLABALLA MOUNTAINS, CONGO .... 358 

THE FALLS OF THE NGUNIE AT SAMBA . 369 

DEATH DANCE COSTUMES, OLD CALABAR 483 

TRADE BOYS OF A CHIEF AT EQUETTA, OPOBO 492 

CAMEROON'S RIVER, FROM ABOVE AKWA TOWN 567 

A MAHOGANY TREE, GOLD COAST 631 

-SHIPPING MAHOGANY, AXIM 635 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT 

PAGE 

OX A GOLD COAST BEACH 37 

KING DUKE OF CALABAR IN FULL DRESS 43 

THE MANGO AVENUE, FERNANDO PO 47 

GOVERNOR'S PALACE, FERNANDO PO 55 

HATTON AND COOKSON\S FACTORY AT GLASS IO6 

*VIE\V OF ONE BRANCH OF THE OGOWE FROM KANGWE 135 

CAFFEA LIBIRICA LIBERIAN COFFEE 144 

STATION OF THE MISSION EYANGELIQUE, TALAGOUGA 153 

SOUTH BANK OF THE OGOWE RIVER NEAR SENGELADE ISLANDS .... l8l 

BOKO BOKO RAPIDS, OGOWE RIVER 183 

SOUTH BANK OF THE OGOWE ABOVE BOKO BOKO 189 

*IGALWA WOMEN 222 

*FANS WITH IVORY AND RUBBER 2QO 

AN AKKA DWARF OF CONGO FRANCAIS 319 

ANGOLA BLACKSMITHS 324 

*IN A FAN VILLAGE . 331 

*AN UPPER OGOWE VILLAGE 35& 

*BATEKE PORTERS, OGOWE 357 

*ADOOMAS, UPPER OGOWE 362 

*AKONGAS, THE CHIEF GONIONE, AND HIS TWO WIVES 365 

*MOUNT LOPE, OGOWE 37O 

*A GIANTESS OF THE UPPER OGOWE 377 

*UPPER OGOWE NATIVES 379 

*MAKING A CHARM IN THE UPPER OGOWE REGION 446 

VIEW ON THE MIDDLE VOLTA ... 489 

*LADY OF OBAMBO, OGOWE, SHOWING CICATRISATION ' . 530 

PEAK OF CAMEROON'S FROM THE NORTH-WEST 551 

BRINGING IN RUBBER CONGO 658 

LOOM AT EQUETTA. (By permission of Alexander Cowen, Esq.) .... 735 



TRAVELS IN WEST AFRICA 



INTRODUCTION 

Relateth the various causes which impelled the author to embark upon 

the voyage. 

IT was in 1893 that, for the first time in my life, I found 
myself in possession of five or six months which were not 
heavily forestalled, and feeling like a boy with a new half- 
crown, I lay about in my mind, as Mr. Bunyan would say, as 
to what to do with them. " Go and learn your tropics," said 
Science. Where on earth am I to go, I wondered, for tropics 
are tropics wherever found, so I got down an atlas and saw 
that either South America or West Africa must be my 
destination, for the Malayan region was too far off and too 
expensive. Then I got Wallace's Geographical Distribu- 
tion and after reading that master's article on the Ethiopian 
region I hardened my heart and closed with West Africa. I 
did this the more readily because while I knew nothing of the 
practical condition of it, I knew a good deal both by tradition 
and report of South East America, and remembered that 
Yellow Jack was endemic, and that a certain naturalist, my 
superior physically and mentally, had come very near getting 
starved to death in the depressing society of an expedition 
slowly perishing of want and miscellaneous fevers up the 
Parana. 

My ignorance regarding West Africa was soon removed. 
And although the vast cavity in my mind that it occupied 

B 



, INTRODUCTION 



is not even yet half filled up, there is a great deal of very 
curious information in its place. I use the word curious 
advisedly, for I think many seemed to translate my request 
for practical hints and advice into an advertisement that 
" Rubbish may be shot here." This same information is in a 
state of great confusion still, although I have made heroic 
efforts to codify it. I find, however, that it can almost all be 
got in under the following different headings, namely and to 
wit : 

The dangers of West Africa. 

The disagreeables of West Africa. 

The diseases of West Africa. 

The things you must take to West Africa. 

The things you find most handy in West Africa. 

The worst possible things you can do in West Africa. 

I inquired of all my friends as a beginning what they knew 
of W T est Africa. The majority knew nothing. A percentage 
said, " Oh, you can't possibly go there ; that's where Sierra 
Leone is, the white man's grave, you know." If these were 
pressed further, one occasionally found that they had had 
relations who had gone out there after having been " sad 
trials," but, on consideration of their having left not only 
West Africa, but this world, were now forgiven and for- 
gotten. One lady however kindly remembered a case of a 
gentleman who had resided some few years at Fernando Po, 
but when he returned an aged wreck of forty he shook so 
violently with ague as to dislodge a chandelier, thereby 
destroying a valuable tea-service and flattening the silver 
teapot in its midst. 

No ; there was no doubt about it, the place was not 
healthy, and although I had not been "a sad trial," yet 
neither had the chandelier-dislodging Fernando Po gentle- 
man. So I next turned my attention to cross-examining 
the doctors. " Deadliest spot on earth," they said cheerfully, 
and showed me maps of the geographical distribution of 
disease. Now I do not say that a country looks inviting 
when it is coloured in Scheele's green or a bilious yellow, but 



MISSIONARIES AND TRADERS 



these colours may arise from lack of artistic gift in the 
cartographer. There is no mistaking what he means by 
black, however, and black you'll find they colour West Africa 
from above Sierra Leone to below the Congo. " I wouldn't 
go there if I were you," said my medical friends, " you'll catch 
something ; but if you must go, and you're as obstinate as a 
mule, just bring me -" and then followed a list of commis- 
sions from here to New York, any one of which but I 

only found that out afterwards. 

All my informants referred me to the missionaries. " There 
were," they said, in an airy way, " lots of them down there, 
and had been for years." So to missionary literature I 
addressed myself with great ardour ; alas ! only to find that 
these good people wrote their reports not to tell you how the 
country they resided in was, but how it was getting on 
towards being what it ought to be, and how necessary it was 
that their readers should subscribe more freely, and not get 
any foolishness into their heads about obtaining an inadequate 
supply of souls for their money. I also found fearful con- 
firmation of my medical friends' statements about its 
unhealthiness, and various details of the distribution of cotton 
shirts over which I did not linger. 

From the missionaries it was, however, that I got my first 
idea about the social condition of West Africa. I gathered 
that there existed there, firstly the native human beings the 
raw material, as it were and that these were led either to 
good or bad respectively by the missionary and the trader. 
There were also the Government representatives, whose chief 
business it was to strengthen and consolidate the missionary's 
work, a function they carried on but indifferently well. But 
as for those traders ! well, I put them down under the dangers 
of West Africa at once. Subsequently I came across the 
good old coast yarn of how, when a trader from that region 
went thence, it goes without saying where, the Fallen Angel 
without a moment's hesitation vacated the infernal throne 
(Milton) in his favour. This, I beg to note, is the marine 
form of the legend. When it occurs terrestrially the trader 
becomes a Liverpool mate. But of course no one need 
believe it either way it is not a missionary's story. 

B 2 



INTRODUCTION 



Naturally, while my higher intelligence was taken up with 
attending to these statements, my mind got set on going, and 
I had to go. Fortunately I could number among my 
acquaintances one individual who had lived on the Coast 
for seven years. Not, it is true, on that part of it which 
I was bound for. Still his advice was pre-eminently worth 
attention, because, in spite of his long residence in the 
deadliest spot of the region, he was still in fair going order. 
I told him I intended going to West Africa, and he said, 
" When you have made up your mind to go to West Africa 
the very best thing you can do is to get it unmade again and 
go to Scotland instead ; but if your intelligence is not strong 
enough to do so, abstain from exposing yourself to the direct 
rays of the s.un, take 4 grains of quinine every day for a fort- 
night before you reach the Rivers, and get some introductions 
to the \Vesleyans ; they are the only people on the Coast who 
have got a hearse with feathers." 

My attention was next turned to getting ready things to 
take with me. Having opened upon myself the sluice gates 
of advice, I rapidly became distracted. My friends and their 
friends alike seemed to labour under the delusion that I 
intended to charter a steamer and was a person of wealth 
beyond the dreams of avarice. The only thing to do in this 
state of affairs was to gratefully listen and let things drift. 
They showered on me various preparations of quinine and 
other so-called medical comforts, mustard leaves, a patent filter, 
a hot-water bottle, and last but not least a large square bottle 
purporting to be malt and cod-liver oil, which, rebelling against 
an African temperature, arose in its w r rath, ejected its cork, 
and proclaimed itself an efficient but not too savoury glue. 

Not only do the things you have got to take, but the 
things you have got to take them in, present a fine series of 
problems to the young traveller. Crowds of witnesses testi- 
fied to the forms of baggage holders they had found invalu- 
able, and these, it is unnecessary to say, were all different in 
form and material. 

With all this cmbarras de choix I was too distracted to 
buy anything new in the w r ay of baggage except a long 
waterproof sack neatly closed at the top with a bar and 



THE VOYAGE OUT 



handle. Into this I put blankets, boots, books, in fact any- 
thing that would not go into my portmanteau or black bag. 
From the first I was haunted by a conviction that its bottom 
would come out, but it never did, and in spite of the fact 
that it had ideas of its own about the arrangement of its 
contents, it served me well throughout my voyage. 

It was the beginning of August '93 when I first left 
England for " the Coast." Preparations of quinine with post- 
age partially paid arrived up to the last moment, and a friend 
hastily sent two newspaper clippings, one entitled " A Week 
in a Palm-oil Tub," which was supposed to describe the sort 
of accommodation, companions, and fauna likely to be met 
with on a steamer going to West Africa, and on which I was 
to spend seven to The Graphic contributor's one ; the other 
from The Daily Telegraph, reviewing a French book of 
" Phrases in common use " in Dahomey. The opening 
sentence in the latter was, " Help, I am drowning." Then 
came the inquiry, " If a man is not a thief? " and then another 
cry, " The boat is upset." " Get up, you lazy scamps," is the 
next exclamation, followed almost immediately by the question, 
"Why has not this man been buried? " "It is fetish that has 
killed him, and he must lie here exposed with nothing on him 
until only the bones remain," is the cheerful answer. This 
sounded discouraging to a person whose occupation would 
necessitate going about considerably in boats, and whose fixed 
desire was to study fetish. So with a feeling of foreboding 
gloom I left London for Liverpool none the more cheerful for 
the matter-of-fact manner in which the steamboat agents had 
informed me that they did not issue return tickets by the 
West African lines of steamers. 

I will not go into the details of that voyage here, much as 
I am given to discursiveness. They are more amusing than 
instructive, for on my first voyage out I did not know the 
Coast, and the Coast did not know me, and we mutually 
terrified each other. I fully expected to get killed by the 
local nobility and gentry; they thought I was connected 
with the World's Women's Temperance Association, and 
collecting shocking details for subsequent magic-lantern 
lectures on the liquor traffic ; so fearful misunderstandings 



INTRODUCTION 



arose, but we gradually educated each other, and I had the 
best of the affair ; for all I had got to teach them was that I 
was only a beetle and fetish hunter, and so forth, while they 
had to teach me a new world, and a very fascinating course of 
study I found it. And whatever the Coast may have to say 
against me for my continual desire for hair-pins, and other 
pins, my intolerable habit of getting into water, the abomina- 
tions full of ants, that I brought into their houses, or things 
emitting at unexpectedly short notice vivid and awful stenches 
they cannot but say that I was a diligent pupil, who honestly 
tried to learn the lessons they taught me so kindly, though 
some of those lessons were hard to a person who had never 
previously been even in a tame bit of tropics, and whose life 
for many years had been an entirely domestic one in a 
University town. 

One by one I took my old ideas derived from books and 
thoughts based on imperfect knowledge and weighed them 
against the real life around me, and found them either worth- 
less or wanting. The greatest recantation I had to make 
I made humbly before I had been three months on the Coast 
in 1 893. It was of my idea of the traders. What I had expected 
to find them was a very different thing to what I did find 
them ; and of their kindness to me I can never sufficiently 
speak, for on that voyage I was utterly out of touch with the 
governmental circles, and utterly dependent on the traders, 
and the most useful lesson of all the lessons I learnt on the 
West Coast in 1893 was that I could trust them. Had I not 
learnt this very thoroughly I could never have gone out again 
and carried out the voyage I give you a sketch of in this book. 

Thanks to " the Agent," I have visited places I could never 
otherwise have seen ; and to the respect and affection in which 
he is held by the native, I owe it that I have done so in safety. 
When I have arrived off his factory in a steamer or canoe, 
unexpected, unintroduced, or turned up equally unheralded 
out of the bush in a dilapidated state, he has always received 
me with that gracious hospitality which must have given him, 
under Coast conditions, very real trouble and inconvenience 
things he could have so readily found logical excuses against 
entailing upon himself for the sake of an individual whom he 



OBLIGATIONS ACKNOWLEDGED 



had never seen before whom he most likely would never see 
again and whom it was no earthly profit to him to see then. 

He has bestowed himself Allah only knows where on his 

small trading vessels so that I might have his one cabin. 
He has fished me out of sea and fresh water with boat-hooks ; 
he has continually given me good advice, which if I had only 
followed would have enabled me to keep out of water and 
any other sort of affliction ; and although he holds the 
meanest opinion of my intellect for going to such a place as 
West Africa for beetles, fishes and fetish, he has given me the 
greatest assistance in my work. The value of that work I 
pray you withhold judgment on, until I lay it before you in 
some ten volumes or so mostly in Latin. All I know that is 
true regarding West African facts, I owe to the traders ; the 
errors are my own. 

To Dr. Giinther, of the British Museum, I am deeply 
grateful for the kindness and interest he has always shown 
regarding all the specimens of natural history that I have 
been able to lay before him ; the majority of which must have 
had very old tales to tell him. Yet his courtesy and atten- 
tion gave me the thing a worker in any work most wants 
the sense that the work was worth doing and sent me back 
to work again with the knowledge that if these things in- 
terested a man like him, it was a more than sufficient reason 
for me to go on collecting them. To Mr. W. H. F. Kirby 
I am much indebted for his working out my small collection 
of certain Orders of insects ; and to Mr. Thomas S. Forshaw, 
for the great help he has afforded me in revising my notes. 

It is impossible for me even to catalogue my debts of grati- 
tude still outstanding to the West Coast. Chiefly am I indebted 
to Mr. C. G. Hudson, whose kindness and influence enabled me 
to go up the Ogowe and to see as much of Congo Frangais 
as I have seen, and his efforts to take care of me were most 
ably seconded by Mr. Fildes. The French officials in " Congo 
Frangais " never hindered me, and always treated me with the 
greatest kindness. You may say there was no reason why 
they should not, for there is nothing in this fine colony of 
France that they need be ashamed of any one seeing ; but 
I find it is customary for travellers to say the French officials 



INTRODUCTION 



throw obstacles in the way of any one visiting their posses- 
sions, so I merely beg to state this was decidedly not my 
experience ; although my deplorable ignorance of French 
prevented me from explaining my humble intentions to them. 

The Rev. Dr. Nassau and Mr. R. E. Dennett have enabled 
me, by placing at my disposal the rich funds of their know- 
ledge of native life and idea, to amplify any deductions from 
my own observation. Mr. Dennett's work I have not dealt 
with in this work because it refers to tribes I was not 
amongst on this journey, but to a tribe I made the acquaintance 
with in my '93 voyage the Fjort. Dr. Nassau's observations 
I have referred to. Herr von Lucke, Vice-governor of 
Cameroon, I am indebted to for not only allowing me, but 
for assisting me by every means in his power, to go up 
Cameroons Peak, and to the Governor of Cameroon, Herr 
voh Puttkamer, for his constant help and kindness. Indeed 
so great has t been the willingness to help me of all these 
gentlemen, that it is a wonder to me, when I think of it, that 
their efforts did not project me right across the continent and 
out at Zanzibar. That this brilliant affair did not come off 
is owing to my own lack of enterprise ; for I did not want 
to go across the continent, and I do not hanker after Zanzibar, 
but only to go puddling about obscure districts in West 
Africa after raw fetish and fresh-water fishes. 

I owe my ability to have profited by the kindness of these 
gentlemen on land, to a gentleman of the sea Captain 
Murray. He was captain of the vessel I went out on in 1893, 
and he saw then that my mind was full of errors that must 
be eradicated if I was going to deal with the Coast success- 
fully ; and so he eradicated those errors and replaced them 
with sound knowledge from his own stores collected during 
an acquaintance with the West Coast of over thirty years. 
The education he has given me has been of the greatest value 
to me, and I sincerely hope to make many more voyages 
under him, for I well know he has still much o teach and 
I to learn. 

Last, but not least, I must chronicle my debts to the ladies. 
First to those two courteous Portuguese ladies, Donna Anna 
de Sousa Coutinho e Chichorro and her sister Donna Maria 



OTHER BENEFACTORS 



de Sousa Coutinho, who did so much for me in Kacongo in 1893, 
and have remained, I am proud to say, my firm friends ever 
since. Lady MacDonald and Miss Mary Slessor I speak of 
in this book, but only faintly sketch the pleasure and help 
they have afforded me ; nor have I fully expressed my 
gratitude for the kindness of Madame Jacot of Lembarene, or 
Madame Forget of Talagouga. Then there are a whole list of 
nuns belonging to the Roman Catholic Missions on the South- 
West Coast, ever cheery and charming companions ; and 
Frau Plehn, whom it was ever a pleasure to see in Cameroons^ 
and discourse with once again on things that seemed so far 
off then art, science, and literature ; and Mrs. H. Duggan, 
of Cameroons too, who used, whenever I came into that port 
to rescue me from fearful states of starvation for toilet 
necessaries, and lend a sympathetic and intelligent ear to the 
" awful sufferings" I had gone through, until Cameroons became 
to me a thing to look forward to. 

When in the Canaries in 1892, I used to smile, I regretfully 
own, at. the conversation of a gentleman from the Gold Coast 
who was up there recruiting after a bad fever. His conversa- 
tion consisted largely of anecdotes of friends of his, and nine 
times in ten he used to say, " He's dead now." Alas ! my 
own conversation may be smiled at now for the same cause. 
Many of my friends mentioned even in this very recent account 
of the Coast " are dead now." Most of those I learnt to know 
in 1893 ; chief among these is my old friend Captain Boler, of 
Bonny, from whom I first learnt a certain power of com- 
prehending the African and his form of thought. 

I have great reason to be grateful to the Africans them- 
selves to cultured men and women among them like Charles 
Owoo, Mbo, Sanga Glass, Jane Harrington and her sister at 
Gaboon, and to the bush natives ; but of my experience with 
them I give further details, so I need not dwell on them here. 

I apologise to the general reader for giving so much detail 
on matters that really only affect myself, and I know that the 
indebtedness which all African travellers have to the white 
residents in Africa is a matter usually very lightly touched 
on. No doubt my voyage would seem a grander thing il 
omitted mention of the help I received, but well, there was 



io INTRODUCTION 



a German gentleman once who evolved a camel out of his 
inner consciousness. It was a wonderful thing ; still, you 
know, it was not a good camel, only a thing which people 
personally unacquainted with camels could believe in. Now 
I am ambitious to make a picture, if I make one at all, that 
people who do know the original can believe in even if 
they criticise its points and so I give you details a more 
showy artist would omit. 



CHAPTER I 

LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE 

Setting forth how the voyager departs from England in a stout vessel and 
in good company, and reaches in due course the Island of the Grand 
Canaiy, and then the Port of Sierra Leone : to which is added some 
account of this latter place and the comeliness of its women. 

THE West Coast of Africa is like the Arctic regions in one 
particular, and that is that when you have once visited it you 
want to go back there again ; and, now I come to think of it, 
there is another particular in which it is like them, and that 
is that the chances you have of returning from it at all are 
small, for it is a Belle Dame sans merci. 

I know that from many who know the Coast, there will be a 
chorus of dissent from the first part of my sentence, and a 
chorus of assent to the second. But if you were to take 
many of the men who most energetically assert that they 
wish they were home in England, " and see if they would 
ever come to the etc., etc., place again," and if you were to 
bring them home, and let them stay there a little while, I am 
pretty sure that in the absence of attractions other than 
those of merely being home in England, notwithstanding its 
glorious joys of omnibuses, underground railways, and 
evening newspapers these same men, in terms varying with 
individual cases, will be found sneaking back apologetically 
to the Coast. 

I succumbed to the charm of the Coast as soon as I left 
Sierra Leone on my first voyage out, and I saw more than 
enough during that voyage to make me recognise that there 
was any amount of work for me worth doing down there. 
So I warned the Coast I was coming back again and the Coast 
did not believe me ; and on my return to it a second time 



LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE CHAP, 



displayed a genuine surprise, and formed an even higher 
opinion of my folly than it had formed on our first acquaint- 
ance, which is saying a good deal. 

During this voyage in 1893, I had Seen to Old Calabar, 
and its Governor, Sir Claude MacDonald, had heard me 
expatiating on the absorbing interest of the Antarctic drift, 
and the importance of the collection of fresh-water fishes and 
so on. So when Lady MacDonald heroically decided to go 
out to him in Calabar, they most kindly asked me if I would 
join her, and make my time fit hers for starting on my second 
journey. This I most willingly did, but I fear that very 
sweet and gracious lady suffered a great deal of apprehension 
at the prospect of spending a month on board ship with 
a person so devoted to science as to go down the West 
Coast in its pursuit. During the earlier days of our voyage 
she would attract my attention to all sorts of marine objects 
overboard, so as to amuse me. I used to look at them, and 
think it would be the death of me if I had to work like this, 
explaining meanwhile aloud that " they were very interesting, 
but Haeckel had done them, and I was out after fresh-water 
fishes from a river north of the Congo this time," fearing all 
the while that she felt me unenthusiastic for not flying over 
into the ocean to secure the specimens. 

However, my scientific qualities, whatever they may amount 
to, did not blind this lady long to the fact of my being 
after all a very ordinary individual, and she told me so 
not in these crude words, indeed, but nicely and kindly 
whereupon, in a burst of gratitude to her for understanding 
me, I appointed myself her honorary aide-de-camp on the 
spot, and her sincere admirer I shall remain for ever, fully 
recognising that her courage in going to the Coast was far 
greater than my own, for she had more to lose had fever 
claimed her, and she was in those days by no means under the 
spell of Africa. But this is anticipating. 

It was on the 23rd of December, 1894, that we left Liver- 
pool in the Batanga, commanded by my old friend Captain 
Murray, under whose care I had made my first voyage. 
We ought to have left on the 22nd, but this we could 
not do, for it came on to blow a bit, such a considerable bit 



I TENERIFFE AND GRAND CANARY , 3 

indeed, that even the mighty Cunard liner Lucania could not 
leave the Mersey ; moreover the Batanga could not have 
left even if she had wanted to, for the dock gates that shut 
her in could not be opened, so fierce was the gale. So it was 
Sunday the 23rd then, as I have said, that we got off, with no 
further misadventure save that, owing to the weather, the 
Batanga could not take her powder on board, a loss that 
nearly broke the carpenter's heart, as it robbed him of the 
pleasure of making that terrific bang with which a West 
Coaster salutes her ports of call. 

On the 30th we sighted the Peak of Teneriffe early in the 
afternoon. It displayed itself, as usual, as an entirely celestial 
phenomenon. A great many people miss seeing it. Suffering 
under the delusion that El Pico is a terrestrial affair, they 
look in vain somewhere about the level of their own eyes, 
which are striving to penetrate the dense masses of mist that 
usually enshroud its slopes by day, and then a friend comes 
along, and gaily points out to the newcomer the glittering 
white triangle somewhere near the zenith. On some days 
the Peak stands out clear from ocean to summit, looking 
every inch and more of its 12,080 ft. ; and this is said by the 
Canary fishermen to be a certain sign of rain, or fine weather, 
or a gale of wind ; but whenever and however it may be seen, 
soft and dream-like in the sunshine, or melodramatic and 
bizarre in the moonlight, it is one of the most beautiful 
things the eye of man may see. 

Soon after sighting Teneriffe, Lanzarote showed, and then 
the Grand Canary. Teneriffe is perhaps the most beautiful, 
but it is hard to judge between it and Grand Canary as seen 
from the sea. The superb cone this afternoon stood out a 
deep purple against a serpent-green sky, separated from the 
brilliant blue ocean by a girdle of pink and gold cumulus, 
while Grand Canary and Lanzarote looked as if they were 
formed from fantastic-shaped sunset cloud-banks that by some 
spell had been solidified. The general colour of the moun- 
tains of Grand Canary, which rise peak after peak until they 
culminate in the Pico de las Nieves, some 6,000 feet high, is a 
yellowish red, and the air which lies among their rocky 
crevices and swathes their softer sides is a lovely lustrous 



14 LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE CHAP, 

blue. I used to fancy that if I could only have collected 
some of it in a bottle, and taken it home to show my friends, 
it would have come out as a fair blue-violet cloud in the gray 
air of Cambridge. 

Just before the sudden dark came down, and when the sun 
was taking a curve out of the horizon of sea, all the clouds 
gathered round the three islands, leaving the sky a pure 
amethyst pink, and as a good-night to them the sun outlined 
them with rims of shining gold, and made the snow-clad 
Peak of Teneriffe blaze with star- white light. In a few 
minutes came the dusk, and as we neared Grand Canary, out 
of its cloud-bank gleamed the red flash of the lighthouse on 
the Isleta, and in a few more minutes, along the sea level, 
sparkled the five miles of irregularly distributed lights of 
Puerto de la Luz and the city of Las Palmas. 

I will not here go into the subject of the Canary Islands, 
because it is one upon which I foresee a liability to become 
diffuse. I have visited them now five times ; four times 
merely calling there on my way up and down to the Coast, 
but on the other occasion spending many weeks on them ; 
and if I once start on the subject of their beauties, their 
trade, and their industries, why, who knows to what size this 
volume may not grow ? 

We reached Sierra Leone at 9 A.M. on the 7th of January, 
and as the place is hardly so much in touch with the general 
public as the Canaries are l I may perhaps venture to go more 
into details regarding it. The harbour is formed by the long 
low strip of land to the north called the Bullam shore, and 
to the south by the peninsula terminating in Cape Sierra 
Leone, a sandy promontory at the end of which is situated 
a lighthouse of irregular habits. Low hills covered with 
tropical forest growth rise from the sandy shores of the Cape, 
and along its face are three creeks or bays, deep inlets showing 

1 Sierra Leone has been known since the voyage of Hanno of Carthage 
in the sixth century B.C., but it has not got into general literature to any 
great extent since Pliny. The only later classic who has noticed it is 
Milton, who in a very suitable portion of Paradise Lost says of Notus 
and Afer, " black with thunderous clouds from Sierra Lona." Our occupa- 
tion of it dates from 1787. 



FREE TOWN 



through their narrow entrances smooth beaches of yellow 
sand, fenced inland by the forest of cotton-woods and palms, 
with here and there an elephantine baobab. 

The first of these bays is called Pirate Bay, the next 
English Bay, and the third Kru Bay. The wooded hills of 
the Cape rise after passing Kru Bay, and become spurs of 
the mountain, 2,500 feet in height, which is the Sierra Leone 
itself. There are, however, several mountains here besides 
the Sierra Leone, the most conspicuous of them being the 
peak known as Sugar Loaf, and when seen from the sea 
. . they are very lovely, for their form is noble, and a wealth of 
tropical vegetation covers them, which, unbroken in its con- 
tinuity, but endless in its variety, seems to sweep over their 
sides down to the shore like a sea, breaking here and there 
into a surf of flowers. 

It is the general opinion, indeed, of those who ought to know 
that Sierra Leone appears at its best when seen from the sea, 
particularly when you are leaving the harbour homeward 
bound ; and that here its charms, artistic, moral, and residential, 
end. But, from the experience I have gained of it, I have no 
hesitation in saying that it is one of the best places for getting 
luncheon in that I have ever happened on, and that a more 
pleasant and varied way of spending an afternoon than going 
about its capital, Free Town, with a certain Irish purser, who is 
as well known as he is respected among the leviathan old 
negro ladies, it would be hard to find. Still it must be 
admitted it is rather hot. 

Free Town is situated on the northern base of the mountain, 
and extends along the sea-front with most business-like 
wharves, quays, and warehouses. Viewed from the harbour, 
" The Liverpool of West Africa," l as it is called, looks as if it 
were built of gray stone, which it is not When you get ashore, 
you will find that most of the stores and houses the majority 
of which, it may be remarked, are in a state of acute dilapida- 
tion are of painted wood, with corrugated iron roofs. Here 
and there, though, you will see a thatched house, its thatch 

1 Lagos also likes to bear this flattering appellation, and has now-a- 
days more right to the title. 



16 LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE CHAP. 



covered with creeping plants, and inhabited by colonies of 
creeping insects. 

Some of the stores and churches are, it is true, built of stone, 
but this does not look like stone at a distance, being red in 
colour unhewn blocks of the red stone of the locality. 
In the crannies of these buildings trailing plants covered 
with pretty mauve or yellow flowers take root, and every- 
where, along the tops of the walls, and in the cracks of 
the houses, are ferns and flowering plants. They must 
get a good deal of their nourishment from the rich, thick air, 
which seems composed of 85 per cent, of warm water, and 
the remainder of the odours of Frangipani, orange flowers, 
magnolias, oleanders, and roses, combined with others that 
demonstrate that the inhabitants do not regard sanitary 
matters with the smallest degree of interest 

There is one central street, and the others are neatly planned 
out at right angles to it. None of them are in any way 
paved or metalled. They are covered in much prettier 
fashion, and in a way more suitable for naked feet, by green 
Bahama grass, save and except those which are so nearly 
perpendicular that they have got every bit of earth and grass 
cleared off them down to the red bed-rock, by the heavy 
rain of the wet season. 

The shops, which fringe these streets in an uneven line, are 
like rooms with one side taken out, for shop-fronts, as we 
call them, are here unknown. Their floors are generally 
raised on a bed of stone a little above street level, but 
except when newly laid, these stones do not show, for the grass 
grows over them, making them into green banks. Inside, the 
shops are lined with shelves, on which are placed bundles 
of gay-coloured Manchester cottons and shawls, Swiss 
clocks, and rough but vividly coloured china ; or what 
makes a brave show brass, copper, and iron cooking-pots. 
Here and there you come across a baker's, with trays of 
banana fritters of tempting odour ; and there is no lack 
of barbers and chemists. Within all the shops are usually 
to be seen the proprietor and his family with a few friends, 
all exceedingly plump and happy, having a social shout 
together : a chat I cannot call it. 



THE NATIVES I? 



There is usually a counter across the middle, over which 
customers and casual callers alike love to loll. Some brutal 
tradesmen, notably chemists, who presumably regard this as 
unprofessional, affix tremendous nails, with their points out- 
wards, to the fronts of their counter tops, in order to keep 
their visitors at a respectful distance. 

In every direction natives are walking at a brisk pace, their 
naked feet making no sound on the springy turf of the 
streets, carrying on their heads huge burdens which are 
usually crowned by the hat of the bearer, a large limpet- 
shaped affair made of palm leaves. While some carry these 
enormous bundles, others bear logs or planks of wood, blocks 
of building stone, vessels containing palm-oil, baskets of 
vegetables, or tin tea-trays on which are folded shawls. As 
the great majority of the native inhabitants of Sierra Leone 
pay no attention whatever to where they are going, either 
in this world or the next, the confusion and noise are out 
of all proportion to the size of the town ; and when, as 
frequently happens, a section of actively perambulating 
burden-bearers charge recklessly into a sedentary section, the 
members of which have dismounted their loads and squatted 
themselves down beside them, right in the middle of the fair 
way, to have a friendly yell with some acquaintances, the row 
becomes terrific. 

In among these crowds of country people walk stately 
Mohammedans, Mandingoes, Akers, and Fulahs of the 
Arabised tribes of the Western Soudan. These are lithe, 
well-made men, and walk with a peculiarly fine, elastic 
carriage. Their graceful garb consists of a long white loose- 
sleeved shirt, over which they wear either a long black 
mohair or silk gown, or a deep bright blue affair, not 
altogether unlike a University gown, only with more stuff in 
it and more folds. They are undoubtedly the gentlemen of 
the Sierra Leone native population, and they are becoming an 
increasing faction in the town, by no means to the pleasure 
of the Christians. For, although Bishop Ingram admits that 
they are always ready to side with the missionaries against 
the drink traffic, here their co-operation ceases, and he 
complains that they exerciser great influence over the native 



i8 LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE CHAP. 



Christian flock. He says, " We are disposed to believe that 
the words of their Koran are only a fetish and a charm to 
the rank and file of their adherents, and that great supersti- 
tion prevails among them, and is propagated by them," l but 
how the Bishop can see a difference in this matter between 
the use of the Koran and the Bible by the negro of Sierra 
Leone, it is difficult to understand ; and judged by the 
criterion of every-day conduct, the Mohammedan is in nine 
cases in ten, the best man in West Africa. But he is, I grieve 
to say, not thoroughly orthodox. The Koran I have seen 
many of them using consists merely of extracts and prayers 
written in Maghribi characters ; and I have grave doubts 
whether they could read this any better than I could without 
a dictionary. I have also frequently seen them playing 
warry, and another game, the name whereof I know not, but 
it is played with little sticks of wood stuck in the ground, and 
" something on the rub," or what corresponds to it ; although 
they must be aware that, by this indulgence in the pleasures 
of gambling, they will undoubtedly incur the penalty of 
having donkeys graze upon their graves yea, even on 
the graves of their parents. They should think of this, for 
warry, when all's said and done, is a desperately dull game. 

They are, moreover, by no means strict teetotallers, and 
some individuals from Accra, whom I once met, shocked me 
deeply by saying Mohammedans were divided into two 
classes, Marabuts who do not drink, and Sonniki who do. I 
do not know where they can have picked up this idea ; but I 
observed my acquaintances were " hard-shelled " Sonniki. 
Again, the Sierra Leone and Lagos Mohammedans regard 
working in leather and iron as quite respectable occupations, 
which is not in accordance with views held in high 
Mohammedan circles. Very good leather-work they cer- 
tainly turn out bags, sheaths for daggers, and such like, to 
say nothing of the quaint hats, made of the most brilliant 
yellow, blue, and red leather strips plaited together : very 
heavy, and very ugly, but useful. Quite " rational dress " 
hats in fact, for their broad brims hang down and shade the 
neck, and they also shelter the eyes to such an extent that 
1 Sierra Leone after a Hundred Years. 



TALISMANS 



the wearer can't see without bending up the front brim pretty 
frequently ; but then I notice there always is something 
wrong with a rational article of dress. Then the bulbous 
dome top keeps off the sun from the head, rain runs off the 
whole affair easily, and bush does not catch in it. If I had 
sufficient strength of mind I would wear one myself, but 
even if I decorated it with cat-tails, or antelope hair, as is 
usually done, I do not feel 1 could face Piccadilly in one ; 
and you have no right to go about Africa in things you 
would be ashamed to be seen in at home. 

The leather-work that meets with the severest criticism 
from the Christian party is the talisman or gri-gri bags, 
and it must be admitted that an immense number of them are 
sold. I have, however, opened at hazard some eighty-seven 
of these, and always found in them that which can do no man 
harm, be he black, white, or yellow, to wear over his heart; 
namely, the beautiful 1 1 3th Sura of the Koran, the " Sura 
of the Day-break," which says : " I fly for refuge unto the 
Lord of the Day-break, that He may deliver me from the evil 
of those things which He has created ; from the evil of the 
night when it cometh on ; and from the evil of blowers upon 
knots, and from the evil of the envious when he envieth." 
This is written on a piece of paper, rolled or folded up tightly, 
and enclosed in a leathern case which is suspended round the 
neck. The talismans the Mohammedans make do not, how- 
ever, amount to a tenth part of those worn, the number 
whereof is enormous. I have never seen a negro in national 
costume without some, both round his neck, and round his 
leg, just under the knee ; and I dare say if the subject were 
gone into, and the clothes taken off the more fully-draped 
coloured gentlemen, you would hardly find one without an 
amulet of some kind. The great majority of these other 
charms are supplied by the ju-ju priests, or some enter- 
prising heathen who has a Suhman, or private devil, of his 
own. 

But to the casual visitor at Sierra Leone the Mohammedan 
is a mere passing sensation. You neither feel a burning 
desire to laugh with, or at him, as in the case of the country 
folks, nor do you wish to punch his head, and split his coat 

C 2 



20 LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE CHAP. 

up his back things you yearn to do to that perfect flower of 
Sierra Leone culture, who yells your bald name across the 
street at you, condescendingly informs you that you can go 
and get letters that are waiting for you, while he smokes 
his cigar and lolls in the shade, or in some similar way 
displays his second-hand rubbishy white culture a culture 
far lower and less dignified than that of either the stately 
Mandingo or the bush chief. I do not think that the Sierra 
Leone dandy really means half as much insolence as he 
shows ; but the truth is he feels too insecure of his own real 
position, in spite of all the " side " he puts on, and so he dare 
not be courteous like the Mandingo or the bush Fan. 

It is the costume of the people in Free Town and its harbour 
that will first attract the attention of the new-comer, notwith- 
standing the fact that the noise, the smell, and the heat are 
simultaneously making desperate bids for that favour. The 
ordinary man in the street wears anything he may have been 
able to acquire, anyhow, and he does not fasten it on securely. 
I fancy it must be capillary attraction, or some other par- 
tially-understood force, that takes part in the matter. It is 
certainly neither braces nor buttons. There are, of course, 
some articles which from their very structure are fairly secure, 
such as an umbrella with the stick and ribs removed, or a 
shirt. This last-mentioned treasure, which usually becomes 
the property of the ordinary man from a female relative or 
admirer taking in white men's washing, is always worn flow- 
ing free, and has such a charm in itself that the happy pos- 
sessor cares little what he continues his costume with 
trousers, loin cloth, red flannel petticoat, or rice-bag drawers, 
being, as he would .put it, "all same for one" to him. 

I remember one day, when in the outskirts of the town, seeing 
some country people coming in to market. It was during 
the wet season, and when they hove in sight, they were, so to 
speak, under bare poles, having nothing on worth mentioning. 
But each carried a bundle done up in American cloth, with a 
closed umbrella tucked into it. They pulled up as soon as 
they thought it dangerous to proceed further, for fear of 
meeting some of their town friends, and solemnly dressed, 
holding umbrellas over each other the while. Then, dignified 



THE LADIES 2I 



and decorated, and each sporting his gingham, they marched 
into the town. Here and there in the street you come across 
a black man done up in a tweed suit, or in a black coat and tall 
hat ; and here and there a soldier of the West India regiment, 
smart and tidy-looking in his Zouave costume. These sol- 
diers are said to be the cause of the many barbers' shops 
sprinkled about the town, as they are not allowed razors of 
their own, owing to their tendency to employ them too 
frequently in argument. 

The ladies are divided into three classes ; the young girl 
you address as " tee-tee ; " the young person as " seester ; " 
the more mature charmer as " mammy ; " but I do not advise 
you to employ these terms when you are on your first visit, 
because you might get misunderstood. For, you see, by 
addressing a mammy as seester, she might think either that 
you were unconscious of her dignity as a married lady a 
matter she would soon put you right on or that you were 
flirting, which of course was totally foreign to your intention, 
and would make you uncomfortable. My advice is that you 
rigidly stick to missus or mammy. I have seen this done 
most successfully. 

The ladies are almost as varied in their costume as the 
gentlemen,' but always neater and cleaner ; and mighty 
picturesque they are too, and occasionally very pretty. A 
market-woman with her jolly brown face and laughing brown 
eyes eyes all the softer for a touch of antimony her ample 
form clothed in a lively print overall, made with a yoke at 
the shoulders, and a full long flounce which is gathered on 
to the yoke under the arms and .falls fully to the feet ; with 
her head done up in a yellow or red handkerchief, and her 
snowy white teeth gleaming through her vast smiles, is a 
mighty pleasant thing to see, and to talk to. But, Allah ! the 
circumference of them ! 

The stone-built, whitewashed market buildings of Free 
Town have a creditably clean and tidy appearance con- 
sidering the climate, and the quantity and variety of things 
exposed for sale things one wants the pen of a Rabelais to 
catalogue. Here are all manner of fruits, some which are 
familiar to you in England ; others that soon become so to you 



22 LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE CHAP. 

in Africa. You take them as a matter of course if you are 
outward bound, but on your call homeward (if you make it) 
you will look on them as a blessing and a curiosity. For 
lower down, particularly in " the Rivers," these things are rarely 
to be had, and never in such perfection as here ; and to see 
again lettuces, yellow oranges, and tomatoes bigger than 
marbles is a sensation and a joy. Onions also there are, and 
if you are wise you will buy them when outward bound. If 
you are speculative in the bargain you will take as many 
as you can get, for here you may buy them from four to five 
shillings the box, and you can sell them below for any sum 
between twelve shillings and a sovereign. 

Here, too, are beads, but for the most part of dull colour 
and cheap quality. Beans, too, are more than well represented. 
Horse-eye beans, used for playing warry ; vast, pantomime- 
sized beans, the insides of which being removed, and a few 
shot put in, make a pleasant rattle to hang at the wrist ; and 
evil Calabar beans, which can serve no good end at all here, 
and which it seems insolent to sell in open market, in a town 
where poisoning is said to be so prevalent that its own Bishop 
declares " small social gatherings are almost unknown from 
the fear of it." l 

The piles of capsicums and chillies, the little heaps of 
Reckitt's Blue, vivid-coloured Berlin wools, pumpkins, pine- 
apples, and alligator pears, give rich and brilliant touches of 
colour, and relieve the more sombre tones of kola nuts, old 
iron, antelope horns, monkey skins, porcupine quills, and snails. 
These snails are a prominent feature in the market in a quiet 
way : they are used beaten up to help to make the sauce for palm 
oil chop ; and they are shot alive on to the floor in heaps, 
and are active and nomadic : whereby it falls out that people 
who buy other things such as vegetables, Berlin wool, or meat, 
are liable to find one of these massive gastropods mixed up in 
the affair. Treading on one of them is, for a nervous person, 
as alarming as the catastrophe of treading on one of the native 
black babies with which the market floor abounds. There are 
half a hundred other indescribabilia, and above all hovers the 
peculiar Sierra Leone smell and the peculiar Sierra Leone noise. 
1 Sierra Leone after a Hundred Years. 



JACK CROWS 23 



One of the chief features of Free Town are the jack crows. 
Some writers say they are peculiar to Sierra Leone, others 
that they are not, but both unite in calling them Picathartes 
gymnocephalus. To the white people who live in daily contact 
with them they are turkey-buzzards ; to the natives, Yubu. 
Anyhow they are evil-looking fowl, and no ornament to the 
roof-ridges they choose to sit on. The native Christians 
ought to put a row of spikes along the top of their cathedral to 
keep them off ; the beauty of that edifice is very far from great, 
and it cannot carry off the effect produced by the row of these 
noisome birds as they sit along its summit, with their wings 
arranged at all manner of different angles in an " all gone " 
way. One bird perhaps will have one straight out in front, 
and the other casually disposed at right-angles, another both 
straight out in front, and others again with both hanging, 
hopelessly down, but none with them neatly and tidily folded 
up, as decent birds' wings should be. They all give the im- 
pression of having been extremely drunk the previous evening, 
and of having subsequently fallen into some sticky abomina- 
tioninto blood for choice. Being the scavengers of Free 
Town, however, they are respected by the local authorities 
and preserved ; and the natives tell me you never see either a 
young or a dead one. The latter is a thing you would not 
expect, for half of them look as if they could not live through 
the afternoon. They also told me that when you got close to 
them, they had a " 'trong, 'trong 'niff ; 'niff too much." I 
did not try, but I am quite willing to believe this statement. 

The other animals most in evidence in the streets are, first 
and foremost, goats and sheep. I have to lump them together, 
for it is exceedingly difficult to tell one from the other. All 
along the Coast the empirical rule is that sheep carry their 
tails down, and goats carry their tails up ; fortunately you 
need not worry much anyway, for they both " taste rather 
like the nothing that the world was made of," as Frau Buch- 
holtz says, and own in addition a fibrous texture, and a cer- 
tain twang. Small cinnamon-coloured cattle are to be got 
here, but horses there are practically none. Now and again 
some one who does not see why a horse should not live here 
as well as at Accra or Lagos imports one, but it always 



24 LIVERPOOL TO SIERRA LEONE CHAP. 

shortly dies. Some say it is because the natives who get 
their living by hammock-carrying poison them, others say 
the tsetse fly finishes them off; and others, and these I 
believe are right, say that entozoa are the cause. Small, 
lean, lank, yellow dogs with very erect ears lead an awful 
existence, afflicted by many things, but beyond all others by 
the goats, who, rearing their families in the grassy streets 
choose to think the dogs intend attacking them. Last, but 
not least, there is the pig a rich source of practice to the 
local lawyer. 

The lawyer in Sierra Leone flourishes like the green bay- 
tree. All the West Coast natives, when the fear of the 
dangers of their own country-fashion law is off them, and 
they are under European institutions I very nearly said 
control, but that would have been going too far become 
exceedingly litigious, more litigious naturally in Sierra Leone 
because they have more European institutions there, among 
others trial by jury. Ay law case, whether he wins it or 
not, is a pleasure to the African, because it gives him an oppor- 
tunity of showing off his undoubted powers of rhetoric, and 
generally displaying himself. But there is no law case that 
gives the Sierra Leonean that joy that he gets out of summon- 
ing a white man, for he can get the white man before a jury of 
his fellow Sierra Leoneans what they please to call in that 
benighted place a jury of .his peers and bully and insult 
him. 

There is usually a summons or so awaiting a West Coast 
boat, and many a proud vessel has dropped anchor in Free 
Town harbour with one of her officers in a ventilator and 
another in a coal bunker. On one vessel by which I was a 
passenger, it was the second officer who was " wanted." Re- 
gaining the ship after a time on shore, we found the deck in 
an uproar. The centre of affairs was an enormous black lady, 
bearing a name honoured in English literature, and by pro- 
fession a laundress, demanding that the body of the second mate 
in any condition should be rendered over to the hand of the law 
(represented by four Haussa policemen) on a warrant she held 
against him for not having discharged his washing-bill last 
time the steamer was in Sierra Leone. Now this worthy 



"MY BRUDAH, SAH" 25 



man, tired by his morning labour, working cargo in the stew- 
ing heat, and strong in the virtue of an unblemished life here, 
had gone to sleep in his cabin, out of which he was routed 
and confronted with his accusatrix and the small frightened 
man she had got with her, whom she kept on introducing as 
" my brudah, sah." Unfortunately for the lady, it was not the 
same gallant officer who held the post of second mate, but 
another, and our injured innocent, joining in the chorus, re- 
turned thanks for his disturbance in language of singular 
fluency. He is the only man I have ever met whose powers 
of expression were equal to his feelings, and it is a merciful 
providence for him it is so, for what that man feels sometimes 
I think would burst a rock. 

The lady and her brother went crestfallen ashore, but the 
policemen stayed on board until we left, getting exceedingly 
drunk the while. Looking over the side, I saw one of them 
fold himself over the gunwale of the boat in which they were 
going ashore with his head close to the water. His companions 
heeded not, and I insisted on my friend the quartermaster 
rescuing the sufferer, and arranging him in the bottom of the 
boat, for not only was he in danger of drowning, but of acting 
as an all too tempting live-bait for the sharks, which swarm 
in the harbour. The quartermaster evidently thought this 
was foolish weakness on my part, for it " was only a police- 
man, and what are policemen but a kind of a sort of a custom 
house officer, and what are custom house officers but the very 
deuce ? " 

This, however, was not on the Batanga, but in the days 
before I was an honorary aide-de-camp, remember. This 
voyage out on the Batanga not even Sierra Leone could find 
anything to summon us for. 



CHAPTER II 

THE GOLD COAST 

Wherein some description of Cape Coast and Accra is given, to which 
are added divers observations on supplies to be obtained there. 

CAPE COAST CASTLE and then Accra were the next places of 
general interest at which we stopped. The former looks well 
from the roadstead, and as if it had very recently been white- 
washed. It is surrounded by low, heavily-forested hills, which 
rise almost from the seashore, and the fine mass of its old 
castle does not display its dilapidation at a distance. More- 
over, the three stone forts of Victoria, William, and Macarthy, 
situated on separate hills commanding the town, add to 
the general appearance of permanent substantialness so 
different from the usual ramshackledom of West Coast 
settlements. Even when you go ashore and have had time 
to recover your senses, scattered by the surf experience, 
you find this substantialness a true one, not a mere visual 
delusion produced by painted wood as the seeming sub- 
stantialness of Sierra Leone turns out to be when you 
get to close quarters with it. It causes one some mental 
effort to grasp the fact that Cape Coast has been in 
European hands for centuries, but it requires a most un- 
modern power of credence to realise this of any other settle- 
ment on the whole western seaboard until you have the 
pleasure of seeing the beautiful city of San. Paul de Loanda, 
far away down south, past the Congo. 

My experience of Cape Coast on this occasion was one 
of the hottest, but one of the pleasantest I have ever been 
through on the Gold Coast. The former attribute was due 



CH. ii VIEW FROM FORT WILLIAM 27 

to the climate, the latter to my kind friends, Mr. Batty, and 
Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Kemp. I was taken round the grand 
stone-built houses with their high stone-walled yards and 
sculpture-decorated gateways, built by the merchants of the 
last century and of the century before, and through the great 
rambling stone castle with its water-tanks cut in the solid 
rock beneath it, and its commodious accommodation for 
slaves awaiting shipment, now almost as obsolete as the guns 
it mounts, but not quite so, for these cool and roomy chambers 
serve to house the native constabulary and their extensive 
families. 

This being done, I was taken up an unmitigated hill, on 
whose summit stands Fort William, a pepper-pot-like structure 
now used as a lighthouse. Our peregrinations having been 
carried on under a fancy temperature, I was inclined to drink 
in the beauty of this building from a position at its base, and 
was looking round for a shady spot to sit down in, when my 
intentions were ruthlessly frustrated by my companions, who 
would stop at nothing short of its summit, where I eventually 
found myself. The view was exceedingly lovely and ex- 
tensive. Beneath, and between us and the sea, lay the 
town in the blazing sun. In among its solid stone build- 
ings patches of native mud-built huts huddled together 
as though they had been shaken down out of a sack into the 
town to serve as dunnage. Then came the snow-white 
surf wall, and across it the blue sea with our steamer rolling 
to and fro on the long, regular swell, impatiently waiting until 
Sunday should be over and she could work cargo. Round 
us on all the other sides were wooded hills and valleys, and 
away in the distance to the west showed the white town and 
castle of Elmina and the nine-mile road thither, skirting 
the surf-bound seashore, only broken on its level way by 
the mouth of the Sweet River. Over all was the brooding 
silence of the noonday heat, broken only by the dulled 
thunder of the surf. 

After seeing these things we started down stairs, and on 
reaching ground descended yet lower into a sort of stone- 
walled dry moat, out of which opened clean, cool, cellar-like 
chambers tunnelled into the earth. These, I was informed, 



28 THE GOLD COAST CHAP. 

had also been constructed to keep slaves in when they were 
the staple export of the Gold Coast. They were so refresh- 
ingly cool that I lingered looking at them and their massive 
doors, ere being marched up to ground level again, and down 
the hill through some singularly awful stenches, mostly arising 
from rubber, into the big Wesleyan church in the middle of 
the town. It is a building in the terrible Africo-Gothic 
style, but it compares most favourably with the cathedral at 
Sierra Leone, particularly internally, wherein, indeed, it far 
surpasses that structure. And then we returned to the 
Mission House and spent a very pleasant evening, save for 
the knowledge (which amounted in me to remorse) that, had 
it not been for my edification, not one of my friends would 
have spent the day toiling about the town they know only 
too well. Mr. Dennis Kemp was chairman and superinten- 
dent of the Wesleyan Mission on the Gold Coast when I was 
last there, and he had filled this important position for some 
time. This is the largest and most influential Protestant 
mission on the West Coast of Africa, and it is now, I am 
glad to say, adding a technical department to its scholastic 
and religious one. The Basel Mission has done a great deal 
of good work in giving technical instruction to the natives, 
and practically started this most important branch of their 
education. There is still an almost infinite amount of this 
work to be done, the African being so strangely deficient 
in mechanical culture ; infinitely more so, indeed, in this 
than in any other particular. All the other Protestant 
missions are following the Basel Mission's lead, and, recog- 
nising that a good deal of their failure arises from a want of 
this practical side in their instruction, are now starting tech- 
nical schools : the Church of England in Sierra Leone, the 
Wesleyans on the Gold Coast, and the Presbyterians in 
Calabar. 

In some of these technical schools the sort of instruction 
given is, to my way of thinking, ill-advised ; arts of no 
immediate or great use in the present culture-condition of 
West Africa such as printing, book-binding, and tailoring 
being taught. But this is not the case under the Wesleyans, who 
also teach smith's work, carpentering, bricklaying, waggon- 



MISSIONS 29 



building, &c. Alas ! none of the missions save the Roman 
Catholic teach the thing that it is most important the natives 
should learn, in the face of the conditions that European 
government of the Coast has induced, namely, improved 
methods of agriculture, and plantation work. 

The Wesleyan Mission has only four white ministers here. 
Native ministers there are seventeen, and the rest of the 
staff is entirely native, consisting of 70 Catechists, 144 day 
school teachers, 386 Sunday-school teachers, and 405 local 
preachers. The total number of fully accredited members of 
this sect in 1893 was stated in the Gold Coast Annual to be 
7,066. 

The total amount of money raised by this mission on the 
Gold Coast .in 1893 was 5,338 14^. gd. This is a very 
remarkable sum and most creditable to the native members 
of the sect, for almost all the other native Christian bodies 
are content to be in a state of pauperised dependency on 
British subscriptions. The headquarters of the Wesleyan 
Mission were, up to last year, at Cape Coast, but now they 
have been removed to Aburi on the hills some twenty-six 
miles behind Accra, and Cape Coast is no longer the head- 
quarters of any governmental or religious affair. The 
Government removed to Accra from Cape Coast several 
years ago, on account of the great unhealthiness of the 
latter place and in the hope that Accra would prove less 
fatal. Unfortunately this hope has not been realised ; 
moreover the landing at Accra is worse than at Cape Coast, 
and the supply of fresh water very poor. 

Accra is one of the five West Coast towns that look well 
from the sea. The others don't look well from anywhere. First 
in order of beauty comes San. Paul de Loanda ;* then Cape 
Coast with its satellite Elmina, then Gaboon, then Accra with 
its satellite Christiansborg, and lastly, Sierra Leone. 

What there is of beauty in Accra is oriental in type. Seen 
from the sea, Fort St. James on the left and Christiansborg 
Castle on the right, both almost on shore level, give, with an 
outcrop of sandy dwarf cliffs, a certain air of balance and 
strength to the town, though but for these and the two old 
castles, Accra would be but a poor place and a flimsy, for the 



30 THE GOLD COAST CHAP. 



rest of it is a mass of rubbishy mud and palm-leaf huts, and 
corrugated-iron dwellings for the Europeans. 

Corrugated iron is my abomination. I quite understand it 
has points, and I do not attack from an aesthetic standpoint. 
It really looks well enough when it is painted white. There 
is, close to Christiansborg Castle, a patch of bungalows and 
offices for officialdom and wife that from a distance in the 
hard bright sunshine looks like an encampment of snow-white 
tents among the coco palms, and pretty enough withal. I am 
also aware that the corrugated-iron roof is an advantage in 
enabling you to collect and store rain-water, which is the 
safest kind of water you can get on the Coast, always 
supposing you have not painted the aforesaid roof with red 
oxide an hour or two before so collecting, as a friend of mine 
did once. But the heat inside those iron houses is far greater 
than inside mud-walled, brick, or wooden ones, and the alterna- 
tions of temperature more sudden : mornings and evenings 
they are cold and clammy ; draughty they are always, thereby 
giving you chill which means fever, and fever in West Africa 
means more than it does in most places. 

Going on shore at Accra with Lady MacDonald gave me 
opportunities and advantages I should not otherwise have 
enjoyed, such as the hospitality of the Governor, luxurious 
transport from the landing place to Christiansborg Castle, a 
thorough inspection of the cathedral in course of erection, 
and the strange and highly interesting function of going to a 
tea-party at a police station to meet a king, a real reigning 
king who kindly attended with his suite and displayed an 
intelligent interest in photographs. Tackie (that is His 
Majesty's name) is an old, spare man, with a subdued 
manner. His sovereign rights are acknowledged by the 
Government so far as to hold him more or less responsible for 
any iniquity committed by his people ; and as the Government 
do not allow him to execute or flagellate the said people, 
earthly pomp is rather a hollow thing to Tackie. 

On landing I was taken in charge by an Assistant 
Inspector of Police, and after a scrimmage for my chief's 
baggage and my own, which reminded me of a long ago 
landing on the distant island of Guernsey, the inspector and 



ACCRA 3I 



I got into a 'rickshaw, locally called a go-cart. It was pulled 
in front by two government negroes and pushed behind by 
another pair, all neatly attired in white jackets and knee 
breeches, and crimson cummerbunds yards long, bound round 
their middles. Now it is an ingrained characteristic of the 
uneducated negro, that he cannot keep on a neat and 
complete garment of any kind. It does not matter what 
that garment may be ; so long as it is whole, off it comes. 
But as soon as that garment becomes a series of holes, held 
together by filaments of rag, he keeps it upon him in a 
manner that is marvellous, and you need have no further 
anxiety on its behalf. Therefore it was but natural that the 
governmental cummerbunds, being new, should come off their 
wearers several times in the course of our two mile trip, and 
as they wound riskily round the legs of their running wearers, 
we had to make halts while one end of the cummerbund was 
affixed to a tree-trunk and the other end to the man, who 
rapidly wound himself up in it again with a skill that spoke of 
constant practice. 

The road to Christiansborg from Accra, which runs parallel 
to the sea and is broad and well-kept, is in places pleasantly 
shaded with pepper trees, eucalyptus, and palms. The first 
part of it, which forms the main street of Accra, is remarkable. 
The untidy, poverty-stricken native houses or huts are no 
credit to their owners, and a constant source of anxiety to a 
conscientious sanitary inspector. i Almost every one of them 
is a shop, but this does not give rise to the animated com- 
mercial life one might imagine, owing, I presume, to the fact 
that every native inhabitant of Accra who haS any money to 
get rid of is able recklessly to spend it in his own emporium. 
For these shops are of the store nature, each after his kind, 
and seem homogeneously stocked with tin pans, loud- 
patterned basins, iron pots, a few rolls of cloth and bottles of 
American rum. After passing these there are the Haussa 
lines, a few European houses, and the cathedral ; and when 
nearly into Christiansborg, a cemetery on either side of the 
road. That to the right is the old cemetery, now closed, and 
when I was there, in a disgracefully neglected state : a mere 
jungle of grass infested with snakes. Opposite to it is the 



32 THE GOLD COAST CHAP, 

cemetery now in use, and I remember well my first visit to it 
under the guidance of a gloomy Government official, who 
said he always walked there every afternoon, " so as to get 
used to the place before staying permanently in it," a rank 
waste of time and energy, by the way, as subsequent events 
proved, for he is now safe off the Gold Coast for good and 
all. 

He took me across the well-kept grass to two newly dug 
graves, each covered with wooden hoods in a most business-like 
way. Evidently those hoods were regular parts of the ceme- 
tery's outfit. He said nothing, but waved his hand with a 
" take-your-choice,-they-are-both-quite-ready " style. " Why ? " 
I queried laconically. "Oh! we always keep two graves 
ready dug for Europeans. We have to bury very quickly 
here, you know," he answered. I turned at bay. I had had 
already a very heavy dose of details of this sort that afternoon' 
and was disinclined to believe another thing. So I said, " It's 
exceedingly wrong to do a thing like that, you only frighten 
people to death. You can't want new-dug graves daily. 
There are not enough white men in the whole place to keep 
the institution up." " We do," he replied, " at any rate at this 
season. W 7 hy, the other day we had two white men to bury 
before twelve o'clock, and at four, another dropped in on a 
steamer." 

" At 4.30," said a companion, an exceedingly accurate 
member of the staff, " Ho^v you fellows do exaggerate ! " 
Subsequent knowledge of the Gold Coast has convinced me 
fully that the extra funeral being placed half-an-hour sooner 
than it occurred is the usual percentage of exaggeration you 
will be able to find in stories relating to the local mortality. 
And at Accra, after I left it, and all along the Gold Coast, 
came one of those dreadful epidemic outbursts sweeping away 
more than half the white population in a few weeks. It is 
customary for the Government authorities to pooh-pooh the 
mortality, or to allege that it is owing to the bad habits of the 
white men ; but this latter statement is far more untrue than 
any fever story an old coaster will tell you. The authorities 
at home, both of merchant firms and mission societies, 
follow suit and make the same statements. The true statistics- 



CHRISTIANSBORG 



are difficult to get at in English colonies, because the Govern- 
ment reports are as a general rule very badly prepared, and 
dodge giving important details like this with an almost 
diabolical ingenuity. And, added to this, they come out so 
long after the incidents referred to in them have taken place, 
that they are only fit for the early literature shelves of the 
British Museum. 

But to return to our state journey along the Christiansborg 
road. We soon reached the castle, an exceedingly roomy 
and solid edifice built by the Danes, and far better fitted for 
the climate than our modern dwellings, in spite of our sup- 
posed advance in tropical hygiene. We entered by the 
sentry-guarded great gate into the courtyard ; on the right 
hand were the rest of the guard ; most of them asleep 
on their mats, but a few busy saying Dhikr, etc. towards 
Mecca, like the good Mohammedans these Haussas are, 
others winding themselves into their cummerbunds. On the 
left hand was Sir Brandford Griffiths' hobby a choice and 
select little garden, of lovely eucharis lilies mostly in tubs, 
and rare and beautiful flowers brought by him from his 
Barbadian home; while shading it and the courtyard was a 
fine specimen of that superb thing of beauty a flamboyant 
tree glorious with its delicate-green acacia-like leaves and 
vermilion and yellow flowers, and astonishing with its vast 
beans. A flight of stone stairs leads from the courtyard to 
the upper part of the castle where the living rooms are, over 
the extensive series of cool tunnel-like slave barracoons, now 
used as store chambers. The upper rooms are high and 
large, and full of a soft pleasant light and the thunder of the 
everlasting surf breaking on the rocky spit on which the castle 
is built. 

From the day the castle was built, now more than a 
hundred years ago, the surf spray has been swept by the 
on-shore evening breeze into every chink and cranny of 
the whole building, and hence the place is mouldy mouldy 
to an extent I, with all my experience in that paradise for 
mould, West Africa, have never elsewhere seen. The mat- 
ting on the floors took an impression of your foot as a light 
snowfall would. Beneath articles of furniture the cryptogams 

D 



34 THE GOLD COAST CHAP. 



attained a size more in keeping with the coal period than 
with the nineteenth century. That unhappy furniture ! 
How it suffers ! From everything save one noble old gilt 
chair with the arms of Denmark embroidered on its throne- 
like form which is apparently acclimatised, the veneer hung 
in strips, as if each article had been trying to throw its 
clothes off to get cooler. 

The looking-glasses, too, were in a sorry plight You only 
saw yourself in sections in them. A dangerous thing, I should 
imagine, for shaving operations, just to be able to dimly catch 
sight of the top of your head, one eye, a portion of your nose, 
and a bit of shirt front. One member of the Government, I 
observed, was considerably done up with sticking-plaster round 
the jaw, which I mentally put down to a shaky hand, until 
I had trouble with my back hair with those governmental 
mirrors. One must never judge a fellow creature unkindly, 
especially on the Gold Coast 

Along the front of the living-rooms facing the sea is a single 
immense verandah. This is the place for social gatherings, and 
after dinner the ladies arrange themselves in a hard and fast 
row on chairs, while the gentlemen hang round about and talk. 
Conversation is carried on under difficulties, because of the 
ceaseless roar of the surf. In the middle of January I found 
conversation with a new-comer consisted of " You should 
have been here last week." " Eh ? " " You should have 
been here last week when we had the races (/)." "Oh! 
you have a race-meeting ? (;;z/)." " Yes, we have a regular 
race-course, you know (ff)" Then details regarding the races 
which you don't quite catch, but you say " Indeed," " Really 
though ! " " That must have been very nice," at random, and get 
regarded as being sympathetic, and are rewarded with more 
details. Another individual^ whose name you do not catch, is 
introduced. He says something. You say " Eh ? " He says, 
" You should have been here last week when we had our 
races (ff)" Then come the details as before, and so on, da capo, 
throughout the evening. The other subjects of conversation 
with which one had to deal during meals relate to the new 
cathedral and Ashanti affairs. You of course know about the 
cathedral, and you ought to know about Ashanti affairs, and 



A CONSIDERATE GOVERNOR 35 



the real reason why King Kwoffe Karri Karri crossed the 
Prah in '74. But you usually don't, for both these subjects 
require sound previous education ; superficial dealings with 
them are quite impossible, for the names of places and people 
in Ashanti are strange and choppy, and you will get mixed 
as to which is which if you don't take care. 

Superficial things may have changed now Sir Brandford 
Griffiths has left the Gold Coast after his long term of 
service the longest term, I think, ever served on the whole 
West Coast by a Governor. But they cannot have improved 
either in the way of courteous hospitality or in the thoughtful 
personal kindness which the late Governor gave his visitors. 

For example, when we left the castle after receiving from 
him all manner of kind wishes, to say nothing of pipes and 
walking-sticks, he energetically went out of his way to save 
the life and reason of a young member of our party, a mere 
new-comer, who wore a light felt hat in the blazing mid- 
day sun. My chief and I went off respectively in go-carts to 
the landing-place at James Town, and the young man, who 
had also to return to the Batanga, followed not for some 
minutes. When he rejoined us we observed beautiful cool 
green leaves sticking out from under his hat in a wreath. 
The Governor had not done what many an old coaster would 
have done, namely, said : " There ! that fellow will certainly 
peg out with that fool of a hat," and preserved a masterly 
inactivity. No, he had gathered with his own hands certain 
suitable herbs from his own garden, and filled the inadequate 
hat with them. 

While we were waiting for the surf-boat, we had an object 
lesson in the surf trouble. Several stalwart negroes strolled 
to and fro along the sand in front of us, poking down iron 
bars into it ever and anon. Ever and anon they left these 
sticking in and strolled off, not as one might hastily have 
thought because they had had enough of the job, but 
to go and fetch a spade. What they were sounding for 
in the sand were the iron rails which had been capsized in 
coming ashore and which belong to a tramway in course 
of construction for running goods from the beach to 
the sheds. When we got on board the Batanga, we saw 

D 2 



36 THE GOLD COAST CHAP. 



more of this tramway. A large surf-boat was being laden 
with its rails, and as it persisted, owing to the long heavy 
swell, in playing bob cherry with every bundle of them, the 
time came when the man at the winch " came back a bit " 
suddenly instead of " softly, softly " as he had been care- 
fully ordered to do. This happened when the boat was 
nearly laden, and one of the bundles of rails hanging on the 
chain swung round and speared that lively surf-boat right 
through. 

A scene of some excitement followed, accompanied by a 
perfect word-fog of directions and advice. The chain was 
hastily lowered into the boat and put round bundles of rails 
which were as hastily hauled back on to the Batangrfs deck, 
but still the boat with the balance of the rails continued sink- 
ing, and her black crew when they realised this went " for 
water one time " and swam round at a respectful distance so 
as to avoid the coming down suck, in spite of being most 
distinctly requested to return to the boat and sling rails like 
fury. Then Captain Murray came upon the scene and rose 
to the occasion, ordering ropes to be passed bodily under 
the boat and round her in such a manner that she was held 
up, whether she would or no, until she was unloaded. Then 
she was hauled on deck and repaired during the rest of the 
voyage by my old friend the Portuguese carpenter, although 
he announced himself as " suffering from rheumatism under 
the influence of the doctor." 

The Gold Coast is one of the few places in West Africa 
that I have never felt it my solemn duty to go and fish in. 
I really cannot say why. Seen from the sea it is a pleasant- 
looking land. The long lines of yellow, sandy beach 
backed by an almost continuous line of blue hills, which in 
some places come close to the beach, in other places show 
in the dim distance. It is hard to think that it is so unhealthy 
as it is, from just seeing it as you pass by. It has high land- 
and has not those great masses of mangrove-swamp one 
usually, at first, associates with a bad fever district, but 
which prove on acquaintance to be at any rate no worse than 
this well-elevated open-forested Gold Coast land. There are 
many things to be had here and in Lagos which tend to make 



THE FOOD SUPPLY 



37 



life more tolerable, that you cannot have elsewhere until you 
are south of the Congo. Horses, for example, do fairly 
well at Accra, though some twelve miles or so behind the 
town there is a belt of tsetse fly, specimens of which I 
have procured and had identified at the British Museum, 
and it is certain death to a horse, I am told, to take it to 
Aburi. 




OX A GOLD COAST BEACH. 



The food-supply, although bad and dear, is superior 
to that you get down south. Goats and sheep are fairly 
plentiful. In addition to fresh meat and tinned you are 
able to get a quantity of good sea fish, for the great West 
African Bank, which fringes the coast in the Bight of Benin, 
abounds in fish, although the native cook very rarely knows 
how to cook them. Then, too, you can get more fruit ana 



38 THE GOLD COAST CHAP. 

vegetables on the Gold Coast than at most places lower 
down : the plantain, 1 not least among them very good when 
allowed to become ripe, and then cut into longitudinal strips, 
and properly fried ; the banana, which surpasses it when 
served in the same manner, or beaten up and mixed with rice, 
butter, and eggs, and baked. Eggs, by the way, according to 
the great mass of native testimony, are laid in this country 
in a state that makes them more fit for electioneering than 
culinary purposes, and I shall never forget one tribe I was 
once among, who, whenever I sat down on one of their 
benches, used to smash eggs round me for ju-ju. They 
meant well. But I will nobly resist the temptation to tell 
egg stories and industriously catalogue the sour-sop, guava, 
grenadilla, aubergine or garden-egg, yam, and sweet potato. 

The sweet potato should be boiled, and then buttered and 
browned in an oven, or fried. When cooked in either way 
I am devoted to them, but in the way I most frequently 
come across them I abominate them, for they jeopardise 
my existence both in this world and the next. It is this 
way : you are coming home from a long and dangerous 
beetle-hunt in the forest ; you have battled with mighty 
beetles the size of pie dishes, they have flown at your head, 
got into your hair and then nipped you smartly. You have 
been also considerably stung and bitten by flies, ants, &c., 
and are most likely sopping wet with rain, or with the 
wading of streams, and you are tired and your feet go low 
along the ground, and it is getting, or has got, dark with 
that ever-deluding tropical rapidity, and then you for your 
sins get into a piece of ground which last year was a native's 
farm, and, placing one foot under the tough vine of a sur- 
viving sweet potato, concealed by rank herbage, you plant 
your other foot on another portion of the same vine. Your 
head you then deposit promptly in some prickly ground 
crop, or against a tree stump, and then; if there is human 
blood in you, you say d n ! 

Then there are also alligator-pears, limes, and oranges. 

1 Along the Coast, and in other parts of Africa, the coarser, flat-sided 
kinds of banana are usually called plantains, the name banana being 
reserved for the finer sorts, such as the little " silver banana." 



THE PAW-PAW 39 



There is something about those oranges I should like to have 
explained. They are usually green and sweetish in taste, nor 
have they much white pith, but now and again you get a big 
bright yellow one from those trees that have been imported, 
and these are very pithy and in full possession of the flavour 
of verjuice. They have also got the papaw on the Coast, the 
Carica papaya of botanists. It is an insipid fruit. To the 
newcomer it is a dreadful nuisance, for no sooner does an old 
coaster set eyes on it than he straightway says, " Paw-paws 
are awfully good for the digestion, and even if you just hang 
a tough fowl or a bit of goat in the tree among the leaves, it 
gets tender in no time, for there is an awful lot of pepsine 
in a paw-paw," which there is not, papaine being its active 
principle. After hearing this hymn of praise to the papaw 
some hundreds of times, it palls, and you usually arrive at 
this tired feeling about the thing by the time you reach the 
Gold Coast, for it is a most common object, and the same 
man will say the same thing about it a dozen times a day if 
he gets the chance. I got heartily sick of it on my first 
voyage out, and rashly determined to check the old coaster in 
this habit of his, preparatory to stamping the practice out 
It was one of my many failures. I soon met an old coaster 
with a papaw fruit in sight, and before he had time to start, 
I boldly got away with " The paw-paw is awfully good for 
the digestion," hoping that this display of knowledge would 
impress him and exempt me from hearing the rest of the, 
formula. But no. " Right you are," said he solemnly. " It's 
a powerful thing is the paw-paw. Why, the other day we had 
a sad case along here. You know what a nuisance young 
assistants are, bothering about their chop, and scorpions in 
their beds and boots, and what not and a half, and then, 
when you have pulled them through these, and often enough 
before, pegging out with fever, or going on the fly in the 
native town. Did you know poor B ? Well ! he's dead 
now, had fever and went off like a babe in eight hours though 
he'd been out fourteen years for A and D They sent 
him out a new book-keeper, a tender young thing with a 
dairymaid complexion and the notion that he'd got the 
indigestion. He fidgeted about it something awful. One 



THE GOLD COAST CHAP. 



flight 'there 'was a big paw-paw on the table for evening 
Ihop, and so B^-, who was an awfully good chap, told him 
l&bout how good it was for the digestion. The book-keeper 
iaid his trouble always came on two hours after eating, and 
Basked if he might take a bit of the thing to his room. 
* Certainly,' says B , and as the paw-paw wasn't cut at that 
meal the book-keeper quietly took it off whole with him. 

" In the morning time he did not turn up. B , just 
before breakfast, went to his room and he wasn't there, but 
he noticed the paw-paw was on the bed and that was all, 
so he thought the book-keeper must have gone for a walk, 
being, as it were, a bit too tender to have gone on the fly as 
yet. So he just told the store clerk to tell the people to 
return him to the firm when they found him straying around 
lost, and thought no more about it, being, as it was, mail-day, 
and him busy. 

" Well ! Fortunately the steward boy put that paw-paw on 
the table again for twelve o'clock chop. If it hadn't been for 
that, not a living soul would have known the going of the book- 
keeper. For when B cut it open, there, right inside it, were 
nine steel trouser-buttons, a Waterbury watch, and the poor 
young fellow's keys. For you see, instead of his digesting his 
dinner with that paw-paw, the paw-paw took charge and 
digested him, dinner and all, and when B. interrupted it, it 
'was just getting a grip on the steel things. There's an awful 
,lot of pepsine in a paw-paw, and if you hang, &c., &c." 

I collapsed, feebly murmuring that it was very interesting, 
but sad for the poor young fellow's friends. 

" Not necessarily," said the old coaster. So he had the 
last word, and never again will I attempt to alter the 
ways of the genuine old coaster. What you have got to do 
with him is to be very thankful you have had the honour of 
knowing him. 

Still I think we do over-estimate the value of the papaw, 
although I certainly did once myself hang the leg of a goat no 
mortal man could have got tooth into, on to a papaw tree 
with a bit of string for the night. In the morning it was 
clean gone, string and all ; but whether it was the pepsine, 
the papaine, or a purloining pagan that was the cause of its 



GOLD COAST STORIES 41 



departure there was no evidence to show. Yet I am myself, 
as Hans Breitmann says, " still skebdigal " as to the papaw, 
and I dare say you are too. 

But I must forthwith stop writing about the Gold Coast, or 
I shall go on telling you stories and wasting your time, not to 
mention the danger of letting out those which would damage 
the nerves of the cultured of temperate climes, such as those 
relating to the youth who taught himself French from a six 
months' method book ; of the man who wore brass buttons ; 
the moving story of three leeches and two gentlemen ; the 
doctor up a creek ; and the reason why you should not eat 
pork along here because all the natives have either got the 
guinea-worm, or kraw-kraw or ulcers ; and then the pigs go 
and dear me ! it was a near thing that time. I'll leave off 
at once. 



CHAPTER III 

FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS 

Giving some account of the occupation of this island by the whites and 
the manners and customs of the blacks peculiar to it. 

OUR outward voyage really terminated at Calabar, and it 
terminated gorgeously in fireworks and what not in honour 
of the coming of Lady MacDonald, the whole settlement, 
white and black, turning out to do her honour to the best of 
its ability ; and its ability in this direction was far greater 
than, from my previous knowledge of coast conditions, I could 
have imagined possible. 

Before Sir Claude MacDonald settled down again to local 
work, he and Lady MacDonald crossed to Fernando Po, still 
in the Batanga, and I accompanied them, thus getting an 
opportunity of seeing something of Spanish official circles. 
I have always been fascinated with the island, on account of 
its intense beauty and the high ethnological interest of 
its native inhabitants, and I have had during my previous 
voyage, and while staying in Cameroon, rather exceptional 
opportunities of studying both these subjects. I will therefore 
sketch the result of my observations here, doing so all 
the more readily, because this has no pretension to being a 
connected work, a thing you possibly have already 
remarked. 

I had heard sundry noble legends of Fernando Po, and 
seen the coast and a good deal of the island before, but 
although I had heard much of the Governor, I had never met 
him until I went up to his residence with Lady MacDonald 
and the Consul-General. He was a delightful person, 



CH. Ill 



UNHEALTHINESS OF CLIMATE 



43 



who, as a Spanish naval officer, some time resident in Cuba, 
had picked up a lot of English, with a strong American 
accent clinging to it. He gave a most moving account of 
how, as soon as his appointment as Governor was announced, 
all his friends and acquaintances carefully explained to him 
that this appointment was equivalent to execution, only more 




KING UUKE OF CALABAR IN FULL DRESS. 

uncomfortable in the way it worked out. During the out- 
ward voyage this was daily confirmed by the stories told by 
the sailors and merchants personally acquainted with the 
place, who were able to support their information with dates 
and details of the decease of the victims to the climate. 



44 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP 



Still he kept up a good heart, but when he arrived at the 
island he found his predecessor had died of fever ; and 
he himself, the day after landing, went down with a bad 
attack and he was placed in a bed the same bed, he 
was mournfully informed, in which the last Governor had 
expired. Then he did believe, all in one awful lump, all the 
stories he had been told, and added Jto their horrors a few 
original conceptions of death and purgatory, and a lot of 
transparent semi-formed images of his own delirium. 
Fortunately both prophecy and personal conviction alike 
miscarried, and the Governor returned from the jaws of 
death. But without a moment's delay he withdrew from the 
Port of Clarence and went up the mountain to Basile, which 
is in the neighbourhood of the highest native village, where 
he built himself a house, and around it a little village of 
homes for the most unfortunate set of human beings I have 
ever laid eye on. They are the remnant of a set of Spanish 
colonists, who had been located at some spot in the Spanish 
possessions in Morocco, and finding that place unfit to support 
human life, petitioned the Government to remove them and 
let them try colonising elsewhere. 

The Spanish Government just then had one of its occa- 
sional fits of interest in Fernando Po, and so shipped them 
here, and the Governor, a most kindly and generous man, who 
would have been a credit to any country, established them 
and their families around him at Basile, to share with him 
the advantages of the superior elevation ; advantages he 
profoundly believed in, and which he has always placed at the 
disposal of any sick white man on the island, of whatsoever 
nationality or religion. Undoubtedly the fever is not so 
severe at Basile as in the lowlands, but there are here the 
usual drawbacks to West African high land, namely an over 
supply of rain, and equally saturating mists, to say nothing 
of sudden and extreme alternations of temperature, and so 
the colonists still fall off, and their children die continuously 
from the various entozoa which abound upon the island. 

When the Governor first settled upon the mountain he was 
very difficult to get at for business purposes, and a telephone 
was therefore run up to him from Clarence through the forest, 



in TELEPHONE UNDER DIFFICULTIES 45 



and Spain at large felt proud at this dashing bit of enterprise 
in modern appliance. Alas ! the primeval forests of Fernando 
Po were also charmed with the new toy, and they talked to each 
other on it with their leaves and branches to such an extent 
that a human being could not get a word in edgeways. So 
the Governor had to order the construction of a road along 
the course of the wire to keep the trees off it, but unfortun- 
ately the telephone is still an uncertain means of communica- 
tion, because another interruption in its usefulness still afflicts 
it, namely the indigenous natives' habit of stealing bits out of 
its wire, for they are fully persuaded that they cannot be 
found out in their depredations provided they take sufficient 
care that they are not caught in the act. The Governor is 
thus liable to be cut off at any moment in the middle of a 
conversation with Clarence, and the amount of " Helios " 
" Are you theres ? " and " Speak louder, pleases " in Spanish 
that must at such times be poured out and wasted in the 
lonely forests before the break is realised and an unfortunate 
man sent off as a messenger, is terrible to think of. 

But nothing would persuade the Governor to come a mile 
down towards Clarence until the day he should go there to 
join the vessel that was to take him home, and I am bound 
to say he looked as if the method was a sound one, for he 
was an exceedingly healthy, cheery-looking man. Possibly his 
abstinence from Fernando Po water a dangerous beverage 
and an adherence to a form of light sherry, had something 
to do with his immunity from fever, for his neighbours, the 
colonists and priests who are stationed near him, are by no 
means good advertisements for Basile as a health-resort. 

Fernando Po is said to be a comparatively modern island, 
and not so very long ago to have been connected with the 
mainland, the strait between them being only nineteen miles 
across, and not having any deep soundings. 1 I fail to see 
what grounds there are for these ideas, for though Fernando 
Po's volcanoes are not yet extinct, but merely have their fires 

i From Point Limbok, the seaward extremity of Cameroons mountain, 
to Cape Horatio, the most eastern extremity of Fernando Po, the sound- 
ings are, from the continent, 13, 17, 20, 23, 27, 29, 30, 34 fathoms ; c. 
on to the island, 35 and 29 fathoms. 



46 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 

banked, yet, on the other hand, the island has been in exist- 
ence sufficiently long to get itself several peculiar species of 
animals and plants, and that is a thing which takes time. I 
myself do not believe that this island was ever connected with 
the continent, but arose from the ocean as the result of a 
terrific upheaval in the chain of volcanic activity which runs 
across the Atlantic from the Cameroon Mountains in a SSW. 
direction to Anno Bom island, and possibly even to the 
Tristan da Cunha group midway between the Cape and South 
America. 

These volcanic islands are all of extreme beauty and 
fertility. They consist of Fernando Po (10,190 ft.) ; Principe, 
(3000 ft.) ; San Thome (6,913 ft.) ; and Anno Bom, (1,350 ft.). 
.San Thome and Principe are Portuguese possessions, Fernando 
Po and AnnO Bom Spanish, and they are all exceedingly 
unhealthy. San Thome is still called " The Dutchman's 
Church-yard," on account of the devastation its climate 
wrought among the Hollanders when they once occupied it ; 
as they seem, at one time or another, to have occupied all 
Portuguese possessions out here, during the long war these 
two powers waged with each other for supremacy in the 
Bights, a supremacy that neither of them attained to. Prin- 
cipe is said to be the most unhealthy, and the reason of the 
difference in this particular between Principe and Anno Bom 
is said to arise from the fact that the former is on the Guinea 
Current a hot current and Anno Bom on the Equatorial, 
which averages 10 cooler than its neighbour. 

The shores of San Thome are washed by both currents, 
and the currents round Fernando Po are in a mixed and 
uncertain state. It is difficult, unless you have haunted 
these seas, to realise the interest we take clown there in 
currents, particularly when you are navigating small sailing 
boats, a pursuit I indulge in necessarily from my fishing 
practices. Their effect on the climate too is very marked. 
If we could only arrange for some terrific affair to take 
place in the bed of the Atlantic, that would send that 
precious Guinea current to the place it evidently comes 
from, and get the cool Equatorial alongside the mainland 
shore, West Africa would be quite another place. 



Ill 



CLARENCE PEAK 



47 



Fernando Po is the most important island as regards size 
on the West African coast, and at the same time one of the 
most beautiful in the world. 



It is a great volcanic mass 




THE MANGO AVENUE, FERNANDO I'O. 

with many craters, and culminates in the magnificent cone, 
Clarence Peak, called by the Spaniards, Pico de Santa Isabel, 
by the natives of the island O Wassa. Seen from the sea c 



FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 



from the continent it looks like an immense single mountain 
that has floated out to sea. It is visible during clear weather 
(and particularly sharply visible in the strange clearness you 
get after a tornado) from a hundred miles to seawards, and 
anything more perfect than Fernando Po when you sight it, as 
you occasionally do from far-away Bonny Bar, in the sunset, 
floating like a fairy island made of gold or of amethyst, I 
cannot conceive. It is almost equally lovely at close quarters, 
namely from the mainland at Victoria, nineteen miles distant. 
Its moods of beauty are infinite ; for the most part gentle 
and gorgeous, but I have seen it silhouetted hard against 
tornado-clouds, and grandly grim from the upper regions of 
its great brother Mungo. And as for Fernando Po in full 
moonlight well there ! you had better go and see it yourself. 

The whole island is, or rather I should say was, heavily 
forested almost to its peak, with a grand and varied type of 
forest, very rich in oil palms and tree-ferns, and having an 
undergrowth containing an immense variety and quantity of 
ferns and mosses. Sugar-cane also grows wild here, an un- 
common thing in West Africa. The last botanical collection 
of any importance made from these forests was that of Herr 
Mann, and its examination showed that Abyssinian genera and 
species predominated, and that many species similar to those 
found in the mountains of Mauritius, the Isle de Bourbon, 
and Madagascar, were present. The number of European 
plants (forty-three genera, twenty-seven species) is strikingly 
large, most of the British forms being represented chiefly at 
the higher elevations. What was more striking was that 
it showed that South African forms were extremely rare, and 
not one of the characteristic types of St. Helena occurred. 

Cocoa, coffee, and cinchona, alas ! flourish in Fernando Po, 
as the coffee suffers but little from the disease that harasses it 
on the mainland at Victoria, and this is the cause of the great 
destruction of the forest that is at present taking place. San 
Thome, a few years ago, was discovered by its surprised 
neighbours to be amassing great wealth by growing coffee, 
and so Fernando Po and Principe immediately started to 
amass great wealth too, and are now hard at work with gangs 
of miscellaneous natives got from all parts of the Coast save the 






in KRUBOY AND PORTUGUEE 49 



Kru. For to the Kruboy, " Panier," as he calls " Spaniard," is a 
name of horror worse even than Portuguee, although he holds 
" God made white man and God made black man, but dem 
debil make Portuguee," and he also remembers an unfortunate 
affair that occurred some years ago now, in connection with 
coffee-growing. 

A number of Krumen engaged themselves for a two years' 
term of labour on the Island of San Thome, and when they 
.arrived there, were set to work on coffee plantations by the 
Portuguese. Now agricultural work is " woman's palaver," 
but nevertheless the Krumen made shift to get through with 
it, vowing the while no doubt, as they hopefully notched away 
the moons on their tally-sticks, that they would never let the 
girls at home know that they had been hoeing. But when 
their moons were all complete, instead of being sent home 
with their pay to " we country," they were put off from time 
to time ; and month after month went by and they were still 
on San Thome, and still hoeing. At last the home-sick men, 
in despair of ever getting free, started off secretly in ones and 
twos to try and get to " we country " across hundreds of miles 
of the storm-haunted Atlantic in small canoes, and with next 
to no provisions. The result was a tragedy, but it might easily 
have been worse ; for a few, a very few, were picked up alive 
by English vessels and taken back to their beloved " we 
country " to tell the tale. But many a canoe was found with 
a dead Kruboy or so in it ; and many a one which, floating 
bottom upwards, graphically spoke of madness caused by 
hunger, thirst, and despair having driven its occupants over- 
board to the sharks. 

My Portuguese friends assure me that there was never a 
thought of permanently detaining the boys, and that they 
were only just keeping them until other labourers arrived to 
take their place on the plantations. I quite believe them, for I 
have seen too much of the Portuguese in Africa to believe 
that they would, in a wholesale way, be cruel to natives. But 
I am not in the least surprised that the poor Krumen took 
the Portuguese logo and amanhd for eternity itself, for I have 
frequently done so. 

The greatest length of the island lies N.E. and S.W., and 

E 



50 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP 



amounts to thirty-three miles ; the mean breadth is seventeen 
miles. The port, Clarence Cove, now called Santa Isabel by 
the Spaniards who have been giving Spanish names to all 
the English-named places without any one taking much notice 
of them is a very remarkable place, and except perhaps 
Gaboon the finest harbour on the West Coast. The point 
that brings Gaboon, anchorage up in line with Clarence Cove 
is its superior healthiness ; for Clarence is a section of a circle, 
and its shores are steep rocky cliffs from 100 to 200 feet high, 
and the place, to put it very mildly, exceedingly hot and 
stuffy. The cove is evidently a partly submerged crater, the 
submerged rim of the crater is almost a perfect semi-circle 
seawards having on it 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10 fathoms of water 
save almost in the centre of the arc where there is a passage 
with 12 to 14 fathoms. Inside, in the crater, there is deeper 
water, running in places from 30 to 45 fathoms, and outside 
the submerged rim there is deeper water again, but rocky shoals 
abound. On the top of the shore cliffs stands the dilapidated 
little town of Clarence, on a plateau that falls away slightly 
towards the mountain for about a mile, when the ground com- 
mences to rise into the slopes of the Cordillera. On the 
narrow beach, tucked close against the cliffs, are a few stores 
belonging to the merchants, where goods are placed on land- 
ing, and there is a little pier too, but as it is usually having 
something done to its head, or else is closed by the authorities 
because they intend doing something by and by, the chances 
are against its being available for use. Hence it usually comes 
^ about that you have to land on the beach, and when you 
have done this you make your way up a very steep path, cut in 
the cliff-side, to the town. When you get there you find your- 
self in the very dullest town I know on the Coast. I remember 
when I first landed in Clarence I found its society in a flutter 
of expectation and alarm not untinged with horror. Clarence, 
nay, the whole of Fernando Po, was about to become so 
rackety and dissipated as to put Paris and Monte Carlo to- 
the blush. Clarence was going to have a cafe ; and what 
was going to go on in that cafe I shrink from reciting. 

I have little hesitation now in saying this alarm was a false' 
one. When I next arrived in Clarence it was just as sound 



in "GO AND SEE THE COALS" 5I 

asleep and its streets as weed-grown as ever, although the cafe 
was open. My idea is the sleepiness of the place infected the 
cafe and took all the go out of it. But again it may have 
been that the inhabitants were too well guarded against its 
evil influence, for there are on the island fifty-two white lay- 
men, and fifty-four priests to take charge of them l the extra 
two being, I presume, to look after the Governor's conduct, 
although this worthy man made a most spirited protest 
against this view when I suggested it to him ; and in addition 
to the priests there are several missionaries of the Methodist 
mission, and also a white gentleman who has invented 
a new religion. Anyhow, the cafe smoulders like a damp 
squib. 

When you spend the day on shore and when, having ex- 
hausted the charms of the town, a thing that usually takes 
from between ten minutes to a quarter of an hour, you apply 
to an inhabitant for advice as to the disposal of the rest of 
your shore leave, you are told to "go and see the coals/' 
You say you have not come to tropical islands to see a coal 
heap, and applying elsewhere for advice you probably get the 
same. So, as you were told to " go and see the coals " when 
you left your ship, you do as you are bid. These coals, the 
remnant of the store that was kept here for the English 
men-of-war, were left here when the naval station was 
removed. The Spaniards at first thought of using them, and 
ran a tram-way from Clarence to them. But when the tram- 
way was finished, their activity had run out too, and to this 
day there the coals remain. Now and again some one has 
the idea that they are quite good, and can be used for a steamer,, 
and some people who have tried them say they are all right, 
and others say they are all wrong. And so the end of it will 
be that some few thousand years hence there will be a serious 
quarrel among geologists on the strange pocket of coal on 
Fernando Po, and they will run up continents, and raise and 
lower oceans to explain them, and they will doubtless get 

1 I am informed that the allowance made to these priests exceeds by 
some pounds the revenues Spain obtains from the Island. In Spanish 
possessions alone is a supporting allowance made to missionaries, though 
in all the other colonies they obtain a government grant. 

E 2 



52 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 



more excitement and pleasure out of them than you can 
nowadays. 

I am by no means a person who hungers for amusement- 
far from it ; but when I had been to see the coals I certainly 
felt as if I could cram another excitement into that afternoon 
without any great effort, and I cite this experience as a 
warning to others of the dangers of being unsatisfied ; for 
although I did discover a far superior and more thrilling 
thing, high up among the beautiful, blossoming shrubs that 
make a narrow fringe between the sea and the forest, namely, 
a large man-o'-war's pinnace, I could not find out how she 
got there, or why she stayed there. Flushed, however, with 
this discovery I must needs go on, still along the southern 
shore, with the grand, densely-forested mountains rising on 
my left, and the lovely Atlantic on my right, now and then 
climbing over rocks, and then paddling across the bar of 
a tiny river (Munguba) which came creeping out from among 
the trees, smelling certainly unpleasant, but a joy to the eye. 
Then I struck a farm, where operations connected with 
preparing cocoa were proceeding, and the genial natives 
discoursed with me on the subject for a short time. Going 
on further I came to another farm, and had more discourse, 
and a lot of information about Liberia from a native of that 
country, and then on across other small rivers, the Burapulopu 
and the Bulabopi, up to a swampy forest, when I turned 
back at last well satisfied with my afternoon. Just as I 
passed my first farm I found that what I had regarded as a 
dry land shrub-belt was nothing of the kind. The tide had 
come in and taken full possession of it, running up to the forest 
wall. The forest was far too thick to get through, so there 
was nothing for it but a hurried waist-high wade. I went in 
for this remembering that I had been informed that there 
were very nasty crocodiles on the island, and that I had got 
to get past the mouth of that largest river as crocodiley- 
looking a spot as you could wish for, if you had a gun. I 
saw none however, and so presume there are none there, for 
it is the habit of these animals, when they are handy to the 
sea, to lounge down and meet the in-coming tide. The worst 
part of the affair was getting round the projecting bits of 



in ENGLISH OCCUPATION 53 

rocky cliff where the sea was breaking ; not roughly, or I 
should not be writing this now. 

The history of the English occupation of Fernando Po 
seems often misunderstood, and now and then one hears our 
Government reviled for handing it over to the Spaniards. 
But this was unavoidable, for we had it as a loan from Spain 
in 1827 as a naval station for our ships, at that time energeti- 
cally commencing to suppress the slave trade in the Bights ; 
the idea being that this island would afford a more healthy and 
convenient spot for a naval depot than any port on the coast 
itself. 

More convenient Fernando Po certainly was, but not more 
healthy, and ever since 1827 it has been accumulating for 
itself an evil reputation for unhealthiness which is only lan- 
guishing just at present because there is an interval between 
its epidemics fever in Fernando Po, even more than on the 
mainland, having periodic outbursts of a more serious type 
than the normal intermittent and remittent of the Coast 
Moreover, Fernando Po shares with Senegal the undoubted 
yet doubtful honour of having had regular yellow fever. In 
1862 and 1866 this disease was imported by a ship that had 
come from Havana. Since then it has not appeared in the 
definite South American form, and therefore does not seem 
to have obtained the foothold it has in Senegal, where a few 
years ago all the money voted for the keeping of the Fete 
Nationale was in one district devoted by public consent to the 
purchase of coffins, required by an overwhelming outbreak of 
Yellow Jack. 

In 1858 the Spanish Government thinking, presumably, 
that the slave trade was suppressed enough, or at any rate 
to a sufficiently inconvenient extent, re-claimed Fernando Po, 
to the horror of the Baptist missionaries who had settled in 
Clarence apparently under the erroneous idea that the island 
had been definitely taken over by the English. This mission 
had received from the West African Company a large grant 
of land, and had collected round it a gathering of Sierra 
Leonians and other artisan and trading Africans who were 
attracted to Clarence by the work made by the naval station ; 
and these people, with the English traders who also settled 



54 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 



here for a like reason, were the founders of Clarence Town. 
The declaration of the Spanish Government stating that 
only Roman Catholic missions would be countenanced caused 
the Baptists to abandon their possessions and withdraw to 
the mainland in Ambas Bay, where they have since remained, 
and nowadays Protestantism is represented by a Methodist 
Mission which has a sub-branch on the mainland on the 
Akwayafe River and one on the Qua I bo. 

The Spaniards, on resuming possession of the island, had 

one of their attacks of activity regarding it, and sent out 

with Don Carlos Chacon, who was to take over the command, 

four Jesuit priests, a secretary, a commissariat officer, a 

custom-house clerk, and a transport, the Santa Maria, with 

a number of emigrant families. This attempt to colonise 

Fernando Po should have at least done the good of 

preventing such experiments ever being tried again with 

women and children, for of these unfortunate creatures for 

whom, in spite of its being the wet season, no houses had 

been provided more than 20 per cent, died in the space 

of five months. Mr. Hutchinson, who was English Consul 

at the time, tells us that " In a very short time gaunt figures 

of men, women, and children might be seen crawling through 

the streets, with scarcely an evidence of life in their faces, 

save the expression of a sort of torpid carelessness as to 

how soon it might be their turn to drop off and die. The 

Portino, a steamer, carried back fifty of them to Cadiz, who 

looked when they embarked more like living skeletons of 

skin and bone than animated human beings." l I quote this 

not to cast reproach on the Spanish Government, but merely 

to give a fact, a case in point, of the deadly failure of 

endeavours to colonise on the West Coast, a thing which is 

even now occasionally attempted, always with the same sad 

results, though in most cases these attempts are now made 

by religious and misinformed people under Bishop Taylor's 

mission. 

The Spaniards did not entirely confine their attention to 
planting colonists in a ready-made state on the island. As 
soon as they had settled themselves and built their barracks 
1 Ten Years' Wanderings among the Ethiopians, T. J. Hutchinson. 






Ill 



SPANISH OCCUPATION 



55 



and Government House, they set to work and cleared away 
the bush for an area of from four to six miles round the 
town. The ground soon became overgrown again, but this 
clearing is still perceptible in the different type of forest on 
it, and has enabled the gardens and little plantations round 
Clarence to be made more easily. My Spanish friends 
assure me that the Portuguese, who discovered the island in 
I47I, 1 and who exchanged it and Anno Bom in 1778 
to the Spaniards for the little island of Catalina and the 




GOVERNOR S PALACE, FERNANDO I'D. 



colony of Sacramento in South America, did not do any- 
thing to develop it. When they, the Spaniards, first entered 
into possession they at once set to work to colonise and clear. 
Then the colonisation scheme went to the bad, the natives 
poisoned the wells, it is said, and the attention of the 
Spaniards was in those days turned, for some inscrutable 
reason, to the eastern shores of the island a district now 
quite abandoned by whites, on account of its unhealthiness 

1 There is difference of opinion among authorities as to whether 
Fernando Po was discovered by Fernando Po or by Lopez Gon- 
salves. 



56 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 



and they lost in addition to the colonists a terrible 
quantity of their sailors, in Concepcion Bay. 1 A lull then 
followed, and the Spaniards willingly lent the place to the 
English as aforesaid. They say we did nothing except 
establish Clarence as a headquarters, which they consider to 
have been a most excellent enterprise, and import the Baptist 
Mission, which they hold as a less estimable undertaking ; 
but there ! that's nothing to what the Baptist Mission hold 
regarding the Spaniards. For my own part, I wish the 
Spaniards better luck this time in their activity, for in direct- 
ing it to plantations they are on a truer and safer road to 
wealth than they have been with their previous importations 
of Cuban political prisoners and ready-made families of 
colonists, and I hope they will send home those un- 
fortunate wretches they have there now, and commence, 
in their expected two years, to reap the profits of the 
coffee and cocoa. Certainly the chances are that they may,, 
for the soil of Fernando Po is of exceeding fertility ; 
Mr. Hutchinson says he has known Indian corn planted 
here on a Monday evening make its appearance four inches 
above ground on the following Wednesday morning, within 
a period, he carefully says, of thirty-six hours. I have seen 
this sort of thing over in Victoria, but I like to get a grown 
strong man, and a Consul of Her Britannic Majesty, to say it 
for me. 

Having discoursed at large on the various incomers to 
Fernando Po we may next turn to the natives, properly 
so-called, the Bubis. These people, although presenting a 
series of interesting problems to the ethnologist, both from 
their insular position, and their differentiation from any of the 
mainland peoples, are still but little known. To a great 
extent this has arisen from their exclusiveness, and their total 
lack of enthusiasm in trade matters, a thing that differentiates 
them more than any other characteristic from the mainlanders, 
who, young and old, men and women, regard trade as the great 
affair of life, take to it as soon as they can toddle, and don't 
even leave it off at death, according to their own accounts of 

1 From April 1777 till the end of 1782, 370 men out of the 547 died of 
fever. 



in CLOTHES AND NO CLOTHES 



57 



the way the spirits of distinguished traders still dabble and 
interfere in market matters. But it is otherwise with the Bubi. 
A little rum, a few beads, and finish then he will turn the 
rest of his attention to catching porcupines, or the beautiful 
little gazelles, gray on the back and white underneath, with 
which the island abounds. And what time he may have on 
hand after this, he spends in building houses and making him- 
self hats. It is only his utterly spare moments that he 
employs in making just sufficient palm oil from the rich supply 
of nuts at his command to get that rum and those beads of 
his. Cloth he does not want ; he utterly fails to see what good 
the stuff is, for he abhors clothes, and as a friend of mine 
observed : " Senora, you'll see more bare skin on this, island 
than in a regiment of grenadiers." He said this in Spanish, 
and I had to look it up in a dictionary and then think about 
it afterwards, so the statement irritated me, for I felt that the 
man knew enough English to be aware that it must work out 
as a bad pun. But nevertheless the truth was in it, for when 
you go outside Clarence you come across the Bubi osten- 
tatiously unclothed I say ostentatiously for the benefit of 
ethnologists and this I have never elsewhere seen in West 
Africa. The Spanish authorities insist that the natives who 
come into the town should have something on, and so they 
array themselves in a bit of cotton cloth, which before they are 
out of sight of the town on their homeward way, they strip off 
and stuff into their baskets, showing in this, as well as in all 
other particulars, how uninfluencible by white culture they are. 
For the Spaniards, like the Portuguese, are great sticklers for 
clothes, and insist on their natives wearing them usually with 
only too much success. I shall never forget the yards and 
yards of cotton the ladies of Loanda wore ; and not content 
with making cocoons of their bodies, they wore over their 
heads, as a mantilla, some dozen yards or so of black cloth 
into the bargain. Moreover this insistence on drapery for the 
figure is not merely for towns ; a German officer told me the 
other day that when, a week or so before, his ship had called 
at Anno Bom, they were simply besieged for " clo', clo', clo' ; 
the Anno Bomians explaining that they were all anxious to 
go across to Principe and get employment on coffee planta- 



58 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 

tions, but that the Portuguese planters would not engage them 
in an unclothed state. 

You must not, however, imagine that the Bubi is neglectful 
of his personal appearance. In his way he is quite a dandy. 
But his idea of decoration goes in the direction of a plaster of 
" tola " pomatum over his body, and above all a hat. This hat 
may be an antique European one, or a bound-round handker- 
chief, but it is more frequently a confection of native manu- 
facture, and great taste and variety is displayed in its make. 
They are of plaited palm leaf that's all you can safely 
generalise regarding them for sometimes they have broad 
brims, sometimes narrow, sometimes no brims at all. So, too, 
with the crown. Sometimes it is thick and domed, sometimes 
non-existent, the wearer's hair aglow with red-tail parrots' 
feathers sticking up where the crown should be. As a general 
rule these hats are much adorned with oddments of birds' 
plumes, and one chief I knew had quite a Regent-street Dolly 
Varden creation which he used to affix to his wool in a most 
intelligent way with bonnet-pins made of wood. These hats 
are also a peculiarity of the Bubi, for none of the main- 
landers care a row of pins for hats, except " for dandy," 
to wear occasionally, whereas the Bubi wears his perpetually, 
although he has by no means the same amount of sun to 
guard against owing to the glorious forests of his island. I 
am told there is a certain sound reason in his devotion 
for his hat, and that is that it acts as a protection against a 
beautiful but poisonous green tree snake that abounds on 
Fernando Po, whose habit it is to hang, upside down, from 
the trees. If the snake strikes the hat instead of the head 
when the wearer is out hunting, why so much the better for 
the wearer. 

For earrings the Bubi wears pieces of wood stuck through 
the lobe of the ear, and although this is not a decorative habit 
still it is less undecorative than that of certain mainland 
friends of mine in this region, who wear large and necessarily 
dripping lumps of fat in their ears and in their hair. His 
neck is hung round with jujus on strings bits of the back- 
bones of pythons, teeth, feathers, and antelope horns and 
round his upper arm are bracelets, preferably made of ivory 



in ORNAMENTS AND COINAGE 59 



got from the mainland, for celluloid bracelets carefully imported 
for his benefit he refuses to look at. Often also these brace- 
lets are made of beads, or a circlet of leaves, and when on 
the war-path an armlet of twisted grass is always worn by the 
men. Men and women alike wear armlets, and in the case of 
the women they seem to be put on when young, for you see 
puffs of flesh growing out from between them. They are also 
not entirely for decoration, serving commonly as pockets, for 
under them in the case of men is stuck a knife, and in the 
case of women a tobacco pipe, a well-coloured clay. Leglets 
of similar construction are worn just under the knee on the 
right leg, while around the body you see belts of tshibbu, small 
pieces cut from Achatectonia shells, which form the native 
currency of the island. These shells are also made into veils 
worn by the women at their wedding. 

This native coinage-equivalent is very interesting, for such 
things are exceedingly rare in West- Africa. The only other 
instance I personally know of a tribe in this part of the world 
using a native-made coin is that of the Fans, who use little 
bundles of imitation axe-heads. Dr. Oscar Baumann, who 
knows more than any one else about these Bubis, thinks, I 
believe, that these bits of Achatectonia shells may have been 
introduced by the runaway Angola slaves in the old days, who 
used to fly from their Portuguese owners on San Thome to the 
Spaniards on Fernando Po. The villages of the Bubis are in 
the forest in the interior of the island, and they are fairly wide 
apart. They are not a sea-beach folk, although each village 
has its beach, which merely means the place to which it brings 
its trade, these beaches being usually the dwelling places of 
the so-called Portos, 1 negroes, who act as middle-men between 
the Bubis and the whites. 

You will often be told that the Bubis are singularly bad 
house-builders, indeed that they make no definite houses at 

1 Porto is the Bubi name for black men who are not Bubis, these \vere 
in old days Portuguese slaves, "Porto" being evidently a corruption of 
"Portuguese," but it is used alike by the Bubi to designate Sierra 
Leonian Accras, in fact, all the outer barbarian blacks. The name for 
white men, Mandara, used by the Bubis, has a sort of resemblance to the 
Effik name for whites, Makara, i.e., the ruling one, but I do not know 
whether these two words have any connection. 



60 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 



all, but only rough shelters of branches. This is, however, a 
mistake. Shelters of this kind that you come across are 
merely the rough huts put up by hunters, not true houses. The 
village is usually fairly well built, and surrounded with a living 
hedge of stakes. The houses inside this are four-cornered, the 
walls made of logs of wood stuck in edgeways, and surmounted 
by a roof of thatch pitched at an extremely stiff angle, and the 
whole is usually surrounded with a dug-out drain to carry off 
surface water. These houses, as usual on the West Coast, are 
divisible into two classes houses of assembly, and private 
living houses. The first are much the larger. The latter are 
very low, and sometimes ridiculously small, but still they are 
houses and better than those awful Loango grass affairs you 
get on the Congo. 

Herr Baumann says that the houses high up on the mountain 
have double walls between which there is a free space ; an 
arrangement which may serve to minimise the extreme 
draughtiness of an ordinary Bubi house a very necessary thing 
in these relatively chilly upper regions. I may remark on my 
own account that the Bubi villages do not often lie right on 
the path, but, like those you have to deal with up the Calabar, 
some little way off it. This is no doubt for the purpose of 
concealing their whereabouts from strangers, and it does it suc- 
cessfully too, for many a merry hour have I spent dodging 
up and down a path trying to make out at what particular 
point it was advisable to dive into the forest thicket to reach a 
village. But this cultivates habits of observation, and a short 
course of this work makes you recognise which tree is which 
along miles of a bush path as easily as you would shops in 
your own street at home. 

The main interest of the Bubi's life lies in hunting, for 
he is more of a sportsman than the majority of mainlanders. 
He has not any big game to deal with, unless we except 
pythons which attain a great size on the island and croco- 
diles. Elephants, though plentiful on the adjacent mainland,, 
are quite absent from Fernando Po, as are also hippos and the 
great anthropoid apes ; but of the little gazelles, small 
monkeys, porcupines, and squirrels he has a large supply, and 
in the rivers a very pretty otter (F^ntra poensis] with yellow 



in TRAPS VERSUS GUNS 61 

brown fur often quite golden underneath ; a creature which is, 
I believe, identical with the Angola otter. 

The Bubis use in their hunting flint-lock guns, but chiefly 
traps and nets, and, I am told, slings. The advantage of these 
latter methods are, I expect, the same as on the mainland, 
where a distinguished sportsman once told me : " You go shoot 
thing with gun. Berrah well but you no get him thing for 
sure. No sah. Dem gun make nize. Berrah well. You fren 
hear dem nize and come look him, and you hab to go share 
what you done kill. Or bad man hear him nize, and he come 
look him, and you no fit to get share you fit to get kill 
yusself. Chii ! chii ! traps be best." I urged that the traps 
might also be robbed. " No, sah," says he, " them bian (charm) 
he look after them traps, he fit to make man who go tief swell 
up and bust." 

The Bubis also fish, mostly by basket traps, but they are 
not experts either in this or in canoe management. Their 
chief sea-shore sport is hunting for the eggs of the turtles who 
lay in the sand from August to October. These eggs about 
200 in each nest are about the size of a billiard-ball, with a 
leathery envelope, and are much valued for food, as are also 
the grubs of certain beetles got from the stems of the palm- 
trees, and the honey of the wild bees which abound here. 

Their domestic animals are the usual African list ; cats, 
dogs, sheep, goats, and poultry. Pigs there are too, very 
domestic in Clarence and in a wild state in the forest. 
These pigs are the descendants of those imported by the 
Spaniards, and not long ago became such an awful nuis- 
ance in Clarence that the Government issued instructions 
that all pigs without rings in their noses Le. all in a con- 
dition to grub up back gardens should be forthwith shot 
if found abroad. This proclamation was issued by the 
governmental bellman thus : " I say I say I say I say 
Suppose pig walk iron no live for him nose ! Gun shoot. 
Kill him one time. Hear re ! hear re ! " 

However a good many pigs with no iron living in their 
noses got adrift and escaped into the interior, and have 
flourished like the green bay-tree, destroying the Bubi's 
plantation and eating his yams, while the Bubi retaliating 



62 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 

kills and eats them. So it's a drawn battle, for the Bubi 
enjoys the pig and the pig enjoys the yams, which are of 
singular excellence in this island and celebrated throughout 
the Bight. Now, I am told, the Government are firmly dis- 
couraging the export of these yams, which used to be quite a 
little branch of Fernando Po trade, in the hope that this will 
induce the native to turn his attention to working in the coffee 
and cacao plantations. Hope springs eternal in the 
human breast, for the Bubi has shown continually 
since the i6th century that he takes no interest in these 
things whatsoever. Now and again a man or woman will 
come voluntarily and take service in Clarence, submit 
to clothes, and rapidly pick up the ways of a house or 
store. And just when their owner thinks he owns a treasure* 
and begins to boast that he has got an exception to all 
Bubidom, or else that he knows how to manage them better 
than other men, then a hole in that man's domestic 
arrangements suddenly appears. The Bubi has gone, without 
giving a moment's warning, and without stealing his master's- 
property, but just softly and silently vanished away. And if 
hunted up the treasure will be found in his or her particular 
village clothesless, comfortable, utterly unconcerned, and 
unaware that he or she has lost anything by leaving* 
Clarence and civilisation. It is this conduct that gains 
for the Bubi the reputation of being a bigger idiot than he 
really is. 

For West Africans their agriculture is of a fairly high descrip- 
tion the noteworthy point about it, however, is the absence 
of manioc. Manioc is grown on Fernando Po, but only by 
the Portos. The Bubi cultivated plants are yams {Dioscorea 
alata], koko (Colocasia esculentd] the taro of the South Seas,, 
and plantains. Their farms are well kept, particularly those 
in the grass districts by San Carlos Bay. The yams of 
the Cordillera districts are the best flavoured, but those of 
the east coast the largest. Palm-oil is used for domestic 
purposes in the usual ways, and palm wine both fresh and 
fermented is the ordinary native drink. Rum is held in 
high esteem, but used in a general way in moderation as a 
cordial and a treat, for the Bubi is, like the rest of the West 



in THE DRINK QUESTION 63 

African natives, by no means an habitual drunkard. Gin 
he dislikes. 1 

And I may remark you will find the same opinion in regard 
to the Dualla in Cameroons river on the undeniable authority 
of Dr. Buchner, and my own extensive experience of the West 
Coast bears it out. 

Physically the Bubis are a fairly well-formed race of medium 
height ; they are decidedly inferior to the Benga or the 
Krus, but quite on a level with the Effiks The women in- 
deed are very comely : their colour is bronze and their skin 
the skin of the Bantu. Beards are not uncommon among" the 

o 

men, and these give their faces possibly more than anything else,, 
a different look to the faces of the Efriks or the Duallas. In- 
deed the people physically most like the Bubis that I have 

1 I am glad to find that my own observations on the drink question 
entirely agree with those of Dr. Oscar Baumann, because he is an un- 
prejudiced scientific observer, who has had great experience both in the 
Congo and Cameroon regions before he came to Fernando Po. In the 
support of my statement I may quote his own words : " Die Bube 
trinken namlich sehr gerne Rum ; Gin verschmahen sie vollstandig, aber 
ausser Tabak und Salz gehort Rum zu den gesuchtesten europaischen 
Artikeln fur sie. Wie bekannt hat sich in Europa ein heftiges Geschrei 
gegen die Vergiftung der Neger durch Alcohol erhoben. Wenn das- 
selbe schon fur die meisten Stamme Westafrikas der Berechtigung fast 
vollstandig entbehrt und in die Categoric verweisen worden muss die 
man mil dem nicht sehr schonen aber treffenden Ausdrucke " Humani- 
tatsduselei " bezeichnet, so ist es den Bube gegenuber wohl mehr als 
zwecklos. Es mag ja vorkomnien dass ein Bube wenn er sein Palmol 
verkauft hat, sich ein oder zweimal im Jahre mit Rum ein Rauschlein 
antrinkt. Deshalb aber gleich von Alkohol-Yergiftung zu sprechen ware 
mindestens lacherlich. Ich bin iiberzeugt dass mancher jener Herren 
die in Wort und Schrift so heftig gegen die Alkolismus der Neger zetern 
in ihren Studentenjahren allein mehr geistige Getranke genossen haben 
als zehn Bube wahrend ihres ganzen Lebens. Der Handelsrum welcher 
wie ich mich ofters iiberzeugt zwar recht verwassert aber keineswegs 
abstossend schlecht schmeckt, ist den Bube gewohnlich nur eine 
Delikatesse welche mit Andacht schluckweise genossen wird. Wenn 
ein Arbeiter bei uns einen Schluck Branntwein oder ein Glas Bid 
geniesst urn sich zu starken, so findet das Jeder in der Ordnung ; der 
Bube jedoch, welcher splitternackt tagelang in feuchten Bergwalderr 
umher klettern muss, soil beliebe nichts als Wasser trinken!" Etne 
Africanischc Tropen. insel Fernando Poo, Dr. Oscar Baumann, Edward 
Holzer, Wien, 1888. 



64 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 



ever seen, are undoubtedly the Bakwiri of Cameroons Moun- 
tain, who are also liable to be bearded, or possibly I should 
say more liable to wear beards, for a good deal of the African 
hairlessness you hear commented on in the West African at 
any rate arises from his deliberately pulling his hair out 
his beard, moustache, whiskers, and occasionally, as among the 
Fans, his eyebrows. 

Dr. Baumann, the great authority on the Bubi language 
says it is a Bantu stock. 1 I know nothing of it myself save 
that it is harsh in sound. Their method of counting is 
usually by fives but they are notably weak in arithmetical 
ability, differing in this particular from the mainlanders, and 
especially from their Negro neighbours, who are very good at 
figures, surpassing the Bantu in this, as indeed they do in 
most branches of intellectual activity. 

But the most remarkable instance of inferiority the Bubis 
display is their ignorance regarding methods of working iron. 
I do not know that iron in a native state is found on Fernando 
Po, but scrap-iron they have been in touch with for some 
hundreds of years. The mainlanders are all cognisant of 
native methods of working iron, although many tribes of them 
now depend entirely on European trade for their supply of 
knives, &c., and this difference between them and the Bubis 
would seem to indicate that the migration of the latter to the 
island must have taken place at a fairly remote period, a period 
before the iron-working tribes came down to the coast. 
Of course, if you take the Bubi's usual explanation 
of his origin, namely that he came out of the crater 
on the top of Clarence Peak, this argument falls through ; 
but he has also another legend, one moreover which is 
likewise to be found upon the mainland, which says he was 
driven from the district north of the Gaboon estuary by the 
coming of the M'pongwe to the coast, and as this legend is 
the more likely of the two I think we may accept it as true, 
or nearly so. But what adds another difficulty to the matter 
is that the Bubi is not only unlearned in iron lore, but he 
was learned in stone, and up to the time of the youth of many 

1 " Beitrage zur Kenntniss der Bubisprache auf Fernando Poo," O. 
Baumann, Zeitschrift fur afrikanische Sprachcn. Berlin, 1888. 



in SOLVITUR AMBULANDO 65 

Porto-negroes on Fernando Po, he was making and using stone 
implements, and none of the tribes within the memory of 
man have done this on the mainland. It is true that up the 
Niger and about Benin and Axim you get polished stone 

celts, but these are regarded as weird affairs, thunderbolts 

and suitable only for grinding up and making into medicine. 
There is no trace in the traditions, as far as I have been able 
to find, of any time at which stone implements were in common 
use, and certainly the M'pongwe have not been a very long 
time on the coast, for their coming is still remembered in their 
traditions. The Bubi stone implements I have seen twice, 
but on neither occasion could I secure one, and although 
I have been long promised specimens from Fernando Po, I 
have not yet received them. They are difficult to procure, 
because none of the present towns are on really old sites, the 
Bubi, like most Bantus, moving pretty frequently, either be- 
cause the ground is witched, demonstrated by outbreaks of sick- 
ness, or because another village-full of his fellow creatures, or 
a horrid white man plantation-making, has come too close to 
him. A Roman Catholic priest in Ka Congo once told me a 
legend he laughed much over, of how a fellow priest had 
enterprisingly settled himself one night in the middle of a 
Bubi village with intent to devote the remainder of his life to 
quietly but thoroughly converting it. Next morning, when he 
rose up, he found himself alone, the people having taken all 
their portable possessions and vanished to build another 
village elsewhere. The worthy Father spent some time chivy- 
ing his flock about the forest, but in vain, and he returned 
home disgusted, deciding that the Creator, for some wise 
purpose, had dedicated the Bubis to the Devil. 

The spears used by this interesting people are even to this 
day made entirely of wood, and have such a Polynesian look 
about them that I intend some time or other to bring some 
home and experiment on that learned Polynesian-culture-ex- 
pert, Baron von Hugel, with them : intellectually experiment, 
not physically, pray understand. 

The pottery has a very early-man look about it, but in this 
it does not differ much from that of the mainland, which is 
quite as poor, and similarly made without a wheel, and sun- 

F 



66 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 

baked. Those pots of the Bubis I have seen have, however, 
not had the pattern (any sort of pattern does, and it need not 
be carefully done) that runs round mainland pots to " keep 
their souls in " i.e. to prevent their breaking up on their 
own account. 

Their basket-work is of a superior order : the baskets they 
make to hold the semi-fluid palm oil are excellent, and will 
hold water like a basin, but I am in doubt whether this art is 
original, or imported by the Portuguese runaway slaves, for 
they put me very much in mind of those made by my old 
friends the Kabinders, from whom a good man}* of those 
slaves were recruited. I think there is little doubt that several 
of the musical instruments own this origin, particularly their 
best beloved one, the elibo. This may be described as a 
wooden bell having inside it for clappers several (usually five) 
pieces of stick threaded on a bit of wood jammed into the 
dome of the bell and striking the rim, beyond which the 
clappers just protrude. These bells are very like those you 
meet with in Angola, but I have not seen on the island, nor 
does Dr. Baumann cite having seen, the peculiar double bell 
of Angola the engongui. The Bubi bell is made out of one 
piece of wood and worked or played with both hands. Dr. 
Baumann says it is customary on bright moonlight nights for 
two lines of men to sit facing each other and to clap one can 
hardly call it ring these bells vigorously, but in good time, 
accompanying this performance with a monotonous song, while 
the delighted women and children dance round. The learned 
doctor evidently sees the picturesqueness of this practice, but 
notes that the words of the songs are not " tiefsinnige " (pro- 
found), as he has heard men for hours singing " The shark 
bites the Bubi's hand," only that over and over again and 
nothing more. This agrees with my own observations of all 
Bantu native songs. I have always found that the words of 
these songs were either the repetition of some such phrase as 
this, or a set of words referring to the recent adventures or ex- 
periences of the singer or the present company's little pecu- 
liarities ; with a very frequent chorus, old and conventional. 
I shall never forget a white man coming alongside a ship 
whereon I was once a passenger, quite unconscious that his 



in MUSIC AND DANCING 67 



boatswain was singing as a solo : " Here we bring this wretched 
creature : he's a very bad man : he does not give us any food, 

or any money : he goes and gets drunk and " but I forbear 

repeating the text of the libel. But after each statement the 
rest of the crew joined in a chorus which was the native 
equivalent of " and so say all of us." 

The native tunes used with these songs are far superior, and 
I expect many of them are very old. They are often full of 
variety and beauty, particularly those of the M'pongwe and 
Galwa, of which I will speak later. 

The dances I have no personal knowledge of, but there is 
nothing in Baumann's description to make one think they are 
distinct in themselves from the mainland dances. I once saw 
a dance at Fernando Po, but that was among Portos, and it 
was my old friend the Batuco in all its beauty. But there is 
a distinct peculiarity about the places the dances are held on, 
every village having a kept piece of ground outside it 
which is the dancing place for the village the ball-room as 
it were ; and exceedingly picturesque these dances must be, 
for they are mostly held during the nights of full moon. 
These kept grounds remind one very much of the similar 
looking patches of kept grass one sees in villages in Ka 
Congo, but there is no similarity in their use, for the Ka Congo 
lawns are of fetish, not frivolous, import. 

The Bubis have an instrument I have never seen in an 
identical form on the mainland. It is made like a bow, with 
a tense string of fibre. One end of the bow is placed against 
the mouth, and the string is then struck by the right hand 
with a small round stick, while with the left it is scraped with 
a piece of shell or a knife-blade. This excruciating instru- 
ment, I warn any one who may think of living among the 
Bubis, is very popular. The drums used are both the Dualla 
form all wood and the ordinary skin-covered drum, and I 
think if I catalogue fifes made of wood, I shall have nearly 
finished the Bubi orchestra. I have doubts on this point be- 
cause I rather question whether I may be allowed to refer to 
a very old bullock hide unmounted as a musical instrument 
without bringing down the wrath of musicians on my head. 
These stiff, dry pelts are much thought of, and played by the 

F 2 



68 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 



artistes by being shaken as accompaniments to other instru- 
ments they make a noise, and that is after all the soul of 
most African instrumental music. These instruments are all 
that is left of certain bullocks which many years ago the 
Spaniards introduced, hoping to improve the food supply. 
They seemed as if they would have flourished well on the 
island, on the stretches of grass land in the Cordillera and 
the East, but the Bubis, being great sportsmen, killed them 
all off. 

The festivities of the Bubis dances, weddings, feasts, &c., 
at which this miscellaneous collection of instruments are 
used in concert, usually take place in November, the dry 
season ; but the Bubi is liable to pour forth his soul in the 
bosom of his family at any time of the day or night, from 
June to January, and when he pours it forth on that bow affair 
it makes the lonely European long for home. 

Divisions of time the Bubi can hardly be said to have, but 
this is a point upon which all West Africans are rather weak, 
particularly the Bantu. He has, however, a definite name for 
November, December, and January the dry season months 
calling them Lobos. 

The fetish of these people, although agreeing on broad lines 
with the Bantu fetish, has many interesting points, as even my 
small knowledge of it showed me, and it is a subject that 
would repay further investigation ; and as by fetish I always 
mean the governing but underlying ideas of a man's life, we 
will commence with the child. Nothing, as far as I have been 
able to make out, happens to him, for fetish reasons, when he 
first appears on the scene. He receives at birth, as is usual, a 
name which is changed for another on his initiation into the 
secret society, this secret society having also, as usual, a 
secret language. About the age of three or five years the boy 
is decorated, under the auspices of the witch doctor, with 
certain scars on the face. These scars run from the root of 
the nose across the cheeks, and are sometimes carried up in a 
curve on to the forehead. Tattooing, in the true sense of the 
word, they do not use, but they paint themselves, as the main- 
landers do, with a red paint made by burning some herb and 
mixing the ash with clay or oil, and they occasionally 



in SPIRITS AND CHARMS 69 



whether for ju-ju reasons or for mere decoration I do not 
know paint a band of yellow clay round the chest ; but of 
the Bubi secret society I know little, nor have I been able 
to find any one who knows much more. Hutchinson, 1 in his 
exceedingly amusing description of a wedding he was once 
present at among these people, would lead one to think the 
period of seclusion of the women's society was twelve months. 

The chief god or spirit, O. Wassa, resides in the crater of the 
highest peak, and by his name the peak is known to the native. 
Another very important spirit, to whom goats and sheep are 
offered, is Lobe, resident in a crater lake on the northern slope 
of the Cordilleras, and the grass you sometimes see a Bubi 
wearing is said to come from this lake and be a ju-ju of Lobe's. 
Dr. Baumann says that the lake at Riabba from which the 
spirit Uapa rises is more holy, and that he is small, and resides 
in a chasm in a rock whose declivity can only be passed by 
means of bush ropes, and in the wet season he is not get-at-able 
at all. He will, if given suitable offerings, reveal the future to 
Bubis, but Bubis only. His priest is the King of all the 
Bubis, upon whom it is never permitted to a white man, or a 
Porto, to gaze. Baumann also gives the residence of another 
important spirit as being the grotto at Banni. This is a sea- 
cave, only accessible at low water in calm weather. I have 
heard many legends of this cave, but have never had an 
opportunity of seeing it, or any one who has seen it first hand. 

The charms used by these people are similar in form to 
those of the mainland Bantu, but the methods of treating 
paths and gateways are somewhat peculiar. The gateways to 
the towns are sometimes covered by freshly cut banana leaves, 
and during the religious feast in November, the paths to the 
villages are barred across with a hedge of grass which no 
stranger must pass through. 

The government is a peculiar one for West Africa. Every 
village has its chief, but the whole tribe obey one great chief 
or king who lives in the crater-ravine at Riabba. This in- 
dividual is called Moka, but whether he is now the same man 
referred to by Rogoszinsky, Mr. Holland, and the Rev. Hugh 

1 Ten Years' Wanderings among the Ethiopians. T. J. Hutchinson. 



70 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CHAP. 



Brown, who attempted to interview him in the seventies, I do 
not feel sure, for the Bubis are just the sort of people to keep 
a big king going with a variety of individuals. Even the in- 
defatigable Dr. Baumann failed to see Moka, though he 
evidently found out a great deal about the methods of his ad- 
ministration and formed a very high opinion of his ability, for 
he says that to this one chief the people owe their present 
unity and orderliness ; that before his time the whole island 
was in a state of internecine war : murder was frequent, and 
property unsafe. Now their social condition, according to 
the Doctor's account, is a model to Europe, let alone Africa. 
Civil wars have been abolished, disputes between villages being 
referred to arbitration, and murder is swiftly and surely 
punished. If the criminal has bolted into the forest and can- 
not be found, his village is made responsible, and has to pay 
a fine in goats, sheep and tobacco to the value of 16. Theft 
is extremely rare and offences against the moral code also, the 
Bubis having an extremely high standard in this matter, even 
the little children having each a separate sleeping hut. In 
old days adultery w r as punished by cutting off the offender's 
hand. I have myself seen women in Fernando Po who have 
had a hand cut off at the wrist, but I believe those were slave 
women who had suffered for theft. Slaves the Bubis do have, 
but their condition is the mild, poor relation or retainer form of 
slavery you find in Calabar, and differs from the Dualla form, 
for the slaves live in the same villages as their masters, while 
among the Duallas, as among most Bantu slave-holding tribes, 
the slaves are excluded from the master's village and have 
separate villages of their own. For marriage ceremonies I 
refer you to Mr. Hutchinson. Burial customs are exceedingly 
quaint in the southern and eastern districts, where the bodies 
are buried in the forest with their heads just sticking out of 
the ground. In other districts the body is also buried in the 
forest, but is completely covered and an erection of stones 
put up to mark the place. 

Little is known of all West African fetish, still less of that 
of these strange people. Dr. Oscar Baumann brought to bear 
on them his careful unemotional German methods of observa- 
tion, thereby giving us more valuable information about them 



in THE PORTOS 



and their island than we otherwise should possess. Mr. 
Hutchinson resided many years on Fernando Po, in the 
capacity of H. B. M.'s Consul, with his hands full of the affairs 
of the Oil Rivers and in touch with the Portos of Clarence, 
but he nevertheless made very interesting observations on the 
natives and their customs. The Polish exile and his courageous 
wife who ascended Clarence Peak, Mr. Rogoszinsky, and 
another Polish exile, Mr. Janikowski, about complete our series 
of authorities on the island. Dr. Baumann thinks they got 
their information from Porto sources sources the learned 
Doctor evidently regards as more full of imagination than 
solid fact, but, as you know, all African travellers are oc- 
casionally in the habit of pooh-poohing each other, and I own 
that I myself have been chiefly in touch with Portos, and that 
my knowledge of the Bubi language runs to the conventional 
greeting form : " Ipori ? " " Porto." " Ke Soko ? " " Hatsi 
so ko " : ll Who are you ? " " Porto." " What's the news ? " 
" No news." 

Although these Portos are less interesting to the ethno- 
logist than the philanthropist, they being by-products of his 
efforts, I must not leave Fernando Po without mentioning 
them, for on them the trade of the island depends. They are 
the middlemen between the Bubi and the white trader. The 
former regards them with little, if any, more trust than he 
regards the white men, and his view of the position of the 
Spanish Governor is that he is chief over the Portos. That 
he has any headship over Bubis or over the Bubi land 
Itschulla as he calls Fernando Po he does not imagine 
possible. Baumann says he was once told by a Bubi : " White 
men are fish, not men. They are able to stay a little while on 
land, but at last they mount their ships again and vanish over, 
the horizon into the ocean. How can a fish possess land ? " 
If the coffee and cacao thrive on Fernando Po to the same 
extent that they have already thriven on San Thome there is 
but little doubt that the Bubis will become extinct ; for work 
on plantations, either for other people, or themselves, they will 
not, and then the Portos will become the most important class, 
for they will go in for plantations. Their little factories are 
studded all round the shores of the coast in suitable coves and 



72 FERNANDO PO AND THE BUBIS CH. in 

bays, and here in fairly neat houses they live, collecting palm- 
oil from the Bubis, and making themselves little cacao planta- 
tions, and bringing these products into Clarence every now 
and then to the white trader's factory. Then, after spending 
some time and most of their money in the giddy whirl of that 
capital, they return to their homes and recover. There is a 
class of them permanently resident in Clarence, the city 
men of Fernando Po, and these are very like the Sierra 
Leonians of Free Town, but preferable. Their origin is prac- 
tically the same as that of the Free Towners. They are the 
descendants of liberated slaves set free during the time of 
our occupation of the island as a naval depot for suppressing 
the slave trade, and of Sierra Leonians and Accras who 
have arrived and settled since then. They have some of the 
same " Black gennellum, Sar " style about them, but not 
.developed to the same ridiculous extent as in the Sierra 
Leonians, for they have not been under our institutions. 
The " Fanny Po " ladies are celebrated for their beauty all 
along the West Coast, and very justly. They are not how- 
ever, as they themselves think, the most beautiful women in 
this part of the world. Not at least to my way of thinking. 
I prefer an Elmina, or an Igalwa, or a M'pongwe, or but I had 
better stop and own that my affections have got very scattered 
among the black ladies on the West Coast, and I no sooner 
remember one lovely creature whose soft eyes, perfect form 
and winning, pretty ways have captivated me than I think of 
another. The Fanny Po ladies have often a certain amount 
of Spanish blood in them, which gives a decidedly greater 
delicacy to their features : delicate little nostrils, mouths not 
too heavily lipped, a certain gloss on the hair, and a light in 
the eye. But it does not improve their colour, and I am 
assured that it has an awful effect on their tempers, so I think 
I will remain, for the present, the faithful admirer of my sable 
Ingrimma, the Igalwa, with the little red blossoms stuck in her 
night-black hair, and a sweet soft look and word for every one, 
but particularly for her ugly husband Isaac the "Jack Wash." 



CHAPTER IV 

LAGOS BAR 

Which the general reader may omit as the voyager gives herein no details 
of Old Calabar or of other things of general interest, but discourses 
diffusely on the local geography and the story of the man who \vasted 
coal. 

I WILL not detain you with any account of the Oil Rivers 
here. They are too big a subject to compress for one thing ; 
for another I do not feel that I yet know enough to have the 
right to speak regarding them, unless I were going to do so 
along accepted, well-trodden lines, and what I have seen and 
personally know of the region does not make me feel at all 
inclined to do this. So I will wait until I have had further 
opportunities of observing them. 

The natives I have worked at, but as their fetish is of ex- 
ceeding interest, I have relegated it to a separate chapter, 
owing to its unfitness to be allowed to stray about in the rest 
of the text, in order to make things generally tidier. The 
state of confusion the mind of a collector like myself gets into 
on the West Coast is something simply awful, and my notes 
for a day will contain facts relating to the kraw-kraw, price 
of onions, size and number of fish caught, cooking recipes, 
genealogies, oaths (native form of), law cases, and market 
prices, &c., &c. And the undertaking of tidying these things 
up is no small one. As for one's personal memory it becomes 
a rag-bag into which you dip frantically when some one asks 
you a question, and you almost always fail to secure your 
particular fact rag for some minutes. 

After returning from the short visit to Fernando 
Po made in their company, owing to the great kind- 



74 LAGOS BAR CHAP. 



ness of Sir Claude and Lady MacDonald I remained 
in Calabar River from January until May, collectihg 
fish mainly through the kindness of Dr Whitindale, 
and insects through the kindness of Mr. Cooper, then in 
charge of the botanical station. Most of my time was spent 
puddling about the river and the forest round Duke Town 
and Creek Town, but I made a point on this visit to Calabar 
of going up river to see Miss Slessor at Okyon, and she 
allowed me to stay with her, giving me invaluable help in the 
matter of fetish and some of the pleasantest days in my life. 
This very wonderful lady has been eighteen years in Calabar ; 
for the last six or seven living entirely alone, as far as white 
folks go, in a clearing in the forest near to one of the principal 
villages of the Okyon district, and ruling as a veritable white 
chief over the entire Okyon district. Her great abilities, 
both physical and intellectual, have given her among the 
savage tribe an unique position, and won her, from white and 
black who know her, a profound esteem. Her knowledge of 
the native, his language, his ways of thought, his diseases, 
his difficulties, and all that is his, is extraordinary, and the 
amount of good she has done, no man can fully estimate. 
Okyon, when she went there alone living in the native 
houses while she built, with the assistance of the natives, her 
present house w r as a district regarded with fear by the 
Duke and Creek Town natives, and practically unknown to 
Europeans. It was given, as most of the surrounding dis- 
tricts still are, to killing at funerals, ordeal by poison, and 
perpetual internecine wars. Many of these evil customs she 
has stamped out, and Okyon rarely gives trouble to its 
nominal rulers, the Consuls in Old Calabar, and trade passes 
freely through it down to the sea-ports. 

This instance of what one white can do would give 
many important lessons in West Coast administration and 
development. Only the sort of man Miss Slessor represents 
is rare. There are but few who have the same power of resist- 
ing the malarial climate, and of acquiring the language, and 
an insight into the negro mind, so perhaps after all it is no 
great wonder that Mi#s Slessor stands alone, as she certainly 
does. 



iv PERPLEXING GEOGRAPHY 



75 



After returning down river, I just waited until the Batanga, 
my old friend, came into the river again, and then started for 
my beloved South West Coast. The various divisions of the 
West Coast of Africa are very perplexing to a new comer. 
Starting from Sierra Leone coming south you first pass the 
Grain Coast, which is also called the Pepper or Kru Coast, or 
the Liberian Coast. Next comes the Ivory Coast, also known 
as the Half Jack Coast, or the Bristol Coast. Then comes 
the Gold Coast ; then the old Slave Coast, now called the 
Popos ; then Lagos, and then the Rivers, and below the Rivers 
the South \Vest Coast. In addition to these names you will 
hear the Timber Ports, and the Win'ard and Leeward Ports 
referred to, and it perplexes one when one finds a port, say 
Axim, referred to by one competent authority, i.e. a sea- 
captain, as a Win'ard port, by the next as a Timber, by the 
next as a Gold Coast port. It is just as well to get the matter 
up if you intend frequenting the Bights of Biafra and Benin. 
I will just give you, as a hint to facilitate your researches, the 
information that the Bight of Benin commences at Cape St. 
Paul and ends at Cape Formosa ; and the Bight of Biafra 
commences at Cape Formosa and ends at Cape Lopez. 
The Windward Coast is that portion between Cape Apollonia 
and the Secum River, just west of Accra. At this river the 
Leeward Coast begins, and terminates at the Volta. 

When I was on the coast in 1893, Cameroons River was 
regarded in nautical circles as a River. Now, alas for me ! it is 
not, and getting from Calabar to Cameroons is a thing you 
ought to get a medal for, for the line of vessels that run 
from Liverpool to Calabar goes no further than the latter 
place. In former days they used to call in at Calabar, 
then go across to Fernando Po and into Cameroons, calling 
steadily at ports right down to Sant. Paul de Loanda, which 
was a highly convenient and beautiful arrangement, but I 
presume did not pay ; so the South West Coast boats, that is 
to say boats calling below Calabar, now call at Lagos, and 
thus ignore the Rivers, going straight on into Cameroons River. 
So you see, if you have providentially kept your head clear 
during this disquisition, I had to go QU a homeward bound 
boat up as far as Lagos Bar and then catch a South Wester 



76 LAGOS BAR CHAP. 

outward bound, and I assure you changing at Lagos Bar 
throws changing at Clapham Junction into the shade. Now 
in order to make this latter point clear to that unfortunate 
victim the general reader, he, or she, must be dragged through 
a disquisition on Lagos and its bar. 

Lagos is a marvellous manifestation of the perversity of 
man coupled with the perversity of nature, being at one and 
the same time one of the most important exporting 
ports on the West African seaboard, and one of the 
most difficult to get at. The town of Lagos is situated 
on an island in the Lagos River, a river which is much 
given to going into lagoons and mud, and which has its 
bar about two miles out. The entire breadth of the channel 
through this bar is half a mile, at least on paper. On each side 
of this channel are the worst set of breakers in West Africa, and 
its resident population consists of sharks, whose annual toll of 
human life is said by some authorities to be fourteen, by others 
forty, but like everything else connected with Lagos Bar, it is 
uncertain, but bad. This entrance channel, however, at the 
best of times has not more than thirteen feet of water on 
it, and so although the British African and Royal African 
lines of steamers are noble pedestrians, thinking nothing of 
walking a mile or so when occasion requires, and as capable 
of going over a grass-plot with the dew on it as any ocean 
vessels ever built, I am bound to own they do require a 
certain amount of water to get on with. They can sit high 
and dry on a sand or mud-bank they prefer mud I may re- 
mark with any vessel. I have often been on them when 
engaged in this pastime, but it does undoubtedly cause delay, 
and this being the case they do not go alongside at Lagos, 
but lie outside the bar. Now such is the pestilential nature of 
Lagos Bar that even the carefully built branch boats, the 
noble Dodo and Qwarra, to say nothing of the Forcados and 
others, although drawing only ten feet, are liable to stick. For 
the channel, instead of sticking to its governmentally reported 
thirteen feet, is prone to be nine feet, and exceeding prone also 
to change its position ; and moreover, even supposing the branch 
boat to get across all right, the heavy swell outside with its 
great rollers lounging along, intent on breaking on the bar, 



MRS. S. AND HER CRATES 



looking like coiling snakes under a blanket, make the vessels 
lying broadside on to them play pendulum to an extent that 
precludes the discharging or taking on of heavy cargo ; and 
heavy cargo has to come on and off for Lagos to the value of 
1,566,243 a year. So as the West African trading vessels 
are enterprising and determined, particularly where palm 
oil is concerned, they arrange the matter by going and 
lying up Forcados River. This river, which is 120 miles 
below Lagos, is a mouth of the Niger, and has a bar you 
can cross (if you don't mind a little walking), drawing seven- 
teen feet nine inches. This being the case they run just 
inside Forcados River and then wait for the branch boat 
from Lagos to come and bring them their heavy cargo. 
When they have got this on board, they proceed up coast 
and call off Lagos Bar, and another unfortunate branch boat 
brings off mails and passengers to them. 

Well, the Batanga after leaving Calabar and calling at Bonny 
had duly waited for the branch boat in Forcados and ultimately 
got her and her cargo, with its attendant uproar ; and an account 
of the latest iniquities of Lagos Bar which had one of its bad 
fits on just then and was capturing and wrecking branch boats 
galore ; and we had the usual scene with Mrs. S. Mrs. S., I may 
remark, is a comely and large black lady, an old acquaintance 
of mine, hailing from Opobo and frequently going up and 
down to Lagos, in connection with trading affairs of her own, 
and another lady with whom Mrs. S. is in a sort of partnership. 
This trade usually consists of extensive operations in chickens. 
She goes up to Lagos and buys chickens, brings them on 
board in crates, and takes them to Opobo and there sells them. 
It is not for me as a fellow woman to say what Mrs. S. makes 
on the transaction, nor does it interest the general public, but 
what does interest the general public (at least that portion of 
it that goes down to the sea in ships and for its sins wanders 
into Forcados River) is Mrs. S.'s return trip to Lagos with 
those empty crates and the determination in her heart not to 
pay freight for them. Wise and experienced chief officers 
never see Mrs. S.'s crates, but young and truculent ones do, 
and determine, in their hearts, she shall pay for them, ad- 
vertising this resolve of theirs openly all the way from Opobo, 



78 LAGOS BAR CHAP. 



which is foolish. When it comes to sending heavy goods 
overside into the branch boat at Forcados, the wise chief 
officer lets those crates go, but the truculent one says, 
" Here, Mrs. S., now you have got to pay for these crates." 
" Lor' mussy me, sar," says Mrs. S., " what you talk about ? " 
" These here chicken crates of yours, Mrs. S." 
" Lor' mussy me," says Mrs. S., " those crates no 'long to me, 
sar." 

" Then," says the truculent one, " heave 'em over side ! We 
don't want that stuff lumbering up our deck." 

Mrs. S. then expostulates and explains they are the property 
of a lone lorn lady in Lagos to whom Mrs. S. is taking them 
from the highest motives ; motives " such a nice gentleman " as 
the first officer must understand, and which it will be a pleasure 
to him to share in, and she cites instances of other chief officers 
who according to her have felt, as it were, a ray of sunlight 
come into their lives when they saw those chicken crates and 
felt it was in their power to share in the noble work of return- 
ing them to Lagos freight free. The truculent one then loses 
his head and some of his temper and avows himself a heart- 
less villain, totally indifferent to the sex, and says all 
sorts of things, but my faith in the ultimate victory of Mrs. 
S. never wavers. My money is on her all the time, and she 
has never disappointed me, and when I am quite rich some 
day, I will give Mrs. S. purses of gold in the eastern manner 
for the many delicious scenes she has played before me with 
those crates in dreary Forcados. 

These affairs being duly disposed of, the Batanga left 
Forcados and duly proceeded up coast to call off Lagos for 
mails and passengers ; my fate being to go on to the branch 
boat which brought these out, and which I then expected would 
take me in to Lagos, to await the arrival of the south-west 
outward bound boat. 

I had been treated, as passengers landing at Lagos are 
properly and customarily treated, to a course of instruction on 
the dangers of going on and off branch boats on the bar, with 
special mention of the case of a gentleman who came down 
the Coast for pleasure and lost a leg to a shark while so en- 
gaged, and of the amount of fever of a bad type just then 



iv CROSSING THE BAR 79 



raging in Lagos ; and then when we saw the branch boat that 
was coming out to us get stuck on the bar in the middle of 
what a German would call a Wirrwarr of breakers, I own it 
took all the fascination of my memories of the South West 
Coast to prevent my giving up the journey, and going home to 
England comfortably on the Batanga, as my best friends 
strongly advised my doing. 

However presently the branch boat stamped her way over 
the bar, and came panting up, and anchored near us, and from 
her on to the Batanga came a Lagos Government official in a 
saturated state. He said he had just come out to see how a 
branch boat could get across the bar at low water a noble 
and enterprising thing which places him in line with the Elder 
Pliny. He entertained us with a calm, utterly dispassionate 
account of how the water had washed right over them, gone 
down the funnel and all that sort of thing evidently a horribly 
commonplace experience here ; and he said the Eko (that was 
our branch boat's name) was not going back into Lagos until 
she had put the down coast mail and over a hundred deck- 
passengers who were going to the Congo, on to the South West 
Coast boat, which was hourly expected in the roads, as she had 
been telegraphed from Accra. He casually observed he hoped 
she would not be late in the afternoon as he had to go up 
country in the morning on the Government steamer. Well, 
things seeming safe and pleasant, I went off to the branch boat, 
being most carefully lowered over the side in a chair by the 
winch. 

" Take care of yourself," said the Batanga. 
" I will," said I, which shows the futility and vanity of such 
resolves, for had not other people taken care of me, goodness 
only knows what would have become of me. Arrived along- 
side of the Eko, I proceeded up her rope-ladder on deck, and 
that deck I shall not soon forget. The Government official 
had understated the case ; things were in a spring-cleaning 
confusion : the waves had not made a clean sweep of 
her but an uncommonly dirty one, and it would have been 
better if she had stuck among the breakers another half hour 
and given the sea-nymphs time to tidy up. They had made 
especial hay of the gallant captain's cabin, flinging out on to 



8o LAGOS BAR CHAP. 



the deck his socks and hats and boots just anyhow, and over 
all and everything was a coating of wet coal-dust. On the 
little lower deck were the unfortunate native passengers. They 
were silent, which with native passengers means sick, and every 
rag they possessed was wringing wet. Rats ran freely about 
everywhere, and from out of the black patch of silence on the 
main deck rose no sound save Mrs. S.'s Chei ! Chei ! Chei ! 
of disgust and disapproval of her surroundings. The 
kindly German captain (for the Eko belonged to a great 
German trading firm in Lagos, and not to the steamboat 
companies) did all he could to make me comfortable, and the 
Government official pointed out to me objects of interest on 
the distant shore : the lighthouse, the Government House, the 
Wilberforce Hall, and so on, but particularly the little Govern- 
ment steamer which, he observed, was getting up steam to be 
ready to take him up river early in the morning. He seemed 
to think they were beginning rather too early, as the Govern- 
ment are vigilant about the sin of wasting coal. As the after- 
noon wore away, our interest in the coming of the Benguella 
grew until it surpassed all other interests, and the Benguella 
became the one thing we really cared about in life, and yet she 
came not. The little Eko rolled to and fra, to and fro, all the 
loose gear going slipperty, slop, crash ; slipperty, slop, crash : 
coal-dust, smuts, and a broiling sun poured down on us quietly, 
and the only thing or motion that gave us any variety was 
every three or four minutes the Eko making a vicious jerk 
at her anchor. About six o'clock a steamer was seen coming 
up into the roads. The experienced captain said she was not 
the Benguella, and she was not, but \.\\ejanette Woerinann, and 
as soon as she got settled, her captain came on board the Eko, 
of course to .ask what prospect there was of cargo on shore. 
He appeared as a gigantic, lithe, powerful Dane clad in a 
uniform of great splendour and exceeding tightness, terminat- 
ing in a pair of Blucher boots and every inch of his six feet 
four spick and span, but that was only the visible form his 
external seeming. What that man really was, was our two 
guardian cherubs rolled into one, for no sooner did he lay eye 
on us the depressed and distracted official and the dilapi- 
dated lady than he claimed us as his own, and in a few more 



iv A FRIEND IN NEED 81 

minutes we were playing bob cherry again with Lagos Bar 
sharks, going down into his boat by the Ekcts rope-ladder. 

Were I but Khalif of Bagdad, I would have that captain's 
name which is Heldt written in letters of gold on ivory 
tablets with a full and particular account of all he did for us. 
No sooner did he successfully get us on board his comfort- 
able vessel, than he gave me his own cabin on the upper deck 
and stowed himself in some sort of outhouse alongside it, which I 
observed, when going out on deck during the night to see if that 
Benguella had come in to the roads, was far too short for him. 
He gave us dinner with great promptitude an excellent 
dinner commencing with what I thought was a plateful of hot 
jam, but which anyhow was nice. Indeed so reconciled did I 
become to my environment that my interest in the coming of 
the Benguella hourly waned, and had it not been for my having 
caught a sense of worry about " the way coals were being 
wasted " on the Government boat inside the bar, I should have 
forgotten the South-Wester. Not so my companion. You 
cannot distract a man from the higher duties and responsi- 
bilities of life so easily. His mind was a prey to the most 
dismal thoughts and conjectures. He regretted having come 
out on the Eko, although his motive to see how she would get 
across the bar at low water was a noble one and arose from 
the nature of his particular appointment, and not only did he 
regret that, but remembered, with remorse, all the other things 
he had done which he should not have done. Captain Heldt 
did his best to cheer him and distract him from the 
contemplation of these things and the way coal was being 
wasted on his account inside the bar. The captain offered 
him suits of his own clothes to change his sopped ones for ; 
but no, he said he was lost enough already without getting 
into clothes of that size. Lager beer, cigars, and stories were 
then tried on him, but with little effect. He took a certain 
amount of interest in the captain's account of how he had 
had his back severely injured and had had to navigate his 
vessel among the shoals of Saint Ann while lying in great 
agony for weeks owing to an accident in the Grain Coast surf, 
and also in the various accounts of the many ribs the captain 
had had broken in various ways on the high seas, but any 

G 



82 LAGOS BAR CHAP. 

legend of a more cheerful character than these he evidently 
-felt was unfitted to our situation, and flippant, considering the 
way those coals were being wasted. Still the Benguella came 
not, though we sat up very late looking for her, and at last we 
turned in. 

The next morning we were up early. There was no 
Benguella. The Eko was still rolling about near us waiting 
for her, and the Eko's passengers having had, as I heard, in vivid 
account some months after from Mrs. S. with many chei ! 
cheis ! a wretched, ratful, foodless night, the Eko naturally 
not laying herself out for water pic-nic parties. We fared well 
on the Janette, our guardian angel providing us with an 
excellent breakfast. My fellow countryman's anxiety had 
now passed into a dark despair. He no longer looked for the 
South- Wester. It was past that ; but he borrowed Captain 
Heldt's best telescope and watched the Government steamer, 
which lay smoking away like a Turkish man-of-war, waiting for 
him. Captain Heldt tried to cheer him with more stories, 
lager beer, and cigars, and at last produced an auto-harp, an 
instrument upon which he was himself proficient and capable 
of playing not only the march from " Ajax," but " Der 
Wacht am Rhein " and " Annie Laurie." This temporarily 
took my fellow countryman's mind off coals, and he set about 
to acquire the management of the auto-harp and rapidly did 
so, but then he only picked out with infinite feeling and pathos 
" Home, Sweet Home," so it was taken from him. Then we 
had long accounts of the region round the Swakop river, 
from which the Janette had just come, and at last, about two 
o'clock, my fellow countryman sadly said : " Here she comes ! " 
and there she did come, and in a short time the graceful old 
Benguella was duly anchored in the roads and I was taken on 
board by my two friends. 

We none of us felt very enthusiastic, I fear. I had never 
been on her before, so regarded her as an utter stranger. My 
fellow countryman felt it was a hanging matter by now for 
him^on shore, because of those coals, and so did not feel in 
such a hurry to get there. And to Captain Heldt she was a 
rival. But often those things which you expect least of 
ultimately give you the most pleasure, as the moralist would 



IV GOODBYE TO THE BAR 83 

say, and moreover when you are on the Coast you never know 
whom you may meet ; and as I, after a good deal of trouble in 
the Janette's boat to get my companions to go on deck before 
me up the rope ladder, elaborately climbed that thrilling 
nautical institution myself and had got my head over the top 
of the bulwark, I saw a yard off me, dead ahead, still super- 
intending the hatch my first tutor in Kru English. It 
was in '93 that he had last seen me, a very new comer, going 
ashore at San Paul de Loanda from the Lagos, on which 
vessel he was then officer, and vowing I meant to go home 
by the next boat ; now seeing me coming on board, in a way 
I am sure would have done credit to a Half Jack captain, 
he naturally asked for an explanation, which, being quite 
busy with the rope-ladder palaver, I did not then and there 
give him. 

In a short time I had said farewell, with many thanks to my 
two friends who had taken such care of me on Lagos Bar, and my 
fellow countryman returned in the Eko, which, having got her 
mails and passengers safe and sound on to the Benguella, was 
at last going in to Lagos again, and I am sure it will be a 
relief to you to know that none of those expected troubles on 
shore befell the official, but he lived to earn the gratitude and 
esteem of Lagos and its Government for his noble and deter- 
mined services in working and surveying that awful bar. When, 
a few months after our amusing experiences on it, it went on 
worse than ever, and vessel after vessel was wrecked, he 
rescued their passengers and crews at the great risk of his own 
life ; for going alongside a vessel that is breaking up in the 
breakers, and in an open boat with a native crew, and getting 
off panic-stricken Africans and their belongings, surrounded by 
such a sea, with its crowd of expectant sharks, in the West 
African climate, is good work for a good man, and my fellow- 
countryman did it and did it well. 



G 2 



CHAPTER V 

VOYAGE DOWN COAST 

Wherein the voyager before leaving the Rivers discourses on dangers, to 
which is added some account of Mangrove swamps and the creatures 
that abide therein, including the devil of an uncle. 

MY voyage down coast in the Benguella was a very 
pleasant one and full of instruction, for Mr. Fothergill, who 
was her purser, had in former years resided in Congo Fran- 
$ais as a merchant, and to Congo Frangais I was bound 
with an empty hold as regards local knowledge of the dis- 
trict. He was one of that class of men, of which you most 
frequently find representatives among the merchants, who do 
not possess the power so many men along here do possess (a 
power that always amazes me), of living for a considerable 
time in a district without taking any interest in it, keeping 
their whole attention concentrated on the point of how 
long it will be before their time comes to get out of it. 
Mr. Fothergill evidently had much knowledge and experience 
of the Fernan Vaz district and its natives. He had, I should 
say, overdone his experiences with the natives, as far as 
personal comfort and pleasure at the time went, having been 
nearly killed and considerably chivied by them. Now I do 
not wish a man, however much I may deplore his total lack 
of local knowledge, to go so far as this. Mr. Fothergill 
gave his accounts of these incidents calmly, and in an un- 
decorated way that gave them a power and convincingness 
verging on being unpleasant, although useful, to a person 
who was going into the district where they had occurred, for 
one felt there was no mortal reason why one should not person- 



CHAP, v GRIM REALITIES 85 

ally get involved in similar affairs. And I must here acknow- 
ledge the great subsequent service Mr. FothergilPs wonderfully 
accurate descriptions of the peculiar characteristics of the 
Ogowe forests were to me when I subsequently came to deal 
with these forests on my own account, as every district of forest 
has peculiar characteristics of its own which you require to 
know. I should like here to speak of West Coast 
dangers because I fear you may think that I am careless of, 
or do not believe in them, neither of which is the case. 
The more you know of the West Coast of Africa, the more 
you realise its dangers. For example, on your first voyage 
out you hardly believe the stories of fever told by the old 
Coasters. That is because you do not then understand the type 
of man who is telling them, a man who goes to his death with 
a joke in his teeth. But a short experience of your own, 
particularly if you happen on a place having one of its 
periodic epidemics, soon demonstrates that the underlying 
horror of the thing is there, a rotting corpse which the old 
Coaster has dusted over with jokes to cover it so that it hardly 
shows at a distance, but which, when you come yourself to 
live alongside, you soon become cognisant of. Many men, 
when they have got ashore and settled, realise this, and let the 
horror get a grip on them ; a state briefly and locally de- 
scribed as funk, and a state that usually ends fatally ; and you 
can hardly blame them. Why, I know of a case myself. A 
young man who had never been outside an English country 
town before in his life, from family reverses had to take 
a situation as book-keeper down in the Bights. The factory 
he was going to was in an isolated out-of-the-way place and 
not in a settlement, and when the ship called off it, he was 
put ashore in one of the ship's boats with his belongings, and 
a case or so of goods. There were only the firm's beach-boys 
down at the surf, and as the steamer was in a hurry the officer 
from the ship did not go up to the factory with him, but said 
good-bye and left him alone with a set of naked savages as 
he thought, but really of good kindly Kru boys on the beach. 
He could not understand what they said, nor they what he 
said, and so he walked up to the house and on to the 
verandah and tried to find the Agent he had come out to 



86 VOYAGE DOWN COAST CHAP. 

serve under. He looked into the open-ended dining-room 
and shyly round the verandah, and then sat down and waited 
for some one to turn up. Sundry natives turned up, and said 
a good deal, but no one white or comprehensible, so in des- 
peration he made another and a bolder tour completely round 
the verandah and noticed a most peculiar noise in one of the 
rooms and an infinity of flies going into the Venetian shuttered 
window. Plucking up courage he went in and found what 
was left of the white Agent, a considerable quantity of rats, 
and most of the flies in West Africa. He then presumably 
had fever, and he was taken off, a fortnight afterwards, by a 
French boat, to whom the natives signalled, and he is not com- 
ing down the Coast again. Some men would have died right 
out from a shock like this. 

But most of the new-comers do not get a shock of this 
order. They either die themselves or get more gradually 
accustomed to this sort of thing, when they come to regard 
death and fever as soldiers, who on a battle-field sit down, 
and laugh and talk round a camp -fire after a day's hard 
battle, in which they have seen their friends and companions 
falling round them ; all the time knowing that to-morrow the 
battle comes again and that to-morrow night they themselves 
may never see. It is not hard-hearted callousness, it is 
only their way. Michael Scott put this well in Tom 
Cringle's Log, in his account of the yellow fever during 
the war in the West Indies. Fever, though the chief danger, 
particularly to people who go out to settlements, is not 
the only one ; but as the other dangers, except perhaps 
domestic poisoning, are incidental to pottering about in the 
forests, or on the rivers, among the unsophisticated tribes, 
I will not dwell on them. They can all be avoided by 
any one with common sense, by keeping well out of the dis- 
tricts in which they occur ; and so I warn the general reader 
that if he goes out to West Africa, it is not because I said the 
place was safe, or its dangers overrated. The cemeteries of 
the West Coast are full of the victims of those people who 
have said that Coast fever is " Cork fever," and a man's own 
fault, which it is not ; and that natives will never attack you 
unless you attack them : which they will on occasions. 



WEST COAST RIVERS 87 



My main aim in going to Congo Frangais was to get up 
above the tide line of the Ogowe River and there collect 
fishes ; for my object on this voyage was to collect fish from 
a river north of the Congo. I had hoped this river would 
have been the Niger, for Sir George Goldie had placed at my 
disposal great facilities for carrying on work there in comfort ; 
but for certain private reasons I was disinclined to go from 
the Royal Niger Protectorate into the Royal Niger Company's 
territory ; and the Calabar, where Sir Claude MacDonald did 
everything he possibly could to assist me, I did not find a 
good river for me to collect fishes in. These two rivers fail- 
ing me, from no fault of either of their own presiding genii, 
my only hope of doing anything now lay on the South West 
Coast river, the Ogowe, and everything there depended on Mr. 
Hudson's attitude towards scientific research in the domain of 
ichthyology. Fortunately for me that gentleman elected to 
take a favourable view of this affair, and in every way in his 
power assisted me during my entire stay in Congo Frangais. 
But before I enter into a detailed description of this wonder- 
ful bit of West Africa, I must give you a brief notice of the 
manners, habits and customs of West Coast rivers in general, 
to make the thing more intellegible. 

There is an uniformity in the habits of West Coast rivers, 
from the Volta to the Coanza, which is, when you get used to 
it, very taking. Excepting the Congo, the really great river 
comes out to sea with as much mystery as possible ; lounging 
lazily along among its mangrove swamps in a what's-it-matter 
when-one-comes-out and where's-the-hurry style, through 
quantities of channels inter-communicating with each other. 
Each channel, at first sight as like the other as peas in a pod, 
is bordered on either side by green-black walls of mangroves, 
which Captain Lugard graphically described as seeming " as 
if they had lost all count of the vegetable proprieties, and 
were standing on stilts with their branches tucked up out of 
the wet, leaving their gaunt roots exposed in mid-air." High- 
tide or low-tide, there is little difference in the water ; the 
river, be it broad or narrow, deep or shallow, looks like a 
pathway of polished metal ; for it is as heavy weighted with 
stinking mud as water e'er can be, ebb or flow, year out and 



88 VOYAGE DOWN COAST CHAP. 

year in. But the difference in the banks, though an unending 
alternation between two appearances, is weird. 

At high-water you do not see the mangroves displaying 
their ankles in the way that shocked Captain Lugard. They 
look most respectable, their foliage rising densely in a wall 
irregularly striped here and there by the white line of an 
aerial root, coming straight down into the water from some upper 
branch as straight as a plummet, in the strange, knowing way 
an aerial root of a mangrove does, keeping the hard straight line 
until it gets some two feet above water-level, and then spread- 
ing out into blunt ringers with which to dip into the water and 
grasp the mud. Banks indeed at high water can hardly be said 
to exist, the water stretching away into the mangrove swamps 
for miles and miles, and you can then go, in a suitable 
small canoe, away among these swamps as far as you 
please. 

This is a fascinating pursuit. For people who like that sort of 
thing it is just the sort of thing they like, as the art critic of 
a provincial town wisely observed anent an impressionist 
picture recently acquired for the municipal gallery. But it is a 
pleasure to be indulged in with caution ; for one thing, you are 
certain to come across crocodiles. Now a crocodile drifting 
down in deep water, or lying asleep with its jaws open on a 
sand-bank in the sun, is a picturesque adornment to the land- 
scape when you are on the deck of a steamer, and you can write 
home about it and frighten your relations on your behalf; but 
when you are away among the swamps in a small dug-out 
canoe, and that crocodile and his relations are awake a thing 
he makes a point of being at flood tide because of fish coming 
along and when he has got his foot upon his native heath 
that is to say, his tail within holding reach of his native mud 
he is highly interesting, and you may not be able to write home 
about him and you get frightened on your own behalf. For 
crocodiles can, and often do, in such places, grab at people in 
small canoes. I have known of several natives losing their 
lives in this way ; some native villages are approachable 
from the main river by a short cut, as it were, through the 
mangrove swamps, and the inhabitants of such villages will 
now and then go across this way with small canoes instead of 



A SAFE INVESTMENT 89 



by the constant channel to the village, which is almost always 

Avinding. In addition to this unpleasantness you are liable 

until you realise the danger from experience, or have native 
advice on the point to get tide-trapped away in the 
swamps, the water falling round you when you are away in 
some deep pool or lagoon, and you find you cannot get back to 
the main river. For you cannot get out and drag your canoe 
across the stretches of mud that separate you from it, because 
the mud is of too unstable a nature and too deep, and sinking 
into it means staying in it, at any rate until some geologist of 
the remote future may come across you, in a fossilised state, 
when that mangrove swamp shall have become dry land. Of 
course if you really want a truly safe investment in Fame, and 
really care about Posterity, and Posterity's Science, you will 
jump over into the black batter-like, stinking slime, cheered 
by the thought of the terrific sensation you will produce 
20,000 years hence, and the care you will be taken of then by 
your fellow-creatures, in a museum. But if you are a mere 
ordinary person of a retiring nature, like me, you stop in your 
lagoon until the tide rises again ; most of your attention is 
directed to dealing with an " at home " to crocodiles and man- 
grove flies, and with the fearful stench of the slime round you. 
What little time you have over you will employ in wondering 
why you came to West Africa, and why, after having 
reached this point of absurdity, you need have gone and 
painted the lily and adorned the rose, by being such a 
colossal ass as to come fooling about in mangrove swamps. 
Twice this chatty little incident, as Lady MacDonald would 
call it, has happened to me, but never again if I can help it. 
On one occasion, the last, a mighty Silurian, as The Daily 
Telegraph would call him, chose to get his front paws over the 
stern of my canoe, and endeavoured to improve our acquaint- 
ance. I had to retire to the bows, to keep the balance 
right, 1 and fetch him a clip on the snout with a paddle, when 
he withdrew, and I paddled into the very middle of the lagoon, 
hoping the water there was too deep for him or any of his 
friends to repeat the performance. Presumably it was, for no 

1 It is no use saying because I was frightened, for this miserably 
understates the case. 



90 VOYAGE DOWN COAST CHAP. 

one did it again. I should think that crocodile was eight feet 
long ; but don't go and say I measured him, or that this is my 
outside measurement for crocodiles. I have measured them 
when they have been killed by other people, fifteen, eighteen, 
and twenty-one feet odd. This was only a pushing young 
creature who had not learnt manners. 

Still, even if your own peculiar tastes and avocations do 
not take you in small dug-out canoes into the heart of the 
swamps, you can observe the difference in the local scenery 
made by the flowing of the tide when you are on a vessel 
stuck on a sand-bank, in the Rio del Rey for example. 
Moreover, as you will have little else to attend to, save 
mosquitoes and mangrove flies, when in such a situation, you 
may as well pursue the study. At the ebb gradually the 
foliage of the lower branches of the mangroves grows wet 
and muddy, until there is a great black band about three feet 
deep above the surface of the water in all directions ; gradually 
a network of gray-white roots rises up, and below this again, 
gradually, a slope of smooth and lead-brown slime. The 
effect is not in the least as if the water had fallen, but as if 
the mangroves had, with one accord, risen up out of it, and 
into it again they seem silently to sink when the flood comes. 
But by this more safe, if still unpleasant, method of observing 
mangrove-swamps, you miss seeing in full the make of them, 
for away in their fastnesses the mangroves raise their branches 
far above the reach of tide line, and the great gray roots of 
the older trees are always sticking up in mid-air. But, fringing 
the rivers, there is always a hedge of younger mangroves 
whose lower branches get immersed. 

At corners here and there from the river face you can see 
the land being made from the waters. A mud-bank forms 
off it, a mangrove seed lights on it, and the thing's done. 
Well ! not done, perhaps, but begun ; for if the bank is 
high enough to get exposed at low water, this pioneer man- 
grove grows. He has a wretched existence though. You have 
only got to look at his dwarfed attenuated form to see this. 
He gets joined by a few more bold spirits and they struggle 
on together, their network of roots stopping abundance of 
mud, and by good chance now and then a consignment of 



v MANGROVES AS ISLAND MAKERS 91 

miscellaneous debris of palm leaves, or a floating tree-trunk, 
but they always die before they attain any considerable height. 
Still even in death they collect. Their bare white sticks re- 
maining like a net gripped in the mud, so that these pioneer 
mangrove heroes may be said to have laid down their lives to 
make that mud-bank fit for colonisation, for the time gradually 
comes when other mangroves can and do colonise on it, and 
flourish, extending their territory steadily ; and the mud-bank 
joins up with, and becomes a part of, Africa. 

Right away on the inland fringe of the swamp you may 
go some hundreds of miles before you get there you can see 
the rest of the process. The mangroves there have risen up, 
and dried the mud to an extent that is more than good foi 
themselves, have over civilised that mud in fact, and so the 
brackish waters of the tide which, although their enemy when 
too deep or too strong in salt, is essential to their existence 
cannot get to their roots. They have done this gradually, as 
a mangrove does all things, but they have done it, and down 
on to that mud come a whole set of palms from the old 
mainland, who in their early colonisation days go through 
similarly trying experiences. First the screw-pines come and 
live among them ; then the wine-palm and various creepers, 
and then the oil-palm ; and the debris of these plants being 
greater and making better soil than dead mangroves, they 
work quicker and the mangrove is doomed. Soon the salt 
waters are shut right out, the mangrove dies, and that bit of 
Africa is made. It is very interesting to get into these regions ; 
you see along the river-bank a rich, thick, lovely wall of soft- 
wooded plants, and behind this you find great stretches of 
death ; miles and miles sometimes of gaunt white mangrove 
skeletons standing on gray stuff that is not yet earth and is no 
longer slime, and through the crust of which you can sink into 
rotting putrefaction. Yet, long after you are dead, buried, and 
forgotten, this will become a forest of soft-wooded plants and 
palms ; and finally of hard-wooded trees. Districts of this 
description you will find in great sweeps of Kama country for 
example, and in the rich low regions up to the base of the Sierra 
del Cristal and the Rumby range. 

You often hear the utter lifelessness of mangrove-swamps 



92 VOYAGE DOWN COAST CHAP. 

commented on ; why I do not know, for they are fairly 
heavily stocked with fauna, though the species are compara- 
tively few. There are the crocodiles, more of them than any 
one wants ; there are quantities of flies, particularly the big 
silent mangrove-fly which lays an egg in you under the skin ; 
the egg becomes a maggot and stays there until it feels fit to 
enter into external life. Then there are " slimy things that 
crawl with legs upon a slimy sea," and any quantity of hop- 
ping mud-fish, and crabs, and a certain mollusc, and in the 
water various kinds of cat-fish. Birdless they are save for 
the flocks of gray parrots that pass over them at evening, 
hoarsely squarking ; and save for this squarking of the 
parrots the swamps are silent all the day, at least during the 
dry season ; in the wet season there is no silence night or 
day in West Africa, but that roar of the descending deluge of 
rain that is more monotonous and more gloomy than any 
silence can be. In the morning you do not hear the long, low, 
mellow whistle of the plantain-eaters calling up the dawn, nor 
in the evening the clock-bird nor the Handel-Festival-sized 
choruses of frogs, or the crickets, that carry on their vesper 
controversy of " she did " " she didn't " so fiercely on hard 
land. 

But the mangrove-swamp follows the general rule for West 
Africa, and night in it is noisier than the day. After dark 
it is full of noises ; grunts from I know not what, splashes 
from jumping fish, the peculiar whirr of rushing crabs, and 
quaint creaking and groaning sounds from the trees ; and 
above all in eeriness the strange whine and sighing cough 
of crocodiles. I shall never forget one moonlight night I 
spent in a mangrove-swamp. I was not lost, but we had gone 
away into the swamp from the main river, so that the natives 
of a village with an evil reputation should not come across us 
when they were out fishing. We got well in, on to a long 
pool or lagoon ; and dozed off and woke, and saw the same 
scene around us twenty times in the night, \vhich thereby 
grew into an aeon, until I dreamily felt that I had somehow 
got into a world that was all like this, and always had been, 
and was always going to be so. Now and again the strong 
musky smell came that meant a crocodile close by, and one 



REGIONS OF MANGROVE SWAMPS 93 



had to rouse up and see if all the crews' legs were on board, 
for Africans are reckless, and regardless of their legs during 
sleep. On one examination I found the leg of one of my 
most precious men ostentatiously sticking out over the side of 
the canoe. I woke him with a paddle, and said a few words 
regarding the inadvisability of wearing his leg like this in our 
situation ; and he agreed with me, saying he had lost a valued 
uncle, who had been taken out of a canoe in this same swamp 
by a crocodile. His uncle's ghost had become, he said, a sort 
of devil which had been a trial to the family ever since ; and he 
thought it must have pulled his leg out in the way I com- 
plained of, in order to get him to join him by means of 
another crocodile. I thanked him for the information and said 
it quite explained the affair, and I should do my best to pre- 
vent another member of the family from entering the state of 
devildom by aiming blows in the direction of any leg or arm 
I saw that uncle devil pulling out to place within reach of the 
crocodiles. 

Great regions of mangrove-swamps are a characteristic 
feature of the West African Coast. The first of these lies 
north of Sierra Leone ; then they occur, but of smaller 
dimensions just fringes of river-outfalls until you get to 
Lagos, when you strike the greatest of them all : the swamps 
of the Niger outfalls (about twenty-three rivers in all) and of 
the Sombreiro, New Calabar, Bonny, San Antonio, Opobo (false 
and true), Kwoibo, Old Calabar (with the Cross Akwayafe 
Qwa Rivers) and Rio del Rey Rivers. The whole of this great 
stretch of coast is a mangrove-swamp, each river silently 
rolling down its great mass of mud-laden waters and 
constituting each in itself a very pretty problem to the 
navigator by its network of intercommunicating creeks, and 
the sand and mud bar which it forms off its entrance by 
dropping its heaviest mud ; its lighter mud is carried out 
beyond its bar and makes the nasty-smelling brown soup of 
the South Atlantic Ocean, with froth floating in lines and 
patches on it, for miles to seaward. 

In this great region of swamps every mile appears like every 
other mile until you get well used to it, and are able to 
distinguish the little local peculiarities at the entrance of the 



94 VOYAGE DOWN COAST CHAP. 



rivers and in the winding of the creeks, a thing difficult even 
for the most experienced navigator to do during those thick 
wool-like mists called smokes, which hang about the whole 
Bight from November till May (the dry season), sometimes 
lasting all day, sometimes clearing off three hours after 
sunrise. 

The upper or north-westerly part of the swamp is round the 
mouths of the Niger, and it successfully concealed this fact 
from geographers down to 1830, when the series of heroic 
journeys made by Mungo Park, Clapperton, and the two 
Landers finally solved the problem a problem that was as 
great and which cost more men's lives than even the discovery 
of the sources of the Nile. 

That this should have been so may seem very strange 
to us who now have been told the answer to the riddle ; for 
the upper waters of this great river were known of before 
Christ and spoken of by Herodotus, Pliny and Ptolemy, and its 
mouths navigated continuously along by the seaboard by 
trading vessels since the fifteenth century, but they were not 
recognised as belonging to the Niger. Some geographers 
held that the Senegal or the Gambia was its outfall ; others 
that it was the Zaire (Congo) ; others that it did not come 
out on the West Coast at all, but got mixed up with the Nile 
in the middle of the continent, and so on. Yet when you 
come to know the swamps this is not so strange. You find on 
going up what looks like a big river say Forcados, two and a 
half miles wide at the entrance and a real bit of the Niger. 
Before you are up it far great, broad, business-like-looking 
river entrances open on either side, showing wide rivers, 
mangrove-walled, but two-thirds of them are utter frauds 
which will ground you within half an hour of your entering 
them. Some few of them do communicate with other 
main channels to the great upper river, and others are main 
channels themselves ; but most of them intercommuni- 
cate with each other and lead nowhere in particular, and you 
can't even get there because of their shallowness. It is small 
wonder that the earlier navigators did not get far up them in 
sailing ships, and that the problem had to be solved by men 
descending the main stream of the Niger before it commences 



RIVERS OF THE SWAMP 95 



to what we in Devonshire should call " squander itself about " 
in all these channels. And in addition it must be remembered 
that the natives with whom these trading vessels dealt, first 
for slaves, afterwards for palm-oil, were not, and are not now, 
members of the Lo family of savages. Far from it : they do 
not go in for " gentle smiles/' but for murdering any unpro- 
tected boat's crew they happen to come across, not only for a 
love of sport but to keep white traders from penetrating 
to the trade-producing interior, and spoiling prices. And the 
region is practically foodless. But I need not here go into 
further particulars regarding the discovery of the connection 
between the Niger and its delta. It is just the usual bad ju-ju of 
all big African rivers. If you first find the mouth, as in the 
case of the Nile, you have awful times finding the source. If 
you find the upper waters, you have awful times in discovering 
the mouth. If you find a bit of its middle, like the Congo, 
you have awful times in both directions, but fortunately the 
Congo does play fair and does not go and split itself up and 
dive into a mass of mangrove-swamps like the Niger ; so that 
bit of river work at least was easier. 

The rivers of the great mangrove-swamp from the Sombreiro 
to the Rio del Rey are now known pretty surely not to be 
branches of the Niger, but the upper regions of this part of 
the Bight are much neglected by English explorers. I believe 
the great swamp region of the Bight of Biafra is the greatest 
in the world, and that in its immensity and gloom it has a 
grandeur equal to that of the Himalayas. I am not saying a 
beauty ; I own I see a great beauty in it sometimes, but it is 
evidently not of a popular type, for I can never persuade my 
companions down in the Rivers to recognise it ; still it produces 
an emotion in the stoutest-hearted among them ; yea, even 
in those who have sailed the world round ; who have cruised 
for years in the Southern seas, know their West Indies by 
heart, have run regularly for years to Rio de Janeiro, and have 
times and again been to where " thy towers, they say, gleam 
fair, Bombay, across the deep blue sea." 

Take any such a man, educated or not, and place him on 
Bonny or Forcados River in the wet season on a Sunday- 
Bonny for choice. Forcados is good. You'll keep Forcados 



96 VOYAGE DOWN COAST CHAP. 

scenery " indelibly limned on the tablets of your mind when a 
yesterday has faded from its page," after you have spent even 
a week waiting for the Lagos branch-boat on its inky waters. 
But Bonny ! Well, come inside the bar and anchor off the 
factories : seaward there is the foam of the bar gleaming and 
wicked white against a leaden sky and what there is left of 
Breaker Island. In every other direction you will see the 
apparently endless walls of mangrove, unvarying in colour, 
unvarying in form, unvarying in height, save from perspective. 
Beneath and between you and them lie the rotting mud waters 
of Bonny River, and away up and down river, miles of rotting 
mud waters fringed with walls of rotting mud mangrove- 
swamp. The only break in them one can hardly call it a 
relief to the scenery are the gaunt black ribs of the old hulks, 
once used as trading stations, which lie exposed at low water 
near the shore, protruding like the skeletons of great unclean 
beasts who have died because Bonny water was too strong 
even for them. 

Raised on piles from the mud shore you will see the white- 
painted factories and their great store-houses for oil ; each 
factory likely enough with its flag at half-mast, which does not 
enliven the scenery either, for you know it is because somebody 
is " dead again." Throughout and over all is the torrential 
downpour of the wet-season rain, coming down night and day 
with its dull roar. I have known it rain six mortal weeks in 
Bonny River, just for all the world as if it were done by 
machinery, and the interval that came then was only a few 
wet days, whereafter it settled itself down to work again in 
the good West Coast waterspout pour for more weeks. I 
fancy junior clerks of the weather-department must be en- 
trusted with the Bight of Biafra's weather, on account of its 
extreme simplicity ; their duty is just to turn on so many 
months' wet, and then a tornado season one tornado ad- 
ministered every forty-eight hours ; then stop all water supply 
and turn on sun ; then a tornado season as before, and back 
again to the water tap. But I cannot say I think the weather 
does them any credit Tornados frequently come twice 
a day, and they frequently leave the water tap running a 
month more than they ought to. The senior clerks should 



v CHARMS OF BONNY RIVER 97 

attend to the matter, but presumably their time is taken up 
with complicated climates like England's. 

While your eyes are drinking in the characteristics of 
Bonny scenery you notice a peculiar smell an intensification 
of that smell you noticed when nearing Bonny, in the even- 
ing, out at sea. That's the breath of the malarial mud, laden 
with fever, and the chances are you will be down to-morrow. 
If it is near evening time now, you can watch it becoming 
incarnate, creeping and crawling and gliding out from the 
side creeks and between the mangrove-roots, laying itself 
upon the river, stretching and rolling in a kind of grim ptay, 
and finally crawling up the side of the ship to come on board 
and leave its cloak of moisture that grows green mildew in a 
few hours over all. Noise you will not be much troubled 
with : there is only that rain, a sound I have known make 
men who are sick with fever well-nigh mad, and now and 
again the depressing cry of the curlews which abound here. 
This combination is such that after six or eight hours of it 
you will be thankful to hear your shipmates start to work the 
winch. I take it you are hard up when you relish a winch. 
And you will say let your previous experience of the world 
be what it may Good Heavens, what a place ! 

Five times have I been now in Bonny River and I like it. 
You always do get to like it if you live long enough to allow 
the strange fascination of the place to get a hold on you ; but 
when I first entered it, on a ship commanded by Captain 
Murray in '93, in the wet season, i.e. in August, in spite of 
the confidence I had by this time acquired in his skill and 
knowledge of the West Coast, a sense of horror seized on me 
as I gazed upon the scene, and I said to the old coaster who 
then had charge of my education, " Good Heavens ! what an 
awful accident. We've gone and picked up the Styx." He 
was evidently hurt and said, " Bonny was a nice place when 
you got used to it," and went on to discourse on the last 
epidemic here, when nine men out of the resident eleven died 
in about ten days from yellow fever. I went ashore that 
evening to have tea with Captain Boler, and was told many 
more details about this particular epidemic, to say nothing of 
other epidemics. In one which the captain experienced, at the 

II 



98 VOYAGE DOWN COAST CHAP. 

fourth funeral, two youngsters (junior clerks of the deceased) 
from drink brought on by fright, fell into the grave before 
the coffin, which got lowered on to them, and all three 
had to be hauled out again. " Barely necessary though, was 
t ? " said another member of the party, " for those two had to 
have a grave of their own before next sundown." And the 
general consensus of opinion was that one of these periodic 
epidemics was " just about due now." Next to the scenery of 
" a River," commend me for cheerfulness to the local conver- 
sation of its mangrove-swamp region ; and every truly im- 
portant West African river has its mangrove-swamp belt, 
which extends inland as far as the tide .waters make it brack- 
ish, and which has a depth and extent from the banks 
depending on the configuration of the country. Above this 
belt comes uniformly a region of high forest, having towards 
the river frontage clay cliffs, sometimes high, as in the case of 
the Old Calabar at Adiabo, more frequently dwarf cliffs, as 
in the Forcados up at Warree, and in the Ogowe, for a long 
stretch through Kama country. After the clay cliffs region you 
come to a region of rapids, caused by the river cutting its way 
through a mountain range ; such ranges are the Pallaballa, 
causing the Livingstone rapids of the Congo ; the Sierra del 
Gristal, those of the Ogowe, and many lesser rivers ; the 
Rumby and Omon ranges, those of- the Old Calabar and 
Cross Rivers. 

Naturally in different parts these separate regions vary in 
size. The mangrove-swamp may be only a fringe at the 
mouth of the river, or it may cover hundreds of square miles. 
The clay cliffs may extend for only a mile or so along the 
bank, or they may, as on the Ogowe, extend for 1 30. And so it 
is also with the rapids : in some rivers, for instance the 
Cameroons, there are only a few miles of them, in others 
there are many miles ; in the Ogowe there are as many as 
500 ; and these rapids may be close to the river mouth, as in 
most of the Gold Coast rivers, save the Ancobra and the 
Volta ; or they may be far in the interior, as in the Cross 
River, where they commence at about 200 miles ; and on the 
Ogowe, where they commence at about 208 miles from the sea 
coast ; this depends on the nearness or remoteness from the 



THE OGOWE 99 



coast line of the mountain ranges which run down the west 
side ' of the continent ; ranges (apparently of very different 
geological formations), which have no end of different names, 
but about which little is known in detail. 1 

And now we will leave generalisations on West African 
rivers and go into particulars regarding one little known in 
England, and called by its owners, the French, the greatest 
strictly equatorial river in the world the Ogowe. 

1 The Sierra del Cristal and the Pallaballa range are, by some 
geographers,- held to be identical ; but I have reason to doubt this, for 
the specimens of rock brought home by me have been identified by the 
Geological Survey, those of the Pallaballa range as mica schist, and 
quartz ; those of the Sierra del Cristal as " probably schistose grit, but not 
definitely determinable by inspection," and " quartz rock." The quantity 
of mica in the sands of the Ogowe, I think, come into it from its affluents 
from the Congo region, because you do not get these mica sands in 
rivers which are entirely -from the Sierra del Cristal, such as the Muni. 
The Remby and Omon ranges are probably identical with the Sierra del 
Cristal, for in them as in the Sierra you do not get the glistening dove- 
coloured rock with a sparse vegetation growing on it, as you do in the 
Pallaballa region. 



H 2 



CHAPTER VI 

LIBREVILLE AND GLASS 

In which the voyager pauses to explain divers things and then gives 
some account of the country round Libreville and Glass. 

I MUST pause here to explain my reasons for giving extracts 
from my diary, being informed on excellent authority that 
publishing a diary is a form of literary crime. Such being 
the case I have to urge in extenuation of my committing it 
that Firstly, I have not done it before, for so far I have 
given a sketchy resume of many diaries kept by me while 
visiting the regions I have attempted to describe. Secondly, 
no one expects literature in a book of travel. Thirdly, 
there are things to be said in favour of the diary form, 
particularly when it is kept in a little known and wild region, 
for the reader gets therein notice of things that, although un- 
important in themselves, yet go to make up the conditions of 
life under which men and things exist. The worst of it is 
these things are not often presented in their due and proper 
proportion in diaries. Many pages in my journals that I will 
spare you display this crime to perfection. For example : 
" Awful turn up with crocodile about ten Paraffin good for 
over-oiled boots Evil spirits crawl on ground, hence high 
lintel -Odeaka cheese is made thus : Then comes half a 
yard on Odeaka cheese making. 

When a person is out travelling, intent mainly on geography, 
it is necessary, if he publishes his journals, that he should pub- 
lish them in sequence. But I am not a geographer. I have 
to learn the geography of a region I go into in great detail, 
so as to get about ; but my means of learning it are not the 



CH. vi LIFE IN THE FOREST - 'ibi 1 

scientific ones Taking observations, Surveying, Fixing 
points, &c., &c. These things I know not how to do. I 
do not " take lunars " ; and I always sympathise with a young 
friend of mine, who, on hearing that an official had got dread- 
fully ill from taking them, said, " What do those government 
men do it for? It kills them all off. I don't hold with knock- 
ing yourself to pieces with a lot of doctor's stuff." I certainly 
have a dim idea that lunars are not a sort of pill ; but I quite 
agree that they were unwholesome things for a man to take 
in West Africa. This being my point of view regarding 
geography, I have relegated it to a separate chapter and have 
dealt similarly with trade and Fetish. 

I have omitted all my bush journal. It is a journal of 
researches in Fetish and of life in the forest and in native 
villages, and I think I have a better chance of making this in- 
formation understood by collecting it together ; for the African 
forest is not a place you can, within reasonable limits, give an 
idea of by chronicling your own experience in it day by day. 
As a psychological study the carefully kept journal of a white 
man, from the first day he went away from his fellow whites 
and lived in the Great Forest Belt of Africa, among natives, 
who had not been in touch with white culture, would be an 
exceedingly interesting thing, provided it covered a consider- 
able space of time ; but to the general reader it would be 
hopelessly wearisome, and as for myself, I am not bent on 
discoursing on my psychological state, but on the state of 
things in general in West Africa. 

On first entering the great grim twilight regions of the 
forest you hardly see anything but the vast column-like grey 
tree stems in their countless thousands around you, and the 
sparsely vegetated ground beneath. But day by day, as you 
get trained to your surroundings, you see more and more, and a 
whole world grows up gradually out of the gloom before your 
eyes. Snakes, beetles, bats and beasts, people the region 
that at first seemed lifeless. 

It is the same with the better lit regions, where vegetation 
is many-formed and luxuriant. As you get used to it, what 
seemed at first to be an inextricable tangle ceases to be so. 
separate sorts of plants stand out before your eyes with ever 



102 LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP. 

increasing clearness, until you can pick out the one particular 
one you may want ; and daily you find it easier to make your 
way through what looked at first an impenetrable wall, for 
you have learnt that it is in the end easier to worm your way 
in among networks of creepers, than to shirk these, and go for 
the softer walls of climbing grasses and curtains of lycopodium; 
and not only is it easier, but safer, for in the grass and lycopo- 
dium there are nearly certain to be snakes galore, and the 
chances are you may force yourself into the privacy of a 
gigantic python's sleeping place. 

There is the same difference also between night and day in 
the forest. You may have got fairly used to it by day, and 
then some catastrophe keeps you out in it all night, and again 
you see another world. To my taste there is nothing so fascin- 
ating as spending a night out in an African forest, or planta- 
tion ; but I beg you to note I do not advise any one to follow 
the practice. Nor indeed do I recommend African forest 
life to any one. Unless you are interested in it and fall 
under its charm, it is the most awful life in death imagin- 
able. It is like being shut up in a library whose books 
you cannot read, all the while tormented, terrified, and 
bored. And if you do fall under its spell, it takes all the 
colour out of other kinds of living. Still, it is good for a 
man to have an experience of it, whether he likes it or not, 
for it teaches you how very dependent you have been, during 
your previous life, on the familiarity of those conditions you 
have been brought up among, and on your fellow citizens ; 
moreover it takes the conceit out of you pretty thoroughly 
during the days you spend stupidly stumbling about among 
your new surroundings. 

When this first period passes there comes a sense of growing 
power. The proudest day in my life was the day on which an 
old Fan hunter said to me " Ah ! you see." Now he did not 
say this, I may remark, as a tribute to the hard work I had been 
doing in order to see, but regarded it as the consequence of 
a chief having given me a little ivory half-moon, whose special 
mission was " to make man see Bush," and when you have 
attained to that power in full, a state I do not pretend to have 
yet attained to, you can say, " Put me where you like in an 



vi WHY I WENT TO CONGO FRANCAIS 103 



African forest, and as far as the forest goes, starve me or kill 
me if you can." 

As it is with the forest, so it is with the minds of the natives. 
Unless you live alone among the natives, you never get to 
know them ; if you do this you gradually get a light into the 
true state of their mind-forest. At first you see nothing but a 
confused stupidity and crime ; but when you get to see well ! 
as in the other forest, you see things worth seeing. But it 
is beyond me to describe the process, so we will pass on to 
Congo Fran^ais. 

My reasons for going to this wildest and most dangerous 
part of the West African regions were perfectly simple and 
reasonable. I had not found many fish in the Oil Rivers, 
and, as I have said, my one chance of getting a collec- 
tion of fishes from a river north of the Congo lay in the 
attitude Mr. C. G. Hudson might see fit to assume towards 
ichthyology. Mr. Hudson I had met in 1893 at Kabinda, 
when he rescued me from dire dilemmas, and proved himself 
so reliable, that I had no hesitation in depending on his advice. 
Since those Kabinda days he had become a sort of commercial 
Bishop, i.e., an Agent-General for Messrs. Hatton and Cookson 
in Congo Fran9ais, and in this capacity had the power to let 
me get up the Ogowe river, the greatest river between the 
Niger and the Congo. This river is mainly known in England 
from the works of Mr. Du Chaillu, who, however, had the 
misfortune on both his expeditions to miss actually discovering 
it. Still, he knew it was there, and said so ; and from his 
reports other explorers went out to look for it and duly 
found it ; but of them hereafter. It has been in the possession 
of France nearly forty years now, and the French authorities 
keep quite as much order as one can expect along its navigable 
water way, considering that the density of the forest around 
it harbours and protects a set of notoriously savage tribes, 
chief among which are the Fans. These Fans are a great 
tribe that have, in the memory of living men, made their 
appearance in the regions known to white men, in a state of 
migration seawards, and are a bright, active, energetic sort of 
African, who by their pugnacious and predatory conduct do 
much to make one cease to regret and deplore the sloth and 



104 LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP. 

lethargy of the rest of the West Coast tribes ; but of Fans I 
will speak by and by ; and merely preface my diary by stating 
that Congo Fran^ais has a coast line of about 900 miles, 
extending from the Campo River to a point a few miles north 
of Landana, with the exception of the small Corisco region 
claimed by Spain. The Hinterland is not yet delimitated, 
except as regards the Middle Congo. The French possession 
runs from Brazzaville on Stanley Pool up to the confluence of the 
M'Ubanji with the Congo, then following the western bank of 
the M'Ubanji. Away to the N.N.E. it is not yet delimitated, 
and although the French have displayed great courage and 
enterprise, there are still great stretches of country in Congo 
Frangais that have never been visited by a white man ; but 
the same may be said to as great an extent of the West Coast 
possessions of England and Germany. 

The whole of the territory that is at present roughly de- 
limitated, may have an area of 220,000 square miles, with a 
population variously estimated at from two to five millions. 

The two main outlets of its trade are Gaboon and Fernan 
Vaz. Gaboon is the finest harbour on the western side of the 
continent, and was thought for many years to be what it looks 
like, namely, the mouth of a great river. Of late years, how- 
ever, it has been found to be merely one of those great tidal 
estuaries like Bonny that go thirty or forty miles inland 
and then end in a series of small rivers. While under the 
impression that Gaboon was one of the great water ways of 
Africa, France made it a head station for her West African 
Squadron, and the point of development from which to 
start on exploring the surrounding country. Her attention, 
it is said, was first attracted to the importance of Gaboon by 
the reports brought home by the expedition under Prince de 
Joinville in the Belle Poule who, in 1840, brought the body 
of Napoleon from St. Helena for interment in Paris and after 
de Joinville the northern termination of the Gaboon estuary 
is officially known, although it is locally called Cape Santa 
Clara, which is possibly the name given it by the Portuguese 
navigator, Lopez Gonsalves, who, in 1469, made his great 
voyage of discovery on this coast, and whose name Cape Lopez 
at the mouth of one of the Ogowe streams still bears. 



vi GABOON AND LOANGO 105 



Fernan Vaz and Cape Lopez are nowadays more important 
outlets for trade than Gaboon. To the former comes the 
trade of the Rembo river, and a certain amount of the Ogowe 
main trade, since the discovery of the Ogolole creek a sort 
of natural canal about twelve miles long and of a fairly 
uniform breadth of fifty-five feet. Its course is twisted to 
and fro through the dense forest, and during the rains it is 
possible to take a small stern wheel steam-boat up and down 
it. Cape Lopez is the outlet of the Yombas arm of the lower 
Ogowe, which is also navigable by a small steam-boat. The 
Chargeur Reunis Company, subsidised by the Government, 
supply this vessel, the Eclaireur, to run from Cape Lopez to 
Njole, the highest navigable point for vessels on the Ogowe. 
Messrs. Hatton and Cookson used to have another small 
steamer, which went straight to and fro from Gaboon to Njole, 
but alas ! she is no more. Nowadays Gaboon is merely a 
depot, and were it not for her magnificent harbour and the 
fact that the government is already established there in firm 
solid buildings, Gaboon would be abandoned, for not only has 
the trade coming out at Cape Lopez and Fernan Vaz in- 
creased, but the trade coming down the Gaboon itself 
decreased. This is possibly on account of French enter- 
prise having made the route for trade by the Ogowe main 
stream the safer and easier. 

There is now another rival to Gaboon in Congo Frangais, 
Loango. Loango owes its importance to the clear-sightedness 
and daring of M. de Brazza who, when he reached Brazzaville, 
as it is now rightly called, on Stanley Pool, saw that there 
was a possibility of a practicable route via the Niari Valley 
from the Middle Congo regions to the sea. For M. de Brazza 
to see the possibility of the practicability of a thing means 
that he makes it so, and Loango will gradually become the 
outlet for a very large portion of the Congo trade, when the 
railway along the Niari Valley is completed. It has also been 
suggested that the head station of the government should be 
moved from Gaboon to Loango, but against, this being done 
is the initial expense and the inferiority of the Loango 
anchorage. Still, things tend to gravitate towards Loango, 
as it is the more important position from a local political 



io6 



LIBREVILLE AND GLASS 



CHAP. 



point And now, feeling a strong inclination to discourse 
of M. de Brazza instead of getting on with my own work, I 
descend to diary. 

May 2Oth, 1895. Landed at Gaboon from the Benguella 
amidst showers of good advice and wishes from Captain 
Eversfield and Mr. Fothergill, to which an unknown but 
amiable French official, who came aboard at Batta, adds a 
lovely Goliath beetle. 




HATTON AND COOKSON S FACTORY AT GLASS. 

The captain winds up with the advice to run the gig on to 
the beach, and not attempt the steps of Hatton and Cookson's 
wharf, for he asserts they are only fit for a hen." However, 
having had for the present enough of running ashore, I go for 
the steps, and they are a little sketchy, but quite practicable. 

Mr. Fildes, in the absence of the Agent-General, Mr. 
Hudson, receives me most kindly, and in the afternoon I and 
Mr. Huyghens, the new clerk out for the firm, are sent off to the 
Custom House under the guardian care of a French gentle- 
man, who is an agent of Hatton and Cookson's, and who 



VIVE LA FRANCE 107 



speaks English perfectly, while retaining his French embellish- 
ments and decorations to conversation. 

The Post, i.e. Custom House, is situated a hundred yards 
or so from the factory, like it, facing the strand ; and we make 
our way thither over and among the usual debris of a south-west 
coast beach, logs of waterworn trees, great hard seeds, old tins, 
and the canoes, which are drawn up out of the reach of the 
ever-mischievous, thieving sea. 

The Custom House is far more remarkable for quaintness 
than beauty ; it is two stones high, the ground floor being the 
local lock-up. The officer in charge lives on the topmost floor 
and has a long skeleton wooden staircase whereby to com- 
municate with the lower world. This staircase is a veritable 
" hen-roost " one. It is evidently made to kill people, but why ? 
Individuals desirous of defrauding customs would not be likely 
to haunt this Custom House staircase, and good people, like me, 
who want to pay dues, should be encouraged and not killed. 

The officer is having his siesta; but when aroused is courteous 
and kindly, but he incarcerates my revolver, giving me a feel- 
ing of iniquity for having had the thing. I am informed if I 
pay 1 5 s. for a licence I may have it if I fire French ammunition 
out of it. This seems a heavy sum, so I ask M. Pichault, our 
mentor, what I may be allowed to shoot if I pay this ? Will it 
make me free, as it were, of all the local shooting? May I 
daily shoot governors, heads of departments, and sous officiers ? 
M. Pichault says " Decidedly not " ; I may shoot " hippo, or 
elephants, or crocodiles." Now I have never tried shooting 
big game in Africa with a revolver, and as I don't intend to, I 
leave the thing in pawn. My collecting-cases and spirit, the 
things which I expected to reduce me to a financial wreck by 
custom dues, are passed entirely free, because they are for 
science. Vive la France ! 

2\st. Puddle about seashore. Dr. Nassau comes down 
from Baraka to see if Messrs. Hatton and Cookson have not 
appropriated a lady intended for the mission station. One 
was coming from Batanga by the Benguella, he knew, and he 
is told one has been seen on Hatton and Cookson's quay. 
Mr. Fildes assures him that the lady they have has been 
invoiced to the firm, and I am summoned to bear out the 



io8 LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP. 

statement which gives me the opportunity I have long desired 
of meeting Dr. Nassau, the great pioneer explorer of these 
regions and one of the greatest authorities on native subjects 
in all their bearings. 

Although he has been out here, engaged in mission work, 
since 1851 he is an exceedingly active man, and has a 
strangely gracious, refined, courteous manner. 

2.2nd. Uninterrupted sea-shore investigations. 

2$rd. M. Pichault conducts Mr. Huyghens and me into 
the town of Libreville to be registered. 

The road from Glass to Libreville is, at moments, very 
lovely, and a fine piece of work for the country and the climate. 
Round Glass the land is swampy, a thing that probably in- 
duced the English to settle here when they came to Gaboon, 
for the English love, above all things, settling in, or as near 
as possible to, a good reeking, stinking swamp. We pass 
first along a made piece of road with the swamp on the left 
hand, and on the other, a sandy bush-grown piece of land with 
native houses on it, beyond which lies the sea-shore, and when- 
ever the swamp chooses to go down to the edge of the shore 
there is an iron viaduct thrown across it. The making of this 
road cost the lives of seventy out of one hundred of the 
Tonkinese convicts engaged in its construction. After this 
swampy piece the road runs through sandy land, virtually 
the shore, with low hills on the one hand and the beach on 
the other. 

A line of cocoanut palms has been planted along either 
side of the road for most of the way, looking beautiful but 
behaving badly, for there is a telephone w r ire running along it 
from Libreville to Glass, and these gossiping palms the most 
inveterate chatterer in the vegetable kingdom is a cocoanut 
palm talk to each other with their hard leaves on 
the wire, just as they did at Fernando Po, so that 
mere human beings can hardly get a word in edge- 
ways. This irritates the human atom, and of course it uses bad 
words to the wire, and I fancy these are seventy-five per cent, 
of all the words that get through the palm leaves' patter. 

Two and a half miles' walk brings us to the office of the 
Directeur de 1'Administration de 1'Interieur, and we hang about 



vi "NOW FOR THE POLICE" 109 

a fine stone-built verandah. We wait so long that the feeling 
grows on us that elaborate preparations for incarcerating us 
for life must be going on, but just as Mr. H. and I have 
made up our minds to make a dash for it and escape, we are 
ushered into a cool, whitewashed office, and find a French 
official, clean, tidy, dark-haired, and melancholy, seated before 
his writing-table. Courteously bidding us be seated, he 
asks our names, ages, and avocations, enters them in a book 
for future reference, and then writes out a permit for each of 
us to reside in the colony, as long as we behave ourselves, and 
conform to the laws thereof. These documents are sent 
up stairs to be signed by the acting Governor, and while we 
are waiting for their return, he converses with M. Pichault on 
death, fever, &c. Presently a black man is shown in ; he is 
clad in a blue serge coat, from underneath which float over a 
pair of blue canvas trousers the tails of a flannel shirt, and on 
his feet are a pair of ammunition boots that fairly hobble him 
His name, the interpreter says, is Joseph. " Who is your 
father ? " says the official clerk interprets into trade English. 
" Fader ? " says Joseph. " Yes, fader," says the interpreter. 
" My fader ? " says Joseph. " Yes," says the interpreter ; " who's 
your fader ? " " Who my fader ? " says Joseph. " Take him 
away and let him think about it," says the officer with a sad, 
sardonic smile. Joseph is alarmed and volunteers name of 
mother ; this is no good ; this sort of information any fool can 
give ; Government is collecting information of a more recondite 
and interesting character. Joseph is removed by Senegal 
soldiers, boots and all. As he's going to Boma, in the Congo 
Free State, it can only be for ethnological purposes that the 
French Government are taking this trouble to get up his 
genealogy. 

Our stamped papers having arrived now we feel happier 
and free, and then M. Pichault alarms us by saying, " Now 
for the Police " ; and off we trail, subdued, to the Palais de 
Justice, where we are promptly ushered into a room containing 
a vivacious, gesticulatory old gentleman, kindly civil beyond 
words, and a powerful, calm young man, with a reassuring 
" He's-all-right ; it's-only-his-way " manner regarding his chief. 
The chief is clad in a white shirt and white pantaloons cut 



.no LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP. 



a la Turque, but unfortunately these garments have a band 
that consists of a run-in string, and that string is out of repair. 
He writes furiously blotting paper mislaid frantic flurry 
round pantaloons won't stand it grab just saves them 
something wanted the other side of the room headlong 
flight towards it " now's our chance," think the pantaloons, 
and make off recaptured. 

Formalities being concluded regarding us, the chief makes a 
dash out from behind his writing-table, claps his heels together, 
and bo\vs with a jerk that causes the pantaloons to faint in 
coils, like the White Knight in " Alice in Wonderland," and 
my last view was of a combat with them, I hope a successful 
one, and that their owner, who was leaving for home the next 
day, is now enjoying a well-earned, honourable repose after 
his long years of service to his country in Congo Fran^ais. 
. Pouring wet day. 

. Called on the Mother Superior, and collected shells 
from the bay beyond Libreville. In the afternoon called on 
the missionary lady, who has now arrived with her young son, 
per German boat from Batanga, and talked on fetish ; Dr. 
Nassau telling a very pathetic and beautiful story of an old 
chief at Eloby praying to the spirit of the new moon, which he 
regarded as a representative of the higher elemental power, to 
prevent the evil lower spirits from entering his town. 

Sunday, 26th. Mr. Fildes evidently regards it as his duty 
to devote his Sunday mornings to ladies " invoiced to the firm," 
and takes me in the gig to go up the little river to the east, 
ostentatiously only the drainage of the surrounding swamp. 
The tide just allows us to go over the miniature sand-bar, and 
then we row up the river, which is about forty feet across, and 
runs through a perfect gem of a mangrove-swamp, and the 
stench is quite the right thing real Odeur de Niger Delta. 

As we go higher up, the river channel winds to and fro 
between walls and slopes of ink-black slime, more sparsely 
covered with mangrove bushes than near the entrance. 
This stinking, stoneless slime is honey-combed with crab 
holes, and the owners of these green, blue, red, and black 
are walking about on the tips of their toes sideways, with 
that comic pomp peculiar to the crab family. I expected 



vi CATCHING CRABS in 

only to have to sit in the boat and say " Horrible " at intervals, 
but no such thing ; my companion, selecting a peculiarly 
awful-looking spot, says he " thinks that will do," steers the 
boat up to it, and jumps out with a squidge into the black 
slime. For one awful moment I thought it was suicide, and 
that before I could even get the address of his relations to 
break the news to them there would be nothing but a Panama 
hat lying on the slime before me. But he only sinks in a matter 
of a foot or so, and then starts off, to my horror, calling the 
boys after him, to hunt crabs for me. Now I have mentioned no 
desire for crabs, and was merely looking at them, as I always do> 
when out with other white folk, noting where they were 
so as to come back alone next day and get them ; for I don't 
want any one's blood, black or white, on my head. As soon 
as I recovered speech, I besought him to come back into the 
boat and leave them : but no, " tears, prayers, entreaties, all in 
vain," as Koko says ; he would not, and dashed about in the 
stinking mud, regardless, with his four Kruboys far more 
cautiously paddling after him. 

The affrighted crabs were in a great taking. It seems to be 
crab etiquette that, even when a powerfully built, lithe, six 
foot high young man is coming at you hard all with a paddle,, 
you must not go rushing into anybody's house save your 
own, whereby it fell out many crabs were captured ; but the 
thing did not end there. I had never suspected we should 
catch anything but our deaths of fever, and so had brought 
with me no collecting-box, and before I could remonstrate Mr. 
Fildes' handkerchief was full of crabs, and of course mine too. It 
was a fine sunny morning on the Equator, and therefore it was 
hot, and we had nothing to wipe our perspiring brows with. 

All the crabs being caught or scared home on this mud 
bank, we proceed higher up river, and after some more crab 
hunts we got to a place where I noticed you did not sink very far 
in if you kept moving ; so I got ashore, and we went towards a 
break in the mangroves, where some high trees were growing, 
where we fell in with some exceedingly lovely mayflies and had 
a great hunt. They have legs two to three inches long, white 
at the joints and black between ; a very small body with 
purple wings belongs to the legs, but you do not suspect this: 



ii2 LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP. 

until you have caught the legs, as they hover and swing to 
and fro over some mass of decaying wood stuff. At first I 
thought they were spiders hanging from some invisible thread, 
so strangely did they move in circumscribed spaces : but 
we swept our hands over them and found no thread, arid 
then we went for the legs in sheer desperation, and found a 
tiny fly body belonging to them and not a tiny spider body. 

We then made our way on to the slightly higher land fringing 
the swamp. There was at the river end of the swamp a belt 
of palms, and beyond this a belt of red-woods, acacias, and 
other trees, and passing through these, we were out on an open 
grass-covered country, with low, rolling hills, looking strangely 
English, with clumps of trees here and there, and running 
between the hills, in all directions, densely-wooded valleys a 
pleasant, homely-looking country. 

We wandered through a considerable lot of grass, wherein 
I silently observed there were millions of ticks, and we made 
for a group of hut-homesteads and chatted with the inhabit- 
ants, until Mr. Fildes' conscience smote him with the fact that 
he had not given out cook's stores for the mid-day meal. 
Then we made a short cut to the boat, which involved us in a 
lot of mud-hopping, and so home to 1 2 o'clock breakfast. 

At breakfast I find Mr. Fildes regards it as his duty to do 
more scientific work, for he asks me to go to Woermann's 
farm, and I, not knowing where it is, say yes ; inwardly 
trusting that the place may not be far away, and situated in a 
reasonably dry country, for I have lost all sense of reliance in 
Mr. Fildes' instinct of self-preservation an instinct usually 
strong enough to keep a West Coaster from walking a mile. 
Along the windward coast, and in the Rivers, I have always 
been accustomed to be regarded as insane for my walking 
ways, but this gentleman is worth six of me any day, and 
worth sixty for Sundays, it's clear. 

At 3 o'clock off we go, turning down the " Boulevard " 
towards Libreville, and then up a road to the right opposite 
Woermann's beach, and follow it through miles of grass over 
low hills. Here and there are huts new to me, and quite 
unlike the mud ones of the West Coast, or the grass ones of the 
Congo and Angola districts. They are far inferior to the 



BAMBOO HOUSES 115 



swish huts of the Effiks, or the Moorish-looking mud ones 
you see round Cape Coast Castle, &c., and notably inferior to 
the exceedingly neat Dualla huts of Cameroons ; but they are 
better than any other type of African house I have seen. 

They are made of split bamboo with roofs of mats like the 
Effik roofs, but again inferior. I notice sometimes the 
sections of the walls are made on the ground and then erected. 
The builder drives in a row of strong wooden poles, and then 
ties the sections on to them very neatly with " tie-tie." The 
door and window-frames and shutters are made of plank 
painted a bright cobalt blue as a rule, but now and then red 
a red I believe that had no business there, as it looks like 
some white gentleman's red oxide he has had out for painting 
the boats with. 

Sometimes, however, instead of the sections being made on 
the ground of closely set split bamboos, the poles of unsplit 
bamboo are driven in, and the split bamboos are lashed on to 
them, alternately inside and outside, and between these are fixed 
palm-leaf mats. I suspect this style of architecture of being 
cheaper. Although there are a good many houses of both 
these types being erected on the hills round Glass and Libreville,. 
I cannot say building operations are carried on with much 
vigour, for there are plenty of skeletons up, with just one or 
two sections tied in place, and then left as if the builder had 
gone on strike or got sick of the job somehow. 

The stretch of broiling hot grass is trying, but interesting ;; 
some of it is intensely fine and a beautiful yellow-green, which 
I am told is gathered and dried and made into pillows.. 
Some again is long lank stuff, carrying a maroon-coloured 
ear, which when ripe turns gold colour, and in either state is 
very lovely when one comes across stretches of it down a 
hillside. 

On either side of us show wooded valleys like those we saw 
this morning; and away to the east the line of mangrove 
swamp fringing the little river we rowed up. Away to the 
west are the groves of mango trees round Libreville ; mango 
trees are only pretty when you are close to them, prettiest 
of all when you are walking through an avenue of them, and 
you can see their richness of colour ; the deep myrtle-green 

I 



ii4 LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP. 



leaves, with the young shoots a dull crimson, and the soft 
gray-brown stem, and the luscious-looking but turpentiny- 
tasting fruit, a glory of gold and crimson, like an immense 
nectarine. 

We gradually get into a more beautiful type of country, 
and down into a forest. The high trees are the usual 
high forest series with a preponderance of acacias. It 
is a forest of varied forms, but flowerless now in the 
dry season. There are quantities of ferns ; hart's-tongues 
and the sort that grows on the oil-palms, and elks- 
horn growing out of its great brown shields on the trees 
above, and bracken, and pretty trailing lycopodium climbing 
over things, but mostly over the cardamoms which abound 
in the under-bush, and here and there great banks of the 
most lovely ferns I have ever seen save the tree-fern, an am- 
bitious climber, called, I believe, by the botanists Nephrodinm 
circutarium, and walls of that strange climbing grass, and all 
sorts of other lovely things by thousands in all directions. 

Butterflies and dragon-flies were scarce here compared to 
Okijon, but of other flies there were more than plenty. 

The roadway is exceedingly good ; certainly in the grass 
country you are rather liable to what Captain Eversfield 
graphically describes as " stub your toe " against lava-like 
rock, for the grass has overgrown the road, leaving only a 
single-file path open. In the forest you come across isolated 
masses of stratified rock, sometimes eight and ten feet high, 
most prettily overgrown with moss and fern. 

We pass through several villages which Mr. Fildes tells me 
are Fan villages, and are highly interesting after all one has 
already heard of this tribe of evil repute. Their houses are 
quite different to the M'pongwe ones we have left behind, and 
are built of sheets of bark, tied on to sticks. 

Frequently in the street one sees the characteristic standing 
drum painted \vhite in patterns with black or red-brown, and a 
piece of raw hide stretched across the top, and one or two 
talking-drums besides. 

We cross several pretty streams in the forest carefully 
bridged with plank. This Woermann's road, I hear, 
is between six and seven miles long, and its breadth 



vi A DESERTED PLANTATION 115 



uniformly nine feet, and it must have cost a lot of money to 
make. It was made with the intention of being used for 
waggons drawn by oxen, which were to bring down alt the 
produce of the coffee plantation, and the timber that might be 
cut down in the clearing for it, to Gaboon for shipment A 
large house was erected and a quantity of coffee planted, and 
then the enterprise was abandoned by Messrs. Woermann, and 
the whole affair, coffee, road, and all is rapidly sinking back 
into the bush. 

There is a considerable-sized Fan village just at the en- 
trance to the farm in which is a big silk-cotton tree. It struck 
me as strange, after coming from Calabar where these trees 
are frequently smothered round the roots with fetish objects, 
to see nothing on this one save a framed and glazed image of 
the Virgin and Child. Just beyond the Fan town there is a 
little river. 

When we get so far it is too late to proceed further, and 
nothing but this consideration, backed by the memory of 
one night when he was compelled to walk to Glass from the 
farm, prevents Mr. Fildes, I believe, from crossing to Corisco 
Bay. 

So round we turn, and return in the same order we came in, 
Mr. Fildes lashing along first, I behind him, going like a clock, 
which was my one chance. When at last we reached the 
41 Boulevard " he wanted to reverse this order, but remember- 
ing the awful state that the back of my blouse got in at 
Fernando Po from a black boot-lace I was reduced to employ 
as a stay-lace, I refuse to go in front, without explaining 
why, 

2jth. Went up among the grass to see if there was any- 
thing to be got ; ticks were, and there were any quantity 
of ants and flocks of very small birds, little finch-like people, 
with a soft, dull, gray-brown plumage, relieved by a shading 
of dark green on the back, and little crimson bills ; they have 
a pretty twittering note, and are little bigger than butterflies ; 
butterflies themselves are rare now. I see the small boys 
catch these birds with flake rubber as with birdlime. Down 
in the wooded hollows there are numbers of other birds, 
plantain-eaters, and the bird with the long, soft, rich, thrush- 

I 2 



u6 LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP.. 



like note, and the ubiquitous Wu-tu-tu, the clock bird, so- 
called from its regular habit of giving the cry, from which its 
native name comes, every two hours during the night, 
commencing at 4 P.M. and going off duty at 6 A.M. 

On my return home, I find Mr. Hudson is back from the 
Ogowe on the Move, unaltered since '93, I am glad to say. 
He tells me good Dom Joachim de Sousa Coutinho e 
Chichorro is dead, and his wife Donna Anna, and her sister 
Donna Maria de Sousa Coutinho, my valued friends, have 
returned from Kabinda to Lisbon. 

28///. Go to west side of Libreville shell-hunting ; after 
passing through the town, and in front of the mango-tree 
embowered mission station of the Espiritu Santo, the road 
runs along close to the sea, through a beautiful avenue of cocoa- 
palms. Then there is a bridge, and a little beyond this the 
road ends, and so I take to the sandy sea-shore for a mile 
or so. 

The forest fringes the sand, rising in a wall of high 
trees, not mangroves ; and here and there a stinking stream' 
comes out from under them, and here and there are masses 
of shingle-formed conglomerate and stratified green-gray rock. 

Beyond Libreville there are several little clearings in the 
forest with a native town tucked into them, the inhabitants 
of which seem a happy and contented generation mainly 
devoted to fishing, and very civil. On my walk back I notice 
the people getting water from the stinking streams ; small 
wonder the mortality is high in Libreville : this is usually 
attributed to the inhabitants " going it," but they might " go- 
it " more than they do, without killing themselves if they left 
off drinking this essence of stinking slime. 

2gth. Went to see Mrs. Gault and Dr. Nassau, who- 
says the natives have a legend of a volcano about sixty 
miles from here. 

y&th. Mrs. Gault asks me to go with her to a Bible meet- 
ing, held by a native woman. I assent, I go ; Mrs. Sarah, the 
Biblewoman, is a very handsome, portly lady who speaks 
English very well. There are besides her, Mrs. Gault and 
myself, eight or nine native women, and two men. Hymns 
are sung in M'pongwe, one with a rousing chorus of " Gory 



vi AN UNPREMEDITATED DESCENT 117 



we, gory we, pro pa reary gory we." This M'pongwe does 
not sound so musical as the Effik. Sarah gives an extempore 
prayer however, which is very beautiful in sound, and she in- 
tones it most tastefully. But I confess my mind is distracted 
.by a malignant-looking pig which hovers round us as we 
kneel upon the sand. I well remember Captain - - being 
chivied by a pig in the confines of Die Grosse Colonie, and 
then there is the chance of ants and so on up one's 
ankles. Mrs. Gault gives an address which Sarah translates 
.into M'pongwe, and then come more hymns, and the meeting 
closes, and the ladies settle down and have a quiet pipe and a 
chat. We then saunter off and visit native Christians' houses. 
Many houses here are built in clumps round a square, but 
this form of arrangement seems only a survival, for I find 
there is no necessary relationship among the people living in 
the square as there is in Calabar : and so home. 

3U/. Start out at 2.30 and walk through the grass 
'Country behind Baraka, and suddenly fall down into a strange 
place. 

On sitting up after the shock consequent on an unpremedi- 
tated descent of some thirteen feet or so, I find myself in 
-a wild place ; before me are two cave-like cavities, with 
a rough wood seat in each ; behind me another similar cavity 
or chamber ; the space I am in is about three feet wide ; to 
the left this is terminated by an earth wall ; to the right it 
goes, as a path, down a cutting or trench which ends in dry 
grass. 

No sign of human habitation. Are these sacrifice places, I 
wonder, or are they places where those Fans one hears so 
much about, come and secretly eat human flesh ? Clearly they 
are not vestiges of an older civilisation. In fact, what in the 
world are they ? I investigate and find they are nothing in 
the world more than markers' pits for a rifle range. 

Disgust, followed by alarm, seizes me ; those French authori- 
ties may take it into their heads to think I am making plans 
-of their military works ! Visions of incarceration flash before my 
eyes, and I fly into more grass and ticks, going westwards 
until I pick up a path, and following this, find myself in a little 
tillage. In the centre of the street, see the strange arrow- 



iS LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP. 



head-shaped board mounted on a rough easel and alongside it 
a bundle of stakes, the whole affair clearly connected with 
making palm oil, and identical with the contrivance I saw in 
.the far-away Fan village on Sunday morning. 

Investigate, find the boiled palm nuts are put into a pine- 
apple fibre bag, which is hung on the board, then stakes are 
wedged in between the uprights of the easel, so as to squeeze 
the bag, one stake after another being put in to increase the 
pressure. The oil runs out, and off the point of the arrow- 
shaped, board into a receptacle placed to receive it. 

The next object of interest is a piece of paper stuck on a 
stick at the further end of the villages. The inscription is of 
interest though evidently recent. Find it is " No thoroughfare.'* 
There is a bamboo gateway at this end, and so I go through 
it and find myself to my surprise on the Woermann farm 
road, and down this I go, butterfly hunting. Presently I 
observe an old gentleman with a bundle of bamboos watching 
me intently. Not knowing the natives of this country yet, I 
feel anxious, and he, in a few minutes without taking his eyes 
off me, crouches in the grass. I remember my great tutor 
Captain Boler of Bonny's maxim : " Be afraid of an African if 
you can't help it, but never show it anyhow," so I walk on 
intending to pass him with a propitiatory M'bolo. 1 As I get 
abreast of him he hisses out " Look him ; " he's evidently got 
something in the grass ; Heaven send it's not a snake, but I 
" look him," a lizard ! The good soul understood collecting, 
and meant well from the first. I give him tobacco and a selec- 
tion of amiable observations, and he beams and we go on down 
the road together, discussing the proper time to burn grass, 
and the differences in the practical value, for building purposes, 
of the t\vo kinds of bamboo. Then coming to a path that 
runs evidently in the direction of the Plateau at Libreville, 
and thinking it's time I was tacking homewards, I say " good 
bye " to my companion, and turn down the path. " You sabe 
'em road?" says he in a very questioning voice : I say " yes " 
airily, and keep on down it. 

The path goes on through grass, and then makes for a 
hollow wish it didn't, for hollows are horrid at times, and 
1 The M'pongwe greeting ; meaning, " May you live long." 



vi A WAYWARD PATH 119 

evident!}' this road has got something against it somewhere, 
and is not popular, for the grass falls across it like unkempt 
hair. Road becomes damp and goes into a belt of trees, in 
the middle of which runs a broad stream with a log laid across 
it. Congratulating myself on absence of companions, ignomini- 
ously crawl across on to the road, which then and there turns 
round and goes back to the stream again higher up evidently 
a joke, " thought-you-were-going-to-get-home-dry-did-you " 
sort of thing. Wade the stream, rejoin the road on the hither 
side. Then the precious thing makes a deliberate bolt for the 
interior of Africa, instead of keeping on going to Libreville. 
I lose confidence in it. The Wu-tu-tu says it's four o'clock. 
It's dark at 6.15 down here, and I am miles from home, so I 
begin to wish I had got an intelligent companion to guide me, 
as I walk on through the now shoulder-high grass. Suddenly 
another road branches off to the left. " Saved ! " Down 
it I go, and then it ends in a manioc patch, with no path 
out the other end, and surrounded by impenetrable bush. 
Crestfallen, I retrace my steps and continue along my old tor- 
mentor, which now attempts to reassure me by doubling round 
to the left and setting off again for Libreville. I am not 
deceived, I have had my trust in it too seriously tampered with 
Yes, it's up to mischief again, and it turns itself into a stream. 
Nothing for it but wading, so wade ; but what will be its next 
manifestation, I wonder? for I begin to doubt whether it is a road 
at all, and suspect it of being only a local devil, one of the sort 
that sometimes appears as a road, sometimes as a tree or a 
stream, &c. I wonder what they will do if they find I don't 
get in to-night? wish me at Liverpool, at least. After 
a quarter of an hour's knee-deep wading, I suddenly meet 
a native lady who was at the Bible meeting. She has a grand 
knowledge of English, and she stands with her skirt tucked 
up round her, evidently in no hurry, and determined to definitely 
find out who I am. Recognising this, I attempt to take 
charge of the conversation, and divert its course. " Nice 
road this," I say, " but it's a little damp." " Washey, ma," 
she says, " but - "Is this road here to go anywhere," I 
interposed, " or is it only a kind of joke ? " " It no go 
nowhere 'ticular, ma," she says ; " but " " In a civilised 



120 LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP. 



community like this of Gaboon," I say, " it's scandalous 
that roads should be allowed to wander about in this loose 
way." " That's so for true," she assents ; " but, ma, - 
"" You must excuse me," I answer, " I am in a great hurry 
to get in, hope to meet you again. Where do you live ? 
I'll call." She gives me her address, but does not move, 
.and the grass walls either side of the stream road are 
high and dense. " My husband," she says, " was in H, 
and C.'s ; he die now." " Dear me, that's very sad ; you 
must have been very sorry," I answer, sympathetically, think- 
ing I have turned the conversation. " We all were ; he had 
ten wives. " But, ma, - I am damp and desperate, 

and so pushing into the grass at the side, circum- 
navigate her portly form successfully, and saying a cheery 
"" good-bye," bolt, and down wind after me comes the un- 
interrupted question at last ; but I do not return to discuss 
the matter, and soon getting on to drier ground, and seeing a 
path that goes towards the boulevard, down I go, as quickly 
as my feet can carry me, and then before I know where I am 
I find myself in a network of little irrigating canals, running 
between neatly kept beds of tomatoes, salad, &c., whereon 
there are working busily a lot of Anamese convicts. The 
convicts are deported from the French Cochin China posses- 
sions and employed by the Public Works Department in 
various ways. Those who conduct themselves well, and sur- 
vive, have grants of garden ground given them, which they 
cultivate in this tidy, carefully minute way, so entirely 
different from the slummacky African methods of doing 
things. The produce they sell to the residents in the 
town, and live very prosperously in this way : but the 
climate of Western Africa is almost, if not quite, as 
deadly to the Chinese races as to the white a fact that has 
been amply demonstrated not only here ; but in Congo Beige, 
where the railway company carried on a series of experiments 
with imported labour a series of experiments that entailed 
an awful waste of human life for none of the imported people 
stood the climate any better than the whites, and you know 
what that means. This labour question out here, a question 
that increases daily with the development of plantation enter- 



Ml ANOTHER WALK IN THE FOREST 121 

prise, I do not think will ever be solved by importing foreign 
labour. Nor is it advisable that it should be, for our European 
'Government puts a stop to the action of those causes which 
used to keep the native population down, intertribal wars, 
sacrifices, &c., &c.; and to the deportation of surplus population 
in the form of slaves, and so unless means of support are devised 
for " the indigenous ones," as Mrs. Gault calls them, Africa 
will have us to thank for some smart attacks of famine, for 
the natives, left to their own devices, will never cultivate the 
soil sufficiently to support a large population, and more- 
over a vast percentage of the West African soil is very poor, 
sour stufT, that will grow nothing but equally valueless 
vegetation. From this discourse you will argue I did get 
home at last. 

June 2nd: Nubia in, but she will not call at Batanga, so Mrs. 
'Gault is stranded until some other steamer calls. Nubia has 
Jost all her heavy anchors down south, where she reports the 
Calemma extra bad this year. 

^rd. Went alone for a long walk to the bend of the man- 
grove-swamp river to the east. It stank severely, but was 
most interesting, giving one the conditions of life in a man- 
grove-swamp in what you might call a pocket edition. Leav- 
ing this, I made my way north-west along native paths across 
stretches of grass growing on rolling hills and down through 
wooded valleys, each of which had a little stream in it, or a patch 
of swamp, with enormous arums and other water plants grow- 
ing, and along through Fan villages, each with just one straight 
street, having a club-house at the alternate ends. I met in 
the forest a hunter, carrying home a deer he had shot ; in 
addition to his musket, he carried a couple of long tufted 
spears, archaic in type. He was very chatty, and I gave him 
tobacco, and we talked sport, and on parting I gave him some 
more tobacco, because he kindly gave me a charm to enable 
me to see things in the forest. He was gratified, and said, 
" You ver nice," " Good-bye," " Good-day," " So long," " Good- 
night," which was very nice of him, as these phrases were 
-evidently all the amiable greetings in English that he knew. 
The " So long " you often hear the natives in Gaboon say : it 
always sounds exceedingly quaint. They have of course 



122 LIBREVILLE AND GLASS CHAP, vr 



picked it up from the American missionaries, who have been 
here upwards of thirty years. 

4///. : Mr. Hudson announces that the Move will leave at 
5.30 on the morning after next. Later in the day he expects 
to get her off by 5.30 to-morrow towards evening he thinks 
to-morrow at 8.30 is more likely still. Mrs. Gault called with her 
boy Harry ; she says, " John Holt has got a lovely waist at only 
two dollars." I don't want a waist I am too thin any- 
how so I don't investigate the matter. We go up to Dr.. 
Nassau and talk ju-ju. He agrees with me that dead black 
men go white when soaked in water. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE OGOWE 

Wherein the voyager gives extracts from the Log of the Moire and of the 
Eclaireur, and an account of the voyager's first meeting with " those 
fearful Fans," also an awful warning to all young persons who neglect 
the study of the French language. 

Jtine $f/i, 1895. OFF on Move at 9.30. Passengers, Mr. 
Hudson, Mr. Woods, Mr. Huyghens, Pere Steinitz, and I. 
There are black deck-passengers galore ; I do not know their 
honourable names, but they are evidently very much married 
men, for there is quite a gorgeously coloured little crowd of 
ladies to see them off. They salute me as I pass down 
the pier, and start inquiries. I say hastily to them : " Fare- 
well, I'm off up river," for I notice Mr. Fildes bearing 
down on me, and I don't want him to drop in on the 
subject of society interest. I expect it is settled now, 
or pretty nearly. There is a considerable amount of 
mild uproar among the black contingent, and the Move 
firmly clears off before half the good advice and good 
wishes for the black husbands are aboard. She is a fine little 
vessel ; far finer than I expected. The accommodation I am 
getting is excellent. A long, narrow cabin, with one bunk in it 
and pretty nearly everything one can wish for, and a copying 
press thrown in. Food is excellent, society charming, captain 
and engineer quite acquisitions. The saloon is square and 
roomy for the size of the vessel, and most things, from row- 
locks to teapots, are kept under the seats in good nautical 
style. We call at the guard-ship to pass our papers, and then 
steam ahead out of the Gaboon estuary to the south, round 
Pongara Point, keeping close into the land. About forty feet 
from shore there is a good free channel for vessels with a 
light draught which if you do not take, you have to make a big 
sweep seaward to avoid a reef. Between four and five miles 



124 THE OGOWE CHAP. 

below Pongara, we pass Point Gombi, which is fitted with a 
lighthouse, a lively and conspicuous structure by day as well 
as night. It is perched on a knoll, close to the extremity of 
the long arm of low, sandy ground, and is painted black and 
white, in horizontal bands, which, in conjunction with its 
general figure, give it a pagoda-like appearance. 

Alongside it are a white-painted, red-roofed house for the 
light-house keeper, and a store for its oil. The light is either 
a flashing or a revolving or a stationary one, when it is alight. 
One must be accurate about these things, and my knowledge 
regarding it is from information received, and amounts to the 
above. I cannot throw in any personal experience, because I 
have never passed it at night-time, and seen from Glass it 
seems just steady. Most lighthouses on this Coast give up 
fancy tricks, like flashing or revolving, pretty soon after they are 
established. Seventy-five per cent, of them are not alight half 
the time at all. " It's the climate." Gombi, however, you may 
depend on for being alight at night, and I have no hesitation 
in saying you can see it, when it is visible, seventeen miles out 
to sea, and that the knoll on which the lighthouse stands 
is a grass-covered sand cliff, about forty or fifty feet above sea- 
level. As we pass round Gombi point, the weather becomes 
distinctly rough, particularly at lunch-time. The Move minds 
it less than her passengers, and stamps steadily along past the 
wooded shore, behind which shows a distant range of blue hills. 
Silence falls upon the black passengers, who assume recumbent 
positions on the deck, and suffer. All the things from under the 
saloon seats come out and dance together, and play puss-in-the- 
corner, after the fashion of loose gear when there is any sea on. 

As the night comes down, the scene becomes more and more 
picturesque. The moonlit sea, shimmering and breaking 
on the darkened shore, the black forest and the hills 
silhouetted against the star-powdered purple sky, and, at 
my feet, the engine-room stoke-hole, lit with the rose- 
coloured glow from its furnace, showing by the great 
wood fire the two nearly naked Krumen stokers, shining like 
polished bronze in their perspiration, as they throw in on to 
the fire the billets of red wood that look like freshly-cut chunks 
of flesh. The white engineer hovers round the mouth of the 






UNSPOKEN APPEALS 125 



pit, shouting down directions and ever and anon plunging 
down the little iron ladder to carry them out himself. At 
intervals he stands on the rail with his head craned round trie- 
edge of the sun deck to listen to the captain, who is up on 
the little deck above, for there is no telegraph to the engines,, 
and our gallant commander's voice is not strong. While the 
white engineer is roosting on the rail, the black engineer comes 
partially up the ladder and gazes hard at me ; so I give him a 
wad of tobacco, and he plainly regards me as inspired, for of 
course that was what he wanted. Remember that whenever 
you see a man, black or white, filled with a nameless longing, 
it is tobacco he requires. Grim despair accompanied by a 
gusty temper indicates something wrong with his pipe, in 
which case offer him a straightened-out hairpin. The black 
engineer having got his tobacco, goes below to the stoke- 
hole again and smokes a short clay as black and as strong as 
himself. The captain affects an immense churchwarden. 
How he gets through life, waving it about as he does, without 
smashing it every two minutes, I cannot make out. 

At last we anchor for the night just inside Nazareth Bay, for 
Nazareth Bay wants daylight to deal with, being rich in low 
islands and sand shoals. We crossed the Equator this after- 
noon. 

June 6th. Off at daybreak into Nazareth Bay. Anxiety 
displayed by navigators, sounding taken on both sides of the 
bows with long bamboo poles painted in stripes, and we go 
"slow ahead" and "hard astern" successfully, until we get round 
a good-sized island, and there we stick until four o'clock, high 
water, when we come off all right, and steam triumphantly but 
cautiously into the Ogowe. The shores of Nazareth Bay are 
fringed with mangroves, but once in the river the scenery 
soon changes, and the waters are walled on either side with a 
forest rich in bamboo, oil and wine palms. These forest 
cliffs seem to rise right up out of the mirror-like brown water. 
Many of the highest trees are covered with clusters of brown- 
pink young shoots that look like flowers, and others are 
decorated by my old enemy the climbing palm, now bearing 
clusters of bright crimson berries. Climbing plants of other 
kinds are wreathing everything, some blossoming with mauve, 



126 THE OGOWE CHAP. 

some with yellow, some with white flowers, and every now and 
then a soft sweet heavy breath of fragrance comes out to us as 
we pass by. There is a native village on the north bank, 
embowered along its plantations with some very tall cocoa- 
palms rising high above them. 

The river winds so that it seems to close in behind us, 
opening out in front fresh vistas of superb forest beauty, with 
the great brown river stretching away unbroken ahead like 
a broad road of burnished bronze. Astern, it has a streak of 
frosted silver let into it by the Move's screw. Just 
about six o'clock, we run up to the Fallabar, the Move's 
predecessor in working the Ogowe, now a hulk, used as a 
depot by Hatton and Cookson. She is anchored at the 
entrance of a creek that runs through to the Fernan Vaz ; 
some say it is six hours' run, others that it is eight hours for a 
canoe ; all agree that there are plenty of mosquitoes. 

The Fallabar looks grimly picturesque, and about the last 
spot in which a person of a nervous disposition would care to 
spend the night. One half of her deck is dedicated to Tuel 
logs, on the other half are plank stores for the goods, and a 
room for the black sub-trader in charge of them. I know that 
there must be scorpions which come out of those logs and 
stroll into the living room, and goodness only knows what 
one might not fancy \vould come up the creek or rise out of 
the floating grass, or the limitless-looking forest. I am told 
she was a fine steamer in her day, but those who had charge 
of her did not make allowances for the very rapid rotting 
action of the Ogowe water, so her hull rusted through before 
her engines were a quarter worn out ; and there was nothing to 
be done with her then, but put a lot of concrete in, and make her 
a depot, in which state of life she is very useful, for during the 
height of the dry season, the Move cannot get through the 
creek to supply the firm's Fernan Vaz factories. 

Subsequently I heard much of the Fallabar, which seems to 
have been a celebrated, or rather notorious, vessel. Every 
one declared her engines to have been of immense power, but 
this I believe to have been a mere local superstition ; because 
in the same breath, the man who referred to them, as if it 
would have been quite unnecessary for new engines to have 



vii SHIPS CLIMBING TREES 127 



been made for H.M.S. Victorious if those Fallabar engines could 
have been sent to Chatham dockyard, would mention that 
" you could not get any pace up on her ; " and all who knew 
her sadly owned " she wouldn't steer," so naturally she spent 
the greater part of her time on the Ogowe on a sand bank, or 
in the bush. All West African steamers have a mania for 
bush, and the delusion that they are required to climb trees. 
The Fallabar had the complaint severely, because of her 
defective steering powers, arid the temptation the magnificent 
forest, and the rapid currents, and the sharp turns of the creek 
district, offered her ; she failed, of course they all fail 
but it is not for want of practice. I have seen many West 
Coast vessels up trees, but never more than fifteen feet 
or so. 

The trade of this lower part of the Ogowe, from the mouth 
to Lembarene, a matter of 130 miles, is almost nil. Above 
Lembarene, you are in touch with the rubber and ivory 
trade. 

This Fallabar creek is noted for mosquitoes, and the black 
passengers made great and showy preparations in the evening 
time to receive their onslaught, by tying up their strong 
chintz mosquito bars to the stanchions and the cook-house. 
Their arrangements being constantly interrupted by the 
white engineer making alarums and excursions amongst them ; 
because when too many of them get on one side the Move 
takes a list and burns her boilers. Conversation and atmo- 
sphere aie full of mosquitoes. The decision of widely 
experienced sufferers amongst us is, that next to the lower 
Ogowe, New Orleans is the worst place for them in this 
world. 

The day closed with a magnificent dramatic beauty. 
Dead ahead of us, up through a bank of dun-coloured 
mist rose the moon, a great orb of crimson, spreading 
down the oil-like, still river, a streak of blood-red re- 
flection. Right astern, the sun sank down into the mist, a 
vaster orb of crimson, and when he had gone out of view, sent 
up flushes of amethyst, gold, carmine and serpent-green, 
before he left the moon in undisputed possession of the black 
purple sky. 



128 THE OGOWE CHAP. 

Forest and river were absolutely silent, but there was a 
pleasant chatter and laughter from the black crew and passen- 
gers away forward, that made the Move seem an island of life 
in a land of death. I retired into my cabin, so as to get under 
the mosquito curtains to write ; and one by one I heard my 
companions come into the saloon adjacent, and say to the 
watchman : " You sabe six o'clock ? When them long arm 
catch them place, and them short arm catch them place, you 
call me in the morning time." Exit from saloon silence 
then : " You sabe five o'clock ? When them long arm catch 
them place, and them short arm catch them place, you call me 
in the morning time." Exit silence then " You sabe half- 
past five o'clock ? When them long arm " Oh, if I were a 
watchman ! Anyhow, that five o'clocker will have the whole 
ship's company roused in the morning time. 

June Jth. Every one called in the morning time by the reflex 
row from the rousing of the five o'clocker. Glorious morning. 
The scene the reversal of that of last night. The forest to the 
east shows a deep blue-purple, mounted on a background that 
changes as you watch it from daffodil and amethyst to rose- 
pink, as the sun comes up through the night mists. The 
moon sinks down among them, her pale face flushing crimson 
as she goes ; and the yellow-gold sunshine comes, glorifying 
the forest and gilding the great sweep of tufted papyrus grow- 
ing alongside the bank ; and the mist vanishes, little white 
flecks of it lingering among the water reeds and lying in the 
dark shadows of the forest stems. The air is full of the long, 
soft, rich notes of the plaintive warblers, and the uproar conse- 
quent upon the Move taking on fuel wood, which comes along- 
side in canoe loads from the Fallabar. 

Pere Steinitz and Mr. Woods are busy preparing their 
respective canoes for their run to Fernan Vaz through the 
creek. Their canoes are very fine ones, with a remarkably 
clean run aft. The Pere's is quite the travelling canoe, with a 
little stage of bamboo aft, covered with a hood of palm thatch, 
under which you can make yourself quite comfortable, and 
keep yourself and your possessions dry, unless something des- 
perate comes on in the way of rain. 

By 10.25 we have got all our wood aboard, and run ofif up 



vii A FOREST OF FLOWERS 129 



river full speed. The river seems broader above the Fallabar, 
but this is mainly on account of its being temporarily unen- 
cumbered with islands. A good deal of the bank we have 
passed by since leaving Nazareth Bay on the south side has 
been island shore, with a channel between the islands and the 
true south bank. 

The day soon grew dull, and looked threatening, after the 
delusive manner of the dry season. The climbing plants are 
finer here than I have ever before seen them. They form 
great veils and curtains between and over the trees, often 
hanging so straight and flat, in stretches of twenty to forty 
feet or so wide, and thirty to sixty or seventy feet high, that 
it seems incredible that no human hand' has trained or clipped 
them into their perfect forms. Sometimes these curtains are 
decorated with large bell-shaped, bright-coloured flowers, some- 
times .with delicate sprays of white blossoms. This forest is 
beyond all my expectations of tropical luxuriance and beauty, 
and it is a thing of another world to the forest of the Upper 
Calabar, which, beautiful as it is, is a sad dowdy to this. 
There you certainly get a great sense of grimness and 
vastness ; here you have an equal grimness and vastness 
with the addition of superb colour. This forest is a Cleopatra 
to which Calabar is but a Quaker. Not only does this forest 
depend on flowers for its illumination, for there are many 
kinds of trees having their young shoots, crimson, brown- 
pink, and creamy yellow : added to this there is also 
the relieving aspect of the prevailing fashion among West 
African trees, of wearing the trunk white with here and there 
upon it splashes of pale pink lichen, and vermilion-red fungus, 
which alone is sufficient to prevent the great mass of vegeta- 
tion from being a monotony in green. 

All day long we steam past ever-varying scenes of loveliness 
whose component parts are ever the same, yet the effect ever 
different. Doubtless it is wrong to call it a symphony, yet I 
know no other word to describe the scenery of the Ogowe\ 
It is as full of life and beauty and passion as any symphony 
Beethoven ever wrote : the parts changing, interweaving, 
and returning. There are leit motifs here in it, too. See the 
papyrus ahead ; and you know when you get abreast of it you 

K 



130 



THE OGOWE CHAP. 



will find the great forest sweeping away in a bay-like curve 
behind it against .the dull gray sky, the splendid columns of 
its cotton and red woods looking like a facade of some limit- 
less inchoate temple. Then again there is that stretch of 
sword-grass, looking as if it grew firmly on to the bottom, so 
steady does it stand ; but as the Move goes by, her wash sets 
it undulating in waves across its broad acres of extent, show- 
ing it is only riding at anchor ; and you know after a grass 
patch you will soon see a red dwarf clay cliff, with a village 
perched on its top, and the inhabitants thereof in their blue 
and red cloths standing by to shout and wave to the Move, 
or legging it like lamp-lighters from the back streets and the 
plantation to the river frontage, to be in time to do so, and 
through all these changing phases there is always the strain of 
the vast wild forest, and the swift, deep, silent river. 

At almost every village that we pass and they are frequent 
after the Fallabar there is an ostentatious display of firewood 
deposited either on the bank, or on piles driven into the mud 
in front of it, mutely saying in their uncivilised way, " Try 
our noted chunks : best value for money "(that is to say, 
tobacco, &c.), to the Move or any other little steamer that may 
happen to come along hungry for fuel. 

Mr. Hudson is immersed in accounts all day. I stare at the 
forest, Mr. Huyghens at the engines. The captain is on top of 
the sun deck most of his time : but he and every one, save Mr. 
Hudson and Mr. Huyghens, about every twenty minutes go 
down into the afterhold. If Mr. Hudson were not on board, 
I'd go down too, just to see what in the world they have got 
down there. The Krumen on their return have pails of dirty 
water, which Mr. Hudson, kindly fearing it will give me the 
idea that the Move is leaking badly, explains that it comes 
out of something connected with the propeller conditioned by 
the state of the packing. The captain, with his arms full of 
tinned provisions. The engineer empty-handed but looking 
content. Rosa, Mr. Hudson's devoted servant, with the boots 
and boot-cleaning stuff. I wish to goodness I could go down ; 
maybe I should find hairpins and ammonia there, both of which 
I am bitterly in need of, particularly the ammonia, after those 
mosquitoes. 



THE SS. ECLAIREUR 131 






We stayed a few minutes this afternoon at Ashchyouka, where 
there came off to us in a canoe an enterprising young French- 
man who has planted and tended a coffee plantation in this 
out-of-the-way region, and which is now, I am glad to hear, 
just coming into bearing. After leaving Ashchyouka, high land 
showed to the N.E., and at 5.15, without evident cause to the 
uninitiated, the Move took to whistling like a liner. A few 
minutes later a factory shows up on the hilly north bank, 
which is Woermann's ; then just beyond and behind 
it we see the Government Post ; then Hatton and Cookson's 
factory, all in a line. Opposite Hatton and Cookson's 
there was a pretty little stern-wheel steamer nestling against 
the steep clay bank of Lembarene Island when we come 
in sight, but she instantly swept out from it in a perfect 
curve, which lay behind her marked in frosted silver on the 
water as she dropt down river. I hear now she was the 
Eclaireur, the stern-wheeler which runs up and down the 
Ogowe in connection with the Chargeurs Reunis Company, 
subsidised by the Government, and when the Move whistled, 
she was just completing taking on 3,000 billets of wood for 
fuel. She comes up from the Cape (Lopez) stoking half wood 
and half coal as far as Njole and back to Lembarene ; from 
Lembarene to the sea downwards she does on wood. In a 
few minutes we have taken her berth close to the bank, and 
tied up to a tree. The white engineer yells to the black engi- 
neer " Tom-Tom : Haul out some of them fire and open them 
drains one time," and the stokers, with hooks, pull out the 
glowing logs on to the iron deck in front of the furnace door, 
and throw water over them, and the Move sends a cloud of oil- 
laden steam against the bank, coming perilously near scalding 
some of her black admirers assembled there. I dare say she 
felt vicious because they had been admiring the Eclatreur. 

After a few minutes, I am escorted on to the broad verandah 
of Hatton and Cookson's factory, and I sit down under a 
lamp, prepared to contemplate, until dinner time, the wild 
beauty of the scene. This idea does not get carried out ; in 
the twinkling of an eye I am stung all round the neck, and 
recognise there are lots too many mosquitoes and sandflies in 
the scenery to permit of contemplation of any kind. Never 

K 2 



132 THE OGOWE CHAP. 



have I seen sandflies and mosquitoes in such appalling quan- 
tities. With a wild ping of joy the latter made for me, and I 
retired promptly into a dark corner of the verandah, swearing 
horribly, but internally, and fought them. Mr. Hudson, Agent- 
general, and Mr. Cockshut, Agent for the Ogowe, walk up and 
down the beach in front, doubtless talking cargo, apparently 
unconscious of mosquitoes ; but by and by, while we are 
having dinner, they get their share. I behave exquisitely, and 
am quite lost in admiration of my own conduct, and busily 
deciding in my own mind whether I shall wear one of those 
plain ring haloes, or a solid plate one, a la Cimabue, when 
Mr. Hudson says in a voice full of reproach to Mr. Cockshut, 
" You have got mosquitoes here, Mr. Cockshut." Poor Mr. 
Cockshut doesn't deny it ; he has got four on his forehead 
and his hands are sprinkled with them, but he says : " There 
are none at Njole," which we all feel is an absurdly lame 
excuse, for Njole is some ninety miles above Lembarene, 
where we now are. Mr. Hudson says this to him, tersely, and 
feeling he has utterly crushed Mr. Cockshut, turns on me, and 
utterly failing to recognise me as a suffering saint, says point 
blank and savagely, " You don't seem to feel these things, Miss 
Kingsley." Not feel them, indeed ! Why, I could cry over 
them. Well ! that's all the thanks one gets for trying not to be 
a nuisance in this world. 

After dinner I go back on to the Move for the night, for it 
is too late to go round to Kangwe and ask Mme. Jacot, of the 
Mission Evangelique, if she will take me in. The air is stiff 
with mosquitoes, and saying a few suitable w r ords to them, I 
dash under the mosquito bar and sleep, lulled by their shrill 
yells of baffled rage. 

June %th. In the morning, up at five. Great activity on 
beach. Move synchronously taking on wood fuel and dis- 
charging cargo. A very active young French pastor from 
the Kangwe mission station is round after the mission's cargo. 
Mr. Hudson kindly makes inquiries as to whether I may go 
round to Kangwe and stay with Mme. Jacot. He says : " Oh, 
yes," but as I find he is not M. Jacot, I do not feel justified in 
accepting this statement without its having personal confirma- 
tion from Mme. Jacot, and so, leaving my luggage with the 



vii FIRST STAY IN KANGWE 133 

Move, I get them to allow me to go round with him and his 
cargo to Kangwe, about three-quarters of an hour's paddle 
round the upper part of Lembarene Island, and down the 
broad channel on the other side of it. Kangwe is beautifully 
situated on a hill, as its name denotes, on the mainland and north 
bank of the river. Mme. Jacot most kindly says I may come, 
though I know I shall be a fearful nuisance, for there is no 
room for me save M. Jacot's beautifully neat, clean, tidy study. 
I go back in the canoe and fetch my luggage from the Move, 
and say good-bye to Mr. Hudson, who gave me an immense 
amount of valuable advice about things, which was subsequently 
of great use to me, and a lot of equally good warnings which, 
if I had attended to, would have enabled me to avoid many, 
if not all, my misadventures in Congo Frangais. 

I camped out that night in M. Jacot's study, wondering 
how he would like it when he came home and found me there ; 
for he was now away on one of his usual evangelising tours. 
Providentially Mme. Jacot let me have the room that the girls 
belonging to the mission school usually slept in, to my great 
relief, before M. Jacot came home. 

I will not weary you with my diary during my first stay 
at Kangwe. It is a catalogue of the collection of fish, &c., 
that I made, and a record of the continuous, never-failing 
kindness and help that I received from M. and Mme. Jacot, 
and of my attempts to learn from them the peculiarities of 
the region, the natives, and their language and customs, which 
they both know so well and manage so admirably. I daily 
saw there what it is possible to do, even in the wildest 
and most remote regions of West Africa, and recognised that 
there is still one heroic form of human being whose praise has 
never adequately been sung, namely, the missionary's wife. With 
all the drawbacks and difficulties of the enervating climate, and 
the lack of trained domestic help, and with the addition of 
two small children of her own, Edmond the sententious, aged 
five, and Roger the great, aged eighteen months, and busy 
teething with phenomenal rapidity and vigour, and a tribe of 
school children of the Fan and Igalwa tribes, Mme. Jacot 
had that mission house as clean and tidy, and well ordered as 
if it were in Paris. 



134 THE OGOWE CHAP. 

One of the main comforts I had at Kangwe was the perfect 
English spoken by both M. and Mme. Jacot ; what that 
amounted to I alone know, for I cannot speak a word of 
French, neither could I give you dates until I left Kangwe on 
the Eclaireur, for it is one of my disastrous habits well known 
to my friends on the Coast that whenever I am happy, comfort- 
able and content, I lose all knowledge of the date, the time of 
day, and my hairpins. " It's the climate." But I kept my 
fetish notes, except during two days when my right elbow 
was out of repair in consequence of my first visit to a Fan x 
fireside. It happened this way. Down on the river bank, 
some one-and-a-half miles below Kangwe, lies Fula, a large 
Fan village. Through Fula that ill-starred day I passed 
with all the eclat of Wombwell's menagerie. Having been 
escorted by half the population for a half mile or so beyond 
the town, and being then nervous about Fans, from informa- 
tion received, I decided to return to Kangwe by another road, 
if I could find it. I had not gone far on my quest before I 
saw another village, and having had enough village work for 
one day, I made my way quietly up into the forest on the steep 
hillside overhangin'g the said village. There was no sort of 
path up there, and going through a clump of shenja, I slipped, 
slid, and finally fell plump through the roof of an unprotected 
hut. What the unfortunate inhabitants were doing, I don't 
know, but I am pretty sure they were not expecting me to 
drop in, and a scene of great confusion occurred. My know- 
ledge of Fan dialect then consisted of Kor-kor, so I said 
that in as fascinating a tone as I could, and explained 
the rest with three pocket handkerchiefs, a head of tobacco, 
and a knife which providentially I had stowed in w r hat 
my nautical friends would call my afterhold my pockets. 
I also said I'd pay for the damage, and although this 
important communication had to be made in trade English, 
they seemed to understand, for when I pointed to the roof 
and imitated writing out a book for it, the master of the house 

1 The proper way to spell this tribe's name is Faung, but as they are 
called by the first writer on them, Du Chaillu, Fans, I keep that name. 
They are also referred to as the M'pangwe, the Pahouines, the Fam-Fam, 
the Osheba, and the Ba-fann. The latter is a plural form. 



TAKE PASSAGE ON THE ECLAIREUR 



135 



said " Um," and then laid hold of an old lady and pointed to her 
and then to the roof, meaning clearly I had equally damaged 
both, and that she was equally valuable. I squared the family 
all right, and I returned to Kangwe via Fula, without delay 
and without the skin on my elbow. Wishing to get higher 
up the Ogowe, I took the opportunity of the river boat of 
the Chargeurs Reunis going up to the Njole on one of her 
trips, and joined her. 




VIEW OF ONE BRANCH OF THE OGOWE FROM KANGWE. 



June 2.2nd. Eclair eur^ charming little stern wheel steamer, 
exquisitely kept. She has an upper and a lower deck. The 
lower deck for business, the upper deck for white passengers 
only. On the upper deck there is a fine long deck house, 
running almost her whole length. In this are the officers' cabins, 
the saloon and the passengers' cabins (two), both large and 
beautifully fitted up. Captain Verdier exceedingly pleasant 
and constantly saying " N'est-ce pas ? " A quiet and singularly 
clean engineer completes the white staff. The passengers 
consist of Mr. Cockshut, going up river to see after the 



136 THE OGOWE CHAP. 

sub-factories ; a French official bound for Franceville, which 
it will take him thirty-six days, go as quick as he can, 
in a canoe after Njole ; a tremendously lively person 
who has had black water fever four times, while away 
in the bush with nothing to live on but manioc, a diet 
it would be far easier to die on under the circumstances. 
He is excellent company ; though I do not know a word he 
says, he is perpetually giving lively and dramatic descriptions 

of things which I cannot but recognise. M. S , with his 

pince-nez, the Doctor, and, above all, the rapids of the Ogowe, 
rolling his hands round and round each other and dashing 
them forward with a descriptive ejaculation of " Whish, flash, 
bum, bum, bump," and then comes what evidently represents 
a terrific fight for life against terrific odds. Wish to goodness 
I knew French, for wishing to see these rapids, I cannot help 
feeling anxious and worried at not fully understanding this 
dramatic entertainment regarding them. There is another 
passenger said to be the engineer's brother, a quiet, gentle- 
manly man. Captain argues violently with every one ; with 
Mr. Cockshut on the subject of the wicked waste of money 
in keeping the Move and not shipping all goods by the 
Eclaireur, " n'est-ce pas ? " and with the French official on good- 
ness knows what, but I fancy it will be pistols for two and coffee 
for one in the morning time. When the captain feels himself 
being worsted in argument, he shouts for support to the 
engineer and his brother. " N'est-ce pas ? " he says, turning 
furiously to them. " Oui, oui, certainement," they say dutifully 
and calmly, and then he, refreshed by their support, dashes 
back to his controversial fray. He even tries to get up a row 
with me on the subject of the English merchants at Calabar, 
whom he asserts have sworn a kind of blood oath to ship by 
none but British African Company's steamers. I cannot 
stand this, for I know my esteemed and honoured friends the 
Calabar traders would ship by the Flying Dutchman or the 
devil himself if either of them would take the stuff at 15^. 
the ton. We have, however, to leave off this row for want of 
language, to our mutual regret, for it would have been a love 
of a fight. 

Soon after leaving Lembarene Island, we pass the 



vii THE BITER BIT 137 



mouth of the chief southern affluent of the Ogowe, 
the Ngunie ; it flows in unostentatiously from the E.S.E., 
a broad, quiet river here with low banks and two 
islands (Walker's islands) showing just off its entrance. 
Higher up, it flows through a mountainous country, and at 
Samba, its furthest navigable point, there is a wonderfully 
beautiful waterfall, the whole river coming down over a low cliff, 
surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains. It takes the 
Eclaireur two days steaming from the mouth of the Ngunie to 
Samba, when she can get up ; but now, in the height of the 
long dry season neither she nor the Move 'can go because of the 
sand banks ; so Samba is cut off until next October. Hatton 
and Cookson have factories up at Samba, for it is an outlet 
for the trade of Achango land in rubber and ivory, a trade 
worked by the Akele tribe, a powerful, savage and difficult 
lot to deal with, and just in the same condition, as far as I 
can learn, as they were when Du Chaillu made his wonderful 
journeys among them. While I was at Lembarene, waiting 
for the Eclaireur ; a notorious chief descended on a Ngunie 
sub-factory, and looted it. The wife of the black trading agent 
made a gallant resistance, her husband was away on a trading 
expedition, but the chief had her seized and beaten, and 
thrown into the river. An appeal was made to the Doctor, then 
Administrator of the Ogowe, a powerful and helpful official, 
and he soon came up with the little cannonier, taking Mr. 
Cockshut with him to vindicate the honour of the French 
flag, under which all factories here are. They, having got to 
the scene of action, sent a message to the chief to come down 
and talk the palaver. The chief being a natural-born idiot, 
came with two of his head men and some retainers. Only he 
and the head men were allowed into the room, and three or 
four Senegalese soldiers held the door, while the threewhite men, 
the Doctor, the captain of the cannonier and Mr. Cockshut took 
a black man apiece, and after a fine fight, threw them and 
bound them. The injured lady was then admitted, and given 
a Kasanguru With which she returned thanks personally to the 
chief with all her might, accompanying her operations with 
verbal commentary on the way he had behaved to her, as any 
lady would. The chief and his two head men were then 



138 THE OGOWE CHAP. 



taken up to Njole, where they are at present engaged in the 
healthy and invigorating pursuit of navvying a stiff clay bank 
in the interest of the government. 

The Samba natives are in no hurry for that job to be com- 
pleted. They are quite tired of that chief themselves, and 
would have had to poison him off on their own account had 
not the Doctor intervened. In fact, every one is satisfied 
except the chief and the two head men, who have not acquired 
a taste for manual labour yet. 

The banks of the Ogowe just above Lembarene Island are 
low ; with the forest only broken by village clearings and 
seeming to press in on those, ready to absorb them should the 
inhabitants cease their war against it. The blue mountains 
of Achango land show away to the E.S.E. in a range. 
Behind us, gradually sinking in the distance, is the high land 
on Lembarene Island. 

Soon we run up alongside a big street of a village with 
four high houses rising a story above the rest, which are 
strictly ground floor ; it has also five or six little low open 
thatched huts along the street in front. 1 These may be fetish 
huts, or, as the captain of the Sparrow would say, " again 
they mayn't." For I have seen similar huts in the villages 
round Libreville, which were store places for roof mats, 
of which the natives carefully keep a store dry and ready for 
emergencies in the way of tornadoes, or to sell. We stop 
abreast of this village. Inhabitants in scores rush out and 
form an excited row along the vertical bank edge, several of 
the more excited individuals falling over it into the water. 

Yells from our passengers on the lower deck. Yells from in- 
habitants on shore. Yells of vite, vite from the Captain. 
Dogs bark, horns bray, some exhilarated individual thumps 
the village drum, canoes fly out from the bank towards us. 
Fearful scrimmage heard going on all the time on the deck- 
below. As soon as the canoes are alongside, our passengers 
from the lower deck, with their bundles and their dogs, pour 

1 The villages of the Fans and Bakele are built in the form of a street. 
When in the forest there are two lines of huts, the one facing the other, 
and each end closed by a guard house. When facing a river there is one 
line of huts facing the river frontage. 



vii A FAREWELL SALUTE 139 



over the side into them. Canoes rock wildly and wobble off 
rapidly towards the bank, frightening the passengers because 
they have got their best clothes on, and fear that the 
Eclaireur will start and upset them altogether with her 
wash. 

On reaching the bank, the new arrivals disappear into brown ' 
clouds of wives and relations, and the dogs into fighting 
clusters of resident dogs. Happy, happy day ! For those men 
who have gone ashore have been away on hire to the govern- 
ment and factories for a year, and are safe home in the bosoms 
of their families again, and not only they themselves, but all the 
goods they have got in pay. The remaining passengers below 
still yell to their departed friends ; I know not what they say, 
but I expect it's the Fan equivalent for " Mind you write. 
Take care of yourself. Yes, I'll come and see you soon," &c., 
&c. While all this is going on, the Eclaireur quietly slides 
down river, with the current, broadside on as if she smelt her 
stable at Lembarene. This I find is her constant habit when- 
ever the captain, the engineer, and the man at the wheel are 
all busy in a row along the rail, shouting overside, which 
occurs whenever we have passengers to land. Her iniquity 
being detected when the last canoe load has left for the shore, 
she is spun round and sent up river again at full speed. Just 
as this is being done, the inhabitants of the country salute the 
captain with a complimentary salVo of guns. I am quietly 
leaning against the side of his cabin door at the time, when 
bang comes his answering salute from out of it, within three- 
and-a-half inches of my right ear. Sensation of stun for 
minutes. Captain apologetic ; he " did not know I was there." 
I am apologetic too ; I did know he was there, " but I did 
not know he was going to fire off his gun ? " " He is forgiven." 
u N'est-ce pas ? " " Oui, oui, certainement," say I, quoting the 
engineer. Peace restored. 

We go on up stream ; now and again stopping at little villages 
to land passengers or at little sub-factories to discharge cargo, 
until evening closes in, when we anchor and tie up at 
O'Saomokita, where there is a sub-factory of Messrs. Woer- 
mann's, in charge of which is a white man, the only white man 
between Lembarene and Njole. He comes on board and looks 



140 



THE OGOWE CHAP. 



only a boy, but is really aged twenty. He is a Frenchman, and 
was at Hatton and Cookson's first, then he joined Woermann's, 
who have put him in charge of this place. The isolation for 
a white man must be terrible ; sometimes two months will go 
by without his seeing another white face but that in his look- 
ing-glass, and when he does see another, it is only by a fleeting 
visit such as we now pay him, and to make the most of this, he 
stays on board to dinner. While waiting for dinner that 
night, as I am sitting at the saloon table, I see an apparition 
on the settee opposite. Is it fever coming on ? Or does it 
arise from having got some brain cells permanently shaken 
out of their place by that gun shock this afternoon ? I don't 
mention it to my fellow passengers, who I notice do not seem 
to see it, for fear of exciting their derision, but watch it 
furtively during dinner. It does not move nor multiply itself, 
nor has it any phosphorescent halo. Good signs, all these, but 
still it cannot be a black silk chimney-pot hat. After all, it 
was, and it belongs to the captain. How or why or when he 
got it, I do not know neither do I exactly know what he and 
the passengers do with it, now I have gone to my cabin, which 
is next to the saloon. That the French official is the leading 
spirit in proceedings I am quite sure, for I know his voice 
wherein he is now singing tunes I have heard at the Jacots' as 
hymn tunes. I am convinced of this, however, that they are not 
hymn tunes now, because you don't dance a species of High- 
land fling, which from the vibrations communicated to me I 
know is being danced, to hymns ; neither do you greet them 
with shouts of laughter. I wish no, of course I don't, for it 
comes neither under the head of fetish, nor fishes, and 
moreover in the intervals, filled with violent conversation, I 
hear the French official, I am perfectly sure, trying to convince 
the others that I am an English officer in disguise on the spy ; 
which makes me feel embarrassed, and anything but flattered. 
Wish to goodness I knew French, or how to flirt with that 
French official so as to dispel the illusion. 

June 2$rd. Start off steaming up river early in the 
morning time. Land ahead showing mountainous. Rather 
suddenly the banks grow higher. Here and there in the 
forest are patches which look like regular hand-made plant- 



UMBRELLA TREES 141 



ations, which they are not, but only patches of engombie-gombie 
trees, showing that at this place was once a native town. 
Whenever land is clear along here, this tree springs up all over 
the ground. It grows very rapidly, and has great leaves some- 
thing like a sycamore leaf, only much larger. These leaves 
growing in a cluster at the top of the straight stem give an 
umbrella-like appearance to the affair ; so the natives call them 
and an umbrella by the same name, but whether they think 
the umbrella is like the tree or the tree is like the umbrella, I 
can't make out. I am always getting myself mixed over 
this kind of thing in my attempts " to contemplate 
phenomena from a scientific standpoint," as Cambridge 
ordered me to do. I'll give the habit up. " You can't do 
that sort of thing out here It's the climate," and I will 
content myself with stating the fact, that when a native 
comes ^ into a store and wants an umbrella, he asks for an 
engombie-gombie. 

The uniformity of the height of the individual trees in one 
of these patches is striking, and it arises from their all starting 
fair. I cannot make out other things about them to my 
satisfaction, for you very rarely see one of them in the wild 
bush, and then it does not bear a fruit that the natives collect 
and use, and then chuck away the stones round their domicile. 
Anyhow, there they are, all one height, and all one colour, and 
apparently allowing no other vegetation to make any headway 
among them. But I found when I carefully investigated 
engombie-gombie patches that there were a few of the great, 
slower-growing forest trees coming up amongst them, and in 
time when these attain a sufficient height, their shade kills off 
the engombie-gombie, and the patch goes back into the great 
forest from which it came. The frequency of these patches 
arises from the nomadic habits of the chief tribe in these 
regions, the Fans. They rarely occupy one site for a 
village for any considerable time on account firstly, of their 
wasteful method of collecting rubber by cutting down the vine, 
which soon stamps it out of a district ; and, secondly, from 
their quarrelsome ways. So when a village of Fans has 
cleared all the rubber out of its district, or has made the said 
district too hot to hold it by rows with other villages, or has 



142 THE OGOWE CHAP. 



got itself very properly shelled out and burnt for some attack 
on traders or the French flag in any form, its inhabitants clear off 
into another district, and build another village ; for bark and 
palm thatch are cheap, and house removing just nothing ; when 
you are an unsophisticated cannibal Fan you don't require a 
pantechnicon van to stow away your one or two mushroom- 
shaped stools, knives, and cooking-pots, and a calabash or so. 
If you are rich, maybe you will have a box with clothes in as 
well, but as a general rule all your clothes are on your back. 
So your wives just pick up the stools and the knives and the 
cooking-pots, and the box, and the children toddle off with 
the calabashes. You have, of course, the gun to carry, for 
sleeping or waking a Fan never parts with his gun, and 
so tHere you are " finish," as M. Pichault would say, and 
before your new bark house is up, there grows the engombie- 
gombie, where your house once stood. Now and again, 
for lack of immediate neighbouring villages to quarrel 
with, one end of a village will quarrel with the other 
end. The weaker end then goes off and builds itself another 
village, keeping an eye lifting for any member of the stronger 
end who may come conveniently into its neighbourhood to be 
killed and eaten. Meanwhile, the engombie-gombie grows over 
the houses of the empty end, pretending it's a plantation belong- 
ing to the remaining half. I once heard a new-comer hold forth 
eloquently as to how those Fans were maligned. " They say," 
said he, with a fine wave of his arm towards such a patch, 
" that these people do not till the soil that they are not 
industrious that the few plantations they do make are ill-kept 
that they are only a set of wandering hunters and cannibals. 
Look there at those magnificent plantations ! " I did look, 
but I did not alter my opinion of the Fans, for I know my old 
friend engombie-gombie when I see him. 

This morning the French official seems sad and melancholy. 
I fancy he has 'got a Monday head (Kipling), but he revives as 
the day goes on. As we go on, the banks become hills and 
the broad river, which has been showing sheets of sandbanks 
in all directions, now narrows and shows only neat little 
beaches of white sand in shallow places along the bank. The 
current is terrific. The fcclaireur breathes hard, and has all 



vi r ARRIVE AT NJOLE 143 



she can do to fight her way up against it. Masses of black 
weathered rock in great boulders show along the exposed parts 
of both banks, left dry by the falling waters. Each bank is 
steep, and quantities of great trees, naked and bare, are hang- 
ing down from them, held by their roots and bush-rope 
entanglement from being swept away with the rushing current, 
and they make a great white fringe to the banks. The hills 
become higher and higher, and more and more abrupt, and the 
river runs between them in a gloomy ravine, winding to and 
fro ; we catch sight of a patch of white sand ahead, which I 
mistake for a white painted house, but immediately after 
doubling round a bend we see the houses of the Talagouga 
Mission Station. The 6claireur forthwith has an hysteric fit 
on her whistle, so as to frighten M. Forget and get him to dash 
off in his canoe to her at once. Apparently he knows her, and 
does not hurry, but comes on board quietly. I find there 
will be no place for me to stay at at Njole, so I decide 
to go on in the Eclaireur and use her as an hotel while there, 
and then return and stay with Mme. Forget if she will have me. 
I consult M. Forget on this point. He says, " Oh, yes," but 
seems to have lost something of great value recently, and not 
to be quite clear where. Only manner, I suppose. When M. 
Forget has got his mails he goes, and the Eclaireur goes on ; 
indeed, she has never really stopped, for the water is too deep 
to anchor in here, and the terrific current would promptly 
whisk the steamer down out of Talagouga gorge were she to 
leave off fighting it. We run on up past Talagouga Island, 
where the river broadens out again a little, but not much, and 
reach Njole by nightfall, and tie up to a tree by Dumas 
factory beach. Usual uproar, but as Mr. Cockshut says, 
no mosquitoes. The mosquito belt ends abruptly at 
O' Soamokita. 

June 24th. Mr. Cockshut, who went ashore last night, 
kindly comes on board and asks me if I will go ashore 
to his sub-factory. Say yes, and go, but when ashore 
decide not to embarrass Hatton and Cookson's : domestic 
economy by going into the factory. Besides, I see . before 
me to the left a real road, the first road I have seen 
for months. I tell Mr. Cockshut I will go for a walk ; he seems 



144 



THE OGOWE 



CHAP' 



relieved, and I start off down the road alone. Lovely road, 
bright yellow clay, as hard as paving stone. On each side it 
is most neatly hedged with pine-apples ; behind these, carefully 
tended, acres of coffee bushes planted in long rows. Certainly 
coffee is one of the most lovely of crops. Its grandly shaped 
leaves are like those of our medlar tree, only darker and richer 
green, the berries set close to the stem, those that are ripe, a 




CAFFEA LIBERICA LIBERIAX COFFEE. 



rich crimson ; these trees, I think, are about three years old, 
and just coming into bearing ; for they are covered with full- 
sized berries, and there has been a flush of bloom on them this 
morning, and the delicious fragrance of their stephanotis-shaped 
and scented flowers lingers in the air. The country spreads 
before me a lovely valley encompassed by purple-blue moun- 
tains. Mount Talagouga looks splendid in a soft, infinitely 
deep blue, although it is quite close, just the other side of the 



vii A JARDIN D'ACCLIMATATION 145 



river. The road goes on into the valley, as pleasantly as 
ever and more so. How pleasant it would be now, if 
our government along the Coast had the enterprise 
and public spirit of the French, and made such roads 
just on the remote chance of stray travellers dropping 
in on a steamer once in ten years or so and wanting a 
walk. Observe extremely neatly Igalwa built huts, people 
sitting on the bright clean ground outside them, making mats 
and baskets. " Mboloani," say I. " Ai Mbolo," say they, and 
knock off work to stare. Observe large wired-in enclosures 
on left-hand side of road investigate find they are tenanted by 
animals goats, sheep, chickens, &c. Clearly this is a jardin 
d acclimatation. No wonder the colony does not pay, if it 
goes in for this sort of thing, 206 miles inland, with simply no 
public to pay gate-money. While contemplating these things, 
hear awful hiss. Serpents ! No, geese. Awful fight. Grand 
things, good, old-fashioned, long skirts are for Africa ! Get 
through geese and advance in good order, but somewhat 
rapidly down road, turn sharply round corner of native 
houses. Turkey cock terrific turn up. Flight on my part 
forwards down road, \vhich is still going strong, now in a 
northerly direction, apparently indefinitely. Hope to good- 
ness there will be a turning that I can go down and get back 
by, without returning through this ferocious farmyard. Intent 
on picking up such an outlet, I go thirty yards or so down the 
road. Hear shouts coming from a clump of bananas on my 
left. Know they are directed at me, but it does not do 
to attend to shouts always. Expect it is only some native 
with an awful knowledge of English, anxious to get up my 
family history therefore accelerate pace. More shouts, and 
louder, of " Madame Gacon ! Madame Gacon ! " and out of 
the banana clump comes a big, plump, pleasant-looking gen- 
tleman, clad in a singlet and a divided skirt. White people 
must be attended to, so advance carefully towards him through 
a plantation of young coffee, apologising humbly for intruding 
on his domain. He smiles and bows beautifully, but horror ! 
he knows no English, I no French. Situation tres inexplic- 
able et tres inter essante, as I subsequently heard him remark ; 
and the worst of it is he is evidently bursting to know who I 

L 



i 4 6 THE OGOWE CHAP. 



am, and what I am doing in the middle of his coffee plantation, 
for his it clearly is, as appears from his obsequious body-guard 
of blacks, highly interested in me also. We gaze at each other, 
and smile some more, but stiffly, and he stands bareheaded in 
the sun in an awful way. It's murder I'm committing, hard 
all ! He, as is fitting for his superior sex, displays intelli- 
gence first and says, " Interpreter," waving his hand to the 
south. I say " Yes," in my best Fan, an enthusiastic, intel- 
ligent grunt which any one must understand. He leads the 
way back towards those geese perhaps, by the by, that is why 
he wears those divided skirts and we enter a beautifully neatly 
built bamboo house, and sit down opposite to each other at a 
table and wait for the interpreter who is being fetched. The 
house is low on the ground and of native construction, but most 
beautifully kept, and arranged with an air of artistic feeling 
quite as unexpected as the rest of my surroundings. I notice 
upon the walls sets of pictures of terrific incidents in Algerian 
campaigns, and a copy of that superb head of M. de Brazza in 
Arab headgear. Soon the black minions who have been sent to 
find one of the plantation hands who is supposed to know Fren c 
and English, return with the " interpreter." That young man 
is a fraud. He does not know English not even coast English 
and all he has got under his precious wool is an abysmal 
ignorance darkened by terror ; and so, after one or two futile 
attempts and some frantic scratching at both those regions 
which an African seems to regard as the seats of intellectual 
inspiration, he bolts out of the door. Situation terrible! 
My host and I smile wildly at each other, and both wonder in 
our respective languages what, in the words of Mr. Squeers as 
mentioned in the classics we " shall do in this 'ere most awful 
go." We are both going mad with the strain of the situation, 
when in walks the engineer's brother from the Eclaireur. He 
seems intensely surprised to -find me sitting in his friend the 
planter's parlour after my grim and retiring conduct on the 
Eclaireur on my voyage up. But the planter tells him all, 
sousing him in torrents of words, full of the violence of an 
outbreak of pent-up emotion. I do not understand what he 
says, but I catch " tres inexplicable" and things like that. 
The calm brother of the engineer sits down at the table, and I 






vii A MODEL PLANTATION 147 



am sure tells the planter something like this : " Calm yourself, 
my friend, we picked up this curiosity at Lembarene. It seems 
quite harmless." And then the planter calmed, and mopped a 
perspiring brow, and so did I, and we smiled more freely, feel- 
ing the mental atmosphere had become less tense and cooler. 
We both simply beamed on our deliverer, and the planter 
gave him lots of things to drink. I had nothing about me 
except a head of tobacco in my pocket, which I did not feel 
was a suitable offering. Now the engineer's brother, although 
he would not own to it, knew English, so I told him how the 
beauty of the road had lured me on, and how I was interested 
in coffee-planting, and how much I admired the magnifi- 
cence of this plantation, and all the enterprise and energy it 
represented. 

" Oui, out, certainement" said he, and translated. My 
friend the planter seemed charmed ; it was the first sign 
of anything approaching reason he had seen in me. He 
wanted me to have eau sucree more kindly than ever, and when 
I rose, intending to bow myself off and go, geese or no geese, 
back to the Eclaireur, he would not let me go. I must see the 
plantation, toute la plantation. So presently all three of us 
go out and thoroughly do the plantation, the most well- 
ordered, well-cultivated plantation I have ever seen, and a 
very noble monument to the knowledge and industry of the 
planter. For two hot hours these two perfect gentlemen 
showed me over it. I also behaved well, for petticoats, great 
as they are, do not prevent insects and catawumpuses 
of sorts walking up one's ankles and feeding on one as one 
stands on the long grass which has been most wisely cut and 
laid round the young trees for mulching. This plantation is 
of great extent on the hill-sides and in the valley bottom, 
portions of it are just coming into bearing. The whole is 
kept as perfectly as a garden, amazing as the work of one 
white man with only a staff of unskilled native labourers at 
present only eighty of them. The coffee planted is of three 
kinds, the Elephant berry, the Arabian, and the San Thome. 
During our inspection, we only had one serious misunder- 
standing, which arose from my seeing for the first time in my 
life tree-ferns growing in the Ogowe. There were three of them, 

L 2 






148 THE OGOWE CHAP. 



evidently carefully taken care of, among some coffee plants. 
It was highly exciting, and I tried to find out about them. It 
seemed, even in this centre of enterprise, unlikely that they 
had been brought just " for dandy " from the Australasian 
region, and I had never yet come across them in my wanderings 
save on Fernando Po. Unfortunately, my friends thought I 
wanted them to keep, and shouted for men to bring things and 
dig them up ; so I had a brisk little engagement with the men, 
driving them from their prey with the point of my umbrella, 
ejaculating Kor Kor, like an agitated crow. When at last 
they understood that my interest in the ferns was scientific, not 
piratical, they called the men off and explained that the ferns 
had been found among the bush, when it was being cleared for 
the plantation. 

Ultimately, with many bows and most sincere thanks from 
me, we parted, providentially beyond the geese, and I returned 
down the road to Njole, where I find Mr. Cackshut waiting 
outside his factory. He insists on taking me to the Post to 
see the Administrator, and from there he says I can go on to 
the PLclaireur from the Post beach, as she will be up there from 
Dumas'. Off we go up the road which skirts the river bank, a 
dwarf clay cliff, overgrown with vegetation, save where it is 
cleared for beaches. The road is short, but exceedingly 
pretty ; on the other side from the river is a steep bank on 
which is growing a plantation of cacao. Lying out in the 
centre of the river you see Njole Island, a low, sandy one, 
timbered not only with bush, but with orange and otlier fruit 
trees ; for formerly the Post and factories used to be situated 
on the island now only their trees remain for various reasons, 
one being that in the wet season it is a good deal under water. 
Everything is now situated on the mainland north bank, in a 
straggling but picturesque line ; first comes Woermann's factory, 
then Hatton and Cookson's, and John Holt's, close together 
with a beach in common, in a sweetly amicable style for 
factories, who as a rule firmly stockade themselves off from 
their next door neighbours. Then Dumas' beach, a little 
native village, the cacao patch and the Post at the up river 
end of things European, an end of things European, I am 
told, for a matter of 500 miles. Immediately beyond the 



vii THE FRENCH ADMINISTRATOR 149 



Post is a little river falling into the Ogowe, and on its further 
bank a small village belonging to a chief, who, hearing of the 
glories of the Government, came down like the Queen of 
Sheba in intention, I mean, not personal appearance to see 
it, and so charmed has he been that here he stays to gaze 
on it. 

Although Mr. Cockshut hunted the Administrator of the 
Ogowe out of his bath, that gentleman is exceedingly 
amiable and charming, all the more so to me for speaking 
good English. Personally, he is big, handsome, exuberant, 
and energetic. He shows me round with a gracious enthu- 
siasm, all manner of things big gorilla teeth and heads, 
native spears and brass-nail-ornamented guns ; and explains, 
while we are in his study, that the little model canoe full of 
Kola nuts is the supply of Kola to enable him to sit up 
all night and work. Then he takes us outside to see the new 
hospital which he, in his capacity as Administrator, during the 
absence of the professional Administrator on leave in France, 
has granted to himself in his capacity as Doctor ; and he shows 
us the captive chief and headman from Samba busily quarrying 
a clay cliff behind it so as to enlarge the governmental 
plateau, and the ex-ministers of the ex-King of Dahomey, who 
are deported toNjole,and apparently comfortable and employed 
in various non-menial occupations. Then we go down the 
little avenue of cacao trees in full bearing, and away to the 
left to where there is now an encampment of Adoomas, who 
have come down as a convoy from Franceville, and are going 
back with another under the command of our vivacious fellow 
passenger, who, I grieve to see, will have a rough time of it in 
the way of accommodation in those narrow, shallow canoes 
which are lying with their noses tied to the bank, and no 
other white man to talk to. What a blessing he will be con- 
versationally to Franceville when he gets in. The Adooma 
encampment is very picturesque, for they have got their bright- 
coloured chintz mosquito-bars erected as tents. 

Dr. Pelessier then insists on banging down monkey 
bread-fruit with a stick, to show me their inside. Of course 
they burst over his beautiful white clothes. I said they would, 
but men will be men. Then we go and stand under the two 



i5o THE OGOWE CHAP. 



lovely odeaka trees that make a triumphal-arch-like gateway 
to the Post's beach from the river, and the doctor discourses in 
a most interesting way on all sorts of subjects. We go on wait- 
ing for the Eclaireur, who, although it is past four o'clock, is still 
down at Dumas' beach. I feel nearly frantic at detaining the 
Doctor, but neither he nor Mr. Cockshut seem in the least hurry. 
But at last I can stand it no longer. The vision of the Adminis- 
trator of the Ogowe, worn out, but chewing Kola nut to keep 
himself awake all night while he finishes his papers to go down 
on the Eclaireur to-morrow morning, is too painful ; so I say I 
will walk back to Dumas' and go on the Eclaireur there, and 
try to liberate the Administrator from his present engage- 
ments, so that he may go back and work. No good ! He 
will come down to Dumas' with Mr. Cockshut and me. Off 
we go, and just exactly as we are getting on to Dumas' 
beach, off starts the Eclaireur with a shriek for the Post beach. 
So I say good-bye to Mr. Cockshut, and go back to the Post 
\vith Dr. Pelessier, and he sees me on board, and to my 
immense relief he stays on board a good hour and a half, 
talking to other people, so it is not on my head if he is up all 
night. 

June 2^th. Eclaireur has to wait for the Administrator until 
ten, because he has not done his mails. At ten he comes on 
board like an amiable tornado, for he himself is going to 
Cape Lopez. I am grieved to see them carrying on board, 
too, a French official very ill with fever. He is the engineer 
of the cannonier, and they are taking him down to Cape 
Lopez, where they hope to get a ship to take him up to 
Gaboon, and to the hospital on the Minervc. I heard sub- 
sequently that the poor fellow died about forty hours after 
leaving Njole at Achyouka in Kama country. 

We get away at last, and run rapidly down river, helped by 
the terrific current. The Eclaireur has to call at Talagouga 
for planks from M. Gacon's sawmill. As soon as we are 
past the tail of Talagouga Island, the Eclaireur ties her whistle 
string to a stanchion, and goes off into a series of screaming 
fits, as only she can. W T hat she wants is to get M. Forget or 
M. Gacon, or better still both, out in their canoes with the wood 
waiting for her, because " she cannot anchor in the depth," 



THE ECLAIREUR IN A TEMPER 151 



" nor can she turn round," and " backing plays the mischief 
with any ship's engines," and " she can't hold her own against 
the current," and then Captain Verdier says things I won't 
repeat, and throws his weight passionately on the whistle 
string, for we are in sight of the narrow gorge of Talagouga, 
with the Mission Station apparently slumbering in the sun. 
This puts the Eclaireur in an awful temper. She goes down 
towards it as near as she dare, and then frisks round again, 
and runs up river a little way and drops down again, in 
violent hysterics the whole time. Soon M. Gacon comes 
along among the trees on the bank, and laughs at her. A 
rope is thrown to him, and the panting Eclaireur tied up to a 
tree close in to the bank, for the water is deep enough here to 
moor a liner in, only there are a good many rocks. 
In a few minutes M. Forget and several canoe loads of 
beautiful red-brown mahogany planks are on board, and 
things being finished, I say good-bye to the captain, and go 
off with M. Forget in a canoe, to the shore. 






CHAPTER VIII 

TALAGOUGA 

Concerning the district of Talagouga, with observations and admonitions 
on the capture of serpents. 

MME. FORGET received me most kindly and hospitably, she, 
with her husband and her infant daughter, and M. and Mme. 
Gacon represent the Mission Evangelique and the white race 
at Talagouga. Mme. Gacon is the lady the planter took 
me for ; and when I saw her, with her sweet young face and 
masses of pale gold-coloured hair, I felt highly flattered. 
Either that planter must be very short-sighted or the colour 
of my hair must have misled him, not that mine is pale gold, 
but hay-coloured. I don't know how he did it. Mme. Forget 
is a perfectly lovely French girl, with a pale transparent skin 
and the most perfect great dark eyes, with indescribable 
charm, grace of manner, and vivacity in conversation. It 
grieves me to think of her, wasted on this savage wilderness 
surrounded by its deadly fever air. Oranie Forget, otherwise 
the baby, although I am not a general admirer of babies of 
her age a mere matter of months is also charming ; I am 
not saying this because she flattered me by taking to me 
all babies and children do that but she has great style, and 
I have no doubt she will grow up to be a beauty too, but she 
would have made a dead certainty of it, if she had taken after 
her mother. 

The mission station at Talagouga is hitched on to the rocky 
hillside, which rises so abruptly from the river that there is 
hardly room for the narrow footpath which runs along the 
river frontage of it. And when you are on the Forgets' 
verandah it seems as if you could easily roll right off it into the 
dark, deep, hurrying Ogowe. I suggest this to Mme. Forget as 



CHAP. VIII 



THE MISSION STATION 



153 



an awful future for Oranie, but she has thought of it and wired 
the verandah up. You go up a steep flight of steps into the 
house, which is raised on poles some fifteen feet above the 
ground in front, and you walk through it against the hillside, 
made up mostly of enormous boulders of quartz, for Talagouga 
mountains are the western termination of the side of the Sierra 
del Cristal range. When you get through the house you come to 
more stairs, cut out now in the hillside rock and leading to the 




STATION OF THE MISSION EVANGELIQUE, TALAGOUGA. 



kitchen to the right, and to the store buildings ; to the left they 
continue up to the church, which is still higher up the hill-face. 
That church is the prettiest I have seen in Africa. I do not 
say I should like to sit in it, because there seems to me no 
proper precautions taken to exclude snakes, lizards, or insects, 
and there would be great difficulty in concentrating one's 
mind on the higher life in the presence of these fearfully 
prevalent lower forms. Talagouga church commences as a 



154 TALAGOUGA CHAP. 



strong wooden framework on which is hung the bell, and then 
to the right of this structure, is another which is a roof sup- 
ported by bare poles. At its lower end there is a little dai's on 
which stands a table and a chair, the yellow clay floor slopes 
abruptly up hill and the pews consist of round, none too thick, 
poles, neatly mounted on stumps, some ten inches from the 
ground. I should have thought those pews were quite perfec- 
tion for an African congregation ; but they tell me I am wrong 
and that even Elders go off sound asleep on them, quite com- 
fortably, I suppose like bats ; I don't mean upside down, you 
understand, but merely by an allied form of muscular action, 
the legs clinching on to the pole-pew during sleep. Beyond the 
church, the hillside is cut by a ravine, and out of the dense 
forest that grows in it runs a beautiful, clear stream. It has 
been dammed back above, for it is harnessed to M. Gacon's 
saw-mill. The building of this dam, the erection of the two 
big water-wheels, the saw, and the shed that covers it, indeed 
all the \vork connected with the affair, has been done by 
M. Gacon with his own hands, and not only has he dammed 
back the water, and put up his saw-mill, but he still works 
hard at it daily, cutting hundreds of fine red-wood planks 
for the service of the mission, shipping them by the Eclaireur t 
in flighty little canoes in this risky bit of river, and keeping a 
big store of them under his house a bamboo structure, once 
Talagouga church and all this with no other assistance but 
unskilled native labour. What this means you might under- 
stand a little if I were to write details from June to January, 
and then you were to come out here and take a turn at some 
such job yourself, to finish off your education. Across the 
other side of the ravine and high up, is perched the house 
which Dr. Nassau built, when he first established mission 
work on the Upper Ogowe. The house is now in ruins ; 
but in front of it, as an illustration of the transitory nature 
of European life in West Africa, is the grave of Mrs. Nassau, 
among the great white blocks of quartz rock, its plain stone 
looking the one firm, permanent, human-made-thing about the 
place ; below it, down the hill, are some houses inhabited by the 
native employes on the station : and passing these, still going 
down towards the river, you come to a wooden bridge spanning 



A HANGING GARDEN 



155 



the mill-stream, and crossing this, you find yourself back on the 
path which goes in front of M. Gacon's house ; passing 
this you come to the house inhabited by the girls in the 
mission school, presided over by the comely Imgrimina, wife 
of Isaac, the Jack- Wash, and a few steps more bring you to 
the foot of the Forgets' verandah staircase. The path runs 
on a little beyond this to the east, on a slightly broader, level 
bit of ground, behind which rises the hillside, and it ends 
abruptly at another ravine with another, but smaller, stream ; 
beyond this the hills come down right into the river, and on 
the small, flat piece of ground there are a few more native 
houses, belonging to the Bible-readers, and so on ; up on the 
hillside above them hangs a garden, apparently kept in position 
by quantities of stout wooden pegs driven into the ground ; 
these really are to keep the artificially levelled beds of 
mould, and the things in them, from being washed down 
into the river by the torrential wet sea-son's rains. All sorts of 
things are supposed by the gardener to grow in those beds, 
but Mme. Forget declares there is nothing but a sort of salad. 
It is a very nice salad ; I believe it to be dandelion, and there is 
plenty of it, and Mme. Forget might be more resigned about it ; 
on the other hand, I agree with her, and quite fail to see why the 
gardener's salary should be continually raised, as he desires 
nor exactly what bearing his abdominal afflictions have on the 
non-productiveness of the tomato plants, nor why, again, he 
should be paid more because of them, for curious abdominal 
symptoms are very common among the whole of the West 
African tribes. My own opinion about that garden is that 
there are too many plantains in it, and too much shade. 
The whole station is surrounded by dense, dark-coloured, 
and forbidding-looking forest ; in front of it runs the 
dark rapid river, profoundly deep, but not more than 400 
yards wide here ; on the opposite side of it there is another 
hillside similarly forested, and unbroken by clearing, save in 
one little spot higher up than the mission, where there is 
a little native town and a small sub-factory of Hatton and 
Copkson's. 

Talagouga is grand, but its scenery is undoubtedly grim, 
and its name, signifying the gateway of misery, seems applic- 



156 TALAGOUGA CHAP. 



able. 1 It must be a melancholy place to live in, the very air 
lies heavy and silent. I never saw the trees stirred by a 
breeze the whole time I was there, even the broad plantain 
leaves seemed to stand sleeping day out and day in, motion- 
less. This is because the mountains shelter it back and 
front ; and on either side, promontories, running out from 
both banks, make a narrow winding gorge for the river 
channel. The only sign of motion you get is in -the Ogowe ; 
if you look at it you see, in spite of its dark quiet face, 
that it is sweeping past at a terrific pace. One great gray 
rock sticks up through it just below the mission beach, and 
from that lies ever a silver streak from the hindrance it gives 
the current Every now and again you will notice a canoe 
full of wild, naked, or nearly naked savages, silent because 
they are Fans, and don't sing like Igalwas or M'pongwe when in 
canoes. They are either paddling very hard and creeping very 
slowly upwards, against one of the banks, or just keeping her 
head straight and going rapidly down. Now and again you 
will hear the laboured beat of the engines of either the Move or 
Eclaireur, before you see the vessel and hear the warning shriek 
of their whistles ; and you can watch her as she comes up fighting 
her way to Njole, or see her as she comes down, slipping past 
like a dream in a few seconds, and that is all. My first after- 
noon sufficed to allow of my seeing the station. M. Jacot 
reports it to have thirty-two buildings on it, but he is a slave 
to truth, and counts all the cook-houses, &c. Houses deserving 
of the name there are but three the Gacons', the girls' and 
the Forgets'. 

Mme. Forget took no end of care of me, and I look at my 
clean, tidy, comfortable room with terror, until I find a built 
out bath-room wherein I shall be able to make awful messes 
with fish, &c., without disgracing myself and country ; and joy 
inexpressible ! " no mosquitoes," yet still curtain. I told you 
before I had heard they ended at O Soamokita, but when I see 
people putting up mosquito-curtains over their beds I always 
have doubts ; besides, along here you always find people deny 
having mosquitoes, if they can, without committing violent per- 

1 Mr. R. B. N. Walker, I believe, holds this name is Otal a ma gouga ; 
A gouga = hardship, privation. 



vin A GOOD WORD FOR THE FRENCH 157 

jury ; if they cannot deny it, as was the case with Mr. Cockshut 
at Lembarene, they try and turn the conversation or say other 
places are worse. Owing to this blissful absence of irritation 
I slept profoundly my first night at Talagouga, but roused by 
awful sounds in the morning time, 5.30 sit straight up in 
bed " one time." Never noticed mission had donkey yesterday, 
but they have, and it's off in an epileptic fit. As the sound 
amplifies and continues a flash of reason succeeds this first 
impression. It's morning service in the church, and the 
natives are just singing hymns. In after days the sound 
always produces the same physical shock, but the mental 
one dies out crushed under the weight of knowledge of the 
sound's origin. 

I spent my second day talking to Mme. Forget, whose 
English is perfectly good, although she tells me she resisted 
education most strenuously in this direction from patriotic 
motives. I must say I bow down and worship the spirit of 
patriotic fire in the French, not that I would imply for one 
moment that I, as an Englishwoman, suffered from it in Congo 
Frangais. They always gave me the greatest help in getting 
about their territory and every kindness of course there was 
no reason why they should not do so, for they have no reason 
to be anything but proud of the great things they have done 
here and the admirable way this noble province of theirs is 
administered. Congo Frangais is a very different thing to 
Congo Beige, a part of the world I shall not wander into again 
until it becomes Congo Frangais, and that won't be long. I 
now salve my pride as an Englishwoman with the knowledge 
that were a Frenchwoman to travel in any of our West Coast 
settlements, she would have as warm and helpful a welcome 
as I get here, and I will be femininely spiteful, and say she 
would do more harm in the English settlements than ever I 
did in the French. Think of Mme. Jacot, Mme. Forget, or 
Mme. Gacon going into Calabar, for example, why there 
wouldn't be a whole heart left in the place in twenty-four 
hours ! 

On the second day I spent at Talagouga I also made the 
acquaintance of Monsieur Pichon, a very stately, homing, 
Antwerp pigeon ; his French feeling was a hopeless barrier to 



i 5 8 TALAGOUGA CHAP. 



a mutual friendship arising between us. I admire him 
sincerely. His personal appearance, his grand manner, the 
regular way in which he orders his life, going down regularly 
on to one particular stone at the river's brink to make 
his toilet ; attending every meal during the day ; and going to 
roost on one particular door-top, commands admiration and 
respect. But to me he behaved cruelly. He bullied me out 
of food at meal times, always winding up with a fight, holding 
on to my finger with his beak like a vice. I know he regards 
me as a defeated slave and took as mere due service my 
many rescues of him from behind a mirror, which hung tilted 
from the wall and behind which he used constantly to fall, 
dazzled by the vision of his own beauty as he flew up in front 
of the glass. There is another low-down pigeon domesticated 
at Talagouga, but he was a nobody, and Monsieur let him 
know it, in spite of several rebellions on his part. And there 
were also two very small, very black kittens which were being 
carefully, but alas unavailingly nursed, for their mother had 
abandoned them. 

M. Forget did not think I should have much chance 
of getting fish for specimens, because he said, although the 
Fans catch plenty, they do not care to sell them, as they are 
the main article of food in this foodless region, still he would 
try and persuade them to bring them to me, and so success- 
ful were his efforts that that afternoon several Fans turned 
up with specimens. For these I gave, as usual when opening 
a trade in a district, fancy prices, a ruse that proved so 
successful here that I was soon at my wits' end for bottles and 
spirit trade gin I might have got, but there is not sufficient 
alcohol in trade gin to preserve specimens in. Again M. Forget 
came to the rescue and let me have a bottle of alcohol out of 
the dispensary. 

I got a fearful fright during my second night at Talagouga. 
I went to bed quite lulled into a sense of security by the 
mosquitolessness of the previous night. I was aroused be- 
tween 2 and 3 o'clock A.M. by acute pain from punctured 
wounds on the chest and the mosquito curtain completely 
down and smothering me. My first fear was that I had 
brought a mosquito or so of the Lembarene strain up to 



vin A DISTURBED NIGHT 



159 



Talagouga with me, who had just recovered from the journey 
and were having their evening meal. I fought my way out of 
the mosquito-curtain and trod on a cold flabby thing which 
kindly said " Croak " introducing itself as a harmless frog, and 
dispelling fear number two, namely that it was a snake. I then 
had a sporting hunt for matches in the inky dark upset half the 
room before I found them, but when this was done, and I got the 
candle alight, I found a big black cat sitting smiling on my bed, 
and conjecturing she was the bereaved mother of those afflicted, 
deserted, kittens, I got her off, and tied up the mosquito-bar to 
the ceiling again, and then took her in with me under it to 
finish my night's rest ; for I feared if I left her outside 
she would cause another tender awakening of memories 
of those Lembarene mosquitoes. The frog, having got his 
wind again, flip-flapped about the floor all night, croak, croak- 
ing to his outdoor relations about the unprovoked outrage that 
had been committed on him. 

I spent the succeeding days in buying fish from the natives, 
who brought it in quantities, mostly of two sorts, and of 
course wanted enormous prices for it ; but I confess I rather 
enjoy the give-and-take fun of bartering against their extor- 
tion, and my trading with them introduced us to each other 
so that when we met in the course of the long climbing walks 
I used to take beetle-hunting in the bush behind the mission 
station, we knew about each other, and did not get much 
shocked or frightened. 

That forest round Talagouga was one of the most difficult 
bits of country to get about in I ever came across, for it was 
dense and there were no bush paths. No Fan village wants 
to walk to another Fan village for social civilities, and all their 
trade goes up and down the river in canoes. No doubt some 
miles inland there are bush paths, but I never struck one, so 
they must be pretty far away. Neither did I corne across any 
villages in the forest, they seem all to be on the river bank 
-round here. 

The views from the summits of the abruptly shaped hills 
round Talagouga are exceedingly grand, and give one a good 
idea of the trend of the Sierra del Cristal range in this district ; 
to the east, the higher portions of the ranges showed, just 






160 TALAGOUGA CHAP. 



beyond Njole, a closely set series of strangely shaped sum- 
mits beautifully purple-blue, running away indefinitely to the 
N.N.W. and S.E. ; and when the day was clear, one could see 
the mountains of Achangoland away to the S.S.E., from their 
shape evidently the same formation, but not following the 
same direction as the range of the Sierra del Cristal. The 
hills I had personally to deal with were western flanking hills 
of the Sierra all masses of hard black rock with veins and 
blocks of crystalline quartz. Between the interstices of the 
rocks, was the rich vegetable mould made by hundreds of 
thousands of years of falling leaves and timber. The under- 
growth was very dense and tangled among the great gray- 
white columns of the high trees ; the young shoots of this 
undergrowth were interesting, not so often rose-coloured as 
those round Lembarene, but usually in the denser parts a pale 
creamy- white, or a deep blue. I was fool enough to fancy 
that a soft, delicate-leaved, white-shoot-bearing plant had, on 
its own account, a most fragrant scent, but I soon found the 
scent came from the civet cats, which abound here, and seem 
to affect this shrub particularly. It is very quaint the intense 
aversion the Africans have to this scent, and the grimaces 
and spitting that goes on when they come across it ; their 
aversion is shared by the elephants. I once saw an elephant 
put his trunk against one of these scented bushes, have it up 
in a second, and fly off into the forest with an Oh lor ! burn- 
some-brown-paper ! pocket-handkerchief-please expression all 
over him. The natives, knowing this, use civet in hunting 
elephants, as I will some day describe. The high trees were of 
various kinds acacias, red-wood, African oak, a little ebony, 
and odeaka, and many other kinds I know not even the native 
names of to this day. One which I know well by sight gives, 
when cut, a vividly yellow wood of great beauty. Now and 
again on exposed parts of the hillside, one comes across great 
falls of timber which have been thrown down by tornadoes 
either flat on to the ground in which case under and among 
them are snakes and scorpions, and getting over them is 
slippery work ; or thrown sideways and hanging against their 
fellows, all covered with gorgeous drapery of climbing, flower- 
ing plants in which case they present to the human atom 






vin SNAKES IN A CLEFT STICK 161 

a wall made up of strong tendrils and climbing grasses, 
through which the said atom has to cut its way with a 
matchette and push into the crack so made, getting, the while 
covered with red driver-ants, and such like, and having sensa- 
tional meetings with blue-green snakes, dirty green snakes with 
triangular horned heads, black cobras, and boa constrictors. I 
never came back to the station without having been frightened 
half out of my wits, and with one or two of my smaller terrifiers 
in cleft sticks to bottle. When you get into the way, catching a 
snake in a cleft stick is perfectly simple. Only mind you 
have the proper kind of stick, split far enough up, and keep 
your attention on the snake's head, that's his business end, 
and the tail which is whisking and winding round your wrist 
does not matter : there was one snake, by the way, of which it 
was impossible to tell, in the forest, which was his head. 
The natives swear he has one at each end ; so you had better 
" Lef 'em," even though you know the British Museum would 
love to have him, for he is very venomous, and one of the 
few cases of death from snake-bite I have seen, was from this 
species. 

Several times, when further in the forest, I came across 
a trail of flattened undergrowth, for fifty or sixty yards, with 
a horrid musky smell that demonstrated it had been the path 
of a boa constrictor, and nothing more. 

It gave me more trouble and terror to get to the top of 
those Talagouga hillsides than it gave me to go twenty miles 
in the forests of Old Calabar, and that is saying a good deal, 
but when you got to the summit there was the glorious view 
of the rest of the mountains, stretching away, interrupted only 
by Mount Talagouga to the S.E. by E. and the great, grim, 
dark forest, under the lowering gray sky common during the 
dry season on the Equator. No glimpse or hint did one have 
of the Ogowe up here, so deep down in its ravine does it flow. 
A person coming to the hill tops close to Talagouga from the 
N. or N.N.W. and turning back in his track from here might be 
utterly unconscious that one of the great rivers of the world 
was flowing, full and strong, within some 800 feet of him. 
There is a strange sense of secretiveness about all these West 
African forests ; but I never saw it so marked as in these that 

M 



162 TALAGOUGA CHAP. 



shroud the Sierra del Cristal. I very rarely met any natives 
in this part ; those that I did were hunters, big, lithe men 
with all their toilet attention concentrated on their hair. On 
two occasions I ran some risk from having been stalked in 
mistake for game by these hunters. " Hoots toots, mon, a verra 
pretty thing it would hae been for an Englishwoman to hae 
been shot in mistake for a gorilla by a cannibal Fan of all 
folks," was a Scotch friend's commentary. I escaped, how- 
ever, because these men get as close as they can to their 
prey before firing ; and when they found out their mistake 
they were not such cockney sportsmen as to kill me because I 
was something queer, and we stood and stared at each other, 
said a few words in our respective languages, and parted. 
One thing that struck me very much in these forests was 
the absence of signs of fetish worship which are so much in 
evidence in Calabar, where you constantly come across trees 
worshipped as the residences of spirits, and little huts put up 
over offerings to bush souls. 

Thanks to the kindness of M. Forget, I had an opportunity 
of visiting Talagouga Island a grant of which has been made 
by the French Government to the Mission Evangelique, who, 
owing to the inconveniences of being hitched precariously on a 
hillside, intend shortly removing from their present situation, 
and settling on the island. 

Talagouga Island is situated in the middle of the river, 
about halfway between the present mission beach and Njole. 
It is a mile long and averages about a quarter of a mile wide ; 
the up-river end of it is a rocky low hill, and it tapers down 
river from this, ending in a pretty little white sandbank. 
At the upper end there is a reef of black rocks against which 
the Ogowe strikes, its brown face turning white with 
agitation at being interrupted, when it is in such a tearing 
hurry to get to the South Atlantic. When going up river to it 
in a canoe, creeping up along by the bank, I had more chance 
of seeing details than when on the Eclaireur with her amusing 
distractions. The first object of interest was Talagouga 
rock ; seen at close quarters, it rises a gray, rough, weathered 
head, much water-worn, some twenty feet above the dry 
season level of the water. Goodness knows how far it is down 



MAGNIFICENCE OUT OF PLACE 163 



to its bed on the river bottom. Up to a few years ago it was 
! regarded as the mark between the regions of Gaboon and 
Congo Frangais, but this division is now done away with, 
and there is no Gaboon, but the whole province is Congo 
Frangais. So Talagouga rock gets no official position, and 
is left to the veneration it is held in, as the dwelling-place of 
an Ombuiri. On the edge on the top of the bank, adjacent 
to Talagouga rock, is a small swamp, and by the side 
of it stands another gigantic monolith which, judging the 
height of Talagouga rock above water to be twenty feet, must 
be between fifty and sixty feet high. It does not get any 
veneration at all ; but if that great Stonehenge-like thing 
were in the Rivers, it would be a great ju-ju, and be covered 
round its base with bits of white calico, and have bottles of 
gin set in front of it, and calabashes of hard-boiled eggs and 
goodness knows what. That rock is thrown away on these 
Bantu ; that comes of being magnificent at the wrong time 
and place. Opposite to Talagouga rock, on the other bank, 
is perched on top of a dwarf clay cliff the village of 
Talagouga (Fan) with Hatton and Cookson's sub-factory in 
it, presided over by a Sierra Leonian. On the north bank, 
a little higher up, M. Forget pointed out to me a place in the 
forest where, a year or two ago, the strange dwarf people had 
a village ; there are none of them there now, as they wander 
to and fro in the forest, never remaining many months in one 
spot. They are diffused, in small communities, all over the 
forest of Congo Frangais ; but their chief haunt seems to be 
among the Bakele tribe in Achangoland. We crossed the river 
and then landed, clambering up a steep bank on to the lower end 
of the island. M. Forget stated that a path ran up to the 
upper end, which had been cut when the island was surveyed 
before being registered to the mission. I did not think much 
of it as a path, nor did M. Forget, I fancy, after ten minutes' 
experience of it, for it had considerably grown up : and 
although this island is not quite so densely timbered as the 
mainland, nor made in such acute angles, still it has these 
attributes to a considerable extent, as it is a real island of 
a rocky nature, and not a glorified sandbank that has grabbed 
its earth and vegetation from shipwrecked pieces of the 

M 2 



1 64 TALAGOUGA CHAP, 



main bank and dead trees, like those islands round and 
below Lembarene. However, scratched but safe we got to 
the upper end ; and M. Forget went off to see after the 
orange, lime, banana, and plantain trees that had been 
planted on the upper end of the island where the mission, 
houses are to be built. I wandered about seeing things,, 
among others an encampment of Fans who are cutting down 
the timber to make room for the building, which is not yet 
commenced ; and some wonderful tiny bays in the bank, along 
the southern side, where the current is less strong, or rather, 
I suppose, deflected against the mainland bank by the rock 
reef. These bays are filled in the dry season by banks of 
white sand in which sparkle fragments of mica, and when 
you walk on them they give out a musical, soft hum in a 
strange way. " Unfortunately," M. Forget says, so far no> 
spring water has been found on the island. I say unfortun- 
ately in notes of quotation as I do not agree with him that 
the absence of spring water is a misfortune, but regard it as 
a blessing in disguise, for, to my way of thinking, the Ogowe 
water, exposed to the air, with its swift current, is safer stuff 
to drink than decoc terra Africano spring water, I mean. 

While we are waiting for the return of the canoe which 
has gone to the mainland to deposit an Evangelist in a 
village, M. Forget has a palaver with the Fans, who are 
very slowly shaving the trees from the top of the hill. The}' 
agreed to do this thing for the wood, but it has since occurred 
to them that they would like to be paid wages as well. 
The}* are sweet unsophisticated children of nature, these 
West African tribes ; little thoughts like these are constantly 
arising in their minds, and on all hands missionary, govern- 
mental and trading I am told these Fans are exceedingly 
treacherous and you can never trust them to hold to a 
bargain. I will say this is not the case with other African 
tribes I have come across. In the Rivers, for example, when 
a jam is made, it's made, and they will stick to it all, save the 
time clause, more honourably than twenty per cent, of white 
men would. Our canoe returns before " palaver done set " ; and 
we go off home, the blue mists rising among the trees and 
reflecting in the Ogowe a deeper and more intense blue, adding 



Tin . BOUND FOR THE RAPIDS 165 

.another element to a wonderfully lovely scene that is well 
.accompanied by the elaborate songs of the canoe crew and 
the sound of their paddles. We are down again at Talagouga 
beach in a far shorter time than it took us to come up. 

All the balance of the time I was at Talagouga I spent in 
trying to find means to get up into the rapids above Njole, 
for my heart got more and more set on them now that I saw 
the strange forms of the Talagouga fishes, and the differences 
between them and the fishes at Lembarene. For some time 
no one whom I could get hold of regarded it as a feasible 
scheme, but, at last, M. Gacon thought it might be managed ; 
I said I would give a reward of 100 francs to any one who 
would lend me a canoe and a crew, and I would pay the 
working expenses, food, wages, &c. M. Gacon had a good 
canoe and could spare me two English-speaking Igalwas, one 
of whom had been part of the way with MM. Allegret and 
Teisseres, when they made their journey up to Franceville 
and then across to Brazzaville and down the Congo two years 
ago. He also thought we could get six Fans to complete the 
crew. I was delighted, packed my small portmanteau with a 
few things, got some trade goods, wound up my watch, 
ascertained the date of the day of the month, and borrowed 
three hairpins from Mme. Forget, then down came disappoint- 
ment. On my return from the bush that evening, Mme. Forget 
said M. Gacon said " it was impossible," the Fans round 
Talagouga wouldn't go at any price above Njole, because 
they were certain they would be killed and eaten by the 
up-river Fans. Internally consigning the entire tribe to 
regions where they will get a rise in temperature, even on this 
climate, I went with Mme. Forget to M. Gacon, and we 
talked it over ; finally, M. Gacon thought he could let me 
have two more Igalwas from Hatton and Cookson's beach 
across the river. Sending across there we found this could 
be done, so I now felt I was in for it, and screwed my courage 
to the sticking point no easy matter after all the information 
I had got into my mind regarding the rapids of the River 
Ogowe. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE 

The Log of an Adooma canoe during a voyage undertaken to the rapids 
of the River Ogowe, with some account of the divers disasters that 
befell thereon. 

I ESTABLISH myself on my portmanteau comfortably in the 
canoe, my back is against the trade box, and behind that is 
the usual mound of pillows, sleeping mats, and mosquito-bars 
of the Igahva crew ; the whole surmounted by the French flag 
flying from an indifferent stick. 

M. and Mme. Forget provide me with everything I can 
possibly require, and say, that the blood of half my crew 
is half alcohol ; on the whole it is patent they don't expect 
to see me again, and I forgive them, because they don't 
seem cheerful over it ; but still it is not reassuring 
nothing is about this affair, and it's going to rain. It does, 
as we go up the river to Njole, where there is another risk 
of the affair collapsing, by the French authorities de- 
clining to allow me to proceed. On we paddled, M'bo the 
head man standing in the bows of the canoe in front of me, to 
steer, then I, then the baggage, then the able-bodied seamen, 
including the cook also standing and paddling ; and at the 
other extremity of the canoe it grieves me to speak of it in 
this unseamanlike way, but in these canoes both ends are 
alike, and chance alone ordains which is bow and which is 
stern stands Pierre, the first officer, also steering ; the paddles 
used are all of the long-handled, leaf-shaped Igahva type. 
We get up just past Talagouga Island and then tie up 
against the bank of M. Gazenget's plantation, and make a 
piratical raid on its bush for poles. A gang of his men, 



tifl 




[To face p. 166. 



FAN CHIEF AND FAMILY. 



CH. ix A WILFUL MAN HAS HIS WAY 167 

come down to us, but only to chat. One of them, I 
notice, has had something happen severely to one side of his 
face. I ask M'bo what's the matter, and he answers, with a 
derisive laugh, " He be fool man, he go for tief plantain and 
done got shot." M'bo does not make it clear where the sin in 
this affair is exactly located ; I expect it is in being " fool man." 
Having got our supply of long stout poles we push off and 
paddle on again. Before we reach Njole I recognise my crew 
have got the grumbles, and at once inquire into the reason. 
M'bo sadly informs me that " they no got chop," having been 
provided only with plantain, and no meat or fish to eat 
with it. I promise to get them plenty at Njole, and content- 
ment settles on the crew, and they sing. After about three 
hours we reach Njole, and I proceed to interview the authori- 
ties. Dr. Pelessier is away down river, and the two gentlemen in 
charge don't understand English ; but Pierre translates, and the 
letter which M. Forget has kindly written for me explains things, 
and so the palaver ends satisfactorily, after a long talk. First, the 
ofTicial says he does not like to take the responsibility of allow- 
ing me to endanger myself in those rapids. I explain I will 
not hold any one responsible but myself, and I urge that a 
lady has been up before, a Mme. Quince. He says "Yes, 
that is true, but Madame had with her a husband and many 
men, whereas I am alone and have only eight I gal was and 
not Adoomas, the proper crew for the rapids, and they are 
away up river now with the convoy." " True, oh King ! " I 
answer, " but Madame Quinee went right up to Lestourville, 
whereas I only want to go sufficiently high up the rapids to 
get typical fish. And these Igalwas are great men at canoe 
work, and can go in a canoe anywhere that any mortal man 
can go " this to cheer up my Igahva interpreter " and as for 
the husband, neither the Royal Geographical Society's list, in 
their ' Hints to Travellers/ nor Messrs. Silver, in their elaborate 
lists of articles necessary for a traveller iii tropical climates, 
make mention of husbands." If they did, by the by, 
they would say he was to be green, but they don't say 
a word about one. However, the official ultimately says Yes, 
I may go, and parts with me as with one bent on self- 
destruction. This affair being settled I start off, like an 



i68 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



old hen with a brood of chickens to provide for, to get 
chop for my men, and go first to Hatton and Cookson's 
factory. I find its white Agent is down river after stores, and 
John Holt's Agent says he has got no beef nor fish, and is 
precious short of provisions for himself ; so I go back to 
Dumas', where I find a most amiable French gentleman, who 
says he will let me have as much fish or beef as I want, and 
to this supply he adds some delightful bread biscuits. 
M'bo and the crew beam with satisfaction ; mine is clouded by 
finding, when they have carried off the booty to the canoe, 
that the Frenchman will not let me pay for it. Therefore 
taking the opportunity of his back being turned for a few 
minutes, I buy and pay for, across the store counter, some trade 
things, knives, cloth, &c. Then I say good-bye to the Agent. 
" Adieu, Mademoiselle," says he in a for-ever tone of voice. 
Indeed I am sure I have caught from these kind people a very 
pretty and becoming mournful manner, and there's not another 
white station for 500 miles where I can show it off. Away 
we go, still damp from the rain we have come through, but 
drying nicely with the day, and cheerful about the chop. 

The Ogowe is broad at Njole and its banks not moun- 
tainous, as at Talagouga ; but as we go on it soon narrows, 
the current runs more rapidly than ever, and we are soon 
again surrounded by the mountain range. Great masses 
of black rock show among the trees on the hillsides, and under 
the fringe of fallen trees that hang from the steep banks. 
Two hours after leaving Njole we are facing our first rapid. 
Great gray-black masses of smoothed rock rise up out of the 
whirling water in all directions. These rocks have a peculiar 
appearance which puzzle me at the time, but in subsequently 
getting used to it I accepted it quietly and admired. When 
the sun shines on them they have a soft light blue haze 
round them, like a halo. The effect produced by this, with 
the forested hillsides and the little beaches of glistening white 
sand was one of the most perfect things I have ever seen. 

We kept along close to the right-hand bank, dodging out of 
the way of the swiftest current as much as possible. Ever and 
again we were unable to force our way round projecting parts 
of the bank, so we then got up just as far as we could to the 






COLLAR WORK 169 



point in question, yelling and shouting at the tops of our voices. 
M'bo said "Jump for bank, sar," and I "up and jumped," followed 
by half the crew. Such banks ! sheets, and walls, and rubbish 
heaps of rock, mixed up with trees fallen and standing. One 
.appalling corner I shall not forget, for I had to jump at a rock 
wall, and hang on to it in a manner more befitting an insect 
than an insect-hunter, and then scramble up it into a close-set 
forest, heavily burdened with boulders of all sizes. I wonder 
whether the rocks or the trees were there first ? there is evidence 
both ways, for in one place you will see a rock on the top of 
a tree, the tree creeping out from underneath it, and in another 
place you will see a tree on the top of a rock, clasping it with 
.a network of roots and getting its nourishment, goodness 
knows how, for these are by no means tender, digestible sand- 
stones, but uncommon hard gneiss and quartz which has no idea 
of breaking up into friable small stuff, and which only takes 
on a high polish when it is vigorously sanded and canvassed 
by the Ogowe. While I was engaged in climbing across these 
promontories, the crew would be busy shouting and hauling 
the canoe round the point by means of the strong chain pro- 
vided for such emergencies fixed on to the bow. When this was 
done, in we got again and paddled away until we met our next 
affliction. 

M'bo had advised that we should spend our first night at the 
same village that M. Allegret did : but when we reached it, 
a large village on the north bank, we seemed to have a lot of 
daylight still in hand, and thought it would be better to stay 
.at gne a little higher up, so as to make a shorter day's work 
for to-morrow, when we w r anted to reach Kondo Kondo ; so 
we went against the bank just to ask about the situation and 
character of the up-river villages. The row of low, bark huts 
was long, and extended its main frontage close to the edge of 
the river bank. The inhabitants had been watching us as we 
came, and when they saw we intended calling that afternoon, 
they charged down to the river- edge hopeful of excitement. 
They had a great deal to say, and so had we. After compli- 
ments, as they say, in excerpts of diplomatic communications, 
three of their men took charge of the conversation on their 
.side, and M'bo did ours. To M'bo's questions they gave a 



170 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



dramatic entertainment as answer, after the manner of these 
brisk, excitable Fans. One chief, however, soon settled down 
to definite details, prefacing his remarks with the silence- 
commanding " Azuna ! Azuna ! " and his companions grunted 
approbation of his observations. He took a piece of plantain 
leaf and tore it up into five different-sized bits. These he laid 
along the edge of our canoe at different intervals of space, 
\vhile he told M'bo things, mainly scandalous, about the 
characters of the villages these bits of leaf represented, save 
of course about bit A, which represented his own. The in- 
terval between the bits was proportional to the interval 
between the villages, and the size of the bits was pro- 
portional to the size of the village. Village number four 
was the only one he should recommend our going to. When 
all was said, I gave our kindly informants some heads of 
tobacco and many thanks. Then M'bo sang them a 
h};mn, with the assistance of Pierre, half a line behind him 
in a different key, but every bit as flat. The Fans seemed 
impressed, but any crowd would be by the hymn-singing of 
my crew, unless they were inmates of deaf and dumb asylums. 
Then we took our farewell, and thanked the village elaborately 
for its kind invitation to spend the night there on our way 
home, shoved off and paddled away in great style just to 
show those Fans what Igalwas could do. 

We hadn't gone 200 yards before we met a current coming 
round the end of a rock reef that was too strong for us to- 
hold our own in, let alone progress. On to the bank I was 
ordered and went ; it was a low slip of rugged confused 
boulders and fragments of rocks, carelessly arranged, and 
evidently under water in the wet season. I scrambled along, 
the men yelled and shouted and hauled the canoe, and the 
inhabitants of the village, seeing we were becoming amus- 
ing again, came, legging it like lamp-lighters, after us, young 
and old, male and female, to say nothing of the dogs. 
Some good souls helped the men haul, while I did my best 
to amuse the others by diving headlong from a large rock on 
to which I had elaborately climbed, into a thick clump of 
willow-leaved shrubs. They applauded my performance 
vociferously, and then assisted my efforts to extricate my- 



ix A LOVELY AFTERGLOW 171 



self, and during the rest of my scramble they kept close to 
me, with keen competition for the front ro\v, in hopes that I 
would do something like it again. But I refused the encore, 
because, bashful as I am, I could not but feel that my last 
performance was carried out with all the superb reckless 
abandon of a Sarah Bernhardt, and a display of art of this 
order should satisfy any African village for a year at least. 
At last I got across the rocks on to a lovely little beach of 
white sand, and stood there talking, surrounded by my 
audience, until the canoe got over its difficulties and arrived 
almost as scratched as I ; and then we again said farewell 
and paddled away, to the great grief of the natives, for they 
don't get a circus up above Njole every week, poor dears. 

Now there is no doubt that that chief's plantain - leaf 
chart was an ingenious idea and a credit to him. There is 
also no doubt that the Fan mile is a bit Irish, a matter of 
nine or so of those of ordinary mortals, but I am bound to 
say I don't think, even allowing for this, that he put those 
pieces far enough apart. On we paddled a long way before 
we picked up village number one, mentioned in that chart. On 
again, still longer, till we came to village number two. Village 
number three hove in sight high up on a mountain side soon 
after, but it was getting dark and the water worse, and the hill- 
sides growing higher and higher into nobly shaped mountains, 
forming, with their forest-graced steep sides, a ravine that,, 
in the gathering gloom, looked like an alley-way made of iron,, 
for the foaming Ogowe. Village number four we anxiously 
looked for ; village number four we never saw; for round us came 
the dark, seeming to come out on to the river from the forests 
and the side ravines, where for some hours we had seen it 
sleeping, like a sailor with his clothes on in bad weather. 
On we paddled, looking for signs of village fires, and seeing 
them not. The Erd-geist knew we wanted something, and 
seeing how we personally lacked it, thought it was beauty ;, 
and being in a kindly mood, gave it us, sending the lovely 
lingering flushes of his afterglow across the sky, which, dying,, 
left it that divine deep purple velvet which no one has dared to 
paint. Out in it came the great stars blazing high above us,, 
and the dark round us was be-gemmecl with fire-flies : but 



J72 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



we were not as satisfied with these things as we should have 
been ; what we wanted were fires to cook by and dry our- 
selves by, and all that sort of thing. The Erd-geist did 
not understand, and so left us when the afterglow had died 
away, with only enough starlight to see the flying foam of 
the rapids ahead and around us, and not enough to see the 
great trees that had fallen from the bank into the water. 
These, when the rapids were not too noisy, we could listen 
for, because the black current rushes through their branches 
with an impatient " lish, swish " ; but when there was a rapid 
roaring close alongside we ran into those trees, and got our- 
selves mauled, and had ticklish times getting on our course 
again. Now and again we ran up against great rocks sticking 
up in the black water grim, isolated fellows, who seemed to 
be standing silently watching their fellow rocks noisily fight- 
ing in the arena of the white water. Still on we poled and 
paddled. About 8 P.M. we came to a corner, a bad one ; but 
we were unable to leap on to the bank and haul round, not 
being able to see either the details or the exact position of the 
said bank, and we felt, I think naturally, disinclined to spring 
in the direction of such bits of country as we had had ex- 
perience of during the afternoon, with nothing but the aid 
we might have got from a compass hastily viewed by the 
transitory light of a lucifer match, and even this would not 
have informed us how many tens of feet of tree fringe lay be- 
tween us and the land, so we did not attempt it. One must 
be careful at times, or nasty accidents may follow. We fought 
our way round that corner, yelling defiance at the water, and 
dealt with succeeding corners on the vi et arniis plan, breaking, 
ever and anon, a pole. About 9.30 we got into a savage rapid. 
We fought it inch by inch. The canoe jammed herself on 
some barely sunken rocks in it. We shoved her ofT over them. 
She tilted over and chucked us out. The rocks round being 
just awash, we survived and got her straight again, and got 
into her and drove her unmercifully ; she struck again and 
bucked like a broncho, and \ve fell in heaps upon each other, 
but stayed inside that time the men by the aid of their 
intelligent feet, I by clinching my hands into the bush rope 
lacing which ran round the rim of the canoe and the meaning of 



IX A RUSH DOWN STREAM , 73; 



which I did not understand when I left Talagouga. We 
sorted ourselves out hastily and sent her at it again. Smash 
went a sorely tried pole and a paddle. Round and round we 
spun in an exultant whirlpool, which, in a light-hearted, 
maliciously joking way, hurled us tail first out of it into the 
current. Now the grand point in these canoes of having 
both ends alike declared itself; for at this juncture all we had 
to do was to revolve on our own axis and commence life 
anew with what had been the bow for the stern. Of course 
we were defeated, we could not go up any further without 
the aid of our lost poles and paddles, so we had to go down 
for shelter somewhere, anywhere, and down at a terrific pace 
in the white water we went. While hitched among the rocks 
the arrangement of our crew had been altered, Pierre joining 
M'bo in the bows ; this piece of precaution was frustrated by 
our getting turned rourid ; so our position was what you might 
call precarious, until we got into another whirlpool, when we 
persuaded nature to start us right end on. This was only a 
matter of minutes, whirlpools being plentiful, and then M'bo and 
Pierre, provided with our surviving poles, stood in the bows to- 
fend us off rocks, as we shot towards them ; while we midship 
paddles sat, helping to steer, and when occasion arose, which 
occasion did with lightning rapidity, to whack the whirlpools 
with the flat of our paddles, to break their force. Cook 
crouched in the stern concentrating his mind on steering 
only. A most excellent arrangement in theory and the safest 
practical one no doubt, but it did not work out what you 
might call brilliantly well ; though each department did its 
best. \Ve dashed full tilt towards high rocks, things twenty to 
fifty feet above water. Midship backed and flapped like fury ;. 
M'bo and Pierre received the shock on their poles ; sometimes 
we glanced successfully aside and flew on ; sometimes we 
didn't. The shock being too much for M'bo and Pierre they 
were driven back on me, who got flattened on to the cargo of 
bundles which, being now firmly tied in, couldn't spread the 
confusion further aft ; but the shock of the canoe's nose 
against the rock did so in style, and the rest of the crew fell 
forward on to the bundles, me, and themselves. So shaken up 
together were we several times that night, that it's a wonder 



174 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



to me, considering the hurry, that we sorted ourselves out 
correctly with our own particular legs and arms. And 
although we in the middle of the canoe did some very 
spirited flapping, our whirlpool-breaking was no more 
successful than M'bo and Pierre's fending off, and many a 
wild waltz we danced that night with the waters of the River 
Ogowe. 

Unpleasant as going through the rapids was, when circum- 
stances took us into the black current we fared no better. 
For good all-round inconvenience, give me going full tilt in 
the dark into the branches of a fallen tree at the pace we 
were going then and crash, swish, crackle and there you are, 
hung up, with a bough pressing against your chest, and your 
hair being torn out -and your clothes ribboned by others, 
while the wicked river is trying to drag away the canoe from 
under you., I expect we should have been an amusing 
spectacle for hard-hearted onlookers ; but onlookers there 
were none, neither could we form a co-operative society for 
consuming our own ridiculousness as we did when we had 
light to see it by. After a good hour and more of these 
experiences, we went hard on to a large black reef of rocks 
So firm was the canoe wedged that we in our rather worn-out 
state couldn't move her so we wisely decided to " lef 'em " 
and see what could be done towards getting food and a fire 
for the remainder of the night. Our eyes, now trained to the 
darkness, observed pretty close to us a big lump of land, 
looming up out of the river. This we subsequently found 
out was Kembe Island. The rocks and foam on either side 
stretched away into the darkness, and high above us against 
the star-lit sky stood out clearly the summits of the mountains 
of the Sierra del Cristal. 

The most interesting question to us now was whether this 
rock reef communicated sufficiently with the island for us 
to get to it. Abandoning conjecture ; tying very firmly our 
canoe up to the rocks, a thing that seemed, considering she 
was jammed hard and immovable, a little unnecessary but 
you can never be sufficiently careful in this matter with any 
kind of boat off we started among the rock -boulders. I 
would climb up on to a rock table, fall off it on the other side 



WE REACH A VILLAGE 



175 



on to rocks again, with more or less water on them then 
get a patch of singing sand under my feet, then with varying 
suddenness get into more water, deep or shallow, broad or 
narrow pools among the rocks ; out of that over more rocks, 
&c., &c., &c. : my companions, from their noises, evidently 
were going in for the same kind of thing, but we were quite 
cheerful, because the probability of reaching the land seemed 
increasing. Most of us arrived into deep channels of water 
which here and there cut in between this rock reef and the bank, 
M'bo was the first to find the way into certainty ; he was, and 
I hope still is, a perfect wonder at this sort of work. I 
kept close to M'bo, and when we got to the shore, the rest of 
the wanderers being collected, we said " chances are there's a 
village round here " ; and started to find it. After a gay time 
in a rock-encumbered forest, growing in a tangled, matted way 
on a rough hillside, at an angle of 45 degrees, M'bo sighted 
the gleam of fires through the tree stems away to the left, and 
we bore down on it, listening to its drum. Viewed through 
the bars of the tree stems the scene was very picturesque. 
The village was just a collection of palm mat-built huts, 
very low and squalid. In its tiny street, an affair of some 
sixty feet long and twenty wide, \vere a succession of small 
fires. The villagers themselves, however, were the striking 
features in the picture. They were painted vermilion all over 
their nearly naked bodies, and were dancing enthusiastically 
to the good old rump-a-tump-tump-tump tune, played ener- 
getically by an old gentleman on a long, high-standing, white- 
and-black painted drum. They said that as they had been 
dancing when we arrived they had failed to hear us. M'bo 
secured a well, I don't exactly know what to call it for my 
use. It was, I fancy, the remains of the village club-house. 
It had a certain amount of palm-thatch roof and some of its 
left-hand side left, the rest of the structure was bare old poles 
with filaments of palm mat hanging from them here and 
there ; and really if it hadn't been for the roof one wouldn't 
have known whether one was inside or outside it. The floor 
was trodden earth and in the middle of it a heap of white ash 
and the usual two bush lights, laid down with their burning 
ends propped up off the ground with stones, and emitting, as is 



i?6 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 

their wont, a rather mawkish, but not altogether un- 
pleasant smell, and volumes of smoke which finds its wax- 
out through the thatch, leaving on the inside of it a rich 
oily varnish of a bright warm brown colour. The}' give 
a very good light, provided some one keeps an eye on 
them and knocks the ash off the end as it burns gray ; the 
bush lights' idea of being snuffed. Against one of the open- 
work sides hung a drum covered with raw hide, and a long 
hollow bit of tree trunk, which served as a cupboard for a few 
small articles. I gathered in all these details as I sat on one 
of the hard wood benches, waiting for my dinner, which Isaac 
was preparing outside in the street. The atmosphere of the 
hut, in spite of its remarkable advantages in the way of venti- 
lation, was oppressive, for the smell of the bush lights, my wet 
clothes, and the natives who crowded into the hut to look at 
me, made anything but a 'pleasant combination. The people 
were evidently exceedingly poor ; clothes they had very little 
of. The two head men had on old French military coats in 
rags ; but they were quite satisfied with their appearance, and 
evidently felt through them in touch with European culture, 
for they lectured to the others on the habits and customs of 
the white man with great self-confidence and superiority. The 
majority of the village had a slight acquaintance already with 
this interesting animal, being, I found, Adoomas. They had 
made a settlement on Kembe Island some two years or so- 
ago. Then the Fans came and attacked them, and killed and 
ate several. The Adoomas left and fled to the French 
authority at Njole and remained under its guarding" 
shadow until the French came up and chastised the 
Fans and burnt their village ; and the Adoomas 
when things had quieted down again and the Fans had 
gone off to build themselves a new village for their burnt 
one came back to Kembe Island and their plantain patch. 
They had only done this a few months before my 
arrival and had not had time to rebuild, hence the dilapidated 
state of the village. They are, I am told, a Congo region 
tribe, whose country lies south-west of Franceville, and, as 
I have already said, are the tribe used by the French 
authorities to take convoys up and down the Ogowe to France- 



ix A NIGHT SCENE 177 



ville, more to keep this route open than for transport purposes ; 
the rapids rendering it impracticable to take heavy stores this 
way, and making it a thirty-six days' journey from Njole with 
good luck. The practical route is via Loango and Brazzaville. 
The Adoomas told us the convoy which had gone up with the 
vivacious government official had had trouble with the rapids 
and had spent five days on Kondo Kondo, dragging up 
the canoes empty by means of ropes and chains, carrying the 
cargo that was in them along on land until they had passed the 
worst rapid and then repacking. They added the information 
that the rapids were at their worst just now, and entertained us 
with reminiscences of a poor young French official who had 
been drowned in them last year indeed they were just 
as cheering as my white friends. As soon as my dinner 
arrived they politely cleared out, and I heard the devout M'bo 
holding a service for them, with hymns, in the street, and this 
being over they returned to their drum and dance, keeping 
things up distinctly late, for it was 11.10 P.M., when we first 
entered the village. 

While the men were getting their food I mounted 
guard over our little possessions, and when they turned 
up to make things tidy in my hut, I walked off down to 
the shore by a path, which we had elaborately avoided when 
coming to the village, a very vertically inclined, slippery little 
path, but still the one whereby the natives went up and down 
to their canoes, which were kept tied up amongst the rocks. 
The moon was rising, illumining the sky, but not yet sending 
down her light on the foaming, flying Ogowe in its deep ravine. 
The scene was divinely lovely ; on every side out of the 
formless gloom rose the peaks of the Sierra del Cristal. 
Tomanjawki, on the further side of the river surrounded by 
his companion peaks, looked his grandest, silhouetted hard 
against the sky. In the higher valleys where the dim light 
shone faintly, one could see wreaths and clouds of silver-gray 
mist lying, basking lazily or rolling to and fro. Olangi 
seemed to stretch right across the river, blocking with his 
great blunt mass all passage ; while away to the N.E. a cone- 
shaped peak showed conspicuous, which I afterwards knew as 
Kangwe. In the darkness round me flitted thousands of fire- 

N 



i;8 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



flies and out beyond this pool of utter night flew by unceas- 
ingly the white foam of the rapids ; sound there was none 
save their thunder. The majesty and beauty of the scene 
fascinated me, and I stood leaning with my back against a 
rock pinnacle watching it. Do not imagine it gave rise, 
in what I am pleased to call my mind, to those 
complicated, poetical reflections natural beauty seems to bring 
out in other people's minds. It never works that way with 
me ; I just lose all sense of human individuality, all memory 
of human life, with its grief and worry and doubt, and become 
part of the atmosphere. If I have a heaven, that will be mine, 
and I verily believe that if I were left alone long enough with 
such a scene as this or on the deck of an African liner in the 
Bights, watching her funnel and masts swinging to and fro in 
the great long leisurely roll against the sky, I should be found 
soulless and dead ; but I never have a chance of that. This 
night my absent Kras, as my Fanti friends would call them, 
were sent hurrying home badly scared to their attributive 
body by a fearful shriek tearing through the voice of the 
Ogowe up into the silence of the hills. I woke with a shudder 
and found myself sore and stiff, but made hastily in the 
direction of the shriek, fancying some of our hosts had been 
spearing one of the crew a vain and foolish fancy I apologise 
for. What had happened was that my men, thinking it wiser to 
keep an eye on our canoe, had come down and built a fire 
close to her and put up their mosquito-bars as tents. One of 
the men, tired out by his day's work, had sat 'down on one of 
the three logs, whose ends, pointed to a common centre where 
the fire is, constitute the universal stove of this region. He 
was taking a last pipe before turning in, but sleep had taken 
him, and the wretch of a fire had sneaked along in the log 
under him and burnt him suddenly. The shriek was 
his way of mentioning the fact. Having got up these facts 
I left the victim seated in a remedial cool pool of water and 
climbed back to the village, whose inhabitants, tired at last, 
were going to sleep. M'bo, I found, had hung up my 
mosquito-bar over one of the hard wood benches, and going 
cautiously under it I lit a night-light and read myself asleep 
with my damp dilapidated old Horace. 



ix UP STREAM AGAIN 



179 



Woke at 4 A.M. lying on the ground among the plantain 
stems, having by a reckless movement fallen out of the house. 
Thanks be there are no mosquitoes. I don't know how I 
escaped the rats which swarm here, running about among the 
huts and the inhabitants in the evening, with a tameness 
shocking to see. I turned in again until six o'clock, when we 
started getting things ready to go up river again, carefully 
providing ourselves with a new stock of poles, and subsidising 
a native to come with us and help us to fight the rapids. 

The greatest breadth of the river channel we now saw, in 
the daylight, to be the S.S.W. branch ; this was the one we 
had been swept into, and was almost completely barred by 
rock. The other one to the N.N.W. was more open, and the 
river rushed through it, a terrific, swirling mass of water. Had 
we got caught in this, we should have got past Kembe Island, 
and gone to glory. Whenever the shelter of the spits of land or 
of the reefs was sufficient to allow the water to lay down its 
sand, strange shaped sandbanks showed, as regular in form as if 
they had been smoothed by human hands. They rise above 
the water in a slope, the low end or tail against the current ; 
the down-stream end terminating in an abrupt miniature 
cliff, sometimes six and seven feet above the water ; that they 
are the same shape when they have not got their heads above 
water you will find by sticking on them in a canoe, which I did 
several times, with a sort df automatic devotion to scientific 
research peculiar to me. Your best way of getting off is to 
push on in the direction of the current, carefully preparing 
for the shock of suddenly coming off the cliff end. 

We left the landing place rocks of Kembe Island about 8, 
and no sooner had we got afloat, than, in the twinkling of 
an eye, we were swept, broadside on, right across the river 
to the north bank, and then engaged in a heavy fight 
with a severe rapid. After passing this, the river is fairly un- 
interrupted by rock for a while, and is silent and swift. When 
you are ascending such a^piece the effect is strange ; you see 
the water flying by the side of your canoe, as you vigorously 
drive your paddle into it with short rapid strokes, and you 
forthwith fancy you are travelling at the rate of a North- 
Western express ; but you just raise your eyes, my friend, and 

N 2 



iSo THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAR 



look at that bank, which is standing very nearly still, and you 
will realise that you and your canoe are standing very nearly 
still too ; and that all your exertions are only enabling you to 
creep on at the pace of a crushed snail, and that it's the water 
that is going the pace. It's a most quaint and unpleasant dis- 
illusionment. 

Above the stretch of swift silent water we come to the 
Sengelade Islands, and the river here changes its course 
from N.N.W., S.S.E. to north and south. A bad rapid, 
called by our ally from Kembe Island " Unfanga," being 
surmounted, we seem to be in a mountain-walled lake, and 
keeping along the left bank of this, we get on famously for 
twenty whole restful minutes, which lulls us all into a false 
sense of security, and my crew sing M'pongwe songs, descrip- 
tive of how they go to their homes to see their wives, and 
families, and friends, giving chaffing descriptions of their 
friends' characteristics and of their fail ings, which cause bursts of 
laughter from those among us who recognise the allusions, 
and how they go to their boxes, and take out their clothes, 
and put them on a long bragging inventory of these things is 
given by each man as a solo, and then the chorus, taken heartily 
up by his companions, signifies their admiration and astonish- 
ment at his wealth and importance and then they sing how,, 
being dissatisfied with that last dollar's worth of goods they 
got from " Holty's," they have decided to take their next 
trade to Hatton and Cookson, or vice versa ; and then comes the 
chorus, applauding the wisdom of such a decision, and extol- 
ling the excellence of Hatton and Cookson's goods or Holty's. 
These M'pongwe and Igalwa boat songs are all very pretty, 
and have very elaborate tunes in a minor key. I do not believe 
there are any old words to them ; I have tried hard to find out 
about them, but I believe the tunes, which are of a limited num- 
ber and quite distinct from each other, are very old. The words 
are put in by the singer on the spur of the moment, and only 
restricted in this sense, that there would always be the domestic 
catalogue whatever its component details might be sung to 
the one fixed tune, the trade information sung to another, 
and so on. A good singer, in these parts, means the man who* 
can make up the best song the most impressive, or the most 



IX 



A MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT 



181 



amusing ; I have elsewhere mentioned pretty much the same 
state of things among the Ga's and Krumen and Bubi, and in 
all cases the tunes are only voice tunes, not for instrumental 
performance. The instrumental music consists of that marvel- 
lously developed series of drum tunes the attempt to under- 
stand which has taken up much of my time, and led me into 
queer company and the many tunes played on the 'mrimba 
and the orchid-root-stringed harp : they are, I believe, entirely 
distinct from the song tunes. And these peaceful tunes my 



SOUTH BANK OF THE OGOWE RIVER NEAR SENGEI.ADE ISLANDS. 



men were now singing were, in their florid elaboration very 
different from the one they fought the rapids to, of So Sir 
So Sur So Sir So Sur Ush ! So Sir, &c. 

On we go singing elaborately, thinking no evil of nature, 
when a current, a quiet devil of a thing, comes round from 
behind a point of the bank and catches the nose of our canoe ; 
wringing it well, it sends us scuttling right across the river in 
spite of our ferocious swoops at the water, upsetting us among 
a lot of rocks with the water boiling over them ; this lot of 



182 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



rocks being however of the table-top kind, and not those 
precious, close-set pinnacles rising up sheer out of profound 
depths, between which you are so likely to get your canoe 
wedged in and split. We, up to our knees in water that 
nearly tears our legs off, push and shove the canoe free, and 
re-embarking return singing " So Sir " across the river, to have 
it out with that current. We do ; and at its head find a rapid, 
and notice on the mountain-side a village clearing, the first 
sign of human habitation we have seen to-day. 

Above this rapid we get a treat of still water, the main 
current of the Ogowe flying along by the south bank. On 
our side there are sandbanks with their graceful sloping backs 
and sudden ends, and there is a very strange and beautiful 
effect produced by the flakes and balls of foam thrown off the 
rushing main current into the quiet water. These whirl 
among the eddies and rush backwards and forwards as though 
they were still mad with wild haste, until, finding no 
current to take them down, they drift away into the land- 
locked bays, where they come to a standstill as if they were 
bewildered and lost and were trying to remember where 
they were going to and whence they had come ; the foam of 
which they are composed is yellowish-white, with a spongy 
sort of solidity about it. In a little bay we pass we see eight 
native women, Fans clearly, by their bright brown faces, and 
their loads of brass bracelets and armlets ; likely enough they 
had anklets too, but we could not see them, as the good ladies 
were pottering about waist-deep in the foam-flecked water, 
intent on breaking up a stockaded fish-trap. We pause 
and chat, and watch them collecting the fish in baskets, 
and I acquire some specimens ; and then, shouting farewells 
when we are well away, in the proper civil way, resume our 
course. 

The middle of the Ogowe here is simply forested with high 
rocks, looking, as they stand with their grim forms above the 
foam, like a regiment of strange strong creatures breasting it, 
with their straight faces up river, and their more flowing 
curves down, as though they had on black mantles which 
were swept backwards. Across on the other bank rose the 
black-forested spurs of Tomanjawki. Our channel was 



IX 



A STIFF ASCENT 



183 



free until we had to fight round the upper end of our bay 
into a long rush of strong current with bad whirlpools curving 
its face ; then the river widens out and quiets down and then 
suddenly contracts a rocky forested promontory running 
out from each bank. There is a little village on the north 
bank's promontory, and, at the end of each, huge monoliths rise 
from the water, making what looks like a gateway 
which had once been barred and through which the Ogowe 
had burst. 




BOKO BOKO RAPIDS, OGOWE RIVER. 



For the first time on this trip I felt discouraged ; it seemed 
so impossible that we, with our small canoe and scanty crew, 
could force our way up through that gateway, when the whole 
Ogowe was rushing down through it. But we clung to the 
bank and rocks with hands, poles, and paddle, and did it ; 
really the worst part was not in the gateway but just before 
it, for here there is a great whirlpool, its centre hollowed some 
two or three feet below its rim. It is caused, my Kembe 
islander says, by a great cave opening beneath the water. 
Above the gate the river broadens out again and we see 






1 84 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 

the arched opening to a large cave in the south bank 
the mountain-side is one mass of rock covered with tl 
unbroken forest ; and the entrance to this cave is just on th( 
upper wall of the south bank's promontory ; so, being sheltered 
from the current here, we rest and examine it leisurely. The 
river runs into it, and you can easily pass in at this season, 
but in the height of the wet season, when the river level would 
be some twenty feet or more above its present one, I doubt if 
you could. They told me this place is called Boko Boko, 
and that the cave is a very long one, extending on a level 
some way into the hill, and then ascending and coming out 
near a mass of white rock that showed as a speck high up on 
the mountain. 

If you paddle into it you go "far far," and then "no more 
water live," and you get out and go up the tunnel, which is some- 
times broad, sometimes narrow, sometimes high, sometimes so 
low that you have to crawl, and so get out at the other end. 

One French gentleman has gone through this performance, 
and I am told found " plenty plenty " bats, and hedgehogs, 
and snakes. They could not tell me his name, w^hich I much 
regretted. As we had no store of bush lights we went no 
further than the portals ; indeed, strictly between ourselves, if 
I had had every bush light in Congo Frangais I personally 
should not have relished going further. I am terrified of 
caves ; it sends a creaming down my back to think of them. 

We went across the river to see another cave entrance on the 
other bank, where there is a narrow stretch of low rock-covered 
land at the foot of the mountains, probably under water in the 
wet season. The mouth of this other cave is low, between tum- 
bled blocks of rock. It looked so suspiciously like a short cut to 
the lower regions, that I had less exploring enthusiasm about 
it than even about its opposite neighbour ; although they 
told me no man had gone down " them thing." Probably 
that much-to-be-honoured Frenchman who explored the other 
cave, allowed like myself, that if one did want to go from the 
Equator to Hades, there were pleasanter ways to go than this. 
My Kembe Island man said that just hereabouts were five cave 
openings, the two that we had seen and another one we had 
not, on land, and two under the water, one of the sub-fluvial 



ix PAST THE OKANA RIVER 185 

ones being responsible for the whirlpool we met outside the 
gateway of Boko Boko. 

The scenery above Boko Boko was exceedingly lovely, the 
river shut in between its rim of mountains. As you pass up 
it opens out in front of- you and closes in behind, the closely- 
set confused mass of mountains altering in form as you view 
them from different angles, save one, Kangwe a blunt cone, 
evidently the record of some great volcanic outburst ; and 
the sandbanks show again wherever the current deflects and 
leaves slack water, their bright glistening colour giving a 
relief to the scene. 

For a long period we paddle by the south bank, and pass a 
vertical cleft-like valley, the upper end of which seems blocked 
by a finely shaped mountain, almost as conical as Kangwe. 
The name of this mountain is Njoko, and the name of the 
clear small river, that apparently monopolises the valley floor, 
is the Ovata. Our peace was not of long duration, and we 
were soon again in the midst of a bristling forest of rock ; still 
the current running was not dangerously strong, for the 
river-bed comes up in a ridge, too high for much water to 
come over at this season of the year ; but in the wet season 
this must be one of the worst places. This ridge of rock runs 
two-thirds across the Ogowe, leaving a narrow deep channel 
by the north bank. When we had got our canoe over the 
ridge, mostly by standing in the water and lifting her, we 
found the water deep and fairly quiet. 

On the north bank we passed by the entrance of the Okana 
River. Its mouth is narrow, but, the natives told me, always 
deep, even in the height of the dry season. It is a very con- 
siderable river, running inland to the N.N.E. Little is known 
about it, save that it is narrowed into a ravine course 
above which it expands again ; the banks of it are thickly 
populated by Fans, who send down a considerable trade, and 
have an evil reputation. In the main stream of the Ogowe 
below the Okana's entrance, is a long rocky island called 
Shandi. When we were getting over our ridge and paddling 
about the Okana's entrance my ears recognised a new sound. 
The rush and roar of the Ogowe we knew well enough, and 
could locate which particular obstacle to his headlong course 



i86 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



was making him say things ; it was either those immovable 
rocks, which threw him back in foam, whirling wildly, or it 
was that fringe of gaunt skeleton trees hanging from the bank 
playing a "pull devil, pull baker" contest that made him hiss 
with vexation. But this was an elemental roar. I said to 
M'bo : " That's a thunderstorm away among the mountains." 
" No, sir," says he, " that's the Alemba." 

We paddled on towards it, hugging the right-hand 
bank again to avoid the mid-river rocks. For a brief space 
the mountain wall ceased, and a lovely scene opened 
before us ; we seemed to be looking into the heart of 
the chain of the Sierra del Cristal, the abruptly shaped 
mountains encircling a narrow plain or valley before us, each 
one of them steep in slope, every one of them forest-clad ; 
one, whose name I know not unless it be what is sometimes 
put down as Mt. Okana on the French maps, had a conical shape 
which contrasted beautifully with the more irregular curves of 
its companions. The colour down this gap was superb, and 
very Japanese in the evening glow. The more distant peaks 
were soft gray-blues and purple, those nearer, indigo and black. 
We soon passed this lovely scene and entered the walled-in 
channel, creeping up what seemed an interminable hill of 
black water, then through some whirlpools and a rocky channel 
to the sand and rock shore of our desired island Kondo Kondo, 
along whose northern side tore in thunder the Alemba. We 
made our canoe fast in a little cove among the rocks, and landed, 
pretty stiff and tired and considerably damp. This island, 
when we were on it, must have been about half a mile or so long, 
but during the long wet season a good deal of it is covered , 
and only the higher parts great heaps of stone, among which 
grows a long branched willow-like shrub are above or nearly 
above water. The Adooma from Kembe Island especially 
drew my attention to this shrub, telling me his people who 
worked the rapids always regarded it with an affectionate 
veneration ; for he said it was the only thing that helped a man 
when his canoe got thrown over in the dreaded Alemba, for 
its long tough branches swimming in, or close to, the water 
are veritable life lines, and his best chance ; a chance which must 
have failed some poor fellow, whose knife and leopard-skin belt 



THE ALEMBA RAPID 187 



we found wedged in among the rocks on Kondo Kondo. The 
main part of the island is sand, with slabs and tables of 
polished rock sticking up through it ; and in between the rocks 
grew in thousands most beautiful lilies, their white flowers 
having a very strong scent of vanilla and their bright light-green 
leaves looking very lovely on the glistening pale sand among 
the black-gray rock. How they stand the long submersion 
they must undergo I do not know ; the natives tell me they 
begin to spring up as soon as ever the water falls and 
leaves the island exposed ; that they very soon grow up and 
flower, and keep on flowering until the Ogowe comes down 
again and rides roughshod over Kondo Kondo for months. 
While the men were making their fire I went across the island 
to see the great Alemba rapid, of which I had heard so much, 
that lay between it and the north bank. Nobler pens than mine 
must sing its glory and its grandeur. Its face was like nothing 
I have seen before. Its voice was like nothing I have heard. 
Those other rapids are not to be compared to it ; they are wild, 
headstrong, and malignant enough, but the Alemba is not as 
they. It does not struggle, and writhe, and brawl among the 
rocks, but comes in a majestic springing dance, a stretch of 
waltzing foam, triumphant. 

The beauty of the night on Kondo Kondo was superb ; 
the sun went down and the afterglow flashed across the 
sky in crimson, purple, and gold, leaving it a deep violet- 
purple, with the great stars hanging in it like moons, until the 
moon herself arose, lighting the sky long before she sent 
her beams down on us in this valley. As she rose, 
the mountains hiding her face grew harder and harder in 
outline, and deeper and deeper black, while those opposite 
were just enough illumined to let one see the wefts and 
floating veils of blue-white mist upon them, and when at last, 
and for a short time only, she shone full down on the savage 
foam of the Alemba, she turned it into a soft silver mist. 
Around, on all sides flickered the fire-flies, who had come to 
see if our fire was not a big relation of their own, and they were 
the sole representatives, with ourselves, of animal life. When the 
moon had gone, the sky, still lit by the stars, seeming indeed 
to be in itself lambent, was very lovely, but it shared none of 






1 88 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



its light with us, and we sat round our fire surrounded by an 
utter darkness. Cold, clammy drifts of almost tangible mist 
encircled us ; ever and again came cold faint puffs of wandering 
wind, weird and grim beyond description. 

The individual names of the mountains round Kondo Kondo 
and above I cannot give you, though I \vas told them. For 
in my last shipwreck before reaching Kondo Kondo, I had 
lost my pencil ; and my note-book, even if I had had a 
pencil, was unfit to get native names down on, being a pulpy 
mass, because I had kept it in my pocket after leaving the 
Okana river so as to be ready for submergencies. And I also 
had several fish and a good deal of water in my pocket too, 
so that I am thankful I have a note left. 

I will not weary you further with details of our ascent of the 
Ogowe rapids, for I have done so already sufficiently to make 
you understand the sort of work going up them entails, and 
I have no doubt that, could I have given you a more vivid 
picture of them, you would join me in admiration of the fiery 
pluck of those few Frenchmen who traverse them on duty bound. 
I personally deeply regret it was not my good fortune to meet 
again the French official I had had the pleasure of meeting on 
the Eclaireur. He would have been truly great in his descrip- 
tion of his voyage to Franceville. I wonder how he would 
have " done " his unpacking of canoes and his experiences on 
Kondo Kondo, where, by the by, we came across many of 
the ashes of his expedition's attributive fires. Well ! he must 
have been a pleasure to Franceville, and I hope also to the 
good fathers at Lestourville, for those places must be just 
slightly sombre for Parisians. 

Going down big rapids is always, everywhere, more dan- 
gerous than coming up, because when you are coming up and 
a whirlpool or eddy does jam you on rocks, the current helps 
you off certainly only with a view to dashing your brains out 
and smashing your canoe on another set of rocks it's got ready 
below ; but for the time being it helps, and when off, you take 
charge and convert its plan into an incompleted fragment ; 
whereas in going down the current is against your backing off. 
M'bo had a series of prophetic visions as to what would happen 
to us on our way down, founded on reminiscence and tradition. 



IX 



GLOOMY PROPHECIES 



189 



I tried to comfort him by pointing out that, were any one of his 
prophecies fulfilled, it would spare our friends and relations all 
funeral expenses ; and, unless they went and wasted their money 
on a memorial window, that ought to be a comfort to our well- 
regulated minds. M'bo did not see this, but was too good a 
Christian to be troubled by the disagreeable conviction that was 
in the minds of other members of my crew, namely, that our 
souls, unliberated by funeral rites from this world, would have to 
hover for ever over the Ogowe near the scene of our catastrophe. 




SOUTH BANK OF THE OGOWE ABOVE BOKO BOKO. 



I own this idea was an unpleasant one fancy having to pass 
the day in those caves with the bats, and then come out and 
wander all night in the cold mists ! However, like a good 
many likely-looking prophecies, those of M'bo did not quite 
come off, and a miss is as good as a mile. Twice we had a 
near call, by being shot in between two pinnacle rocks, 
within half an inch of being fatally close to each other for us ; 
but after some alarming scrunching sounds, and creaks from 
the canoe, we were shot ignominiously out down river. Several 
times we got on to partially submerged table rocks, and were 






190 THE RAPIDS OF THE OGOWE CHAP. 



unceremoniously bundled off them by the Ogowe, irritated at 
the hindrance we were occasioning ; but we never met the rocks 
of M'bo's prophetic soul that lurking, submerged needle, or 
knife-edge of a pinnacle rock which was to rip our canoe from 
stem to stern, neat and clean into two pieces. 

A comic incident happened to us one evening. The canoe 
jammed among a clump of rocks, and out we went anyhow into 
the water. Fortunately, there were lots of rocks about ; unfor- 
tunately, we each chose different ones to perch on ; mine was 
exceedingly inconvenient, being a smooth pillar affair, to which 
it was all I and the French flag, which always accompanied 
me in upsets, could do to hold on. There was considerable 
delay in making up our party again, for the murkiness of 
the night only allowed each of us to see the foam which 
flew round our own particular rock, and the noise of the 
rapids made it difficult for us to interchange information 
regarding our own individual position and plan of action. 
However, owing to that weak-minded canoe swinging round 
broadside on to the rocks, she did not bolt down the river. 
When Pierre got to her she was trying to climb sideways over 
them, " like a crab," he said. We seven of us got into her 
number eight we could not find and were just beginning to 
think the Ogowe had claimed another victim when we heard 
the strains of that fine hymn " Notre port est au Ciel," which is 
a great favourite hereabouts owing to its noble tune, coming 
to us above the rapids' clamour in an agonised howl. We went 
joyfully and picked the singer off his rock, and then dashed 
downwards to further dilemmas and disasters. The course we 
had to take coming down was different to that we took coming 
up. Coming up we kept as closely as might be to the most 
advisable bank, and dodged behind every rock we could, 
to profit by the shelter it afforded us from the current. 
Coming down, fallen-tree-fringed banks and rocks were con- 
verted from friends to foes ; so we kept with all our power 
in the very centre of the swiftest part of the current in order to 
avoid them. The grandest part of the whole time was coming 
down, below the Alemba, where the whole great Ogowe 
takes a tiger-like spring for about half a mile, I should 
think, before it strikes a rock reef below. As you come out 



KEEP HER HEAD STRAIGHT 191 



from among the rocks in the upper rapid it gives you or I 
should perhaps confine myself to saying, it gave me a pecu- 
liar internal sensation to see that stretch of black water, 
shining like a burnished sheet of metal, sloping down before 
one, at such an angle. All you have got to do is to keep your 
canoe-head straight quite straight, you understand for any 
failure so to do will land you the other side of the tomb, in- 
stead of in a cheerful no-end-of-a-row with the lower rapid's 
rocks. This lower rapid is one of the worst in the dry season ; 
maybe it is so in the wet too, for the river's channel here turns 
an elbow-sharp curve which infuriates the Ogowe in a most 
dangerous manner. 

I hope to see the Ogowe next time in the wet season 
there must be several more of these great sheets of water then 
over what are rocky rapids now. Just think what coming 
down over that ridge above Boko Boko will be like ! I do 
not fancy however it would ever be possible to get up the river 
when it is at its height, with so small a crew as we were when 
we went and played our knock-about farce, before King Death, 
in his amphitheatre in the Sierra del Cristal. 



CHAPTER X 

LEMBARENE 

In which is given some account of the episode of the Hippopotame, and 
of the voyager's attempts at controlling an Ogowe canoe ; and also 
of the Igalwa tribe. 

ON my return to Talagouga, I find both my good friends sick 
with fever M. Forget very ill indeed. Providentially the 
Eclaireur came up river, with the Doctor Administrator on 
board, and he came ashore and prescribed, and in a few days 
M. Forget was better. I say good-bye to Talagouga with much 
regret, and go on board the Eclaireur, when she returns from 
Njole, with all my bottles and belongings. On board I find no 
other passenger; the captain's English has widened out con- 
siderably ; and he is as pleasant, cheery, and spoiling for a fight 
as ever ; but he has a preoccupied manner, and a most peculiar 
set of new habits, which I find are shared by the engineer. 
Both of them make rapid dashes to the rail, and nervously 
scan the river for a minute and then return to some occupa- 
tion, only to dash from it to the rail again. During breakfast 
their conduct is nerve-shaking. Hastily taking a few mouth- 
fuls, the captain drops his knife and fork and simply hurls his 
seamanlike form through the nearest door out on to the deck. 
In another minute he is back again, and with just a shake of 
his head to the engineer, continues his meal. The engineer 
shortly afterwards flies from his seat, and being far thinner 
than the captain, goes through his nearest door with even 
greater rapidity ; returns, and shakes his head at the captain, 
and continues his meal. Excitement of this kind is in- 
fectious, and I also wonder whether I ought not to show 
a sympathetic friendliness by flying from my seat and hurl- 
ing myself on to the deck through my nearest door, too. 



CH. x A SMOOTH RUN DOWN 193 

But although there are plenty of doors, as four enter the 
saloon from the deck, I do not see my way to doing this per- 
formance aimlessly, and what in this world they are both after I 
cannot think. So I confine myself to woman's true sphere, and 
assist in a humble way by catching the wine and Vichy water 
bottles, glasses, and plates of food, which at every performance 
are jeopardised by the members of the nobler sex starting 
off with a considerable quantity of the ample table-cloth 
wrapped round their legs. At last I can stand it no longer, 
so ask the captain point-blank what is the matter. " No- 
thing," says he, bounding out of his chair and flying out of his 
doorway ; but on his .return he tells me he has got a bet on 
of two bottles of champagne with Woermann's agent for 
Njole, as to who shall reach Lembarene first, and the German 
agent has started off some time before the Eclair eur in his 
little steam launch. 

During the afternoon we run smoothly along ; the free 
pulsations of the engines telling what a very different thing 
coming down theOgowe is to going up against its terrific current. 
Every now and again we stop to pick up cargo, or discharge 
over-carried cargo, and the captain's mind becomes lulled by 
getting no news of the Woermann's launch having passed 
down. He communicates this to the engineer ; it is impossible 
she could have passed the Eclaireur since they started, there- 
fore she must be somewhere behind at a subfactory, " N*est-ce 
pas ? " " Out, oui, certainement" says the engineer. The 
engineer is, by these considerations, also lulled, and 
feels he may do something else but scan the river 
a la sister Ann. What that something is puzzles me ; 
it evidently requires secrecy, and he shrinks from detec- 
tion. First he looks down one side of the deck, no one there ; 
then he looks down the other, no one there ; good so far. I 
then see he has put his head through one of the saloon port- 
holes ; no one there ; he hesitates a few seconds until I begin 
to wonder whether his head will suddenly appear through my 
port ; but he regards this as an unnecessary precaution, and I 
hear him enter his cabin which abuts on mine and there is 
silence for some minutes. Writing home to his mother, think 
I, as I go on putting a new braid round the bottom of a worn 

O 



194 LEMBARENE CHAP. 

skirt. Almost immediately after follows the sound of a little 
click from the next cabin, and then apparently one of the 
denizens of the iniernal regions has got its tail smashed in a 
door and the heavy hot afternoon air is reft by an inchoate howl 
of agony. I drop my needlework and take to the deck ; but it 
is after all only that shy retiring young man practising secretly 
on his clarionet. 

The captain is drowsily looking down the river. 
But repose is not long allowed to that active spirit ; 
he sees something in the water what? " Hippopotame" he 
ejaculates. Now both he and the engineer frequently do this 
thing, and then fly off to their guns bang, bang, finish ; but this 
time he does not dash for his gun, nor does the engineer, who flies 
out of his cabin at the sound of the war shout " HippopotameT 
In vain I look across the broad river with its stretches of yellow 
sandbanks, where the " hippopotame " should be, but I can see 
nothing but four black stumps sticking up in the water away to 
the right Meanwhile the captain and the engineer are flying 
about getting off a crew of blacks into the canoe we are towing 
alongside. This being done the captain explains to me that on 
the voyage up " the engineer had fired at, and hit a hippo- 
potamus, and without doubt this was its body floating." We 
are now close enough even for me to recognise the four stumps 
as the deceased's legs, and soon the canoe is alongside them 
and makes fast to one, and then starts to paddle back, hippo 
and all, to the Eclaireur. But no such thing ; let them paddle 
and shout as hard as they like, the hippo's weight simply anchors 
them. The claireur\yy now has dropped down the river past 
them, and has to sweep round and run back. Recognising 
promptly what the trouble is, the energetic captain grabs up a 
broom, ties a light cord belonging to the leadline to it, and 
holding the broom by the end of its handle, swings it round 
his head and hurls it at the canoe. The arm of a merciful 
Providence being interposed, the broom-tomahawk does not 
hit the canoe, wherein, if it had, it must infallibly have killed 
some one, but falls short, and goes tearing off with the current, 
well out of reach of the canoe. The captain seeing this gross 
dereliction of duty by a Chargeur Reunis broom, hauls it in 
hand over hand and talks to it. Then he ties the other end of its 



X CAPTURE OF A HIPPOPOTAMUS 195 

line to the mooring rope, and by a better aimed shot sends the 
broom into the water, about ten yards above the canoe, and it 
drifts towards it. Breathless excitement ! surely they will get 
it now. Alas, no ! Just when it is within reach of the canoe, a 
fearful shudder runs through the broom. It throws up its head 
and sinks beneath the tide. A sensation of stun comes overall 
of us. The crew of the canoe, ready and eager to grasp the 
approaching aid, gaze blankly at the circling ripples round 
where it sank. In a second the captain knows what has 
happened. That heavy hawser which has been paid out after 
it has dragged it down, so he hauls it on board again. 

The Edaireur goes now close enough to the hippo-anchored 
canoe for a rope to be flung to the man in her bows ; he catches 
it and freezes on gallantly. Saved ! No ! Oh horror ! The 
lower deck hums with fear that after all it will not taste that 
toothsome hippo chop, for the man who has caught the rope 
is as nearly as possible jerked flying out of the canoe when 
the strain of the Edaireur contending with the hippo's 
inertia flies along it, but his companion behind him grips him 
by the legs and is in his turn grabbed, and the crew holding 
on to each other with their hands, and on to their craft with 
their feet, save the man holding on to the rope and the whole 
situation ; and slowly bobbing towards us comes the hippo- 
potamus, who is shortly hauled on board by the winners in 
triumph. 

My esteemed friends, the captain and the engineer, who of 
course have been below during this hauling, now rush on'to the 
upper deck, each coatless, and carrying an enormous butcher's 
knife. They dash into the saloon, where a terrific sharpening of 
these instruments takes place on the steel belonging to the 
saloon carving-knife, and down stairs again. By looking down 
the ladder, I can see the pink, pig-like hippo, whose colour 
has been soaked out by the water, lying on the lower deck 
and the captain and engineer slitting down the skin intent 
on gralloching operations. Providentially, my prophetic soul 
induces me to leave the top of the ladder and go forward 
" run to win'ard," as Captain Murray would say for within 
two minutes the captain and engineer are up the ladder as if 
they had been blown up by the boilers bursting, and go as 

O 2 



196 LEMBARENE CHAP, 



one man for the brandy bottle ; and they wanted it if ever 
man did ; for remember that hippo had been dead and in the 
warm river-water for more than a week. 

The captain had had enough of it, he said, but the engineer 
stuck to the job with a courage I profoundly admire, and he 
saw it through and then retired to his cabin ; sand-and-can- 
vassed himself first, and then soaked and saturated himself in 
Florida water. The flesh gladdened the hearts of the crew 
and lower-deck passengers and also of the inhabitants of 
Lembarene, who got dashes of it on our arrival there. Hippo 
flesh is not to be despised by black man or white ; I have 
enjoyed it far more than the stringy beef or vapid goat's 
flesh one gets down here. 

I stayed on board the Eclaireur all night ; for it was dark 
when we reached Lembarene, too dark to go round to Kangwe - 
and next morning, after taking a farewell of her I 
hope not a final one, for she is a most luxurious little vessel 
for the Coast, as the feeding on board is excellent and the 
society varied and charming I went round to Kangwe. M. 
and Mme. Jacot received me back most kindly, and they 
both looked all the better for my having been away. M. 
Haug and a young missionary from Baraka, who had come up* 
to Lembarene. for a change after fever, were busy starting 
to go up to Talagouga in a canoe, which I was very glad of,, 
because M. Haug, at any rate, would be of immense help 
to Mme. and M. Forget, while they were in such bad health ;: 
only during his absence M. Jacot had enough work for any 
five men. 

I remained some time in the Lembarene district and saw and 
learnt many things ; I owe most of what I learnt to M. 
and Mme. Jacot who knew a great deal about both the 
natives and the district, and I owe much of what I saw to 
having acquired the art of managing by myself a native 
canoe. This " recklessness " of mine I am sure did not merit the 
severe criticism it has been subjected to, for my performances 
gave immense amusement to others (I can hear Lembarene's 
shrieks of laughter now) and to myself they gave great 
pleasure. 

My first attempt was made at Talagouga one very hot 






A TRIAL TRIP 197 



.afternoon. M. and Mme. Forget were, I thought, safe 
having their siestas, Oranie was with Mme. Gacon. I 
knew where Mme. Gacon was for certain ; she was with 
M. Gacon ; and I knew he was up in the^ sawmill shed, 
out of sight of the river, because of the soft thump, thump, 
thump of the big water-wheel. There was therefore no one to 
keep me out of mischief, and I was too frightened to go into 
the forest that afternoon, because on the previous afternoon I 
had been stalked as a wild beast by a cannibal savage, and I am 
nervous. Besides, and above all, it is quite impossible to see 
other people, even if they are only black, naked savages, gliding 
about in canoes, without wishing to go and glide about yourself. 
So I went down to where the canoes were tied by their noses to 
the steep bank, and finding a paddle, a broken one, I unloosed 
the smallest canoe. Unfortunately this was fifteen feet or so 
long, but I did not know the disadvantage of having, as it 
were, a long-tailed canoe then I did shortly afterwards. 

The promontories running out into the river on each side of 
the mission beach give a little stretch of slack water between 
the bank and the mill-race-like current of the Ogowe, and I 
wisely decided to keep in the slack water, until I had found 
out how to steer most important thing steering. I got into 
the bow of the canoe, and shoved off from the bank all right ; 
then I knelt down learn how to paddle standing up by and 
by good so far. I rapidly learnt how to steer from the 
bow, but I could not get up any pace. Intent on acquiring 
pace, I got to the edge of the slack water ; and then dis- 
playing more wisdom, I turned round to avoid it, proud as a 
peacock, you understand, at having found out how to turn 
round. At this moment, the current of the greatest equatorial 
river in the world, grabbed my canoe by its tail. We spun 
round and round for a few seconds, like a teetotum, I 
steering the whole time for all I was worth, and then the 
current dragged the canoe ignominiously down river, tail fore- 
most. 

Fortunately a big tree was at that time temporarily hanging 
against the rock in the river, just below the sawmill beach. 
Into that tree the canoe shot with a crash, and I hung on, and 
shipping my paddle, pulled the canoe into the slack water 



198 LEMBARENE CHAP. 

again, by the aid of the branches of the tree, which I was in 
mortal terror would come off the rock, and insist on accom- 
panying me and the canoe, via Kama country, to the Atlantic 
Ocean ; but it held, and when I had got safe against the side of 
the pinnacle-rock I wiped a perspiring brow, and searched in 
my mind for a piece of information regarding navigation that 
would be applicable to the management of long-tailed Adooma 
canoes. I could not think of one for some minutes. Captain 
Murray has imparted to me at one time and another an 
enormous mass of hints as to the management of vessels, 
but those vessels were all presupposed to have steam power/ 
But he having been the first man to take an ocean-going 
steamer up to Matadi on the Congo, through the terrific 
currents that whirl and fly in Hell's Cauldron, knew 
about currents, and I remembered he had said regarding tak- 
ing vessels through them, " Keep all the headway you can on 
her." Good ! that hint inverted will fit this situation like a 
glove, and I'll keep all the tailway I can off her. Feeling now 
as safe as only a human being can feel who is backed up by a 
sound principle, I was cautiously crawling to the tail-end of 
the canoe, intent on kneeling in it to look after it, when 
I heard a dreadful outcry on the bank. Looking there I 
saw Mme. Forget, Mme. Gacon, M. Gacon, and their attribu- 
tive crowd of mission children all in a state of frenzy. They 
said lots of things in chorus. "What?" said I. They said 
some more and added gesticulations. Seeing I was wasting 
their time as I could not hear, I drove the canoe from 
the rock and made my way, mostly by steering, to 
the bank close by ; and then tying the canoe firmly 
up I walked over the mill stream and divers other 
things towards my anxious friends. " You'll be drowned," 
they said. " Gracious goodness ! " said I, " I thought that half 
an hour ago, but it's all right now ; I can steer." After much 
conversation I lulled their fears regarding me, and having 
received strict orders to keep in the stern of the canoe, because 
that is the proper place when you are managing a canoe 
single-handed, I returned to my studies. I had not however 
lulled my friends' interest regarding me, and they stayed on 
the bank watching. 



x AMATEUR CANOEING 199 

I found first, that my education in steering from 
the bow was of no avail ; second, that it was all right 
if you reversed it. For instance, when you are in the 
bow, and make an inward stroke with the paddle on the 
right-hand side, the bow goes to the right ; whereas, if you 
make an inward stroke on the right-hand side, when you are 
sitting in the stern, the bow then goes to the left. Under- 
stand ? Having grasped this law, I crept along up river ; and, 
by Allah ! before I had gone twenty yards, if that wretch, the 
current of the greatest, &c., did not grab hold of the nose of 
my canoe, and we teetotummed round again as merrily as ever. 
My audience screamed. I knew what they were- saying, 
" You'll be drowned ! Come back ! Come back ! " but I heard 
them and I heeded not. If you attend to advice in a crisis 
you're lost ; besides, I couldn't "Come back " just then. 
However, I got into the slack water again, by some very 
showy, high-class steering. Still steering, fine as it is, is not 
all you require and hanker after. You want pace as well, and 
pace, except when in the clutches of the current, I had not so 
far attained. Perchance, thought I, the pace region in a canoe 
may be in its centre ; so I got along on my knees into the centre 
to experiment. Bitter failure ; the canoe took to sidling down 
river broadside on, like Mr. Winkle's horse. Shouts of 
laughter from the bank. Both bow and stern education 
utterly inapplicable to centre ; and so, seeing I was utterly 
thrown away there, I crept into the bows, and in a few more 
minutes I steered my canoe, perfectly, in among -its fellows by 
the bank and secured it there. Mme. Forget ran down to 
meet me and assured me she had not laughed so much since 
she had been in Africa, although she was frightened at the 
time lest I should get capsized and drowned. I believe it, for 
she is a sweet and gracious lady ; and I quite see, as she 
demonstrated, that the sight of me, teetotumming about, 
steering in an elaborate and showy way ail the time, was 
irresistibly comic. And she gave a most amusing account of 
how, when she started looking for me to give me tea, a 
charming habit of hers, she could not see me in among 
my bottles, and so asked the little black boy where I was. 
" There," said he, pointing to the tree hanging against the rock 



200 LEMBARENE CHAP. 

out in the river ; and she, seeing me hitched with a canoe 
against the rock, and knowing the danger and depth of the 
river, got alarmed. 

Well, when I got down to Lembarene I naturally went on 
with my canoeing studies, in pursuit of the attainment of 
pace. Success crowned my efforts, and I can honestly and 
truly say that there are only two things I am proud of one 
is that Doctor Gunther has approved of my fishes, and the 
other is that I can paddle an Ogowe canoe. Pace, 
style, steering and all, "All same for one" as if I w r ere an 
Ogowe African. A strange, incongruous pair of things : but 
I often wonder what are the things other people are really 
most proud of ; it would be a quaint and repaying subject for 
investigation. 

Mme. Jacot gave me every help in canoeing, for she is 
a remarkably clear-headed woman, and recognised that, as I 
was always getting soaked, anyhow, I ran no extra danger in 
getting soaked in a canoe ; and then, it being the dry season, 
there was an immense stretch of water opposite Andande 
beach, which was quite shallow. So she saw no need of my 
getting drowned. 

The sandbanks were showing their yellow heads in all direc- 
tions when I came down from Talagouga, and just opposite An- 
dande there was sticking up out of the water a great, graceful, 
palm frond. It had been stuck into the head of the pet sandbank, 
and every day was visited by the boys and girls in canoes to see 
how much longer they would have to wait for the sandbank's 
appearance. A few days after my return it showed, and in 
two days more there it was, acres and acres of it, looking like 
a great, golden carpet spread on the surface of the centre of 
the clear water clear here, down this side of Lembarene 
Island, because the river runs fairly quietly, and has time to 
deposit its mud. Dark brown the Ogowe flies past the other side 
of the island, the main current being deflected that way by a 
bend, just below the entrance of the Nguni. 

There was great rejoicing. Canoe-load after canoe-load of 
boys and girls went to the sandbank, some doing a little fishing 
round its rim, others bringing the washing there, all skylarking 
and singing. Few prettier sights have I ever seen than those 



DEATH OF M. JACOT 201 



on that sandbank the merry brown forms dancing or lying 
stretched on it : the gaudy-coloured patchwork quilts and 
chintz mosquito-bars that have been washed, spread out 
drying, looking from Kangwe on the hill above, like beds 
of bright flowers. By night when it was moonlight 
there would be bands of dancers on it with bush-light torches, 
gyrating, intermingling and separating till you could think 
you were looking at a dance of stars. 

They commenced affairs very early on that sandbank, and 
they kept them up very late ; and all the time there came from 
it a soft murmur of laughter and song. Ah me ! if the aim of 
life were happiness and pleasure, Africa should send us mis- 
sionaries instead of our sending them to her but, fortunately 
for the work of the world, happiness is not. One thing I re- 
member which struck me very much regarding the sandbank, 
and this was that Mme. Jacot found such pleasure in taking her 
work on to the verandah, where she could see it. I knew 
she did not care for the songs and the dancing. One day she 
said to me, " It is such a relief." " A relief? " I said. " Yes, 
do you not see that until it shows there is nothing but forest, 
forest, forest, and that still stretch of river. That bank is the 
only piece of clear ground I see in the year, and that only 
lasts a few weeks until the wet season comes, and then it goes, 
and there is nothing but forest, forest, forest, for another year. 
It is two years now since I came to this place ; it may be I know 
not how many more before we go home again." I grieve to 
say, for my poor friend's sake, that her life at Kangwe was nearly 
at its end. Soon after my return to England I heard of the 
death of her husband from malignant fever. M. Jacot was 
a fine, powerful, energetic man, in the prime of life. He 
was a teetotaler and a vegetarian ; and although constantly 
travelling to and fro in his district on his evangelising 
work, he had no foolish recklessness in him. No one would 
have thought that he would have been the first to go of 
us who used to sit round his hospitable table. His delicate 
wife, his two young children or I ,would have seemed far 
more likely. His loss will be a lasting one to the people he 
risked his life to (what he regarded) save. The natives held 
him in the greatest affection and respect, and his influence 



202 LEMBARENE CHAP. 

over them was considerable, far more profound than that of 
any other missionary I have ever seen. His loss is also great 
to those students of Africa who are working on the culture or 
on the languages ; his knowledge of both was extensive, par- 
ticularly of the little known languages of the Ogowe district. 
He was, when I left, busily employed in compiling a dictionary 
of the Fan tongue, and had many other works on language 
in contemplation. His work in this sphere would have had 
a high value, for he was a man with a university education 
and well grounded in Latin and Greek, and thoroughly 
acquainted with both English and French literature, for 
although born a Frenchman, he had been brought up in 
America. He was also a cultivated musician, and he and 
Mme. Jacot in the evenings would sing old French songs, Swiss 
songs, English songs, in their rich full voices ; and then if- 
you stole softly out on to the verandah, you would often find 
it crowded with a silent, black audience, listening intently. 

The amount of work M. and Mme. Jacot used to get through 
was, to me, amazing, and I think the Ogowe Protestant 
mission sadly short-handed its missionaries not being 
content to follow .the usual Protestant plan out in West 
Africa, namely, quietly sitting down and keeping house, with 
just a few native children indoors to do the housework, and 
close by a school and a little church where a service is held 
on Sundays. The representatives of the Mission Evangelique, 
go to and fro throughout the district round each station on 
evangelising work, among some of the most" dangerous and 
uncivilised tribes in Africa, frequently spending a fortnight at 
a time away from their homes, on the waterways of a wild and 
dangerous country. In addition to going themselves, they 
send trained natives as evangelists and Bible readers, and 
keep a keen eye on the trained native, which means a con- 
siderable amount of worry and strain too. The work on the 
stations is heavy in Ogowe districts, because when you have 
got a clearing made and all the buildings up, you have by no 
means finished with the affair, for you have to fight the 
Ogowe forest back, as a Dutchman fights the sea. But the 
main cause of work is the store, which in this exhausting 
climate is more than enough work for one man alone. 



NATIVE FINANCE 203 



Payments on the Ogowe are made in goods ; the natives do 
not use any coinage-equivalent, save in the strange case of the 
Fans, which does not touch general trade and which I will 
speak of later. They have not even the brass bars and cheetems 
that are in usecT in Calabar, or cowries as in Lagos. In order 
to expedite and simplify this goods traffic, a written or printed 
piece of paper is employed practically a cheque, which is 
called a " bon " or " book," and these " bons " are cashed i.e. 
gooded, at the store. They are for three amounts. Five 
fura = a dollar. One fura = a franc. Desu = fifty centimes = 
half a fura. The value given for these "bons" is the 
same from government, trade, and mission. Although the 
Mission Evangelique does not trade i.e. buy produce and 
sell it at a profit, its representatives have a great deal of 
business to attend to through the store, which is practically a 
bank. All the native evangelists, black teachers, Bible- 
readers and labourers on the stations are paid off in these bons ; 
and when any representative of the mission is away on a jour- 
ney, food bought for themselves and their canoe crews is 
paid for in bons, which are brought in by the natives at their 
convenience, and changed for goods at the store. Therefore 
for several hours every weekday the missionary has to devote 
himself to store work, and store work out here is by no means 
playing at shop. It is very hard, tiring, exasperating work 
when you have to deal with it in full, as a trader, when it is 
necessary for you to purchase produce at a price that will give 
you a reasonable margin of profit over storing, customs' duties, 
shipping expenses, &c., &c. But it is quite enough to try the 
patience of any saint when you are only keeping store to pay 
on bons, a la missionary ; for each class of article used in trade 
and there are some hundreds of them has a definite and 
acknowledged value, but where the trouble comes in is that 
different articles have the same value ; for example, six fish- 
hooks and one pocket-handkerchief have the same value, or 
you can make up that value in lucifer matches, pomatum, a 
mirror, a hair comb, tobacco, or scent in bottles.. 

Now, if you are a trader, certain of these articles cost you 
more than others, although they have an identical value to 
the native, and so it is to your advantage to pay what we 



204 LEMBARENE CHAP. 

should call, in Cameroons, " a Kru, cheap copper," and you have 
a lot of worry to effect this. To the missionary this does not 
so much matter. It makes absolutely no difference to the 
native, mind you ; so he is by no means done by the trader. 
Take powder for an example. There is no profit on powder 
for the trader in Congo Francais, but the native always wants 
it because he can get a tremendous profit on it from his black 
brethren in the bush ; hence it pays the trader to give him 
his bon out in Boma check, &c., better than in gunpowder. 
This is a fruitful spring of argument and persuasion. How- 
ever, whether the native is passing in a bundle of rubber 
or a tooth of ivory, or merely cashing a bon for a week's 
bush catering, he is in Congo Frangais incapable of deciding 
what he will have when it comes to the point. He comes into 
the shop with a bon in his hand, and we will say, for example, 
the idea in his head that he wants fish-hooks "jupes," he 
calls them but, confronted with the visible temptation of 
pomatum, he hesitates, and scratches his head violently. 
Surrounding him there are ten or twenty other natives with 
their minds in a similar wavering state, but yet anxious to be 
served forthwith. In consequence of the stimulating scratch, 
he remembers that one of his wives said he was to bring some 
lucifer matches, another wanted cloth for herself, and another 
knew of some rubber she could buy very cheap, in tobacco, of a 
Fan woman who had stolen it. This rubber he knows he can 
take to the trader's store and sell for pocket-handkerchiefs of 
a superior pattern, or gunpowder, or rum, which he cannot get 
at the mission store. He finally gets something and takes it 
home, and likely enough brings it back, in a day or so, 
somewhat damaged, desirous of changing it for some other 
article or articles. Remember also that these Bantu, like 
the Negroes, think externally, in a loud voice ; like Mr. Kip- 
ling's 'oont, " he smells most awful vile," and, if he be a 
Fan, he accompanies his observations with violent dramatic 
gestures, and let the customer's tribe or sex be what it may, 
the customer is sadly, sadly liable to pick up any portable 
object within reach, under the shadow of his companions' 
uproar, and stow it away in his armpits, between his legs, or, 
if his cloth be large enough, in that. Picture to yourself the 



x MISSION SCHOOLS 205 

perplexities of a Christian minister, engaged in such an occu- 
pation as storekeeping under these circumstances, with, likely 
enough, a touch of fever on him and jiggers in his feet ; and 
when the store is closed the goods in it requiring constant 
vigilance to keep them free from mildew and white ants. 

Then in addition to the store work, a fruitful source of work 
and worry are the schools, for both boys and girls. It is 
regarded as futile to attempt to get any real hold over 
the children unless they are removed from the influence of 
the country fashions that surround them in their village homes ; 
therefore the schools are boarding ; hence the e'ntire care of 
the children, including feeding and clothing, falls on the 
missionary. 

The French government has made things harder by decree- 
ing that the children should be taught French. It does not 
require that evangelistic work should be carried on in French, 
but that if foreign languages are taught, that language shall 
be French first. The general feeling of the missionaries is 
against this, because of the great difficulty in teaching the 
native this delicate and highly complex language. English, 
the Africans pick up sooner than any foreign language.. 
I do not like to think that my esteemed friend Donna Maria 
de Sousa Coutinho is right in saying " because it is so much 
more like their own savage tongue," but regard this facility in 
acquiring it to the universal use of it in the form of trade 
English in the villages round them. Indeed, I believe that if 
the missionary was left alone he would not teach any Euro- 
pean language, but confine himself to using the native 
languages in his phonetically written-down form ; because the 
Africans learn to read this very quickly, and the missionary 
can confine their reading to those books he thinks suitable for 
perusal by his flock namely, the Bible, hymn-book, and 
Bunyan's Holy War. 

The native does not see things in this light, and half the 
time comes to the schools only to learn, what he calls " sense " 
i.e., white man's ways and language, which will enable him to 
trade with greater advantage. Still, I think the French 
government is right, from what I have seen in our own posses- 
sions of the disadvantage, expense, and inconvenience of the 



2o6 LEMBARENE CHAP. 



bulk of the governed not knowing the language of their 
governors, both parties having therefore frequently to depend 
on native interpreters ; and native interpreters are " deceitful 
above all things and desperately wicked " occasionally, and the 
just administration of the country under these conditions is 
almost impossible. 

You may say, Why should not the government official learn 
the native language like the missionary ? and I think govern- 
ment officials who are settled like missionaries on the Coast 
should do so, but if you enforced this ru4e in Congo Francais, 
where the government officials fly to and fro, Mezzofantis 
only need apply for appointments. Take the Gaboon district, 
to use the handy, but now obsolete division of the colony. 
This district, being the seaboard one, is where most of the 
dealings with the natives occur. In my small way I have met 
there with representatives of tribes speaking Shekani, Balungi, 
M'benga, M'billo, M'pongwe, Bakele, Ncomi, Igalwa, Adooma, 
Ajumba, and Fan, and there are plenty more. Neither are any 
of these tribes neatly confined to distinct districts, so that you 
might teach your unfortunate official one language, and then tie 
him down in one place, where he could use it. Certain districts 
have a preponderance of certain tribes, but that is all. The 
Fans are everywhere in the northern districts of the Ogowe : 
but among them, in the districts below Lembarene, you will 
find Igalwa and Ajumba villages, side by side, with likely 
enough just across the stream a Bakele one. Above 
Talagouga, until you get to Boue, you could get along with 
Fan alone ; but there is no government rule that requires 
languages up there because, barring keeping the Ogow^ open 
to the French flag, it is not interfered with ; and then when 
you get up to Franceville above Boue, there is quite another 
group of languages, Okota, Batoke, Adooma, &c., &c., and 
the Middle Congo languages. To require a knowledge of all 
these languages would be absurd, and necessitate the multipli- 
cation of officials to an enormous extent. 

But to return to the Mission Evangelique schools. This 
mission does not undertake technical instruction. All the 
training the boys get is religious and scholastic. The girls 
fare somewhat better, for they get in addition instruction from 



x TECHNICAL INSTRUCTION 207 

the mission ladies in sewing, washing, and ironing, and for the 
rest of it they have an uncommonly pleasant and easy time, 
which they most bitterly regret as past when they go to their 
husbands, for husbands they each of them have. 

It is strange that no technical instruction is given by any 
government out here. All of the governments support mission 
schools by grants : but the natives turned out by the 
schools are at the best only fit for clerks, and the rest of 
the world seems to have got a glut of clerks already, and 
Africa does not want clerks yet, it wants planters I do not 
say only plantation hands, for I am sure from what I have 
seen in Cameroons of the self-taught native planters there, 
that intelligent Africans could do an immense amount to 
develop the resources of the country. The Roman Catholic 
mission atLandana carries on a great work in giving agricultural 
instruction in improved methods : but most of the other 
technical mission stations confine their attention to teaching 
carpentering, bricklaying, smith's work, tailoring, book-binding 
and printing, trades which, save the two first named, Africa 
is not yet in urgent need to be taught. 

The teaching even of sewing, washing, and ironing is a 
little previous. Good Mme. Jacot will weary herself for months 
to teach a Fan girl how to make herself a dress, and the girl 
will learn eagerly, and so keenly enjoy the dress when it is 
made that it breaks one's heart when one knows that this 
same girl, when her husband takes her to his village soon, in 
spite of the two dresses the mission gave her, will be reduced 
to a bit of filthy rag, which will serve her for dress, sheet, 
towel and dish cloth ; for even were her husband willing to 
get her more cloth to exercise her dressmaking accomplish- 
ments on, he dare not. Men are men, and women are women 
all the world over ; and what would his other wives, and his 
mother and sisters say ? Then the washing and ironing are 
quite parlour accomplishments when your husband does not 
wear a shirt, and household linen is non-existent as is the case 
among the Fans and many other African tribes. There are 
other things that the women might be taught with greater 
advantage to them and those round them. 

It is strange that all the cooks employed by the Europeans 



208 LEMBARENE CHAP, 

should be men, yet all the cooking among the natives them- 
selves is done by women, and done abominably badly in all the 
Bantu tribes I have ever come across ; and the Bantu are in 
this particular, and indeed in most particulars, far inferior to 
the true Negro ; though I must say this is not the orthodox 
view. The Negroes cook uniformly very well, and at moments 
are inspired in the direction of palm-oil chop and fish cooking. 
Not so the Bantu, whose methods cry aloud for improvement, 
they having just the very easiest and laziest way possible of 
dealing with food. The food supply consists of plantain,, 
yam, koko, s\veet potatoes, maize, pumpkin, pineapple, and 
ochres, fish both wet and smoked, and flesh of many kinds 
including human in certain districts snails, snakes, and cray- 
fish, and big maggot-like pupae of the rhinoceros beetle and the 
Rhyncophorus palmatorum. For sweetmeats the sugar-cane 
abounds, but it is only used chewed au naturel. For season- 
ing there is that bark that tastes like an onion, an onion dis- 
tinctly passe, but powerful and permanent, particularly if it 
has been used in one of the native-made, rough earthen pots. 
These pots have a very cave-man look about them ; they are 
unglazed, unlidded bowls. They stand the fire wonderfully 
well, and you have got to stand, as well as you can, the taste " 
of the aforesaid bark that clings to them, and that of the smoke 
which gets into them during cooking operations over an open 
wood fire, as well as the soot-like colour they impart to even 
your own white rice. Out of all this varied material the 
natives of the Congo Francais forests produce, dirtily,, 
carelessly and wastefully, a dull, indigestible diet. Yam,. 
sweet potatoes, ochres, and maize are not so much cultivated 
or used as among the Negroes, and the daily food is practically 
plantain picked while green and the rind pulled off, and the 
tasteless woolly interior baked or boiled and the widely dis- 
tributed manioc treated in the usual way. The sweet or non- 
poisonous manioc I have rarely seen cultivated, because it 
gives a much smaller yield, and is much longer coming to 
perfection. The poisonous kind is that in general use ; its 
great dahlia-like roots are soaked in water to remove the 
poisonous principle, and then dried and grated up, or more 
commonly beaten up into a kind of dough in a wooden trough 



MANIOC MEAL 209 



that looks like a model canoe, with wooden clubs, which I 
have seen the curiosity hunter happily taking home as war 
clubs to alarm his family with. The thump, thump, thump of 
this manioc beating is one of the most familiar sounds in a 
bush village. The meal, when beaten up, is used for thicken- 
ing broths, and rolled up into bolsters about a foot long and 
two inches in diameter, and then wrapped in plantain leaves, 
and tied round with tie-tie and boiled, or more properly speak- 
ing steamed, for a lot of the rolls are arranged in a brass 
skillet a kettle Mr. Hudson persists in calling it ; but, much 
as I respect his statements, I cannot blindly accept this one, 
for any woman knows a kettle must have a spout, and these 
utensils are spoutless and round, with a handle across the top, 
just for all the world like the skillet I make jam in in England 
skillet, I repeat. A small quantity of water is poured over 
the rolls of plantain, a plantain leaf is tucked in over the top 
tightly, so as to prevent the steam from escaping, and the 
whole affair is poised on the three cooking-stones over a wood 
fire, and left there until the contents are done, or more 
properly speaking, until the lady in charge of it has delusions 
on the point, and the bottom rolls are a trifle burnt or the 
whole insufficiently cooked. 

This manioc meal is the staple food, the bread equivalent, 
all along the coast. As you pass along you are perpetually 
meeting with a new named food, fou-fou on the Leeward, 
kank on the Windward, m'vada in Corisco, agooma in the 
Ogowe ; but acquaintance with it demonstrates that it is all 
the same manioc. If I ever meet a tribe that refers to 
guttered muffins I shall know what to expect and so not 
get excited. 

It is a good food when it is properly prepared; but 
when a village has soaked its soil-laden manioc tubers in one 
and the same pool of water for years, the water in that pool 
becomes a trifle strong, and both it and the manioc get a smell 
which once smelt is never to be forgotten ; it is something like 
that resulting from bad paste with a dash of vinegar, but fit 
to pass all these things, and has qualities of its own that have 
no civilised equivalent. 

I believe that this way of preparing the staple article of 






210 LEMBARENE CHAP. 



diet is largely responsible for that dire and frequent disease 
" cut him belly," and several other quaint disorders, possibly 
even for the sleep disease. The natives themselves say that 
a diet too exclusively maniocan produces dimness of vision, 
ending in blindness if the food is not varied ; the poisonous 
principle cannot be anything like soaked out in the surcharged 
water, and the meal when it is made up and cooked has just 
the same sour, acrid taste you would expect it to have from 
the smell. 

The fish is boiled, or wrapped in leaves and baked. The 
dried fish, very properly known as stink-fish, is much preferred ; 
this is either eaten as it is, or put into stews as seasoning, as 
also are the snails. The meat is eaten either fresh or smoked, 
boiled or baked. By baked I always mean just buried in the 
ground and a fire lighted on top, or wrapped in leaves and 
buried in hot embers. 

The smoked meat is badly prepared, just hung up in the 
smoke of the fires, which hardens it, blackening the outside 
quickly ; but when the lumps are taken out of the smoke, in a 
short time cracks occur in them, and the interior part pro- 
ceeds to go bad, and needless to say maggoty. If it is kept 
in the smoke, as it often is to keep it out of the way of dogs 
and driver ants, it acquires the toothsome taste and texture 
of a piece of old tarpaulin. I have gone into this bush cook- 
ing here in detail, so that you may understand why 
on the Coast, when a man comes in and says he has been 
down on native chop, we say " Good gracious ! " and give out 
the best tins on the spot. 

I may be judging the coast tribes too harshly if I include 
them with the bush tribes in my culinary indictment, so I 
confine my accusations to the Fans and up-river tribes, with 
whose culinary methods I have been more in contact, for when 
on the coast I have been either in European houses, or in those 
of educated natives who have partially, at any rate, adopted 
European ways of cooking, and I must say that among the 
M'pongwe and Igalwas I came across a bright ray of intelli- 
gence nay, I will say genius, in the matter of Odeaka cheese. 
It is not cheese, but, as the schoolboy said anent the author 
of the Iliad, somebody else of the same name ; but it is good, 



x REASONS FOR POLYGAMY 211 

and I will sing its praises when I talk of the M'pongwe, and 
now ask the surviving reader who has waded through this 
dissertation on cookery if something should not be done to 
improve the degraded condition of the Bantu cooking culture ? 
Not for his physical delectation only, but because his present 
methods are bad for his morals, and drive the man to drink, 
let alone assisting in riveting him in the practice of polygamy, 
which the missionary party say is an exceedingly bad prac- 
tice for him to follow. The inter-relationship of these two 
subjects may not seem on the face of it very clear, but inter- 
relationships of customs very rarely are ; I well remember 
M. Jacot coming home one day at Kangwe from an evange- 
lising visit to some adjacent Fan towns, and saying he had 
had given to him that afternoon a new reason for polygamy, 
which was that it enabled a man to get enough to eat. This 
sounds sinister from a notoriously cannibal tribe ; but the ex- 
planation is that the Fans are an exceedingly hungry tribe, 
and require a great deal of providing for. It is their custom 
to eat about ten times a day when in village, and the men 
spend most of their time in the palaver-houses at each end of 
the street, the women bringing them bowls of food of one kind 
or another all day long. When the men are away in the forest 
rubber or elephant-hunting, and have to cook their own food, 
they cannot get quite so much ; but when I have come across 
them on these expeditions, they halted pretty regularly every 
two hours and had a substantial snack, and the gorge they all 
go in for after a successful elephant hunt is a thing to see 
once. 

There are other reasons which lead to the prevalence of this 
custom, beside the cooking. One is that it is totally impos- 
sible for one woman to do the whole work of a house look 
after the children, prepare and cook the food, prepare the 
rubber, carry the same to the markets, fetch the daily supply 
of water from the stream, cultivate the plantation, &c., &c. 
Perhaps I should say it is impossible for the dilatory African 
wgman, for I once had an Irish charwoman, who drank, who 
would have done the whole week's work of an African village 
in an afternoon, and then been quite fresh enough to knock 
some of the nonsense out of her husband's head with that of 

P 2 



212 LEMBARENE CHAP. 



the broom, and throw a kettle of boiling water or a paraffin 
lamp at him, if she suspected him of flirting with other ladies. 
That woman, who deserves fame in the annals of her country, 
was named Harragan. She has attained immortality some 
years since, by falling down stairs one Saturday night from 
excitement arising from "the Image's" (Mr. Harragan) con- 
duct ; but we have no Mrs. Harragan in Africa. The African 
lady does not care a travelling whitesmith's execration if her 
husband does flirt, so long as he does not go and give to other 
women the cloth, &c., that she should have. The more wives 
the less work, says the African lady ; and I have known men 
who would rather have had one wife and spent the rest of the 
money on themselves, in a civilised way, driven into polygamy 
by the women ; and of course this state of affairs is most 
common in non-slave-holding tribes like the Fan. But then 
there is that custom which, as far as I know, is common to all 
African tribes, and I suspect to Asiatic, which is well known 
to ethnologists, and which once caused a missionary to say to 
me : " A blow must be struck at polygamy, and that blow 
must be dealt with a feeding-bottle." He was a practical 
man, so there are a gross or two of Alexandra feeding-bottles 
at a place on the Coast ; but they don't go off, and the 
missionary has returned to America. 

Now polygamy is, like most other subjects, a difficult thing 
to form an opinion on, if, before forming that opinion, you go 
and make a study of the facts and bearings of the case. It is 
therefore advisable to follow the usual method employed by 
the majority of people. Just take a prejudice of your own, 
and fix it up with the so-called opinions of people who go in 
for that sort of prejudice too. This method is absolutely 
essential to the forming of an opinion on the subject of poly- 
gamy among African tribes, that will be acceptable in 
enlightened circles. Polygamy is the institution which above 
all others governs the daily life of the native ; and it is there- 
fore the one which the missionaries who enter into this daily life, 
and not merely into the mercantile and legal, as do the trader 
and the government official, are constantly confronted with 
and hindered by. All the missionaries have set their faces 
against it and deny Church membership to those men who 



DIFFICULTIES OF MORALITY 213 



practise it ; whereby it falls out that many men are excluded 
from the fold who would make quite as good Christians as 
those within it. They hesitate about turning off from their 
homes women who have lived and worked for them for years, 
and not only for them, but often for their fathers before them. 
One case in the Rivers I know of is almost tragic if you 
put yourself in his place. An old chief, who had three wives, 
profoundly and vividly believed that exclusion from the Holy 
Communion meant an eternal damnation. The missionary 
had instructed him in the details of this damnation thoroughly, 
and the chief did not like the prospect at all ; but on the other 
hand he did not like to turn off the three wives he had lived 
with for years. He found the matter was not even to be 
compromised, by turning off two and going to church to be 
married with accompanying hymns and orange-blossoms with 
number three, for the ladies held together ; not one of them 
would marry him and let the other two go, so the poor old 
chief worried himself to a shammock and anybody else he 
could get to listen to him. His white trader friends told him 
not to be such an infernal ass. Some of his black fellow 
chiefs said the missionary was quite right, and the best thing 
for him to do would be to hand over to them the three old 
wives, and go and marry a young girl from the mission school. 
Personally they were not yet afflicted with scruples on the 
subject of polygamy, and of course (being " missionary man " 
now) he would not think of taking anything for his wives, so 
they would do their best, as friends, to help him out of the 
difficult}-. Others of his black fellow chiefs, less advanced in 
culture, just said : " What sort of fool palaver you make ; " 
and spat profusely. The poor old man smelt hell fire, and 
cried " Yo, yo, yo," and beat his hands upon the ground. It 
was a moral mess of the- first water all round. Still do not 
imagine the mission-field is full of yo yo-ing old chiefs ; for 
although the African is undecided, he is also very ingenious, 
particularly in dodging inconvenient moral principles. 

Many a keen old chief turns on his pastor and asks driving 
questions regarding the patriarchs, until I have heard a sorely- 
tried pastor question the wisdom of introducing the Old 
Testament to the heathen. Many a young man hesitates 



214 LEMBARENE CHAP. 

about joining the Church that will require his entering into 
the married state with 'only one woman, whom he knows he 
may not whack, and who, he knows, will also know this and 
carry on in all directions, and go and report all his 
little failings up at the mission, and get' him into hot water 
with the missionary whose good opinion he values highly. And 
he is artful enough to know he enjoys this good opinion more 
as an interesting possible convert, than he would as a Church 
member requiring " discipline." 

The worst classes of cases wherein polygamy troubles the 
missionary are those of boys trained in the mission school and 
married to school-trained girls. For a time they live according 
to Church ordinance ; and then they keep it to the eye, and 
break it to the heart ; and during this period of transition, 
during which the missionary fights a hard and losing fight 
for these souls against their inherited sensualism and sloth, 
they sink into a state that to my mind, seems worse than 
they would have been in had they never seen a missionary. 
But I will not go into the disintegrating effects of mission 
training here, because my opinions on them have no reference 
to the work done by the Mission Evangelique whose influence 
upon the natives has been, and is, all for good ; and the amount 
of work they have done, considering the small financial re- 
sources behind them, is to a person who has seen other missions 
most remarkable, and is not open to the criticism lavished on 
missions in general. 

Mission work was first opened upon the Ogowe by Dr. 
Nassau, the great pioneer and explorer of these regions. He 
was acting for the American Presbyterian Society ; but when 
the French Government demanded education in French in 
the schools, the stations on the Ogowe, Lembarene (Kangwe), 
and Talagouga were handed over to the Mission Evangelique 
of Paris, and have been carried on by its representatives with 
great devotion and energy. I am unsympathetic, for reasons 
of my own, with Christian missions, so my admiration for 
this one does not arise from the usual ground of admiration 
for missions, namely, that however they may be carried on, 
they are engaged in a great and holy work ; but I regard the 
Mission Evangelique, judging from the results I have seen, 



LEMBARENE ISLAND 21 



as the perfection of what one may call a purely spiritual 
mission. 

Lembarene is strictly speaking a district which includes 
Adanlinan langa and the Island, but the name is locally used 
to denote the great island in the Ogowe, whose native name 
is Nenge Ezangy ; but for the sake of the general reader I will 
keep to the everyday term of Lembarene Island. 

Lembarene Island is the largest of the islands on the 
Ogowe. It is some fifteen miles long, east and west, and a 
mile to a mile and a half wide. It is hilly and rocky, 
uniformly clad with forest, and several little permanent 
streams run from it on both sides into the Ogowe. It is 
situated 130 miles from the sea, at the point, just below the 
entrance of the N'guni, where the Ogowe commences to 
divide up into that network of channels by which, like all 
great West African rivers save the Congo, it chooses to enter 
the ocean. The island, as we mainlanders at Kangwe used 
to call it, was a great haunt of mine, particularly after I came 
down from Talagouga and saw fit to regard myself as com- 
petent to control a canoe. I do not mean that I was cut off 
from it before ; for M. Jacot and M. Haug were always willing 
to send me across in a big canoe, with the mission boys to 
paddle, and the boys were always ready to come because it 
meant " dash," and the dissipation of going to what was the 
local equivalent of Paris ; but there was always plenty of 
work for them on the station, and so I did not like taking them 
away. Therefore when I could get there alone I went more 
frequently. 

From Andande, the beach of Kangwe, the breadth of the 
arm of the Ogowe to the nearest village on the island, 
was about that of the Thames at Blackwall. One half of 
the way was slack water, the other half \vas broadside 
on to a stiff current. Now my pet canoe at Andande was 
about six feet long, pointed at both ends, flat bottomed, so 
that it floated on the top of the water ; its freeboard was, 
when nothing was in it, some three inches, and the poor thing 
had seen trouble in its time, for it had a hole you could 
put your hand in at one end ; so in order to navigate it 
successfully, you had to squat in the other, which immersed 






216 LEMBARENE CHAP. 



that to the water level but safely elevated the damaged end in 
the air. Of course you had to stop in your end firmly, because 
if you went forward the hole went down into the water, and 
the water went into the hole, and forthwith you foundered 
with all hands i.e., you and the paddle and the calabash baler. 
This craft also had a strong weather helm, owing to a warp in 
the tree of which it had been made. I learnt all these things one 
afternoon, paddling round the sandbank ; and the next after- 
noon, feeling confident in the merits < of my vessel, I started 
for the island, and I actually got there, and associated with 
the natives, but feeling my arms were permanently worn out 
by paddling against the current, I availed myself of the 
offer of a gentleman to paddle me back in his canoe. He 
introduced himself as Samuel, and volunteered the state- 
ment that he was " a very good man." We duly settled 
ourselves in the canoe, he occupying the bow, I sitting in 
the middle, and a Mrs. Samuel sitting in the stern. Mrs. 
Samuel was a powerful, pretty lady, and a conscientious and 
continuous paddler. Mr. S. was none of these things, but an 
ex-Bible reader, with an amazing knowledge of English, 
which he spoke in a quaint, falsetto, far-away sort of voice, 
and that man's besetting sin was curiosity. " You be Christian, 
ma ? " said he. I asked him if he had ever met a white man who 
was not ? " Yes, ma," says Samuel. I said " You must have 
been associating with people whom you ought not to know." 
Samuel fortunately not having a repartee for this, paddled on 
with his long paddle for a few seconds. " Where be your 
husband, ma ? " was the next conversational bomb he hurled 
at me. " I no got one," I answer. " No got," says Samuel, 
paralysed with astonishment; and as Mrs. S., who did not 
know English, gave one of her vigorous drives with her 
paddle at this moment, Samuel as near as possible got 
jerked head first into the Ogowe, and we took on board 
about two bucketfuls of water. He recovered himself, 
however and returned to his charge. " No got one, ma ? " 
" No," say I furiously. " Do you get much rubber round 
here ? " "I no be trade man," says Samuel, refusing to 
fall into my trap for changing conversation. " Why you 
no got one ? " The remainder of the conversation is unre- 



A SAD CASE 217 



portable, but he landed me at Andande all right, and got his 
dollar. 

The next voyage I made, which was on the next day, I 
decided to go by myself to the factory, which is on the 
other side of the island, and did so. I got some goods to 
buy fish with, and heard from Mr. Cockshut that the poor 
boy-agent at Osoamokita, had committed suicide. It was a 
grievous thing. He was, as I have said, a bright, intelligent 
young Frenchman ; but living in the isolation, surrounded by 
savage, tiresome tribes, the strain of his responsibility had been 
too much for him. He had had a good deal of fever, and the 
very kindly head agent for Woermann's had sent Dr. Pelessier 
to see if he had not better be invalided home ; but he told the 
Doctor he was much better, and as he had no one at home to go 
to he begged him not to send him, and the Doctor, to his subse- 
quent regret, gave in. No one knows, who has not been 
to visit Africa, how terrible is the life of a white man in one of 
these out-of-the-way factories, with no white society, and with 
nothing to lok at, day out and day in, but the one set of 
objects the forest, the river, and the beach, which in a place 
like Osoamokita you cannot leave for months at a time, and 
of which you soon know every plank and stone. I felt utterly 
wretched as I started home again to come up to the end of 
the island, and go round it and down to Andande ; and paddled 
on for some little time, before I noticed that I was making 
absolutely no progress. I redoubled my exertions, and crept 
slowly up to some rocks projecting above the water ; but pass 
them I could not, as the main current of the Ogowe flew in 
hollow swirls round them against my canoe. Several passing 
canoefuls of natives gave me good advice in Igalwa ; but facts 
were facts, and the Ogowe was too strong for me. After about 
twenty minutes an old Fan gentleman came down river in a 
canoe and gave me good advice in Fan, and I got him to take 
me in tow that is to say, he got into my canoe and I held on to 
his and we went back down river. I then saw his intention was 
to take me across to that disreputable village, half Fan, half 
Bakele, which is situated on the main bank of the river oppo- 
site the island ; this I disapproved of, because I had heard 
that some Senegal soldiers who had gone over there, had been 



218 LEMBARENE CHAP. 

stripped of every rag they had on, and maltreated ; besides, it 
was growing very late, and I wanted to get home to dinner. 
I communicated my feelings to my pilot, who did not seem to 
understand at first, so I feared I should have to knock them 
into him with the paddle ; but at last he understood I wanted 
to be landed on the island and duly landed me, when he seemed 
much surprised at the reward I gave him in pocket-handker- 
chiefs. Then I got a powerful young Igalwa dandy to paddle 
me home. 

I did not go to the island next day, but down below Fula, 
watching the fish playing in the clear \vater, and the lizards 
and birds on the rocky high banks ; but on my next journey 
round to the factories I got into another and a worse disaster. 
I went off there early one morning ; and thinking the only 
trouble lay in getting back up the Ogowe, and having devel- 
oped a theory that this might be minimised by keeping very 
close to the island bank, I never gave a thought to dangers 
attributive to going down river ; so, having by now acquired 
pace, my canoe shot out beyond the end rpcks of the 
island into the main stream. It took me a second to 
realise what had happened, and another to find out I could 
not get the canoe out of the current without upsetting it, and 
that I could not force her back up the current, so there was 
nothing for it but to keep her head straight now she had 
bolted. A group of native ladies, \vho had followed my pro- 
ceedings with much interest, shouted observations which I 
believe to have been " Come back, come back ; you'll be 
drowned." " Good-bye, Susannah, don't you weep for me," 
I courteously retorted," and flew past them and the factory 
beaches and things in general, keenly watching for my chance 
to run my canoe up a siding, as it were, off the current main 
line. I got it at last a projecting spit of land from the island 
with rocks projecting out of the water in front of it bothered 
the current, and after a wild turn round or so, and a near call 
from my terrified canoe trying to climb up a rock, I got into 
slack water and took a pause in life's pleasures for a few 
minutes. Knowing I must be near the end of the island, I 
went on pretty close to the bank, finally got round into the 
Kangwe branch of the Ogowe by a connecting creek, and 



THE IGALWAS 219 



after an hour's steady paddling I fell in with three big canoes 
going up river ; they took me home as far as Fula, whence a 
short paddle landed me at Andande only slightly late for 
supper, convinced that it was almost as safe and far more 
amusing to be born lucky than wise. 

Now I have described my circumnavigation of the island, I 
will proceed to describe its inhabitants. The up-river end of 
Lembarene Island is the most inhabited. A path round 
the upper part of the island passes through a succession of 
Igalwa villages and by the Roman Catholic missionary station. 
The slave villages belonging to these Igalwas are away down 
the north face of the island, opposite the Fan town of Fula, 
which I have mentioned. It strikes me as remarkable that 
the. Igalwa, like the Dualla of Cameroons, have their slaves in 
separate villages ; but this is the case, though I do not know 
the reason of it. These Igalwa slaves cultivate the plantations, 
and bring up the vegetables and fruit to their owners' villages, 
and do the housework daily 

The interior of the island is composed of high, rocky, heavily 
forested hills, with here and there a stream, and here and 
there a swamp ; the higher land is towards the up-river end ; 
down river there is a lower strip of land with hillocks. This 
is, I fancy, formed by deposits of sand, &c., catching in among 
the rocks, and connecting what was at one time several isolated 
islands. There are no big game or gorillas on the island, but 
it has a peculiar and awful house ant, much smaller than the 
driver ant, but with a venomous, bad bite ; its only good point 
is that its chief food is the white ants, which are therefore 
kept in abeyance on Lembarene Island, although flourishing 
destructively on the mainland banks of the river in this 
locality. I was never tired of going and watching those 
Igalwa villagers, nor were, I think, the Igalwa villagers ever 
tired of observing me. Although the physical conditions of 
life were practically identical with those of the mainland, the 
way in which the Igalwas dealt with them, i.e., the culture, was 
distinct from the culture of the mainland Fans. 

The Igalwas are a tribe very nearly akin, if not ethnically 
identical with, the M'pongwe, and the culture of these two 
tribes is on a level with the highest native African culture. 



220 LEMBARENE CHAP. 



African culture, I may remark, varies just the same as 
European in this, that there is as much difference in the 
manners of life between, say, an Igalwa and a Bubi of Fernando 
Po, as there is between a Londoner and a Laplander. 

The Igalwa builds his house like that of the M'pongwe, 
of bamboo, and he surrounds himself with European- 
made articles. The neat houses, fitted with windows, with 
wooden shutters to close at night, and with a deal door a 
carpenter-made door are in sharp contrast with the ragged 
ant-hill looking performances of the Akkas, or the bark huts 
of the Fan, with no windows, and just an extra broad bit of 
bark to slip across the hole that serves as a door. On going 
into an Igalwa house you will see a four-legged table, often 
covered with a bright-coloured tablecloth, on which stands a 
water bottle, with two clean glasses, and round about you 
will see chairs Windsor chairs. These houses have usually 
three, sometimes more rooms, and a separate closed-in little 
kitchen, built apart, wherein you may observe European-made 
saucepans, in addition to the ubiquitous skillet. Outside, all 
along the clean sandy streets, the inhabitants are seated. 
The Igalwa is truly great at sitting, the men pursuing a policy 
of masterly inactivity, broken occasionally by leisurely netting 
a fishing net, the end of the netting hitched up on to the roof 
thatch, and not held by a stirrup. The ladies are employed in 
the manufacture of articles pertaining to a higher culture I 
allude, as Mr. Micawber would say, to bed-quilts and pillow 
cases the most gorgeous bed-quilts and pillow-cases made 
of patchwork, and now and again you will see a mosquito-bar 
in course of construction, of course not made of net or muslin 
because of the awesome strength and ferocity of the Lem- 
barene strain of mosquitoes, but of stout, fair-flowered and 
besprigged chintzes ; and you will observe these things are 
often being sewn with a sewing machine. Here and there 
you will see a misguided woman making a Hubbard. For- 
give me, but I must break out on the subject of Hubbards ; 
I will promise to keep clear of bad language let the effort 
cost me what it may. A Hubbard is a female garment 
patronised by the whole set of missions from Sierra Leone 
to Congo Beige, so please understand I am not criticising 



THE HUBBARD 22; 



the Mission Evangelique in this affair. I think these things 
are one of the factors producing the well-known torpidity of 
the mission-trained girl ; and they should be suppressed in her 
interest, apart from their appearance, which is enough to 
constitute a hanging matter. Their formation is this a 
yoke round the neck and shoulders fastens at the back with 
three buttons two usually lost ; from this yoke protrude 
dwarf sleeves, and round its lower rim, on a level with the 
armpits, is sewn on a flounce, set in with full gathers, which 
falls to the heels of the wearer. Sometimes this flounce is 
sewn on with a chain-stitch machine, whereby I once saw 
a dreadful accident on the Leeward Coast. In church a limb 
of a child, seeking for amusement during the long extemporary 
prayer of its pastor, came across a thread of white sticking 
out from the back of the yoke of the Hubbard of the woman 
in front of her, and pulled it out by the yard. Of course, 
when the unconscious victim rose up, the whole of what 
might be called the practical part of her attire subsided on to 
the floor. This is only an occasional danger ; but the con- 
stant habit of the garment is to fall forward and reap the 
dirt whenever the wearer stoops forward to do anything, 
going into the fire, and the cooking, and things in general, and 
impeding all rapid movement. These garments are usually 
made at working parties in Europe ; and what idea the pious 
ladies in England, Germany, Scotland, and France can have of 
the African figure I cannot think, but evidently part of their 
opinion is that it is very like a tub. I was once helping to 
unpack a mission box. "What have they sent out these 
frills for palm-oil puncheons for ? " I inquired of my esteemed 
friend, the lady missionary. " Don't be more foolish than 
you can help," she answered. " Don't you see the sleeves ? 
They are Hubbards." I was crushed ; but even she acknow- 
ledged that it was trying of the home folk to make them 
like that, all the more so because their delusion on the 
African figure was not confined to the making of Hubbards, 
but extended to the making of shirts and chemises. There 
is nothing like measurements in ethnology, so I measured and 
found one that with a depth of thirty inches had a breadth of 
beam of forty-two inches ; one with a depth of thirty-six 



222 



LEMBARENE 



CHAP. 



inches had a breadth of sixty inches. It is not in nature 
for people to be made to fit these things. So I suggested 
that a fe\v stuffed negroes should be sent home for distribution 
in working-party centres, and then the ladies could try the 
things on. My friend's answer was far from being personally 
complimentary, so I will not give it, but return hurriedly to 
the Igalwa ladies in the Lembarene village, sitting on the 
sunny sandy street on their low, wood country stools. The 




IGALWA WOMEN. 



chairs I have mentioned before are " for dandy " not for 
use. 

Those among them who may not be busy sewing, are busy 
doing each other's hair. Hair-dressing is quite an art among 
the Igalwa and M'pongwe women, and their hair is very 
beautiful ; very crinkly, but fine. It is plaited up, close to 
the head, partings between the plaits making elaborate 
parterres. Into the beds of plaited hair are stuck long pins 
of river ivory (hippo), decorated with black tracer}* and 



NATIVE DRESS 223 



openwork, and made by their good men. A lady will stick 
as many of these into her hair as she can get, but the pre- 
vailing mode is to have one stuck in behind each ear, showing 
their broad, long heads above like two horns ; they are ex- 
ceedingly becoming to these black but comely ladies, verily 
I think, the comeliest ladies I have ever seen on the Coast. 
Very black they are, blacker than many of their neighbours, 
always blacker than the Fans, and although their skin lacks 
that velvety pile of the true negro, it is not too shiny, but it is 
fine and usually unblemished, and their figures are charmingly 
rounded, their hands and feet small, almost as small as a high- 
class Calabar woman's, and their eyes large, lustrous, soft and 
brown, and their teeth as white as the sea surf and undisfigured 
by filing. 

The native dress for men and women alike is the cloth or 
paun. The men wear it by rolling the upper line round 
the waist, and in addition they frequently wear a singlet 
or a flannel shirt worn more Africano, flowing free. Rich 
men will mount a European coat and hat, and men con- 
nected with the mission or trading stations occasionally wear 
trousers. The personal appearance of the men does not 
amount to much when all's done, so we will return to the 
ladies. They wrap the upper hem of these cloths round under 
the armpits, a graceful form of drapery, but one which requires 
continual readjustment. The cloth is about four yards long 
and two deep, and there is always round the hem a border, 
or false hem, of turkey red twill, or some other coloured 
cotton cloth to the main body of the paun. In addition 
to the cloth there is worn, when possible, a European shawl, 
either one of those thick cotton cloth ones printed with 
Chinese-looking patterns in dull red on a dark ground, this 
sort is wrapped round the upper part of the body : or what 
is more highly esteemed is a bright, light-coloured, fancy wool 
shawl, pink or pale blue preferred, which being carefully 
folded into a roll is placed over one shoulder, and is entirely 
for dandy. I am thankful to say they do not go in for hats ; 
when they wear anything on their heads it is a handkerchief 
folded shawlwise ; the base of the triangle is bound round 
the forehead just above the eyebrows, the ends carried round 



224 LEMBARENE CHAP. 



over the ears and tied behind over the apex of the triangle 
of the handkerchief, the three ends being then arranged fan- 
wise at the back. Add to this costume a sober-coloured silk 
parasol, not one of your green or red young tent-like, brutally 
masculine, knobby-sticked umbrellas, but a fair, lady-like 
parasol, which, being carefully rolled up, is carried handle 
foremost right in the middle of the head, also for dandy. Then 
a few strings of turquoise-blue beads, or imitation gold ones, 
worn round the shapely throat ; and I will back my Igalwa or 
M'pongwe belle against any of those South Sea Island young 
ladies we nowadays hear so much about, thanks to Mr. Steven- 
son, yea, even though these may be wreathed with fragrant 
flowers, and the African lady very rarely goes in for flowers. 
The only time I have seen the African ladies wearing them for 
ornament has been among these I gal was, who now and again 
stud their night-black hair with pretty little round vividly red 
blossoms in a most fetching way. I wonder the Africans do 
not wear flowers more frequently, for they are devoted to 
scent, both men and women. 

The usual statements that the African women age go off, 
I believe, is the technical term very early is, I am sure, 
wrong in many cases. Look at those Sierra Leone mammies, 
slightly spherical, I own, but undeniably charming ; and the 
Calabar women, although belonging to a very ugly tribe, are 
very little the worse for twenty years one way or the other ; 
and these women along Congo Frangais way, Well ! I know 
one who is all forty-five, and yet at present is regarded by a 
French official, a judge one might think, as une belle feuune. 

The Igalwas are a proud race, one of the noble tribes, like 
the M'pongwe and the Ajumba. The women do not inter- 
marry with lower-class tribes, and in their own tribe they 
are much restricted, owing to all relations on the mother's 
side being forbidden to intermarry. This well-known form of 
accounting relationships only through the mother {Mutter- 
recht) is in a more perfected and elaborated form among the 
Igalwa than among any other tribe I am personally acquainted 
with ; brothers and cousins on the mother's side being in one 
class of relationship, and called by one name, Ndako. 

The father's responsibility, as regards authority over his own 



MARRIAGE CUSTOMS 225 



Children is very slight. The really responsible male relative 
is the mother's elder brother. From him must leave to marry 
be obtained for either girl, or boy ; to him and the mother 
must the present be taken which is exacted on the 
marriage of a girl ; and should the mother die, on him and 
not on the father, lies the responsibility of rearing the children ; 
they go to his house, and he treats and regards them as nearer 
and dearer to himself than his own children, and at his death, 
after his own brothers by the same mother, they become his 
heirs. 

Marriage among the Igalwa and M'pongwe is not direct 
marriage by purchase, but a certain fixed price present is made 
to the mother and uncle of the girl. Other propitiatory pres- 
ents are made, but do not count legally, and have not neces- 
sarily to be returned in case of post-nuptial differences arising 
leading to a divorce a very frequent catastrophe in the social 
circle ; for the Igalwa ladies are spirited, and devoted to per- 
sonal adornment, and they are naggers at their husbands. 
Many times when walking on Lembarene Island, have I 
seen a lady stand in the street and let her husband, who 
had taken shelter inside the house, know what she thought of 
him, in a way that reminded me of some London slum scenes. 
When the husband loses his temper, as he surely does sooner or 
later, being a man, he whacks his wife or wives, if they have 
been at him in a body. This crisis usually takes place at night ; 
and when staying on board the Move, or the Eclaireur, moored 
-alongside the landing place at Lembarene Island, I have 
heard yells and squalls of a most dismal character. He may 
whack with impunity so long as he does not draw blood ; if 
he does, be it never so little, his wife is off to her relations, 
the present he has given for her is returned, the marriage 
is annulled, and she can re-marry as soon as she is able. 

Her relations are only too glad to get her, because, although 
the present has to be returned, yet the propitiatory offerings 
remain theirs, and they know more propitiatory offerings as 
well as another present will accrue with the next set of suitors. 
This of course is only the case with the younger women ; the 
older women for one thing do not nag so much, and moreover 
they have usually children willing and able to support them. 

Q 



226 LEMBARENE CHAP. 



If they have not, their state is, like that of all old childless 
women in Africa, a very desolate one. 

Infant marriage is now in vogue among the Igalwa, and to 
my surprise I find it is of quite recent introduction and adop- 
tion. Their own account of this retrograde movement in 
culture is that in the last generation some of the old people 
indeed claim to have known him there was an exceedingly 
ugly and deformed man who could not get a wife, the women 
being then, as the men are now, great admirers of physical 
beauty. So this man, being very cunning, hit on the idea of 
becoming betrothed to one before she could exercise her own 
choice in the matter ; and knowing a family in which an inte- 
resting event was likely to occur, he made heavy presents in 
the proper quarters and bespoke the coming infant if it should 
be a girl. A girl it \vas, and thus, say the Igalwa, arose the 
custom; and nowadays, although they do not engage their 
wives so early as did the founder of the custom, they adopt 
infant marriage as an institution. 

I inquired carefully, in the interests of ethnology, as to what 
methods of courting were in vogue previously. They said 
people married each other because they loved each other. I 
think other ethnologists will follow this inquiry up, for we 
may here find a real golden age, which in other races of 
humanity lies away in the mists of the ages behind the 
kitchen middens and the Cambrian rocks. My own opinion 
in this matter is that the earlier courting methods of the Igalwa 
involved a certain amount of effort on the man's part, a" thing 
abhorrent to an Igalwa. It necessitated his dressing himself 
up, and likely enough fighting that impudent scoundrel who 
was engaged in courting her too ; and above all serenading her 
at night on the native harp, with its strings made from the ten- 
drils of a certain orchid, or on the marimba, amongst crowds 
of mosquitoes. Any institution that involved being out at 
night amongst crowds of those Lembarene mosquitoes would 
have to disappear, let that institution be what it might. 

The Igalwa are one of the dying-out coast tribes. As well 
as on Lembarene Island, their villages are scattered along the 
banks of the Lower Ogowe, and on the shores and islands of 
Eliva Z'onlange. On the island they are, so far, ? undis- 



ODEAKA CHEESE 227 



turbed by the Fan invasion, and laze their lives away like 
lotus-eaters. Their slaves work their large plantations, and 
bring up to them magnificent yams, ready prepared agooma, 
sweet-potatoes, papaw, &c., not forgetting that delicacy 
Odeaka cheese ; this is not an exclusive inspiration of theirs, 
for the M'pongwe and the Benga use it as well. It is made 
from the kernel of the wild mango, a singularly beautiful tree 
of great size and stately spread of foliage. I can compare it 
only in appearance and habit of growth to our Irish, or ever- 
green, oak, but it is an idealisation of that fine tree. Its leaves 
are a softer, brighter, deeper green, and in due season (August) 
it is covered not ostentatiously like the real mango, with 
great spikes of bloom, looking each like a gigantic head of 
mignonette but with small yellow-green flowers tucked away 
under the leaves, filling the air with a soft sweet perfume, 
and then falling on to the bare shaded ground beneath to make 
a deep-piled carpet. I do not know whether it is a mango tree 
at all, for I am no botanist : but anyhow the fruit is rather like 
that of the mango in external appearance, and in internal still 
more so, for it has a disproportionately large stone. These 
stones are cracked, and the kernel taken out The kernels 
are spread a short time in the shade to dry ; then they are 
beaten up into a pulp with a wooden pestle, and the pulp put 
into a basket lined carefully with plantain leaves and placed 
in the sun, which melts it up into a stiff mass. The basket 
is then removed from the sun and stood aside to cool. When 
cool, the cheese can be turned out in shape, and can be kept a 
long time if it is wrapped round with leaves and a cloth, and 
hung up inside the house. Its appearance is that of almond 
rock, and it is cut easily with a knife ; but at any period of its 
existence, if it is left in the sun it melts again rapidly into an 
oily mass. 

The natives use it as a seasoning in their cookery, stuffing 
fish and plantains with it and so on, using it also in the pre- 
paration of a sort of sea-pie they make with meat and fish. 
To make this, a thing well worth doing, particularly with 
hippo or other coarse meat, reduce the wood fire to embers, and 
make plantain leaves into a sort of bag, or cup ; small pieces of 
the meat should then be packed in layers with red pepper and 

Q 2 



LEMBARENE CHAP. 



odeaka in between. The tops of the leaves are then tied together 
with fine tie-tie, and the bundle, without any saucepan of any 
kind, stood on the glowing embers, the cook taking care 
there is no flame. The meat is done, and a superb gravy 
formed, before the containing plantain leaves are burnt 
through plantain leaves will stand an amazing lot in the 
way of fire. This dish is really excellent, even when made with 
boa constrictor, hippo, or crocodile. It makes the former most 
palatable ; but of course it does not remove the musky taste 
from crocodile ; nothing I know of will. 

The Igalwa have been under missionary influence since 1874, 
when Dr. Nassau founded the mission station at Kangwe. 
To this influence they owe their very frequent ability to read 
and write, and maybe also their somewhat refined culture. 
Nevertheless, this influence has not permeated their social 
institutions much yet. 

The great and important difference between the M'pongwe, 1 
Igalwa, and Ajumba fetish, and the fetish of those tribes 
round them, consists in their conception of a certain spirit 
called Mbuiri. They have, as is constant among the Bantu 
races of South-West Africa, a great god the creator, a god 
who has made all things, and who now no longer takes any 
interest in the things he has created. Their name for this god 
is Anyambie, which when pronounced sounds to my ears like 
anlynlah the 1's being very weak, the derivation of this 
name, however, is from Anyifha a spirit, and Mbia, good. This 
gbd, unlike other forms of the creating god in fetish, has a 
viceroy or minister who is a god he has created, and to whom 
he leaves the government of affairs. This god is Mbuiri or 
Ombwiri, and this Ombwiri is of very high interest to the 
student of comparative fetish. He has never been, nor can 
he ever become, a man, i.e. be born as a man, but he can 
transfuse with his own personality that of human beings, and 
also the souls of all those things we white men regard as in- 
animate, such as rocks, trees, &c., in a similar manner. 

The M'pongwe know that his residence is in the sea, and 
some of them have seen him as an old white man, not flesh- 

1 The M'pongwe speaking tribes are the M'pongwe, Orungu, Nkami, 
Ajumba, Inlenga and the^Igalwa. 



THE SPIRIT MBUIRI 229 



colour white, but chalk white. There is another important 
point here, but it wants a volume to itself, so I must pass 
it. Mbuiri's appearance in a corporeal form denotes ill luck, 
not death to the seer, but misfortune of a severe and 
diffused character. The ruin of a trading enterprise, the 
destruction of a village or a family, are put down to Mbuiri's 
action. Yet he is not regarded as a malevolent god, a devil, 
but as an avenger, or punisher of sin ; and the M'pongwe 
look on him as the Being to whom they primarily owe the 
good things and fortunes of this life, and as the Being who 
alone has power to govern the host of truly malevolent spirits 
that exist in nature. 

The different instruments with which he works in the 
shaping of human destiny bear his name when in his employ. 
When acting by means of water, he is Mbuiri Aningo ; 
when in the weather, Mbuiri Ngali ; when in the forests, 
Mbuiri Ibaka ; when in the form of a dwarf, Mbuiri Akkoa, 
and so on. 

The great difference between Mbuiri and the lesser spirits 
is this : the lesser spirits cannot incarnate themselves except 
through extraneous things ; Mbuiri can, he can become visible 
without anything beyond his own will to do so. The other 
spirits must be in something to become visible. This is an 
extremely delicate piece of fetish which it took me weeks to 
work out. I think I may say another thing about Mbuiri, 
though I say it carefully, and that is, that among the 
M'pongwe and the tribe who are the parent tribe of the 
M'pongwe the now rapidly dying out Ajumba, and their 
allied tribe the Igalwa Mbuiri is a distinct entity, while 
among the neighbouring tribes he is a class, i.e. there are 
hundreds of Mbuiri or Ombwiri, one for every remarkable 
place or thing, such as rock, tree, or forest thicket, and for 
every dangerous place in a river. Had I not observed a 
similar state of affairs regarding Sasabonsum, a totally 
different kind of spirit on the Windward coast, I should have 
had even greater trouble than I had, in finding a key to what 
seemed at first a mass of conflicting details regarding this 
important spirit Mbuiri. 

There is one other very important point in M'pongwe fetish ; 



2 3 o LEMBARENE CH. x 



and that is that the souls of men exist before birth as well as 
after death. This is indeed, as far as I have been able to find 
out, a doctrine universally held by the West African tribes, 
but among the M'pongwe there is this modification in it, 
which agrees strangely well with the idea I found regarding 
reincarnated diseases, existent among the Okyon tribes 
(pure negroes). The malevolent minor spirits are capable of 
being born with, what we will call, a man's soul, as well as 
going in with the man's soul during sleep. For example, an 
Olaga may be born with a man and that man will thereby be 
born mad ; he may at any period of his life, given certain 
conditions, become possessed by -an evil spirit, Onlogho 
Abambo, Iniembe, Nkandada, and become mad, or ill ; but 
if he is born mad, or sickly, one of the evil spirits such as 
an Olaga or an Ibambo, the soul of a man that has not been 
buried properly, has been born with him. 

The rest of the M'pongwe fetish is on broad lines common 
to other tribes, so I relegate it to the general collection of 
notes on fetish. M'pongwe jurisprudence is founded on the 
same ideas as those on which West African jurisprudence at 
large is founded, but it is so elaborated that it would be 
desecration to sketch it. It requires a massive monograph. 



CHAPTER XI 

ON THE WAY FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI 

In which the voyager goes for bush again and wanders into a new lake 
and a new river. 

July 22nd, 1895. Left Kangwe. The four Ajumba 1 did 
not turn up early in the morning as had been arranged, 
but arrived about eight, in pouring rain, so decided to 
wait until two o'clock, which will give us time to reach their 
town of Arevooma before nightfall, and may perhaps 
give us a chance of arriving there dry. At two we start. 
Good Mme. Jacot comes down to Andande beach to see 
us off, accompanied by Edmond ; M. Jacot, I am sorry to 
say, has a bad touch of fever, but insists that he will be all 
right to-morrow ; and as he is a person whom one auto- 
matically believes in, and also is a disciple of Kiihne, one 
can do nothing ; so I go, though feeling anxious for Mme. 
Jacot. I myself have an awful headache, complicated by the 
conviction that I am in for a heavy bout of fever : but as an 
Aduma canoe is one of the most comfortable things in Africa, 
or out of it, this is no cause for delay. We go down river 
on the Kangwe side of Lembarene Island, make a pause in 
front of the Igalwa slave town, which is on the Island and 
nearly opposite the Fan town of Fula on the mainland bank, 
our motive being to get stores of yam and plantain and 
magnificent specimens of both we get and then, when our 

1 These four Ajumba had been engaged, through the instrumentality 
of M. Jacot, to accompany me to the Rembwe River. The Ajumba are 
one of the noble tribes and are the parent stem of the M'pongwe ; their 
district is the western side of Lake Ayzingo. 



232 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP. 

canoe is laden with them to an extent that would get us into- 
trouble under the Act if it ran here, off we go again. Every 
c'anoe we meet shouts us a greeting, and asks where we are 
going, and we say " Rembwe " and they say " What I 
Rembwe ! " and we say " Yes, Rembwe," and paddle on. I 
lay among the luggage for about an hour, not taking much 
interest in the Rembwe or anything else, save my own head- 
ache ; but this soon lifted, and I was able to take notice, just 
before we reached the Ajumba's town, called Arevooma. 
The sandbanks stretch across the river here nearly awash, so 
all our cargo of yams has to be thrown overboard on to the 
sand, from which they can be collected by being waded out 
to. The canoe, thus lightened, is able to go on a little 
further, but we are soon hard and fast again, and the crew 
have to jump out and shove her off about once every five 
minutes, and then to look lively about jumping back into 
her again, as she shoots over the cliffs of the sandbanks. 

-When we reach Arevooma, I find it is a very prettily situated 
town, on the left-hand bank of the river clean and well kept> 
and composed of houses built on the Igalwa and M'pongwe 
plan with walls of split Bamboo and a palm thatch roof. I 
own I did not much care for these Ajumbas on starting, but 
they are evidently going to be kind and pleasant companions. 
One of them is a gentlemanly-looking man, who wears a gray 
shirt ; another looks like a genial Irishman who has 
accidentally got black, very black ; he is distinguished by 
wearing a singlet ; another is a thin, elderly man, notably 
silent ; and the remaining one is a strapping, big fellow, as 
black as a wolf's mouth, of gigantic muscular development, 
and wearing quantities of fetish charms hung about him. 
The two first mentioned are Christians ; the other two pagans, 
and I will refer to them by their characteristic points, for their 
honourable names are awfully alike when you do hear them y 
and, as is usual with Africans, rarely used in conversation. 

Gray Shirt places his house at my disposal, and both he 
and his exceedingly pretty wife do their utmost to make me 
comfortable. The house lies at the west end of the town. It 
is one room inside, but has, I believe, a separate cooking shed. 
In the verandah in front is placed a table, an ivory bundle chair 



AN OPEN AIR SERVICE 



and a gourd of water, and I am also treated to a calico table- 
cloth, and most thoughtfully screened off from the public gaze 
with more calico so that I can have my tea in privacy. After 
this meal, to my surprise Ndaka turns up. Certainly he is 
one of the very ugliest men black or white I have ever 
seen, and I fancy one of the best. He is now on a holiday 
from Kangwe, seeing to the settlement of his dead brother's 
affairs. The dead brother was a great man in Arevooma 
and a pagan, but Ndaka, the Christian Bible-reader, seems to 
get on perfectly with the family and is holding to-night a 
meeting outside his brother's house and comes with a lantern 
to fetch me to attend it. Of course I have to go, headache or 
no headache 

Most of the town was there, mainly as spectators. Ndaka 
and my two Christian boatmen manage the service between 
them, and what with the hymns and the mosquitoes the ex- 
perience is slightly awful. We sit in a line in front of the house, 
which is brilliantly lit up our own lantern on the ground before 
us acting as a rival entertainment to the house lamps inside for 
some of the best insect society in Africa, who after the. manner 
of the insect world, insist on regarding us as responsible for their 
own idiocy in getting singed, and sting us in revenge, while we 
slap hard,as we howl hymns in the fearful Igalwa and M'pongwe 
way. Next to an English picnic, the most uncomfortable thing 
I know is an open-air service in this part of Africa. Service 
being over, Ndaka takes me over the house to show its 
splendours. The great brilliancy of its illumination arises 
from its being lit by two hanging lamps supplied by Messrs, 
Woermann at five dollars apiece and burning Devoe's patent 
paraffin oil in them. This is not an advertisement, because 
no other firm sells this type of lamp round here, neither can 
you get, all along the Coast, any other sort of paraffin oil. 
The most remarkable point about the house is the floor 
which is made of split, plaited bamboo, the like of which I 
have never before seen. It gives under your feet in an 
alarming way, being raised some three or four feet above the 
ground, and I am haunted by the fear that I shall go 
through it and give pain to myself, and great trouble to 
others before I could be got out. It is a beautiful piece of work- 






234 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP. 

manship, and Arevooma has every reason to be proud of it. 
Having admired these things, I go, dead tired and still head- 
achy, down the road with my host who carries the lantern, 
through an atmosphere that has 45 per cent, of solid matter 
in the shape of mosquitoes ; then wishing him good-night, I 
shut myself in, and illuminate, humbly, with a candle. The 
furniture of the house consists mainly of boxes, containing 
the wealth of Gray Shirt, in clothes, mirrors, &c. One corner 
of the room is taken up by great calabashes full of some sort 
of liquor, and there is an ivory bundle chair, a hanging mirror, 
several rusty guns, and a considerable collection of china 
basins and jugs. Evidently Gray Shirt is rich. The most 
interesting article to me, however, just now is the bed hung 
over with a clean, substantial, chintz mosquito bar, and spread 
with clean calico and adorned with patchwork-covered pillows. 
So I take off my boots and put on my slippers ; for it never 
does in this country to leave off boots altogether at any time, 
and risk getting bitten by mosquitoes on the feet, when you 
are on the march ; because the rub of ycur boot on the bite 
always produces a sore, and a sore when it comes in the 
Gorilla country, comes to stay. 

No sooner have I carefully swished all the mosquitoes from 
under the bar and turned in, than a cat scratches and mews 
at the door turn out and let her in. She is evidently a pet, 
so I take her on to the bed with me. She is a very nice cat- 
sandy and fat and if I held the opinion of Pythagoras 
concerning wild fowl, I should have no hesitation in saying 
she had in her the soul of Dame Juliana Berners, such a 
whole-souled devotion to sport does she display, dashing out 
through the flaps of the mosquito bar after rats which, amid 
squeals from the rats and curses from her, she kills amongst 
the china collection. Then she comes to me, triumphant, 
expecting congratulations, and accompanied by mosquitoes, 
and purrs and kneads upon my chest until she hears another rat. 

Tuesday, July 2^rd. Am aroused by violent knocking at 
the door in the early gray dawn so violent that two large 
centipedes and a scorpion drop en to the bed. They have 
evidently been tucked away among the folds of the bar 
all night. Well " when ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be 






AJUMBA WAYS AND GAMES 235 



wise," particularly along here. I get up without delay, and 
find myself quite well. The cat has thrown a basin of water 
neatly over into my bag during her nocturnal hunts ; and 
when my tea comes I am informed a man " done die " in the 
night, which explains the firing of guns I heard. I inquire 
what he has died of, and am told " He just truck luck, and 
then he "die." His widows .are having their faces painted 
white by sympathetic lady friends, and are attired in their 
oldest, dirtiest clothes, and but very few of them ; still, they 
seem to be taking things in a resigned spirit These Ajumba 
seem pleasant folk. They play with their pretty brown 
children in a taking way. Last night I noticed some men 
and women playing a game new to me, which consisted in 
throwing a hoop at each other. . The point was to get the 
hoop to fall over your adversary's head. It is a cheerful game. 
Quantities -of the common house-fly about and, during the 
early part of the morning, it rains in a gentle kind of way ; 
but soon after we are afloat in our canoe it turns into a soft 
white mist. 

We paddle still westwards down the broad quiet waters of 
the O'Rembo Vongo. I notice great quantities of birds 
about here great hornbills, vividly coloured kingfishers, and 
for the first time the great vulture I have often heard of, 
and the skin of which I will take home before I mention even 
its approximate spread of wing. 1 There are also noble 

1 Since my return home I have read that rather rare and very charming 
book, Ten Years' Wanderings among the Ethiopians, by T. J. Hutchinson, 
a gentleman who was for a long time H.B.M. Consul in Calabar. He 
also has heard of this bird, which was described as "measuring five 
fathoms, i.e., thirty feet, from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. 
Its beak is a fathom, or six feet long. No man dares to go near it, and no 
gun fit to kill it. Its favourite food is obtained by killing the elephant, 
whose eyes it devours." Mr. Hutchinson goes on to say that "inquiring 
the colour of the bird's plumage the answer I received namely, that its 
feathers were green," made me shut my note-book, with a "mental 
reservation " as to the ignorance of Baron Cuvier (p. 242). I am not 
going bail for these measurements being correct to an inch or so, and 
must state that the bird is not green but brown and gray, and the noise 
it makes when settling in the forest trees over one's head is very great, 
but for further particulars, you must wait until I or some other West 
Coaster brings home a specimen, and then ! 



236 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP. 



white cranes, and flocks of small black and white birds, new 
to me, with heavy razor-shaped bills, reminding one of the 
Devonian puffin. The hornbill is perhaps the most striking in 
appearance. It is the size of a small, or say a good-sized hen- 
turkey. Gray Shirt says the flocks, which are of eight or ten,, 
always have the same quantity of cocks and hens, and that 
they live together " white man fashion," i.e., each couple keep- 
ing together. They certainly do a great deal of courting, 
the cock filling out his wattles on his neck like a turkey, and 
spreading out his tail with great pomp and ceremony, but very 
awkwardly. To see hornbills on a bare sandbank is a solemn 
sight, but when they are dodging about in the hippo grass they 
sink ceremony, and roll and waddle, looking my man said 
for snakes and the little sand-fish, which are close in under the 
bank ; and their killing way of dropping their jaws I should 
say opening their bills when they are alarmed is comic. I 
think this has something to do with their hearing, for I often 
saw two or three of them in a line on a long branch, standing, 
stretched up to their full height, their great eyes opened wide, 
and all with their great beaks open, evidently listening for 
something. Their cry is most peculiar and can only be 
mistaken for a native horn ; and although there seems little 
variety in it to my ear, there must be more to theirs, for they 
will carry on long confabulations with each other across 
a river, and, I believe, sit up half the night and talk scandal. 

There were plenty of plantain-eaters here, but, although 
their screech was as appalling as I have heard in Angola, 
they were not regarded, by the Ajumba at any rate, as 
being birds of evil omen, as they are in Angola. Still, by no 
means all the birds here only screech and squark. Several of 
them have very lovely notes. There is one who always gives 
a series of infinitely beautiful, soft, rich-toned whistles just 
before the first light of the dawn shows in the sky, and one at 
least who has a prolonged and very lovely song. This bird, 
I was told in Gaboon, is called Telephonus etythropterus. I 
expect an ornithologist would enjoy himself here, but I cannot 
and will not collect birds. I hate to have them killed 
any how, and particularly in the barbarous way in which 
these natives kill them. 



xi LESSONS IN GEOGRAPHY 237 



The broad stretch of water looks like a long lake. In all 
directions sandbanks are showing their broad yellow backs, 
and there will be more showing soon, for it is not yet the 
height of the dry. We are perpetually grounding on those 
which by next month will be above water. These canoes are 
built, I believe, more with a view to taking sandbanks com- 
fortably than anything else ; but they are by no means yet 
sufficiently specialised for getting off them. Their flat bottoms 
enable them to glide on to the banks, and sit there, without 
either upsetting or cutting into the sand, as a canoe with 
a keel would ; but the trouble comes in when you are getting 
off the steep edge of the bank, and the usual form it takes is 
upsetting. So far my Ajumba friends have only tried to meet 
this difficulty by tying the cargo in. 

I try to get up the geography of this region conscientiously. 
Fortunately I find Gray Shirt, Singlet, and Pagan can speak 
trade English ; for my interpreter's knowledge of that language 
seems confined to " Praps," " 'Tis better so," and " Lordy, 
Lordy, helpee me " a valueless vocabulary. None of them, 
however, seem to recognise a single blessed name on the chart, 
which is saying nothing against the chart and its makers, who 
probably got their names up from M'pongwes and Igalwas 
instead of Ajumba, as I am trying to. Geographical research 
in this region is fraught with difficulty, I find, owing to different 
tribes calling one and the same place by different names ; and 
I am sure the Royal Geographical Society ought to insert 
among their " Hints " that every traveller in this region should 
carefully learn every separate native word, or set of words, 
signifying " I don't know," four villages and two rivers I have 
come across out here solemnly set down with various forms of 
this statement, for their native name. Really I think the old 
Portuguese way of naming places after Saints, &c., was wiser 
in the long run, and it was certainly pleasanter to the ears. 
My Ajumba, however, know about my Ngambi and the Vinue 
all right and Eliva z'Ayzingo, so I must try and get cross 
bearings from these. 

We have an addition to our crew this morning a man who 
wants to go and get work at John Holt's sub-factory away on 
the Rembwe. He has been waiting a long while at Arevooma, 






238 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP, 



unable to get across, I am told, " because the road is now 
stopped between Ayzingo and the Rembwe by " those fearful 
Fans." " How are we going to get through that way ? " says 
I, with natural feminine alarm. " We are not, sir," says Gray 
Shirt. This is what Lady MacDonald would term a chatty 
little incident ; and my hair begins to rise as I remember 
what I have been told about those Fans and the indications I 
have already seen of its being true when on the Upper Ogowe. 
Now here we are going to try to get through the heart of their 
country, far from a French station, and without the French 
flag. Why did I not obey Mr. Hudson's orders not to go 
wandering about in a reckless way ! Anyhow I am in for it, 
and Fortune favours the brave. The only question is : Do I 
individually come under this class ? I go into details. It 
seems Pagan thinks he can depend on the friendship of two 
Fans he once met and did business with, and who now live on 
an island in Lake Ncovi Ncovi is not down on my map and 
I have never heard of it before anyhow thither we are bound 
now. 

. Each man has brought with him his best gun, loaded to 
the muzzle, and tied on to the baggage against which I am 
leaning the muzzles sticking out each side of my head : the 
flint locks covered with cases, or sheaths, made of the black- 
haired skins of gorillas, leopard skin, and a beautiful bright 
bay skin, which I do not know, which they say is bush cow 
but they call half a dozen things bush cow. These guns are 
not the " gas-pipes " I have seen up north ; but decent rifles 
which have had the rifling filed out and the locks replaced by 
flint locks and converted into muzzle loaders, and many of 
them have beautiful barrels. I find the Ajumba name for the 
beautiful shrub that has long bunches of red yellow and 
cream-coloured young leaves at the end of its branches is 
" obaa." I also learn that in their language ebony and a monkey 
have one name. The forest on either bank is very lovely, ' 
Some enormously high columns of green are formed by a sort 
of climbing plant having taken possession of lightning-struck 
trees, and in one place it really looks exactly as if some one 
had spread a great green coverlet over the forest, so as to keep 
it dry. No high land showing in any direction. Pagan tells 






SANDBANK PALAVER 



239 



me the extinguisher-shaped juju filled with medicine and made 
of iron is against drowning the red juju is " for keep foot in 
path." Beautiful effect of a gleam of sunshine lighting up a 
red sandbank till it glows like the Nibelungen gold. Indeed 
the effects are Turneresque to-day owing to the mist, and the 
sun playing in and out among it. 

The sandbanks now have their cliffs to the N.N.W. and 
N.W. At 9.30, the broad river in front of us is apparently 
closed by sandbanks which run out from the banks thus : 

yellow \ 
S. bank bright-red I N. bank. Current running strong along 

yellow J 

south bank. This bank bears testimony of this also being the 
case in the wet season, for a fringe of torn-down trees hangs 
from it into the river. Pass Seke, a town on north bank, 
interchanging the usual observations regarding our destination. 
The river seems absolutely barred with sand again ; but as we 
paddle down it, the obstructions resolve themselves into spits 
of sand from the north bank and the largest island in mid- 
stream, which also has a long tail, or train, of sandbank down 
river. Here we meet a picturesque series of canoes, fruit and 
trade laden, being poled up stream, one man with his pole 
over one side, the other with his pole over the other, making 
a St. Andrew's cross as you meet them end on. 

Most luxurious, charming, and pleasant trip this. The 
men are standing up swinging in rhythmic motion their long,, 
rich red wood paddles in perfect time to their elaborate melan- 
choly, minor key boat song. Nearly lost with all hands. 
Sandbank palaver only when we were going over the end 
of it, slipped sideways over its edge. River deep, bottom 
sand and mud. This information may be interesting to the 
geologist, but I hope I shall not be converted by circumstances 
into a human sounding apparatus again to-day. Next time 
she strikes I shall get out and shove behind. 

We are now skirting the real north bank, and not the bank 
of an island or islands as we have been for some time here- 
tofore. Lovely stream falls into this river over cascades. 
The water is now rough in a small way and the width of the 
river great, but it soon is crowded again with wooded islands. 



^240 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP. 

There are patches and wreaths of a lovely, vermilion-flowering 
bush rope decorating the forest, and now and again clumps 
of a plant that shows a yellow and crimson spike of bloom, 
very strikingly beautiful. We pass a long tunnel in the bush, 
quite dark as you look down it evidently the path to some 
native town. The south bank is covered, where the falling 
waters have exposed it, with hippo grass. Terrible lot of 
mangrove flies about, although we are more than one hundred 
miles above the mangrove belt. River broad again tending 
W.S.W., with a broad flattened island with attributive sand- 
banks in the middle. The fair way is along the south bank of 
the river. Gray Shirt tells me this river is called the O'Rembo 
Vongo, or small River, so as to distinguish it from the main 
stream of the Ogowe which goes down past the south side of 
Lembarene Island, as well I know after that canoe affair of 
mine. Ayzingo now bears due north and native mahogany 
is called " Okooma." Pass village called Welli on north bank. 
It looks like some gipsy caravans stuck on poles. I expect 
that village has known what it means to be swamped by the 
rising river ; it looks as if it had, very hastily in the middle 
of some night, taken to stilts, which I am sure, from their 
present rickety condition, will not last through the next wet 
season, and then some unfortunate spirit will get the blame 
of the collapse. I also learn that it is the natal spot of my 
friend Kabinda, the carpenter at Andande. Now if some of 
these good people I know would only go and distinguish 
themselves, I might write a sort of county family history of 
these parts ; but they don't, and I fancy won't For example, 
the entrance or should I say the exit ? of a broadish little 
river is just away on the south bank. If you go up this river 
it runs S.E. you get to a good-sized lake ; in this lake there 
is an island called Adole ; then out of the other side of the 
lake there is another river which falls into the Ogow main 
stream but that is not the point of the story, which is that 
on that island of Adole, Ngouta, the interpreter, first saw 
the light. Why he ever did there or anywhere Heaven 
only knows ! I know I shall never want to write his 
biography. 

On the western bank end of that river going to Adole, there 



A STRANGE CEMETERY 241 



is an Igalwa town, notable for a large quantity of fine white 

ducks and a clump of Indian bamboo. My informants say, 

'"" No white man ever live for this place," so I suppose the 

ducks and bamboo have been imported by some black trader 

whose natal spot this is. The name of this village is 

Wanderegwoma. Stuck on sandbank I flew out and shoved 

behind, leaving Ngouta to do the balancing performances in 

the stern. This O'Rembo Vongo divides up just below here, I 

-am told, when we have re-embarked, into three streams. One 

goes into the main Ogowe opposite Ayshouka in Nkami 

-country Nkami country commences at Ayshouka and goes 

to the sea one into the Ngumbi, and one into the Nunghi 

.all in the Ouroungou country. Ayzingo now lies N.E. 

according to Gray Shirt's arm. On our river there is here 

another broad low island with its gold-coloured banks shining 

out, seemingly barring the entire channel, but there is really a 

canoe channel along by both banks. 

We turn at this point into a river on the north bank that 
runs north and south the current is running very swift to 
the north. We run down into it, and then, it being more than 
time enough for chop, we push the canoe on to a sandbank in 
our new river, which I am told is the Karkola. I, after having 
had my tea, wander off. I find behind our high sandbank, 
which like all the other sandbanks above water now, is getting 
grown over with hippo grass a fine light green grass, the 
beloved food of both hippo and manatee a forest, and enter- 
ing this I notice a succession of strange mounds or heaps, 
made up of branches, twigs, and leaves, and dead flowers. 
Many of these heaps are recent, while others have fallen into 
decay. Investigation shows they are burial places. Among 
the debris of an old one there are human bones, and out from 
one of the new ones comes a stench and a hurrying, exceed- 
ingly busy line of ants, demonstrating what is going on. 
I own I thought these mounds were some kind of bird's or 
animal's nest. They look entirely unhuman in this desolate 
reach of forest. Leaving these, I go down to the water edge 
of the sand, and find in it a quantity of pools of varying 
breadth and expanse, but each surrounded by a rim of dark 
red-brown deposit, which you can lift ofT the sand in a skin. 

R 



242 FROM KAN OWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP.. 



On the top of the water is a film of exquisite iridescent 
colours like those on a soap bubble, only darker and brighter. 
In the river alongside the sand, there are thousands of those 
beautiful little fish with a black line each side of their tails.. 
They are perfectly tame, and I feed them with crumbs in my 
hand. After making every effort to terrify the unknown object 
containing the food gallant bulls, quite two inches long,, 
sidling up and snapping at my fingers they come and feed 
right in the palm, so that I could have caught them by the 
handful had I wished. There are also a lot of those weird,, 
semi-transparent, yellow, spotted little sand-fish with cup- 
shaped pectoral fins, which I see they use to enable them to- 
make their astoundingly long leaps. These fish are of a 
more nervous and distrustful disposition, and hover round 
my hand but will not come into it. Indeed I do not believe 
the other cheeky little fellows would allow them to. They 
have grand butting matches among themselves, which wind 
up with a most comic tail fight, each combatant spinning 
round and going in for a spanking match with his adversary 
with his pretty little red-edged tail the red rim round it 
and round his gill covers going claret-coloured with fury. I 
did not make out how you counted points in these fights no- 
one seemed a scale the worse. 

The men, having had their rest and their pipes, shout for 
me, and off we go again. The Karkola l soon widens to about 
100 feet ; it is evidently very deep here ; the right bank (the 
east) is forested, the left, lo\v and shrubbed, one patch look- 
ing as if it were being cleared for a plantation, but no village 
showing. A big rock shows up on the right bank, which is a 
change from the clay and sand, and soon the whole character 
of the landscape changes. We come to a sharp turn in 
the river, from north and south to east and west the 
current very swift. The river channel dodges round against 
a big bank of sword grass, and then widens out to the breadth 
of the Thames at Putney. I am told that a river runs out 
of it here to the west to Ouroungou country, and so I imagine 

1 As this river is not mentioned on maps, and as I was the first white 
traveller on it, I give my own phonetic spelling ; but I expect it would be 
spelt by modern geographers " Kakola." 



xi ISLANDS AND HIPPOS 243 

this Karkola falls ultimately into the Nazareth. We skirt the 
eastern banks, which are covered with low grass with a scanty 
lot of trees along the top. High land shows in the distance 
to the S.S.W. and S.W., and then we suddenly turn up into a 
broad river or straith, shaping our course N.N.E. On the 
opposite bank, on a high dwarf cliff, is a Fan town. " All 
Fan now," says Singlet in anything but a gratified tone of 
voice. 

It is a strange, wild, lonely bit of the world we are now in, 
apparently a lake or broad full of sandbanks, some bare and 
some in the course of developing into permanent islands by 
the growth on them of that floating coarse grass, any joint of 
which being torn off either by the current, a passing canoe, or 
hippos, floats down and grows wherever it settles. Like most 
things that float in these parts, it usually settles on a sandbank, 
and then grows in much the same way as our couch grass 
grows on land in England, so as to form a network, which 
catches for its adopted sandbank all sorts of floating debris ; 
so the sandbank comes up in the world. The waters of the 
wet season when they rise drown off the grass ; but when they 
fall, up it comes again from the root, and so gradually the 
sandbank becomes an island and persuades real trees and 
shrubs to come and grow on it, and its future is then 
secured. 

We skirt alongside a great young island of this class ; the 
sword grass some ten or fifteen feet high. It has not got any 
trees on it yet, but by next season or so it doubtless will have. 
The grass is stubbled down into paths by hippos, and just as 
I have realised who are the road-makers, they appear in 
person. One immense fellow, hearing us, stands up and 
shows himself about six feet from us in the grass, gazes 
calmly, and then yawns a yawn a yard wide and grunts his 
news to his companions, some of whom there is evidently a 
large herd get up and stroll towards us with all the flowing 
grace of Pantechnicon vans in motion. We put our helm 
paddles hard a starboard and leave that bank. These hippos 
always look to me as if they were the first or last creations in 
the animal world. At present I am undecided whether 
Nature tried " her 'prentice hand " on them in her earliest 

R 2 



244 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP. 

youth, or whether, having got thoroughly tired of making the 
delicately beautiful antelopes, corallines, butterflies, and 
orchids, she just said : " Goodness ! I am quite worn out 
with this finicking work. Here, just put these other viscera 
into big bags I can't bother any more." 

Our hasty trip across to the bank of the island on the other 
side being accomplished, we, in search of seclusion and in the 
hope that out of sight would mean out of mind to" hippos, shot 
down a narrow channel between semi-island sandbanks, and 
those sandbanks, if you please, are covered with specimens 
as fine a set of specimens as you could wish for of the West 
African crocodile. These interesting animals are also having 
their siestas, lying sprawling in all directions on the sand, 
with their mouths wide open. One immense old lady has a 
family of lively young crocodiles running over her, evidently 
playing like a lot of kittens. The heavy musky smell they 
give off is most repulsive, but we do not rise up and make 
a row about this, because we feel hopelessly in the wrong in 
intruding into these family scenes uninvited, and so apologetic- 
ally pole ourselves along rapidly, not even singing. The 
pace the canoe goes down that ' channel would be a 
wonder to Henley Regatta. When out of ear-shot I ask 
Pagan whether there are many gorillas, elephants, or bush- 
cows round here. " Plenty too much," says he ; and it occurs 
to me that the corn-fields are growing golden green away in 
England ; and soon there rises up in my mental vision a picture 
that fascinated my youth in the Fliegende Blatter, represent- 
ing " Friedrich Gerstaeker auf der Reise." That gallant man 
is depicted tramping on a serpent, new to M. Boulenger, while 
he attempts to club, with the butt end of his gun, a most 
lively savage who, accompanied by a bison, is attacking him 
in front. A terrific and obviously enthusiastic crocodile is 
grabbing the tail of the explorer's coat, and the explorer says 
" Hurrah ! das gibt wieder einen prachtigen Artikel fur Die 
Allgemeine Zeitung" I do not know where in the world 
Gerstaeker was at the time, but I should fancy hereabouts. 
My vigorous and lively conscience also reminds me that the 
last words a most distinguished and valued scientific friend had 
said to me before I left home was, " Always take measurements, 



A DESERTED STATION 



245 



Miss Kingsley, and always take them from the adult male." I 
know I have neglected opportunities of carrying this commis- 
sion out on both those banks, but I do not feel like going back. 
Besides, the men would not like it, and I have mislaid my 
yard measure. 

The extent of water, dotted with sandbanks and islands in 
all directions, here is great, and seems to be fringed uniformly 
by low swampy land, beyond which, to the north, rounded 
lumps of hills show blue. On one of the islands is a little 
white house which I am told was once occupied by a black 
trader for John Holt. It looks a desolate place for any man 
to live in, and the way the crocodiles and hippo must have 
come up on the garden ground in the evening time could not 
have enhanced its charms to the average cautious man. My 
men say, " No man live for that place now." The factory, I 
believe, has been, for some trade reason, abandoned. Behind 
it is a great clump of dark-coloured trees. The rest of the 
island is now covered with hippo grass looking like a 
beautifully kept lawn. We lie up for a short rest at another 
island, also a weird spot in its way, for it is covered with a 
grove of only one kind of tree, which has a twisted, con- 
torted, gray-white trunk and dull, lifeless-looking, green, hard 
foliage. 

I learn that these good people, to make topographical 
confusion worse confounded, call a river by one name when you 
are going up it, and by another when you are coming down ; 
just as if you called the Thames the London when you were 
going up, and the Greenwich when you were coming down. The 
banks all round this lake or broad, seem all light-coloured sand 
and clay. We pass out of it into a channel. Current flowing 
north. As we are entering the channel between banks of 
grass-overgrown sand, a superb white crane is seen standing" 
on the sand edge to the left. Gray Shirt attempts to get a 
shot at it, but it alarmed at our unusual appearance 
raises itself up with one of those graceful preliminary 
curtseys, and after one or two preliminary flaps spreads 
its broad wings and sweeps away, with its long legs trailing 
behind it like a thing on a Japanese screen. Gray Shirt does 
not fire, but puts down his gun on the baggage again with its 



246 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP. 

muzzle nestling against my left ear. A minute afterwards we 
strike a bank, and bang goes off the gun, deafening me, 
singeing my hair and the side of my face slightly. Fortun- 
ately the two men in front are at the moment in the 
recumbent position attributive to the shock of the canoe 
jarring against the cliff edge of a bank, or they would have 
had a miscellaneous collection of bits of broken iron pots and 
lumps of lead frisking among their vitals. It is a little 
difficult to make out how much credit Providence really 
deserves in this affair, but a good deal. Of course if It had 
taken the trouble to keep us off the bank, or to remind Gray 
Shirt to uncock his weapon, the thing would not have hap- 
pened at all, but preliminary precaution is not Providence's 
peculiarity. Still, when the thing happened It certainly rose 
to it. I might have had the back of my head blown out, and 
the men might have been killed. I only hope this won't 
confirm Pagan permanently into superstition ; for only a few 
minutes before, he had been showing me a big charm to keep 
him from being hurt by a gun. If he thinks about it, he will 
see there is nothing in the charm, because the other man who 
equally escaped was a charmless Christian. 

The river into which we ran zig-zags about, and then takes a 
course S.S.E. It is studded with islands slightly higher than 
those we have passed, and thinly clad with forest. The place 
seems alive with birds ; flocks of pelican and crane rise up before 
us out of the grass, and every now and then a crocodile slides off 
the bank into the water. Wonderfully like old logs they look, 
particularly when you see one letting himself roll and float 
down on the current. In spite of these interests I began to 
wonder where in this lonely land we were to sleep to-night. In 
front of us were miles of distant mountains, but in no direction 
the slightest sign of human habitation. Soon we passed out of 
our channel into a lovely, strangely melancholy, lonely-looking 
lake Lake Ncovi, my friends tell me. It is exceedingly 
beautiful. The rich golden sunlight of the late afternoon 
soon followed by the short-lived, glorious flushes of colour of 
the sunset and the after-glow, play over the scene as we paddle 
across the lake to the N.N.E. our canoe leaving a long trail 
of frosted silver behind her as she glides over the mirror-like 



xi AN AWKWARD ENCOUNTER 247 

water, and each stroke of the paddle sending down air with it 
to come up again in luminous silver bubbles not as before 
;in swirls of sand and mud. The lake shore is, in all directions, 
wreathed with nobly forested hills, indigo and purple in the 
dying daylight. On the N.N.E. and N.E. these come 
directly down into the lake ; on N.W., N., S.W., and S.E. 
there is a band of well -forested ground, behind which they 
rise. In the north and north-eastern part of the lake several 
-exceedingly beautiful wooded islands show, with gray rocky 
beaches and dwarf cliffs. 

Sign of human habitation at first there was none ; and 
tin spite of its beauty, there was something which I was 
almost going to say was repulsive. The men evidently 
felt the same as I did. Had any one told me that the 
.air that lay on the lake was poison, or that in among its 
forests lay some path to regions of utter death, I should have 
said " It looks like that " ; but no one said anything, and we 
only looked round uneasily, until the comfortable-souled 
.Singlet made the unfortunate observation that he " smelt 
blood." 1 We all called him an utter fool to relieve our minds, 
and made our way towards the second island. When we got 
near enough to it to see details, a large village showed among 
vthe trees on its summit, and a steep dwarf cliff, overgrown 
with trees and creeping plants came down to a small beach 
covered with large water-washed gray stones. There was 
evidently some kind of a row going on in that village, that 
took a lot of shouting too. We made straight for the 
teach, and drove our canoe among its outlying rocks, and 
then each of my men stowed his paddle quickly, slung on his 
-ammunition bag, and picked up his ready loaded gun, 
sliding the skin sheath off the lock. Pagan got out on to the 
stones alongside the canoe just as the inhabitants became 
.aware of our arrival, and, abandoning what I hope was a mass 
meeting to remonstrate with the local authorities on the 
insanitary state of the town, came a brown mass of naked 
humanity down the steep cliff path to attend to us, whom 
.they evidently regarded as an imperial interest. Things did 

1 A common African sensation among natives when alarmed, some- 
what akin to our feeling some one walk over our graves. 



248 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP, 



not look restful, nor these Fans personally pleasant. Every- 
man among them no women showed was armed with a gun, 
and they loosened their shovel -shaped knives in their sheaths, 
as they came, evidently regarding a fight quite as imminent as 
we did. They drew up about twenty paces from us in silence. 
Pagan and Gray Shirt, who had joined him, held out their 
unembarrassed hands, and shouted out the name of the Fan 
man they had said they were friendly with : " Kiva-Kiva."' 
The Fans stood still and talked angrily among themselves for 
some minutes, and then, Silence said to me, " It would be bad 
palaver if Kiva no live for this place," in a tone that conveyed 
to me the idea he thought this unpleasant contingency almost 
a certainty. The Passenger exhibited unmistakable symp- 
toms of wishing he had come by another boat. I got up from 
my seat in the bottom of the canoe and leisurely strolled 
ashore, saying to the line of angry faces " M'boloani " in an 
unconcerned way, although I well knew it was etiquette 
for them to salute first. They grunted, but did not commit 
themselves further. A minute after they parted to allow a 
fine-looking, middle-aged man, naked save for a twist of dirty 
cloth round his loins and a bunch of leopard and wild cat 
tails hung from his shoulder by a strip of leopard skin, to- 
come forward. Pagan went for him with a rush, as if he were 
going to clasp him to his ample bosom, but holding his hands 
just off from touching the Fan's shoulder in the usual way, 
while he said in Fan, " Don't you know me, my beloved Kiva ?' 
Surely you have not forgotten your old friend ? " Kiva 
grunted feelingly, and raised up his hands and held them just 
off touching Pagan, and we breathed again. Then Gray 
Shirt made a rush at the crowd and went through great de- 
monstrations of affection with another gentleman whom he 
recognised as being a Fan friend of his own, and whom he had 
not expected to meet here. I looked round to see if there was 
not any Fan from the Upper Ogowe whom I knew to go for, 
but could not see one that I could on the strength of a pre- 
vious acquaintance, and on their individual merits I did not 
feel inclined to do even this fashionable imitation embrace. 
Indeed I must say that never even in a picture book have 
I seen such a set of wild wicked-looking savages as those we: 



xi INTRODUCTION TO THE FANS 249- 



faced this night, and with whom it was touch-and-go for twenty 
of the longest minutes I have ever lived, whether we fought 
for our lives, I was going to say, but it would not have 
been even for that, but merely for the price of them. 

Peace having been proclaimed, conversation became general.. 
Gray Shirt brought his friend up and introduced him to me, 
and we shook hands and smiled at each other in the conven- 
tional way. Pagan's friend, who was next introduced, was 
more alarming, for he held his hands for half a minute just 
above my elbows without quite touching me, but he meant 
well ; and then we all disappeared into a brown mass of 
humanity and a fog of noise. You would have thought, fromi 
the violence and vehemence of the shouting and gesticulation,, 
that we were going to be forthwith torn to shreds ; but not a 
single hand really touched me, and as I, Pagan, and Gray 
Shirt went up to the town in the midst of the throng, the 
crowd opened in front and closed in behind, evidently half 
frightened at my appearance. The row when we reached the 
town redoubled in volume from the fact that the ladies, the 
children, and the dogs joined in. Every child in the place as 
soon as it saw my white face let a howl out of it as if it had 
seen his Satanic Majesty, horns, hoofs, 'tail and all, "and fled 
into the nearest hut, headlong, and I fear, from the continuance 
of the screams, had fits. The town was exceedingly filthy 
the remains of the crocodile they had been eating the week 
before last, and piles of fish offal, and remains of an elephant,, 
hippo or manatee I really can't say which, decomposition 
was too far advanced united to form a most impressive 
stench. The bark huts are, as usual in a Fan town, in 
unbroken rows ; but there are three or four streets here, not 
one only, as in most cases. The palaver house is in the inner- 
most street, and there we went, and noticed that the village 
view was not in the direction in which we had come, but across 
towards the other side of the lake. I told the Ajumba to 
explain we wanted hospitality for the night, and wished to hire 
three carriers for to-morrow to go with us to the Rembwe. 

For an hour and three-quarters by my watch I stood in 
the suffocating, smoky, hot atmosphere listening to, but only 
faintly understanding, the war of words and gesture that raged. 



250 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP. 



round us. At last the fact that we were to be received being 
settled, Gray Shirt's friend led us out of the guard house 
the crowd flinching back as I came through it to his own 
house on the right-hand side of the street of huts. It was 
a very different dwelling to Gray Shirt's residence at 
Arevooma. I was as high as its roof ridge and had to 
stoop low to get through the door-hole. Inside, the hut 
was fourteen or fifteen feet square, unlit by any window. 
The door-hole could be closed by pushing a broad piece of 
bark across it under two horizontally fixed bits of stick. 
The floor was sand like the street outside, but dirtier. On 
it in one place was a fire, whose smoke found its way out 
through the roof. In one corner of the room was a rough 
bench of wood, which from the few filthy cloths on it and a 
wood pillow I saw was the bed. There was no other furniture 
in the hut save some boxes, which I presume held my host's 
earthly possessions. From the bamboo roof hung a long stick 
with hooks on it, the hooks made by cutting off branching 
twigs. This was evidently the hanging wardrobe, and on it 
hung some few fetish charms, and a beautiful ornament of 
wild cat and leopard tails, tied on to a square piece of leopard 
skin, in the centre of which was a little mirror, and round the 
mirror were sewn dozens of common shirt buttons. In among 
the tails hung three little brass bells and a brass rattle ; these 
bells and rattles are not only " for dandy," but serve to scare 
away snakes when the ornament is worn in the forest. A fine 
strip of silky-haired, young gorilla skin made the band to sling 
the ornament from the shoulder when worn. Gorillas seem well 
enough known round here. One old lady in the crowd out- 
side, I saw, had a necklace made of sixteen gorilla canine teeth 
slung on a pine-apple fibre string. Gray Shirt explained to me 
that this is the best house in the village, and my host the 
most renowned elephant hunter in the district. 

We then returned to the canoe, whose occupants had been 
getting uneasy about the way affairs were going "on top," on 
.account of the uproar they heard and the time we had 
been away. We got into the canoe and took her round the 
little promontory at the end of the island to the other beach, 
which is the main beach. By arriving at the beach when 



xi TRADE PALAVER 2 ;i 



we did, we took our Fan friends in the rear, and they did not 
see us coming in the gloaming. This was all for the best 
it seems, as they said they should have fired on us before they 
had had time to see we were rank outsiders, on the appre- 
hension that we were coming from one of the Fan towns we 
had passed, and with whom they were on bad terms regarding 
-a lady who bolted there from her lawful lord, taking with her 
cautious soul ! a quantity of rubber. The only white man 
'who had been here before in the memory of man, was a French 
'Officer who paid Kiva six dollars to take him somewhere, I was 
told but I could not find out when, or what happened to that 
Frenchman. 1 It was a long time ago, Kiva said, but these 
folks have no definite way of expressing duration of time nor, 
-do I believe, any great mental idea of it ; although their 
ideas are, as usual with West Africans, far ahead of their 
language. 

All the goods were brought up to my hut, and while Ngouta 
/gets my tea we started talking the carrier palaver again. The 
Fans received my offer, starting at two dollars ahead of what 
M. Jacot said would be enough, with utter scorn, and every 
-dramatic gesture of dissent ; one man, pretending to catch 
<jray Shirt's words in his hands, flings them to the ground 
-and stamps them under his feet. I affected an easy take-it-or- 
leave-it-manner, and looked on. A woman came out of the 
-crowd to me, and held out a mass of slimy gray abomination 
on a bit of plantain leaf smashed snail. I accepted it and gave 
her fish hooks. She was delighted and her companions excited, 
so she put them into her mouth for safe keeping. I hurriedly 
explained in my best Fan that I do not require any mare snail ; 
so another lady tried the effect of a pine-apple. There might be 
no end to this, so I retired into trade and asked what she would 
sell it for. She did not want to sell it she wanted to give it 
me ; so I gave her fish hooks. Silence and Singlet interposed, 

1 Since my return I think the French gentleman may have been M. F. 
Tenaille d'Estais, who is down on the latest map French as having visited 
.a lake in this region in 1882, which is set down as Lac Ebouko. He seems 
to have come from and returned to Lake Ayzingo on map Lac Azingo 
"but on the other hand " Ebouko " was not known on the lake, Ajumba 
.and Fans alike calling it Ncovi. 



252 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAP 



saying the price for pine-apples is one leaf of tobacco, but I 
explained I was not buying. Ngouta turned up with my tea, 
so I went inside, and had it on the bed. The door-hole was 
entirely filled with a mosaic of faces, but no one attempted 
to come in. All the time the carrier palaver went on without 
cessation, and I went out and offered to take Gray Shirt's and 
Pagan's place, knowing they must want their chop, but they 
refused relief, and also said I must not raise the price ; I was 
offering too big a price now, and if I once rise the Fan will only 
think I will keep on rising, and so make the palaver longer to 
talk. " How long does a palaver usually take to talk round 
here ? " I ask. " The last one I talked," says Pagan, " took 
three weeks, and that was only a small price palaver." 
" Well," say I, " my price is for a start to-morrow after then. 
I have no price after that I go away." Another hour ho\v- 
ever sees the jam made, and to my surprise i find the three 
richest men in this town of M'fetta have personally taken up- 
the contract Kiva my host, Fika a fine young fellow, and 
Wiki, another noted elephant hunter. These three Fans, the 
four Ajumba and the Igalwa, Ngouta, I think will be enough. 
Moreover I fancy it safer not to have an overpowering per- 
centage of Fans in the party, as I know we shall have 
considerable stretches of uninhabited forest to traverse ; and 
the Ajumba say that the Fans will kill people, i.e., the black 
traders who venture into their country, and cut them up into 
neat pieces, eat what they want at the time, and smoke the 
rest of the bodies for future use. Now I do not want to arrive 
at the Rembwe in a smoked condition, even should my frag- 
ments be neat, and I am going in a different direction to what 
I said I was when leaving Kangwe, and there are so many 
ways of accounting for death about here leopard, canoe 
capsize, elephants, &c. that even if I were traced well,, 
nothing could be done then, anyhow so will only take three 
Fans. One must diminish dead certainties to the level of 
sporting chances along here, or one can never get on. 

No one, either Ajumba or Fan, knew the exact course we 
were to take. The Ajumba had never been this way before 
the way for black traders across being via Lake Ayzingo, the 
way Mr. Goode of the American Mission once went, and the 



XI A NIGHT PADDLE 253 

Fans said they only knew the way to a big Fan town called 
Efoua, where no white man or black trader had yet been. 
There is a path from there to the Rembwe they knew, because 
the Efoua people take their trade all to the Rembwe. They 
would, they said, come with me all the way if I would guarantee 
them safety if they " found war " on the road. This I agreed to 
do,and arranged to pay off at Hatton and Cookson's sub-factory 
-on the Rembwe, and they have " Look my mouth and it be 
-sweet, so palaver done set." Every load then, by the light of 
the bush lights held by the women, we arranged. I had to 
unpack my bottles of fishes so as to equalise the weight 
of the loads. Every load is then made into a sort of cocoon 
with bush rope. 

I was left in peace at about 11.30 P.M., and clearing off the 
clothes from the bench threw myself down and tried to get 
some sleep, for we were to start, the Fans said, before dawn. 
Sleep impossible ^mosquitoes! lice!! so at 12.40 I got up 
and slid aside my bark door. I found Pagan asleep under his 
mosquito bar outside, across the doorway, but managed to get 
past him without rousing him from his dreams of palaver 
which he was still talking aloud, and reconnoitred the town. The 
inhabitants seemed to have talked themselves quite out and 
were sleeping heavily. I went down then to our canoe and found 
it safe, high up among the Fan canoes on the stones, and then I 
slid a small Fan canoe off, and taking a paddle from a 
cluster stuck in the sand, paddled out on to the dark lake. 

It was a wonderfully lovely quiet night with no light save that 
from the stars. One immense planet shone pre-eminent in 
the purple sky, throwing a golden path down on to the 
still waters. Quantities of big fish sprung out of the water, 
their glistening silver-white scales flashing so that they look 
like slashing sworcls. Some bird was making a long, low boom- 
booming sound away on the forest shore. I paddled leisurely 
.across the lake to the shore on the right, and seeing crawling 
on the ground some large glow-worms, drove the canoe on to 
the bank among some hippo grass, and got out to get them. 

While engaged on this hunt I felt the earth quiver under 
my feet, and heard a soft big soughing sound, and looking 
round saw I had dropped in on a hippo banquet. I made 



254 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CHAR. 

out five of the immense brutes round me, so I softly returned 
to the canoe and shoved off, stealing along the bank, paddling 
under water, until I deemed it safe to run out across the lake 
for my island. I reached the other end of it to that on which 
the village is situated ; and finding a miniature rocky bay 
with a soft patch of sand and no hippo grass, the incidents 
of the Fan hut suggested the advisability of a bath. Moreover,, 
there was no china collection in that hut, and it would be a 
long time before I got another chance, so I go ashore again,, 
and, carefully investigating the neighbourhood to make 
certain there was no human habitation near, I then indulged 
in a wash in peace. Drying one's self on one's cummerbund is 
not pure joy, but it can be done when you put your mind to it. 
While I was finishing my toilet I saw a strange thing happen. 
Down through the forest on the lake bank opposite came a 
violet ball the size of a small orange. When it reached the sand 
beach it hovered along it to and fro close to the ground. In 
a few minutes another ball of similarly coloured light came 
towards it from behind one of the islets, and the two waver to- 
and fro over the beach, sometimes circling round each other.. 
I made off towards them in the canoe, thinking as I still 
do they were some brand new kind of luminous insect. 
When I got on to their beach one of them went off into the 
bushes and the other away over the water. I followed in the 
canoe, for the water here is very deep, and, when I almost 
thought I had got it, it went down into the water and I could 
see it glowing as it sunk until it vanished in the depths. I made 
my way back hastily, fearing my absence with the canoe might 
give rise, if discovered, to trouble, and by 3.30 I was back in 
the hut safe, but not so comfortable as I had been on the lake. 
A little before five my men are stirring and I get my tea. I 
do not state my escapade to them, but ask what those 
lights were. " Akom," said the Fan, and pointing to the 
shore of the lake where I had been during the night they 
said, " they came there, it was an * Aku ' ' or devil bush. 
More than ever did I regret not having secured one of those sort 
of two phenomena. What a joy a real devil, appropriately put 
up in raw alcohol, would have been to my scientific friends ! 
Wednesday, July 2/tfh. We get away about 5.30, the Fans 



xi A TRAP FOR HIPPOS 255, 

coming in a separate canoe. We call at the next island 
to M'fetta to buy some more aguma. The inhabitants are 
very interested in my appearance, running along the stony 
beach as we paddle away, and standing at the end of it 
until we are out of sight among the many islands at the N.E. 
end of Lake Ncovi. The scenery is savage ; there are no 
terrific cliffs nor towering mountains to make it what one 
usually calls wild or romantic, but there is a distinction about 
it which is all its own. This N.E. end has beautiful sand 
beaches on the southern side, in front of the forested bank, 
lying in smooth ribbons along the level shore, and in scollops 
round the promontories where the hills come down into the 
lake. The forest on these hills, or mountains for they are 
part of the Sierra del Cristal is very dark in colour, and the 
undergrowth seems scant. We presently come to a narrow 
but deep channel into the lake coming from the eastward, 
which we go up, winding our course with it into a valley 
between the hills. After going up it a little way we find it 
completely fenced across with stout stakes, a space being left 
open in the middle, broader than the spaces between the 
other stakes ; and over this is poised a spear with a bush 
rope attached, and weighted at the top of the haft with a great 
lump of rock. The whole affair is kept in position by a bush 
rope so arranged just under the level of the water that any- 
thing passing through the opening would bring the spear 
down. This was a trap for hippo or manatee, and similar in 
structure to those one sees set in the hippo grass near villages 
and plantations, which serve the double purpose of defending 
the vegetable supply, and adding to the meat supply of the 
inhabitants. We squeeze through between the stakes so as 
not to let the trap off, and find our little river leads us into 
another lake, much smaller than Ncovi. It is studded with 
islands of fantastic shapes, all wooded with high trees of an 
equal level, and- with little or no undergrowth among them, so 
their pale gray stems look like clusters of columns supporting 
a dark green ceiling. The forest comes down steep hill sides 
to the water edge in all directions ; and a dark gloomy-look- 
ing herb grows up out of black slime and water, in a bank or 
ribbon in front of it. There is another channel out of this 






256 FROM KANGWE TO LAKE NCOVI CH. IX 



lake, still to the N.E. The Fans say they think it goes into 
the big lake far far away, i.e., Lake Ayzingo. From the look 
of the land, I think this river connecting Ayzingo and Lake 
Ncovi wanders down this valley between the mountain spurs 
of the Sierra del Cristal, expanding into one gloomy lake 
after another. We run our canoe into a bank of the dank 
dark-coloured water herb to the right, and disembark into 
.a fitting introduction to the sort of country we shall have to 
deal with before we see the Rembwe namely, up to our 
.knees in black slime. 




[To face p. 257. 



CHAPTER XII 

FROM NCOVI TO ESOON 

Concerning the way in which the voyager goes from the island of M'fetta 
to no one knows exactly where, in doubtful and bad company, and of 
what this led to .and giving also some accounts of the Great Forest 
and of those people that live therein. 

I WILL not bore you with my diary in detail regarding our 
land journey, because the water-washed little volume attri- 
butive to this period is mainly full of reports of law cases, 
for reasons hereinafter to be stated ; and at night, when passing 
through this bit of country, I was usually too tired to do any- 
thing more than make an entry such as : "5 S., 4 R. A., N.E 
Ebony. T. I 50, &c., &c." entries that require amplification 
to explain their significance, and I will proceed to explain. 

Our first day's march was a very long one. Path in the 
ordinary acceptance of the term there was none. Hour after 
hour, mile after mile, we passed on, in the under-gloom of 
the great forest. The pace made by the Fans, who are in- 
finitely the most rapid Africans I have ever come across, 
severely tired the Ajumba, who are canoe men, and who had 
been as fresh as paint, after their exceedingly long day's 
paddling from Arevooma to M'fetta. Ngouta, the Igalwa 
interpreter, felt pumped, and said as much, very early in the 
day. I regretted very much having brought him ; for, from a 
mixture of nervous exhaustion arising from our M'fetta ex- 
periences, and a touch of chill he had almost entirely lost 
his voice, and I feared would fall sick. The Fans were evi- 
dently quite at home in the forest, and strode on over fallen 
trees and rocks with an easy, graceful stride. What saved us 
weaklings was the Fans' appetites ; every two hours they sat 
down, and had a snack of a pound or so of meat and aguma 

S 



258 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 

apiece, followed by a pipe of tobacco. We used to come 
up with them at these halts. Ngouta and the Ajumba 
used to sit down ; and rest with them, and I also, for a few 
minutes, for a rest and chat, and then I would go on alone, 
thus getting a good start. I got a good start, in the other 
meaning of the word, on the afternoon of the first day when 
descending into a ravine, 

I saw in the bottom, wading and rolling in the mud, a herd 
of five elephants. I am certain that owing to some misap- 
prehension among the Fates I was given a series of magnifi- 
cent sporting chances, intended as a special treat for some 
favourite Nimrod of those three ladies, and I know exactly 
how I ought to have behaved. I should have felt my favourite 
rifle fly to my shoulder, and then, carefully sighting for the 
finest specimen, have fired. The noble beast should have 
stumbled forward, recovered itself, and shedding its life blood 
behind it have crashed away into the forest. I should then have 
tracked it, and either with one well-directed shot have given 
it its quietus, or have got charged by it, the elephant passing 
completely over my prostrate body ; either termination is good 
form, but I never have these things happen, and never 
will. (In the present case I remembered, hastily, that your 
one chance when charged by several elephants is to dodge 
them round trees, working down wind all the time, until they 
lose smell and sight of you, then to lie quiet for a time, and 
go home.) It was evident from the utter unconcern of these 
monsters that I was down wind now, so I had only to attend to 
dodging, and I promptly dodged round a tree, thinking 
perhaps a dodge in time saves nine and I lay down. Seeing 
they still displayed no emotion on my account, and fascinated 
by the novelty of the scene, I crept forward from one tree to 
another, until I was close enough to have hit the nearest one 
with a stone, and spats of mud, which they sent flying with their 
stamping and wallowing came flap, flap among the bushes 
covering me. 

One big fellow had a nice pair of 40 Ib. or so tusks on him, 
singularly straight, and another had one big curved tusk and 
one broken one. If I were an elephant I think I would wear 
the tusks straight ; they must be more effective weapons thus, 



xil ELEPHANTS IN FILE 



259 



but there seems no fixed fashion among elephants here in this 
matter. Some of them lay right down like pigs in the deeper part 
of the swamp, some drew up trunkfuls of water and syringed 
themselves and each other, and every one of them indulged in 
a good rub against a tree. Presently when they had had 
enough of it they all strolled off up wind, a way elephants 
have ; 1 but why I do not know, because they know the 
difference, always carrying their trunk differently when they 
are going up wind to what they do when they are going 
down arrested mental development, 2 I suppose. They 
strolled through the bush in Indian file, now and then 
breaking off a branch, but leaving singularly little dead 
water for their tonnage and breadth of beam. One laid 
his trunk affectionately on the back of the one in front 
of him, which I believe to be the elephant equivalent 
to walking arm-in-arm. When they had gone I rose up, 
turned round to find the men, and trod on Kiva's back 
then and there, full and fair, and fell sideways down the steep 
hillside until I fetched up among some roots. 

It seems Kiva had come on, after his meal, before the 
others, and seeing the elephants, and being a born hunter, had 
crawled like me down to look at them. He had not expected 
to find me there, he said. I do not believe he gave a thought 
of any sort to me in the presence of these fascinating creatures, 
and so he got himself trodden on. I suggested to him we 
should pile the baggage, and go and have an elephant hunt He 
shook his head reluctantly, saying " Kor, kor," like a depressed 
rook, and explained we were not strong enough ; there were 
only three Fans the Ajumba, and Ngouta did not count 
and moreover that we had not brought sufficient ammunition 
owing to the baggage having to be carried, and the ammunition 
that we had must be saved for other game than elephant, for 
we might meet war before we met the Rembwe River. 

We had by now joined the rest of the party, and were all 
soon squattering about on our own account in the elephant 
bath. It was shocking bad going like a ploughed field 

1 Foolish, because natives always attack them in the rear. 

2 The usual explanation for anything you do not understand in a 
native of Africa's conduct. 

S 2 



260 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 

exaggerated by a terrific nightmare. It pretty nearly pulled 
all the legs off me, and to this hour I cannot tell you if it is 
best to put your foot into a footmark a young pond, I mean 
about the size of the bottom of a Madeira work arm-chair, 
or whether you should poise yourself on the rim of the same, 
and stride forward to its other bank boldly and hopefully. 
The footmarks and the places where the elephants had been 
rolling were by now filled with water, and the mud underneath 
was in places hard and slippery. In spite of my determination 
to preserve an awesome and unmoved calm while among 
these dangerous savages, I had to give way and laugh 
explosively ; to see the portly, powerful Pagan suddenly 
convert himself into a quadruped, while Gray Shirt poised 
himself on one heel and waved his other leg in the air to adver- 
tise to the assembled nations that he was about to sit down, 
was irresistible. No one made such palaver about taking a 
seat as Gray Shirt ; I did it repeatedly without any fuss to 
speak of. That lordly elephant-hunter, the Great Wiki, 
would, I fancy, have strode over safely and with dignity, but 
the man who was in front of him spun round on his own axis 
and flung his arms round the Fan, and they went to earth 
together ; the heavy load on Wiki's back drove them into 
the mud like a pile-driver. However \ve got through in time, 
and after I had got up the other side of the ravine I saw the 
Fan let the Ajumba go on, and were busy searching them- 
selves for something. 

I followed the Ajumba, and before I joined them felt a 
fearful pricking irritation. Investigation of the affected part 
showed a tick of terrific size with its head embedded in the 
flesh ; pursuing this interesting subject, I found three more 
and had awfully hard work to get them off and painful too for 
they give one not only a feeling of irritation at their holding-on 
place, but a streak of rheumatic-feeling pain up from it. On 
completing operations I went on and came upon the Ajumba 
in a state more approved of by Praxiteles than by the general 
public nowadays. They had found out about elephant ticks, 
so I went on and got an excellent start for the next stage. 

By this time, shortly after noon on the first day, we had 
struck into a mountainous and rocky country, and also struck 



xn A PRIMEVAL FOREST 261 



a track a track you had to keep your eye on or you lost it 
in a minute, but still a guide as to direction. 

The forest trees here were mainly ebony and great hard 
wood trees, 1 with no palms save my old enemy the climbing 
palm, calamus, as usual, going on its long excursions, up one 
tree and down another, bursting into a plume of fronds, and 
in the middle of each plume one long spike sticking straight 
up, which was an unopened frond, whenever it got a gleam 
of sunshine ; running along the ground over anything it 
meets, rock or fallen timber, all alike, its long, dark-coloured, 
rope-like stem simply furred with thorns. Immense must be 
the length of some of these climbing palms. One tree I noticed 
that day that had hanging from its summit, a good one hundred 
and fifty feet above us, a long straight rope-like palm stem. 
Interested, I went to it, and tried to track it to root, and 
found it was only a loop that came do\yn from another tree. 
I had no time to trace it further ; for they go up a tree and 
travel along the surrounding tree-tops, take an occasional dip, 
and then up again. 

The character of the whole forest was very interesting. 
Sometimes for hours we passed among thousands upon 
thousands of gray-white columns of uniform height (about 
100 150 feet) ; at the top of these the boughs branched out 
and interlaced among each other, forming a canopy or ceiling, 
which dimmed the light even of the equatorial sun to such 
an extent that no undergrowth could thrive in the gloom. 
The statement of the struggle for existence was published 
here in plain figures, but it was not, as in our climate, a 
struggle against climate mainly, but an internecine war from 
over population. Now and again we passed among vast 
stems of buttressed trees, sometimes enormous in girth ; and 
from their far-away summits hung great bush-ropes, some as 
straight as plumb lines, others coiled round, and intertwined 
among each other, until one could fancy one was looking on 
some mighty battle between armies of gigantic serpents, that 
had been arrested at its height by some magic spell. All 
these bush-ropes were as bare of foliage as a ship's wire 
rigging, but a good many had thorns. I was very curious as 
1 Diospyros and Copaiftta mopane. 



262 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP 



to how they got up straight, and investigation showed me 
that many of them were carried up with a growing tree. The 
only true climbers were the calamus and the rubber vine 
(Landolphia), both of which employ hook tackle. 

Some stretches of this forest were made up of thin, spindly 
stemmed trees of great height, and among these stretches I 
always noticed the ruins of some forest giant, whose death by 
lightning or by his superior height having given the demoniac 
tornado wind an extra grip on him, had allowed sunlight to 
penetrate the lower regions of the forest ; and then evidently 
the seedlings and saplings, who had for years been living a 
half-starved life for light, shot up. They seemed to know that 
their one chance lay in getting with the greatest rapidity to the 
level of the top of the forest. No time to grow fat in the stem. 
No time to send out side branches, or any of those vanities. 
Up, up to the light level, and he among them who reached it 
first won in this game of life or death ; for when he gets there 
he spreads out his crown of upper branches, and shuts off 
the life-giving sunshine from his competitors, who pale off 
and die, or remain dragging on an attenuated existence wait- 
ing for another chance, and waiting sometimes for centuries. 
There must be tens of thousands of seeds which perish 
before they get their chance ; but the way the seeds of the 
hard wood African trees are packed, as it were, in cases 
specially made durable, is very wonderful. Indeed the ways 
of Providence here are wonderful in their strange dual inten- 
tion to preserve and to destroy ; but on the whole, as Peer 
Gynt truly observes, " Rin guter Wirth nein das ist er nichtT 

We saw this influence of light on a large scale as soon as 
Ave reached the open hills and mountains of the Sierra del 
Cristal, and had to pass over those fearful avalanche-like 
timber falls on their steep sides. The worst of these lay 
between Efoua and Egaja, where we struck a part of the 
range that was exposed to the south-east. These falls had 
evidently arisen from the tornados, which from time to time 
have hurled down the gigantic trees whose hold on the super- 
ficial soil over the sheets of hard bed rock was insufficient, in 
spite of all the anchors they had out in the shape of roots and 
buttresses, and all the rigging in the shape of bush ropes. 



xii A BAD FALL 263 

Down they had come, crushing and dragging down with them 
those near them or bound to them by the great tough climbers. 

Getting over these falls was perilous, not to say scratchy 
work. One or another member of our party always went 
through ; and precious uncomfortable going it was I found, 
when I tried it in one above Egaja ; ten or twelve feet of 
crashing creaking timber, and then flump on to a lot of rotten, 
wet debris, with more snakes and centipedes among it than you 
had any immediate use for, even though you were a collector ; 
but there you had to stay, while Wiki, who was a most critical 
connoisseur, selected from the surrounding forest a bush-rope 
that he regarded as the correct remedy for the case, and then 
up you were hauled, through the sticks you had turned the 
wrong way on your down journey. 

The Duke had a bad fall, going twenty feet or so before he 
found the rubbish heap ; while Fika, who went through with 
a heavy load on his back, took us, on one occasion, half an 
hour to recover ; and when we had just got him to the top, and 
able to cling on to the upper sticks, Wiki, who had been 
superintending operations, slipped backwards, and went 
through on his own account. The bush-rope we had been 
hauling on was too worn with the load to use again, and we 
just hauled Wiki out with the first one we could drag down 
and cut ; and Wiki, when he came up, said we were reckless, 
and knew nothing of bush ropes, which shows how ungrateful 
an African can be. It makes the perspiration run down my 
nose whenever I think of it. The sun was out that day ; we 
were neatly situated on the Equator, and the air was semi- 
solid, with the stinking exhalations from the swamps with 
which the mountain chain is fringed and intersected ; and 
we were hot enough without these things, because of the 
violent exertion of getting these twelve to thirteen-stone 
gentlemen up among us again, and the fine varied exercise 
of getting over the fall on our own account. 

When we got into the cool forest beyond it was delightful ; 
particularly if it happened to be one of those lovely stretches of 
forest, gloomy down below, but giving hints that far away above 
us was a world of bloom and scent and beauty which we saw as 
much of as earth-worms in a flower-bed. Here and there the 



264 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 



ground was strewn with great cast blossoms, thick, wax-like, 
.glorious cups of orange and crimson and pure white, each one 
of which was in itself a handful, and which told us that some of 
the trees around us were showing a glory of colour to heaven 
.alone. Sprinkled among them were bunches of pure stepha- 
notis-like flowers, which said that the gaunt bush-ropes were 
rubber vines that had burst into flower when they had seen the 
sun. These flowers we came across in nearly every type of 
forest all the way, for rubber abounds here. 

I will weary you no longer now with the different kinds of 
forest and only tell you I have let you off several. The natives 
have separate names for seven different kinds, and these 
might, I think, be easily run up to nine. 

A certain sort of friendship soon arose between the Fans 
and me. We each recognised that we belonged to that same 
section of the human race with whom it is better to drink than 
to fight. We knew we would each have killed the other, if 
sufficient inducement were offered, and so we took a certain 
amount of care that the inducement should not arise. Gray 
Shirt and Pagan also, their trade friends, the Fans treated with 
an independent sort of courtesy ; but Silence, Singlet, the 
Passenger, and above all Ngouta, they openly did not care a 
row of pins for, and I have small doubt that had it not been 
for us other three they would have killed and eaten these very 
amiable gentlemen with as much compunction as an English 
sportsman would kill as many rabbits. They on their part 
hated the Fan, and never lost an opportunity of telling me 
" these Fan be bad man too much." I must not forget to 
mention the other member of our party, a Fan gentleman with 
the manners of a duke and the habits of a dustbin. He 
came with us, quite uninvited by me, and never asked for any 
pay ; I think he only wanted to see the fun, and drop in for a 
fight if there was one going on, and to pick up the pieces 
generally. He was evidently a man of some importance, 
from the way the others treated him ; and moreover he had a 
splendid gun, with a gorilla skin sheath for its lock, and orna- 
mented all over its stock with brass nails. His costume con- 
sisted of a small piece of dirty rag round his loins ; and when- 
ever we were going through dense undergrowth, or wading a 



xii A DANGEROUS LESSON 265 

swamp, he wore that filament tucked up scandalously short. 
Whenever we were sitting down in the forest having one of our 
nondescript meals, he always sat next to me and appropriated 
the tin. Then he would fill his pipe, and .turning to me with 
the easy grace of aristocracy, would say what may be trans- 
lated as " My dear Princess, could you favour me with a 
lucifer ? " 

I used to say, " My dear Duke, charmed, I'm sure," and give 
him one ready lit. 

I dared not trust him with the box whole, having a personal 
conviction that he would have kept it. I asked him what he 
would do suppose I was not there with a box of lucifers ; 
and he produced a bush-cow's horn with a neat wood lid 
tied on with tie tie, and from out of it he produced a flint 
and steel and demonstrated. Unfortunately all his grace's 
minor possessions, owing to the scantiness of his attire, were 
in one and the same pine-apple-fibre bag which he wore slung 
across his shoulder ; and these possessions, though not great, 
were as dangerous to the body as a million sterling is said to 
be to the soul, for they consisted largely of gunpowder and 
snuff, and their separate receptacles leaked and their con- 
tents commingled, so that demonstration on fire-making 
methods among the Fan ended in an awful bang and blow-up 
in a small way, and the Professor and his pupil sneezed like 
fury for ten minutes, and a cruel world laughed till it nearly 
died, for twenty. Still that bag with all its failings was a 
wonder for its containing power. 

The first day in the forest we came across a snake l a 
beauty with a new red-brown and yellow-patterned velvety skin, 
about three feet six inches long and as thick as a man's thigh. 
Ngouta met it, hanging from a bough, and shot backwards 
like a lobster, Ngouta having among his many weaknesses a 
rooted horror of snakes. This snake the Ogowe natives all hold 
in great aversion. For the bite of other sorts of snakes they 
profess to have remedies, but for this they have none. If, 
however, a native is stung by one he usually conceals the fact 
that it was this particular kind, and tries to get any chance 
the native doctor's medicine may give. The Duke stepped 
1 Vipera nasicornis j M'pongwe, Ompenle. 



266 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 



forward and with one blow flattened its head against the tree 
with his gun butt, and then folded the snake up and got as 
much of it as possible into the bag, while the rest hung dangling 
out. Ngouta, not being able to keep ahead of the Duke, his 
Grace's pace being stiff, went to the extreme rear of the party, 
so that other people might be killed first if the snake returned 
to life, as he surmised it would. He fell into other dangers 
from this caution, but I cannot chronicle Ngouta's afflictions 
in full without running this book into an old-fashioned folio 
size. We had the snake for supper, that is to say the Fan 
and I ; the others would not touch it, although a good snake, 
properly cooked, is one of the best meats one gets out here, 
far and away better than the African fowl. 

The Fans also did their best to educate me in every way : 
they told me their names for things, while I told them mine, 
throwing in besides as " a dash for top " a few colloquial 
phrases such as : " Dear me, now," " Who'd have thought it," 
" Stuff, my dear sir," and so on ; and when I left them they 
had run each together as it were into one word, and a nice 
savage sound they had with them too, especially " dearmenow," 
so I must warn any philologist who visits the Fans, to beware 
of regarding any word beyond two syllables in length as 
being of native origin. I found several European words 
already slightly altered in use among them, such as " Amuck " 
a mug, " Alas " a glass, a tumbler. I do not know whether 
their " Ami " a person addressed, or spoken of is French or 
not. It may come from "Anwe" M'pongwe for "Ye," 
" You." They use it as a rule in addressing a person after the 
phrase they always open up conversation with, " Azuna "- 
Listen, or I am speaking. 

They also showed me many things : how to light a fire 
from the pith of a certain tree, which was useful to me in after 
life, but they rather overdid this branch of instruction one way 
and another ; for example, Wiki had, as above indicated, a 
mania for bush-ropes and a marvellous eye and knowledge of 
them ; he would pick out from among the thousands sur- 
rounding us now one of such peculiar suppleness that you 
could wind it round anything, like a strip of cloth, and as 
strong withal as a hawser ; or again another which has 






GORILLAS AT HOME 267 



a certain stiffness, combined with a slight elastic spring, 
excellent for hauling, with the ease and accuracy of a lady 
who picks out the particular twisted strand of embroidery silk 
from a multi-coloured tangled ball. He would go into the 
bush after them while other people were resting, and par- 
ticularly after the sort which, when split is bright yellow, and 
very supple and excellent to tie round loads. 

On one occasion, between Egaja and Esoon, he came back 
from one of these quests and wanted me to come and see 
something, very quietly ; I went, and we crept down into a 
rocky ravine, on the other side of which lay one of the outer- 
most Egaja plantations. When we got to the edge of the 
cleared ground, we lay down, and wormed our way, with 
elaborate caution, among a patch of Koko ; Wiki first, I 
following in his trail. 

After about fifty yards of this, Wiki sank flat, and I saw 
before me some thirty yards off, busily employed in pulling 
down plantains, and other depredations, five gorillas : one old 
male, one young male, and three females. One of these had 
clinging to her a young fellow, with beautiful wavy black hair 
with just a kink in it. The big male was crouching on his 
haunches, with his long arms hanging down on either side, with 
the backs of his hands on the ground, the palms upwards. 
The elder lady was tearing to pieces and eating a pine-apple, 
while the others were at the plantains destroying more than 
they ate. 

They kept up a sort of a whinnying, chattering noise, quite 
different from the sound I have heard gorillas give when en- 
raged, or from the one you can hear them giving when they are 
what the natives call " dancing " at night. I noticed that 
their reach of arm was immense, and that when they went 
from one tree to another, they squattered across the open 
ground in a most inelegant style, dragging their long arms 
with the knuckles downwards. I should think the big 
male and female were over six feet each. The others would 
be from four to five. I put out my hand and laid it on Wiki's 
gun to prevent him from firing, and he, thinking I was going 
o fire, gripped my wrist. 

I watched the gorillas with great interest for a few seconds, 



268 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 



until I heard Wiki make a peculiar small sound, and looking 
at him saw his face was working in an awful way as he clutched 
his throat with his hand violently. 

Heavens ! think I, this gentleman's going to have a fit ; it's 
lost we are entirely this time. He rolled his head to and fro, 
and then buried his face into a heap of dried rubbish at the 
foot of a plantain stem, clasped his hands over it, and gave 
an explosive sneeze. The gorillas let go all, raised them- 
selves up for a second, gave a quaint sound between a bark and 
a howl, and then the ladies and the young gentleman started 
home. The old male rose to his full height (it struck me at 
the time this was a matter of ten feet at least, but for scientific 
purposes allowance must be made for a lady's emotions) and 
looked straight towards us, or rather towards where that sound 
came from. Wiki went off into a paroxysm of falsetto sneezes 
the like of which I have never heard ; nor evidently had the 
gorilla, who doubtless thinking, as one of his black co-relatives 
would have thought, that the phenomenon favoured Duppy, 
went off after his family with a celerity that was amazing the 
moment he touched the forest, and disappeared as they had, 
swinging himself along through it from bough to bough, in a 
way that convinced me that, given the necessity of getting 
about in tropical forests, man has made a mistake in getting 
his arms shortened. I have seen many wild animals in their 
native wilds, but never have I seen anything to equal gorillas 
going through bush ; it is a graceful, powerful, superbly perfect 
hand-trapeze performance. 1 

After this sporting adventure, we returned, as I usually return 
from a sporting adventure, without measurements or the body. 

Our first day's march, though the longest, was the easiest, 
though, providentially I did not know this at the time. From 
my Woermann road walks I judge it was well twenty-five miles. 
It was easiest however, from its lying for the greater part of 

1 I have no hesitation in saying that the gorilla is the most horrible 
wild animal I have seen. I have seen at close quarters specimens of the 
most important big game of Central Africa, and, with the exception of 
snakes, I have run away from all of them ; but although elephants,, 
leopards, and pythons give you a feeling of alarm, they do not give that 
feeling of horrible disgust that an old gorilla gives on account of its 
hideousness of appearance. 



xii A FORCED MARCH 269 

the way through the gloomy type of forest. All day long we 
never saw the sky once. 

The earlier part of the day we were steadily going up hill, 
here and there making a small descent, and then up again, 
until we came on to what was apparently a long ridge, for on 
either side of us we could look down into deep, dark, ravine- 
like valleys. Twice or thrice we descended into these to cross 
them, finding at their bottom a small or large swamp with a 
river running through its midst. Those rivers all went to Lake 
Ayzingo. 

We had to hurry because Kiva, who was the only one 

among us who had been to Efoua, said that unless we did we 

should not reach Efoua that night. I said, " Why not stay 

or bush ? " not having contracted any love for a night in a Fan 

:o\vn by the experience of M'fetta ; moreover the Fans 

vere not sure that after all the whole party of us might not 

spend the evening at Efoua, when we did get there, simmer- 

ng in its cooking-pots. 

Ngouta, I may remark, had no doubt on the subject at all, 
and regretted having left Mrs. N. keenly, and the Andande 
store sincerely. But these Fans are a fine sporting tribe, and 
allowed they would risk it ; besides, they were almost certain 
:hey had friends at Efoua ; and, in addition, they showed me 
:rees scratched in a way that was magnification of the con- 
dition of my own cat's pet table leg at home, demonstrating 
eopards in the vicinity. I kept going, as it was my only 
chance, because I found I stiffened if I sat down, and they 
always carefully told me the direction to go in when they sat 
down ; with their superior pace they soon caught me up, and 
then passed me, leaving me and Ngouta and sometimes Singlet 
and Pagan behind, we, in our turn, overtaking them, with 
this difference that they were sitting down when we did so. 

About five o'clock I was off ahead and noticed a path which 
I had been told I should meet with, and, when met with, 
I must follow. The path was slightly indistinct, but by 
keeping my eye on it I could see it. Presently I came to a 
place where it went out, but appeared again on the other side 
of a clump of underbush fairly distinctly. I made a short cut 
for it and the next news was I was in a heap, on a lot of spikes, 



270 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP, 

some fifteen feet or so below ground level, at the bottom of a 
bag-shaped game pit. 

It is at these times you realise the blessing of a good thick 
skirt. Had I paid heed to the advice of many people in. 
England, who ought to have known better, and did not do it 
themselves, and adopted masculine garments, I should have 
been spiked to the bone, and done for. Whereas, save for a 
good many bruises, here I was with the fulness of my skirt 
tucked under me, sitting on nine ebony spikes some twelve 
inches long, in comparative comfort, howling lustily to be 
hauled out. The Duke came along first, and looked down at 
me. I said, " Get a bush-rope, and haul me out." He grunted 
and sat down on a log. The Passenger came next, and 
he looked down. " You kill ? " says he. " Not much," say I ;; 
" get a bush-rope and haul me out." " No fit," says he, and 
sat down on the log. Presently, however, Kiva and Wiki came 
up, and Wiki went and selected the one and only bush-rope 
suitable to haul an English lady, of my exact complexion,, 
age, and size, out of that one particular pit. They seemed 
rare round there from the time he took ; and I was just casting 
about in my mind as to what method would be best to employ 
in getting up the smooth, yellow, sandy-clay, incurved walls y 
when he arrived with it, and I was out in a twinkling, and very 
much ashamed of myself, until Silence, who was then leading, 
disappeared through the path before us with a despairing yell. 
Each man then pulled the skin cover off his gun lock, care- 
fully looked to see if things there were all right and ready 
loosened his knife in its snake-skin sheath ; and then we set 
about hauling poor Silence out, binding him up where neces- 
sary with cool green leaves ; for he, not having a skirt, had got 
a good deal frayed at the edges on those spikes. Then we 
closed up, for the Fans said these pits were symptomatic of 
the immediate neighbourhood of Efoua. We sounded our 
ground, as we went into a thick plantain patch, through 
which we could see a great clearing in the forest, and the low 
huts of a big town. We charged into it, going right through 
the guard-house gateway, at one end, in single file, as its 
narrowness obliged us, and into the street-shaped town, and 
formed ourselves into as imposing a looking party as possible 



xii RECEPTION AT EFOUA 271 

in the centre of the street. The Efouerians regarded us with 
much amazement, and the women and children cleared off into 
the huts, and took stock of us through the door-holes. There 
were but few men in the town, the majority, we subsequently 
learnt, being away after elephants. But there were quite suffi- 
cient left to make a crowd in a ring round us. Fortunately 
Wiki and Kiva's friends were present, and we were soon 
in another word fog, but not so bad a one as that at M'fetta ; 
indeed Efoua struck me, from the first, favourably ; it was, for 
one thing, much cleaner than most Fan towns I have been in. 
. As a result of the confabulation, one of the chiefs had his 
house cleared out for me. It consisted of two apartments 
almost bare of everything save a pile of boxes, and a small 
fire on the floor, some little bags hanging from the roof poles,, 
and a general supply of insects. The inner room contained 
nothing save a hard plank, raised on four short pegs from the 
earth floor. 

I shook hands with and thanked the chief, and directed 
that all the loads should be placed inside the huts. I must 
admit my good friend was a villainous-looking savage, but he 
behaved most hospitably and kindly. From what I had 
heard of the Fan, I deemed it advisable not to make any 
present to him at once, but to base my claim on him on the 
right of an amicable stranger to hospitality. When I had 
seen all the baggage stowed I went outside and sat at the 
doorway on a rather rickety mushroom-shaped stool in the 
cool evening air, waiting for my tea which I wanted bitterly. 
Pagan came up as usual for tobacco to buy chop with ; and 
after giving it to him, I and the two chiefs, with Gray Shirt 
acting as interpreter, had a long chat. Of course the first 
question was, Why was I there ? 

I told them I was on my way to the factory of H. and C. 
on the Rembwe. They said they had heard of " Ugumu," t.e. t 
Messrs Hatton arid Cookson, but they did not trade direct 
with them, passing their trade into towns nearer to the 
Rembwe, which were swindling bad towns, they said ; and 
they got the idea stuck in their heads that I was a trader, a 
sort of bagman for the firm, and Gray Shirt could not get this 
idea out, so off one of their majesties went and returned with 



272 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 

twenty-five balls of rubber, which I bought to promote good 
feeling, subsequently dashing them to Wiki, who passed them 
in at Ndorko when we got there. I also bought some elephant- 
hair necklaces from one of the chiefs' wives, by exchanging 
my red silk tie with her for them, and one or two other things. 
I saw fish-hooks would not be of much value because Efoua 
ivas not near a big water of any sort ; so I held fish-hooks and 
traded handkerchiefs and knives. 

One old chief was exceedingly keen to do business, and I 
bought a meat spoon, a plantain spoon, and a gravy spoon off 
him ; and then he brought me a lot of rubbish I did not want, 
and I said so, and announced I had finished trade for that 
night. However the old gentleman was not to be put off, and 
after an unsuccessful attempt to sell me his cooking-pots, 
which were roughly made out of clay, he made energetic signs 
to me that if I would wait he had got something that he 
would dispose of which Gray Shirt said was " good too much." 
Off he went across the street, and disappeared into his hut, 
where he evidently had a thorough hunt for the precious 
article. One box after another was brought out to the light of 
a bush torch held by one of his wives, and there was a great 
confabulation between him and his family of the " I'm sure 
you had it last," " You must have moved it," " Never touched 
the thing," sort. At last it was found, and he brought it across 
the street to me most carefully. It was a bundle of bark 
cloth tied round something most carefully with tie tie. This 
being removed, disclosed a layer of rag, which was unwound 
from round a central article. Whatever can this be ? thinks 
I ; some rare and valuable object doubtless, let's hope con- 
nected with Fetish worship, and I anxiously watched its 
unpacking ; in the end, however, it disclosed, to my disgust 
and rage, an old shilling razor. The way the old chief held 
it out, and the amount of dollars he asked for it, was enough to 
make any one believe that I was in such urgent need of the 
thing, that I was at his mercy regarding price. I waved it off 
Avith a haughty scorn, and then feeling smitten by the expres- 
sion of agonised bewilderment on his face, I dashed him a 
belt that delighted him, and went inside and had tea to soothe 
my outraged feelings. 



xii AN UNPLEASANT DISCOVERY 273 

The chiefs made furious raids on the mob* of spectators who 
pressed round the door, and stood with their eyes glued to 
every crack in the bark of which the hut was made. The 
next door neighbours on either side might have amassed a 
comfortable competence for their old age, by letting out seats 
for the circus. Every hole in the side walls had a human eye 
in it, and I heard new holes being bored in all directions ; so 
I deeply fear the chief, my host, must have found his palace 
sadly draughty. I felt perfectly safe and content, however, 
although Ngouta suggested the charming idea that " P'r'aps 
them M'fetta Fan done sell we." The only grave question I 
had to face was whether I should take off my boots or not ; 
they were wet through, from wading swamps, &c., and my 
feet were very sore ; but on the other hand, if I took those 
boots off, I felt confident that I should not be able to get them 
on again next morning, so I decided to lef 'em. 

As soon as all my men had come in, and established them- 
selves in the inner room for the night, I curled up among the 
boxes, with my head on the tobacco sack, and dozed. 

After about half an hour I heard a row in the street, and 
looking out, for I recognised his grace's voice taking a solo 
part followed by choruses, I found him in legal difficulties 
about a murder case. An alibi was proved for the time being ; 
that is to say the prosecution could not bring up witnesses 
because of the elephant hunt ; and I went in for another doze, 
and the town at last grew quiet. Waking up again I noticed 
the smell in the hut was violent, from being shut up I suppose, 
and it had an unmistakably organic origin. Knocking the 
ash end off the smouldering bush-light that lay burning on 
the floor, I investigated, and tracked it to those bags, so I 
took down the biggest one, and carefully noted exactly how 
the tie tie had been put round its mouth ; for these things are 
important and often mean a lot. I then shook its contents 
out in my hat, for fear of losing anything of value. They 
were a human hand, three big toes, four eyes, two ears, and 
other portions of the human frame. The hand was fresh, the 
others only so so, and shrivelled. 

Replacing them I tied the bag up, and hung it up again. 
I subsequently learnt that although the Fans will eat their 

T 



274 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 

fellow friendly tribesfolk, yet they like to keep a little some- 
thing belonging to them as a memento. This touching trait 
in their character I learnt from Wiki ; and, though it's to their 
credit, under the circumstances, still it's an unpleasant 
practice when they hang the remains in the bedroom you 
occupy, particularly if the bereavement in your host's family 
has been recent. I did not venture to prowl round Efoua ; 
but slid the bark door aside and looked out to get a breath of 
fresh air. 

It was a perfect night, and no mosquitoes. The town, walled 
in on every side by the great cliff of high black forest, looked 
very wild as it showed in the starlight, its low, savage-built bark 
huts, in two hard rows, closed at either end by a guard-house. 
In both guard-houses there was a fire burning, and in their 
flickering glow showed the forms of sleeping men. Nothing 
was moving save the goats, which are always brought into the 
special house for them in the middle of the town, to keep 
them from the leopards, which roam from dusk to dawn. 

Dawn found us stirring, I getting my tea, and the rest of 
the party their chop, and binding up anew the loads with 
Wiki's fresh supple bush-ropes. Kiva amused me much ; 
during our march his costume was exceeding scant, but when 
we reached the towns he took from his bag garments, and 
attired himself so resplendently that I feared the charm of his 
appearance would lead me into one of those dreadful wife 
palavers which experience had taught me of old to dread ; 
and in the morning time he always devoted some time to re- 
packing. I gave a big dash to both chiefs, and they came out 
with us, most civilly, to the end of their first plantations ; and 
then we took farewell of each other, with many expressions 
of hope on both sides that we should meet again, and many 
warnings from them about the dissolute and depraved 
character of the other towns we should pass through before 
we reached the Rembwe. 

Our second day's march was infinitely worse than the first, 
for it lay along a series of abruptly shaped hills with deep 
ravines between them ; each ravine had its swamp and each 
swamp its river. This bit of country must be absolutely im- 
passable for any human being, black or white, except during 



xii FROM BOG TO BOG 275 

the dry season. There were representatives of the three chief 
forms of the West African bog. The large deep swamps 
were best to deal with, because they make a break in the 
forest, and the sun can come down on their surface and bake 
a crust, over which you can go, if you go quickly. From ex- 
perience in Devonian bogs, I knew pace was our best chance, 
and I fancy I earned one of my nicknames among the Fans on 
these. The Fans went across all right with a rapid striding 
glide, but the other men erred from excess of caution, and while 
hesitating as to where was the next safe place to plant their 
feet, the place that they were standing on went in with a glug. 
Moreover, they would keep together, which was more than the 
crust would stand. The portly Pagan and the Passenger gave 
us a fine job in one bog, by sinking in close together. Some 
of us slashed off boughs of trees and tore off handfuls of hard 
canna leaves, while others threw them round the sinking 
victims to form a sort of raft, and then with the aid of bush- 
rope, of course, they were hauled out. 

The worst sort of swamp, and the most frequent hereabouts, 
is the deep narrow one that has no crust on, because it is too 
much shaded by the forest. The slopes of the ravines too are 
usually covered with an undergrowth of shenja, beautiful 
beyond description, but right bad to go through. I soon 
learnt to dread seeing the man in front going down hill, or to 
find myself doing so, for it meant that within the next half 
hour we should be battling through a patch of shenja. I believe 
there are few effects that can compare with the beauty of 
them, with the golden sunlight coming down through the 
upper forest's branches on to their exquisitely shaped, hard, 
dark green leaves, making them look as if they were sprinkled 
with golden sequins. Their long green stalks, which support 
the leaves and bear little bunches of crimson berries, take 
every graceful curve imaginable, and the whole affair is 
free from insects ; and when you have said this, you have 
said all there is to say in favour of shenja, for those long 
green stalks of theirs are as tough as twisted wire, and the 
graceful curves go to the making of a net, which rises round 
you shoulder high, and the hard green leaves when lying on 
the ground are fearfully slippery. It is not nice going down 



2/6 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 



through them, particularly when nature is so arranged that 
the edge of the bank you are descending is a rock-wall ten or 
twelve feet high with a swamp of unknown depth at its foot ; 
this arrangement was very frequent on the second and third 
day's marches, and into these swamps the shenja seemed to 
want to send you head first and get you suffocated. It is still less 
pleasant, however, going up the other side of the ravine when 
you have got through your swamp. You have to fight your 
way upwards among rough rocks, through this hard tough 
network of stems ; and it took it out of all of us except the 
Fans. 

These narrow shaded swamps gave us a world of trouble 
and took up a good deal of time. Sometimes the leader of 
the party would make three or four attempts before he found a 
ford, going on until the black, batter-like ooze came up round 
his neck, and then turning back and trying in another place ; 
while the rest of the party sat upon the bank until the ford 
was found, feeling it was unnecessary to throw away human 
life, and that the more men there were paddling about in 
that swamp, the more chance there was that a hole in the 
bottom of it would be found ; and when a hole is found, the 
discoverer is liable to leave his bones in it. If I happened to 
be in front, the duty of finding the ford fell on me ; for none of 
us after leaving Efoua knew the swamps personally. I was 
too frightened of the Fan, and too nervous and uncertain of 
the stuff my other men were made of, to dare show the white 
feather at anything that turned up. The Fan took my conduct 
as a matter of course, never having travelled with white 
men before, or learnt the way some of them require carrying 
over swamps and rivers and so on. I dare say I might have 
taken things easier, but I was like the immortal Schmelzle, 
during that omnibus journey he made on his way to Flaetz in 
the thunder-storm afraid to be afraid. I am very certain I 
should have fared very differently had I entered a region 
occupied by a powerful and ferocious tribe like the Fan, from 
some districts on the West Coast, where the inhabitants are 
used to find the white man incapable of personal exertion, 
requiring to be carried in a hammock, or wheeled in a go-cart 
or a Bath-chair about the streets of their coast towns, depend- 



xii A SEVERE DOSE OF STEEL 277 

ing for the defence of their settlement on a body of black 
soldiers. This is not so in Congo Frangais, and I had behind 
me the prestige of a set of white men to whom for the native 
to say, " You shall not do such and such a thing ; " " You 
shall not go to such and such a place," would mean that those 
things would be done. I soon found the name of Hatton and 
Cookson's agent-general for this district, Mr. Hudson, was one 
to conjure with among the trading tribes ; and the Ajumba, 
moreover, although their knowledge of white men had been 
small, yet those they had been accustomed to see' were 
fine specimens. Mr. Fildes, Mr. Cockshut, M. Jacot, Dr. 
Pelessier, Pere Lejeune, M. Gacon, Mr. Whittaker, and 
that vivacious French official, were not men any man, black 
or white, would willingly ruffle ; and in addition there was 
the memory among the black traders of " that white man 
MacTaggart," whom an enterprising trading tribe near Setta 
Khama had had the hardihood to tackle, shooting him, and 
then towing him behind a canoe and slashing him all over with 
their knives the while ; yet he survived, and tackled them again 
in a way that must almost pathetically have astonished those 
simple savages, after the real good work they had put in to 
the killing of him. Of course it was hard to live up to these 
ideals, and I do not pretend to have succeeded, or rather that 
I should have succeeded had the real strain been put on me. 
Particularly sure am I that I should never flourish under 
the treatment Mr. MacTaggart habitually receives. I had 
the pleasure of meeting him on my way home the other 
day and found him quite convalescent from another overdose 
of steel. He had gone, about six weeks previously with divers 
other white men, on a perfectly peaceable mission into a town. 
The treacherous inhabitants, after receiving them kindly and 
talking the palaver, went for Mr. MacTaggart as the party 
were returning to their boats, with sharpened cutlasses ; took 
the top off his head, and a large chip out of the back of it, 
and then, evidently knowing their man, proceeded to remove 
him in his stunned condition into the bush on a door. They 
there thought of taking off his head thoroughly, to make a Ju Ju 
of. The securing of the head of a notably brave man is a 
great desideratum among West Coast tribes, and they thought 



278 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 



by securing Mr. MacTaggart's head they would do this, and 
also remove him from his then sphere of activity, the 
prevention of gin smuggling. Their plan seems excellent in 
theory ; but I would not stake any money on its having 
succeeded, even if they had been able to get him well away on 
that door, which owing to his companions they were not. It 
is almost as risky to be notoriously brave among a West 
African tribe, as it is to be notoriously holy in the East. I 
know another case in which they desired to collect the head 
of a gentleman for their Ju Ju house. It showed in this case 
a lofty devotion on their part, for it would have caused them 
grave domestic inconvenience to have removed, at one fell 
swoop, their entire set of tradesmen. Still more did it show 
an artistic feeling of a high order ; for the head is a very hand- 
some one. Though they command my respect as a fellow 
collector by the care they took in the attempt to collect it by 
shooting the specimen in the legs, from other standpoints I 
am very glad they have failed, This idea of the advantage 
of having a big man's head is somewhat like the Eastern one 
that I remember reading of in one of Richard Burton's 
memoirs. He was once among some very pious Easterns 
disguised as a dervish and enjoying such an amount of 
admiration from them that he felt safe and content, until one 
day a native friend came to him, secretly, and advised him 
to fly, " because the people of this city are desirous of having 
the shrine of a very holy man among them both because of 
the spiritual advantages it bestows, and the temporal ones 
arising from pilgrims coming to the town from other places 
to visit it, and they have decided that you are so "very 
holy, and wise, and learned in the Koran that you will do." 
Burton left. 

But to return to that gorilla-land forest. All the rivers we 
crossed on the first, second, and third day I was told went 
into one or other of the branches of the Ogowe, showing that 
the long slope of land between the Ogowe and the Rembwe is 
towards the Ogowe. The stone of which the mountains were 
composed was that same hard black rock that I had found on 
the Sierra del Cristal, by the Ogowe rapids ; only hereabouts 
there was not amongst it those great masses of white quartz, 



xii PICKING OUR WAY 279 

which are so prominent a feature from Talagouga upwards in 
the Ogowe valley; neither were, the mountains anything like so 
high, but they had the same abruptness of shape. They look 
like very old parts of the same range \vorn down to stumps 
by the disintegrating forces of the torrential rain and sun, and 
the dense forest growing on them. Frost of course they had 
not been subject to, but rocks, I noticed, were often being 
somewhat similarly split by rootlets having got into some tiny 
crevice, and by gradual growth enlarged it to a crack. 

Of our troubles among the timber falls on these mountains 
I have already spoken ; and these were at their worst between 
Efoua and Egaja. I had suffered a good deal from thirst 
that day, unboiled water being my ibet and we were all very 
nearly tired out with the athletic sports since leaving Efoua. 
One thing only we knew about Egaja for sure, and that 
was that not one of us had a friend there, and that it was a 
town of extra evil repute, so we were not feeling very cheerful 
when towards evening time we struck its outermost planta- 
tions, their immediate vicinity being announced to us by 
Silence treading full and fair on to a sharp ebony spike 
driven into the narrow path and hurting himself. Fortunately, 
after we passed this first plantation, we came upon a camp of 
rubber collectors four young men ; I got one of them to 
carry Silence's load and show us the way into the town, 
when on we went into more plantations. 

There is nothing more tiresome than finding your path 
going into a plantation, because it fades out in the cleared 
ground, or starts playing games with a lot of other little 
paths that are running about amongst the crops, and no West 
African path goes straight into a stream or a plantation, and 
straight out the other side, so you have a nice time picking it 
up again. 

We were spared a good deal of fine varied walking by our 
new friend the rubber collector ; for I noticed he led us out by 
a path nearly at right angles to the one by which we had 
entered. He then pitched into a pit which was half full of 
thorns, and which he observed he did not know was there, 
demonstrating that an African guide can speak the truth. 
When he had got out, he handed back Silence's load and got 



280 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 

a dash of tobacco for his help ; he left us to devote the rest of 
his evening by his forest fire to unthorning himself, while we 
proceeded to wade a swift, deepish river that crossed the path 
he told us led into Egaja, and then went across another bit of 
forest and down hill again. " Oh, bless those swamps ! " 
thought I, "here's another," but no not this time. Across 
the bottom of the steep ravine, from one side to another, lay 
an enormous tree as a bridge, about fifteen feet above a river, 
which rushed beneath it, over a boulder-encumbered bed. I 
took in the situation at a glance, and then and there I would 
have changed that bridge for any swamp I have ever seen, 
yea, even for a certain bush-rope bridge in which I once wound 
myself up like a buzzing fly in a spider's web. I was fearfully 
tired, and my legs shivered under me after the falls, and 
emotions of the previous part of the day, and my boots were 
slippery with water soaking. 

The Fans went into the river, and half swam, half waded 
across. All the Ajumba, save Pagan, followed, and Ngouta 
got across with their assistance. Pagan thought he would try 
the bridge, and I thought I would watch how the thing 
worked. He got about three yards along it and then slipped, 
but caught the tree with his hands as he fell, and hauled him- 
self back to my side again ; then he went down the bank and 
through the water. This was not calculated to improve one's 
nerve ; I knew by now I had got to go by the bridge, for I 
saw I was not strong enough in my tired state to fight the 
water. If only the wretched thing had had its bark on it 
would have been better, but it was bare, bald, and round, and 
a slip meant death on the rocks below. I rushed it, and 
reached the other side in safety, whereby poor Pagan got 
chaffed about his failure by the others, who said they had gone 
through the water just to wash their feet. 

The other side, when we got there, did not seem much 
worth reaching, being a swampy fringe at the bottom of 
a steep hillside, and after a few yards the path turned into a 
stream or backwater of the river. It was hedged with thickly 
pleached bushes, and covered with liquid water on the top of 
semi-liquid mud. Now and again for a change you had a foot 
of water on top of fearfully slippery harder mud, and then 



xii WE ENTER EGAJA 281 

we light-heartedly took headers into the bush, sideways, or 
sat down ; and when it was not proceeding on the evil tenor of 
its way, like this, it had holes in it ; in fact, I fancy the bottom of 
the holes was the true level, for it came near being as full of 
holes as a fishing-net, and it was very quaint to see the man in 
front, who had been paddling along knee-deep before, now plop 
down with the water round his shoulders ; and getting out of 
these slippery pockets, which were sometimes a tight fit, was 
difficult 

However that is the path you have got to go by, if you're 
not wise enough to stop at home ; the little bay of shrub over- 
grown swamp fringing the river on one side and on the other 
running up to the mountain side. 

At last we came to a sandy bank, and on that bank stood 
Egaja, the town with an evil name even among the Fan, 
but where we had got to stay, fair or foul. We went 
into it through its palaver house, and soon had the usual 
row. 

I had detected signs of trouble among my men during the 
whole day ; the Ajumba were tired, and dissatisfied with the 
Fans ; the Fans were in high feather, openly insolent to 
Ngouta, and anxious for me to stay in this delightful locality, 
and go hunting with them and divers other choice spirits, whom 
they assured me we could easily get to join us at Efoua. 
Ngouta kept away from them, and I was worried about him 
on account of his cold and loss of voice. I kept peace as well 
as I could, explaining to the Fans I had not enough money 
with me now, because I had not, when starting, expected such 
magnificent opportunities to be placed at my disposal ; and 
promising to come back next year a promise I hope to keep 
and then we would go and have a grand time of it. This state 
of a party was a dangerous one in which to enter a strange Fan 
town, where our security lay in our being united. When the 
first burst of Egaja conversation began to boil down into 
something reasonable, I found that a villainous-looking 
scoundrel, smeared with soot and draped in a fragment 
of genuine antique cloth, was a head chief in mourning. 
He placed a house at my disposal, quite a mansion, for it had 
no less than four apartments. The first one was almost 



282 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP 

entirely occupied by a bedstead frame that was being made 
up inside on account of the small size of the door. 

This had to be removed before we could get in with the 
baggage at all. While this removal was being effected with 
as much damage to the house and the article as if it were a 
quarter-day affair in England, the other chief arrived. He 
had been sent for, being away down the river fishing when 
we arrived. I saw at once he was a very superior man to 
any of the chiefs I had yet met with. It was not his attire, 
remarkable though that was for the district, for it consisted of 
a gentleman's black frock-coat such as is given in the ivory 
bundle, a bright blue felt sombrero hat, an ample cloth of 
Boma check ; but his face and general bearing was distinctive, 
and very powerful and intelligent ; and I knew that Egaja, for 
good or bad, owed its name to this man, and not to the mere 
sensual, brutal-looking one. He was exceedingly courteous, 
ordering his people to bring me a stool and one for himself, 
and then a fly-whisk to battle with the evening cloud of sand- 
flies. I got Pagan to come and act as interpreter while the 
rest were stowing the baggage, &c After compliments, 
" Tell the chief/' I said, " that I hear this town of his is thief 
town." 

" Better not, sir," says Pagan. 

" Go on," said I, " or I'll tell him myself." 

So Pagan did. It was a sad blow to the chief. 

" Thief town, this highly respectable town of Egaja ! a 
town whose moral conduct in all matters (Shedule) was an 
example to all towns, called a thief town ! Oh, what a wicked 
world ! " 

I said it was ; but I would reserve my opinion as to whether 
Egaja was a part of the wicked world or a star-like exception, 
until I had experienced it myself. We then discoursed on many 
matters, and I got a great deal of interesting fetish information 
out of the chief, which was valuable to me, because the whole 
of this district had not been in contact with white culture ; and 
altogether I and the chief became great friends. 

Just when I was going in to have my much-desired tea, he 
brought me his mother an old lady, evidently very bright 
and able, but, poor woman, with the most disgusting hand and 



xii MEDICAL PRACTICE 283 

arm I have ever seen. I am ashamed to say I came very near 
being sympathetically sick in the African manner on the 
spot. I felt I could not attend to it, and have my tea after- 
wards, so I directed one of the canoe-shaped little tubs, used 
for beating up the manioc in, to be brought and filled with hot 
water, and then putting into it a heavy dose of Condy's fluid, 
I made her sit down and lay the whole arm in it, and went 
, and had my tea. As soon as I had done I went outside, and 
getting some of the many surrounding ladies to hold bush- 
lights, I examined the case. The whole hand was a mass of 
yellow pus, streaked with sanies, large ulcers were burrowing 
into the fore-arm, while in the arm-pit was a big abscess. I 
opened the abscess at once, and then the old lady frightened 
me nearly out of my wits by gently subsiding, I thought dying, 
but I soon found out merely going to sleep. I then washed 
the abscess well out, and having got a lot of baked plantains, I 
made a big poultice of them, mixed with boiling water and 
more Condy in the tub, and laid her arm right in this ; and 
propping her up all round and covering her over with cloths I 
requisitioned from her son, I left her to have her nap while I 
went into the history of the case, which was that some forty- 
eight hours ago she had been wading along the bank, catching 
crawfish, and had been stung by " a fish like a snake " ; so I 
presume the ulcers were an old-standing palaver. The hand 
had been a good deal torn by the creature, and the pain and 
swelling had been so great she had not had a minute's sleep 
since. As soon as the poultice got chilled I took her arm out 
and cleaned it again, and wound it round with dressing, and 
had her ladyship carried bodily, still asleep, into her hut, and 
after rousing her up, giving her a dose of that fine preparation, 
pil. crotonis cum hydrargi, saw her tucked up on her own plank 
bedstead for the night, sound asleep again. The chief was 
very anxious to have some pills too ; so I gave him some, with 
firm injunctions only to take one at the first time. I knew 
that that one would teach him not to take more than one for 
ever after, better than I could do if I talked from June to 
January. Then all the afflicted of Egaja turned up, and 
wanted medical advice. There was evidently a good stiff 
epidemic of the yaws about ; lots of cases of dum with the 



284 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 

various symptoms ; ulcers of course galore ; a man with a bit 
of a broken spear head in an abscess in the thigh ; one which 
I believe a professional enthusiast would call a " lovely case " of 
filaria, the entire white of one eye being full of the active little 
worms and a ridge of surplus population migrating across the 
bridge of the nose into the other eye, under the skin, looking 
like the bridge of a pair of spectacles. It was past eleven before 
I had anything like done, and my men had long been sound 
asleep, but the chief had conscientiously sat up and seen the 
thing through. He then went and fetched some rolls of bark 
cloth to put on my plank, and I gave him a handsome cloth I 
happened to have with me, a couple of knives, and some heads 
of tobacco and wished him good-night ; blockading my bark 
door, and picking my way over my sleeping Ajumba into an 
inner apartment which I also blockaded, hoping I had done 
with Egaja for some hours. No such thing. At 1.45 the whole 
town was roused by the frantic yells of a woman. I judged 
there was one of my beauties of Fans mixed up in it, and there 
was, and after paying damages, got back again by 2.30 A.M., 
and off to sleep again instantly. At four sharp, whole town of 
Egaja plunged into emotion, and worse shindy. I suggested 
to the Ajumba they should go out ; but no, they didn't care 
a row of pins if one of our Fans did get killed, so I went, 
recognising Kiva's voice in high expostulation. Kiva, it 
seems, a long time ago had a transaction in re a tooth of ivory 
with a man who, unfortunately, happened to be in this town 
to-night, and Kiva owed the said man a coat. 1 

Kiva, it seems, has been spending the whole evening 
demonstrating to his creditor that, had he only known they 
were to meet, he would have brought the coat with him a 
particularly beautiful coat and the reason he has not paid it 
before is that he has mislaid the creditor's address. The 
creditor says he has called repeatedly at Kiva's village, that 
notorious M'fetta, and Kiva has never been at home ; and 
moreover that Kiva's wife (one of them) stole a yellow dog 
of great value from his (the creditor's) canoe. Kiva says, 
women will be women, and he had gone off to sleep thinking 

1 An European coat or its equivalent value is one of the constant 
quantities in an ivory bundle. 



xii A CASE IN BANKRUPTCY 285 



the affair had blown over and the bill renewed for the time 
being. The creditor had not gone to sleep ; but sat up think- 
ing the affair over and remembered many cases, all cited in 
full, of how Kiva had failed to meet his debts ; also Kiva's 
brother on the mother's side and uncle ditto ; and so has 
decided to foreclose forthwith on the debtor's estate, and as 
the estate is represented by and consists of Kiva's person, to 
take and seize upon it and eat it. 

It is always highly interesting to observe the germ of any 
of our own institutions existing in the culture of a lower race 
Nevertheless it is trying to be hauled out of one's sleep 
in the middle of the night, and plunged into this study 
Evidently this was a trace of an early form of the Bank- 
ruptcy Court ; the court which clears a man of his debt, being 
here represented by the knife and the cooking pot ; the white- 
washing, as I believe it is termed with us, also shows, only it 
is not the debtor who is whitewashed, but the creditors doing 
themselves over with white clay to celebrate the removal of 
their enemy from his sphere of meretricious activity. This 
inversion may arise from the fact that whitewashing a creditor 
who was about to be cooked would be unwise, as the stuff 
would boil off the bits and spoil the gravy. There is always 
some fragment of sound sense underlying African institutions. 
Kiva was, when I got out, tied up, talking nineteen to the 
dozen ; and so was every one else ; and a lady was working 
up white clay in a pot. 

I dare say I ought to have rushed at him and cut his bonds, 
and killed people in a general way with a revolver, and then 
flown with my band to the bush ; only my band evidently 
had no flying in them, being tucked up in the hut pretending 
to be asleep, and uninterested in the affair ; and although I 
could have abandoned the band without a pang just then, I 
could not so light-heartedly fly alone with Kiva to the bush 
and leave my fishes ; so I shouted Azuna to the Bankruptcy 
Court, and got a Fan who spoke trade English to come and 
interpret for me ; and from him I learnt the above stated 
outline of the proceedings up to the time. Regarding the 
original iniquity of Kiva, my other Fans held the opinion that 
the old Scotch lady had regarding certain passages in the 



286 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 

history of the early Jews that it was a long time ago, and 
habelings it was no true. 

Fortunately for the reader it is impossible for me to give 
in full detail the proceedings of the Court. I do not think if 
the whole of Mr. Pitman's school of shorthand had been 
there to take them down the thing could possibly have been 
done in word-writing. If the late Richard Wagner, however, 
had been present he could have scored the performance for a 
full orchestra ; and with all its weird grunts and roars, and 
pistol-like finger clicks, and its elongated words and thigh 
slaps, it would have been a masterpiece. 

I got my friend the chief on my side ; but he explained he 
had no jurisdiction, as neither of the men belonged to his 
town ; and I explained to him, that as the proceedings were 
taking place in his town he had a right of jurisdiction ipso 
facto. The Fan could not translate this phrase, so we gave 
it the chief raw, and he seemed to relish it, and he and I 
then cut into the affair together, I looking at him with 
admiration and approval when he was saying his say, and 
after his " Azuna " had produced a patch of silence he could 
move his tongue in, and he similarly regarding me during my 
speech for the defence. We neither, I expect, understood 
each other, and we had trouble with our client, who would 
keep pleading " Not guilty," which was absurd. Anyhow we 
produced our effect, my success arising from my concluding 
my speech with the announcement that I would give the 
creditor a book on Hatton and Cookson for the coat, and I 
would deduct it from Kiva's pay. 

But, said the Court : " We look your mouth and it be sweet 
mouth, but with Hatton and Cookson we can have no trade." 
This was a blow to me. Hatton and Cookson was my big 
Ju Ju, and it was to their sub-factory on the Rembwe that I 
was bound. On inquiry I elicited another cheerful little fact, 
which was they could not deal with Hatton and Cookson, 
because there was " blood war on the path that way." The 
Court said they would take a book on Holty, but with Holty, 
i.e. Mr. John Holt, I had no deposit of money, and I did not 
feel justified in issuing cheques on him, knowing also he could 
not feel amiable towards wandering scientists, after what he had 



xii A QUESTION OF CHARACTER 287 

recently gone through with one. Not that I doubt for one 
minute but that his representatives would have honoured my 
book ; for the generosity and helpfulness of West African 
traders is unbounded and long-suffering. But I did not like to 
encroach on it, all the more so from a feeling that I might 
never get through to refund the money. So at last I paid the 
equivalent value of the coat out of my own trade-stuff; and 
the affair was regarded by all parties as satisfactorily closed 
by the time the gray dawn was coming up over the forest 
wall. I went in again and slept in snatches until I got my 
tea about seven, and then turned out to hurry my band out of 
Egaja. This I did not succeed in doing until past ten. One 
row succeeded another with my men ; but I was determined to 
get them out of that town as quickly as possible, for I had 
heard so much from perfectly reliable and experienced people 
regarding the treacherousness of the Fan. I feared too that 
more cases still would be brought up against Kiva, from the 
resumed his criminal career I had had last night, and I knew it 
was very doubtful whether my other three Fans were any better 
than he. There was his grace's little murder affair only 
languishing for want of evidence owing to the witnesses for 
the prosecution being out elephant-hunting not very far away ; 
and Wiki was pleading an alibi, and a twin brother, in a bad 
wife palaver in this town. I really hope for the sake of 
Fan morals at large, that I did engage the three worst villains 
in M'fetta, and that M'fetta is the worst town in all Fan land, 
inconvenient as this arrangement was to me personally. 
Anyhow, I felt sure my Pappenheimers would take a lot of beat- 
ing for good solid crime, among any tribe anywhere. More- 
over, the Ajumba wanted meat, and the Fans, they said, 
offered them human. I saw no human meat at Egaja, but 
the Ajumba seem to think the Fans eat nothing else, which is 
a silly prejudice of theirs, because the Fans do. I think in 
this case the Ajumba thought a lot of smoked flesh offered 
was human. It may have been ; it was in neat pieces ; and 
again, as the Captain of the late ss. Sparrow would say, " it 
mayn't." But the Ajumba have a horror of cannibalism, and 
I honestly believe never practise it, even for fetish affairs, 
which is a rare thing in a West African tribe where sacrificial 



288 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP, 

and ceremonial cannibalism is nearly universal. Anyhow the 
Ajumba loudly declared the Fans were " bad men too much," 
which was impolitic under existing circumstances, and in- 
excusable, because it by no means arose from a courageous 
defiance of them ; but the West African ! Well ! " he's a devil 
and an ostrich and an orphan child in one." 

The chief was very anxious for me to stay and rest, but as 
his mother was doing wonderfully well, and the other women 
seemed quite to understand my directions regarding her, I 
did not feel inclined to risk it. The old lady's farewell of me 
was peculiar : she took my hand in her two, turned it palm 
upwards, and spat on it. I do not know whether this is a 
constant form of greeting among the Fan ; I fancy not. 
Dr. Nassau, who explained it to me when I saw him again 
down at Baraka, said the spitting was merely an accidental 
by-product of the performance, which consisted in blowing a 
blessing ; and as I happened on this custom twice afterwards, I 
feel sure from observation he is right. 

The two chiefs saw us courteously out of the town as far 
as where the river crosses the out-going path again, and the 
blue-hatted one gave me some charms " to keep my foot in 
path," and the mourning chief lent us his son to see us through 
the lines of fortification of the plantation. I gave them an 
equal dash, and in answer to their question as to whether I 
had found Egaja a thief-town, I said that to call Egaja a thief- 
town was rank perjury, for I had not lost a thing while in it ; 
and we parted with mutual expression of esteem and hopes 
for another meeting at an early date. 

The defences of the fine series of plantations of Egaja on 
this side were most intricate, to judge from the zigzag course 
our guide led us through them. He explained they had to 
be because of the character of the towns towards the Rembwe. 
After listening to this young man, I really began to doubt that 
the Cities of the Plain had really been destroyed, and wondered 
whether some future revision committee will not put trans- 
ported for destroyed. This young man certainly hit off the 
character of Sodom and Gomorrah to the life, in describing 
the towns towards the Rembwe, though he had never heard 
Sodom and Gomorrah named. He assured me I should see 



xii NORTHWESTWARD HO ! 289 



the difference between them and Egaja the Good, and I 
thanked him and gave him his dash when we parted ; but told 
him as a friend, I feared some alteration must take place, and 
* some time elapse before he saw a regular rush of pilgrim 
worshippers of virtue coming into even Egaja the Good, 
though it stood just as good a chance and better than most 
towns I had seen in Africa. 

We went on into the gloom of the Great Forest again ; 
that forest that seemed to me without end, wherein, in a 
lazy, hazy-minded sort of way, I expected to wander through 
by day and drop in at night to a noisy savage town for the 
rest of my days. 

We climbed up one hill, skirted its summit, went through 
our athletic sports over sundry timber falls, and struck down 
into the ravine as usual. But at the bottom of that ravine, 
which was exceeding steep, ran a little river free from swamp. 
As I was wading it I noticed it had a peculiarity that dis- 
tinguished it from all the other rivers we had come through ; 
and then and there I sat down on a boulder in its midst and 
hauled out my compass. Yes, by Allah ! it's going north- 
west and bound as we are for Rembwe River. I went out the 
other side of that river with a lighter heart than I went in, and 
shouted the news to the boys, and they yelled and sang as we 
went on our way. 

All along this bit of country we had seen quantities of 
rubber vines, and between Egaja and Esoon we came across 
quantities of rubber being collected. Evidently there was 
a big camp of rubber hunters out in the district very busy. 
Wiki and Kiva did their best to teach me the trade. Along 
each side of the path we frequently saw a ring of stout bush 
rope, raised from the earth on pegs about a foot to eighteen 
inches. On the ground in the middle stood a calabash, into 
which the ends of the pieces of rubber vine were placed, the 
other ends being supported by the bush rope ring. Round 
the outside of some of these rings was a slow fire, which just 
singes the tops of the bits of rubber vine as they project over 
the collar or ring, and causes the milky juice to run out of 
the lower end into the calabash, giving out as it does so a 
strong ammoniacal smell. When the fire was alight there 

U 



290 



FROM NCOVI TO ESOON 



CHAP. 



would be a group of rubber collectors sitting round it watch- 
ing the cooking operations, removing those pieces that had 
run dry and placing others, from a pile at their side, in position. 
On either side of the path we continually passed pieces of 
rubber vine cut into lengths of some two feet or so, and on 
the top one or two leaves plaited together, or a piece of bush 
rope tied into a knot, which indicated whose property the 
pile was. 

The method of collection employed by the Fan is exceed- 




FANS WITH IVORY AND RUBBER. 



ingly wasteful, because this fool of a vegetable Landolphia 
florida (Ovariensis] does not know how to send up suckers 
from its root, but insists on starting elaborately from seeds 
only. I do not, however, see any reasonable hope of getting 
them to adopt more economical methods. The attempt made 
by the English houses, when the rubber trade was opened 
up in 1883 on the Gold Coast, to get the more tractable natives 
there to collect by incisions only, has failed ; for in the early 
days a man could get a load of rubber almost at his own door 
on the Gold Coast, and now he has to go fifteen days' journey 






xii HOW BLOOD FEUDS BEGIN 291 



inland for it. When a Fan town has exhausted the rubber in 
its vicinity, it migrates, bag and baggage, to a new part of the 
forest. The young unmarried men are the usual rubber 
hunters. Parties of them go out into the forest, wandering 
about in it and camping under shelters of boughs by night, 
for a month and more at a time, during the dry seasons, 
. until they have got a sufficient quantity together ; then they 
return to their town, and it is manipulated by the women, and 
finally sold, either to the white trader, in districts where he is 
within reach, or to the M'pongwe trader who travels round 
buying it and the collected ivory and ebony, like a Norfolk 
higgler. In districts like these I was in, remote from the 
M'pongwe trader, the Fans carry the rubber to the town nearest 
to them that is in contact with the black trader, and sell it to 
the inhabitants, who in their turn resell it to their next town 
until it reaches him. 

This passing down of the rubber and ivory gives rise between 
the various towns to a, series of commercial complications 
which rank with woman palaver for the production of rows ; it 
being the sweet habit of these Fans to require a life for a life 
and to regard one life as good as another. Also rubber trade 
and wife palavers sweetly intertwine, for a man on the kill in 
re a wife palaver knows his best chance of getting the life 
from the village he has a grudge against lies in catching one 
of that village's men when he may be out alone rubber hunting. 
So he does this thing, and then the men from the victim's 
village, go and lay for a rubber hunter, from the killer's village ; 
and then of course the men from the killer's village go and lay 
for rubber hunters from victim number one's village, and thus 
the blood feud rolls down the vaulted chambers of the ages, 
so that you, dropping in on affairs, cannot see one end or the 
other of it, and frequently the people concerned have quite 
forgotten what the killing was started for. Not that this dis- 
courages them in the least. Really if Dr. Nassau is right, and 
these Fans are descendants of Adam and Eve, I expect the 
Cain and Abel killing palaver is still kept going among 
them. 

Wiki, being great on bush rope, gave me much information 
regarding rubber, showing me the various other vines besides 

U 2 



292 FROM NCOVI TO ESOON CHAP. 

the true rubber vine, whose juice, mingled with the true sap by 
the collector when in the forest, adds to the weight ; a matter 
of importance, because rubber is bought by weight. The 
other adulteration gets done by the ladies in the villages 
when the collected sap is handed over to them to prepare 
for the markets. 

This preparation consists of boiling it in water slightly, and 
adding a little salt, w r hich causes the gummy part to separate 
and go to the bottom of the pot, where it looks like a thick 
cream. The water is carefully poured off this deposit, 
which is then taken out and moulded, usually in the hands ; 
but I have seen it run into moulds made of small calabashes 
with a stick or piece of iron passing through, so that when 
the rubber is set this can be withdrawn. A hole being thus 
left the balls can be threaded on to a stick, usually five on 
one stick, for convenience of transport. It is during the 
moulding process that most of the adulteration gets in. 
Down by the side of many of the streams there is a white 
chalky-looking clay which is brought up into the villages, 
powdered up, and then hung up over the fire in a basket to 
attain a uniform smuttiness ; it is then worked into the 
rubber when it is being made up into balls. Then a good 
chunk of Koko, Arum esculentum (Koko is better than yam, 
I may remark, because it is heavier), also smoked approxi- 
mately the right colour, is often placed in the centre of the 
rubber ball. In fact, anything is put there, that is hopefully 
regarded as likely to deceive the white trader. 

I once overheard a long discussion between two ladies : " I 
always clay my rubber up well," says number one. " I think," 
says number two, " a bit of yam is better, with just a coat of 
rubber outside, then he hop good too much when Mr. 
frows him for floor." They did not convince each other as to 
the superiority of their individual methods, but became very 
friendly over the foolishness of a mutual friend, who both 
clayed and yammed her rubber to such an extent that when 
Mr. - " frowed him for floor he done squat." Mr. - then 
cut him open and " frowed " both the pieces at her head a 
performance that raised Mr. - in their esteem, as it demon- 
strated commercial intelligence, a thing universally admired 



xii INGENUITIES OF ADULTERATION 293 

down here. So great is the adulteration, that most of the 
traders have to cut each ball open. Even the Kinsembo 
rubber, which is put up in clusters of bits shaped like little 
thimbles formed by rolling pinches of rubber between the 
thumb and finger, and which one would think difficult to put 
anything inside of, has to be cut, because " the simple children 
of nature " who collect it and bring it to that " swindling white 
trader " struck upon the ingenious notion that little pieces of 
wood shaped like the thimbles and coated by a dip in rubber 
were excellent additions to a cluster. 

The pure rubber, when it is made, looks like putty, and has 
the same dusky-white colour ; but, owing to the balls being 
kept in the huts in baskets in the smoke, and in wicker-work 
cages in the muddy pools to soak up as much waste as 
possible before going into the hands of the traders, they get 
almost inky in colour. 



CHAPTER XIII 

FROM ESOON TO AGONJO 

In 'which the Voyager sets forth the beauties of the way from Esoon 
to N'dorko, and gives some account of the local Swamps. 

OUR -next halting place was Esoon, which received us w r ith 
the usual row, but kindly enough ; and endeared itself to me 
by knowing the Rembwe, and not just waving the arm in the 
air, in any direction, and saying " Far, far plenty bad people 
live for that side," as the other towns had done. Of course 
they stuck to the bad people part of the legend ; but I was 
getting quite callous as to the moral character of new ac- 
quaintances, feeling sure that for good solid murderous rascality 
several of my old Fan acquaintances, and even my own party, 
would take a lot of beating ; and yet, one and all, they had 
behaved well to me. I am glad to see from my diaries that I 
knew this at the time ; for I see in my Cameroon journal an 
entry " Wish to Allah the Fans were in this country ; have 
been inquiring in vain for a cannibal tribe to associate with, 
but there is not one round here " ; but that's another story. 
Esoon gave me to understand that of all the Sodoms and 
Gomorrahs that town of Egaja was an easy first, and it would 
hardly believe we had come that way. Still Egaja had dealt 
with us well. However I took less interest except, of course, 
as a friend, in some details regarding the criminal career of 
Chief Blue-hat of Egaja in the opinion of Esoon regarding 
the country we had survived, than in the information it had to 
impart regarding the country we had got to survive on our 
way to the Big River, which now no longer meant the Ogowe, 
but the Rembwe. I meant to reach one of Hatton and Cookson's 
sub-factories there, but strictly between ourselves I knew no 
more at what town that factory was than a Kindergarten 



CH. xin " BLOOD WAR ON THE PATH " 295 



Board School child does. I did not mention this fact ; and a 
casual observer might have thought that I had spent my youth 
in that factory, when I directed my inquiries to the finding out 
the very shortest route to it. Esoon shook its head. " Yes, it 
was close, but it was impossible to reach Uguma's factory." 
" Why ? " " There was blood war on the path." I said it was 
no war of mine. But Esoon said, such was the appalling 
depravity of the next town on the road, that its inhabitants 
lay in wait at day with loaded guns and shot on sight any 
one coming up the Esoon road, and that at night they tied 
strings with bells on across the road and shot on hearing them. 
No one had been killed since the first party of Esoonians 
were fired on at long range, because no one had gone that 
way ; but the next door town had been heard by people who 
had been out in the bush at night, blazing down the road when 
the bells were tinkled by wild animals. Clearly that road was 
not yet really healthy. ' 

The Duke, who as I have said before, was a fine courageous 
fellow, ready to engage in any undertaking, suggested I should 
go up the road alone by myself first a mile ahead of the 
party and the next town, perhaps, might not shoot at sight, 
if they happened to notice I was something queer ; and I 
might explain things, and then the rest of the party would 
follow. "There's nothing like dash and courage, my dear 
Duke," I said, " even if one display it by deputy, so this plan 
does you great credit ; but as my knowledge of this charming 
language of yours is but small, I fear I might create a wrong 
impression in that town, and it might think I had kindly 
brought them a present of eight edible heathens you and the 
remainder of my followers, you understand." My men saw 
this was a real danger, and this was the only way I saw of 
excusing myself. It is at such a moment as this that the 
Giant's robe gets, so to speak, between your legs and threatens 
to trip you up. Going up a forbidden road, and exposing 
yourself as a pot shot to ambushed natives would be jam and 
fritters to Mr. MacTaggart, for example ; but I am not up to 
that form yet. So I determined to leave that road severely 
alone, and circumnavigate the next town by a road that leaves 
Esoon going W.N.W., which struck the Rembwe by N'dorko, 



296 FROM ESOON TO AGONJO CHAP. 

I was told, and then follow up the bank of the river until I 
picked up the sub-factory. Subsequent experience did not 
make one feel inclined to take out a patent for this plan, but 
at the time in Esoon it looked nice enough. 

Some few of the more highly cultured inhabitants hece 
could speak trade English a little, and had been to the 
Rembwe, and were quite intelligent about the whole affair. 
They had seen white men. A village they formerly occupied 
nearer the Rembwe had been burnt by them, on account of a 
something that had occurred to a Catholic priest who visited 
it. They were, of course, none of them personally mixed up 
in this sad affair, so could give no details of what had befallen 
the priest. They knew also "the Move" which was a great 
bond of union between us. "Was I a wife of them Move white 
man," they inquired " or them other white man ? " I civilly 
said them Move men were my tribe, and they ought to have 
known it by the look of me. They discussed my points of re- 
semblance to " the Move white man," and I am ashamed to say 
I could not forbear from smiling, as I distinctly recognised my 
friends from the very racy description of their personal appear- 
ance and tricks of manner given by a lively Esoonian belle 
who had certainly met them. So content and happy did I 
become under these soothing influences, that I actually took 
off my boots, a thing I had quite got out of the habit of doing, 
and had them dried. I wanted to have them rubbed with palm 
oil, but I found, to my surprise, that there was no palm oil to 
be had, the tree being absent, or scarce in this region, so I had 
to content myself with having them rubbed with a piece of 
animal fat instead. I chaperoned my men, while among the 
ladies of Esoon a forward set of minxes with the vigilance 
of a dragon ; and decreed, like the Mikado of Japan, " that who- 
soever leered or winked, unless connubially linked, should 
forthwith be beheaded," have their pay chopped, I mean ; and 
as they were beginning to smell their pay, they were careful, 
and we got through Esoon without one of my men going into 
jail ; no mean performance when you remember that every 
man had a past to put it mildly. Fika remained behind 
here, the others promising to bring back his pay bundle with 
them on their return journey home. I think Fika heard 



MANGROVES AHEAD 297 



rumours in Esoon of some gentlemen he had met before 
and was not keen to meet again, being just then at N'dorko, 
so I parted with him and Esoon, with suitable dashes, in 
peace. 

Esoon is not situated like the other towns, with a swamp 
and the forest close round it ; but it is built on the side of a 
fairly cleared ravine among its plantain groves. When you 
are on the southern side of the ravine, you can see Esoon 
looking as if it were hung on the hillside before you. You 
then go through a plantation down into the little river, and up 
into the town one long, broad, clean-kept street. Leaving 
Esoon you go on up the hill through another plantation to 
the summit. Immediately after leaving the town we struck 
westwards ; and when we got to the top of the next hill we had 
a view that showed us we were dealing with another type of 
country. The hills to the westward are lower, and the valleys 
between them broader and less heavily forested, or rather I 
should say forested with smaller sorts of timber. All our paths 
took us during the early part of the day up and down hills, 
through swamps and little rivers, all flowing Rembwewarcls. 
About the middle of the afternoon, when we had got up to the 
top of a high hill, after having had a terrible time on a timber 
fall of the first magnitude, into which four of us had fallen, I 
of course for one, I saw a sight that made my heart stand still. 
Stretching away to the west and north, winding in and out 
among the feet of the now isolated mound-like mountains, was 
that never to be mistaken black-green forest swamp of man- 
grove ; doubtless the fringe of the River Rembwe, which evi- 
dently comes much further inland than the mangrove belt on 
the Ogowe. This is reasonable and as it should be, though it 
surprised me at the time ; for the great arm of the sea which 
is called the Gaboon is really a fjord, just like Bonny and 
Opobo rivers, with several rivers falling into it at its head, 
and this fjord brings the sea water further inland. In addition 
to this the two rivers, the 'Como (Nkama) and Rembwe 
that fall into this Gaboon, with several smaller rivers, both 
bring down an inferior quantity of fresh water, and that at 
nothing like the tearing, tide-beating back pace of the Ogowe. 
As my brother would say, " It's perfectly simple if you think 



298 FROM ESOON TO AGONJO CHAP. 



about it ; " but thinking is not my strong point. Anyhow I 
was glad to see the mangrove-belt ; all the gladder because I 
did not then know how far it was inland from the sea, and 
also because I was fool enough to think that a long line I 
could see, running E. and W. to the north of where I stood, 
was the line of the Rembwe river ; which it was not, as we 
soon found out. Cheered by this pleasing prospect, we 
marched on forgetful of our scratches, down the side of the 
hill, and down the foot slope of it, until we struck the edge 
of the swamp. We skirted this for some mile or so, going 
N.E. Then we struck into the swamp, to reach what we had 
regarded as the Rembwe river. " Nature was at its ghastliest," 
as Chambers' s Magazine said, and hurt the feelings of the 
locality by saying, of the Oil Rivers scenery. We found our- 
selves at the edge of that open line we had seen from the 
mountain. Not standing, because you don't so much as try 
to stand on mangrove roots unless you are a born fool, and 
then you don't stand long, but clinging, like so many monkeys, 
to the net of aerial roots which surrounded us, looking blankly 
at a lake of ink-black slime. It was half a mile across, 
and some miles long. We could not see either the west or 
east termination of it, for it lay like a rotten serpent twisted 
between the mangroves. It never entered into our heads to try 
to cross it, for when a swamp is too deep for mangroves to grow 
in it, " No bottom lib for them dam ting," as a Kruboy once 
said to me, anent a small specimen of this sort of ornament 
to a landscape. But we just looked round to see which direc- 
tion we had better take. Then I observed that the roots, 
aerial and otherwise, were coated in mud, and had no leaves 
on them, for a foot above our heads. Next I noticed that 
the surface of the mud before us had a sort of quiver running 
through it, and here and there it exhibited swellings on its 
surface, which rose in one place and fell in another. No need 
for an old coaster like me to look at that sort of thing twice 
to know what it meant, and feeling it was a situation more 
suited to Mr. Stanley than myself, I attempted to emulate his 
methods and addressed my men. " Boys," said I, " this 
beastly hole is tidal, and the tide is coming in. As it took 
us two hours to get to this sainted swamp, it's time we started 



WHY DID I COME TO AFRICA? 299 



out, one time, and the nearest way. It's to be hoped the 
practice we have acquired in mangrove roots in coming, will 
enable us to get up sufficient pace to get out on to dry land 
before we are all drowned." The boys took the hint. Fortu- 
nately one of the Ajumbas had been down in Ogowe, it was 
Gray Shirt, who " sabed them tide palaver." The rest of them, 
and the Fans, did not know what tide meant, but Gray Shirt 
hustled them along and I followed, deeply regretting that my 
ancestors had parted prematurely with prehensile tails for 
four limbs, particularly when two of them are done up in 
boots and are not sufficient to enable one to get through a man- 
grove swamp network of slimy roots rising out of the water, 
and swinging lines of aerial ones coming down to the water 
a la mangrove, with anything approaching safety. Added to 
these joys were any quantity of mangrove flies, a broiling hot 
sun, and an atmosphere three quarters solid stench from the pu- 
trifying ooze all round us. For an hour and a half thought I, 
Why did I come to Africa, or why, having come, did I not 
know when I was well off and stay in Glass ? Before these 
problems were settled in my mind we were close to the true 
land again, with the water under us- licking lazily among the 
roots and over our feet. 

We did not make any fuss about it, but we meant to stick 
to dry land for some time, and so now took to the side of a 
hill that seemed like a great bubble coming out of the swamp, 
and bore steadily E. until we found a path. This path, 
according to the nature of paths in this country, promptly 
took us into another swamp, but of a different kind to our 
last a knee-deep affair, full of beautiful palms and strange 
water plants, the names whereof I know not. There was 
just one part where that abomination, pandanus, had to be 
got through, but, as swamps go, it was not at all bad. 
I ought to mention that there were leeches in it, lest I 
may be thought too enthusiastic over its charms. But the 
great point was that the mountains we got to on the other 
side of it, were a good solid ridge, running, it is true, E. and W., 
while we wanted to go N. ; still on we went waiting for develop- 
ments, and watching the great line of mangrove-swamp 
spreading along below us to the left hand, seeing many of 



300 FROM ESOON TO AGONJO CHAP. 



the lines in its dark face, which betokened more of those 
awesome slime lagoons that we had seen enough of at close 
quarters. 

About four o'clock we struck some more plantations, and 
passing through these, came to a path running north-east, 
down which we went. I must say the forest scenery here was 
superbly lovely. Along this mountain side cliff to the man- 
grove-swamp the sun could reach the soil, owing to the 
steepness and abruptness and the changes of curves of the 
ground ; while the soft steamy air which came up off the swamp 
swathed everything, and although unpleasantly strong in smell 
to us, was yet evidently highly agreeable to the vegetation. 
Lovely wine palms and rafia palms, looking as if they had been 
grown under glass, so deliciously green and profuse was their 
feather-like foliage, intermingled with giant red woods, and lovely 
dark glossy green lianes, blooming in wreaths and festoons of 
white and mauve flowers, which gave a glorious wealth of 
beauty and colour to the scene. Even the monotony of the 
mangrove-belt alongside gave an additional charm to it, like 
the frame round a picture. 

As we passed on, the" ridge turned N. and the mangrove 
line narrowed between the hills. Our path now ran east and 
more in the middle of the forest, and the cool shade was charm- 
ing after the heat we had had earlier in the day. We crossed 
a lovely little stream coming down the hillside in a cascade ; 
and then our path plunged into a beautiful valley. We had 
glimpses through the trees of an amphitheatre of blue mist- 
veiled mountains coming down in a crescent before us, and 
on all sides, save due west where the mangrove-swamp came 
in. Never shall I forget the exceeding beauty of that valley, 
the foliage of the trees round us, the delicate wreaths and 
festoons of climbing plants, the graceful delicate plumes of 
the palm trees, interlacing among each other, and showing 
through all a background of soft, pale, purple-blue mountains 
and forest, not really far away, as the practised eye knew, 
but only made to look so by the mist, which has this trick 
of giving suggestion of immense space without destroying the 
beauty of detail. Those African misty forests have the same 
marvellous distinctive quality that Turner gives one in his 



INTO THE DEPTHS 



greatest pictures. I am no artist, so I do not know exactly 
what it is, but I see it is there. I luxuriated in the ex- 
quisite beauty of that valley, little thinking or knowing what 
there was in it besides beauty, as Allah " in mercy hid the 
book of fate." On we went among the ferns and flowers 
until we met a swamp, a different kind of swamp to those we 
had heretofore met, save the little one last mentioned. This 
one was much larger, and a gem of beauty ; but we had to 
cross it. It was completely furnished with characteristic flora. 
Fortunately when we got to its edge we saw a woman 
crossing before us, but unfortunately she did not take a 
fancy to our appearance, and instead of staying and having a 
chat about the state of the roads, and the shortest way to 
N'dorko, she bolted away across the swamp. I noticed 
she carefully took a course, not the shortest, although that 
course immersed her to her arm-pits. In we went after 
her, and when things were getting unpleasantly deep, and 
feeling highly uncertain under foot, we found there was a 
great log of a tree under the water which, as we had 
seen the lady's care at this point, we deemed it advisable to 
walk on. All of us save one, need I say that one was myself, 
effected this with safety. As for me, when I was at the 
beginning of the submerged bridge, and busily laying about in 
my mind for a definite opinion as to whether it was better 
to walk on a slippy tree trunk bridge you could see, or on 
one you could not, I was hurled off by that inexorable fate that 
demands of me a personal acquaintance with fluvial and 
paludial ground deposits ; whereupon I took a header, and am 
thereby able to inform the world, that there is between 
fifteen and twenty feet of water each side of that log. I con- 
scientiously went in on one side, and came up on the other. 
The log, I conjecture, is dum or ebony, and it is some fifty 
feet long ; anyhow it is some sort of wood that won't float I 
really cannot be expected, by the most exigent of scientific 
friends, to go botanising under water without a proper outfit. 
Gray Shirt says it is a bridge across an under-swamp river. 
Having survived this and reached the opposite bank, we 
shortly fell in with a party of men and women, who were 
taking, they said, a parcel of rubber to Holty's. They told us 



302 FROM ESOON TO AGONJO CHAP. 



N'dorko was quite close, and that the plantations we saw 
before us were its outermost ones, but spoke of a swamp, a 
bad swamp. We knew it, we said, in the foolishness of our 
hearts thinking they meant the one we had just forded, and 
leaving them resting, passed on our way ; half-a-mile further 
on we were wiser and sadder, for then we stood on the rim of 
one of the biggest swamps I have ever seen south of the Rivers. 
It stretched away in all directions, a great sheet of filthy water, 
out of which sprang gorgeous marsh plants, in islands, great 
banks of screw pine, and coppices of wine palm, with their 
lovely fronds reflected back by the still, mirror-like water, so 
that the reflection was as vivid as the reality, and above all 
remarkable was a plant, 1 new and strange to me, whose pale- 
green stem came up out of the water and then spread out in 
a flattened surface, thin, and in a peculiarly graceful curve. 
This flattened surface had growing out from it leaves, the 
size, shape and colour of lily of the valley leaves ; until I saw 
this thing I had held the wine palm to be the queen of grace 
in the vegetable kingdom, but this new beauty quite sur- 
passed her. 

Our path went straight into this swamp over the black 
rocks forming its rim, in an imperative, no alternative, " Come- 
along- this-way" style. Singlet, who was leading, carrying a good 
load of bottled fish and a gorilla specimen, went at it like a 
man, and disappeared before the eyes of us close following 
him, then and there down through the water. He came up, 
thanks be, but his load is down there now, worse luck. Then 
I said we must get the rubber carriers who were coming this 
way to show us the ford ; and so we sat down on the bank a 
tired, disconsolate, dilapidated-looking row, until they arrived. 
When they came up they did not plunge in forthwith ; but 
leisurely set about making a most nerve-shaking set of pre- 
parations, taking off their clothes, and forming them into 
bundles, which, to my horror, they put on the tops of their 
heads. The women carried the rubber on their backs still, but 
rubber is none the worse for being under water. The men 
went in first, each holding his gun high above his head. They 
skirted the bank before they struck out into the swamp, and 
1 Specimen placed in Herbarium at Kew. 



xiu A COLLAR OF LEECHES 303 



were followed by the women and by our party, and soon we 
were all up to our chins. 

We were two hours and a quarter passing that swamp. I 
was one hour and three-quarters ; but I made good weather of 
it, closely following the rubber-carriers, and only going in 
right over head and all twice. Other members of my band 
were less fortunate. One finding himself getting out of his 
depth, got hold of a palm frond and pulled himself into deeper 
water still, and had to roost among the palms until a special 
expedition of the tallest men went and gathered him like a 
flower. Another got himself much mixed up and scratched 
because he thought to make a short cut through screw pines. 
He did not know the screw pine's little ways, 1 and he had to 
have a special relief expedition. One and all, we got 
horribly infested with leeches, having a frill of them round our 
necks like astrachan collars, and our hands covered with them, 
when we came out. The depth of the swamp is very uniform, 
at its ford we went in up to our necks, and climbed up on to 
the rocks on the hither side out of water equally deep. 

Knowing you do not like my going into details on such 
matters, I will confine my statement regarding our leeches, to 
the fact that it was for the best that we had some trade salt 
with us. It was most comic to see us salting each other ; but 
in spite of the salt's efficacious action I was quite faint 
from loss of blood, and we all presented a ghastly sight as we 
made our way on into N'dorko. Of course the bleeding did 
not stop at once, and it attracted flies and but I am going 
into details, so I forbear. 

We had to pass across the first bit of open country I had 
seen for a long time a real patch of grass on the top 
of a low ridge, which is fringed with swamp on all sides save 
the one we made our way to, the eastern. Shortly after 
passing through another plantation, we saw brown huts, and 

1 Pandanus candelabrum a marsh tree from 20 to 30 feet high grow- 
ing in dense thickets, the stout aerial roots coming down into the water 
and forming with the true stems a network even more dense than that 
of mangroves. Their leaves, which grow in clusters, are sword-shaped, 
and from 4 to 6 feet in length with sharp spiney margins, and the whole 
affair is exceedingly tough and scratchy. 



304 FROM ESOON TO AGONJO CHAP. 



in a few minutes were standing in the middle of a ramshackle 
village, at the end of which, through a high stockade, with 
its gateway smeared with blood which hung in gouts, we 
saw our much longed for Rembwe River. I made for it, 
taking small notice of the hubbub our arrival occasioned, 
and passed through the gateway to its bank ; then, setting 
its guarding bell ringing violently, I stood on the steep, 
black, mud slime bank, surrounded by a noisy crowd. It 
is a big river, but nothing to the Ogowe, either in breadth 
or beauty ; what beauty it has is of the Niger delta type 
black mud-laden water, with a mangrove swamp fringe to it in 
all directions. I soon turned back into the village and asked 
for Ugumu's factory. " This is it," said an exceedingly dirty, 
good-looking, civil-spoken man in perfect English, though as 
pure blooded an African as ever walked. " This is it, sir," and 
he pointed to one of the huts on the right-hand side, indis- 
tinguishable in squalor from the rest. " Where's the Agent ? " 
said I. " I'm the Agent," he answered. You could have knocked 
me down with a feather. " Where's John Holt's factory?" said 
I. " You have passed it ; it is up on the hill." This showed 
Messrs. Holt's local factory to be no bigger than Ugumu's. At 
this point a big, scraggy, very black man with an irregularly 
formed face the size of a tea-tray and looking generally as if he 
had come out of a pantomime on the Arabian Nights, dashed 
through the crowd, shouting, " I'm for Holty, I'm for Holty." 
" This is my trade, you go 'way," says Agent number 
one. Fearing my two Agents would fight and damage 
each other, so that neither would be any good for me, I 
firmly said, " Have you go any rum ? " Agent number 
one looked crestfallen, Holty's triumphant. " Rum, fur sure," 
says he ; so I gave him a five-franc piece, which he regarded 
with great pleasure, and putting it in his mouth, he legged it 
like a lamplighter away to his store on the hill. " Have you 
any tobacco ? " said I to Agent number one. He brightened, 
" Plenty tobacco, plenty cloth," said he ; so I told him to give 
me out twenty heads. I gave my men two heads apiece. I 
told them rum was coming, and ordered them to take the 
loads on to Hatton and Cookson's Agent's hut and then to go 
and buy chop and make themselves comfortable. They highly 



xni PAY PALAVER 305 



approved of this plan, and grunted assent ecstatically ; and just 
as the loads were stowed Holty's anatomy hove in sight with 
a bottle of rum under each arm, and one in each hand ; while 
behind him came an acolyte, a fat, small boy, panting and 
puffing and doing his level best to keep up with his long- 
legged flying master. I gave my men some and put the 
rest in with my goods, and explained that I belonged to 
Hatton and Cookson's (it's the proper thing to belong to some- 
body), and that therefore I must take up my quarters at their 
Store ; but Holty's energetic agent hung about me like a vulture 
in hopes of getting more five franc-piece pickings. I sent 
Ngouta off to get me some tea, and had the hut cleared of an 
excited audience, and shut myself in with Hatton and Cook- 
son's agent, and asked him seriously and anxiously if there 
was not a big factory of the firm's on the river, because it was 
self-evident he had not got anything like enough stuff to pay 
off my men with, and my agreement was to pay off on the 
Rembwe, hence my horror at the smallness of the firm's 
N'dorko store. " Besides," I said, " Mr. Glass (I knew the 
head Rembwe agent of Hatton and Cookson was a Mr. Glass), 
you have only got cloth and tobacco, and I have promised 
the Fans to pay off in whatever they choose, and I know for 
sure they w r ant powder." " I am not Mr. Glass," said my 
friend ; " he is up at Agonjo, I only do small trade for him here." 
Joy ! ! ! ! but where's Agonjo ? To make a long story short 
I found Agonjo was an hour's paddle up the Rembwe and the 
place we ought to have come out at. There was a botheration 
again about sending up a message, because of a war palaver ; 
but I got a pencil note, with my letter of introduction from 
Mr. Cockshut to Sanga Glass, at last delivered to that gentle- 
man ; and down he came, in a state of considerable astonish- 
ment, not unmixed with alarm, for no white man of any kind 
had been across from the Ogowe for years, and none had ever 
come out at N'dorko. Mr. Glass I found an exceedingly neat, 
well-educated M'pongwe gentleman in irreproachable English 
garments, and with irreproachable, but slightly floreate, English 
language. We started talking trade, with my band in the 
middle of the street ; making a patch of uproar in the moonlit 
surrounding silence. As soon as we thought we had got one 

x 



306 FROM ESOON TO AGONJO CHAP. 



gentleman's mind settled as to what goods he would take his 
pay in, and were proceeding to investigate another gentleman's 
little fancies ; gentleman number one's mind came all to pieces 
again, and he wanted " to room his bundle," i.e. change articles 
in it for other articles of an equivalent value, if it must be, but 
of a higher, if possible. Oh ye shopkeepers in England who 
grumble at your lady customers, just you come out here and 
try to serve, and satisfy a set of Fans ! Mr. Glass was evidently 
an expert at the affair, but it was past 1 1 p.m. before we got 
the orders written out, and getting my baggage into some 
canoes, that Mr. Glass had brought down from Agonjo, for 
N'dorko only had a few very wretched ones, I started off up river 
with him and all the Ajumba, and Kiva, the Fan, who had 
been promised a safe conduct. He came to see the bundles 
for his fellow Fans were made up satisfactorily. 

The canoes being small there was quite a procession of 
them. Mr. Glass and I shared one, which was paddled by 
two small boys ; how we ever got up the Rembwe that night 
I do not know, for although neither of us were fat, the canoe 
was a one man canoe, and the \vater lapped over the edge in 
an alarming way. Had any of us sneezed, or had it been 
daylight when two or three mangrove flies would have joined 
the party, we must have foundered ; but all went well ; and on 
arriving at Agonjo Mr. Glass most kindly opened his store, 
and by the light of lamps and lanterns, we picked out the 
goods from his varied and ample supply, and handed them 
over to the Ajumba and Kiva, and all, save three of the 
Ajumba, were satisfied. The three, Gray Shirt, Silence, and 
Pagan quietly explained to me that they found the Rembwe 
price so little better than the Lembarene price that they would 
rather get their pay off Mr. Cockshut, than risk taking it back 
through the Fan country, so I gave them books on him. I 
gave all my remaining trade goods, and the rest of the rum to 
the Fans as a dash, and they were more than satisfied. I 
must say they never clamoured for dash for top. The 
Passenger we had brought through with us, who had really 
made himself very helpful, was quite surprised at getting a 
bundle of goods from me. My only anxiety was as to 
whether Fika would get his share all right ; but I expect he 



FAREWELL TO THE FANS 307 



did, for the Ajumbas are very honest men ; and they were 
going back with my Fan friends. I found out, by the by, the 
reason of Fika's shyness in coming through to the Rembwe ; 
it was a big wife palaver. 

I had a touching farewell with the Fans : and so in peace, 
good feeling, and prosperity I parted company for the second 
time with " the terrible M'pongwe," whom I hope to meet with 
again, for with all their many faults and failings, they are real 
men. I am faint-hearted enough to hope, that our next journey 
together, may not be over a country that seems to me to have 
been laid down as an obstacle race track for Mr. G. F. Watts's 
Titans, and to have fallen into shocking bad repair. 



X 2 



CHAPTER XIV 

BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS 

Wherein the Voyager, having fallen among the black traders, discourses 
on these men and their manner of life ; and the difficulties and 
dangers attending the barter they carry on with the bush savages ; 
and on some of the reasons that makes this barter so beloved and 
followed by both the black trader and the savage. To which is added 
an account of the manner of life of the Fan tribe; the strange form of 
coinage used by these people; their manner of hunting the elephant, 
working in iron; and such like things. 

I SPENT a few, lazy, pleasant days at Agonjo, Mr. Glass 
doing all he could to make me comfortable, though he 
had a nasty touch of fever on him just then. His efforts were 
ably seconded by his good lady, an exceedingly comely Gaboon 
woman, with pretty manners, and an excellent gift in cookery. 
The third member of the staff was the store-keeper, a clever 
fellow : I fancy a Loango from his clean-cut features and 
spare make, but his tribe I know not for a surety. What I 
do know is that he can sing " Partant pour la Syrie " with 
intense power and a penetrating pathos in the depths of the 
night. But I do not chronicle this as a discovery of my own ; 
it was common knowledge to every sentient being within a 
radius of half a mile of the factory. 

Mosquitoes here we met again : some one ought to go into 
the local distribution of mosquitoes in Congo Frangais instead 
of just saying hard things about them. I leave the work for a 
nobler soul than mine, and to assist him, note the fact that they 
are simply awful throughout all Kama country and Ouroungou. 
Up at Lembarene, which is above Kama country, they are worse, 
and remain so until you get to Osamokita ; there they cease 



CH. xiv FLAPPISTS AND CRUSHERS 309 



from troubling although there is still a stretch of flat country 
and a supply of stagnant water in the shape of small lakes ; I 
say this regretfully, but science is truth. I once had a nice 
little theory, that worked well in the Niger Delta, that you 
never had mosquitoes if you had a 4-knot current water supply ; 
unless you bred the said mosquitoes for yourself, in tanks or 
barrels ; because, said the theory, the larva got washed away 
down. But although the Ogowe has a 4-knot current twice over 
at Osamokita, and there are no mosquitoes ; still there are those 
lakes in the forest at the back of it; so any one who can patch 
that theory up, and make it go again, is welcome to it. Again re- 
garding mosquito distribution, there's a pretty solid fog of them 
from Kangwe to Arevooma, from Arevooma on to Lake Ncovi, 
and at Lake Ncovi they but it's no use my writing down my 
opinion about mosquitoes in Lake Ncovi because no one will 
print it. When we left Ncovi, and got well into the forest, we 
missed them, and were no more troubled with them, until we 
got here to Agonjo, where there is not a 4-knot current ; but I 
will not revert to that, and merely remark a peculiarity I have 
observed in mosquitoes since I have been so much in touch with 
them in Congo Frangais, and that is that they evidently feed on 
oil ; several many hundreds that I have crushed have left quite 
a pool of oil I presume palm oil, but it may be animal fat. I 
should remark before leaving this subject that there are two 
schools in this district which quarrel much over the merits of their 
separate methods of destroying mosquitoes the Flappists and 
the Crushers. I am a Crusher, holding it better to allow the 
vermin to get a hold, and his entire mind set on blood, and 
then to descend on him quietly, but firmly, with a finger ; as for 
those heretics the Flappists they always hurt themselves, and 
frequently fail to bag their game, by their more showy 
methods. 

I really thought that I was again getting a chance to secure 
a valuable specimen of spectra dornestica or the common 
domestic ghost the first night in Agonjo. I held it to be the 
ghost of a carpenter, for it made a continuous sawing noise in 
the bamboo wall by the side of my bed, but again I was disap- 
pointed : it was only the usual rat. This enterprising rodent 
indeed was a fellow collector, and had stolen the bladder off 



3io BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP 



one of my bottles, and was determined to get it up into the 
roof whether the wall bamboos would let him or no. I helped 
him up with it, he holding on to his end while I poked the 
other up with a stick, and we got the thing done between us, 
and I hope he is happy. 

One of these black trader factories is an exceedingly inter- 
esting place to stay at, for in these factories you are right down 
on the bed rock of the trade. On the Coast, for the greater 
part, the white traders are dealing with black traders, middle- 
men, who have procured their trade stuff from the bush natives, 
who collect and prepare it. Here, in the black trader factory, 
you see the first stage of the export part of the trade : namely 
the barter of the collected trade stuff between the collector 
and the middleman. I will not go into details regarding it. 
What I saw merely confirmed my opinion from my other ex- 
perience, and this opinion had been further strengthened by 
what I had been seeing, during the previous months, while 
living among bush men collecting trade stuff ; and that is that 
the native is not cheated ; no, not even by a fellow African 
trader ; and I will merely here pause to sing a paean to a 
very unpopular class the black middleman as he exists on 
the South West Coast. It is impossible to realise the gloom 
of the lives of these men in bush factories, unless you have 
lived in one. It is no use saying " they know r nothing 
better and so don't feel it," for they do know several 
things better, being very sociable men, fully appreciative of 
the joys of a Coast town, and their aim, object and end in life 
is, in almost every case, to get together a fortune that will 
enable them to live in one, give a dance twice a week, card 
parties most nights, and dress themselves up so that their 
fellow Coast townsmen may hate them and their townswomen 
love them. From their own accounts of the dreadful state of 
trade ; and the awful and unparalleled series of losses they 
have had, from the upsetting of canoes, the raids and robberies 
made on them and their goods by " those awful bush savages " ; 
you would, if you were of a trustful disposition, regard the 
black trader with -an admiring awe as the man who has at last 
solved the great commercial problem of how to keep a shop 
and live by the loss. Nay, not only live, but build for him- 



THE TRADER'S LIFE 



self an equivalent to a palatial residence, and keep up, not only 
it, but half a dozen wives, with a fine taste for dress every- 
one of them. I am not of a trustful disposition and I accept 
those " losses " with a heavy discount, and know most of the 
rest of them have come out of my friend the white trader's 
pockets. Still I can never feel the righteous indignation that 
I ought to feel, when I see the black trader " down in a seaport 
town with his Nancy," &c., as Sir W. H. S. Gilbert classically 
says, because I remember those bush factories. 

Mr. Glass, however, was not a trader who made a fortune by 
losing those of other people ; for he had been many. years in 
the employ of the firm. He had risen certainly to the high post 
and position of charge of the Rembwe, but he was not down 
giddy-flying at Gaboon. His accounts of his experiences when 
he had been many years ago away up the still little known 
Nguni River, in a factory in touch with the lively Bakele, 
then in a factory among Fans and Igalwa on the Ogowe, and 
now among Fans and Skekiani on the Rembwe, were 
fascinating, and told vividly of the joys of first starting a 
factory in a wild district. The way in which your customers, 
for the first month or so, enjoyed themselves by trying to 
frighten you, the trader, out of your wits and goods, and 
into giving them fancy prices for things you were trad- 
ing in, and for things no earthly use to you, or any one 
else ! The trader's existence during this period is marked by 
every unpleasantness save dulness ; from that he is spared 
by the presence of a mob of noisy, dangerous, thieving 
savages all over his place all day ; invading his cook-house, to 
put some nastiness into his food as a trade charm ; helping 
themselves to portable property at large ; and making them- 
selves at home to the extent of sitting on his dining-table. 
At night those customers proceed to sleep all over the 
premises, with a view to being on hand to start shopping in 
the -morning. Woe betide the trader if he gives in to this, 
and tolerates the invasion, for there is no chance of that house 
ever being his own again ; and in addition to the local flies, 
&c., on the table-cloth, he will always have several big black 
gentlemen to share his meals. If he raises prices, to tide over 
some extra row, he is a lost man; for the Africans can under- 



312 BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP. 



stand prices going up, but never prices coming down; and time | 
being no object, they will hold back their trade. Then the 
district is ruined, and the trader along with it, for he cannot 
raise the price he gets for the things he buys. 

What that trader has got to do, is to be a " Devil man." 
They always kindly said they recognised me as one, which is 
a great compliment. He must betray no weakness, but a 
character which I should describe as a compound of the best 
parts of those of Cardinal Richelieu, Brutus, Julius Caesar, 
Prince Metternich, and Mettzofante, the latter to carry on the 
native language part of the business ; and he must cast those 
customers out, not only from his house ; but from his yard ; 
and adhere to the " No admittance except on business " 
principle. This causes a good deal of unpleasantness, and 
the trader's nights are now cheered by lively war-dances out- 
side his stockade ; the accompanying songs advertising that 
the customers are coming over the stockade to raid the store, 
and cut up the trader " into bits like a fish." Sometimes they 
do come and then finish ; but usually they don't ; and 
gradually settle down, and respect the trader greatly as " a 
Devil man " ; and do business on sound lines during the day. 
Over the stockade at night, by ones and twos, stealing, they 
will come to the end of the chapter. 

At Agonjo Mr. Glass, his wife, and the " Partant pour la 
Syrie " vocalist used to have to take it in turns to keep watch, 
because it was the habit of these local " children of nature " 
to sell a log or so of ebony during the day, and come and re- 
gain possession of it at night. They would then take it down 
to the next factory, and sell it there similarly regaining it, and 
bringing it back, and re-selling it, and so on, da capo. Thereby 
it falls out that one man. might live for quite a time on a few 
billets, with no exertion, or hard work, stealing being a beloved 
pastime a kind of a sort of a game in which you only lose if 
you are found out. 

Moonlight nights are fairly restful for the bush trader, but 
when it is inky black, or pouring with rain, he has got to be 
very much out and about, and particularly vigilant has he got 
to be on tornado nights a most uncomfortable sort of 
weather to attend to business in, I assure you. 



xiv TRADERS : ENGLISH AND FOREIGN 313 



The factory at Agonjo was typical ; the house is a fine 
specimen of the Igalwa style of architecture; mounted on poles 
above the ground ; the space under the house being used as a 
store for rubber in barrels, and ebony in billets ; thereby 
enabling the trader to hover over these precious possessions, 
sleeping and waking, like a sitting hen over her eggs. 

Near to the house are the sleeping places for the beach 
hands, and the cook-house. In front, in a position commanded 
by the eye from the verandah, and well withdrawn from the 
stockade, are great piles of billets of red bar wood. The 
whole of the clean, sandy yard containing these things, and 
divers others, is surrounded by a stout stockade, its main face 
to the river frontage, the water at high tide lapping its base, 
and at low tide exposing in front of it a shore of black slime. 
Although I cite this factory as a typical factory of a black 
trader, .it is a specimen of the highest class, for, being in 
connection with Messrs. Hatton and Cookson it is well kept 
up and stocked. Firms differ much in this particular. 
Messrs. Hatton and Cookson, like Messrs. Miller Brothers 
in the Bights, take every care that lies in their power 
of the people who serve them, down to the Kruboys work- 
ing on their beaches, giving ample and good rations and 
providing good houses. But this is not so with all firms on 
the Coast. I have seen factories belonging to the Swedish 
houses beside which this factory at Agonjo is a palace, 
although those factories are white man factories, and the un- 
fortunate white men in them are expected by these firms to 
live on native chop an expectation the Agents by no means 
realise, for they usually die. Black hands, however, do not 
suffer much at the hands of such firms, for the Swedish 
Agents are a quiet, gentlemanly set of men, in the best sense of 
that much misused term, and they do not employ on their 
beaches such a staff of black helpers as the English houses, so 
the two or three Kruboys on a starvation beach can fairly 
well fend for themselves, for there is always an adjacent village, 
and in that village there are always chickens, and on the shore 
crabs, and in the river fish, and for the rest of his diet the Kru- 
boy flirts with the local ladies. 

Although, as I have laid down, the bush factory at its best 



314 BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP. 



is a place, as Mr. Tracey Tupman would say, more fitted for 
a wounded heart than for one still able to feast on social joys, 
it is a luxurious situation for a black trader compared to 
the other form of trading he deals with that of travelling 
among the native villages in the bush. This has one hundred 
times the danger, and a thousand times the discomfort, and is 
a thoroughly unhealthy pursuit. The journeys these bush 
traders make are often remarkable, and they deserve great 
credit for the courage and enterprise they display. Certainly 
they run less risk of death from fever than a white man 
would ; but, on the other hand, their colour gives them no 
protection ; and their chance of getting murdered is distinctly 
greater ; and also the white governmental powers cannot 
revenge their death, in the way they would the death of a 
white man, for these murders usually take place away in some 
forest region, in a district no white man has ever penetrated; 
and when the account of it reaches the main trading station, 
or the sea coast town, to whom the man belongs for many of 
them are not attached to any factory, but trading on their own 
accounts it is usually in the form of the statement that So- 
and-so died of a disease. The relatives of the deceased never 
believe this, but the Government naturally feel disinclined to 
start off on a highly expensive expedition ; which is next to 
certain in the bargain to cost a white man who goes with it 
his life ; on a month or so's march, through trackless swamp 
and bush ; on the off chance of finding out at the end of 
their quest that So and so did really die of a disease ; or that 
the village where he died is utterly deserted ; the natives on 
hearing of their approach having gone for a pic-nic in the 
surrounding forest. 

You will naturally ask how it is that so many of these men 
do survive " to lead a life of sin " as a missionary described 
to me their Coast town life to be. This question struck me as 
requiring explanation. .The result of my investigations, and 
the answers I have received from the men themselves, show 
that there is a reason why the natives do not succumb every 
time to the temptation to kill the trader, and take his goods, 
and this is twofold : firstly, all trade in West Africa follows 
definite routes, even in the \vildest parts of it; and so a village 



xiv A FEMALE BODYGUARD 315 



far away in the forest, but on the trade route, knows, that as 
a general rule twice a year, a trader will appear to purchase 
its rubber and ivory. If he does not appear somewhere 
about the expected time, that village gets uneasy. The 
ladies are impatient for their new clothes ; the gentlemen half 
wild for want of tobacco ; and things coming to a crisis, they 
make inquiries for the trader down the road, one village to 
another, and then, if it is found that a village has killed the 
trader, and stolen all his goods, there is naturally a big 
palaver, and things are made extremely hot, even for 
equatorial Africa, for that village by the tobaccoless husbands 
of the clothesless wives. Herein lies the trader's chief safety, 
the village not being an atom afraid, or disinclined to kill him, 
but afraid of their neighbouring villages, and disinclined to 
be killed by them. But the trader is not yet safe. There is 
still a hole in his armour, and this is only to be stopped up in 
one way, namely, by wives ; for you see although the village 
cannot safely kill him, and take all his goods, they can still 
safely let him die of a disease, and take part of them, passing 
on sufficient stuff to the other villages to keep them 
quiet. Now the most prevalent disease in the African bush 
comes out of the cooking pot, and so to make what goes into 
the cooking pot which is the important point, for earthen 
pots do not in themselves breed poison safe and wholesome, 
you have got to have some one who is devoted to your health to 
attend to the cooking affairs, and who can do this like a wife ? 
So you have a wife one in each village up the whole of your 
route. I know myself one gentleman whose wives stretch 
over 300 miles of country, with a good wife base in a Coast 
town as well. This system of judiciously conducted alliances, 
gives the black trader a security nothing else can, because 
naturally he marries into influential families at each village, 
and all his wife's relations on the mother's side regard him as 
one of themselves, and look after him and his interests. 
That security can lie in women, especially so many women, 
the so-called civilised man may ironically doubt, but the 
security is there, and there only, and on a sound basis, for re- 
member the position of a travelling trader's wife in a village 
is a position that gives the lady prestige, the discreet husband 



316 BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP. 



showing little favours to her family and friends, if she asks 
for them when he is with her ; and then she has not got the 
bother of having a man always about the house, and liable to 
get all sorts of silly notions into his head if she speaks to 
another gentleman, and then go and impart these notions 
to her with a cutlass, or a kassengo, as the more domestic 
husband, I am assured by black ladies, is prone to. 

You may now, I fear, be falling into the other adjacent 
error from the wonder why any black trader survives, namely, 
into the wonder why any black trader gets killed, with all 
these safeguards, and wives. But there is yet another danger, 
which no quantity of wives, nor local jealousies avail to guard 
him through. This danger arises from the nomadic habits of 
the bush tribes, notably the Fan. For when a village has made 
up its mind to change its district, either from having made the 
district too hot to hold it, with quarrels with neighbouring 
villages ; or because it has exhausted the trade stuff, i.e. rubber 
and ivory in reach of its present situation ; or because some 
other village has raided it, and taken away all the stuff it was 
saving to sell to the black trader ; it resolves to give itself a 
final treat in the did home, and make a commercial coup at 
one fell swoop. Thus when the black trader turns up with his 
boxes of goods, it kills him, has some for supper, smokes the 
rest, and takes it and the goods, and departs to found new 
homes in another district. 

The bush trade I have above sketched is the bush trade 
with the Fans. In those districts on the southern banks of 
the Ogowe the main features of the trade, and the trader's life 
are the same, but the details are more intricate, for the Igalwa 
trader from Lembarene, Fernan Vaz, or Njole, deals with 
another set of trading tribes, not first hand with the collectors. 
The Fan villages on the trade routes may, however, be regarded 
as trade depots, for to them filters the trade stuff of the more 
remote villages, so the difference is really merely technical, 
and in all villages alike the same sort of thing occurs. 

The Igalwa or M'pongwe trader arrives with the goods he 
has received from the white trader, and there are great rejoic- 
ing and much uproar as his chests and bundles and demijohns 
are brought up from the canoe. And presently, after a great 



PRICES AND PROFITS 317 



deal of talk, the goods are opened. The chiefs of the village 
have their pick, and divide this among the principal men of 
the village, who pay for it in part with their store of collected 
rubber or ivory, and take the rest on trust, promising to collect 
enough rubber to pay the balance on the next visit of the 
trader. Thereby the trader has a quantity of debts outstand- 
ing in each village, liable to be bad debts, and herein lies his 
chief loss. Each chief takes a certain understood value in 
goods as a commission for himself nyeno giving the trader, 
as a consideration for this, an understood bond to assist him in 
getting in the trust granted to his village. This nyeno he 
utilises in buying trade stuff from villages not on the trade 
route. Among the Fans the men who have got the goods 
stand by with these to trade for rubber with the general public 
and bachelors of the village, in a way I will presently explain. 
In tribes like Ajumbas, Adooma, &c., the men having the 
goods travel off, as traders, among their various bush tribes, 
similarly paying their nyeno^ and so by the time the goods 
reach the final producing men, only a small portion of them 
is left, but their price has necessarily risen. Still it is quite ab- 
surd for a casual white traveller, who may have dropped in on 
the terminus of a trade route, to cry out regarding the small 
value the collector (who is often erroneously described as the 
producer, giving a false " won-by-the-sweat-of-his-brow " halo 
to him) gets for his stuff, compared to the price it fetches in 
Europe. For before it even reaches the factory of the Coast 
Settlement, that stuff has got to keep a whole series of traders. 
It appears at first bad that this should be the case, but the 
case it is along the west coast of the continent save in the 
districts commanded by the Royal Niger company, who, with 
courage and enterprise, have pushed far inland, and got in touch 
with the great interior trade routes a performance which has 
raised in the breasts of the Coast trader tribes who have been 
supplanted, a keen animosity, which like most animosity in 
Africa, is not regardful of truth. The tribes that have had the 
trade of the Bight of Biafra passing through their hands have 
been accustomed, according to the German Government who 
are also pressing inland, to make seventy-five per cent, profit 
on it, and they resent being deprived of this. A good deal is to 



3i8 BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP. 



be said in favour of their views ; among other things that the 
greater part of the seaboard districts of West Africa, I may say 
every part from Sierra Leone to Cameroon, is structurally 
incapable of being self-supporting under existing conditions. 
Below Cameroon, on my beloved South-west coast, which is 
infinitely richer than the Bight of Benin, rich producing 
districts come down to the sea in most places until you reach 
the Congo; but here again the middleman is of great use to the 
interior tribes, and if they do have to pay him seventy-five 
per cent, serve them right. They should not go making wife 
palaver, and blood palaver all over the place to such an extent 
that the inhabitants of no village, unless they go en masse, dare 
take a ten mile walk, save at the risk of their lives, in any 
direction, so palaver no live. 

We will now enter into the reason that induces the bush 
man to collect stuff to sell among the Fans, which is the ex- 
pensiveness of the ladies in the tribe. A bush Fan is bound 
to marry into his tribe, because over a great part of the 
territory occupied by them there is no other tribe handy 
to marry into ; and a Fan residing in villages in touch with 
other tribes, has but little chance of getting a cheaper lady. 
For there is, in the Congo Frangais and the country ad- 
jacent to the north of it (Batanga), a regular style of aris- 
tocracy which may be summarised firstly thus : All the other 
tribes look down on the Fans, and the Fans look down 
on all the other tribes. This aristocracy has sub-divisions, 
the M'pongwe of Gaboon are the upper circle tribe ; next 
come the Benga of Corisco ; then the Bapoka ; then the 
Banaka. This system of aristocracy is kept up by the ladies. 
Thus a M'pongwe lady would not think of marrying into one 
of the lower tribes, so she is restricted, with many inner re- 
strictions, to her own tribe. A Benga lady would marry a 
M'pongwe, or a Benga, but not a Banaka, or Bapoka ; and 
so on with the others ; but not one of them would marry a 
Fan. As for the men, well of course they would marry any 
lady of any tribe, if she had a pretty face, or a good trading 
connection, if they were allowed to : that's just man's way. 
To the south-east the Fans are in touch with the Achille, 
Bakele, Dakele, practically one and the same tribe and a tribe 



xiv BUYING A WIFE 319 



that has much in common with the Fan, but who differ from 
them in getting on in a very friendly way with the little dwarf 
people, the Matimbas, or Watwa, or Akkoa : people the Fans 
cannot abide. With these Achille the Fan can intermarry, 
but there is not much advantage in so doing, as the price is 
equally high, but still marry he must. 

A young Fan man has to fend for himself, and has a 
scratchy kind of life of it, aided only by his mother until if 
he be an enterprising youth he is able to steal a runaway 




AN AKKOA DWARF OF CONGO FRANCA1S. 

wife from a neighbouring village, or if he is a quiet and steady 
young man, until he has amassed sufficient money to buy a 
wife. This he does by collecting ivory and rubber and selling 
it to the men who have been allotted goods by the chief of 
the village, from the consignment brought up by the black 
trader. He supports himself meanwhile by, if the situation of 
his village permits, fishing and selling the fish, and hunting 
and killing game in the forest. He keeps steadily at it in his 
way, reserving his roysterings until he is settled in life. A 
truly careful young man does not go and buy a baby girl 



320 BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP. 

cheap, as soon as he has got a little money together ; but 
works and saves on until he has got enough to buy a good, 
tough widow lady, who, although personally unattractive, is 
deeply versed in the lore of trade, and who knows exactly how 
much rubbish you can incorporate in a ball of india rubber, 
without the white trader, or the black bush factory trader, 
instantly detecting it. The bush travelling trader has, in certain 
of the more savage districts, to take rubber without making an 
examination of it ; that would hurt the sensitive feelings of 
his Fan friends. But then in these districts he carefully keeps 
the price low to allow for this. When the Fan young man 
has married his wife, in a legitimate way on the cash system, 
he takes her round to his relations, and shows her off; and 
they make little presents to help the pair set up housekeeping. 
But the young man cannot yet settle down, for his wife will 
not allow him to. She is not going to slave herself to death 
doing all the work of the house, &c., and so he goes on col- 
lecting, and she preparing, trade stuff, and he grows rich 
enough to buy other wives some of them young children, 
others widows, no longer necessarily old. But it is not until 
he is well on in life that he gets sufficient wives, six or seven. 
For it takes a good time to get enough rubber to buy a lady, 
and he does not get a grip on the ivory trade until he has got 
a certain position in the village, and plantations of his own 
which the elephants can be discovered raiding, in which case 
a percentage of the ivory taken from the herd is allotted to 
him. Now and again he may come across a dead elephant, 
but that is of the nature of a windfall ; and on rubber and 
ebony he has to depend during his early days. These he 
changes with the rich men of his village for a very peculiar 
and interesting form of coinage bikei little iron imitation 
axe-heads which are tied up in bundles called ntet, ten going 
to one bundle, for with bikei must the price of a wife be paid. 
You cannot do so with rubber or ivory, or goods. These bikei 
pass, however, as common currency among the Fans, for other 
articles of trade as well, but I do not think they will pass 
bikei out of the tribe. Possibly no one else will take this 
form of change. Thousands of these bikei, done up into ntets, 
go to the price of a wife. I was much interested in this coin- 



FAN CURRENCY 321 



age-equivalent, and found out all I could regarding it, but 
there is plenty more to be found out, and I hope the next 
voyager among the Fans will keep his eye on it. You do not 
find bikei close down to Libreville, among the Fans who are 
there in a semi-civilised state, or more properly speaking in a 
state of disintegrating culture. You must go for bush. I 
thought I saw in bikei a certain resemblance in underlying 
idea with the early Greek coins I have seen at Cambridge, 
made like the fore-parts of cattle ; and I have little doubt that 
the articles of barter among the Fans before the introduction 
of the rubber, ebony, and ivory trades, which in their districts 
are comparatively recent, were iron implements. For the 
Fans are good workers in iron ; and it would be in consonance 
with well-known instances among other savage races in the 
matter of stone implements, that these things, important 
of old, should survive, and be employed in the matter of such 
an old and important affair as marriage. They thus become 
ju-ju ; and indeed all West African legitimate marriage, 
although appearing to the casual observer a mere matter of 
barter, is never solely such, but always has ju-ju in it. 

We may as wen here follow out the whole of the domestic 
life of the Fan, now we have got him married. His difficulty 
does not only consist in getting enough bikei together but in 
getting a lady he can marry. No amount of bikei can justify 
a man in marrying his first cousin, or his aunt ; and as relation- 
ship among the Fans is recognised with both his father and 
his mother, not as among the Igalwa with the latter's blood 
relations only, there are an awful quantity of aunts and 
cousins about from whom he is debarred. But when he has 
surmounted his many difficulties, and dodged his relations, and 
married, he is seemingly a better husband than the man of a 
more cultured tribe. He will turn a hand to anything, that 
does not necessitate his putting down his gun outside his 
village gateway. He will help chop firewood, or goat's chop, or 
he will carry the baby with pleasure, while his good lady does 
these things ; and in bush villages, he always escorts her so as 
to be on hand in case of leopards, or other local unpleasant- 
nesses. When inside the village he will lay down his gun, 
within handy reach, and build the house, tease out fibre, to 

Y 



322 BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP. 



make game nets with, and plait baskets, or make pottery with 
the ladies, cheerily chatting the while. 

Fan pottery, although rough and sunbaked, is artistic in form 
and ornamented, for the Fan ornaments all his work ; the 
articles made in it consist of cooking pots, palm-wine bottles, 
water bottles and pipes, but not all water bottles, nor all pipes 
are made of pottery. I wish they were, particularly the former, 
for they are occasional!}* made of beautifully plaited fibre 
coated with a layer of a certain gum with a vile taste, which 
it imparts to the water in the vessel. They say it does not 
do this if the vessel is soaked for two days in water, but it 
does, and I should think contaminates the stream it was 
soaked in into the bargain. The pipes are sometimes made of 
iron very neatly. I should imagine they smoked hot, but of 
this I have no knowledge. One of my Ajumba friends got 
himself one of these pipes when we were in Efoua, and that 
pipe was, on and off, a curse to the party. Its owner soon 
learnt not to hold it by the bowl, but by the wooden stem, 
when smoking it ; the other lessons it had to teach he 
learnt more slowly. He tucked it, when he had done smok- 
ing, into the fold in his cloth, until he hao f had three serious 
conflagrations raging round his middle. And to the end of 
the chapter, after having his last pipe at night with it, he would 
lay it on the ground, before it was cool. He learnt to lay it 
out of reach of his own cloth, but his fellow Ajumbas and he 
himself persisted in always throwing a leg on to it shortly after, 
and there was another row. 

The Fan basket-work is strongly made, but very inferior to 
the Fjort basket-work. Their nets are, however, the finest I 
have ever seen. These are made mainly for catching small game, 
such as the beautiful little gazelles (Ncheri] with dark gray skins 
on the upper part of the body, white underneath, and satin-like 
in sleekness all over. Their form is very dainty, the little legs 
being no thicker than a man's finger, the neck long and the 
head ornamented with little pointed horns and broad round 
ears. The nets are tied on to trees in two long lines, which 
converge to an acute angle, the bottom part of the net lying 
on the ground. Then a part}- of men and women ac- 
companied by their trained dogs, which have bells hung round 



A FAN FORGE 323 



their necks, beat the surrounding bushes, and the frightened 
small game rush into the nets, and become entangled. The 
fibre from which these nets are made has a long staple, and is 
exceedingly strong. I once saw a small bush cow caught in 
a set of them and unable to break through, and once a leopard ; 
he, however, took his section of the net away with him, and a 
^ood deal of vegetation and sticks to boot. In addition to 
nets, this fibre is made into bags, for carrying things 
in while in the bush, and into the water bottles already men- 
tioned. . 

The iron-work of the Fans deserves especial notice for its 
excellence. The anvil is a big piece of iron which is 
embedded firmly in the ground. Its upper surface is flat, and 
pointed at both ends. The hammers are solid cones of iron, 
the upper part of the cones prolonged so as to give a good 
grip, and the blows are given directly downwards, like the 
blows of a pestle. The bellow r s are of the usual African 
type, cut out of one piece of solid but soft wood ; at the upper 
end of these bellows there are two chambers hollowed out in 
the wood and then covered with the skin of some animal, from 
which the hair has been removed. This is bound firmly round 
the rim of each chamber with tie-tie, and the bag of it at the top 
is gathered up, and bound to a small piece of stick, to give a 
convenient hand hold. The straight cylinder, terminating in 
the nozzle, has two channels burnt in it which communi- 
cate with each of the chambers respectively, and half-way up 
the cylinder, there are burnt from the outside into the air 
passages, three series of holes, one series on the upper surface, 
and a series at each side. This ingenious arrangement gives 
a constant current of air up from the nozzle when the bellows 
are worked by a man sitting behind them, and rapidly and 
alternately pulling up the skin cover over one chamber, while 
depressing the other. In o^der to make the affair firm it is 
lashed to pieces of stick stuck in the ground in a suitable way 
so as to keep the bellows at an angle with the nozzle directed 
towards the fire. As wooden bellows like this if stuck into 
the fire would soon be aflame, the nozzle is put into a cylinder 
made of clay. This cylinder is made sufficiently large at the 
end, into which the nozzle of the bellows goes, for the air to 

Y 2 



324 



BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS 



CHAP. 



have full play round the latter. On my first meeting with 
this performance, I must needs think that the clay affair did 
not fit the bellows, and asked if they had no bigger bellows. 
When finally the Fan blacksmith found out what error I was 
suffering from, he jammed his bellows into the clay cylinder 
and there was no end of a smother ; for of course when fixed 
tight, instead of getting the perpetual current of fresh air, it 
alternately sucked up and blew out the smoke and hot air 
from the fire itself. I apologised. 




ANGOLA BLACKSMITHS. 



The Fan bellows only differ from those of the other iron- 
working West Coast tribes in having the channels from the two 
chambers in one piece of wood all the way ; in the other bellows 
I have seen the two channels unite just above the nozzle. And 
also the Fan decorates the bellows with spearhead forms, the 
points whereof are directed towards the fire ; he seems to think 
this helps. His forge is the same as the other forges, a round 
cavity scooped in the ground ; his fuel also is charcoal. His 
other smith's tool consists of a pointed piece of iron, with which 



IVORY EATERS 325 



he works out the patterns he puts at the handle-end of his 
swords, &c. 

I must now speak briefly on the most important article with 
which the Fan deals, namely ivory. His methods of collecting 
this are several, and many a wild story the handles of your 
table knives could tell you, if their ivory has passed through Fan 
hands. For ivory is everywhere an evil thing before which the 
quest for gold sinks into a parlour game ; and when its charms 
seize such a tribe* as the Fans, " conclusions pass their careers." 
A very common way of collecting a tooth is to kill the person 
who owns one. Therefore in order to prevent this catastrophe 
happening to you yourself, when you have one, it is held 
advisable, unless you are a powerful person in your own village, 
to bury or sink the said tooth and say nothing about it until 
the trader comes into your district or you get a chance of 
smuggling it quietly down to him. Some of these private 
ivories are kept for years and years before they reach the 
trader's hands. And quite a third of the ivory you see coming 
on board a vessel to go to Europe is dark from this keeping : 
some teeth a lovely brown like a well-coloured meerschaum, 
others quite black, and gnawed by that strange little creature 
much heard of, and abused, yet little known in ivory ports the 
ivory rat. This squirrel-like creature was first brought to Europe 
by Paul du Chaillu, and as far as I know no further specimen 
has been secured. I got two, but I am ashamed to say I lost 
them. Du Chaillu called it Sciurus eborivorus. Its main point, 
as may be imagined, is its teeth. The incisors in the upper 
jaw are long, and closely set together ; those in the lower are 
still longer, and as they seem always to go in under the upper 
teeth, I wonder how the creature gets its mouth shut. The 
feet are hairless, arid somewhat like those of a squirrel. The 
tail is long, and marked with transverse bars, and it is not 
carried over the back. Over the eyes, and on either side of the 
mouth, are very long stiff bristles. The mischief these little 
creatures play with buried ivory is immense, because, for some 
inscrutable reason, they seem to prefer the flavour of the points 
of the teeth, the most valuable part. 

Ivory, however, that is obtained by murder is private ivory. 
The public ivory trade among the Fans is carried on in a way 



326 BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS . CHAP. 



more in accordance with European ideas of a legitimate trade. 
The greater part of this ivory is obtained from dead elephants. 
There are in this region certain places where the elephants are 
said to go to die. A locality in one district pointed out to- 
me as such a place, was a great swamp in the forest. A 
swamp that evidently was deep in the middle, for from out its 
dark waters no swamp plant, or tree grew, and evidently its 
shores sloped suddenly, for the band of swamp plants round 
its edge was narrow. It is just possible that during the rainy 
season when most of the surrounding country would be under 
water, elephants might stray into this natural trap and get 
drowned, and on the drying up of the waters be discovered, and 
the fact being known, be regularly sought for by the natives 
cognisant of this. I inquired carefully whether these places 
where the elephants came to die always had water in them, but 
they said no, and in one district spoke of a valley or round- 
shaped depression in among the mountains. But natives were 
naturally disinclined to take a stranger to these ivory mines, 
and a white person who has caught as any one who has been 
in touch must catch ivory fever, is naturally equally disin- 
clined to give localities. 

A certain percentage of ivory collected by the Fans is 
from live elephants, but I am bound to admit that their method 
of hunting elephants is disgracefully unsportsmanlike. A herd 
of elephants is discovered by rubber hunters or by depredations 
on plantations, and the whole village, men, women, children, 
babies and dogs turn out into the forest and stalk the monsters 
into a suitable ravine, taking care not to scare them. When 
they have gradually edged the elephants on into a suitable 
place, they fell trees and wreathe them very roughly to- 
gether with bush rope, all round an immense enclosure, still 
taking care not to scare the elephants into a rush. This fence 
is quite inadequate to stop any elephant in itself, but it is made 
effective by being smeared with certain things, the smell 
whereof the elephants detest so much that when they wander 
up to it, they turn back disgusted. I need hardly remark that 
this preparation is made by the witch doctors and its con- 
stituents a secret of theirs, and I was only able to find out 
some of them. Then poisoned plantains are placed within 



AN ELEPHANT HUNT 327 



the enclosure, and the elephants eat these and grow drowsier 
and drowsier ; if the water supply within the enclosure is 
a pool it is poisoned, but if it is a running stream this 
cannot be done. During this time the crowd of men 
and women spend their days round the enclosure, ready to 
turn back any elephant who may attempt to break out, going 
to and fro to the village for their food. Their nights they spend 
in little bough shelters by the enclosure, watching more vigil- 
antly than by day, as the elephants are more active at night, 
it being their usual feeding time. During the whole time the 
witch doctor is hard at work making incantations and charms, 
with a view to finding out the proper time to attack the 
elephants. In my opinion, his decision fundamentally 
depends on his knowledge of the state of poisoning the animals 
are in, but his version is that he gets his information from the 
forest spirits. When, however, he has settled the day,- the 
best hunters steal into the enclosure and take up safe positions 
in trees, and the outer crowd set light to the ready-built fires, 
and make the greatest uproar possible, and fire upon the 
staggering, terrified elephants as they attempt to break out. 
The hunters in the trees fire down on them as they rush past, 
the fatal point at the back of the skull being well exposed to 
them. 

When the animals are nearly exhausted, those men who do 
not possess guns dash into the enclosure, and the men who 
do, reload and join them, and the work is then completed. 
One elephant hunt I chanced upon at the final stage had taken 
two months' preparation, and although the plan sounds safe 
enough, there is really a good deal of danger left in it with all 
the drugging and ju-ju. There were eight elephants killed 
that day, but three burst through everything, sending energetic 
spectators flying, and squashing two men and a baby as flat 
as botanical specimens. 

The subsequent proceedings were impressive. The whole 
of the people gorged themselves on the meat for days, and 
great chunks of it were smoked over the fires in all directions. 
A certain portion of the flesh of the hind leg was taken by 
the witch doctor for ju-ju, and was supposed to be put away 
by him, with certain suitable incantations in the recesses of 



BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP. 



the forest ; his idea being apparently either to give rise to 
more elephants, or to induce the forest spirits to bring more 
elephants into the district. Meanwhile the carcases were going 
bad, rapidly bad, and the smell for a mile round was strong 
enough to have taken the paint off a door. Moreover there 
were flies, most of the flies in West Africa, I imagine, and 
but I will say no more. I thought before this experience 
that I had touched bottom in smells when once I spent the 
outside of a week in a village, on the sand bank in front of 
which a portly hippopotamus, who had been shot up river, got 
stranded, and proceeded energetically to melt into its ele- 
mental gases ; but that was a passing whiff to this. 

Dr. Nassau tells me that the manner in which the ivory 
gained by one of these hunts is divided is as follows : " The 
witch doctdr, the chiefs, and the family on whose ground the 
enclosure is built, and especially the household whose women 
first discovered the animals, decide in council as to the divi- 
sion of the tusks and the share of the flesh to be given to the 
crowd of outsiders. The next day the tusks are removed and 
each family represented in the assemblage cuts up and distri- 
butes the flesh." In the hunt I saw finished, the elephants had 
not been discovered, as in the case Dr. Nassau above speaks 
of, in a plantation by women, but by a party of rubber hunters 
in the forest some four or five miles from any village, and the 
ivory that would have been allotted to the plantation holder 
in the former case, went in this case to the young rubber 
hunters. 

Of the method of catching game in traps I have already- 
spoken. Such are the pursuits, sports and pastimes of my 
friends the Fans. I have been considerably chaffed both by- 
whites and blacks about my partiality for this tribe, but as I 
like Africans in my way not a la Sierra Leone and 
these Africans have more of the qualities I like than any 
other tribe I have met, it is but natural that I should prefer 
them. They are brave and so you can respect them, which 
is an essential element in a friendly feeling. They are on 
the whole a fine race, particularly those in the mountain dis- 
tricts of the Sierra del Cristal, where one continually sees 
magnificent specimens of human beings, both male and 



NEVER LOSE YOUR HEAD 329 



female. Their colour is light bronze, many of the men 
have beards, and albinoes are rare among them. The aver- 
age height in the mountain districts is five feet six to five 
feet eight, the difference in stature between men and women 
not being great. Their countenances are very bright and 
-expressive, and if once you have been among them, you can 
never mistake a Fan. But it is in their mental charac- 
teristics that their difference from the lethargic, dying-out 
coast tribes is most marked. The Fan is full of fire, temper, 
intelligence and go ; very teachable, rather difficult to manage, 
quick to take offence, and utterly indifferent to human life. 
I ought to say that other people, who should know him better 
than I, say he is a treacherous, thievish, murderous canni- 
bal. I never found him treacherous ; but then I never trusted 
him, remembering one of the aphorisms of my great teacher 
Captain Boler of Bonny, " It's not safe to go among bush 
tribes, but if you are such a fool as to go, you needn't go and 
be a bigger fool still, you've done enough." And Captain 
Boler's other great aphorism was : " Never be afraid of a black 
man." " What if I can't help it ? " said I. " Don't show it," 
said he. To these precepts I humbly add another : " Never 
lose your head." My most favourite form of literature, I may 
remark, is accounts of mountaineering exploits, though I have 
never seen a glacier or a permanent snow mountain in my 
life. I do not care a row of pins how badly they may be 
written, and what form of bumble-puppy grammar and com- 
position is employed, as long as the writer will walk along the 
edge of a precipice with a sheer fall of thousands of feet on 
one side and a sheer wall on the other ; or better still crawl up 
an arete with a precipice on either. Nothing on earth would 
persuade me to do either of these things myself, but they re- 
mind me of bits of country I have been through where you 
walk along a narrow line of security with gulfs of murder 
looming on each side, and where in exactly the same way you 
are as safe as if you were in your easy chair at home, as long 
as you get sufficient holding ground : not on rock in the 
bush village inhabited by murderous cannibals, but on 
ideas in those men's and women's minds ; and these ideas, 
which I think I may say you will always find, give you safety. 



BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CHAP. 



It is not advisable to play with them, or to attempt to eradi- 
cate them, because you regard them as superstitious ; and 
never, never shoot too soon. I have never had to shoot, and 
hope never to have to ; because in such a situation, one white 
alone with no troops to back him means a clean finish. But 
this would not discourage me if I had to start, only it makes 
me more inclined to walk round the obstacle, than to become a 
mere blood splotch against it, if this can be done without 
losing your self-respect, which is the mainspring of your 
power in West Africa. 

As for flourishing about a revolver and threatening 
to fire, I hold it utter idiocy. I have never tried it, however,, 
so I speak from prejudice which arises from the feeling that 
there is something cowardly in it. Always have your revolver 
ready loaded in good order, and have your hand on it when 
things are getting warm, and in addition have an exceedingly 
good bowie knife, not a hinge knife, because with a hinge 
knife you have got to get it open hard work in a country 
where all things go rusty in the joints and hinge knives are 
liable to close on your own fingers. The best form of 
knife is the bowie, with a shallow half moon cut out of the 
back at the point end, and this depression sharpened to- 
a cutting edge. A knife is essential, because after wading 
neck deep in a swamp your revolver is neither use nor 
ornament until you have had time to clean it. But the 
chances are you may go across Africa, or live years in it,. 
and require neither. It is just the case of the gentleman 
who asked if one required a revolver in Carolina? and was 
answered, " You may be here one year, and you may be here 
two and never want it ; but when you do want it you'll want 
it very bad." 

The cannibalism of the Fans, although a prevalent habit, is^ 
no danger, I think, to white people, except as regards the 
bother it gives one in preventing one's black companions from 
getting eaten. The Fan is not a cannibal from sacrificial 
motives like the negro. He does it in his common sense way. 
Man's flesh, he says, is good to eat, very good, and he wishes 
you would try it. Oh dear no, he never eats it himself, but the 
next door town does. He is always very much abused for 



XIV 



CANNIBALISM 



eating his relations, but he really does not do this. He will 
eat his next door neighbour's relations and sell his own 




IX A FAX VILLAGE. 



deceased to his next door neighbour in return but he does 
not buy slaves and fatten them up for his table as some of 



332 BUSH TRADE AND FAN CUSTOMS CH. xiv 

the Middle Congo tribes I know of do. He has no slaves, no 
prisoners of war, no cemeteries, so you must draw your own 
conclusions. No, my friend, I will not tell you any cannibal 
stories. I have heard how good M. du Chaillu fared after 
telling you some beauties, and now you come away from the 
Fan village and down the Rembwe river. 



CHAPTER XV 

DOWN THE REMBWE 

Setting forth how the Voyager descends the Rembwe River, with divers 
excursions and alarms, in the company of a black trader, and returns 
safely to the Coast. To which is added some account of the 
geography of this region, the Gaboon and its chief affluents. 

GETTING away from Agonjo seemed as if it would be 
nearly as difficult as getting to it, but as the quarters were 
comfortable and the society fairly good, I was not anxious. 
I own the local scenery was a little too much of the Niger 
Delta type for perfect beauty, just the long lines of mangrove, 
and the muddy river lounging almost imperceptibly to sea, 
and nothing else in sight. Mr. Glass, however, did not take 
things so philosophically. I was on his commercial conscience, 
for I had come in from the bush and there was money in me. 
Therefore I was a trade product a new trade stuff that ought 
to be worked up and developed ; and he found himself unable 
to do this, for although he had secured the first parcel, as it 
were, and got it successfully stored, yet he could not ship it, 
and he felt this was a reproach to him. 

Many were his lamentations that the firm had not provided 
him with a large sailing canoe and a suitable crew to deal 
with this new line of trade. I did my best to comfort him v 
pointing out that the most enterprising firm could not be 
expected to provide expensive things like these, on the ex- 
tremely remote chance of ladies arriving per bush at Agonjo 
in fact not until the trade in them was well developed. But 
he refused to see it in this light and harped upon the subject, 
wrapped up, poor man, in a great coat and a muffler, because 



DOWN THE REMBWE CHAR 



his ague was on him. In not accepting my view I think he 
was in error, undoubted authority on bush trade though he 
is ; for I feel fairly certain that even if Messrs. Hatton and 
Cookson, or any other firm, were to run a weekly line of 
Palace steamboats with brass bands, and red-velvet saloons up 
and down the Rembwe river, there would not be sufficient white 
passenger traffic to pay for coal. Certainly not by my route, 
one that had never been taken even by a black trader before. 
But I am not thinking of taking out a patent for it ; for one 
thing, I am sure it would never become sufficiently popular 
to pay the patentee's preliminary expenses, and for another, 
the relatives of people who might attempt to use it at any 
but the short time in the year it is usable, would come down 
on me for damages. 

I next tried to convince Mr. Glass that any canoe would 
do for me to go down in. " No," he said, " any canoe will not 
do ; " and he explained that when you got down the Rembwe 
to 'Como Point you were in a rough, nasty bit of water, the 
Gaboon, which has a fine confused set of currents from the 
tidal wash and the streams of the Rembwe and 'Como rivers, 
in which it would be improbable that a river canoe could live 
any time worth mentioning. Progress below 'Como Point by 
means of mere paddling he considered impossible. There 
was nothing for it but a big sailing canoe, and there was no 
big sailing canoe to be had. I think Mr. Glass got a ray of 
comfort out of the fact that Messrs. John Holt's sub-agent 
was, equally with himself, unable to ship me. 

At this point in the affair there entered a highly dramatic 
figure. He came on to the scene suddenly and with much 
uproar, in a way that would have made his forfune in a trans- 
pontine drama. I shall always regret I have not got that 
man's portrait, for I cannot do him justice with ink. He 
dashed up on to the verandah, smote the frail form of Mr. 
Glass between the shoulders, and flung his own massive one 
into a chair. His name was Obanjo, but he liked it pronounced 
Captain Johnson, and his profession was a bush and river 
trader on his own account. Every movement of the man was 
theatrical, and he used to look covertly at you every now and 
then to see if he had produced his impression, which was 



xv CAPTAIN JOHNSON, ALIAS OBANJO 335 



evidently intended to be that of a reckless, rollicking skipper. 
There was a Hallo-my-Hearty atmosphere coming off him 
from the top of his hat to the soles of his feet, like the scent 
off a flower ; but it did not require a genius in judging men to 
see that behind, and under this was a very different sort of 
man, and if I should ever want to engage in a wild and awful 
career up a West African river I shall start on it by engaging 
Captain Johnson. He struck me as being one of those men, of 
whom I know five, whom I could rely on, that if one of them 
and I went into the utter bush together, one of us at least would 
come out alive and have made something substantial by the ven- 
ture; which is a great deal more than I could say, for example, 
of Ngouta, who was still with me, as he desired to see the glories 
of Gaboon and buy a hanging lamp. I will not commence 
that hanging lamp palaver here, however, but remark that 
Ngouta persisted in regarding himself as still surrounded by 
danger at Agonjo. 

Captain Johnson's attire calls for especial comment and 
admiration. However disconnected the two sides of his char- 
acter might be, his clothes bore the impress of both of his 
natures to perfection. He wore, when first we met, a huge 
sombrero hat, a spotless singlet, and a suit of clean, well- 
got-up dungaree, and an uncommonly picturesque, powerful 
figure he cut in them, with his finely moulded, well-knit form 
and good-looking face, full of expression always, but always 
with the keen small eyes in it watching the effect his genial 
smiles and hearty laugh produced. The eyes were the eyes 
of Obanjo, the rest of the face the property of Captain John- 
son. I do not mean to say that they were the eyes of a bad 
bold man, but you had not to look twice at them to see they 
belonged to a man courageous in the African manner, full of 
energy and resource, keenly intelligent and self-reliant, and all 
that sort of thing. 

I left him and the refined Mr. Glass together to talk over the 
palaver of shipping me, and they talked it at great length. 
Finally the price I was to pay Obanjo was settled and we 
proceeded to less important details. It seemed Obanjo, when 
up the river this time, had set about constructing a new and 
large trading canoe at one of his homes, in which he was just 



336 DOWN THE REMBWE CHAP. 



thinking of taking his goods down to Gaboon. The only 
drawback was this noble vessel \vas not finished ; but 
that did not discourage any of us, except Mr. Glass, who 
seemed to think the firm would debit me to his account if 
I got lost. However, next morning Obanjo with his vessel 
turned up, and saying farewell to my kind host, Mr. Sanga 
Glass, I departed. 

She had the makings of a fine vessel in her ; though roughly 
hewn out of an immense hard-wood tree : her lines were good, 
and her type was that of the big sea-canoes of the Bight of 
Panavia. Very far forward was a pole mast, roughly made r 
but European in intention, and carrying a long gaff. Shrouds 
and stays it had not, and my impression was that it would 
be carried away if we dropped in for half a tornado, until I 
saw our sail and recognised that it would go to darning cotton 
instantly if it fell in with even a breeze. It was a bed quilt that 
had evidently been in the family some years, and although it 
had been in places carefully patched with pieces of previous 
sets of the captain's dungarees, in other places, where it had not,, 
it gave " free passage to the airs of Heaven " ; which I may 
remark does not make for speed in the boat mounting such 
canvas. Partly to this sail, partly to the amount of trading 
affairs we attended to, do I owe the credit of having made 
a record trip down the Rembwe, the slowest white man time 
on record. 

Fixed across the stern of the canoe there was the usual 
staging made of bamboos, flush with the gunwale. Now 
this sort of staging is an exceedingly good idea when it is 
fully finished. You can stuff no end of things under it ; 
and over it there is erected a hood of palm-thatch, giving* 
a very comfortable cabin five or six feet long and about 
three feet high in the centre, and you can curl yourself up in 
it and, if you please, have a mat hung across the opening. 
But we had not got so far as that yet on our vessel, only just 
got the staging fixed in fact ; and I assure you a bamboo stag- 
ing is but a precarious perch when in this stage of formation. 
I made myself a reclining couch on it in the Roman manner 
with my various belongings, and was exceeding comfortable 
until we got nearly out of the Rembwe into the Gaboon. 



A TRYING SITUATION 



Then came grand times. Our noble craft had by this time 
got a good list on her from our collected cargo ill stowed. 
This made my home, the bamboo staging, about as reposeful a 
place as the slope of a writing desk would be if well polished ; 
and the rough and choppy sea gave our vessel the most 
peculiar set of motions imaginable. She rolled, \vhich made 
it precarious for things on the bamboo staging, but still a 
legitimate motion, natural and foreseeable. In addition to 
this, she had a cataclysmic kick in her, that I think the 
heathenish thing meant to be a pitch which no mortal being 
could foresee or provide against, and which projected portable 
property into the waters of the Gaboon over the stern and on 
to the conglomerate collection in the bottom of the canoe 
itself, making Obanjo repeat, with ferocity and feeling, words 
he had heard years ago, when he was boatswain on a 
steamboat trading on the Coast. It was fortunate, you 
will please understand, for my future, that I have usually 
been on vessels of the British African or the Royal African 
lines when voyaging about this West African sea-board, 
as the owners of these vessels prohibit the use of bad 
language on board, or goodness only knows what words 
I might not have remembered and used in the Gaboon 
estuary. 

We left Agonjo with as much bustle and shouting and 
general air of brisk seamanship as Obanjo could impart to the 
affair, and the hopeful mind might have expected to reach 
somewhere important by nightfall. I did not expect that ; 
neither, on the other hand, did I expect that after we had 
gone a mile and only four, as the early ballad would say, that 
we should pull up and anchor against a small village for the 
night ; but this we did, the captain going ashore to see for 
cargo, and to get some more crew. 

There were grand times ashore that night, and the captain 
returned on board about 2 A.M. with some rubber and pissava 
and two new hands whose appearance fitted them to join 
our vessel ; for a more villainous-looking set than our crew I 
never laid eye on. One enormously powerful fellow looked the 
incarnation of the horrid negro of buccaneer stories, and I 
admired Obanjo for the way he kept them in hand. We 

z 



338 DOWN THE REMBWE CHAP.. 

had now also acquired a small dug-out canoe as tender,, 
and a large fishing-net. 

About 4 A.M. in the moonlight we started to drop down 
river on the tail of the land breeze, and as I observed Obanjo- 
wanted to sleep I offered to steer. After putting me through 
an examination in practical seamanship, and passing me, he- 
gladly accepted my offer, handed over the tiller which stuck 
out across my bamboo staging, and went and curled himself" 
up, falling sound asleep among the crew in less time than it: 
takes to write. On the other nights we spent on this voyage 
I had no need to offer to steer ; he handed over charge to me- 
as a matter of course, and as I prefer night to day in Africa^ 
I enjoyed it. Indeed, much as I have enjoyed life in Africa,, 
I do not think I ever enjoyed it to the full as I did : 
on those nights dropping down the Rembwe. The great,, 
black, winding river with a pathway in its midst of frosted 
silver where the moonlight struck it : on each side the ink- 
black mangrove walls, and above them the band of star and 
moonlit heavens that the walls of mangrove allowed one to- 
see. Forward rose the form of our sail, idealised from bed- 
sheetdom to glory ; and the little red glow of our cooking 
fire gave a single note of warm colour to the cold light of the 
moon. Three or four times during the second night, while 
I was steering along by the south bank, I found the man- 
grove wall thinner, and standing up, looked through the net- 
work of their roots and stems on to what seemed like plains, 
acres upon acres in extent, of polished silver more 
specimens of those awful slime lagoons, one of which, be- 
fore we reached Ndorko, had so very nearly collected me. I 
watched them, as we leisurely stole past, with a sort of 
fascination. On the second night, towards the dawn, I had 
the great joy of seeing Mount Okoneto, away to the S.W., 
first showing moonlit, and then taking the colours of the 
dawn before they reached us down below. Ah me ! give me 
a West African river and a canoe for sheer good pleasure.. 
Drawbacks, you say ? Well, yes, but where are there not 
drawbacks? The only drawbacks on those Rembwe nights 
were the series of horrid frights I got by steering on 
to tree shadows and thinking they were mud banks, or trees. 



xv NOCTURNAL NAVIGATION 339 



themselves, so black and solid did they seem. I never roused 
the watch fortunately, but got her off the shadow gallantly 
single-handed every time, and called myself a fool instead of 
getting called one. My nautical friends carp at me for get- 
ting on shadows, but I beg them to consider before they judge 
me, whether they have ever steered at night down a river quite 
unknown to them an unhandy canoe, with a bed-sheet sail, 
by the light of the moon. And what with my having a theory 
of my own regarding the proper way to take a vessel round 
a corner, and what with having to keep the wind in the bed- 
sheet where the bed-sheet would hold it, it's a wonder to me 
I did not cast that vessel away, or go and damage Africa. 

By daylight the Rembwe scenery was certainly not so- 
lovely, and might be slept through without a pang. It had 
monotony, without having enough of it to amount to 
grandeur. Every now and again we came to villages, each of 
which was situated on a heap of clay and sandy soil, pre-' 
sumably the end of a spit of land running out into the 
mangrove swamp fringing the river. Every village we saw 
we went alongside and had a chat with, and tried to look up 
cargo in the proper way. One village in particular did we 
have a lively time at. Obanjo had a wife and home there,, 
likewise a large herd of goats, some of which he was desirous 
of taking down with us to sell at Gaboon. It was a pleasant- 
looking village, with a clean yellow beach which most of the 
houses faced. But it had ramifications in the interior. I 
being very lazy, did not go ashore, but watched the panto- 
mime from the bamboo staging. The whole flock of goats 
enter at right end of stage, and tear violently across the 
scene, disappearing at left. Two minutes elapse. Obanjo 
and his gallant crew enter at right hand of stage, leg it 
like lamplighters across front, and disappear at left. Fear- 
ful pow-wow behind the scenes. Five minutes elapse. Enter 
goats at right as before, followed by Obanjo and company as 
before, and so on da capo. It was more like a fight I once 
saw between the armies of Macbeth and Macduff than any- 
thing I have seen before or since ; only our Rembwe play was 
better put on, more supers, and noise, and all that sort of 
thing, you know. It was a spirited performance I assure you 

z 2 



340 DOWN THE REMBWE CHAP. 



and I and the inhabitants of the village, not personally 
interested in goat-catching, assumed the role of audience and 
cheered it to the echo. While engaged in shouting " Encore " 
to the third round, I received a considerable shock by hearing 
a well-modulated evidently educated voice -saying in most 
perfect English : 

" Most diverting spectacle, madam, is it not ? " 

Now you do not expect to hear things called " diverting 
spectacles " on the Rembwe ; so I turned round and saw stand- 
ing on the bank against which our canoe was moored, what 
appeared to me to be an English gentleman who had from 
some misfortune gone black all over and lost his trousers and 
been compelled to replace them with a highly ornamental 
table-cloth. The rest of his wardrobe was in exquisite con- 
dition, with the usual white jean coat, white shirt and collar, 
very neat tie, and felt hat affected by white gentlemen out 
here. Taking a large and powerful cigar from his lips with one 
hand, he raised his hat gracefully with the other and said : 

" Pray excuse me, madam." 

I said, " Oh, please go on smoking." 

" May I ? " he said, offering me a cigar-case. 

" Oh, no thank you," I replied. 

" Many ladies do now," he said, and asked me whether I 
** preferred Liverpool, London, or Paris." 

I said, " Paris ; but there were nice things in both the other 
cities." 

" Indeed that is so," he said ; " they have got many very 
decent works of art in the St. George's Hall." 

I agreed, but said I thought the National Gallery preferable 
because there you got such fine representative series of works 
of the early Italian schools. I felt I had got to rise to this 
man whoever he was, somehow, and having regained my nerve, 
I was coming up hand over hand to the level of his culture 
when Obanjo and the crew arrived, carrying goats. Obanjo 
dropped his goat summarily into the hold, and took off his hat 
with his very best bow to my new acquaintance, who acknow- 
ledged the salute with a delicious air of condescension. 

" Introduce me," said the gentleman. 

" I cannot," said Obanjo. 



xv PRINCE MAKAGA 341 



" I regret, madam," said the gentleman, " I have not 
Drought my card-case with me. One little expects in 
such a remote region to require one ; my name is Prince 
Makaga." * 

I said I was similarly card-caseless for reasons identical with 
his own, but gave him my name and address, and Obanjo, 
having got all aboard, including a member of the crew, fetched 
by the leg, shoved off, and with many bows we and the 
black gentleman parted. As soon as we were out of earshot 
from shore " Who is he, Obanjo ? " said I. Obanjo laughed, 
and said he was a M'pongwe gentleman who had at one time 
been agent for one of the big European firms at Gaboon, and 
had been several times to Europe. Thinking that he could 
make more money on his own account, he had left the firm 
and started trading all round this district. At first he made a 
great deal of money, but a lot of his trust had recently gone 
bad, and he was doubtless up here now looking after some 
such matter. Obanjo evidently thought him too much of a 
lavender-kid-glove gentleman to deal with bush trade, and 
held it was the usual way ; a man got spoilt by going to 
Europe. I quite agree with him on general lines, but Prince 
Makaga had a fine polish on him without the obvious conceit 
usually found in men who have been home. 

We had another cheerful little incident that afternoon. 
While we were going along softly, softly as was our wont, in 
the broiling heat, I wishing I had an umbrella for sitting on 
that bamboo stage with no sort of protection from the sun 
was hot work after the forest shade I had had previously 
two small boys in two small canoes shot out from the bank 
and paddled hard to us and jumped on board. After a few 

1 "Makaga, an honourable name, which only one man, and he the 
bravest and best hunter in the tribe, may bear. The office of the Makaga 
is to lead all desperate affairs for instance, if any one has murdered one 
of his fellow-villagers, and the murderer's town refuses to give him up 
(which is almost always the case, they thinking it is a shame to surrender 
any one who has taken refuge with them), then it is the business of the 
Makaga to take the best men of his village, and lead them to the 
assault of that which protects the murderer, and destroy it with its 
inhabitants." Du Chailhfs Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial 
Africa, 1861, p. 393. 



342 DOWN THE REMBWE CHAP. 



minutes' conversation with Obanjo one of them carefully sank 
his canoe ; the other just turned his adrift and they joined 
our crew. I saw they were Fans, as indeed nearly all the 
crew were, but I did not think much of the affair. Our 
tender, the small canoe, had been sent out as usual with the 
big black man and another A. B. to fish ; it being one of our 
industries to fish hard all the time with that big net. The 
fish caught, sometimes a bushel or two at a time, almost all 
grey mullet, were then brought alongside, split open, and 
cleaned. We then had all round as many of them for supper 
as we wanted, the rest we hung on strings over our fire, more 
or less insufficiently smoking them to prevent decomposition, 
it being Obanjo's intention to sell them when he made his next 
trip up the 'Como ; for the latter being less rich in fish than 
the Rembwe they would command a good price there. We 
always had our eye on things like this, being, I proudly 
remark, none of your gilded floating hotel of a ferry-boat like 
those Cunard or White Star liners are, but just a good trader 
that was not ashamed to pay, and not afraid of work. 

Well, just after we had leisurely entered a new reach of 
the river, round the corner after us, propelled at a phe- 
nomenal pace, came our fishing canoe, which we had left 
behind to haul in the net and then rejoin us. The occu- 
pants, particularly the big black A. B., were shouting something 
in terror stricken accents. " What ? " says Obanjo springing 
to his feet. " The Fan ! the Fan ! " shouted the canoe men 
as they shot towards us like agitated chickens making for 
their hen. In another moment they w r ere alongside and 
tumbling over our gunwale into the bottom of the vessel still 
crying " The Fan ! The Fan ! The Fan ! " Obanjo then by 
means of energetic questioning externally applied, and accom- 
panied by florid language that cast a rose pink glow, smelling of 
sulphur, round us, elicited the information that about 40,000 
Fans, armed with knives and guns, were coming down the 
Rembwe with intent to kill and slay us, and might be expected 
to arrive within the next half wink. On hearing this, the whole 
of our gallant crew took up masterly recumbent positions in 
the bottom of our vessel and turned gray round the lips. 
But Obanjo rose to the situation like ten lions. " Take the 



-xv A RACE FOR LIFE 343 



rudder," he shouted to me, " take her into the middle of the 
.stream and keep the sail full." It occurred to me that per- 
haps a position underneath the bamboo staging might be 
more healthy than one on the top of it, exposed to every 
microbe of a bit of old iron and what not and a half that 
-according to native testimony would shortly be frisking through 
the atmosphere from those Fan guns ; and moreover I had not 
forgotten having been previously shot in a somewhat similar 
situation, though in better company. However I did not say 
anything ; neither, between ourselves, did I somehow believe 
in those Fans. So regardless of danger, I grasped the helm, 
and sent our gallant craft flying before the breeze down the 
.bosom of the great wild river (that's the proper way to put it, 
but in the interests of science it may be translated into crawling 
.towards the middle). Meanwhile Obanjo performed prodigies 
of valour all over the place. He triced up the mainsail, 
stirred up his faint-hearted crew, and got out the sweeps, i.e. 
one old oar and four paddles, and with this assistance we 
solemnly trudged away from danger at a pace that nothing 
slower than a Thames dumb barge, going against stream, 
could possibly overhaul. Still we did not feel safe, and I 
suggested to Ngouta he should rise up and help ; but he 
declined, stating he was a married man. Obanjo cheering the 
paddlers with inspiriting words sprang with the agility of a 
leopard on to the bamboo staging aft, standing there with 
his gun ready loaded and cocked to face the coming foe, look- 
ing like a statue put up to himself at the public expense. 
The worst of this was, however, that while Obanjo's face was 
to the coming foe, his back was to the crew, and they forthwith 
commenced to re-subside into the bottom of the boat, paddles 
.and all. I, as second in command, on seeing this, said a few 
.blood-stirring words to them, and Obanjo sent a few more of 
:great power at them over his shoulder, and so we kept the 
paddles going. 

Presently from round the corner shot a Fan canoe. It con- 
tained a lady in the bows, weeping and wringing her hands, 
while another lady sympathetically howling, paddled it. 
Obanjo in lurid language requested to be informed why they 
were following us. The lady in the bows said, " My son ! my 



344 DOWN THE REMBWE CHAP.. 



son ! " and in a second more three other canoes shot round the 
corner full of men with guns. Now this looked like business,, 
so Obanjo and I looked round to urge our crew to greater exer- 
tions and saw, to our disgust, that the gallant band had suc- 
cessfully subsided into the bottom of the boat while we had 
been eying the foe. Obanjo gave me a recipe for getting the 
sweeps out again. I did not follow it, but got the job- 
done, for Obanjo could not take his eye and gun off the 
leading canoe and the canoes having crept up to within some 
twenty yards of us, poured out their simple tale of woe. 

It seemed that one of those miscreant boys was a runaway 
from a Fan village. He had been desirous, with the usual 
enterprise of young Fans, of seeing the great world that he 
knew lay down at the mouth of the river, i.e. Libreville Gaboon. 
He had pleaded with his parents for leave to go down and 
engage in work there, but the said parents holding the tender- 
ness of his youth unfitted to combat with Coast Town life 
and temptation, refused this request, and so the young rascal' 
had run away without leave and with a canoe, and was sur- 
mised to have joined the well-known Obanjo. Obanjo owned' 
he had (more armed canoes were coming round the corner),, 
and said if the mother would come and fetch her boy she 
could have him. He for his part would not have dreamed 
of taking him if he had known his relations disapproved.. 
Every one seemed much relieved, except the causa belli.. 
The Fans did not ask about two boys and providentially 
we gave the lady the right one. He went reluctantly. I 
feel pretty nearly sure he foresaw more kassengo than fatted 
calf for him on his return home. When the Fan canoes were 
well back round the corner again, we had a fine hunt for the 
other boy, and finally unearthed him from under the bamboo 
staging. When we got him out he told the same tale. He 
also was a runaway who wanted to see the world, and taking 
the opportunity of the majority of the people of his village 
being away hunting, he had slipped off one night in a canoe,, 
and dropped down river to the village of the boy who had 
just been reclaimed. The two boys had fraternised, and come 
on the rest of their way together, lying waiting, hidden up a 
creek, for Obanjo, who they knew was coming down river ; and 



xv NAUTICAL PROBLEMS 345; 



having successfully got picked up by him, they thought they 
were safe. But after this affair boy number two judged there 
was no more safety yet, and that his family would be down 
after him very shortly; for he said he was a more valuable and 
important boy than his late companion, but his family were 
an uncommon savage set. We felt not the least anxiety to 
make their acquaintance, so clapped heels on our gallant craft 
and kept the paddles going, and as no more Fans were in 
sight our crew kept at work bravely. While Obanjo, now in 
a boisterous state of mind, and flushed with victory, said 
things to them about the way they had collapsed when those 
two women in a canoe came round that corner, that must 
have blistered their feelings, but they never winced. They 
laughed at the joke against themselves merrily. The other 
boy's family we never saw and so took him safely to Gaboon,, 
where Obanjo got him a good place. 

Really how much danger there was proportionate to the large 
amount of fear on our boat I cannot tell you. It never struck 
me there was any, but on the other hand the crew and Obanjo- 
evidently thought it was a bad place ; and my white face would 
have been no protection, for the Fans would not have suspected 
a white of being on such a canoe and might have fired on us 
if they had been unduly irritated and not treated by Obanjo 
with that fine compound of bully and blarney that he is such 
a master of. 

Whatever may have been the true nature of the affair, how- 
ever, it had one good effect, it got us out of the Rembwe into 
the Gaboon, and although at the time this seemed a doubtful 
blessing, it made for progress. I had by this time mastered 
the main points of incapability in our craft. A. we could not 
go against the wind. B. we could not go against the tide. 
While we were in the Rembwe there was a state we will 
designate as C the tide coming one way, the wind another. 
With this state we could progress, backwards if the wind 
came up against us too strong, but seawards if it did not, and 
the tide was running down. If the tide was running up, and 
the wind was coming down, then we went seaward, softly,, 
softly alongside the mangrove bank, where the rip of the tide 
stream is least. When, however, we got down off 'Como Point>. 



I 



346 DOWN THE REMBWE CHAP. 

we met there a state I will designate as D a fine confused set 
-of marine and fluvial phenomena. For away to the north the 
'Como and Boque and two other lesser, but considerable 
streams, were, with the Rernbwe, pouring down their waters in 
swirling, intermingling, interclashing currents ; and up against 
them, to make confusion worse confounded, came the tide, and 
the tide up the Gaboon is a swift strong thing, and irregular, 
and has a rise of eight feet at the springs, two-and-a-half at 
the neaps. The wind was lulled too, it being evening time. In 
this country it is customary for the wind to blow from the land 
from 8 P.M. until 8 A.M., from the south-west to the east. 
Then comes a lull, either an utter dead hot brooding calm, 
or light baffling winds and draughts that breathe a few 
panting hot breaths into your sails and die. Then comes the 
sea breeze up from the south-south-west or north-west, some 
-days early in the forenoon, some days not till two or three 
o'clock. This breeze blows till sundown, and then comes 
another and a hotter calm. 

Fortunately for us we arrived off the head of the Gaboon 
estuary in this calm, for had we had wind to deal with \ve 
should have come to an end. There were one or two wandering 
puffs, about the first one of which sickened our counterpane of 
its ambitious career as a marine sail, so it came away from its 
gaff and spread itself over the crew, as much as to say, u Here, 
I've had enough of this sailing. I'll be a counterpane again." 
We did a great deal of fine varied, spirited navigation, details of 
which, however, I will not dwell upon because it was successful. 
We made one or two circles, taking on water the while and 
then returned into the south bank backwards. At that bank 
we wisely stayed for the night, our meeting with the Gaboon 
so far having resulted in wrecking our sail, making Ngouta 
sea-sick and me exasperate ; for from our noble vessel having 
during the course of it demonstrated for the first time her 
cataclysmic kicking power, I had had a time of it with my 
belongings on the bamboo stage. A basket constructed for 
catching human souls in, given me as a farewell gift by a 
valued friend, a witch doctor, and in which I kept the few 
things in life I really cared for, i.e., my brush, comb, tooth 
.brush, and pocket handkerchiefs, went over the stern ; while I 



BAGGAGE OVERBOARD ! 347 



recovering this with my fishing line (such was the excellent 
nature of the thing, I am glad to say it floated) a black bag 
with my blouses and such essentials went away to leeward, 
Obanjo recovered that, but meanwhile my little portmanteau 
containing my papers and trade tobacco slid off to leeward ; 
.and as it also contained geological specimens of the Sierra del 
Cristal, a massive range of mountains, it must have hopelessly 
sunk had it not been for the big black, who grabbed it. All 
my bedding, six Equetta cloths, given me by Mr. Hamilton in 
Opobo River before I came South, did get away successfully, 
.but were picked up by means of the fishing line, wet but safe. 
After this I did not attempt any more Roman reclining couch 
luxuries, but stowed all my loose gear under the bamboo 
staging, and spent the night on the top of the stage, dozing 
precariously with my head on my knees. 

When the morning broke, looking seaward I saw the wel- 
come forms of Konig and Perroquet Islands away in the 
distance, looking, as is their wont, like two lumps of cloud that 
.have dropped on to the broad Gaboon, and I felt that I was 
.at last getting near something worth reaching, i.e. Glass, 
which though still out of sight, I knew lay away to the west 
of those islands on the northern shore of the estuary. And if 
.any one had given me the choice of being in Glass within 
twenty-four hours from the mouth of the Rembwe, or in Paris 
or London in a week, I would have chosen Glass without 
.a moment's hesitation. Much as I dislike West Coast towns 
.as a general rule, there are exceptions, and of all exceptions, 
the one I like most is undoubtedly Glass Gaboon; and its 
charms loomed large on that dank chilly morning after 
a night spent on a bamboo staging in an unfinished native 
canoe. 

I may as well attempt to give you here a brief sketch of the 
local geography of the head of the Gaboon estuary, for I seem 
the immediate English successor, in the way of travellers, to 
Mr. Winwood Reade, who was here in '63. He came up the 
estuary, and up into the 'Como, which he ascended as far as 
the rapids rapids caused as usual in this country by the rocks 
-of the Sierra del Cristal. Above these rapids, I hear from 
>native sources, the 'Como is formed by a succession of smaller 



348 DOWN THE REMBWE CHAP.. 

streams having their origin in the mountain range. The 
'Como falls into the Gaboon on its northern bank, at its 
eastern end, and is probably the largest of its tributaries.. 
A little distance up, the 'Como, or more properly written, the 
Nkama, is joined on its south bank by the Boque or Bakwe. 
Their joint stream, called the Olomb'ompolo, falls into the 
Gaboon. On the broad peninsula of land that separates 
the mouth of the 'Como from that of the Rembwe are two- 
other rivers of less magnitude. The mouth of the Rembwe, 
about one and a half miles wide, is on the southern bank 
of the eastern end of the Gaboon. This southern bank is 
one low stretch of sandy land between thirty-five and forty 
miles long, having on it numerous native M'pongwe vil- 
lages, but no white settlement whatsoever. It ends at 
Pongara Point, the western seaward termination of the 
estuary, which is above nine miles off from the northern 
shore's western termination Cape Santa Clara. 

The Rembwe, like the 'Como, is said to rise in the Sierra del 
Cristal. It is navigable to a place called Isango which is 
above Agonjo ; just above Agonjo it receives an affluent on 
its southern bank and runs through mountain country, where 
its course is blocked by rapids for anything but small canoes. 
Obanjo did not seem to think this mattered, as there was not 
much trade up there, and therefore no particular reason why 
any one should want to go higher up. Moreover he said the 
natives were an exceedingly bad lot ; but Obanjo usually thinks 
badly of the bush natives in these regions. Anyhow they are 
Fans and Fans are Fans. He was anxious for me, however,, 
to start on a trading voyage with him up another river, a 
notorious river, in the neighbouring Spanish territory. The 
idea was I should buy goods at Glass and we should go 
together and he would buy ivory with them in the interior. I 
anxiously inquired where my profits were to come in. Obanjo- 
who had all the time suspected me of having trade motives,, 
artfully said, " What for you come across from Ogowe ? You 
say, see this country. Ah ! I say you come with me. I show 
you plenty country, plenty men, elephants, leopards, gorillas. 
Oh ! plenty thing. Then you say where's my trade ? " I 
disclaimed trade motives in a lordly way. Then says he,. 



xv DECLINING TRADE 349 



'"You come with me up there." I said I'd see about it later on, 
for the present I had seen enough men, elephants, gorillas and 
leopards, and I preferred to go into wild districts under the 
French flag to any flag. I am still thinking about taking that 
voyage, but I'll not march through Coventry with the crew we 
had down the Rembwe that's flat, as Sir John Falstaff says. 
Picture to yourselves, my friends, the charming situation of 
being up a river surrounded by rapacious savages with a lot 
of valuable goods in a canoe and with only a crew to defend 
them possessed of such fighting mettle as our crew had 
demonstrated themselves to be. Obanjo might be all right, 
would be I dare say ; but suppose he got shot and you had 
eighteen stone odd of him thrown on your hands in addition 
to your other little worries. There is little doubt such an 
excursion would be rich in incident and highly interesting, 
but I am sure it would be, from a commercial point of view, a 
failure. 

Trade however, even when carried on in a safer, saner way 
than our above scheme provides, is falling off on the Rembwe 
and 'Como. The white firms no longer find it pays to put 
white agents up at the factories on the Rembwe at Agonjo 
and Isango, and on the 'Como at N'enge N'enge, although they 
still keep the factories going under black agents. N'enge 
N'enge, a large island just inside the 'Como mouth by the con- 
fluence with the Boque, has still a white representative 
missionary of the American Presbyterian Mission the mis- 
sion that first commenced working in this Gaboon, Ogowe, 
and Batanga region ; and the station at N'enge N'enge is still 
in connection with the headquarters of this mission at Baraka, 
not having been handed over with the Ogowe stations to the 
Mission Evangelique of Paris. But apart from this mission 
station and the evangelising tours made by the energetic 
Roman Catholic priests, the upper Gaboon region is not 
much troubled by white enterprise. Now and again that very 
hard-working little vessel, the gunboat stationed at Libreville, 
goes up river to see whether the natives are behaving properly, 
or to point out their errors to them. 

The reason for the falling off of the trade in this particular 
district is, I suspect, not as is suggested the impoverishment 



350 DOWN THE REMBWE CHAP.. 

of the country from export trade articles being exhausted, but 
arises from the Fan invasion having upset things, and also^ 
from the trade being diverted to the Ogowe ; owing to the 
enterprising way the French have opened up that river since 
say the sixties. Before the sixties., the Ogowe was practic- 
ally only a legend in the native tongue. Now the enterprise 
of France has made it a practical trade outlet for a great part 
of some of the richest country in West Africa ; and the upper 
Rembwe trade has been drained in that direction. A very 
similar case to that of Bonny, whose trade has of late years 
pitifully fallen away, being drained towards Opobo by the 
greater ability and power of the Opobo chiefs. 

Trade has a fascination for me, and going transversely across, 
the nine-mile-broad rough Gaboon estuary in an unfinished, 
canoe with an inefficient counterpane sail has none ; but 
I return duty bound to this unpleasant subject. We started 
very early in the morning. We reached the other side en- 
tangled in the trailing garments of the night. I was thankful 
during that broiling hot day of one thing, and that was that 
if Sister Ann was looking out across the river, as was Sister 
Ann's invariable way of spending spare moments, Sister Ann, 
would never think I was in a canoe that made such auda- 
ciously bad tacks, missed stays, got into irons, and in general! 
behaved in a way that ought to have lost her captain his cer- 
tificate. Just as the night came down, however, we reached 
the northern shore of the Grand Gaboon at Dongila, just off 
the mouth of the 'Como, still some eleven miles east of Konig 
Island, and further still from Glass, but on the same side of 
the river, which seemed good work. The foreshore here is 
very rocky, so we could not go close alongside but anchored 
out among the rocks. At this place there is a considerable 
village and a station of the Roman Catholic Mission. When 
we arrived a nun was down on the shore with her school 
children, who were busy catching shell-fish and generally 
merry-making. Obanjo went ashore in the tender, and the 
holy sister kindly asked me, by him, to come ashore and 
spend the night ; but I was dead tired and felt quite unfit for 
polite society after the long broiling hot day and getting 
soaked by water that had washed on board. Moreover I learnt 



xv INVOLUNTARY IMMERSION 351- 



she could not speak English, and I shrank in my condition 
from attempting to evolve the French language out of my 
inner consciousness ; feeling quite certain I should get much 
misunderstood by the gentle, clean, tidy lady, and she might 
put me down as an ordinary specimen of Englishwoman, and 
so I should bring disgrace on my nation. If I had been able 
to dress up, ashore I would have gone, but as it was I wrote 
her a note explaining things and thanking her. 

We lay off Dongila all night, because of the tide. I lay off 
everything, Dongila, canoe and all a little after midnight 
Obanjo and almost all the crew stayed on shore that night, 
and I rolled myself up in an Equetta cloth and went sound 
and happily asleep on the bamboo staging, leaving the canoe 
pitching slightly. About midnight some change in the tide,, 
or original sin in the canoe, caused her to softly swing round 
a bit, and the next news was that I was in the water. I had 
long expected this to happen, so was not surprised, but highly 
disgusted, and climbed on board, needless to say, streaming.. 
So, in the darkness of the night I got my portmanteau from 
the hold and thoroughly tidied up. The next morning we 
were off early, coasting along to Glass, and safely arriving 
there, I attempted to look as unconcerned as possible, and 
vaguely hoped Mr. Hudson would be down in Libreville ; for I 
was nervous about meeting him, knowing that since he had 
carefully deposited me in safe hands with Mme. Jacot, with 
many injunctions to be careful, that there were many inci- 
dents in my career that would not meet with his approval. 
Vain hope ! he was on the pier. He did not approve. He 
had heard of most of my goings on. 

The agent for the German house at Lembarene had come 
to Libreville a few days before in the legitimate way, i.e. down 
the Ogowe in a little steamer, and on to a mail boat at Fernan 
Vaz, and thence to Libreville, and had brought the news that I 
was reported to have left Kangwe, going in the direction of 
the Rembwe. Knowing I ought to reach Agonjo, Mr. Hudson 
had most kindly sent a surf-boat with a good crew up the 
Rembwe to fetch me down. We never saw this surf- boat as 
we came down. I expect we were dodging round some 
corner or another after trade, or lying away in a swamp creek 



352 DOWN THE REMBWE CH. xv 



for the night. But this in no way detracts from my great 
obligation to Mr. Hudson for sending up for me, but adds 
another item to the great debt of gratitude I owe him ; for 
had it not been for him I should never have seen the interior 
of this beautiful region of the Ogowe. I tried to explain to 
him how much I had enjoyed myself and how I realised 
I owed it all to him ; but he persisted in his opinion that my 
intentions and ambitions were suicidal, and took me down the 
Woermann Road, the ensuing Sunday, as it were on a string. 




[To face p. 353, 



DE BRAZZA. 



CHAPTER XVI 

CONGO FRANCAIS 

In which a paean in honour of the great Ogowe explorers is sung by the 
Voyager, to which is added a great deal of very congested information 
on the geography in general of Congo Franc^ais. 1 

BEFORE leaving the Ogowe region I must attempt to give 
you a general resume of its geography ; for my own journals 
kept, while in it, contain this information in so scattered a 
state, that no one save an expert in this bit of Africa would 
understand the full bearing of them ; and it would have to be 
an enthusiastic expert who would take the trouble of piecing 
the information together. 

My reason for going into these geographical details at 
all, is that I think I may say no region in Africa, certainly 
no region of equal importance, is so little known in England. 

The history of the exploration of the upper regions of the 
Ogowe may be written in the life of one man, that of the 
greatest of all West African explorers, M. de Brazza ; and it 
is impossible for any one to fail to regard him with the 
greatest veneration, when one knows from personal acquaint- 
ance the make of country and the dangerousness of the 
native population with which he has had to deal and with 
which he still deals, restlessly but wisely pushing always 
onwards to expand the territories of the country of his 

1 I have used the names of places as they have been published by the 
various travellers referred to ; but, owing to the kindness of Mr. R. B. N. 
Walker, I have since my return had from him a list of these names 
spelt in conformation with the native pronunciation, and, thinking that 
they may be valuable to subsequent travellers, I will occasionally append 
them in footnotes. 

A A 



354 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 



adoption, France. It requires indeed some one who has 
personally sampled Africa to form a just estimate of the 
value of certain bits of work from what I may call an artistic 
standpoint. The "arm-chair explorer" may be impressed 
by the greatness of length of the red line route of an 
explorer ; but the person locally acquainted with the region 
may know that some of those long red lines are very easily 
made in Africa thanks to the exertions of travellers who 
have gone before, or to what one of my German friends once 
poetically called the lamblike-calfheadedness of the natives, 
or to the country itself being of a reasonably traversable 
nature. In other regions a small red line means 400 times 
the work and danger, and requires 4,000 times the pluck, per- 
severance and tact. These regions we may call choice spots. 

I do not mean to depreciate the value of extensive travel in 
Africa, far from it. It has an enormous value and so obvious 
a one that I need not dwell on it ; but the man who com- 
bines the two who makes his long red line pass through great 
regions of choice spots deserves especial admiration; and 
when in addition to traversing them, he attains power over 
their natives, and retains it, welding the districts into a whole, 
making the flag of his country respected and feared therein, he 
is a very great man indeed ; and such a man is de Brazza. 
Such a man Mr. Stanley might have been had it not been for 
matters I will not enter into here, for it would involve us in 
a discussion on the Congo Free State. 

M. de Brazza's first journey into the interior l of Congo 
Frangais was made in 1875-78 when, accompanied by MM. 
Ballay and Marche he reached the upper w r aters of the 
Ogowe and then pushed east and northwards, discovering 
two new rivers, the Alima and the Licona, both of which he 
surmised were tributaries of the Congo. He at once saw the 
importance of these rivers to the French possessions ; for, by 
them, access would be obtained to the Congo, above the great 
barrier of navigation on that river, the Livingstone rapids. 
He convinced the authorities at home of this and was com- 
manded by the African Association (French Committee) and 

1 See Proceedings of Geographical Society of Paris for June 23rd, 1882, 
quoted in Proceedings of Royal Geographical Society, August, 1882. 



DE BRAZZA 355 



by the Government to make a second journey in order to 
trace the Alima to the Congo ; to establish civilising stations, 
one on the Ogowe and one on the Congo; and to cultivate the 
friendship of the native tribes throughout the region. 

The Chambers voted a grant towards the expenses, and he 
left France for Africa on the 27th of December, 1879 M. 
Ballay, his companion on the first journey, remaining 
behind to complete the preparations for the exploration, 
more especially the fitting out of a steamer that was to be used 
in the navigation of the Ogowe and the Alima. When the 
said steamer should be ready in sections, M. Ballay was to 
bring it out and join M. de Brazza. There is always a steamer 
in sections in every story of a good expedition, and that steamer 
is invariably a curse that costs men's lives, and M. de Brazza's 
steamer was no exception to the rule ; but of that hereafter. 

Two Europeans went out with de Brazza, M. Noguez and 
and M. Michaud. On landing on the Coast he organised his 
expedition at Gaboon, and ascended the Ogowe, the worst 
part of the journey being from Lembarene 1 to Boue, on account 
of the Fans all along this region, and the rapids along a great 
part of it, these having to be navigated through the Sierra de 
Cristal, owing to the wildness of the banks preventing portage. 
When these mountains are passed, however, there is an open 
park-like country where carriers can be employed, and you are 
no longer at the entire mercy of the flying furious river that 
makes this bit of the voyage from Njole to Boue a peculiarly 
choice spot. Beyond the Sierra del Cristal, moreover, de 
Brazza got in touch with the Okanda and Adooma tribes, 
people less ferocious and more helpful than the Fans ; and 
over these two tribes he attained a great influence, arranging 
with them the regular system of communication with Njole 
that at present goes on, the Adoomas conveying supplies up 
and down through the region of the rapids. 

1 Lembarene is now an official district under the charge of a Chef de 
Poste, whose residence is on Lembarene Island, and to the island the 
name of Lembarene is colloquially limited. The native name for the 
island is Ezange'-nenge'. In 1866 the name Lembarene was borne by orfe 
of the three Inlenga villages just below the confluence with the lake or 
lagoon Zele'. 

A A 2 



356 



CONGO FRANCAIS 



CHAP. 



He fixed on a point for his first station at the confluence of 
the Passa with the Ogowe, and founded there the station now 
know as Franceville in June, 1880. In the middle of the 
same month he sent down to the coast M. Michaud with 770 
men and forty-four canoes to meet M. Ballay, whom he 
expected would by this time have arrived at Gaboon with 
the sections of the steamer ; and leaving M. Noguez at France- 
ville to get on with making it, de Brazza started off in 
a way characteristic of him, alone, \vith a small party of 




AN Ul'1'ER OGOWE VILLAGE. 



natives for the Congo ; although he fully expected to meet with 
opposition from the Apfuru tribe, who had on his previous 
journey barred the way to him down the Alima. He says he 
41 relied on his growing reputation for friendliness, throughout 
the region, for softening the hostility of the natives." He may 
have done so ; but if he had not had time to acquire it, de Brazza 
would have gone on, relying on something else, his luck, most 
likely that luck which, as the story on the Ogowe goes, once 
saved him from immolation at the hands of the Fans by 



THE BATEKE 



357 



arranging for a pyrotechnic display to take place without 
human aid, with a quantity of fireworks he had with him. 

Two or three days' journey from Franceville going east, 
the nature of the country changes. To the clayey soil of the 
Ogowe basin and its richly wooded moist valleys succeeds a 
sandy, arid, hilly country, with here and there in the neighbour- 
hood of a village a group of palm trees. 

This is the aspect of the country which forms the water- 




BATEKE PORTERS, OGOWK. 

shed between the Ogowe and the tributaries of the Upper 
Congo. On the northern bank of the Congo, and on the 
southern bank of the Congo, I found this same make of 
country, more seaward, in the Pallaballa mountains above 
Matadi. 

De Brazza remarks it is a singular fact that narrow sandy 
tracts of country are everywhere inhabited by one and the 
same tribe, the Bateke, reputed, probably erroneously he says, 
to be cannibals. 



358 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 



When he had passed the Leketi, a southern branch of the 
Alima, his route lay across the plateau of Achicuya, an 
elevated district lying about 2,600 feet above sea level, and 
separated from another similar plateau (the Aboma) by the 
river Mpama. (Mpama = Ox.) 

The chief of Achicuya received the traveller in a friendly 
manner, and a similar reception awaited him on reaching the 
Abooma tribe. These latter people he describes as being the 
handsomest and bravest he had met ; and it was from them he 
received information regarding the Congo and the powerful 
chief Makoko, whose sovereignty the Abooma acknowledge. 

Leaving the Abooma district he travelled along the Lefini 
(the Lawson of Mr. Stanley), and just as he was finishing the 
construction of a raft to descend the Lefini, he received 
messengers from King Makoko with friendly greetings and 
offers of assistance. This much facilitated his further pro- 
ceedings. He descended the Lefini with the envoy as far as 
Ngampo on his raft, and then landed and went overland 
for two days across an uninhabited tableland. He states his 
march over the sun-scorched plateau was most wearisome ; 
and that two days' march must have been a choice spot, 
if, as I conjecture, this tableland was of the same formation 
as those truly horrible Pallaballa mountains, that have in their 
composition an immense percentage of mica, which glistens 
in the sun like diamond dust, and dazzles you, and which, 
bare of vegetation, reflect back the burning heat in a scorch- 
ing way, forming a layer of hot air, and making the whole 
desolate, hideous scene vibrate before your eyes as you can 
see things vibrating through the hot air over a line of gas jets. 
Never shall I forget my short experience in the Pallaballa 
range. Never have I in all West Africa come across a thing 
that came up to one's ideals of the infernal region so com- 
pletely. And the nights, when you had the whole earth 
round you exhaling a heavy, hot breath with the heat it 
had been soaking in during the day. Small wonder M. de 
Brazza should have " begun to find fault with his guide, 
Makoko's envoy, just before eleven o'clock on the second 
night after a forced march." Fortunately shortly afterwards he 
came in sight of the Congo. " It appeared like an immense 



XVI 
cVi^f r*f 



vi KING MAKOKO 359 

sheet of water, the silver sheen of which contrasted with the 
sombre hue of the lofty mountains around. Towards the 
N.W. the waterline extended to the horizon, and the river 
swept in a noiseless slow current past the foot of the hills 
beneath." 

His first object on reaching the banks of the Great River 
was to establish peaceful relations with the Apfuru and other 
tribes of the 'Ubanji nation. The principal tribe of this family 
are the Alhialumo " sailors of the Congo," who are born, live, 
and die with their families on board the fine canoes, in which 
they carry on their trade in ivory and other goods between the 
Alima and Stanley Pool. This was so on de Brazza's first 
visit. Now I am informed that trade route is to a considerable 
extent diverted. 

De Brazza addressed himself to Ngampey their chief, who 
seemed inclined to be friendly. " Choose," said he, " between 
the cartridge and the flag I send you. One will be the 
sign of a war without mercy, the other a symbol of a peace 
as profitable to you as to us." He left the tribes on this side 
time to think over the answer and went on to King Makoko. 

De Brazza here says he felt his rights of priority and those 
of France now clearly established over the whole region be- 
tween the Ogowe, the Equator, and the Congo ; and he next 
wished to extend this over the left bank of the Congo, the 
N., as far as the confluence of the river Djue to the south of 
Stanley Pool. In this part of the country the plateaus are 
more fertile and better cultivated than those in the interior 
and the population denser and equally pacific. " The Mus- 
sulman element," says de Brazza, " being unknown in this 
region, European civilisation need not expect to encounter 
the hostility, hatred, and fanaticism which oblige the French, 
for instance, not to advance except with armed forces from the 
Senegal to the Niger. There is nothing to be feared there 
except the natural opposition of the natives to whatever is 
new." 

Makoko received him with all available magnificence, and 
he remained twenty-five days with the chief and for a longer 
period in his provinces, and "could not have been better 
treated." 



3 6o CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 

In the end a treaty was concluded by which the king placed 
his states under the protection of France, and ceded a tract 
of country, to be selected by M. de Brazza, on the shores of 
the Congo. The treaty was ratified on a day appointed, in 
the presence of all the vassal chiefs of Makoko. On its 
completion the grand fetish master put a little- earth in 
a box and presented it to M. de Brazza, saying, " Take this 
earth and carry it to the great chief of the whites. It will 
remind him that we belong to him." De Brazza then planted 
the French flag before Makoko's house, saying, " This is the 
symbol of friendship and protection which I will leave with 
you. Wherever waves this emblem of peace there is France, 
and she will cause to be respected the rights of all those whom 
it covers." 

I have no hesitation in saying that as far as Congo Fran- 
cais goes (I have no experience of other French possessions), 
this high-flown statement is true ; and although de Brazza 
did a good thing for France that day, Makoko also did well, 
for he saved himself from the Congo Free State. 

Soon after the signing of this treaty with Makoko, de 
Brazza left him and attended a meeting of the 'Ubanji 
chiefs at Nganchuno on the Congo. The chiefs came in an 
unsettled state of mind, and showed at first much opposition 
to the conclusion of a treaty, expressing their mistrust 
on account of a previous white traveller who had shot a 
member of the tribe and escaped down river too swiftly to be 
followed. However, after a second grand meeting, a treaty 
of peace was arranged and war was buried. This ceremony 
consisted in each chief and each man of de Brazza's small 
party burying some implement of war in a hole, over which a 
quickly growing tree was afterwards planted. French colours 
were distributed among the chiefs and the treaty definitely 
agreed to. 

De Brazza then set off to choose the site for the station 
on the Congo, making five days' journey down the river to 
the west into Stanley Pool, and finally selecting Ntamo, 
now known as Brazzaville. He took possession of this 
site duly under his agreement with Makoko, and hoisted 
the French flag here on the 1st of October 1880. Its 



xvi BRAZZAVILLE 361 



selection has been subjected to a good deal of criticism,, 
but it is clear that it is a commanding strategical position, 
for save with the goodwill of Brazzaville no one can pass 
from the Upper to the Lower Congo via the river. The 
Livingstone rapids of the Congo, that commence to the west- 
ward of it, are indeed permanent bars to steam vessels navi- 
gating the Congo, for about 200 miles ; yet they are not bars 
to canoe transport because the banks of the Congo, unlike 
those of the Ogowe, permit of portage. 

It must be confessed that these "rapids of the Congo are a 
difficult}-. The waters collected by the great river in its catch- 
ment basin of i, 600,000 square miles come through a narrow 
channel 170 miles in length, cut by them in the rocks of the 
Pallaballa range, and take the descent of 1,000 feet in fierce 
stretches of rushing water, broken by thirty-two distinct catar- 
acts. But to overcome these a railway is in course of construc- 
tion from Matadi to Stanley Pool ; for the courage and good 
seamanship of Captain Murray demonstrated the fact that it 
was possible to take an ocean-going steamer up through the 
whirlpools of Hell's Cauldron, to Matadi, close to the foot of the 
last of the thirty-two cataracts, the Yellala, and 120 miles from 
the sea. But it is certain that the Congo Free State must soon 
be split up among the Powers in Africa ; and then the long 
stretch of country from Brazzaville to the 'Ubanji confluence 
already in the possession of France, thanks to M. de Brazza, 
will give France command over the whole district of the Middle 
Congo, i.e. that district draining its trade into the Congo for 
the 1,000 miles that separate the Livingstone Falls from the 
Stanley Falls. 

Access to the right bank of the Congo at Stanley Pool 
is undoubtedly easier ; but those southern regions, not now in 
the possession of the Congo Free State, belong to Portugal, 
and Portugal would have little chance of obtaining a tract of 
country when her rival for it is France. Portugal has 
already been almost completely ousted from the Congo, which 
her great explorer Diogo Cao discovered in 1482, but she 
still holds the southern bank of the Congo, from the sea to 
a point (Nkoi) just below Matadi ; and a very considerable 
quantity of the Congo trade filters into her country owing 



362 



CONGO FRANCAIS 



CHAP. 



to her imposts being more reasonable than those of the Free 
State. 

I will not here attempt to go further into the political side 
ofde Brazza's journey and its attendant conquests for France, 
but will pass "on to his return journey to the Coast. 




AUOOMAS, UPPER OGOWfc. 



He left a Senegal sergeant and a few men at Brazzaville 
and proceeded to explore a new route from the Stanley Pool 
to the sea. This was by the valley of the N'Duo, which 
empties itself into the Niari 1 and leads from Ntamo to the At- 
lantic in a nearly due westerly direction. He thought this would 

In M'pongwe, Nyari = Buffalo. 



THE OGOWE STEAMER 363 



be the easiest way to the sea ; but it was so entirely unexplored 
that the very name under which the Niari enters the sea was 
unknown. Moreover the route proved so hazardous that he 
was compelled to continue his journey down the Congo, on 
his way meeting with Mr. Stanley, who gave him a cordial 
reception. 

From the mouth of the Congo he sailed to Gaboon, reaching 
Libreville on the I5th of December, 1880. Here a cruel dis- 
appointment awaited him, needless to say connected with that 
steamer. Neither de Ballay nor the steamer had arrived, and 
a very bitter nuisance this must have been, and one that would 
have caused many a man to throw up the whole undertaking ; 
for he had sent down those 770 men and 44 canoes, promis- 
ing them divers wonderful manifestations of white man's 
power and plenty of work, and there was neither ; and de 
Brazza owned it was with painful feelings that he found himself 
so ill supported, and obliged, instead of returning to Europe 
to rest from his fatigues, having performed himself all he had 
undertaken to do, to hasten again into the interior in order to 
carry reinforcements to the men left in charge of the two stations 
he had founded, distant, the one 500, the other 800 miles. 

He started back into the interior with a party strengthened 
by two French sailors, Guiral and Amiel, and a number of 
native carpenters, gardeners, &c. In ascending the Ogowe for 
the third time his canoe was upset at the Boue Falls and 
he suffered much from illness brought on by having to work 
long in the water to save his baggage. Arriving at Franceville 
in February, 1881, he found there 100 natives satisfactorily 
established and engaged in various industries. The gardens 
had been well cared for and the settlement was self-supporting. 
De Brazza however had not lost faith in that steamer even 
yet, and he set about preparing means of transport for the 
thing when it should arrive. There were seventy-five miles 
of portage intervening between the station Franceville and 
the confluence of the Obia and Lekiba with the Alima, the point 
chosen for the commencement of the navigation of the Alima. 
The clearing of a path for the transport of the sections of the 
steamer was accomplished by the aid of 400 labourers super- 
intended by Michaud, Guiral, and Amiel. 



364 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 



The organisation of a service of transport was then pro- 
ceeded with, a business of some difficulty owing to the 
jealousies of the tribes with regard to the profits of conveyance 
over different sections of the route. M. de Brazza then 
thought to surmount this difficulty by establishing a body ot 
carriers of his own, but various obstacles intervened to prevent 
his accomplishing this forthwith, and in the meantime he had 
to send supplies to Brazzaville on the Congo. While thus 
engaged he was fortunately joined on the 2/th of September 
by M. Mizon of the French navy, who had been sent from 
France in company with de Ballay. He brought de Brazza 
news that the latter was detained at Gaboon and that the 
steamer had been discovered to have defects in construction 
that would prevent her joining the expedition for a long 
time. 

M. de Brazza then resolved to leave Franceville in charge 
of M. Mizon and go off on an entirely new bit of exploration. 
He w r as by now, after those three voyages up and down them, 
aware that the rapids of the Ogowe are not what you might 
call a safe and pleasant route to Franceville, particularly for 
heavy goods ; and he reverted to his old idea, that he had had 
to abandon testing when leaving Brazzaville in 1880, namely 
that a safer route to the sea-coast than the Ogowe affords, 
existed down the Niari valley. He first went to Nhango 
on the route between the Ogowe and the Congo, near the 
M'paka country of the latter river. There he learnt that Mr. 
Stanley had been attempting to persuade the chiefs of the 
Bateke to withdraw from their engagements with France and 
endeavouring to win over Malamine, the chief of Ntamo 
(Brazzaville). But de Brazza did not surmise there was any 
danger of Mr. Stanley succeeding in either of these diplomatic 
ventures, so proceeded on his exploration. 

He started at the end of January, 1882, passing over 
mountains by the sources of the Leketi and M'paka, and 
on the 8th of February he discovered one of the sources of 
the Ogowe at a point where it formed a mere rivulet of water. 
A month later he arrived on the banks of his desired Niari, 
which proved to be a beautiful river 270 feet broad and to 
enter the ocean under the name of Quilliou (Kouilou or 



XVI 



NEW ROUTE TO FRANCEVILLE 



365 



Killiou) just north of Loango. Not far from its left bank- 
were found mines of copper and lead. 

Along this left bank he continued his march, finding to his 
great satisfaction that the river, as far as its confluence with 
the Lalli, flowed without rapids or falls along a broad, fertile, 







m 




A KONGAS, THE CHIEF GONIOXE, AND HIS TWO WIVES. 



and densely peopled valley, lying athwart the great parallel 
terraces over which, ladderlike, the neighbouring Congo has 
cut its bed on its way to the ocean. About sixty miles 
further the Niari tends a little towards the north and he 
quitted its banks after having crossed its little affluent the 



366 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 



Nkenge. From here he began the ascent of the plateau, 
where the villagers no longer received him and his party with 
the friendliness he had encountered along the valley of the 
Niari. The mistrust with which he had to contend led at last 
to an hostile encounter at the village of Kimbendge, in which 
six of his men were wounded, and the expedition was obliged 
to beat a retreat. They marched without taking food, in a 
pouring rain all night long, going south, finding themselves 
in the morning at the summit of a mountain range at the foot 
of which extended a verdant plain through which flowed 
the Lundima (Loema). In the plain they passed a group of 
villages named Mboko, where copper ore is found on the 
surface ; and then journeying westwards arrived at Kimbunda, 
a Basundi village situated between Lundima and the Loango. 
This place is within five days' march of Boma (Emboma) on 
the Congo on one side and Landana on the Atlantic. The 
party arrived, exhausted with the fatigues of their long and 
difficult march, at Landana on the i^th of April, 1882. 

M. de Brazza claimed by this expedition a tract of country 
one-third the area of France as an addition to his previous 
discoveries, and he insisted on the importance of the position 
at Ntamo (Brazzaville) which he said was the key to the whole 
western interior of Equatorial Africa. It was in the hands 
of France and the route via the Niari was the best road to it 
and the best line for a railway, which ought to be undertaken 
by the French as the most effectual means of opening up the 
country. 

The construction of this railroad has been undertaken, and 
that it has not been already completed I think, no doubt, 
arises from the idea that the Congo Free State will shortly 
fall into the hands of France, and then the route up the 
Congo, with a railway round the Livingstone rapids, will be 
the best and shortest way to Brazzaville, and things in general 
on the Middle Congo. However until that day dawns France 
has done much to utilise the Niari valley route and regular 
convoys now use it to the interior. De Brazza has of late 
years been ceaselessly working at the development and ex- 
pansion of Congo Frangais to the north and east, particularly 
to the establishment of a safe and easy line of transport to the 



xvi FROM ALGERIA TO THE CONGO 367 



southern shores of Lake Chad. With the insight into African 
geographical problems so characteristic of him, de Brazza 
saw the Sanga river was more likely to afford a route to the 
central Soudan from the Congo than the apparently more im- 
portant M'ubungi. Camfurel was the first man sent to trace 
the course of the Sanga, and he and his expedition were 
annihilated. Furneaux was then sent and succeeded in sret- 

o 

ting several days' journey above the rapids of the Sanga when 
he fell in with war, and got one white and seventeen black 
men of his party killed. Then he returned to de Brazza, who 
went up the river himself as far as the rapids and established 
a station there that black traders now frequent. He sent a 
lieutenant and fifty-five men on, and this good man got right 
through to Yola on the Niger and then returned to de Brazza 
safely. On his way I may remark, as proof that he had 
struck an interior trade-route, he met traders who had pass- 
ports from Algeria on the Mediterranean, and these he counter- 
signed. Some of these people accompanied him, and when he 
returned to Brazzaville, horses from the Soudan were photo- 
graphed alongside a steamer on the Congo. 

He reported that as soon as you got out of the Ogowe 
forests to the north, the country became extremely healthy 
and none of the expedition suffered from sickness, and that 
this country abounds with cattle and horses. The lieutenant 
must have been traversing high land, for a part of the 
time while between the Ogowe and the Niger ; but that the 
country is healthy for white men I expect is only because 
there are no white men there for it to kill and make a death- 
rate. I do not believe that any part of Africa between the 
Zambesi and the Sahara is healthy for white men. 

There is in course of construction a railroad which is to 
open up the route from Congo Frangais to Lake Chad, 
following the course of the Sanga ; and this when com- 
pleted will form a line of markets that must be of great im- 
portance from the richness of the country they will drain. It 
should be the trade-route for the whole north central African 
ivory and other trades ; and there is no doubt de Brazza is 
manifesting his usual far-sightedness in turning his attention 
to the expansion of Congo Francais to the north-east, and 



368 CONGO FRANgAIS CHAP 



unless Providence in the shape of death, or Sir George Goldie 
de Brazza's only rival in administrative ability in West Africa 
intervenes, he will succeed in uniting Congo Francais with the 
French Soudan. De Brazza has done so much and done it 
so well that I, as a woman, may be excused a sentimental hope 
that he may live to see his edifice of power completed. 

After sketching the work of de Brazza the completer, we 
must turn to the work of Du Chaillu, the inaugurator of 
geographical knowledge in this region ; but I will only briefly 
sketch Du Chaillu's work, because his books are accessible 
to English readers and not given in scattered journals of 
geographical societies, as are the notices of de Brazza. 

Du Chaillu's works should be read carefully by every one in- 
terested in the forest region of Africa, for you find in them a 
series of wonderfully vivid pictures of life, both of man and 
beast, and of the country itself with its dense, gloriously 
beautiful, gloomy forests and its wild rivers, as true in all these 
things as on the day on which Du Chaillu wrote. On his 
return to England great doubt was cast upon his accounts ; 
but I have no hesitation in saying that I never came across 
anything while in his region that discredited Du Chaillu's 
narrative on the whole. His deductions from the things he 
saw are a matter apart, for no two West African travellers 
will ever be found to agree in their deductions ; but his descrip- 
tions of the country and the animals are truthful yes, includ- 
ing those gorillas ; I know places where the gorilla population 
is every bit as thick as he says and the individuals every bit as 
big; and his account of the natives and their ways are re- 
cognisable by any one having personal knowledge in the 
matter. Nor am I alone, I am glad to say ; for one of the 
greatest authorities on this matter, Dr. Nassau, who was on 
the Coast when Du Chaillu was, says there is nothing Du 
Chaillu relates that might not have happened in this country. 
More can be said of no one of the school of travellers of which 
Du Chaillu, Dr. Barth, Joseph Thomson, and Livingstone are 
past masters, and of which I am an humble member. We have 
not a set of white companions with us to confirm our statements 
and say, " Oui, out, certaineuient, Monsieur" as the engineer and 
his brother used to say on the Eclaireur to their captain; but we 



DU CHAILLU 369 



have great compensations for this. We have no awful rows 
with each other in inconvenient places in Africa, or on our return 
home, and we can say to our critics : " Have you been 
there ? No ! Then go there or to whatever place you may 
happen to believe in ! and 'till then shut up." Mr. Winwood 
Reade accepted this sort of answer from Du Chaillu and 
went down to the regions of the Panavia Bight and Gaboon 
with a pre-determination to prove Du Chaillu was wrong ; 
and I am bound to say I think he utterly failed. He 
did not follow Du Chaillu's course throughout by any means, 
doing little more than going in behind Corisco Bay and up the 
Gaboon estuary and the 'Como, a very good bit of work, and 
charmingly described in his Savage Africa, but he was not 
in the country rich in gorillas in either place. 

Du Chaillu's journeys may be divided into two main groups, 
one of which is described in his first book, Explorations and 
Adventures in Equatorial Africa, 1861. During this journey 
he ascended the Muni River as far as the Osheba x country, the 
'Como and Boque as far as the Sierra del Cristal, marched 
overland from the Gaboon estuary to the rivers of the Delta 
of the Ogowe, and did a great deal of work in the whole 
of this great dangerous network ; going up and down the 
N'Poulounay 2 and the O'Rembo and striking the upper waters 
of the Ngunie, going to and fro among the tribes of the 
Sierra del Cristal and Achangoland mountains. On his 
second journey, made in 1864-65, he was entirely in regions 
south of the Ogowe. He went into Fernan Vaz, followed the 
O'Rembo for some little distance, and then struck away east 
by south, crossing the Ngunie at a point south of the spot he 
had reached on it when he discovered this river in 1858. 
Thence he went on into the mountains of Achangoland, 
where he was attacked and had to beat a very hurried 
retreat to the ocean. 

Nearly the whole of Du Chaillu's two journeys were 

1 The Osheba are now recognised as Fans. 

- Mr. R. B. N. Walker says Du Chaillu's N'Poulounay .should read 
Mplunie, and that it is merely an inferior stream connecting the lower 
main Ogowe (Ngony-Oulange) and the Bandu, with the Fernan Vaz, 
partly by means of the Ogalote. 

B B 



370 



CONGO FRANCAIS 



CHAP. 



through successions of choice spots. Many of his districts 
have not been revisited. In a few I was his immediate 
successor. 

By ill-luck M. Du Chaillu on both journeys just missed 
striking the main stream of the Ogowe, but he knew that it 
was there, and the information he brought back of the exist- 
ence of a great river whose delta he recognised he had been 
exploring, was received in France with a more proper spirit 



MOUNT LOPE, OGOWE. 



than in England or Germany; and in 1862 MM. Serval, 
Bellay, and Griffon were commanded by the French govern- 
ment to trace the Nazareth, which Du Chaillu regarded as 
the chief mouth of his great river. This they did almost to 
the bend of it by Eliva z'onlange (called by Du Chaillu 
Anengue) ; but they failed to reach the junction of the Ogowe 
(called by Du Chaillu the Okanda) with the great river 
discovered by Du Chaillu, the Ngunie, which junction he 



xvi AFRICAN EXPLORERS 371 



had surmised occurred. The confluence of these two rivers, 
as I have already described, is just above Lembarene, some 
twenty miles from the point this expedition reached. M. 
Serval, however, after the return of the expedition to Gaboon, 
made another attempt, and crossed by land from the Gaboon 
to the Ogowe, reaching Orongo a little above Osoamokita, 
definitely proving that the Gaboon estuary was not a mouth 
of the Ogowe and quite disconnected from it. In 1864 
another expedition sent by the French Government succeeded 
in reaching the confluence of the Ngunie with the Ogowe 
(the Ngouyai with the Okanda of Du Chaillu). From those 
days, up to the time of de Brazza, the most important worker on 
the Ogowe has been Mr. R. B. N. Walker, of whose journey 
I regret to say no full account has been published, for it 
was a most remarkable one, undertaken before the Fans 
on the river bank had been overawed by M. de Brazza. 
Mr. Walker reached Lope, the furthest point attained until de 
Brazza's 1889 journey, and in addition to this, made many ex- 
ploring expeditions in the region. 1 Then come the missionary 
journeys .of Dr. Nassau, who was w r ell-established up at 
Talagouga 2 with his house and church built when de Brazza 
came by in 1879. Since the latter opened up the district, the 
only travellers I know of, passing through the region up the 
Ogowe rapids, are MM. Alegret and Tesseris, who made a 
journey right up the Ogowe and out on to the Congo with a 
view to selecting a site for mission stations, and to these 
gentlemen I am indebted for many photographs of native 
types on the Upper Ogowe. Financial reasons have, I believe, 
militated against the establishment of further stations above 
Talagouga by the Mission Evangelique, to which these gentle- 
men belong ; and this station, and a Roman Catholic Mission 

1 Since my return to England, feeling much interested in the travels of 
Mr. Walker, I have hunted up several papers by him scattered among 
the transactions of various societies circa 1876, and from them fully recog- 
nise the great loss to our knowledge of the actual geography and 
ethnology of this region, that we suffer from Mr. Walker never having 
collected and published in book form the results of his travels and 
residence in Congo Franc.ais. 

2 The natives sometimes call it Otalamaguga. Aguga means want, 
privation, hardship. 

B B 2 



372 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 

at a place called Lestourville, close to Franceville, established 
in memory of a Governor who died, are now the outposts of 
Christianity in these West African regions. The main results 
of these travels on the Ogowe may be summarised as having 
shown that the Ogowe is one of the great rivers of Africa, the 
largest river between the Niger and the Congo, the largest 
strictly Equatorial river in the world, its course lying fairly 
neatly along the line for over 700 miles. It has a catchment 
basin roughly computed for its basin is not yet thoroughly 
explored of 130,000 square miles, and its discharge of water 
into the Atlantic is, according to the season, between 360,000 
and 1,750,000 cubic feet per second. 

Its main affluents are, in order of merit, the Ngunie enter- 
ing on its south bank, and the Ivindo, and the Okanda, both of 
which enter on its north bank. 

The Ogowe is, on the whole, more of the nature of the 
Congo than of the Niger, save that unlike the Congo, it has an 
immense delta. This delta commences at Lembarene, just 
below the point where it receives the waters of the Ngunie 
river. The delta region is tremendously interesting both in 
flora, fauna, and fetish ; but it is tradeless, and its main popu- 
lation is made up of malaria microbes and mosquitoes, and it 
is supremely damp. Indeed the whole of it and the country 
from the Gaboon to Cette Kama, 1 save the strange bubble- 
shaped mountains like Mount Sangato, Mount Mandji and 
Mount Okoneto, is under water when the Ogowe and its neigh- 
bouring rivers come down in the " long wet " ; and the lakes 
in the Lembarene district, Eliva Ayzingo and the still larger 
Eliva z'onlange, and all the string of lakes along the O'Rembo, 
Ungo, and Vinue overflow into the forest. The Sierra del 
Cristal cuts the course of the Ogowe just above Njole, form- 
ing the region of the rapids. There are 500 miles of these 
rapids, rendering navigation impossible in any other craft 

1 Sete Kama the natives call it Masetyi. One or two Europeans pro- 
fess to believe that it was named by the Spaniards Siete Camas (the 
seven beds or graves) from the fact of seven men from some ship 
being buried there. It was first opened up as a trading station by Henry 
Walker in 1849, wno traded from a ship. His brother, R. B. N. Walker 
established a factory on shore there in 1857. The natives have to this 
day a bad name. 



xvi THE OGOWE 



373 



but a canoe, and highly perilous work in that, I assure you, 
from personal experience ; and when you get above them the 
river is not much use except for canoes, until you get to 
Franceville ; beyond Franceville it is only available for canoes 
in the wet season, but you do not want the Ogowe, being 
in touch with the great rivers flowing transversely to it into 
the Congo. 

Below the rapids, however, the Ogowe is a grand waterway, 
as waterways go on the West Coast. You can go up its 
main stream to Njole for over 200 miles, and up its affluent 
the Ngunie as far as Samba, where there are lovely falls. 
Above these falls and a set of rapids the Ngunie would be 
again available for small steamboats, but there are none 
there at present. 

In addition to the main stream of the Ogowe, you can 
with the exercise of great care, and with the assistance of 
good fortune, navigate a small steamboat into Lake Ayzingo 
and Lake Z'onlange in the wet season, and also enter this 
main stream of the Ogowe from the ocean by two side creeks 
running down to Fernan Vaz. The current of the Ogow is 
extremely swift, particularly above Lembarene, and the rise of 
the river in the Talagouga narrows, during the wet season, is 
from eighteen to twenty feet. This rise commences a month 
before the wet season gets established here, probably on account 
of the latter being earlier on the upper waters of the affluents 
that come in above Njole the Okanda, and the Ivindo. 

The region of the delta to the south is more water-eaten 
than to the north. The stretch of country to the north, between 
the delta of the Ogowe and the Gaboon, is rimmed along the 
seashore, and the estuary shore, by a sort of sand rampart 
which keeps in the overflow waters of the wet season, and 
forms the most impossible morass to get about in during this 
period. The human population of this region is sparse, and 
what there is resides in villages on the abruptly shaped 
bubble-like hills that rise isolated here and there. This region 
is very little explored ; the main stream of the Ogowe, en- 
tered either from Nazareth Bay or from Fernan Vaz, being 
the highway to and from the interior, and the unhealthiness 
and absence of trade in this great swampy forest belt offer 



374 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 



but little inducement to travelling about in it. Along the 
banks of the main waterways passing through it, the villages 
are all situated in similar sites, namely perched on the top of a 
clay bank, or dwarf cliff, behind which the land slopes steeply 
into what, in the wet season, is a swamp. On all sides 
rises the colossal, white-trunked, Kane-hung forest ; on all 
sides one may say, making no exception even for the broad 
river -the villages face; for across it there is the tree-cliff 
again and in its deep dark waters are mirrored back the 
forest and the sky all that the world is made of to the 
inhabitants of these villages ; they are born, live, and die 
with no interval save sleep from the sight of that universe 
of forest, river and sky and only a little sky that which 
they can see over the river. All the change they get the 
seasons bring ; the gloomy dry season when the wind steals 
softly up the river in the morning time, and down the river in 
the evening ; the tornado seasons with their burst of earth- 
shaking thunder, and their lightnings coming down into the 
forest in great forked splashes, and their howling, squealing, 
moaning winds, that rush devastating through it, claiming as 
many victims among its giants as even the lightnings do. 

The course of a grand tornado through a high forest is 
a thing to see, but anything but pleasant to experi- 
ence. The heavy brooding suffocating heat when the 
great storm seems pressing its hot breast down on the 
very ground the sensation of depression and wretchedness 
that creeps over you and the evident apprehension of all 
living things of what they know is coming ; an appre- 
hension which changes into terror when the storm bursts 
and comes sweeping seawards with all the frenzy of its de- 
moniac power and the roar of its rain. Behind it lie the 
bodies of many of the noblest trees, either lightning-seared, 
still standing, but turned in a moment from luxuriant living 
things into gaunt skeletons ; or thrown down, with all their 
bravery of foliage and bush-rope, by the winged force which 
has wrung them round, and pulled them sheer out by the 
roots things 100 to 200 feet high, just as you would pull out a 
root of groundsel flinging them crashing among their fellows, 
wrecks to rot. 



xvi . THE WET SEASON 



375 



Then comes the wet season, not here like the wet season 
in the Rivers, one grim, torrential waterfall ; but daily heavy 
sheets of rain diversified with intervals of bright sunshine 
and accompanied by heavy steamy heat ; with the Ogowe 
coming down daily muddier and muddier, floating along on 
its swift current bits of bank with the trees still growing 
on them, and surrounded by tangled masses of grass and 
drift-wood, forming the well-known floating islands which 
mariners often meet with miles out to sea off this coast. 

Every day the river rises up the banks, flowing over their 
lowest parts into the low reaches of the forest, and threatening 
with destruction the clay or mud-cliffs with the villages perched 
on them ; and often carrying this threat out, and tearing down 
parts of the clay bank, swamping and sweeping away the frail 
houses and ruining the plantations of plantains close by. 

Between the Kama 1 country and the Ouroungou country 
the channel of the Ogowe is, fortunately, broad, and there are 
opportunities for the swollen waters to flow easily away into 
the low-lying uninhabited parts of the forest. Were it not so 
those clay cliffs would have worse times of it than they now 
do, and villages would be more precarious residential sites than 
is now the case. In the Talagouga gorge, where the current is 
more fierce the waters being hemmed in to a narrower channel, 
and the banks made of the hard rocks of the Sierra del Cristal 
the rise of the waters twenty and thirty feet above the dry- 
season level does not work the destruction that occurs in the 
clay bank region. 

The long wet season commences in September and lasts till 
the end of January, its greatest intensity being in November 
and December. 2 In February comes the short dry, then the 
short wet till May. From May till September is the long dry. 
The seasons, however, are not to be depended on with that 
calm reliance you may place in their wetness or dryness on the 
Gold Coast or in the Rivers. The long dry is fairly worthy of 
its name, the long wet also. 

The peculiarity of the dry season being the coolest season, 

1 Sometimes spelt Camma country. The native name is Akama. The 
tribes living in it are known as the Nkami, frequently Ncomi. 

2 Long dry season, Enomo ; long wet, Nlyanja. 



376 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 



and its sky overhung with gray threatening-looking cloud, is 
one that extends from just below Cameroons to Angola, 
i.e., to the edge of the Kalahari desert, where wet seasons 
are not; it strikes the person coming south from the Bights, 
where the dry season is the hot season and the wet the cooler, 
as most strange and peculiar. One of the many difficulties of 
travelling down the West African coast is that you are certain 
to get your season wrong somewhere. It is not so bad for me 
as it is for some people, because I rather prefer the wet and am 
reconciled to the climate. Now a person with a predilection for 
dry seasons has an awful life of it, and I must in justice remark 
that this predilection is the sane one to possess. I know 
an American gentleman, who " 'lowed he'd do West Africa," 
but ultimately " 'lowed West Africa had done him," who got 
so bothered by the different .times different seasons were going 
on in different parts of the Coast that he characterised the 
entire West African climate as " a fried eel." Why fried I do 
not know. We do not fry in the Coast climate, we stew, 
and I consider the statement harsh. Of course we have got 
the worst climate in the world and we are proud of it. Some 
day I will write a work, in ten volumes that will be an ABC 
of the whole affair, and be what my German friends would call 
the essential pocket-book for West African travellers, and it 
will let them know what to expect, when, where, and how ; but 
meantime I may note that both wet and dry seasons have 
their points. If you want to go far up a river, without 
having ample opportunities of studying the various ways in 
which your craft can get wrecked on sandbanks, you must go 
in the full wet. Of course this ends in your returning, or 
attempting to return in the dry, and as when you have pene- 
trated the interior any distance you usually start on your 
return journey full tilt, pursued by rapacious and ferocious 
cannibals, the fact that you stick on sandbanks on an 
average three times in a mile, gives you considerable worry. 
If you wish to penetrate the interior on foot, you must choose 
the dry season because of those swamps a good bottomless 
swamp is impassable in the wet. In the dry it bears a crust 
over it, which, with suitable precautions, can be crossed, while 
the shallow swamps can be waded. And all the rivers are 



CANOE v. STEAM-LAUNCH 



377 



navigable in canoes in the dry, if too shallow for steamers, and 
canoes are the most comfortable things to travel in in the 
whole world. The predilection in favour of small steam 
launches is to me a mystery. What joy any sane person 
can have in one, who is not in a hurry, I do not know. I 
have had some experience in them, and some of those ex- 
periences have been the 
worst I have gone 
through. I remember one 
occasion when I tried to 
get a little launch through 
a creek which was, al- 
though deep, full of water 
grass. Well ! I will be 
careful, but it was enough 
to make my distin- 
guished Liverpool friends 
use bad language. You 
see you could not get the 
screw to work because of 
the grass. Attempts at 
using the screw merely 
made the poor thing into 
a chaff cutter, and it was 
not made for that, so 
choked. You could not 
get up a sail, because there 
was no wind sufficiently 
strong to get through the 
grass, which towered in a 
dense mass some ten feet 
above your funnel. You 

could not row or paddle, because of the said grass, and 
you could not get out and walk or tow because the water 
was too deep. I should like to have the situation put 
as a problem at a nautical examination. The only solution 
I found to it was to get two brawny blacks with matchets in 
the bows to cut a way for her, and the rest of the crew 
to pull her forward by catching hold of the grass ahead. 




GIANTESS OF THE UPPER OGOWE. 



378 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 



If any one can suggest a better I shall be only too de- 
lighted, for it was laborious work, and these choice spots are 
anything but uncommon in West African rivers. Then I re- 
member another steam lanch the Dragon Fly. She had been 
built for coal, but there was no coal, so she had to burn wood. 
Wood, as my nautical friends would say, blows a ship out, and 
to store enough wood to go twenty miles you had to have 
wood billets everywhere ; all over the deck, and on top of the 
sun-deck, &c., to such an extent that there was no room for you r 
and the gunwale was nearly awash. Then you always got on 
a sandbank, several sandbanks, so the wood got burnt right 
up before you got anywhere you wanted to, and you had to 
return by the current and the help of poles. If I had 
been bound to go on in her, we must have spent the greater 
part of our lives wood-chopping in wet forests ; but I am of 
too nervous a disposition to penetrate the interior on the 
Dragon Fly with her dilapidated boiler. 

Then there was a patent launch that progressed theoretic- 
ally by the explosion of small quantities of gunpowder ; but 
the trade powder we had did not suit her somehow, so she 
pursued a policy of masterly inactivity, making awesome 
noises in her works, and the quickest trip she ever did was to 
the bottom. And she certainly did make that on trade 
powder. I own I am prejudiced against launches. The heat 
of the West Coast climate is quite enough for me without 
having a large hot water bottle, in the shape of a boiler, to sit 
by. And a canoe is a craft you can take almost anywhere, 
and is therefore better for general work, unless you have a 
good deep channel large enough for you to have a steamer of 
a respectable size. 

In addition to grass creeks and sandbanks, the obstacles 
to the navigation of side streams, on the Ogowe and its 
neighbouring rivers are swamps of papyrus, exceedingly 
lovely, but difficult to get through, and great floating masses of 
river lettuce (Pistia stratiotes). It is very like a nicely grown 
cabbage lettuce, and it is very charming when you look down 
a creek full of it, for the beautiful tender green makes a 
perfect picture against the dark forest that rises from the 
banks of the creek. If you are in a canoe, it gives you little 



RIVER-LETTUCE 



379 



apprehension to know you have got to go through it, but if 
you are in a small steam launch, every atom of pleasure in its 
beauty goes, the moment you lay eye on the thing. You 
dash into it as hard as you can go, with a sort of geyser of 
lettuces flying up from the screw; but not for long, for this 
interesting vegetable grows after the manner of couch-grass. 

I used to watch its method of getting on in life. Take 
a typical instance : a bed of river-lettuces growing in a creek 
become bold, and grow out into the current, which tears the 




UPPER OGOWE NATIVES. 



outsider pioneer lettuce off from the mat. Down river that 
young thing goes, looking as innocent as a turtle-dove. If 
you pick it up as it comes by your canoe and look under- 
neath, you see it has just got a stump. Roots? Oh dear no 1 
What does a sweet green rose like that want roots for? It 
only wants to float about on the river and be happy; so you 
put the precious humbug back, and it drifts away with a smile 
and gets up some suitable quiet inlet and then sends out 
roots galore longitudinally, and at every joint on them buds 



380 CONGO FRANCAIS CHAP. 



up another lettuce ; and if you go up its creek eighteen months 
or so after, with a little launch, it goes and winds those roots 
round your propeller. The fierce current of the wet season, 
when the main river scours into the creeks, and the creeks 
start fierce currents of their own with their increased waters, 
play great havoc with these lettuce beds, and plots of them 
get cut off from the main bodies. These plots float off down 
river, and as soon as they get into a bit of slack water or hitch 
on a rising sandbank, they collect all other floating things that 
come their way and start as islands. The grass soon chokes 
off its companion the lettuce, and makes the island habitable 
for other plants ; and so you have a floating island. These float- 
ing islands have a weird fascination, and I never saw so many 
of them in any river as in the Ogowe. To see a bit of seem- 
ing solid land, solemnly going past you down the river, as if it 
were out on business ; or if it is in tidal ways and you on a 
fixed point, to see it coming up to you, hanging about, and then 
retiring, is unsettling to one's general ideas of the propriety 
of nature. One of the largest of these floating islands I saw, 
was in the Karkola River. It had got caught in an eddy made 
by another stream entering this river, and it kept swimming 
round and round slowly and quietly. 

I have not here given an account of half the difficulties of 
navigating a tropical river in the forest-region, because they are 
so numerous, and so many of them not to be guarded against. 
Those logs which from their specific gravity float down just 
under water and strike you unexpectedly ; and even those 
logs that float on the surface, are nasty things to meet on an 
ink-black night I well remember the miscellaneous joys we 
happened on once when dropping down the Ogowe in the 
dark in a small canoe. Half the way it was a steeplechase 
for the canoe over floating logs. Sometimes she refused her 
fences point-blank and butted them ; sometimes she would 
climb up them and fall over on the other side ; and even my 
experienced native companion owned that it was difficult to 
tell, during the subsequent aquatic sports which her crew 
indulged in, which was the bottom of the canoe and which was 
the unsophisticated log. Sometimes she would clear her log- 
fence at a bound in a showy way, but then when she came 
down the other side, she went too deep and filled herself and 



xvi TAKING THE TIMBER 381 



foundered, and so the only thing was to pole the logs off. Some 
of those logs, by the by, had queer ways with them. One, on 
being poked on the end as it floated towards, us opened its 
front section and bit the pole with such a grip that the man 
using it let go all one time. Yes, I dare say it was a crocodile 
still African vegetation is a queer thing. 

You would naturally think that, in spite of sandbanks with 
cliff-edges down stream, of sections of the continent floating 
round, and of logs liable to bite and not liable to bite, you had 
at least one thing left to rely on the bank. But that bank 
may be all right, and again, as the captain of the late 
ss. Sparrow would say, it mayn't A friend of mine, for 
example, who got stuck in a launch up a river-creek on a sand- 
bank, got a hawser out, and winding it round some mangroves 
on the bank, proceeded " to have her off in no time " with the 
steam winch. She did not budge an inch, but the African 
continent did : the whole bit of bank came away, and down 
on the boat came the trees with a swish, burying everything 
and everybody in branches and foliage. As he said, we were 
" like the babes in the wood after robins had been along, 
on a big scale " ; and he also stated, as we climbed up on 
top of our arboreal superstructure, that " Africa was a rotten 
continent." 




CHAPTER XVII 

THE LOG OF THE LAFAYETTE 

During a voyage undertaken to the island of Corisco, to which is added 
some account of the present condition of the island and its inhabitants, 
and also of that of Cape Esterias and things in general, as is cus- 
tomary with the author. 

As soon as I returned to Glass I naturally went to discourse 
with Doctor Nassau on Fetish. We discoursed, I may mention, 
at length and to my advantage. In one of these talks the 
doctor mentioned that there were lakes in the centre of the 
Island of Corisco, and that in those lakes were quantities of 
fish, which fish were always and only fished by the resident 
ladies, at duly appointed seasons. Needless to say, I felt it a 
solemn duty to go and investigate personally; and equally 
needless to say, Doctor Nassau gave me every assistance, 
which took the form of lending me a small vessel called the 
Lafayette. She had been long in his possession, but of late 
years little used, still she was a fine seaworthy boat, so with a 
crew headed by the Doctor's factotum, Eveke, who was a 
native of the said island, together with a few friends of his, we 
set sail. 

Left Libreville at 8 A.M. so as to get full advantage of wind 
and tide. Doctor Nassau kindly comes along the wharf to 
see us clear away. We then make for the guard-ship, to pass 
our papers, and do this in an unyachtsmanlike way, lowering 
our gaff too soon, hence have ignominiously to row alongside. 
The off-shore breeze blows strong this morning and the tide 
is running out like a mill-race, so the Lafayette flies seaward 



CH. xvii THE LAFAYETTE 383 



gallantly. Libreville looks very bright and pleasing with its 
red roofs and white walls amongst the surrounding wealth of 
dark green mango trees ; but we soon leave it behind, passing 
along in front of the low, rolling hills, all densely clad with 
forests, out to Cape Clara, or Cape Joinville as some maps will 
have it the end of the northern shore of the Gaboon 
estuary. When we get to the Cape we find a pretty fair sea 
running, and Eveke, whose seamanship I am beginning to 
view with suspicion, lets her gybe, and I get knocked into 
the bottom of the boat by the boom, and stay there. There 
is nothing like entering into the spirit of a thing like this if 
you mean to enjoy it, and after all that's the wisest thing to 
do out here, for there's nothing between enjoying it and dying 
of it. The sun is broiling hot ; everything one has got to sit 
on or catch hold of is as hot as a burning brick, and there is 
no cabin, nor even locker, on our craft ; so I prop myself up 
against my collecting-box and lazily take stock of the things 
round me, and write. 

My crew are a miscellaneous lot of M'pongwe, black but 
not comely. One gentleman, however, evidently thinks he is, 
as he has a beautiful pair of carefully tended whiskers, rare 
adjuncts to the African. He also has a pair of kerseymere 
trousers, far too tight for him ; but a man with whiskers " all 
same for one with white man " must dress the part, and 
trousers are scarce in this country. Our cargo consists of two 
bags of salt, several bags and boxes of sand for ballast, several 
bottles of water for drinking, a bundle of bedding a loan from 
the Doctor, and a deck chair a loan from Mr. Hudson. Owing 
to the Lafayette having no deck, the latter is " not required 
on the voyage," and is folded up. I observe with anxiety that 
the cargo is not stowed in a manner that would meet with the 
approval of Captain Murray, and decide to get dunnage and 
do it in style the first port we call at. Can't possibly shift 
cargo in this sea. The crew drink the water in such quantities 
that there will be an ocean tragedy if we get becalmed. We 
run along close in shore from Cape Clara to Cape Esterias a 
fine, sandy, rock-strewn shore, backed by a noble bush for 
eight miles. The land falls away then, for Esterias is the 
southernmost point of Corisco Bay. Close to Cape Esterias 



384 THE LOG OF THE LAFAYETTE CHAP. 

I see the familiar bark-built village that betokens Fans, and 
on sighting this we change our course and lay one apparently 
for the Brazilian ports. 

The Lafayette flies along before a heavy sea, and from my 
position at the bottom of her I can see nothing but her big 
white mainsail and her mast with its shrouds and stays stand- 
ing out clear, rocking to and fro, against the hard blue sky; 
and just the white crests of the waves as they go dancing by. 
I have nothing to hear save the pleasantest sounds in the 
world the rustle of the sail and the swish of the waves as they 
play alongside the vessel. Now and then there is added to these 
the lazy, laughing talk of the black men ; and now and then an 
extra lively wave throws its crest in among us. Soon all the 
crew drop softly off to sleep, Eveke joining them, so I rouse 
up and take the main sheet and the tiller and keep her so. I 
feel as if I were being baked to a cinder, but there's no help 
for it, and some of it is very pleasant. About four o'clock I 
see two lumps of land on the sky-line. I wake Eveke up and 
he seems surprised at my not knowing what they are. " That's 
Corisco and Bana, sir," says he. I explain to Eveke, as I hand 
over the navigation to him, that every one has not been born 
on Corisco, and the fact of his having had this advantage is 
the reason of his being pilot now ; and I reseat myself in the 
bottom of the boat and carefully look over the side, mindful 
of that boom palaver. We head for the bigger and most 
western bit of land, soon seeing the details of its undulating, 
black-green forests. When we get within a mile, Eveke asks 
me to wake up the man in front of me, and I stir him firmly, 
but gently, with a chart ; for I know what waking black men 
leads to sometimes ; and when he rouses I order him to wake 
up the others, and in a few minutes they are all more or less 
awake, even the man on the look-out. They wash their 
mouths out with sea-water, and then re-commence their laugh- 
ing, talking and water-drinking again. 

W 7 e run into a small, sandy-shored, wooded bay where, as 
I find is Eveke's habit, we lower our gaff prematurely and 
drift, in the proper way, leisurely towards the above, 
stern foremost. At last the Lafayette, finding everything 
is left to her, says : " Look here, you fellows, if you don't help 



xvii CORISCO 385 

I won't play," and stops and commences to swing broadside 
on. So the oars or sweeps I should call them, for we have 
evidently returned to fourteenth century seamanship are got 
out and in a few minutes we are bumping violently on the 
strand. We let go the anchor, make all snug and go ashore. 
When ashore, of course w-ith the exception of myself 
and the pilot, the crew indulge in a dance to stretch their 
cramped limbs. As no inhabitants turn up, Eveke runs up 
into the little village that fronts us and hunts a few out, who 
come and stare at us in a woolly stupid way, very different 
from my friends, the vivacious Fans. Eveke has tremendous 
greetings with them particularly with the young ladies. He 
hastily informs me that he is related to them. I hope he is. 
He says most of the people are away at the farms which is 
not an affliction to me, for Eveke wastes enough time on those 
we have got, and they seem to me a churlish lot for Africans. 
The only question they ask us is : Have we any tobacco ? 
Corisco is nearly out of tobacco, owing to the weather having 
been too rough of late for them to get across either to Eloby, 
or Cocco Beach, where the factories are, for more. They are 
gratified by our affirmative answer, and sit down, in a line, on 
a large log, and beam at us in a subdued way, while we get 
the things we want off the Lafayette and finish securing her 
for the night. This being done, Eveke and I go off to his 
father's house his father, the Rev. Mr. Ibea, being the sole 
representative of the American Presbyterian mission now on 
Corisco Island. 

I have heard much of the strange variety of scenery to be 
found on this island : how it has, in a miniature way, rivers, 
lakes, forests, prairies, swamps and mountains ; and our walk 
demonstrates to me the baldness of the truth of the statement. 
The tide being now nearly in, we cannot keep along the beach 
all the way, which is a mercy for the said beach is, where it 
is dry, of the softest, whitest sand imaginable ; where it is wet, 
of the softest, pink-dove-coloured sand, and it is piled with 
fresh, rotting, and rotten seaweed into which, at every step, 
you sink over your ankles in an exhausting way, and on the 
surface of which you observe centipedes crawling, and, need- 
less to say, sandflies galore. When we come to a point of any 

C C 



386 THE LOG OF THE LAFA YETT% CHAP. 



one of the many little bays or indentations in the coast-line 
where the sea is breaking, we clamber up the bank and turn 
inland, still ankle deep in sand, and go through this museum 
of physical geography. First a specimen of grass land, then 
along a lane of thickly pleached bush, then down into a wood 
with a little (at present) nearly dried up swamp in its recesses ; 
then up out on to an open heath which has recently been 
burnt and is covered with dead bracken and scorched oil 
palms ; then through a village into grass again, and back to 
the beach to plough our way through seaweed across another 
bay ; then round some remarkable rocks, up into a wood, then 
grass, and more bush and more beach, and up among a cluster 
of coco-palms, more grass ; and then a long stretch of path 
with one side of it a thick hedge which is encroaching in a 
way that calls for energetic lopping, for the bush leans so 
across the path that you also have to lean at an angle of nearly 
45 towards the other side. I begin to despair, my boots 
being full of sand, and to fear we shall never get through the 
specimens before nightfall. There is such an air of elaborate 
completeness about this museum, and we have not even com- 
menced the glacier or river departments. However, at length 
we see what seems to be the entrance to an English park, 
and coming up to this find a beautiful avenue of mango 
trees. 

Corisco evidently feels the dry season severely. The dry 
sandy soil is thickly strewn with dead leaves. At the end of 
the avenue there is a pretty \vooden house, painted white, with 
its doors and window-frames painted a bold bright blue. 
Around it are a cluster of outbuildings like it, each mounted 
on poles, the little church, the store, and the house for the 
children in the mission school. A troop of children rush out 
and greet Eveke effusively. One of them, I am informed, is 
his brother, and he commences to bubble out conversation in 
Benga. I send Eveke off to find his mother, thinking he will 
like to get his greetings with her over unobserved, and after a 
few minutes she comes forward to greet me, a pretty, bright- 
looking lady whom it is hard to believe old enough to be 
Eveke's mother ; and not only Eveke's but the mother of a 
lot of strapping young women who come forward with her. 






xvn A NATURAL BREAKWATER 387 



and the grandmother of other strapping young women 
mixed up among them. I must really try and find out which 
is which. Until I do so perhaps it will be diplomatic to 
regard them all as her daughters. Mrs. Ibea insists, in the 
kindliest way possible, on my taking possession of her own 
room. Mr. Ibea is away, she says, on an evangelising visit to 
the mainland at Cape St. John (the northern extremity of 
Corisco Bay), intending to call at Eloby Island ; so he may not 
be here for some days, and she promptly gives me tea and 
alligator pears, both exceedingly welcome. 

The views from the windows of my clean and comfortable 
room are very beautiful. The house stands on a high pro- 
montory called Alondo Point, the turning point of the south 
and west sides of the island, and almost overhangs the sea. 
A reef of rock runs out at the foot of the cliff for about a mile, 
on which the sea breaks constantly. The great rollers of the 
South Atlantic, meeting here their first check since they left 
Cape Horn and the Americas, fly up in sheets of foam with a 
never-ending thunder. I go to bed early, thankfully observing 
that the gay mosquito curtain is entirely " for dandy "- 
decorative and not defensive. 

The obtaining of specimens of fish from the lakes in the 
centre of the island being my main object in visiting Corisco, 
I set to work by starting immediately after breakfast to the 
bay that we came to last night, and which I will call Nassau 
Bay in future. I go along the same variegated path I came 
by yesterday. Eveke has slept at the village in the Bay 
among his relatives so as to keep an eye, he says, on the 
Lafayette. When I find him, he says that only women can 
catch the lake fish, and that they always catch them in 
certain baskets, and as these have to be made they cannot be 
ready to-day. Having heard Corisco is famous for shells, and 
having seen nothing on any of the many beaches on the 
southern side of the island more conchologically charming 
than half a dozen dilapidated whelks, I ask where the main 
deposits of shells are. Eveke says there is any quantity of 
them on the other little islands, Laval to the south, and Bafia 
to the S.E. in Corisco Bay. To his horror I say I will go to 
those islands now, and we get our scattered crew r together and 

C C 2 



388 THE LOG OF THE LAFA YETTE CHAP. 



the Lafayette under way, and run across first to some sand- 
banks, whose heads are exposed at low water beautiful 
stretches of dove-coloured sand, but apparently not even a 
whelk as far as shells go. Up through the sand are sticking 
thousands of little white tubes, apparently empty ; but after a 
few minutes, having parted from the riot of the crew and 
quietness reigning I find, when the sand is wetted by the 
foam, some lovely little sea anemones looking out of the tops 
of the tubes. After a time I rejoin the crew and find they 
have dug out a few olive and harp shells, but nothing remark- 
able ; and I hurt Eveke's feelings by saying I consider Corisco, 
as a collecting ground for shells, a fraud. He assures me 
solemnly that in the wet season, which has calmer seas than 
the dry, when the sun comes out and shines upon the 
exposed sandbanks, they are covered with thousands of shells, 
but from his description I think they are mostly olives. We 
go across from the sandbank to Laval, a little rock island 
with a patch of bush on its summit, and from its edges 
the size does not run to shores I get some sponges. Then 
on to Bafia, a larger island, which has a population of rats 
only, from whence it is sometimes called Rat Island but I 
get no more shells. Before I get back to Corisco, Eveke 
solemnly assures me that the women with their fishing baskets 
will be ready to-morrow early. 

Get up and hurry off early to Nassau Bay. Women not 
ready. Wait for two hours sitting on the steps of a native's 
house, which is built in the European style, and situated across 
the top of the village. There are two other houses like this one, 
I notice, between here and Alondo, each ostentatiously placed 
across the street. At last Eveke comes and says, " The 
women make trouble. They no get the baskets ready to-day ; 
they have them ready to-morrow for sure, but not to-day." 
Internally blessing Eveke and the ladies, I go to see how the 
world is made along the southern shores of the island along the 
dove-coloured sand, hedged on my right hand by the spray wall 
of the surf, and on the left by low -growing bushes, flowering 
profusely with long sprays of intensely sweet-scented, white 
mimosa-like flower. Behind these rises the high bush of one 
of the miniature forests. Every now and then I pass a path 



CAVES OF CORISCO 389 



to some native village, which, though hidden behind the trees, 
has its existence betrayed by the canoes, three or four of 
them drawn high up out of the reach of the surf under a group 
of coco-palms, which, as a general rule, stand as a gateway to 
these paths. About a mile along, perhaps a little more, the 
point runs out which makes the eastern end of Nassau Bay, 
the largest bay on this southern side of the island, and the 
only reasonably safe anchorage on all Corisco's shores. This 
point is composed of similar rock to that which juts out and 
forms the western end of this bay. 1 The rocks are exceed- 
ingly strange and picturesque. The surf play has hollowed 
them out underneath, until the upper part overhangs like a 
snow cornice ; and in several places masses of rock jut out 
beyond the others, weathered into strange forms, looking 
wonderfully like the heads of great lizard and serpent mon- 
sters stretched out, gazing towards the mainland of Africa. 
Some of these points of rock have trees growing along the 
neck of them, looking like a bristling mane. The under part 
of the rock is eaten back into a concavity, and in this again 
are eaten out groups of caves, a network of them intercommu- 
nicating in places, and pillars of rock rising in them from floor 
to ceiling. In the floor are perfectly lovely, clear pools of sea- 
water ; the rock in which they are hollowed out is a soft 
gray-green, and some zoophyte of an exquisite bright mauve 
or pink-violet colour grows in a broad band round the upper 
edge ; and in the water, lambent with the light reflected from 
the roof, float in a tangled skein the seaweeds the softest, 
sweetest commingling of golden-browns, greens, and reds 
imaginable. These little caves are gems of beauty, and 
nothing but becoming suddenly aware that the tide is rapidly 
coming in, makes me tear myself away and return across the 
bay, past where the Lafayette lies anchored, towards Alondo. 
After a mile over this trying track of rotten seaweed, on going 
round a little point, I find a lot of wild, uncivil children, who 
yell and dance round me half-terrified, but wholly malignant. 
The} r spit at me and shout, " Frenchy no good," " Frenchy no 
good," in English, such as it is, and equally broken Spanish. 
At first I think, Well ! France is no business of mine ; but I 
1 Specimen identified by the Geological Survey as calcareous grit. 



390 THE LOG OF THE LAP A YETTE CHAP. 



instantly receive a severe rap on my moral knuckles from my 
conscience, which tells me that as I chose to place myself 
under the protection of the French flag above Njole, and a 
great protection it undoubtedly was, I must, in my turn, pro- 
tect it from insult when it flies on the Lafayette in foreign 
waters. Moreover, the blood of the Vikings that is in me gets 
up on its own account at such treatment, and I make up my 
mind to suitably correct those children forthwith, particularly 
a male albino about fourteen years old, who is clad in the 
remains of an antique salt sack, which he wears unaltered, in- 
verted over him. Unfortunately, holes have been roughly cut 
in the bottom and sides of it to let out his unnecessary head 
and arms ; but at this identical moment I catch sight of a 
sweet-looking nun doing needle-work as she sits on the rocks. 
I go up to her and pass compliments, but do not complain to 
her about her flock, because she must be perfectly aware how 
they are going on, and secondly I am sure she is too meek to 
deal with them, even if she disapproves. Moreover, my know- 
ledge of Spanish consists almost entirely of expressions of 
thanks and greetings expressions which you are most in 
need of when dealing with Spaniards, as a general rule. So, 
finding she knows no English, I bow myself off and go my 
way round the rocky point that forms the end of another 
shallow bay, looking ostentatiously tired and feeble. Round 
that rocky point after me come the yelling pack led by the 
albino, and there things happen to those children that cause 
them to prefer the nun's company to mine. I make my way 
on, and to my dismay find the sea flying and churning up 
in a roaring rock cauldron at the extremity of the next point, 
so that I cannot get past. There is no path up inland 
that I can reach without passing the place where I have left 
the nun sitting. I feel naturally shy about doing this because 
of the male albino having gone off leaving his sack with me, 
and I do not know the Spanish idiom for " Please, ma'am, it 
came off in my hand ;" though doubtless this idiom exists, for 
there are parlour-maids and wine-glasses in Spain, and I am 
sure they employ this phrase every time when, in washing a 
wine-glass, they have gripped one end like a vice and wrung the 
other off. And not the albino alone has got out of repair this 



MAGIC IN MATCHES 391 



side of the rock, for neither that promising young lady who 
spat in my face, nor the one who threw sand in my eyes are 
what they were this morning. There is nothing for it then 
but the dwarf cliff; so I climb it and get into the bush and 
try and strike a path. I get into a plantain plantation, 
which means there is a village close at hand, and on the 
further side I come into a three-hut one, and find a 
most amiable old lady sunning herself in the centre of 
it. Unfortunately she does not know any English, but I shed 
a box of lucifer matches on her, wishing to show that I 
mean well, and knowing that one of the great charms of a 
white man to a black is this habit of shedding things. It is 
their custom to hang round one in their native wilds in the 
hope something will be shed, either intentionally or uninten- 
tionally. Not, I fancy, for the bald sake of the article itself, 
but from a sort of sporting interest in what the next thing 
shed will be. I know it is my chief charm to them, and 
they hang round wondering whether it will be matches, 
leaf tobacco, pocket-handkerchiefs, or fish-hooks ; and when 
the phenomena flag they bring me various articles for sale 
to try to get me into working order again. My present 
old lady is glad of her matches and they brighten up her 
intelligence, and she begins to understand I want something. 
After experimenting on me with a bunch of plantains and 
a paw-paw unsuccessfully, she goes and fetches a buxom young 
woman who soon comprehends I want Mrs. Ibea's house, and 
instantly she and the old lady escort me down a grass path 
and through some galleries of specimens of physical geography. 
We are soon joined by two pretty young girls, and wind our 
way back to the shore again on the further side of the point 
that had driven me inland. The elders then take themselves 
off after a mutual interchange of compliments and thanks ; 
the young women come on with me. Mighty pretty pictures 
they make with their soft dusky skins, lithe, rounded figures, 
pretty brown eyes, and surf-white teeth showing between their 
laughing lips as they dance before me ; and I cannot help 
thinking what a comfort they would be to a shipwrecked 
mariner and how he would enjoy it all. 

On we go, climbing round every rocky point until we 



392 THE LOG OF THE LA FA YETTE CHAP. 

find the tide too far in for any more beach at all, and strike 
into an inland path. These Corisco paths require under- 
standing to get on with. They all seem to start merely with 
the intention of taking you round a headland because the tide 
happens to be in ; but, like all African paths, once they are 
started Allah or Sheitan only kno\vs where they will go, 
and their presiding spirits might quote Kipling and sing, " God 
knows w r here we shall go, dear lass, and the deuce knows what 
we shall see," to the wayfarer who follows them. One thing 
and one thing only you can safely prognosticate of the 
African path ; and that is that it will not follow the shortest 
line between any two given points. A Corisco one turns up 
off the beach, springs inland saying to you, "Want to go round 
that corner, do you ? Oh ! well ; just come and see some of our 
noted scenery while you are here," and takes you through a 
miniature forest, small swamp, and a prairie. " It's a pity," 
says the path, " not to call at So-and-so's village now we 
are so near it," and off you have to go through a patch of 
grass and a plantation to the village. " We must hurry up 
and get back to that beach again. Blessed if I hadn't nearly 
forgotten what I came out for ! " it continues ; and back 
on to the beach it plunges, landing you about fifty yards 
from the place where you left it on account of the little 
headland. 

At last we reach Alondo, and I give my guides buttons, reels 
of cotton, pocket-handkerchiefs, fish-hooks, and matches, and 
we part friends ; they to show their treasures in their village, 
and to give rise to the hope that I may get lost on Corisco 
again,, soon and often, I to tea and talk with Mrs. Ibea. I tell 
her Eveke had said in the forenoon, when I last saw him, 
that he was coming home in the evening ; but he does not turn 
up and his mother says she " expects he is courting his mother- 
in-law." Regarding this as probably a highly interesting piece 
of native custom, in the interests of Science, I prop open my 
sleepy eyelids and listen. After all it isn't but only a piece 
of strange native morality. His lady-love, it seems, is house- 
keeper to a man on the mainland who is always talking of 
leaving the district but doesn't do so, so the marriage gets 
perpetually postponed. I hope that man won't try the patient 



NATIVE TRADER KILLED 393 



affection of the engaged pair too long, for I should fancy it 
might lead to some internal disorder. 

I heard a quantity of details of Corisco family affairs 
one very sad one, of how a young man who was a native 
trader for one of the German houses up the Cameroons 
River, came to his death a short time ago. The firm had 
decided to break factory at the place where he was stationed, 
a thing the natives of this country cannot bear ; for having a 
factory that has once been established among them removed, 
brings them into derision and contempt among their neigh- 
bours. " You're a pretty town," say the scornful. " You can't 
keep a factory. Yah ! " Moreover, a factory in a town is an 
amusement and a convenience, let alone being lucrative to the 
native. Well, this unfortunate young Benga man was left 
behind by the white men to see the last of the goods cleared 
out and brought down river; and while he was faithfully looking 
to these things, the local natives attacked him and killed him 
and " cut him up like a fish into small pieces and threw them 
into the water," says Mrs. Ibea. These native sub-traders 
have very risky lives of it, travelling undefended, with goods, 
amongst the savage tribes on this South-West Coast. They 
frequently get killed and robbed, and the only thing that 
keeps them from not being so treated still more frequently is 
that the commercial instinct of the bush tribes warns them 
that it would completely stamp out trade. In Corisco Bay 
the river Muni, a name given it by the Portuguese early 
navigators from the native word for " take care," is notoriously 
unsafe all the more so because there is no settled European 
authority over it, France and Spain being at loggerheads about 
the ownership of the piece of coast from Cape Esterias to 
Batta. This had doubtless a good deal to do with those 
children's conduct this afternoon ; for Corisco Island and Eloby 
Islands are Spanish possessions, and are under a Vice- 
Governor to the Governor of Fernando Po. I remember 
when I was out before, being led to believe that the Vice- 
Governorship of Eloby was a sort of pensioning-off place for 
Spanish officials who had gone mad, or that it was held by- 
London County Councillors in disguise. One of the Vice- 
Governors was truly great at domestic legislation, and nothing 



394 THE LOG OF THE LAFA YETTE CHAP. 

but the habit of forgetting in a day or so the orders he had 
issued made the place habitable at all. At one time there was 
an ordinance that all lights on the island should be out at 
10 P.M., and as your African is a sad dog for late hours, this 
bored him terribly. Shortly after, there was another that all 
goats should be kept tied up. This fairly ran the native off 
his legs trying to catch them. The goats, I believe, liked it, 
regarding it as a kind of a game, though they made an awful 
ba-aaing which kept the lightless Africans awake. I do not 
know what the present Governor is like. Maybe he would 
have seen fit to regard me as a filibuster coming in flying the 
French flag, intent on annexing Corisco to Gaboon, and might 
have sent me off to prison at Fernando Po, as happened to Mr. 
Ibea once for some religious palaver he got into with the two 
Catholic priests who are on the island. 

These priests, and I believe three nuns, are the only white 
live people on the island now. Dead white people are there 
in the two cemeteries in a sad quantity ; for in the early fifties, 
when the American Presbyterian Mission opened work on 
this Coast, their opinion was that the fever risk for the white 
ministers would be less on this island, separated as it is 
by some twenty miles of sea from the mainland, and that 
they could establish a station on it and live in comparative 
safety, while they educated natives to go and do the work on 
the mainland. But Corisco Island behaved like every other 
West Coast " sanatorium," and demonstrated that it was no 
healthier than its neighbouring country ; and several ministers 
having died and most of the remainder suffering severely from 
fever, they decided to move on to the continent, where they 
could carry on their work directly and could not be much 
worse off than they were on the island. 

Dr. Nassau, of whom I have already spoken, and Mrs. Hog- 
den, whose husband lies buried on Corisco, are the surviving 
members of the early days of the American Presbyterian Mis- 
sion ; and on the Mission moving to the continent, the Doctor, 
more suo, made some wonderful journeys hundreds of miles 
into the interior, where no white man had been before, and 
where in many places no white man has been since. I am quite 
aware that Dr. Nassau was the first white man to send home 






xvii DR. NASSAU 395 



gorillas' brains ; still I deeply regret he has not done more for 
science and geography. Had he but had Livingstone's con- 
scientious devotion to taking notes and publishing them, 
we should know far more than we do at present about the 
hinterland from Cameroons to the Ogovve, and should have, for 
ethnological purposes, an immense mass of thoroughly reliable 
information about the manners and religions of the tribes 
therein, and Dr. Nassau's fame would be among the greatest 
of the few great African explorers not that he would care a 
row of pins for that. I beg to state I am not grumbling at 
him, however, as I know he would say I was, because of his 
disparaging remarks on my pronunciation of M'pongvve 
names, but entirely from the justifiable irritation a student of 
fetish feels at knowing there is but one copy of this collection 
of materials, and that that copy is in the form of a human 
being and will disappear with him before it is half learnt by 
us, who cannot do the things he has done. 

Get up very early, make a hasty breakfast, and walk to 
Nassau Bay, full of pleasant anticipations of a day's good fish- 
ing in those lakes. When I arrive at the village find I need 
not have hurried, so sit down for my usual wait. 

At last Eveke, who has been making demonstrations of 
great activity in getting the ladies under way, succeeds in 
so doing or, I fancy, more properly speaking, those ladies 
who are ready, and disposed to start on their own account, 
do so. Several men accompany the party and we leave the 
village by a path that goes round to the right of the plank- 
built house, plunges forthwith into a little ravine, goes across 
a dried swamp, up a hill and out on to an open prairie, all in 
about twenty minutes. The prairie has recently been burnt, 
and is a stretch of blackened green with the ruins of a few 
singed, or burnt up, trees rising from it. 

These burnt lands are interesting, though they make one in 
a horrid mess. I now understand the rationale of the state- 
ment the natives have often made to me ; namely, that if you 
fire the grass too soon, or when there is no wind, you kill it for 
good. If you wait until it is " dry too much " it is all right 
and you don't kill it. This is because the grass grows in a 
lot of bulb-like bottom tufts ; when the outer and upper parts 



396 THE LOG OF THE LAFAYETTE CHAP. 

are quite dry it catches fire and, fanned by the wind, the fire 
licks this up and sweeps on with great rapidity, leaving the 
moist heart of the tuft comparatively uninjured ; and this sends 
out fresh green leaves when the wet season's tornado rain 
comes down on it. Whereas if you burn it too soon, and 
without wind, the outer stuff, being insufficiently dry to burn 
with this rapidity, smoulders, and the heat of it lasting longer, 
kills the inside. 

Some of the low-growing, bamboo-like palms act in the 
same way; but should there happen to be a lot of dry grass, or 
their own dry cast-off leaves round them, close up to the 
stem, their vital part just above the root gets injured, and 
they die or make very bad convalescences. I do not know 
whether it is so in Corisco, but at other places where I have 
been there is always a fire-doctor, w r ho by means of ju-ju, 
backed as ju-ju often is by sound common sense and local 
knowledge, decides which is the proper day to set the grass 
on fire. 

We go across this prairie into a little wood mainly made 
up of beautiful wild fig-trees, with their muscles showing 
through the skin like our own beech-trees' muscles do, only 
the wild fig stem is whitish-grey and most picturesquely 
twisted and branching. Then out of this on to another 
prairie, larger and unburnt. During the whole of our walk 
from the village we have been yelling in prolonged, intoned 
howls for ladies, whose presence is necessary to the legiti- 
mate carrying on of our fishing lady representatives of each 
village being expected to attend and see the fish are properly 
divided. I cannot find there is any fetish at the bottom of 
this custom, and think its being restricted to the women is 
originally founded on the male African's aversion to work ; 
and in the representation of the villages, on the Africans' 
distrust of each other. 

Notably, and grievously, we howl for En-gou-ta-a-a and 
Engouta comes not ; so we throw ourselves down on the 
deliciously soft, fine, golden brown grass, in the sun, and wait 
for the tardy, absent ones, smoking, and laughing, and sleeping, 
and when an}- of the avocations palls on any of us we rise up 
and howl " Engouta." After about two mortal hours of this, and 



xvii CORISCO CONFLAGRATIONS 397 



when my companions have for some time settled down, quite 
reconciled, to sleep peacefully, I hear a crackle-crackle-like 
fusillade of miniature guns. Looking towards the place whence 
the sound comes I notice a cloud of bright blue bmoke sur- 
mounting a rapidly advancing wall of crimson fire. I get up 
and mention this fact briefly to my drowsy companions, adding 
in the case of the more profound sleepers an enlightening 
kick, and make an exemplary bee-line to the bush in front 
of us. The others follow my example with a rapidity I should 
not have expected in their tribe, but, in spite of some very 
creditable and spirited sprint performances, three members of 
the party get scorched and spent the balance of the afternoon 
sitting in mud-holes, comforting themselves with the balmy 
black slime. 

The fire swept across our bit of the prairie in the line of the 
breeze, and died out when it came to the green wood in a very 
short time ; and shortly afterwards the absent ones, including 
Engouta, turn up. These ladies explained " some fool man 
been done burn " a patch on the other side to plant manioc. 
The whole island is busy planting now before the rains come 
on. Some days ago he thought the fire was out, and safe, but 
it wasn't, and the stiff breeze fanned it up. " People should 
be careful with fire," I say sententiously and they all agree 
with me, the scorched ones enthusiastically. 

A little clamber down into the wood we are in brings us to 
the lakes. There is a little chain of them they are just 
basins in the rock strata of varying sizes, and each has a 
thick lining of black mud. The water is at its lowest now, 
as it is the end of the dry season, and the water they contain 
is, I think, the accumulation of rain water from wet seasons. 

As far as I can see there are no streams running into or 
out of them. In the wet season probably there may be both. 
One of them the ladies refuse to fish in, saying it was too 
deep ; possibly being a deep crack in the rock like the one you 
see as you pass the enclosed grounds of the Catholic Mission at 
Evangelanda ; and I think they are prevented from evaporating, 
.as that one does in the dry season, by being surrounded with 
the dense bush of this tangled little wood, which occupies the 
hollow of the interior of the island in which they are situated. 



THE LOG OF THE LAFAYETTE CHAP. 



Even with this I believe they would dry, were the dry season 
the hot season, as it is on the Gold Coast. Most of these 
lakes have an encircling rim of rock, from which, if you are a 
fisher, you jump down into unmitigated black slime to your 
knees ; you then waddle, and squatter, and grunt, and sky- 
lark generally, to the shallow remnant of water. If it is one 
of the larger lakes, you and your companions drive in two 
rows of stakes, cutting each other at right angles, more or less, 
in the centre of the lake. 

This being done, the women, with the specially made 
baskets affairs shaped like bed-pillows with one side open 
form a line with their backs towards the banks, their faces to 
the water, in the enclosure ; the other women go into the 
water by the stakes, and splash with hands and feet and 
sticks as hard as they can, needless to say shouting hard the 
while. The terrified fish fly from them into the baskets, and 
are scooped up by the peck. In little basins of water the 
stakes are not required, but the rest of the proceedings are the 
same, some women standing with their backs to the bank, 
holding their baskets' mouths just under water, and scooping 
up the fish flying from the beaters in the middle. 

From twelve to fourteen bushels is the usual result of the 
day's fishing, and the fish are divided between the representa- 
tives and distributed among the villages. A tremendous fish 
dinner ensues in the evening, and what fish are left are smoked 
and kept as relishes and dainties until next fishing time 
comes round. 

I was told on the island that this fishing takes place every year 
in August, that is after the farm planting and just before the 
tornado rains come on. On the mainland the tradition is 
that it takes place here every two years, in August. I dare 
say this was the case in old days ; although, by the way, I 
heard that this regular institution of fishing with its repre- 
sentatives, &c., was of comparatively recent introduction, and 
arose from the fear that the fish, by irregular and constant fish- 
ing, would be exterminated. Corisco would not accept this view 
at all, and insisted that the fashion had come down from the 
old times, meaning it had an unlimited antiquity. But with 
all this formality, after all I had gone through, and all my 



A BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT 399 



walks and waitings, those wretched fish were nothing and 
nobody else but an African mud-fish, a brute I cordially hate, 
for whenever I ask native fishermen for fish, they bring me 
him ; if I start catching fish for myself, nine times in ten it's 
him I catch. It was a bitter disappointment, for I had looked 
forward to getting some strange fish, or strongly modified 
form, in the middle of this little sea island, in fresh-water, some 
twenty miles from the mainland shore. But there ! it's Africa all 
over; presentingone with familiar objects when one least requires 
them, like that razor in the heart of Gorilla-land ; and un- 
familiar, such as elephants and buffaloes when you are out for 
a quiet stroll armed with a butterfly net, to say nothing of 
snakes in one's bed and scorpions in one's boots and sponge. 
One's view of life gets quite distorted ; I don't believe I should 
be in the least surprised to see a herd of hippo stroll on to the 
line out of one of the railway tunnels of Notting Hill Gate 
station. West Africa is undoubtedly bad for one's mind. 

I did not go completely round all the lakes, having to watch 
the fishing, and at last, finding there was only this one kind of 
fish to be had, and that it was getting late, I set off on my 
weary, long walk back to Alondo, where I found on arriving that 
Mrs. Ibea had got tea waiting for me, and that Mr. Ibea was back 
from his evangelising mission to Cape St. John and Eloby. 
He is a splendidly built, square-shouldered man, a pure Benga, 
of the finest type, full of energy and enthusiasm. I found 
some difficulty in accepting his statement regarding the age 
of Mrs. Ibea and himself, and I still think he stuck a good 
ten years on. 

His views on native social questions I had less difficulty in 
accepting, more particularly those which coincide with my 
own. We talked about the Fan the backbone of native, 
and a good big factor in white conversation, all along here. 

In this part of the world the descent of this great tribe is 
ousting the older inhabitants of the land. Mr. Ibea says that 
one of the first white members of the American Presbyterian 
Mission that came to this Coast some thirty years ago, made 
a journey into the interior behind Batanga. At the further 
end of this journey he heard of the coming Fan, even then 
in a state of migration westwards ; and, from what he heard, 



400 THE LOG OF THE LA FA YETTE CHAP. 



on his return to Corisco he prophesied that before another 
ten years were past they would have the Fan to deal with on 
the sea-coast districts. Natives and Europeans both laughed 
at him ; but before the ten years were past the Fans were over 
the border line of the M'pongwe and Igalwa, but the prophet 
was not alive to see the realisation of his prophecy. At this 
present time, the Fans are, in a few places, down by the sea- 
shore itself, busy learning ho\v to manage a canoe on the 
open and deep sea not yet so proficient in the art as the 
M'pongwe or Benga, who are great masters, but getting 
on well with their studies, for they are an indefatigable 
race, and plucky, which is the main element in any race's 
success. It is very evident to an observer that the Fans 
on the Ogowe are comparatively recent, and that when they 
came they brought with them no experience in dealing with a 
great rapid river ; but they tackle it in a game way, and are 
getting on. In addition to the causes of decay that the presence 
of the Fan among the Coast tribes brings into play, there are 
many others helping the extinction of the latter. It always 
seems to me a wonder we have so many traces of early man as 
we have, when one sees here in Africa how one tribe sweeps 
out another tribe that goes like the foam of a broken wave into 
the Ewigkeit before it, leaving nothing, after the lapse of a 
century, to show it ever existed. 

Here the Dualla and the M'pongwe, both tribes now be- 
coming on their own account extinct, have their traditions of 
having come down to the sea-board from nearly the same 
region from whence the Fan are now swarming. The in- 
habitants of Fernando Po, the so-called Bubi, probably the 
oldest race now on the sea-board, remember the coming of the 
M'pongwe too, for they say these M'pongwe drove them 
out of the districts round Gaboon. How long ago this 
happened it is impossible to say, owing to the absence of 
monuments, and the weak-mindedness of the African regarding 
time ; but I am sure, from many conversations, that you may 
place a limit of 500 years as the extreme one for the very 
oldest Negro or Bantu historical tradition. Indeed I doubt 
much whether any Bantu tradition would run to that ; I say 
historical, because the religious tradition may be of intense 



THE FAN INVASION 401 

antiquity, being handed down from generation to generation 
unaltered for immense periods of time. The child' would be 
told, for example, that a dangerous spirit lived in the rapids 
of a river, or lurked in the forest, which it would be advisable 
for him to keep an eye on, for his own safety. But who would 
trouble to tell him that a chief of such and such a name once 
lived there where the Engombie-Gombie trees have been 
shadowed down again by the great forest ? The chief is dead. 
The village is dead, " palaver done set," so the historical tradi- 
tion fades out like smoke. 

Even the invasion of another tribe,like the Fans, for example, 
does not affect the religious tradition much. For it is not on 
the whole a war invasion : they come down in villagefuls 
among the older tribes, and hear the local spirit-gossip, and 
take it to their ample bosom, of belief, and pass the traditions 
on to their children. Meanwhile, the tribe that told them these 
things has moved West, away from them, because they have 
got the best bush places cleared and covered with their planta- 
tions, and they catch all the fish, and they get all the trade, and 
they eat respectable people occasionally, and steal from them 
continually, and they kick up such a noise, and have such 
perpetual rows among each other, and respectable villages 
belonging to the older tribe; that the older tribe has the opinion 
forced upon it, that no decent people can live near those filthy, 
fearful Fans, and so move nearer in to Lembarene or Libre- 
ville. 

In addition to this cause of a tribe leaving its old districts, 
there are others which move tribes completely off earthly dis- 
trict's of any kind altogether : among these are the smallpox, 
and the sleep disease. The former is most common in Congo 
Fran^ais, where it receives the graphically descriptive name 
of " the spotted death " among the natives, the latter appears 
in its worst form in Kacongo and Angola, where whole villages 
are, at intervals, depopulated by it. The visitations of these 
maladies, indeed of all maladies in West Africa, take the form 
of epidemics, and seem periodic. I have collected much 
material, but not sufficient yet to make deductions from, as to 
the duration of the periods between the outbreaks. The natives 
all along the Coast from Calabar to the South will tell you : " It 

D D 



402 THE LOG OF THE LA FA YETTE CHAP.J 



is when the crabs come up the river," which means when the 
crayfish come down the rivers; but that is just their artless, un-. 
observant way of putting things. This swarming of the crayfish 
occurs about every five years, and for days the river-water is 
crowded with them, so that you can bale them out by basket- 
fuls. This the native does, accompanying his operations with 
songs and tom-toms, and he then eats any quantity of them ; 
another quantity he smokes and preserves, in what he pleases 
to regard as a dried state, for sauce making ; and the greatest 
quantity of all he chucks in heaps to fester round his dwelling. 

There are plenty more causes of the extinction of tribes 
besides these so many in fact, that one gets to wonder that 
there are any Coast tribes of 100 years old or so left. 

Mr. Ibea himself says that there are not now more than 
2,000 of his own tribe left, and that those that are now repre- 
senting it are far inferior, physically, to those he remembers as 
having seen as old men, when he was a boy. 

These Benga were once an exceedingly powerful and proud 
tribe. Now they have little save their pride left. In old days 
they were very busy making war on their neighbours, elephant 
hunting, shipping themselves as crew to whaling vessels, and 
other people as slaves to slaving vessels, and so on. Great 
hands at the slave trade were these Benga, and slave-owners 
are they still ; but gone is their glory, and in a few years 
more the Benga will themselves have gone to join the 
shades of the tribes that were before them in this land, 
leaving behind them no sign, not even a flint arrow-head, to 
show that they ever existed ; for their wooden utensils and 
their iron weapons will rot like rag in the hot moist earth ; 
and then " finish." 

Mr. Ibea and I got quite low about this. He agreed it was 
partially the Benga's own fault ; they had of late years taken 
to bad habits, he said ; amongsgpihese to infant marriage. This 
struck me as strange, for as I have already mentioned, the also 
dying-out Igalwas have only recently adopted this custom. He 
says that forty years ago it was quite unknown among the 
Benga, and that in former days both men and women were 
frequently over fifteen and twenty before they married. Now 
the old men buy girl children, both as wives for themselves and 



EFFECTS OF CIVILISATION 403 

for their infant sons. Then Mr. Ibea blamed the rum ; although 
he owned they had plenty of rum in the old prosperous whaling 
and slaving days. Indeed he said he thought the main reason 
of their extinction was the indolence that had come over the 
tribe, now these incentives to activity were gone ; for inactivity 
in Africa is death. He said, of course as a Christian minister, 
he knew it was for the best that the old warlike, bloodthirsty 
Benga spirit was broken, but but well, I think he felt as I 
feel myself when I come across quantities of my fellow 
countrymen talking of the wickedness of war, and the neces- 
sity of checking our growing population, and so on ; only I feel 
it more than Mr. Ibea, for I am not a Christian minister and 
am more of a savage than he is. 

Nothing strikes one so much, in studying the degeneration of 
these native tribes, as the direct effect that civilisation and re- 
formation has in hastening it. The worst enemy to the 
existence of the African tribe, is the one who comes to it and 
says : Now you must civilise, and come to school, and leave 
off all those awful goings-on of yours, and settle down quietly. 
The tribe does so ; the African is teachable and tractable ; and 
then the ladies and some of the young men are happy and 
content with the excitement of European clothes and frequent 
Church services ; but the older men and some of the bolder 
young men soon get bored with these things and the, to 
them, irksome restraints, and they go in for too much rum, 
or mope themselves to death, or return to their native 
customs. The African treats his religion much as other men 
do : when he gets slightly educated, a little scientific one 
might say, he removes from his religion all the disagreeable 
parts. He promptly eliminates its equivalent Hell, represented 
in Fetishism by immediate and not future retribution. Then 
goes his rigid Sabbath-keeping, and food-restriction equivalent, 
and he has nothing left but ike agreeable portions : dances, 
polygamy, and so on; and it's a very bad thing for him. I only 
state these things so as to urge upon people at home the 
importance of combining technical instruction in their mission 
teaching ; which by instilling into the African mind ideas of 
discipline, and providing him with manual occupation, will 
save him from these relapses which are now the reproach of 

D D 2 



404 THE LOG OF THE LAFAYETTE CHAP. 



missionary effort, and the curse and degradation of the African. 
I do not feel sure that one must accept Mr. Ibea's opinion, and 
class infant marriage among the causes of tribe extinction, 
because this custom is in vogue among many tribes that are 
still swarming, and among these Fans it is in vogue as regards 
the women. This, I think, is the earliest stage of the custom. 

The island of Corisco is three miles in length, north and 
south, and averages one and three-quarters in breadth. Its 
north-west point is in lat. o, 5 8' north and long. 9, 20' east. I 
have acquired a good deal of information from local tradi- 
tions, charts, and personal experience, the latter being of 
course largely of the situation of rocks and banks when 
personally navigating ; so I will set the general results of my 
studies down. 

Corisco Island is situated in the middle of Corisco Bay and 
is most seaward of the islands in the bay. It is surrounded 
by a hollow bank, irregular in outline, extending in some 
places two-and-a-half miles off shore ; and in addition to this 
extensive shoal are several detached rocky patches off the N.E. 
shore of the island. Off the N.E. point lie Corisco Banks, the 
outer patch with three-and-a-half fa thorns of water three miles 
off shore. On the outer large patch you may get twelve feet 
of water, but I found bottom at two feet. On the inner and 
larger it averages three feet ; among both these patches there 
are boat channels ; and Mr. Ibea's accounts of his experiences 
among them during the many voyages he has made to and 
from the mainland, with the stiff current that runs round Cape 
St. John, are thrilling, but not such as would induce any one 
to make Corisco a yachting centre. 

Laval Island, which I have mentioned above, is about 200 
yards long but makes the most of itself with rocks and trees, and 
stands high above the water. It is one mile south of Corisco 
Island. It has a line of bank, on which the sea breaks, north and 
north-east. The " West Coast Pilot "says there is only a canoe 
passage between it and Corisco Island. This is not the case, 
for you can take a small schooner between them, though I do 
not advise it because of the rock reef running out from Alondo 
Point. The edge of the encircling bank of Corisco Island 
goes round outside Laval one and a half miles to the west* 



LAVAL AND BANA BANKS 405 



and two miles to the southward. About a mile S.E. of Laval 
there is a reef which, when I was on Corisco, was a perpetual 
line of foam. 

Laval Bank lies S.W. f S. three-and-a-half miles from 
Laval Island. It is rock and sand. There is good fishing 
near it, but the sea breaks over the head of it furiously. It 
stretches two miles north and south and is one and a half 
broad, the Pilot says. I passed through it on my return voyage 
to Gaboon and think it is in many places two miles wide, but 
this being the rough season in these seas it showed itself off 
in full. 

Baiia Island is a quarter of a mile long, and is lower than 
Laval. It is five miles S. of the S.E. end of Corisco Island, 
that is, Alondo. Its surrounding plinth of rock shows in 
places at low water and one large rock, which is never covered, 
shows about a mile out to sea, W. by S. 

But Bafia Island is nothing to Bana Bank, which supports 
Obanjo's I beg his pardon, Captain Johnson's statement 
that " half dem dar Ternal Corisco Bay Islands lib under water." 

This bank is nine miles long, in an east by north and west 
by south direction, averaging three and a half miles in breadth. 
On it the depths are very shallow and variable. The 
eastern part of the bank is called the Crown Sand and a patch 
dries, for I was shell-hunting on it. About two miles S.E. by 
E. f E. of Bafia, that is to say shorewards to the mainland, 
there is another patch of the Crown Sand which dries, which 
is called the East Sand ; on this I got some sponges and 
Gorgonia. After trying to give a conscientious account of 
Bafia Bank, I notice my friend the " West Coast Pilot " collapses 
and pathetically beseeches you, if you will, or must, go into 
Corisco Bay, to be very careful. I think these patches of 
the Crown Sand that dry must be near to the end of 
the bank ; for Captain Porter, who knows this bit of coast 
well, tells me there is a passage for vessels out of Corisco 
Bay by Oranda Point, towards Cape Esterias, provided 
they do not draw more than two fathoms and know the way; 
but this passage is not used now. 

Eleven miles east from the north-east end of Corisco Island, 
further into the bay, lie the two Eloby Islands. They are on the 



406 THE LOG OF THE LAFAYETTE CHAP. I 

top of an extensive shoal, running in most directions for miles, 
hut particularly eastwards and southwards. Mail steamers 
that come in to call at Messrs. Holt's factory on little Eloby, 
and off the mouth of the Muni River where Hatton and 
Cookson have a factory, come into Corisco Bay, from the north, 
round to the east of the Eloby islands, and leave by the same 
channel, which averages six fathoms ; and go south, if they 
want to, well outside to the west of all Corisco Bay's banks. 
I do not know why little Eloby Island should be the inhabited 
one. Big Eloby is a fine, likely-looking island. I was told by 
a Benga on Cape Esterias that it was once inhabited, but there 
was a war and the inhabitants were killed and carried off as 
slaves, and it has not since been re-colonised. 

The northern part of the bay I have had no personal ex- 
perience in navigating, but, according to the " Pilot " it has its 
drawbacks, and according to people who have to work it, 
these drawbacks are by no means down in all their beauty in 
the charts. It was in this bay that the Benguella struck on a 
something. I cannot be more definite because some of my 
friends who ought to know say it was a wreck the old wreck 
of the David MacLean ; others, who ought to know, say it 
was rocks ; anyhow she tore, then and there, a big wound in 
herself, and nothing but the fine seamanship of Captain Evers- 
field ever got her up into Cameroons River and successfully 
beached her and repaired her there. During her convalescence 
she was the haven of refuge for the unfortunate white folk of 
Cameroon while the mutiny of the Dahomeyan soldiers went 
on ashore in 1894. 

There is another wreck not down in the chart, just off Alondo, 
the south-east point of Corisco Island ; it is that of the schooner 
Elfie, belonging to the American Presbyterian Mission. 

This Corisco Bay, when you look at it on the map, seems an 
ideally formed harbour, and I once heard it strongly recom- 
mended as a suitable site for a coaling station ; but a glance 
at its chart will show you it is only a subtly rock-set trap for 
vessels, imperfect as the chart is. Its width is thirty-five miles 
south by west and three-quarters west. This line touches the 
eastern end of Corisco Island, and eastwards of it the bay is 
fourteen miles deep. 



:vn SIERRA DEL CRISTAL 407 

Two rivers fall into Corisco Bay, the Muni and the Moondah. 
The latter runs up behind Libreville. There is a creek, the 
entrance to which is on the right-hand bank near the mouth of 
the Moondah as you enter ; this runs behind Cape Esterias, in 
a south-east direction, and nearly communicates with the 
Gaboon estuary ; so nearly that it is possible to utilise it as a 
short cut to Corisco Bay from Libreville, it being possible to 
drag a boat over the intervening strip of land. 

The Muni is a longer and more important river than the 
Moondah ; its outfall is north of it, opposite little Eloby Island, 
on the mainland shore. On a chart it looks like the usual 
African river turned upside down, its upper course being split 
up into several streams instead of its lower. Both these rivers, 
like many others in this region, rise in the range of the Sierra 
del Cristal, an enormous belt of mountainous country the 
eastern limitations of which are at present unexplored. 

A' few great rivers cut through this range from sources be- 
yond the Sierra, such as the Ogowe and the joint streams of 
the Mbam and Sanaga which come into the Atlantic under the 
names of the O'Bengo and the Boungo. The ranges round the 
Ogowe are the best known parts of the Sierra del Cristal; for the 
Ogowe places at the traveller's disposal a path, such as I have 
partially described, through 500 miles of it ; and the Ogowe's 
chief afBuent, the Nguni, cuts through it again from Samba 
south-eastwards ; and the Okanda's course lies, as far as that 
river has been ascended, in the very heart of it, going away 
north-east. It is a range of old volcanic origin, running in 
series of ridges parallel to each other, and following the long 
line of the continent. Its general trend is north-west and 
south-east. It comes down almost to the sea beach behind 
Batanga, and the beautiful little Loway River falls from a 
small cliff some twenty or thirty feet high belonging to, it on 
to the sea shore itself. 

It is this range which gives the coast from Cameroon to 
Landana the marked superiority in beauty it possesses 
over the rest of the West Coast ; excepting, of course, the 
splendours of Ambas Bay, which is a thing apart and out of 
all keeping with the Coast. These western ridges of the 
Sierra make a beautiful purple blue background to the splendid 



408 THE LOG OF THE LA FA YETTE CHAP. 



band of forest that runs behind the bright yellow sands of the 
sea shore, which are again bordered to seaward by the white 
wall of surf. The mountains forming it are distinct in outline 
and fantastic in form, notably the one behind Batanga, which 
seen from seaward takes the exact form of a kneeling elephant. 
Its height is 1707 feet and I am told there is another one of 
almost identical shape in the same parallel of latitude on the 
East African Coast. It was first ascended by Sir Richard 
Burton, since then Mr. Newberry of Batanga has been up it. 
He tells me the view from the summit to the east is into a 
mountainous country as far as eye can see. Several of the 
other peaks of this range that have been measured, and are 
visible from the sea, are higher than the Elephant. The Mitre, 
inland from Cape St. John, is 3940 feet ; the highest of a 
stretch of hills called the Seven Hills, but belonging to one 
range, is 2786 feet. Mount Alouetteis 3415 feet but none are 
so striking in form as Mount Elephant. 

Behind Corisco Bay the range takes a trend inland, in a 
direction nearly at right angles to the shore, going inland to 
the south-east by south ; but the details of its peaks are not 
known, this district being little explored. The range seems to 
turn more eastward still behind Cape Esterias, and runs 
towards, and unites with, that part of the Sierra del Cristal 
that cuts the course of the Ogowe some 170 miles from the 
sea at Talagouga ; only a few isolated bubble-shaped hills, 
like Mount Sangatao, being in the Ogowe delta region. The 
position of this range when I struck its western flank, coming 
across from the Ogowe to the Rembwe, was some 140 to 150 
miles inland, the main chain of this part lying to the eastward 
of where I was. The Rembwe cuts through a portion of it 
just above Agonjo, but the Rembwe itself rises in the range. 
The 'Como, which it joins with at 'Como Point to form the 
Gaboon estuary, is said to rise inlands behind this range, and 
is formed like the Muni by several streams uniting. Obanjo 
told me, when I was at Ajongo, that the range was going from 
there in a north by east direction, but of the upper part of the 
'Como little or nothing is personally known by white men. 

The inhabitants of the shores and hinterland of Corisco Bay 
are a wild set of savages of several tribes. The Benga were once 



xvn THE COAST CLIMATE 409 



the ruling race among them, but they have diminished rapidly 
of late years. The country is very rich in rubber and ebony, 
which is bought by the Benga native traders, and M'pongwe, 
and sold to the white traders at Eloby and Cocoa Beach. 

Those traders who know the inland tribes describe them 
as savage and treacherous. The Fans are coming down 
through this part of the country to the beach all the way 
along from Batanga to the Gaboon estuary. I cannot 
hold out much hope that they will enlighten or ameliorate 
the manners and customs of the older inhabitants as re- 
gards trade, but they can teach them a thing or two worth 
knowing in the way of activity and courtesy. That they will 
suffer the same extinction that the previous migrants to the 
Coast have suffered, there is no reason to doubt, for they will 
be under similar conditions ; and Mr. Ibea and myself agree 
again, that there is something inimical to human life, black or 
white, in the immediate Coast region of West and South- West 
Africa, as far down as Congo : and the interior tribes also 
join us in our opinion. Many times have I, and others, been 
told by interior tribes that there is a certain air which comes 
from the sea that kills men that is just their way of putting 
it I call it Paludisme Malariav which is just my way of 
putting it, and of course I fancy that it comes from the rotting, 
reeking swamp land and lagoons, and not from the sea. 
Anyhow, white men and black feel it, and suffer and die. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

FROM CORISCO TO GABOON 

The log of the Lafayette on her return voyage from Corisco to Gaboon, 
giving some account of Cape Esterias and the inhabitants thereof ; to 
which is added a full and particular account of a strange sailing 
manoeuvre, first carried out by this voyager, and not included in any 
published treatise on the art of seamanship in the known world. 

August $th, 1895. Weather still very rough, the two mile 
spit of rock running seawards from Alondo Point is a white 
stretch of flying foam, and the roar and thunder of it shakes the 
rocky cliff on which the house stands. Mr. Ibea thinks, however, 
that we should make Cape Esterias by nightfall, presumably 
because we are all sober ; for he tells me an enlivening tale of 
how he " started from Corisco, on just such a day as this," in a 
boat commanded and owned by a native, who was drunk at 
starting and became more so. In addition to himself and this 
disreputable person, there were some women, and a crew of 
four or five men. " Shortly," says Mr. Ibea, " we were upset, 
and I had to swim about and put them all back into the boat 
again. I had not got them in half-an-hour before he got the 
boat over again, and I again had to fetch them out of the 
water." Mr. Ibea is a magnificent swimmer, and a fine dash- 
ing sailor, and I wish he were coming with me instead of 
Eveke, and would leave Eveke to look after pastoral matters ; 
but this I know is not possible, and it may be worse to-morrow, 
so I'm off, and shall spend my time keeping the Lafayette 
from being upset, for I cannot swim round like ten Newfound- 
land story-book dogs, or one Mr. Ibea, gathering people from 
the South Atlantic waves and replacing them on board her, or 
any vessel. So I take a grateful farewell of Mrs. Ibea and the 



CH. xvin WAITING FOR THE TIDE 411 



family at large. Mr. Ibea and his younger son, who is bubbling 
out conversation in Benga, as he has ever been doing since I 
came to the island, come with me a little way, and then 
we part. 

I notice that the sea is rough, and the lagoons behind the 
beaches stink worse even than usual : no wonder the mission 
found it as unhealthy here as on the mainland ! The fine sand 
blows in the wind, stinging my face in fact it is bad weather, 
but I have had enough of walking to and fro along this sandy 
beach, while Eveke courts his mother-in-law elect, and, in 
order to get more time to do so, tries to frighten me about 
the weather. 

Arrived at Nassau Bay and have the usual job of hunting 
out Eveke and the crew from the village, and the usual delays. 
We wait for the turn of the tide on Eveke's advice. It would, 
I am sure, have been better to have gone out before the 
slack, so as to have had the full tide for Esterias, but I 
let him have his way and wait patiently in the wooden, 
European-fashion built house which I learn belongs to Eveke's 
uncle. It does not give one the idea of being much lived in. 

It is fairly clean, the walls inside are painted white, with 
the door and window-frames a bright cobalt blue. Cobalt 
blue, by the bye, seems a great feature on this island. I 
wonder whether a cargo of it was ever washed ashore from a 
wreck, or whether it is a special line of goods for " pay ing off " 
in ? One rarely sees any other coloured paint. There is one 
other little village I have been passing through daily since I 
have been here, that has each house door painted with it and 
white paint in stripes, diagonal bands, straight bands, plain and 
chess-board patterns, till it's as good as names and numbers to 
that village. It would be far and away better for postmen and 
diners-out than a plan in vogue in a far away London suburb I 
know of, wherein the christening of the villas seems to have 
been done by a gardener, giving the more ordinary individual 
gay times for the houses are named after trees, and which 
particular shrub your friend lives at often slips down a hole 
in your memory, when you find yourself confronted by the 
front gates of " the Bays," " Lilacs," " Elms," " Oaks," " Labur- 
nums," &c. This house of Eveke's uncle wants no name or 



412 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CHAP. 



number to distinguish it from the neighbouring bamboo huts, 
you couldn't miss it in a London fog, for were you once to 
get into the village street, you would be bound to run up 
against it, as it stands right across the top. 

It is considerately furnished inside. In the room in which I 
await the tide turn there are two chests of drawers, a real dining 
table, nine chairs, another table, three looking-glasses and a 
big wooden bedstead of the native type a wooden bench with- 
out sides, but with a head- and foot-board ; one usually sees 
this sort of bedstead basking in the sun in the street. There 
are four I see now at it in the broad village street below me, 
to the end of compelling the surplus parasitic population to 
leave. On the one in this room lies a heap of muddled dirty 
clothes, giving it an air of being the one thing in the house that 
is used. The rest seems all " for dandy." On the table, 
scattered anyhow together, are glass scent-bottles, a hanging- 
lamp, framed oleographs of English farmyard scenes ; and 
amongst them an old album full of faded photographs, 
evidently once the valued treasure of some white man who is 
dead now ; for were he living he would never have parted with 
it, after pasting in against the pictures those little English wild 
roses and bits of heather and bluebells. 

At last Eveke rushes up with one of those spasmodic attacks 
of activity which he simulates, and which never impose on any 
one but himself, and we all go aboard. Yesterday I met a 
lady on the shore who asked me if I would take her to 
Gaboon. I said, as any skipper would, "delighted, my 
dear"; and here she is sitting on the top of the cargo with her 
head just exactly in the proper position to get it bashed in, or 
knocked off by the boom ; and her five bundles, one tin box, a 
peck of limes and a husband. In fact, things are in such a 
muddle on board that before we weigh anchor, I decide to stow 
cargo, as befits the pupil of Captain Murray. No black man 
can stow cargo. I say so viciously, from my canoe experi- 
ences. The Lafayette's " hold " is in a condition that would 
bleach the hair of any " British African " officer on the 
Coast, even if he only caught sight of it through a telescope. 
For it partakes strongly of the arrangement of a rubbish heap ; 
the lady passenger's belongings, mine, the crew's, the deck 



STOWING CARGO 



413 



chair, the bundle of bedding, the boxes of sand for ballast, all 
together anyhow ; and for dunnage, parcels of the men's 
aguma and neat little packets of salt, done up in plantain 
leaves tied round with tie-tie ; and an untidily made up 
bundle of yam, pieces whereof have got out of the plantain 
leaf and evaded the tie-tie, and are now wandering about, 
mixed up with most things. I think, at first, that Mr. 
Hudson's clean, tidy, deck-chair is underneath everything ; 
I can just see a corner of it sticking out beneath a box of 
sand, like Mr. Pecksniff's feelings, or the Princes in the 
Tower, only it is anything but pillows that are smother- 
ing it. On making a spirited rescue of the chair, I find, 
however, that Dr. Nassau's bedding is the thing that really 
is in the bilge water. During these operations, I jump 
forward, on to what I imagine is a lot of the crew's 
clothes, and " Oh ! that's my husband," cries the lady pas- 
senger, " you fit to hurt him proper " ; he upsets me on to the 
cargo, and groans a good deal and talks about compensa- 
tion ; but I say " he had come at shipper's own risk," and I 
have " no liability," so he settles down again. When I have 
finished stowing cargo we set out to sea Eveke at the helm. 
I find I am expected to sit surrounded by a rim of alligator 
pears and bananas, as though I were some kind of joint 
garnished for table, instead of a West Coast skipper. The 
Lafayette having neither cabin nor locker is extremely diffi- 
cult to keep tidy. There is, unavoidably, an " all the coals 
adrift on deck, half the rails below " look about her, do what 
one will. I stow the pears in under the end strut, where there 
is a hole with an ornamental woodwork flourish round it, but 
no door; so those charming fruit will persist in coming larking 
out again as soon as ever I have got them in. " Oh, it's a dog's 
life, is the sea, for a man," as my sailor friends say. Eveke 
meanwhile takes us out of Nassau Bay through Bafia Bank and 
then goes to sleep and I take charge. My lady passenger is 
quite the lady passenger, frightened of the sea, and dissatisfied 
with the accommodation. I have stowed her with every care in 
the bottom of the boat, on the bedding athwart-ships, and she 
is grateful for the attention ; but says " the vessel is not big 
enough," and goes on eating excruciatingly sour limes in a 



414 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CHAP. 



way that sets my teeth on edge. Half her sufferings arise 
from her disastrous habit of falling asleep ; and then her head 
goes flump off the seat she is leaning it against, and crack 
against the ribs of the boat's side ; I put my leather photo- 
graph case in her usual striking place, but she dodges it in her 
descent seven times in ten. 

The sea is running high, and all the afternoon we beat up 
and tack, and the Lafayette has a larky way, giving herself 
the airs of a duck washing itself, putting her head down and 
shaking the water out over her stern ; a good deal of water 
comes on board one way and another, over one side on one 
tack, over the other side on the other tack, over the bows 
always. The man with the whiskers is a smart seaman, and 
the only one worth his salt, and he attends to the jib ; the 
others sleep and eat and talk and attend to the jiggers in 
their feet, which they have picked up on Corisco, where the}' 
swarm. 

The weather is a bit thick, so we do not sight the continent 
until four o'clock, and it is borne in on me that there's no Cape 
Esterias for us to-night. Eveke pilots us close in towards the 
shore, and we run among the long line of rollers, attributive to 
the great rock reefs that fringe it, and which run out to sea in an 
irregular cone shape, stretching true north and north-north-east 
from the blunt headland that has for its north-west extremity 
Akanda point and for its southern, Cape Clara. Cape Esterias 
runs out further seaward than Akanda, and is the real south- 
east point of Corisco Bay; but from Akanda to Cape Clara (or 
Joinville) may be taken as the limits of the headland that 
separates Corisco Bay from the Gaboon Estuary : and the 
Moondah River mouth is here. " The sun's rim sinks, the stars 
rush out, at one stride comes the dark " and finds us still 
lolloping about in the breaking swell. Half an hour after 
sundown the wind drops, with that suddenness that the 
breeze, be it light or heavy, always drops alongshore down 
here ; and although we could do little when we had it, as it was 
nearly in our teeth, we can of course do nothing without it, 
so we run the Lafayette on to a tongue of sand between rock 
reefs, that were breathing heavily, just North of Akanda point. 
Well do I remember now the time I spent sitting on a 



xvin BECALMED 415 



deck chair on the deck of the 2,000 ton Rochelle in 1893, w ith 
all anxiety as to locality and navigation on the mind of Captain 
Harrison, while I lazily wondered what it was like ashore here. 
The stretch of land looked there so desolate and wild : a long 
line of surf, a long line of dove-coloured sand, a long line of 
green shrub-brushes, backed by a low, dark forest. We soon 
lost sight of it on the Rochelle, as she swung out west to give 
its dangers a wide berth. Little did I think then that I should 
ever be in circumstances so pre-eminently fitted for acquiring 
detailed knowledge of the entire phenomena, surf, rocks, sand, 
beach and all, as I am at present in. We lower our gaff 
and anchor as hard as we can, and then, leaving two men 
in the boat and the lady passenger ; the rest of us jump over 
the side into the surf, and wade ashore to stretch our limbs 
and pick up firewood. We do not stay long, because we are 
afraid of the Lafayette dragging her anchors. Don't mention 
it, pray, in " British African " circles ; but as we back her 
stern-foremost on to the sand, we want a hand-line for 
soundings to find a suitable sand tongue to settle on. I give 
Whiskers my fishing-line ; its lead sinker does very well, only 
you see we haven't time to take off the line of fish hooks, and, 
so when he, in proper style, swings the lead to take a cast, those 
hooks just hitch in the cargo. I cut them adrift with a jack 
knife with commendable promptitude, Eveke meanwhile 
handles the sail and I, when danger becomes imminent, ener- 
getically take soundings over the stern with my umbrella. It 
is magnificent, but not navigation, still it works well. 

We wade back to the Lafayette, clamber on board, and 
start to get our supper in the dark, .for by now the last 
light ha died out of the sky, and artificial light we have none. 
Unfortunately I have packed my eatables in my collecting box, 
so attempt to eat a very interesting dead-wood fungus in 
lieu of biscuit. Giving this up, I decide to confine my 
attention to my one surviving tin, the opening of which costs 
me skin and blood. I am not surprised, but grieved, to find 
that after all it contains only vegetables for putting into 
soups, because I have had experience with this species of tinned 
product before. This particular tin is one of the consign- 
ment so kindly sent by Mr. Hudson to my rescue on the 



416 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CHAP. 



Ogowe, and I did not feel justified in returning it to store 
when I got back to Gaboon, because its little golden label had, 
as is usual with those French forms of labels, come off, and after 
all, I being an optimistic ass, hoped there might be something 
in the tin s^ood to eat. Well there isn't, and what is worse, I 

o 

have nothing to drink, for the Lafayette is too agitated to 
allow us to make a fire to boil water for tea. There is plenty 
of water in bottles for the men, but unboiled water is my 
ibet. There are always little somethings that are not quite 
pleasant in African travel. 

The lady passenger groans a good deal and eats those 
excruciating limes and the biscuits, of which I had given her 
a good store in the afternoon, in the hopes of distracting her 
from a series of observations she was then making on the 
height of Atlantic waves. She soon goes off to sleep as 
I hear by the sound of the crack of her head against the ribs 
of the boat. In my dual capacity of skipper and stewardess, I 
search her head out from amongst a bunch of bananas, an iron 
pot and the photograph case, and, eliminating the other factors, 
arrange it nicely on the banana bunch and wrap her up com- 
pletely in my thick rug and shawl, because she only has on 
one thin cloth, and the seas that have come on board have 
soaked that through long ago. 

The men, after their supper on the provisions I had rescued 
from a state of dunnage, light their pipe I say pipe advisedly, 
for they had one, a thing about the size of a young model- 
dwelling washing copper. It takes a whole leaf of tobacco 
rolled round and placed into it horizontally, with three lucifer 
matches broken up and placed in the hole in the middle, and 
of course a bit of plantain leaf folded and put on top to 
prevent its roaring away too rapidly. They hand it on 
from one to the other, while they make their arrangements for 
the night. These arrangements consist in placing the main 
sail across the boom like a tent, they then creep in under this 
and go to sleep on the cargo. They want to erect a tent for 
me with the jib, because they say it is very bad to sleep 
in the light of the moon which is rising ; but I do not feel 
like sleeping, so I refuse. I have no hesitation in saying 
that they pass an uneasy night. For one reason, in under 



xvni OF MISTS 417 

their tent with them is a large ram Mr. Ibea is sending 
to Gaboon, and that sheep has scimitar-shaped sharp 
horns and restless habits, and I can see he does things that 
hurt and rouse the sleepers to groaning-point perpetually. 
I sit up by the rudder watching the black heaving ocean, too 
rough for the weak moon to brighten save when it flies aloft 
in angry white foam and surf over the shoals and rocks ; and 
the dimly moonlit sky with the clouds flying in the ever 
blowing upper wind from the equator ; and the motionless 
black line of the forest with the soft white mist rolling low 
and creeping and crawling out between its stems from the 
lagoons behind the sand-ridged beach. The mist comes stretch- 
ing out from under the bushes over the sand towards the sea, 
now raising itself up into peaks, now crouching down upon 
the sand, and sending out long white arms or feelers towards 
the surf and then drawing them back as if it were some spirit- 
possessed thing, poisonous and malignant, that wanted to 
reach us, and yet is timorous and frightened of the surf's 
thunder-roar and spray. It gets over its alarm after about an 
hour, however, and comes curling out in a white wall and 
during the rest of the calm before the dawn-wind comes, 
wraps itself round us, dankly-smelling like some foul corpse. 

I don't think this sort of mist is healthy, but it is often 
supremely lovely and always fascinates me. I have seen it 
play the weirdest wildest tricks many a time, in many a place 
in West Africa. I have, when benighted, walked hurriedly 
through it for miles in the forest while it has mischievously 
hidden the path at my feet from the helpful illumination 
of the moon, swishing and swirling round my moving 
skirts. I have seen it come out of the forests and gather 
on the creek before and round me when out o' nights in 
canoes, gradually as we glided towards the breeze-swept 
river, forming itself into a great ball which has rolled before 
us, alongside, or behind us, showing dimly now in the shadow, 
ghostly white now in the moonshine, and bursting into 
thousands of flakes if the river breeze when it met it was too 
strong for it ; if it were not, just melting away into the sheet of 
mist that lay sleeping on the broad river itself. Now and again 
you will see it in the forest stretch up a gradually lengthening 

E E 



4 i8 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CHAP. 

arm, and wind it lazily round and round some grand column 
of a tree-stem, to the height of ten or twenty feet from the 
ground, spread out its top like a plume and then fall back 
again to the mist-river from which it came. It has weird ways, 
this mist of the West Coast. I have often, when no one has 
been near to form opinions of my frivolity, played with 
it, scooping it up in my hands and letting it fall again, or 
swished it about with a branch, when it lay at a decent level 
of three or four feet from the ground. When it comes higher 
and utterly befogs you, you don't feel much inclination to 
play with it. The worst of it is, you never quite know how 
high it is coming. I have seen it rise out of Bimbia flats and 
cover the Great Cameroon as though it said, " Ah you are 
Grand Mungo, but I am grander I am Death." 

I drop off to sleep now and then, only to be aroused 
either by the Lafayette having dragged her anchor and got 
off skylarking with a lot of rough rocks so that she must 
be rescued and re-anchored, or by ejaculations from under 
the sail because of that ram. The tent amidships would 
afford a series of fine studies for any one who wanted to 
illustrate anything a la Dore ; it looks like a great grave-cloth 
spread over a tumbled heap of corpses, which vaguely show 
their outlines through its heavy white folds. When my crew 
do a good writhe they are particularly fine. My attention 
gets riveted on them because one of them has an abominable 
quavering, hysterical, falsetto snore, which, as I want to go 
to sleep myself, rouses in my mind a desire to slay the per- 
former, for that snore cuts through the .sound of the surf 
on to my nerves like a knife. Three times during the night 
I arose, and grasping the stump of a plantain bunch and 
walking along the thwarts, hovered, like a revengeful fiend, 
over the shrouded sleepers, hesitating for a few minutes to 
locate the seat of the disorder, for I used all suitable care 
and precaution to avoid hitting the innocent, but this is 
difficult, for the snore seems to come from underneath the 
upper layer, whose heads show through the sail like plums 
through a pie-crust, so I am regretfully compelled to take 
swipes at the excrescence nearest the source of the nuisance. 
This remedy is only a temporary one, but during fhe lull it 



xvni HUGGING THE SHORE 419 

produces I fall asleep, after the third application firmly, 
and do not wake up until the scratching of the crew to ex- 
tricate itself from under the sail arouses me, and I then find 
my head under the seat and my unlucky body bent wherever 
nature had omitted to provide a joint. I have to get up and 
undo the sail, for I had tied the ends of it securely together to 
bottle up some of the noise last time the snore aroused me. 

August loth. The morning breaks gray, cheerless and chilly, 
the sea looks angry and wicked. For half-an-hour, while the 
crew are getting things straight, I comb my tangled hair and 
meditate on the problem " Why did I come to Africa ? " This 
done we heave up anchor and shove off at about 5.30 A.M. and 
from that time till 1.45 go along near in-shore on the land 
breeze, among the rollers. I do not cite this as the proper 
course to lay, but give it as an example of the impossibility of 
getting a black crew to run out of smell of land ; they always 
like to hug the shore, as not only my own experiences but 
those of sympathetic friends with whom I have interchanged 
experiences demonstrate. Let the shore be what it may 
they cling to it. Poor Mr. S., going from Gaboon to Eloby, 
got run well up the Moondah River on one occasion, owing 
to this persistent habit, and other adventurers have fared no 
better. 

The shore along from Akanda to Cape Clara is one to 
which any white seaman would give a lot of room. Immedi- 
ately south of our anchorage it begins to rise into dwarf 
vertical cliffs overhung by bush and trailing plants between 
which the cliff-face shows strange-looking slabs of white clay 
and rock. The sea plays furiously against them at high tide, and 
at low leaves a very narrow beach heavily strewn with immense 
rock boulders. By 1.30 we find we cannot get round Cape 
Esterias, so run in under the shallow lea of its northern side. 
There is here a narrow sand-beach, with plenty of rock on it, 
and a semi-vertical and supremely slippery path leading up 
to an ostentatiously European plank-built house. We fix up 
the Lafayette safely and all go ashore. 

The inhabitants of this country have been watching us 
beating in, and taking a kindly interest in the performance, 
and so as soon as everything is all right they sing out in a 

E E 2 



420 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CHAP. 

chorus Mboloani. They did not do so before because it is not 
etiquette to distract people when they are engaged in the 
crucial occupation of landing a boat or canoe. I am taken 
possession of by a very comely-looking brown young lady, 
gracefully attired in my favourite coloured cloth, bright pink 
with a cardinal twill hem round it, and we go up the hill 
together. I note that she wears a tight rope of large green 
and white beads round her beautiful throat ; she tells me 
her name is Agnes and that she is a subtrader for Messrs. 
Holt's factory at Eloby, and I find, thanks be ! she talks fluent 
trade English, and further that on account of its European 
planks the ostentatious house is regarded by these kindly 
people as ipso facto my fit and proper dwelling for the time 
I may think good to stay at Cape Esterias. Its enterprising 
builder and owner apologises for its unfinished state ; indeed, 
when at close quarters with it, I see it has merely got its 
walls up and its roof on. It is perched some four feet above 
the ground, on poles, and the owner has not yet decided what 
flight of stairs he will erect to the verandah. He has pur- 
chased an old ready-made flight, and has himself constructed 
a bamboo ladder, its cross pieces tied on to the uprights, I 
need hardly say, with tie-tie. This being done he has got 
both ladders lying on the ground beside each other, while he 
thinks the matter well out as to their respective advantages. 
Of course the additional fluster of my unexpected arrival 
renders him more than ever incapable of coming to a decision 
on their rival merits. I relieve his mind by ignoring them 
and swing up on to the verandah and enter the house. 
The furniture consists of shavings, tools, the skeleton of a 
native bedstead, and a bag of something which evidently 
serves as a bed. The owner proudly displays the charms of 
the establishment ; he intends, he remarks, to paint the inside 
of the walls white, with the door and window frames a bright 
blue. ... I recognise the good old cobalt in a pot. I applaud 
the idea, not that it is new on this Coast, but it is better than 
all white, or dunduckety mud-colour paint, the only other 
colour schemes in vogue for domestic decoration, and worlds 
an' away ahead of varnish, which acts as a " catch 'em alive oh " 
for all manner of insects, and your clothes when you hang 



xvni OPEN-HANDED HOSPITALITY 421 



them against it. I note there will be a heavy percentage of 
blue here, because in the fifteen feet square living room there 
are three doors and two windows each one of which, from a 
determination to be quite the white man, is fitted with a lock 
and a bolt. The next room, there are only two, is particularly 
strong in windows, being provided with three. Out of the 
two to the north there is a lovely view of wooded valleys and 
low hills seen across that charming bright foreground of a 
banana plantation. The window to the east commands the 
line of back arrangements of one side of the little village, a 
view full of interest to the ethnologist, only just at present I 
am too wet and tired for the soulful contemplation of science, 
or of scenic beauty, so I close all three windows up with their 
wooden shutters, glass, of course, there is none and having 
got my portmanteau, and a pudding basin of European 
'origin with a lively combination of blue, maroon, and gas 
greens all over it full of water and, joy ! a towel from Agnes, 
I proceed to wash and dress in the dark. I hear, meanwhile, 
great uproar in the next room ; the entire settlement seems to 
be doing things and talking about it ! On re-entering the 
other apartment I find one kindly native has lent me a 
four-legged table, and another an ivory bundle chair, and 
the population of Cape Esterias has been enterprisingly em- 
ployed in hauling and hoisting the furniture on to the stairless 
verandah and into the house, or standing by and giving advice 
as to how this was to be done. Agnes also adds a slip of 
new calico for a table cloth, and I am exceedingly grateful, 
but, Allah ! how stiff and bruised and tired! So after having 
some food and a cup of sugarless and milkless coffee, I excuse 
myself and go and lie down on the most luxurious bed, that 
bag of old salt sack stuff, filled with sweating sea-weed, just 
a bit over-populated, perhaps, with fleas, but very enjoyable, 
on the plank floor. 

It is 5 o'clock when I awake, and I am still thirsty ; not 
liking to bother Agnes for more coffee and being mortal 
frightened of raw water, I ask her for a " paw-paw." She gets 
me some unripe ones, explaining " that those nasty boys done 
gone chop all them ripe one " such is the universal nature of 
boys ! I regretfully decline the hard fruit, and as they attract 






422 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CHAP. 

quantities of ants I say, "Agnes, just throw them away." " What 
you mean ?" says my charmer. " Put 'em ou-tside," say I. 
She gazes blankly, " Chuck 'em," says I, descending still further 
in my language. A gleam of comprehension comes to Agnes. 
" You mean I hev them ? " says she. " That's it, heave them," 
I answer, and she forthwith " hev 'em " out of one of our many 
windows. I feel it is my duty to go and pay my respects to 
the Mission ; Agnes quite agrees, and off we go among the 
scattered bamboo-built houses, one of which in a skeleton 
state she tells me she is building for herself. 

The Roman Catholic Mission, the only representative of 
white men here, is on the southern face of Cape Esterias. 
Its buildings consist of a small residence and a large church. 
The church has a concrete floor and wooden benches, the 
white walls relieved by a frieze of framed prints of a reli- 
gious character, a pretty altar with its array of bright brass 
candlesticks, and above it the tinted and gilt figure of the 
Virgin and Child. Every part of the place is sweet and clean, 
giving evidence of the loving care with which it is tended. As 
I pass the residence, the missionary, seeing me, sends one of 
his black retainers to fetch me in, and leads me on to the 
verandah, where I am most cordially received by the Pere in 
charge, who has practical views on hospitality, and is anxious 
for me to have wine and many things else he can ill afford to 
spare from his own store. I thankfully confine my depreda- 
tions to some sugar and a loaf of excellent bread, but he 
insists on handing to Agnes for me a tin of beef and a lot of 
oranges. As I cannot speak French, nor he English, I do 
my best to convey my sense of his kindness and bow 
myself off. 

Agnes, who is very proud of the Mission, tells me there is 
only one Pere and one Frere stationed here, but she says 
" they are very good good too much." They educate the 
children, teaching them to read French, &c., and should a 
child display any aptitude it is forwarded round to Gaboon to 
acquire a further training in the technical schools there in 
connection with the headquarters of the Mission. She herself, 
I gather, was educated primarily by the Mission, but she has 
continued her studies on her own account, for not only does 



xvin A WASHERWOMAN'S VANITY 423 

she speak French grammatically, as the natives are taught to, 
and read ar\d write it, but also English Coast English no 
doubt, but comforting to the wanderer who falls in with her, 
while she claims an equal knowledge of Spanish ; no mean 
range of accomplishments for a lady. I return to my abode 
and have a square meal and sugar in my coffee, thanks to the 
missionary, and so to bed, as Mr. Pepys would say. I am 
sure, by the way, Mr. Pepys would like Agnes, she is quite 
his style of beauty, plump and pleasant ; I don't expect he 
would care for my seaweed bed though, unless he had been 
broken into it by African travel, for Mr. Pepys had great 
ideas of being comfortable in a conventional way. 

August i ith. Agnes rouses me from my thalassic couch and 
suggests Mass at 5.30 A.M. It seems a very proper suggestion, 
so I carry it out. I find the rest of the inhabitants already on 
their knees in the church, singing their Salve Maria responses 
in that musical, metallic twang the Latin seems to bring out 
so strangely in the African voice, usually so full and throaty. 
I endeavour to follow properly, and when my whole attention 
is absorbed in so doing, a terrific tug at my skirts alarms me, 
I look carefully round and see Agnes on her knees behind me. 
" What's the matter ? " I ask. She whispers something. " Salve 
Maria," I say, joining the congregational chorus hastily, and 
add in a whisper " I no fit to hear you, speak them thing 
softly, softly," she then emits a hissing whisper, full of earnest 
meaning but incomprehensible as to detail ; " Salve Maria " 
comes again and I, feeling frightened that I am doing some- 
thing awfully wrong somehow, answer anxiously " What ? " 
and then right out loud and clear, Agnes says, " I be his Jack 
wash." " Salve Maria," say I, with the congregation. Then 
we have an explanation outside, and it seems she does his 
reverence's washing, and feeling, justly enough, proud of the 
white lace petticoats which he was displaying before the altar 
she was compelled to communicate the fact to me and claim 
her share in their beauty. Vanity, thy name is Woman ! 

I take leave of Agnes with gifts, and of my host, the owner 
of the house, giving him a present. He is more than satisfied, 
but explains this must be regarded as a gift and not as pay 
for the hire of his house it not being the fashion of his 



424 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CHAP. 

country to take this from a traveller. While waiting about for 
the Lafayette to get ready for sea, i.e. y for the water bottles to 
be refilled, I learn the cause of the weird howls and screams I 
have heard during the night. A poor maniac who has run 
from Gaboon to Cape Esterias haunts the rocky narrow beach 
at night and flies from any one who approaches him to give 
him food, or offer him shelter. He soon returns and hangs 
about near the houses again and runs at night along the beach 
screaming and moaning as he jumps about among the rocks. 
When I get on to the beach he is sitting playing on a rock, 
not far off, tearing up a plantain leaf into shreds. I take 
up some packages of aguma and biscuits, and softly and 
cautiously make my way towards him, but he just lets me get 
within a few yards and then is off with a howl, at a pace 
which, if it holds, must by now have landed him on the shores of 
Victoria Nyanza. In addition to this fortuitous lunatic, there 
is at Cape Esterias a local one, quite the biggest black man I 
have ever seen ; he must be little short of seven feet high, and 
his muscular development is such that he looks very heavily 
built for his height. They tell me he is a slave who was 
brought in his youth, like most Benga slaves, from one of the 
Fernan Vaz tribes, and is quite harmless and hard-working, 
but quite mad, " some witch has stolen one of his souls." I 
have seen it stated that insanity is almost unknown among the 
Africans ; I can truly say I have never stayed any time in 
a district among them without coming across several cases of 
it. In the Rivers, indeed among all the true negro tribes, it is 
customary to kill lunatics off. On the South-West Coast 
insanity usually takes the form of malignant melancholy 
and they kill themselves off. Amongst the Kacongo and 
Bas-congo tribes, this suicide is at times almost an epidemic, 
and it is there customary when a man shows symptoms of its 
coming on by hanging himself, without rhyme or reason, about 
the place or by trying to knock his brains out against a 
post, for a family conclave to be held. The utter folly of 
his proceedings are then, pointed out to him by his relations, 
as only relations can point it out, and should he after this still 
persist in attempting to kill himself, spoiling things, and dis- 
turbing people, the job is taken off his hands and his relations 



xviii WHALES COURTING 425 



club him on the head, and throw the body in the river, so 
"palaver done set." These Benga and M'pongwe people seem 
just to let lunatics alone, though to their credit be it said they 
had tried to feed this poor fellow from Gaboon, because, they 
said, they feared he would starve. When lunatics are dangerous 
they secure them to trees by a chain. There was one, I am 
told, chained near Glass a long time, but one night he broke 
loose and was never heard of again. 

I should say my lady passenger left here. I fancy she had 
had enough of the Lafayette. She said she " would walk the 
rest of the way," which may be translated into she'd write to 
Mr. A. L. Jones. We get out through the breakers and hoist 
our mainsail and beat along among the rollers, rolling ourselves 
like mad as the heavy waves sweep broadside on under us. 
Just off the Cape itself we have to run almost out of smell of 
land, to get round a rock reef ; I am bound to confess the 
consequences of this spirited display of seamanship are not 
encouraging. A terrific marine phenomenon exhibits itself 
suddenly off our weather bow, at a distance of fifteen to 
twenty feet. My first opinion is that it is the blow-up of 
a submarine volcano, not because I am a specialist in marine 
volcanic methods, having never seen one out of a picture-book, 
but this is very like the picture-book, waves and foam and 
flying water. In another second it explains itself com- 
pletely, for out of the centre of it springs aloft the immense 
fluke of a great whale, as high as our mainmast. It swings 
round with a flourish and then comes flop down on to and into 
the broken sea, sending sheets of water over us and into the 
boat. We bale hard all, and stand by for another perform- 
ance, but, to my intense relief, we see the whale blow a few 
minutes later a good distance off, and then have another 
flourish a most charming spectacle on the horizon. My crew 
then say, as they take the baling easier, it is a common 
affair in Corisco Bay just about now, for it is the courting 
time for whales. I don't come again into Corisco Bay in 
canoes or small craft while any of that wretched foolishness is 
going on. They also tell me that the other day four people 
coming from Cape Esterias to Gaboon in a canoe were 
drowned, all hands, and they think they must have fallen in 



426 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CHAP. 

with this whale ; certainly if a small canoe had been as close 
as we were it would have had a bad time of it, for with us the 
mainsail protected us from a lot of water coming on board. 
Goodness knows, however, we had enough, and did some 
brilliant baling. 

Rounding the reef we run inshore again, and beat up to 
Cape Clara, the shore showing the same type of dwarf cliff 
and forest on top. Here and there a village shows, some 
of them Fans who have arrived in the easterly end of their 
migration and are, according to my crew, making by no means 
good preparations for their eternal one. 

On going round Cape Clara, to my joy we see the Grand 
Estuary of Gaboon running inland before us, and the wind 
being favourable, we run up it in grand style, looking, I am 
sure, quite the well-handled racer. But "short is human 
glory, vain the vanity of man," our true nature shows up 
again soon in the way we approach the stately Minerve, 
the guardship, to pass our papers. I hand over to Eveke, 
making it a rule, since I placed my bowsprit into a con- 
servatory and took the paint off one side of a small-pox 
hospital, not to keep charge when approaching valuable 
objects. Eveke promptly lowers the gaff, dropping the 
mainsail completely over me, and hastily getting out our 
oars, we avoid a collision and hook on to her ladder. 
A frantic conversation is already going on between my 
crew and the authorities before I extricate myself. It is 
a difficult thing to get anything like gracefully and amiably 
from under a wet mainsail, but my prophetic soul tells me 
we are in disgrace, so I do my best and beam upon an 
officer, who is at the bottom of the ladder, asking leading 
questions about the health of Corisco, and demanding the 
official bill of the same. Eveke is much alarmed, for I tell him 
we shall get quarantined; and he ought to have seen about this, 
and at last by means of the feeble French of one of our crew, we 
demonstrate to the officer that bills of health simply can't be got 
on Corisco, there being no Spanish official on the forsaken 
island to issue them. The official is unconvinced and goes up 
the ladder to see other officers about it. The interval of sus- 
pense I employ in blowing up Eveke, and he in attempting to 



xvni HOW TO TAP YOUR MAINTOP 427 



exculpate himself and inculpate Dr. Nassau for not having 
told him one was necessary. However, in a few minutes down 
the ladder comes the doctor, saying that a merciful view has 
been taken of the case, only we must not do it again. I 
solemnly assure him I will not ; nor will I, for it's not my 
present intention to revisit an island that has only mud-fish 
in its lakes and courting whales in its encircling seas. While 
we have been busy over this affair, the lively Lafayette has 
been availing herself, as usual when my eye is off her, of the 
opportunity to get into mischief and bring down disgrace and 
derision upon her captain and crew ; this time by jamming her 
topmast, with a nice, clean, new French flag on it, up the tap of 
a cistern a most unseamanlike proceeding, and one which the 
instruction I have received from Captain Murray and Pro- 
fessor Roy instruction, I am aware, I do small credit to 
gives me no hints as to the proper way of dealing with, 
so we have to be ignominously extricated by the Minerve's 
crew, who roar at us, as we shove off, drifting, waddling and 
wobbling away, until we get our mainsail up again. 

As the manoeuvre of placing your main-top up a tap is not 
mentioned, even in my friend The Sailor's Sea Book I had 
better explain how the thing is done. The Minerve is an old 
line-of-battle ship, moored off Libreville to serve as a guard 
ship, a depot, and a hospital. She is by nature high out of 
water, on her gun deck is the hospital, on the main deck the 
officers' quarters and the exercise ground for the sailors and 
marines, and above this again is another structure with 
cisterns on, their taps projecting overside why I do not know, 
unless they screw hose on them, for I have never been aboard 
her or had her geography explained ; above all is a roof of 
palm-leaf mats, in good old Coast style. The whole fabric, 
as Clark Russell would say, towers high into the air, just high 
enough about the cisterns for the lively Lafayette to get her 
precious spar up the nozzle of one of those taps, and of course 
it was a joke she could not resist trying on. I wish it clearly 
to be understood that I am not saying a syllable against the 
staid, stately Minerve. The only indiscretion she was ever 
guilty of was once leaving her moorings and going off with a 
heavy tornado, to the horror of Glass and Libreville, drifting 



428 FROM CORISCO TO GABOON CH. xvm 



away, hospital and all, to what seemed destruction. She was 
rescued, but what the feelings of those on board were, save 
that they had a lurid glow of glory in them and a determina- 
tion that they would die in a manner creditable to La France, 
I know not. The feelings of those ashore I am faintly able 
to realise, and they must have been painful in the extreme, for 
the Minerve is beloved ; many a man, nay, almost every man, 
knows that he owes his life to the skill and care he received on 
board her when he had "that attack." No man. is, I think, 
regarded as being initiated into the inner life of Congo 
Fran^ais until he has been carried on board her in a dying 
condition from the fearful Coast fever, and duly pulled round. 
It would be an immense advantage to the other settlements 
along here had they such an institution. She is infinitely better 
than the so-called " Sanatorium" on higher ground. The idea 
of the efficacy of such stations is one of the most dangerous 
illusions rife on the West Coast I even learn now that this 
Government is thinking of doing away with the floating 
hospital and building one ashore which will not have any- 
thing like so good a record to show as the wards of the 
Minerve now have. 

After our incident with the authorities we pull ourselves 
together, and arrive at Hatton and Cookson's Wharf with a 
delusive dash, and glad I am to get there and return to all 
the comforts, society, and safety associated with it. 



CHAPTER XIX 

FETISH 

In which the Voyager attempts cautiously to approach the subject ot 
Fetish, and gives a classification of spirits, and some account of the 
Ibet and Orundas. 

HAVING given some account of my personal experiences 
among an African tribe in its original state, i.e., in a state un- 
influenced by European ideas and culture, I will make an 
attempt to give a rough sketch of the African form of 
thought and the difficulties of studying it, because the study 
of this thing is my chief motive for going to West Africa. 
Since 1893 I have been collecting information in its native 
state regarding Fetish, and I use the usual terms fetish and 
ju-ju because they have among us a certain fixed value a 
conventional value, but a useful one. Neither "fetish" nor 
4t ju-ju" are native words. Fetish comes from the word 
the old Portuguese explorers used to designate the objects 
they thought the natives worshipped, and in which they 
were wise enough to recognise a certain similarity to their 
own little images and relics of Saints, " Feiti^o" Ju-ju, on the 
other hand, is French, and comes -from the word for a toy or 
doll, 1 so it is not so applicable as the Portuguese name, for 
the native image is not a doll or toy, and has far more affinity to 
the image of a saint, inasmuch as it is not venerated for 
itself, or treasured because of its prettiness, but only because 
it is the residence, or the occasional haunt, of a spirit. 

1 It is held by some authorities to come from gru-gru, a Mandingo word 
for charm, but I respectfully question whether gru-gru has not come from 
ju-ju, the native approximation to the French joujou. 



430 FETISH CHAP. 

Stalking the wild West African idea is one of the most 
charming pursuits in the world. Quite apart from the in- 
tellectual, it has a high sporting interest ; for its pursuit is 
as beset with difficulty and danger as grizzly bear hunting, 
yet the climate in which you carry on this pursuit vile as 
it is is warm, which to me is almost an essential of existence. 
Personally I prefer it to elephant hunting ; and I shall never 
forget the pleasure with which, in the forest among the Fans,. 
I netted one reason for the advantage of possessing a white 
man's eye-ball, and, as I wrote it down in my water-worn 
notebook, saw it joined up with the reason why it is advisable 
to cut off big men's heads in the Niger Delta. Above all r 
I beg you to understand that I make no pretension to a 
thorough knowledge of Fetish ideas ; I am only on the 
threshold. " Ich weiss nicht all doch viel ist mir bekannt," as 
Faust said and, like him after he had said it, I have got a lot 
to learn. 

I do not intend here to weary you with more than a small 
portion of even my present knowledge, for I have great 
collections of facts that I keep only to compare with those 
of other hunters of the wild idea, and which in their present 
state are valueless to the cabinet ethnologist. Some of these 
may be rank lies, some of them mere individual mind-freaks, 
others have underlying them some idea I am not at present 
in touch with. 

The difficulty of gaining a true conception of the savage's 
real idea is great and varied. 

In places on the Coast where there is, or has been, much 
missionary influence the trouble is greatest, for in the first case 
the natives carefully conceal things they fear will bring them 
into derision and contempt, although they still keep them in 
their innermost hearts ; and in the second case, you have a set 
of traditions which are Christian in origin, though frequently 
altered almost beyond recognition by being kept for years in 
the atmosphere of the African mind. For example, there is 
this beautiful story now extant among the Cabindas. God made 
at first all men black He always does in the African story 
and then He went across a great river and called men to follow 
Him, and the wisest and the bravest and the best plunged into 



xix NATIVE LANGUAGE AND NATIVE MIND 431 

the great river and crossed it ; and the water washed them 
white, so they are the ancestors of the white men. But the 
others were afraid too much, and said, " No, we are comfortable 
here ; we have our dances, and our tom-toms, arid plenty to 
eat we won't risk it, we'll stay here " ; and they remained in 
the old place, and from them come the black men. But to 
this day the white men come to the bank, on the other side of 
the river, and call to the black men, saying, " Come, it is better 
over here." I fear there is little doubt that this story is a 
modified version of some parable preached to the Cabindas at 
the time the Jesuit Fathers had such influence among them, 
before they were driven out of the lower Congo regions more 
than a hundred years ago, for political reasons, by the Portu- 
guese. The Cabindas have quite forgotten its origin " it is 
old story " and they keep it on, in much the same way as a 
neighbouring tribe keeps on the ringing of the old bells, 
morning and evening, that were once bells in a Jesuit 
monastery long since forgotten. " Our Fathers did it " ; so 
palaver done set. 

In the bush where the people have been little, or not at all, 
in contact with European ideas in some ways the investiga- 
tion is easier ; yet another set of difficulties confronts you. 
The difficulty that seems to occur most easily to people 
is the difficulty of the language. My brother the other day 
derided me, as is his wont, saying, " What a great advantage it 
was, that peculiar power African travellers all seemed to have 
of conversing on the most obscure metaphysical questions 
with the natives ; whereas when he was in Singapore, things were 
otherwise- if you said carefully, * Pergi ka Mercantile Bank/ 
the chances were your rick-shaw runner took you to the 
waterworks." But the truth is that the West African languages 
are not difficult to pick up ; nevertheless, there are an awful 
quantity of them and they are at the best most imperfect 
mediums of communication. No one who has been on the 
Coast can fail to recognise how inferior the native language 
is to the native mind behind it and the prolixity and re- 
petition he has therefore to employ to make his thoughts 
understood. 

The great comfort is the wide diffusion of that peculiar 



432 FETISH CHAP. 

language, " trade English " ; it is not only used as a means 
of intercommunication between whites and blacks, but be- 
tween natives using two distinct languages. On the south-west 
Coast you find individuals in villages far from the sea, or a 
trading station, who know it, and this is because they have 
picked it up and employ it in their dealings with the coast 
tribes and travelling traders. It is by no means an easy 
language to pick up it is not a farrago of bad words and 
broken phrases, but is a definite structure, has a great 
peculiarity in its verb forms, and employs no genders. There 
is no grammar of it out yet ; and one of the best ways of 
learning it is to listen to a seasoned second mate regulating 
the unloading or loading, of cargo, over the hatch of the hold. 
No, my Coast friends, I have not forgotten but though you 
did not mean it helpfully, this was one of the best hints you 
ever gave me. 

Another good way is the careful study of examples which 
display the highest style and the most correct diction ; so I 
append the letter given by Mr. Hutchinson as being about 
the best bit of trade English I know. 

" To Daddy nah Tampin Office, 

Ha Daddy, do, yah, nah beg you tell dem people for me ; 
make dem Sally-own pussin know. Do yah. Berrah well. 

Ah lib nah Pademba Road one bwoy lib dah oberside 
lakah dem two Docter lib overside you Tampin office. Berrah 
well. 

Dah bwoy head big too much he say nah Militie Ban he 
got one long long ting so so brass, someting lib dah go flip 
flap, dem call am key. Berrah well. Had ! Dah bwoy kin 
blow ! she ah ! na marin, oh ! nah sun time, oh ! nah evenin, 
oh ! nah middle night, oh ! all same no make pussin sleep. 
Not ebry bit dat, more lib da ! One Boney bwoy lib oberside 
nah he like blow bugle. When dem two woh-woh bwoy blow 
dem ting de nize too much too much. 

When white man blow dat ting and pussin sleep he kin tap 
wah make dem bwoy earn do so ? Dem bwoy kin blow ebry 
day eben Sunday dem kin blow. When ah yerry dem blow 
Sunday ah wish dah bugle kin go down na dem troat or 
dem kin blow them head-bone inside. 






XIX TRADE ENGLISH 433 

: -" 

Do nah beg you yah tell all dem people 'bout dah ting wah 
dem two bwoy dah blow. Till am Amtrang Boboh hab febah 
bad. Till am titty earn sleep nah night. Dah nize go kill me 
.two pickin, oh ! 

Plabba done. Good by Daddy. 
Crashey Jane." 

Now for the elementary student we will consider this letter. 
The complaint in Crashey Jane's letter is about two boys who 
are torturing her morning, noon, and night, Sunday and 
week day, by blowing some " long long brass ting " as well as a 
bugle, and the way she dwells on their staying power must 
bring a sympathetic pang for that black sister into the heart 
of many a householder in London who lives next to a ladies' 
school, or a family of musical tastes. " One touch of nature," 
&c. " Daddy " is not a term of low familiarity but one of esteem 
and respect, and the " Tampin Office " is a respectful appellation 
for the Office of the " New Era " in which this letter 'was once 
published. " Bwoy head big too much," means that the young 
man is swelled with conceit because he is connected with 
" Militie ban." " Woh woh " you will find, among all the natives 
in the Bights, to mean extremely bad. I think it is native, 
having some connection with the root Wo meaning power, 
&c. ; but Mr. Hutchinson may be right, and it may mean " a 
capacity to bring double woe." 

" Amtrang Boboh " is not the name of some uncivilised 
savage, as the uninitiated may think ; far from it It is Bob 
Armstrong upside down, and slightly altered, and refers 
to the Hon. Robert Armstrong, stipendiary magistrate of 
.Sierra Leone, &c. 

" Berrah well " is a phrase used whenever the native thinks he 
has succeeded in putting his statement well. He sort of 
turns round and looks at it, says " Berrah well," in admiration 
of his own art, and then proceeds. 

" Pickin " are children. 

" Boney bwoy " is not a local living skeleton, but a native 
from Bonny River. 

"Sally own," is Sierra Leone. 

" Blow them head-bone inside " means, blow the top off 
their heads. 

F F 



434 FETISH CHAP. 



I have a collection of trade English letters and documents, 
for it is a language that I regard as exceedingly charming,, 
and it really requires study, as you will see by reading Crashey 
Jane's epistle without the aid of a dictionary. It is, more- 
over, a language that will take you unexpectedly far in Africa, 
and if you do not understand it, land you in some pretty 
situations. One important point that you must remember is 
that the African is logically right in his answer to such a 
question as " You have not cleaned this lamp ? " he says, 
" Yes, sah " which means, " yes, I have not cleaned the lamp."" 
It does not mean a denial to your accusation ; he always uses- 
this form, and it is liable to confuse you at first, as are many 
other of the phrases, such as " I look him, I no see him " ,-. 
this means " I have been searching for the thing but have not 
found it " ; if he really meant he had looked upon the object 
but had been unable to get to it, he would say : " I look him,. 
I no catch him," &c. 

There is another class of letters written by Africans who 
have had school teaching to a high degree, and these are very 
fine literature quite as fine as that of the Indian Baboo and 
with more ability and go in them. They are usually written, 
in really exquisite handwriting, and abound in grandiloquence.. 
I will not quote any here, save a phrase written in a letter I 
heard read out before the Court of the Chiefs at Bonny by 
young George Peppel anent a quarrel then going on between 
him and his brother. "The subject," George eloquently 
stated, " has now become so delicately distended as to require 
the united wisdom of the wisest heads in Bonny for its solu- 
tion." I like " delicately distended," much. I know so many 
subjects in England that are in this condition from the 
quantity of gas that has been put into them. 

The difficulty of the language is, however, far less than the 
whole set of difficulties with your own mind. Unless you can 
make it pliant enough to follow the African idea step by step,, 
however much care you may take, you will not bag your game, 

I heard an account the other day I have forgotten where 

of a representative of her Majesty in Africa who went out for a 
day's antelope shooting. There were plenty of antelope about, 
and he stalked them with great care ; but always, just before 






xix PRIMITIVE CULTURE 435 



he got within shot of the game, they saw something and 
bolted. Knowing he and the boy behind him had been 
making no sound and could not have been seen, he stalked 
on, but always with the same result ; until happening to look 
round, he saw the boy behind him was supporting the dignity of 
the Empire at large, and this representative of it in particular, 
by steadfastly holding aloft the consular flag. Well, if you 
go hunting the African idea with the flag of your own 
religion or opinions floating ostentatiously over you, you will 
similarly get a very poor bag. 

A few hints as to your mental outfit when starting on this 
port may be useful. Before starting for West Africa, burn 
all your notions about sun-myths and worship of the elemental 
forces. My own opinion is you had better also burn the notion, 
although it is fashionable, that human beings got their first 
notion of the origin of the soul from dreams. 

I went out with my mind full of the deductions of 
even* book on Ethnology, German or English, that I had 
read during fifteen years and being a good Cambridge 
person, I was particularly confident that from Mr. Frazer's 
book, The Golden Bough, I had got a semi-universal key 
to the underlying idea of native custom and belief. But 
I soon found this was very far from being the case. His idea 
is a true key to a certain quantity of facts, but in West 
Africa only to a limited quantity. 

I clo not say, do not read Ethnology by all means do 
so; and above all things read, until you know it by heart,, 
Primitive Culture, by Dr. E. B- Tylor, regarding which book 
I may say that I have never found a fact that flew in the 
face of the carefully made, broad-minded deductions of this 
greatest of Ethnologists. In, addition you must know your 
Westermarck on Human Marriage, and your Waitz Anthro- 
pologie, and your Topinard not that you need expect to go 
measuring people's skulls and chests as this last named authority 
expects you to do, for no self-respecting person black or 
white likes that sort of thing from the hands of an utter stranger,, 
and if you attempt it you'll get yourself disliked in West 
Africa. Add to this the knowledge of all A. B. Ellis's works ; 
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy ; Pliny's Natural History ; and 

F F 2 



436 FETISH CHAP. 



as much of Aristotle as possible. If you have a good know- 
ledge of the Greek and Latin classics, I think it would be an 
immense advantage ; an advantage I do not possess, for my 
-classical knowledge is scrappy, and in place of it I have a 
knowledge of Red Indian dogma : a dogma by the way that 
seems to me much nearer the African in type than Asiatic 
forms of dogma. 

Armed with these instruments of observation, with a little 
industry and care you should in the mill of your mind be able 
to make the varied tangled rag-bag of facts that you will 
soon become possessed of into a paper. And then I advise 
you to lay the results of your collection before some great 
thinker and he will write upon it the opinion that his greater 
and clearer vision makes him more fit to form. 

You may say, Why not bring these home their things in the 
raw state ? And bring them home in a raw state you must, for 
purposes of reference ; but in this state they are of little use 
to a person unacquainted with the conditions which 
surround them in their native homes. Also very few 
African stories bear on one subject alone, and they hardly 
ever stick to a point. Take this Fernando Po legend. Wind- 
wood Reade (Savage Africa, p. 62) gives it, and he says he 
heard it twice. I have heard it, in variants, four times once 
on Fernando Po, once in Calabar and twice in Gaboon. So 
it is evidently an old story : 

" The first man called all people to one place. His name 
was Raychow. * Hear this, my people ' said he, * I am going 
to give a name to every place, I am King in this River.' One 
day he came with his people to the Hole of Wonga Wonga, 
which is a deep pit in the ground from which fire comes at 
night. Men spoke to them from the Hole, but they could not 
see them. Raychow said to his son, * Go down into the 
Hole ' and his son went. The son of the King of the Hole 
came to him and defied him to a contest of throwing the 
spear. If he lost he should be killed, if he won he should go 
back in safety. He won then the son of the King of the 
Hole said, ' It is strange you should have won, for I am a 
spirit. Ask whatever you wish,' and the King's son asked 
for a remedy for every disease he could remember ; and the 



A WEST AFRICAN LEGEND 437 



spirit gave him the medicines, and when he had done so, he 
said, ' There is one sickness you have forgotten it is the Kraw- 
i kraw, and of that you shall die.' 

" ' A tribe named Ndiva was then strong but now none 
remain (Windwood Reade says four remain). They gave 
Raychow's son a canoe and forty men, to take him back to 
his father's town, and when he saw his father he did not 
speak. His father said, * My son, if you are hungry eat.' 
He did not answer, and his father said, ' Do you wish me to 
kill a goat?' He did not answer; his father said, 'Do you 
wish me to give you new wives ? ' He did not answer. Then 
his father said, * Do you want me to build you a fetish hut ? ' 
Then he answered, ' Yes/ and the hut was built, and the 
medicines he had brought back from the Hole were put 
into it. 

" * Now,' said the son of King Raychow, 'I go to make the 
Moondah enter the Orongo ' (Gaboon) ; so he went and dug 
a canal and when this was finished all his men were dead. 
Then he said, ' I will go and kill river-horse in the Benito.' 
He killed four, and as he was killing the fifth, the people 
descended from the mountains against him. So he made 
fetish on his great war-spear and sang 



My spear, go kill these people, 
Or these people will kill me ; 



and the spear went and killed the people, except a few who 
got into canoes and flew to Fernando P.O. Then said their 
King, ' My people shall never wear cloth till we have con- 
quered the M'pongwe,' and to this day the Fernando Poians 
go naked and hate with a special hatred the M'pongwe.' " 

Now this is a noble story there is a lot of fine confused 
feeding in it, as the Scotchman said of boiled sheep's head. 

You learn from it A. The name of the first man, and also 
that he was filled with a desire for topographical nomenclature. 

B. You hear of the Hole Wonga Wonga, and this is most 
interesting because to this day, apart from the story, you are 
told by the natives of a hole that emits fire, and Dr. Nassau 
says it is always said to be north of Gaboon ; but so far no 
white man has any knowledge of an active volcano there, 



438 FETISH CHAP. I 

although the district is of volcanic origin. The crater of < 
Fernando Po may be referred to in the legend because of the ; 
king's son being sent home in a canoe ; but I do not think it 
is, because the Hole is known not to be Fernando Po, and it 
has got, according to local tradition, a river running from it or ' 
close to it. 

C. The kraw-kraw is a frightfully prevalent disease ; no 
one has a remedy for it, presumably owing to Raychow's son's 
forgetfulness. 

D. The silence of the son to the questions is remarkable, 
because you always find people who have been among spirits 
lose their power of asking for what they want, for a time, and 
can only answer to the right question. 

E. The sudden way in which Raychow's son gets fired 
with the desire to turn civil engineer just when he has got a 
magnificent opening in life as a doctor is merely the usual 
flightiness of young men, who do not see where their true 
advantages lie and the conduct of the men in dying, after 
digging a canal is normal, and modern experiences sup- 
port it, for men who dig canals down in West Africa die 
plentifully, be they black, white, or yellow ; so you can't help 
believing in those men, although it is strange a black man 
should have been so enterprising as to go in for canal digging 
at all. There is no other case of it extant to my knowledge, 
and a remarkable fact is, that the Moondah does so nearly 
connect, by one creek, with the Gaboon estuary that you can 
drag a boat across the little intervening bit of land. 

F. Is a sporting story that turns up a little unexpectedly, 
certainly ; but the Benito is within easy distance north of the 
Moondah, so the geography is all right. 

G. The inhabitants of Fernando Po have still an especial 
hatred for the M'pongwe, and both they and the M'pongwe 
have this account of the one tribe driving the other off the 
mainland. Then the Bubis l as the inhabitants on Fernando 
Po are called, from a confusion arising in the minds of the 
sailors calling at Fernando Po, between their stupidity and 
their word Babi = stranger, which they use as a word of greet- 

1 The proper way to spell this name is booby, i.e., silly, but as Bubi is 
the accepted spelling, I bow to authority. 



xix . AFRICAN CHARACTERISTICS 439 



ing these Bubis are undoubtedly a very early African race. 
Their culture, though presenting some remarkable points, is 
on the whole exceedingly low. They never wear clothes 
unless compelled to, and their language depends so much on 
.gesture that they cannot talk in it to each other in the dark. 

I give this as a sample of African stories. It is far 
more connected and keeps to the point in a far more business- 
like way than most of them. They are of great interest when 
you know the locality and the tribe they come from ; but I 
am sure if you were to bring home a heap of stories like this, 
and empty them over any distinguished ethnologist's head, 
without ticketing them with the culture of the tribe" they 
.belonged to, the conditions it lives under, and so forth, you 
would stun him with the seeming inter-contradiction of some, 
and utter pointlessness of the rest, and he would give up 
ethnology and hurriedly devote his remaining years to the 
attempt to collect a million postage stamps, so as to do some- 
thing definite before he died. Remember, you must always 
have your original material carefully noted down at the time 
of occurrence with you, so that you may say in answer to his 
Why ? Because of this, and this, and this. 

However good may be the outfit for your work that you 

take with you, you will have, at first, great difficulty in realising 

that it is possible for the people you are among really to believe 

things in the way they do. And you cannot associate with 

them long before you must recognise that these Africans have 

often a remarkable mental acuteness and a large share of 

common sense; that there is nothing really "child-like" in 

their form of mind at all. Observe them further and you will 

find they are not a flighty-minded, mystical set of people in 

the least. They are not dreamers, or poets, and you will 

observe, and I hope observe closely for to my mind this is 

the most important difference between their make of mind and 

-our own that they are notably deficient in all mechanical 

arts : they have never made, unless under white direction and 

instruction, a single fourteenth-rate piece of cloth, pottery, a 

.tool or machine, house, road, bridge, picture or statue ; that 

.a written language of their own construction they none of 

them possess. A careful study of the things a man, black or 



440 FETISH CHAP.. 



white, fails to do, whether for good or evil, usually gives you a 
truer knowledge of the man than the things he succeeds in 
doing. When you fully realise this acuteness on one hand 
and this mechanical incapacity on the other which exist in, 
the people you are studying, you can go ahead. Only, I 
beseech you, go ahead carefully. When you have found the 
easy key that opens the reason underlying a series of facts, as 
for example, these : a Benga spits on your hand as a greeting ; 
you see a man who has been marching regardless through the 
broiling sun all the forenoon, with a heavy load, on entering 
a village and having put down his load, elaborately steal round 
in the shelter of the houses, instead of crossing the street ; you. 
come across a tribe that cuts its dead up into small pieces and 
scatters them broadcast, and another tribe that thinks a white 
man's eye-ball is a most desirable thing to be possessed of 
do not, when you have found this key, drop your collecting 
work, and go home with a shriek of " I know all about Fetish," 
because you don't, for the key to the above facts will not open 
the reason why it is regarded advisable to kill a person who- 
is making Ikung ; or why you should avoid at night a cotton 
tree that has red earth at its roots ; or why combings of hair and . 
paring of nails should be taken care of; or why a speck of 
blood that may fall from your flesh should be cut out of wood 
if it has fallen on that and destroyed, and if it has fallen on 
the ground stamped and rubbed into the soil with great care. 
This set requires another key entirely. 

I must warn you also that your own mind requires protection 
when you send it stalking the savage idea through the tangled 
forests, the dark caves, the swamps and the fogs of the 
Ethiopian intellect. The best protection lies in recognising 
the untrustworthiness of human evidence regarding the unseen, 
and also the seen, when it is viewed by a person who has in 
his mind an explanation of the phenomenon before it occurs.. 
For example, take a person who, believing in ghosts, sees a 
white figure in a churchyard, bolts home, has fits, and on revival 
states he has seen a ghost, and gives details. He has seen a 
ghost and therefore he is telling the truth. Another person 
who does not believe in ghosts sees the thing, flies at it and. 
finds its component parts are boy and bed-sheet. 



xix THE AFRICAN POINT OF VIEW 441 

Do not applaud this individual, for he is quite conceited 
enough to make him comfortable ; yet when he says the 
phenomenon was a boy and a bed-sheet, he is also telling the 
truth, and not much more of the truth than observer number 
one, for, after all, inside the boy there is a real ghost that 
made him go and do the thing. I know many people have 
doubts as to the existence of souls in small boys of this 
class, holding that they contain only devils ; but devils can 
become ghosts, according to a mass of testimony. Great as 
the protection to the mind is, to keep it, as Hans Breitmann 
says, " still skebdical," I warn you that, with all precaution, 
the study of African metaphysics is bad for the brain, when 
you go and carry it on among all the weird, often unaccount- 
able surroundings, and depressing scenery of the Land of the 
Shadow of Death a land that stretches from Goree to 
Loanda. 

The fascination of the African point of view is as sure to 
linger in your mind as the malaria in your body. Never then 
will you be able to attain to the gay, happy cock-sureness 
regarding the Deity and the Universe of those people who 
stay at home, and whom the Saturday so aptly called "-the 
suburban agnostics." You will always feel inclined to 
ask this class of people, " Yes ; well, what is Force ? What 
is Motion ; and above all, tell me what is Matter that you talk 
so glibly of ? and if so why?" And the suburban agnostic 
looks down on you, and says pityingly, " Read Schopenhauer 
and Clifford," as if he were ordering you pills ; which revolts 
you, and you retort " Read Kant and Darwin," and the con- 
versation disappears into a fog of words. 

The truth is, the study of natural phenomena knocks the 
bottom out of any man's conceit if it is done honestly and 
not by selecting only those facts that fit in with his pre-con- 
ceived or ingrafted notions. And, to my mind, the wisest way 
is to get into the state of mind of an old marine engineer who 
oils and sees that every screw and bolt of his engines is clean 
and well watched, and who loves them as living things, caressing 
and scolding them himself, defending them, with stormy 
language, against the aspersions of the silly, uninformed outside 
world, which persists in regarding them as mere machines, a. 



442 FETISH CHAP. 



thing his superior intelligence and experience knows they are 
not. Even animistic-minded I got awfully sat upon the other 
day in Cameroon by a superior but kindred spirit, in the form of 
a First Engineer. I had thoughtlessly repeated some scandalous 
gossip against the character of a naphtha launch in the river. 
" Stuff! " said he furiously ; " she's all right, and she'd go from 
June to January if those blithering fools would let her alone." 
Of course I apologised. 

The religious ideas of the Negroes, i.e., the West Africans in 
the district from the Gambia to the Cameroon region, say 
roughly to the Rio del Rey (for the Bakwiri appear to have 
more of the Bantu form of idea than the negro, although 
physically they seem nearer the latter), differ very consider- 
ably from the religious ideas of the Bantu South-West Coast 
tribes. The Bantu is vague on religious subjects ; he gives 
one accustomed to the negro the impression that he once had 
the same set of ideas, but has forgotten half of them, and those 
that he possesses have not got that hold on him that the 
corresponding or super-imposed Christian ideas have over the 
true Negro ; although he is quite as keen on the subject of 
witchcraft, and his witchcraft differs far less from the witch- 
craft of the Negro than his religious ideas do. 

Witchcraft is a wonderful thing in its way. In Africa I 
constantly come upon ideas and methods of procedure in 
it that are identical with those of Irish, Devonian, and 
Semitic witchcraft, but this subject is too large to enter upon 
here. 

The god, in the sense we use the word, is in essence 
the same in all of the Bantu tribes I have met with on the 
Coast : a non-interfering and therefore a negligeable quantity. 
He varies his name : Anzambi, Anyambi, Nyambi, Nzambi, 
Anzam, Nyam, Ukuku, Suku, and Nzam, but a better investi- 
gation shows that Nzam of the Fans is practically identical 
with Suku south of the Congo in the Bihe country, and 
so on. 

They regard their god as the creator of man, plants, 
animals, and the earth, and they hold that having made them, 
he takes no further interest in the affair. But not so the 
crowd of spirits with which the universe is peopled, they take 



xix INFERIOR SPIRITS 



443 



only too much interest and the Bantu wishes they would not 
and is perpetually saying so in his prayers, a large percentage 
whereof amounts to " Go away, we don't want you." " Come 
not into this house, this village, or its plantations." He knows 
from experience that the spirits pay little heed to these objur- 
gations, and as they are the people who must be attended to, 
he develops a cult whereby they may be managed, used, and 
understood. This cult is what we call witchcraft. 

As I am not here writing a complete work on Fetish I 
will leave Nzam on one side, and turn to the inferior spirits. 
These are almost all malevolent ; sometimes they can be 
coaxed into having creditable feelings, like generosity and 
gratitude, but you can never trust them. No, not even 
if you are yourself a well-established medicine man. Indeed 
they are particularly dangerous to medicine men, just as 
lions are to lion tamers, and many a professional gentleman, 
in the full bloom of his practice, gets eaten up by his own 
particular familiar which he has to keep in his own inside 
whenever he has not sent it off into other people's. 

I am indebted to the Reverend Doctor Nassau for a great 
quantity of valuable information regarding Bantu religious 
ideas information which no one is so competent to give as he, 
for no one else knows the West Coast Bantu tribes with the 
same thoroughness and sympathy. He has lived among them 
since 1851, and is perfectly conversant with their languages 
and culture, and he brings to bear upon the study of them 
a singularly clear, powerful, and highly-educated intelli- 
gence. 

I shall therefore carefully ticket the information I have 
derived from him, so that it may not be mixed with my own. 
I may be wrong in my deductions, but Dr. Nassau's are above 
suspicion. 

He says the origin of these spirits is vague some of them 
come into existence by the authority of Anzam (by which 
you will understand, please, the same god I have quoted 
above as having many names), others are self-existent many 
are distinctly the souls of departed human beings, "which 
in the future which is all around them " retain their human 
wants and feelings, and the Doctor assures me he has heard 



444 FETISH CHAP. 

dying people with their last breath threatening to return as 
spirits to revenge themselves upon their living enemies. He 
could not tell me if there was any duration set upon the exist- 
ence as spirits of these human souls, but two Congo Francais 
natives, of different tribes, Benga and Igalwa, told me that 
when a family had quite died out, after a time its spirits died 
too. Some, but by no means all, of these spirits of human 
origin, as is the case among the negro Effiks, undergo re- 
incarnation. The Doctor told me he once knew a man whose 
plantations were devastated by an elephant. He advised 
that the beast should be shot, but the man said he dare not 
because the spirit of his dead father had passed into the 
elephant. 

Their number is infinite and their powers as varied as human 
imagination can make them ; classifying them is therefore a 
difficult work, but Doctor Nassau thinks this may be done 
fairly completely into : 

1. Human disembodied spirits Manu. 

2. Vague beings, well described by our word ghosts : 
A bavibo. 

3. Beings something like dryads, who resent intrusion into 
their territory, on to their rock, past their promontory, or tree. 
When passing the residence of one of these beings, the 
traveller must go by silently, or with some cabalistic invocation, 
with bowed or bared head, and deposit some symbol of an 
offering or tribute even if it be only a pebble. You occasion- 
ally come across great trees that have fallen across a path 
that have quite little heaps of pebbles, small shells, &c., upon 
them deposited by previous passers-by. This class is called 
Omfaviri. 

4. Beings who are the agents in causing sickness, and either 
aid or hinder human plans Mionde. 

5. There seems to be, the Doctor says, another class of 
spirits somewhat akin to the ancient Lares and Penates, who 
especially belong to the household, and descend by inheritance 
with the family. In their honour are secretly kept a bundle 
of finger, or other bones, nail-clippings, eyes, brains, &c., 
accumulated from deceased members of successive genera- 
tions. 



xix TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS 



445 



Dr. Nassau says " secretly," and he refers to this custom 
being existent in non-cannibal tribes. I saw bundles of this 
character among the cannibal Fans, and among the non- 
cannibal Adooma, openly hanging up in the thatch of the 
sleeping apartment. 

6. He also says there may be a sixth class, which may, 
however only be a function of any of the other classes namely, 
those that enter into any animal body, generally a leopard. 
Sometimes the spirits of living human beings do this, and the 
animal is then guided by human intelligence, and will exercise 
its strength for the purposes of its temporary human possessor. 
In other cases it is a non-human soul that enters into the 
animal, as in the case of Ukuku. 

Spirits are not easily classified by their functions because 
those of different class may be employed in identical under- 
takings. Thus one witch doctor may have, I find, particular 
influence over one class of spirit and another over another class ; 
yet they will both engage to do identical work. But in spite 
of this I do not see how you can classify spirits otherwise than 
by their functions ; you cannot weigh and measure them, and 
it is only a few that show themselves in corporeal form. 

There are characteristics that all the authorities seem agreed 
on, and one is that individual spirits in the same class vary 
in power : some are strong of their sort, some weak. 

They are all to a certain extent limited in the nature 
of their power ; there is no one spirit that can do all things ; 
their efficiency only runs in certain lines of action and all of 
them are capable of being influenced, and made subservient to 
human wishes, by proper incantations. This latter characteristic 
is of course to human advantage, but it has its disadvantages, 
for you can never really trust a spirit, even if you have paid 
a considerable sum to a most distinguished medicine man to get 
a powerful one put up in a ju-ju, or monde, 1 as it is called in 
several tribes. 

The method of making these charms is much the same 
among Bantu and Negroes. I have elsewhere described the 

1 This article has different names in different tribes ; thus it is called 
a bian among the Fan, a tarwiz, gree-gree, &c., on other parts of the 
Coast. 



446 



FETISH 



CHAP, 



Gold Coast method, so here confine myself to the Bantu. This 
similarity of procedure naturally arises from the same under- 
lying idea existing in the two races. 

You call in the medicine man, the "oganga," as he is 
commonly called in Congo Frangais tribes. After a variety 
of ceremonies and processes, the spirit is induced to localise 
itself in some object subject to the will of the possessor. 
The things most frequently used are antelopes' horns, the 
large snail-shells, and large nut-shells, according to Doctor 




MAKING A CHARM IX THE UPPER OGOWE REGION. 



Nassau. Among the Fan I found the most frequent charm- 
case was in the shape of a little sausage, made very neatly of 
pineapple fibre, the contents being the residence of the spirit 
or power, and the outside coloured red to flatter and please 
him for spirits always like red. 

The substance put inside charms is all manner of nasti- 
ness, usually on the sea coast having a high percentage of 
fowl dung. 

The nature of the substance depends on the spirit it is 



THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 447 



intended to be attractive to attractive enough to induce it 
to leave its present abode and come and reside in the charm. 

In addition to this attractive substance I find there are 
other materials inserted which have relation towards the work 
the spirit will be wanted to do for its owner. For example,, 
charms made either to influence a person to be well disposed 
towards the owner, or the still larger class made with intent 
to work evil on other human beings against whom the owner 
has a grudge, must have in them some portion of the person 
to be dealt with his hair, blood, nail-parings, &c. or, failing 
that, his or her most intimate belonging, something that has 
got his smell in a piece of his old waist-cloth for example. 

This ability to obtain power over people by means of their 
blood, hair, nails, &c., is universally diffused ; you will find 
it down in Devon, and away in far Cathay, and the Chinese,. 
I am told, have in some parts of their empire little ovens to 
burn their nail- and hair-clippings in. The fear of these latter 
belongings falling into the hands of evilly-disposed persons 
is ever present to the West Africans. The Igalwa and other 
tribes will allow no one but a trusted friend to do their hair, 
and bits of nails and hair are carefully burnt or thrown away 
into a river ; and blood, even that from a small cut or a fit of 
nose-bleeding, is most carefully covered up and stamped out 
if it has fallen on the earth. Dr. Nassau says, " If it falls on 
the side of a canoe, or a tree, the place is carefully cut out 
and the chip destroyed. Blood from a wound on a woman is 
held in high horror. This has probably something to do with 
the drawing of blood constituting grounds of divorce among the 
Igalwa. A Fan told me that a man in the village, who was so 
weak from some cause or other that he could hardly crawl 
about, had fallen into this state by seeing the blood of a woman; 
who had been killed by a falling tree. The underlying idea 
regarding blood is of course the old one that the blood is the 
life. 

The life in Africa means a spirit, hence the liberated blood is 
the liberated spirit, and liberated spirits are always whipping 
into people who do not want them. In the case of the young 
Fan, the opinion held was that the weak spirit of the woman- 
had got into him. I could not help being reminded of the 



448 FETISH CHAP. 



saying one often hears from a person in England who has seen 
some tragedy, " I cannot get the horror of it out of my eyes." 
This "horror" would mean to an African a spirit coming from 
the thing itself. 

Charms are made for every occupation and desire in life 
loving, hating, buying, selling, fishing, planting, travelling, 
hunting, &c., and although they are usually in the form 
of things filled with a mixture in which the spirit nestles, 
yet there are other kinds ; for example, a great love charm 
is made of the water the lover has washed in, and this, 
mingled with the drink of the loved one, is held to soften the 
hardest heart. Of a similar nature is the friendship-com- 
pelling charm I know of on the Ivory Coast, which I have 
been told is used also in the Batanga regions. This is ob- 
tained on the death of a person you know really cared for you 
like your father or mother, for example by cutting off the 
head and suspending it over a heap of chalk, as the white earth 
that you find in river beds is called here, then letting it drip as 
long as it will and using this saturated chalk to mix in among 
the food of any one you wish should think kindly of you and 
trust you. This charm, a Bassa man said to me, " was good 
too much for the white trader," and made him give you "good 
price too much " for palm oil, &c., and that statement revived 
my sympathy for a friend who once said to me that when he 
used first to come to the Coast he had " pretty well had the 
inside raked up out of him " from the sickness caused by the 
charms that his local cook administered to him in the interest 
of the cook's friends. That man keeps an Accra cook now, 
and I trust lives a life of healthy, icy, unemotional calm. 

Some kinds of charms, such as those to prevent your getting 
drowned, shot, seen by elephants, &c., are worn on a bracelet 
or necklace. A new-born child starts with a health-knot tied 
round the wrist, neck, or loins, and throughout the rest of its 
life its collection of charms goes on increasing. This col- 
lection does not, however, attain inconvenient dimensions, 
owing to the failure of some of the charms to work. 

That is the worst of charms and prayers. The thing you wish 
-of them may, and frequently does, happen in a strikingly direct 
way, but other times it does not. In Africa this is held to arise 






Xix UNCERTAINTY OF CHARMS 



449 



from the bad character of the spirits ; their gross ingrati- 
tude and fickleness. You may have taken every care of a 
spirit for years, given it food and other offerings that you 
wanted for yourself, wrapped it up in your cloth on chilly 
nights and gone cold, put it in the only dry spot in the canoe, 
and so on, and yet after all this, the wretched thing will be 
capable of being got at by your rival or enemy and lured 
away, leaving you only the case it once lived in. 

Finding, we will say, that you have been upset and half- 
drowned, and your canoe-load of goods lost three times in a 
week, that your paddles are always breaking, and the amount 
of snags in the river and so on is abnormal, you judge that 
your canoe-charm has stopped. Then you go to the medicine 
man who supplied you with it and complain. He says it was 
a perfectly good charm when he sold it you and he never had 
any complaints before, but he will investigate the affair ; when 
he has done so, he either says the spirit has been lured away 
from the home he prepared for it by incantations and 
presents from other people, or that he finds the spirit is dead ; 
it has been killed by a more powerful spirit of its class, which 
is in the pay of some enemy of yours. In all cases the little 
thing you kept the spirit in is no use now, and only fit to sell 
to a white man as " a big curio ! " and the sooner you let 
him have sufficient money to procure you a' fresh and still 
more powerful spirit necessarily more expensive the safer 
it will be for you, particularly as your misfortunes distinctly 
point to some one being desirous of your death. You of 
course grumble, but seeing the thing in his light you pay up, 
and the medicine man goes busily to work with incantations, 
dances, looking into mirrors or basins of still water, and con- 
coctions of messes to make you a new protecting charm. 

Human eye-balls, particularly of white men, I have already 
said are a great charm. Dr. Nassau says he has known graves 
rifled for them. This, I fancy, is to secure the " man that 
lives in your eyes" for the service of the village, and naturally 
the white man, being regarded as a superior being, would 
be of high value if enlisted into its service. A similar idea 
of the possibility of gaining possession of the spirit of a dead 
man obtains among the Negroes, and the heads of important 

G G 



450 FETISH CHAP. 

chiefs in the Calabar districts are usually cut off from the 
body on burial and kept secretly for fear the head, and there- 
by the spirit, of the dead chief, should be stolen from the town. 
If it were stolen it would be not only a great advantage to its 
new possessor, but a great danger to the chief's old town, be- 
cause he would know all the peculiar ju-ju relating to it. 
For each town has a peculiar one, kept exceedingly secret, in 
addition to the general ju-jus, and this secret one would then 
be in the hands of the new owners of the spirit. It is for 
similar reasons that brave General MacCarthy's head was 
treasured by the Ashantees, and so on. 

Charms are not all worn upon the body, some go to the 
plantations, and are hung there, ensuring an unhappy and 
swift end for the thief who comes stealing. Some are hung 
round the bows of the canoe, others over the doorway of the 
house, to prevent evil spirits from coming in a sort of tame 
watch-dog spirits. 

The entrances to the long street-shaped villages are frequently 
closed with a fence of saplings and this sapling fence you will 
see hung with fetish charms to prevent evil spirits from enter- 
ing the village and sometimes in addition to charms you will 
see the fence wreathed with leaves and flowers. I tried to 
find out whether these leaves were for the residence or amuse- 
ment of the protecting spirits or whether they were traps for 
the evil spirits attempting to enter the town. Both reasons 
were given me, the latter most definitely. Bells are frequently 
hung on these fences, but I do not fancy ever for fetish 
reasons. At Ndorko, on the Rembwe, there were many guards 
against spirit visitors, but the bell, which was carefully hung 
so that you could not pass through the gateway without 
ringing it, was a guard against thieves and human enemies 
only. It was entirely a piece of native manufacture, shaped very 
like the cow-bells my friends bring home from Switzerland, 
with thie same hoarse note, and I was informed, when at 
Lembarene, that down in a corner of the Lake of Islands there 
were a party of Fans who could not get out because they had 
quarrelled, more sue, with a village of fellow Fans who guard 
the entrance for canoes to the said corner, keeping a bright 
look out by day, to see the imprisoned ones did not escape, 






SACRIFICIAL RITES 451 



and by night stretching a line hung with bells from stake to 
stake, so that the least touch of a canoe on it set the bells 
ringing and the captors on the alert. The opinion was that 
unless the Government intervened the imprisoned Fans would 
gradually get killed and eaten by their fellow tribesmen, and 
then there will be a brief peace in that corner. They seem, I 
must say, to be a nice set down in that Eliva Z'onange, for 
they had eaten a returning communicant from the Catholic 
mission a few weeks before I reached Lembarene ; but this 
is mere chop palaver, for the cannibalism of the Fan is 
not a sacrificial cannibalism like that of the Niger Delta 
tribes, so we will leave it on one side and return to the 
gateways. 

Frequently a sapling is tied horizontally near the ground 
across the entrance. Dr. Nassau could not tell me why, but 
says it must never be trodden on. When the smallpox, a 
dire pestilence in these regions, is raging, or when there is 
war, these gateways are sprinkled with the blood of sacrifices, 
and for these sacrifices and for the payments of heavy blood 
fines, &c., goats and sheep are kept. They are rarely eaten 
for ordinary purposes, and these West Coast Africans have all 
a perfect horror of the idea of drinking milk, holding this 
custom to be a filthy habit, and saying so in unmitigated 
language. 

The villagers eat the meat of the sacrifice, that having 
nothing to do with the sacrifice to the spirits, which is the 
blood, for the blood is the life. 1 

Beside the few spirits that the Bantu regards himself as 
having got under control in his charms, he has to worship the 
uncontrolled army of the air. This he does by sacrifice and 
incantation. 

The sacrifice is the usual killing of something valuable as 
an offering to the spirits. The value of the offering in these 
S.W. Coast regions has certainly a regular relationship to the 
value of the favour required of the spirits. Some favours are 
worth a dish of plantains, some a fowl, some a goat and some 

1 Care must be taken not to confuse with sacrifices propitiations of 
spirits ; the killing of men and animals as offerings to the souls of deceased 
persons. 

G G 2 



452 FETISH CHAP. 



a human being, though human sacrifice is very rare in 
Congo Francais, the killing of people being nine times in ten 
a witchcraft palaver. 

Dr. Nassau, however, says that " the intention of the giver 
ennobles the gift," the spirit being supposed, in some vague 
way, to be gratified by the recognition of itself, and even some- 
times pleased with the homage of the mere simulacrum of a 
gift. I believe the only class of spirits that have this convenient 
idea are the Ombwiri ; thus the stones heaped by passers-by 
on the foot of some great tree, or rock, or the leaf cast from a 
passing canoe towards a promontory on the river, &c., 
although intrinsically valueless and useless to the Ombwiri 
nevertheless gratify him. It is a sort of bow or taking off 
one's hat to him. Some gifts, the Doctor says, are supposed to 
be actually utilised by the spirit. 

In some part of the long single street of most villages there 
is built a low hut in which charms are hung, and by which 
grows a consecrated plant, a lily, a euphorbia, or a fig. In 
some tribes a rudely carved figure, generally female, is set 
up as an idol before which offerings are laid. I saw at 
Egaja two figures about 2 feet 6 inches high, in the house 
placed at my disposal. They were left in it during my occupa- 
tion, save that the rolls of cloth (their power) which were round 
their necks, were removed by the owner chief; of the signifi- 
cance of these rolls I will speak elsewhere. 

Incantations may be divided into two classes, supplications 
analogous to our idea of prayers, and certain cabalistic words and 
phrases The supplications are addresses to the higher spirits. 
Some are made even to Anzam himself, but the spirit of the 
new moon is that most commonly addressed to keep the lower 
spirits from molesting. 

Dr. Nassau gave me many instances out of the wealth of 
his knowledge. One night when he was stopping at a village, 
he saw standing out in the open street a venerable chief who 
addressed the spirits of the air and begged them, " Come ye not 
into my town ;" he then recounted his good deeds, praising him- 
self as good, just, honest, kind to his neighbours, and so on. 
I must remark that this man had not been in touch with 
Europeans, so his ideal of goodness was the native one which 



xix CABALISTIC WORDS AND PHRASES 



you will find everywhere among the most remote West Coast 
natives. He urged these things as a reason why no evil 
should befall him, and closed with an impassioned appeal 
to the spirits to stay away. At another time, in another 
village, when a man's son had been wounded and a bleeding 
artery which the Doctor had closed had broken out again and 
the haemorrhage seemed likely to prove fatal, the father rushed 
out into the street wildly gesticulating towards the sky, saying, 
" Go away, go away, go away, ye spirits, why do you come to 
kill my son ? " In another case a woman rushed into the street, 
alternately objurgating and pleading with the spirits, who, she 
said, were vexing her child which had convulsions. " Observe," 
said the Doctor in his impressive way, " these were distinctly 
prayers, appeals for mercy, agonising protests, but there was 
no praise, no love, no thanks, no confession of sin." I said, 
considering the underlying idea, I did not see how that could 
be, thinking of the thing as they did, and the Doctor and I had 
one of our little disagreements. I shall always feel grateful 
to him for his great toleration of me, but I am sure this arose 
from his feeling tliat I saw there was an underlying idea in 
the minds of the people he loved well enough to lay down 
his life for in the hope of benefiting and ennobling them, and 
that I did not, as many do, set them down as idiotic brutes, 
glorying in an aimless cruelty that would be a disgrace to a 
devil. 

Regarding the cabalistic words and phrases, things which 
had long given me great trouble to get any comprehension of, 
the Doctor gave me great help. He says some of these 
phrases and words are coined by the person himself, others 
are archaisms handed down from ancestors and believed to 
possess an efficacy, though their actual meaning is forgotten. 
He says they are used at any time as defence from evil, when 
a person is startled, sneezes, or stumbles. Among these I 
think I ought to class that peculiar form of friendly farewell 
or greeting which the Doctor poetically calls a "blown 
blessing " and the natives Ibata. I thought the three times 
it was given to me that it was just spitting on the hand. 
Practically it is so, but the Doctor says the spitting is acci- 
dental, a by-product I suppose. The method consists in 



454 FETISH CHAP. 



taking the right hand in both yours, turning it palm upwards, 
bending your head low over it, and saying with great energy 
and a violent propulsion of the breath, Ibata. 

Idols are comparatively rare in Congo Frangais, but where 
they are used the people have the same idea about them as the 
true negroes have, namely, that they are things which spirits 
reside in, or haunt, but not in their corporeal nature 
adorable. The resident spirit in them and in the charms and 
plants, which are also regarded as residences of spirits, has to 
be placated with offerings of food and other sacrifices. You 
will see in the Fetish huts above mentioned dishes of plantain 
and fish left till they rot. Dr. Nassau says the life or essence 
of the food only is eaten by the spirit, the form of the 
vegetable or flesh being left to be removed when its life 
is gone out. The Calabar negroes told me that the spirits 
often take the forms of lizards which abound in this country 
and come and eat the food, and they always seem to doubt 
whether the offered food has .reached its proper destination 
unless some animal has eaten it. But for one thing, as I have 
said before, the true Negro is more definite in his ideas, and 
his gods and spirits very practical individuals, whereas the 
Bantu are vaguer, and moreover there are not so many lizards 
in Congo Frangais, so perhaps the native metaphysician is 
forced to be more spiritual in his ideas about his sacrifice. 

In cases of emergency a fowl with its blood is laid at the 
door of the Fetish hut, or when pestilence is expected, or an 
attack by enemies, or a great man or woman is very ill, goats 
and sheep are sacrificed and the blood put in the Fetish hut as 
well as on the gateways of the village. These sacrifices 
among the Fan are made with a very peculiar-shaped knife, a 
fine specimen of which I secured by the kindness of Captain 
Davies ; it is shaped like the head of a hornbill and is quite 
unlike the knives in common use among the tribes, which are 
either long, leaf-shaped blades sharpened along both edges, or 
broad, trowel-shaped, almost triangular daggers. All Fan 
knives are fine weapons, superior to the knives of all other 
Coast tribes I have met with, but the sacrifice knife is 
distinctly peculiar. Du Chaillu figures one in his book, 
calling it a tomahawk. Other people besides him speak of it 



FORBIDDEN FOOD 



455 



id call it a throwing knife. I believe it is entirely used for 
icrificing.' I do not believe you could throw it, as its curve 
and heavy weight at the back bring it round when you attempt 
to, and it is quite unlike the multi-bladed, real throwing 
knives of some middle Congo tribes. But it is perfectly 
adapted for killing animals by a blow behind the head, at the 
top of the spine, and this is the way I have seen it used, and 
if I remember right, Du Chaillu does not say that he himself 
saw it thrown. I have never seen any knife like it except 
in an illustration to Junker's Reiser im Afrika (1891, vol. iii. p. 
122), where one very similar is figured among the knives of 
the Mungabatu. 

There are several other implements of this cannibal tribe 
figured by Junker that have a great resemblance to the 
Fan things used for similar purposes, and I am much tempted 
to think that these two tribes are, if not identical, at least very 
nearly related. The same dwarf people, the pygmies, are in 
the Mungabatu region, and are fairly frequent in the forest 
among the Fans, and the north-east and east limitations of the 
Fans are not yet known. 

I found to my great interest the same superstition in 
Congo Fran^ais that I met with first in the Oil Rivers. Its 
meaning I am unable to fully account for, but I believe it to 
be a form of sacrifice. In Calabar each individual has a 
certain forbidden thing or things. These things are either 
forms of food, or the method of eating. In Calabar this pro- 
hibition is called I bet, and when, in consequence of the 
influence of white culture, a man gives up his I bet, he is 
regarded by good sound ju-juists as leading an irregular and 
dissipated life, and even the unintentional breaking of the 
I bet is regarded as very dangerous. For example, in buying a 
slave the purchaser always inquires what is the slave's I bet, 
because if the slave were given his I bet to eat, he would get 
ill ; again, once when staying with my esteemed friend Miss 
Mary Slessor at Okyon, there arrived among her crowd of 
patients a small boy with a very " sick foot." On being asked 
from what it had arisen, instead of getting the usual answer, 
u picked up medicine on the road," the boy said he had 
broken his I bet. Miss Slessor told me that shortly after 



456 FETISH CHAP. 



a child is born some of the elderly female relatives meet 
together and find out, by their magic, what the child's Ibet 
during life is to be. When they have done so, it is made 
known and he has to keep to it. 

Special days are set apart by each individual ; on these 
days he eats only the smallest quantity and plainest quality 
of food. No one must eat with him, nor any dog, fowl, &c., 
feed off the crumbs, nor any one watch him while eating. I 
suspect on this day the Ibet is eaten, but I have not verified 
this, only getting, from an untrustworthy source, a statement 
that supported it. 

Dr. Nassau told me that among Congo Fran^ais tribes 
certain rites are performed for children during infancy or 
youth, in which a prohibition is laid upon the child as regards 
the eating of some particular article of food, or the doing of 
certain acts. "It is difficult," he said, "to get the exact 
object of the ' Orunda.' Certainly the prohibited article is 
not in itself evil, for others but the inhibited individual may 
eat or do with it as they please. Most of the natives blindly 
follow the custom of their ancestors without being able to 
give any raison d'etre, but again, from those best able to give 
a reason, you learn the prohibited article is a sacrifice ordained 
for the child by its parents and the magic doctor as a gift to 
the governing spirit of its life. The thing prohibited becomes 
removed from the child's common use, and is made sacred to 
the spirit. Any use of it by the child or man would therefore 
be a sin, which would bring down the spirit's wrath in the 
form of sickness or other evil, which can be atoned for only 
by expensive ceremonies or gifts to the magic doctor who 
intercedes for the offender." 

Anything may be an Orunda provided only that it is con- 
nected with food ; I have been able to find no definite ground for 
the selection of it. The Doctor said, for example, that " once 
when on a boat journey, and camped in the forest for the 
noon -day meal, the crew of four had no meat. They needed 
it. I had a chicken but ate only a portion, and gave the rest 
to the crew. Three men ate it with their manioc meal, the 
fourth would not touch it. It was his Orunda." " On another 
journey," said the Doctor, " instead of all my crew leaving me 



xix ORUNDA AND IBET 457 

respectfully alone in the canoe to have my lunch and going 
ashore to have theirs, one of them stayed behind in the canoe, 
and I found his Orunda was only to eat over water when on a 
journey by water." " At another place, a chief at whose village 
we once anchored in a small steamer when a glass of rum was 
given him, had a piece of cloth held up before his mouth that 
the people might not see him drink, which was his Orunda." 

I know some ethnologists will think this last case should 
be classed under another head, but I think the Doctor is 
right. He is well aware of the existence of the other class of 
prohibitions regarding chiefs and I have seen plenty of chiefs 
myself up the Rembwe who have no objection to take their 
drinks coram publico, and I have no doubt this was only an 
individual Orunda of this particular Rembwe chief. 

Great care is requisite in these matters, because a man may 
do or abstain from doing one and the same thing for divers 
reasons. 

The word Orunda means prohibition, the Doctor says. In 
Effik I found the word Ibet meant a command a law an 
abstinence. 



CHAPTER XX 

FETISH ( Continued] 

In which the Voyager discourses on deaths and witchcraft, and, with no- 
intentional slur on the medical profession, on medical methods and 
burial customs, concluding with sundry observations on twins. 

IT is exceedingly interesting to compare the ideas of the 
Negroes with those of the Bantu. At present I have 
a more definite knowledge of the former, but I have 
gained sufficient knowledge of the West Coast Bantu to be 
able to commence a regular comparative study of these two 
analogous, but by no means identical, sets of ideas. 

I fancy you find the earliest forms, both of religion and 
witchcraft, among the negroes, and I hope in some future 
sojourn on the Bantu border-line to work up the subject 
more thoroughly, for it is one of great interest to the student 
of mental evolution. 

The mental condition of the lower forms of both races 
seems very near the other great border-line that separates 
man from the anthropoid apes, and I believe that if we had 
the material, or rather if we could understand it, we should 
find little or no gap existing in mental evolution in this old, 
undisturbed continent of Africa. 

There is one point in evolution, and one only, on which 
I am a little heterodox, and that is the dogma that all human 
beings came in the beginning from a single pair, appearing 
somewhere in Asia, and that their descendants then migrated 
about the earth accustoming themselves, their religion, their 
cooking, and their culture to new environments, turning the 
while all sorts of colours, and developing peculiarities of no 



CH. xx WITCHCRAFT AND BUSH-SOULS 459 



mortal use, and half the time of no ornament, in the matter of 
hair. 

I know, of course, that the South- West Coast tribes have all 
migrated from a region in the north-east that seems to be 
perpetually throwing off tribe after tribe, which all come west, 
and die out in the swamp-lands of the West Coast ; but at the 
same time we know, and have known for hundreds of years, 
quite enough of the regions beyond those from which the 
South-West Coast tribes Duallas, M'pongwe, Benga, and Fan 
have come during modern times, to be certain that these 
interesting and striking-looking hosts of human beings have 
not come trapesing across from Asia. I am not planting 
an African garden of Eden to rival the Asiatic one. I am 
only saying I agree with the French ethnologists and fancy 
there have been several points of origin of the human race. 

Let, however, these things be as they may, one thing about 
Negro and Bantu races is very certain, and that is that their 
lives are dominated by a profound belief in witchcraft and its 
effects. 

Among both alike the rule is that death is regarded as 
a direct consequence of the witchcraft of some malevolent 
human being, acting by means of spirits, over which he has, 
by some means or another, obtained control. 

To all rules there are exceptions. Among the Calabar 
negroes, who are definite in their opinions, I found two classes 
of exceptions. The first arises from their belief in a bush- 
soul. They believe every man has four souls : a, the soul that 
survives death ; b, the shadow on the path ; c, the dream-soul ; 
d, the bush-soul. 

This bush-soul is always in the form of an animal in the 
forest never of a plant Sometimes when a man sickens it 
is because his bush-soul is angry at being neglected, and a 
witch-doctor is called in, who, having diagnosed this as being 
the cause of the complaint, advises the administration of 
some kind of offering to the offended one. When you wander 
about in the forests of the Calabar region, you will frequently 
see little dwarf huts with these offerings in them. You must 
not confuse these huts with those of similar construction you 
are continually seeing in plantations, or near roads, which 



460 FETISH CHAP. 



refer to quite other affairs. These offerings, in the little huts 
in the forest, are placed where your bush-soul was last seen. 
Unfortunately, you are compelled to call in a doctor, which is 
an expense, but you cannot see your own bush-soul, unless 
you are an Ebumtup, a sort of second-sighter. 

Ebumtupism is rare, and if you do happen to possess this 
gift, it is discovered by the presiding elders during your 
initiation to the secret society of your tribe. 'When it is 
discovered the presiding elders strongly advise that you 
should enter the medical profession and become a witch 
doctor, as this profession is a paying one, although the 
training for it is dreadfully expensive to your parents, for it 
has to be carried on by the established witch-doctor. Your 
parents, if you are discovered to be an Ebumtup, usually make 
sacrifices after the way of parents, black or white, and you 
proceed with your studies. 

But to return to the bush-soul of an ordinary person. If 
the offering in the hut works well on the bush-soul, the 
patient recovers, but if it does not he dies. Diseases arising 
from derangements in the temper of the bush-soul however, 
even when treated by the most eminent practitioners, are very 
apt to be intractable, because it never realises that by injur- 
ing you it endangers its own existence. For when its human 
owner dies, the bush-soul can no longer find a good place, and 
goes mad, rushing to and fro if it sees a fire it rushes into it ; 
if it sees a lot of people it rushes among them, until it is killed, 
and when it is killed it is " finish " for it, as M. Pichault would 
say, for it is not an immortal soul. 

The bush-souls of a family are usually the same for a man 
and for his sons, for a mother and for her daughters. Some- 
times, however, I am told all the children take the mother's, 
sometimes all take the father's. They may be almost any kind 
of animal, sometimes they are leopards, sometimes fish, or 
tortoises, and so on. 

There is another peculiarity about the bush-soul, and that 
is that it is on its account that old people are held in such 
esteem among the Calabar tribes. For, however bad these 
old people's personal record may have been, the fact of their 
longevity demonstrates the possession of powerful and astute 



REINCARNATION 4 6i 



bush-souls. On the other hand, a man may be a quiet, 
respectable citizen, devoted to peace and a whole skin, and 
. yet he may have a sadly flighty disreputable bush-soul which 
will get itself killed or damaged and cause him death or 
continual ill-health. 

There is another way by which a man dies apart from the 
action of bush-souls or witchcraft ; he may have had a bad 
illness from some cause in his previous life and, when rein- 
carnated, part of this disease may get reincarnated with him 
and then he will ultimately die of it. There is no medicine 
of any avail against these reincarnated diseases. 

The idea of reincarnation is very strong in the Niger Delta 
tribes. It exists, as far as I have been able to find out, 
throughout all Africa, but usually only in scattered cases, as it 
were ; but in the Delta, most I think I may say all human 
souls of the " surviving soul " class are regarded as returning 
to the earth again, and undergoing a reincarnation shortly after 
the due burial of the soul. 

These two exceptions from the rule of all deaths and 
sickness being caused by witchcraft are, however, of minor 
importance, for infinitely the larger proportion of death and 
sickness is held to arise from witchcraft itself, more particu- 
larly among the Bantu. 

Witchcraft acts in two ways, namely, witching something 
out of a man, or witching something into him. The former 
method is used by both Negro and Bantu, but is decidedly 
more common among the Negroes, where the witches are 
continually setting traps to catch the soul that wanders from 
the body when a man is sleeping ; and when they have 
caught this soul, they tie it up over the canoe fire and its 
owner sickens as the soul shrivels. 

This is merely a regular line of business, and not an affair 
of individual hate or revenge. The witch does not care 
whose dream-soul gets into the trap, and will restore it on 
payment. Also witch-doctors, men of unblemished pro- 
fessional reputation, will keep asylums for lost souls, i.e., souls 
who have been out wandering and found on their return to 
their body that their place has been filled up by a Sisa, 
a low class soul I will speak of later. These doctors keep 



462 FETISH CHAP. 



souls and administer them to patients who are short of the 
article. 

But there are other witches, either wicked on their own 
account, or hired by people who are moved by some hatred to 
individuals, and then the trap is carefully set and baited for 
the soul of the particular man they wish to injure, and 
concealed in the bait at the bottom of the pot are knives and 
sharp hooks which tear and damage the soul, either killing it 
outright, or mauling it so that it causes its owner sickness on 
its return to him. I knew the case of a Kruman who for 
several nights had smelt in his dreams the savoury smell of 
smoked crawfish seasoned with red peppers. He became 
anxiouSj and the headman decided some witch had set a trap 
baited with this dainty for his dream-soul, with intent to do 
him grievous bodily harm, and great trouble was taken for the 
next few nights to prevent this soul of his from straying 
abroad. 

My attention was drawn to the case by snorts, snores, and 
flumps on the Kruman's part of even more than usual violence, 
and I went to see what was up with the man, mentally deciding 
that what he wanted was a dose of my pet pill. I found him 
under a blanket and his nose and mouth tied over with a 
handkerchief. It was a sweltering hot night and the man 
was as wet with sweat as if he had been dragged through a 
river, so I suggested his muzzle should be removed and then 
being informed of the state of affairs regarding his soul, I of 
course did not interfere. 

The witching of things into a man is far the most frequent 
method among the Bantu, hence the prevalence among them 
of the post-mortem examination, a practice I never found 
among the Negroes. 

The idea of the majority of deaths arising from witchcraft 
is, I believe, quite true if you will read witchcraft as 
poison. In a dull sort of way sometimes the black man 
understands it so too, as is shown by his very generally re- 
garding the best remedy for witching as being a brisk pur- 
gative and emetic, accompanied of course with suitable 
ceremonies. 

The belief in witchcraft is the cause of more African deaths 



xx TERROR OF WITCHCRAFT 463 



than anything else. It has killed and still kills more men and 
women than the slave-trade. Its only rival is perhaps the 
smallpox, the Grand Kraw-Kraw, as the Krumen graphically 
call it. 

At almost every death a suspicion of witchcraft arises. The 
witch-doctor is called in, and proceeds to find out the guilty 
person. Then woe to the unpopular men, the weak women, and 
the slaves ; for on some of them will fall the accusation that 
means ordeal by poison, or fire, followed, if these point to 
guilt, as from their nature they usually do, by a terrible death : 
slow roasting alive mutilation by degrees before the throat 
is mercifully cut tying to stakes at low tide that the high tide 
may come and drown and any other death human ingenuity 
and hate can devise. 

The terror in which witchcraft is held is interesting in spite 
of all its horror. I have seen mild, gentle men and women 
turned by it, in a moment, to incarnate fiends, ready to rend 
and destroy those who a second before were nearest and 
dearest to them. Terrible is the fear that falls like a spell 
upon a village when a big man, or big woman is just known 
to be dead. The very men catch their breaths, and grow grey 
round the lips, and then every one, particularly those belonging 
to the household of the deceased, goes in for the most demon- 
strative exhibition of grief. Long, low howls creep up out of 
the first silence those blood-curdling, infinitely melancholy, 
wailing howls once heard, never to be forgotten. 

The men tear off their clothes and wear only the most 
filthy rags ; women, particularly the widows, take off orna- 
ments and almost all dress ; their faces are painted white with 
chalk, their heads are shaven, and they sit crouched on the 
earth in the house, in the attitude of abasement, the hands 
resting on the shoulders, palm downwards, not crossed across 
the breast, unless they are going into the street. 

Meanwhile the witch-doctor has been sent for, if he is not 
already present, and he sets to work in different ways to find 
out who are the persons guilty of causing the death. 

Whether the methods vary with the tribe, or with the in- 
dividual witch-doctor, I cannot absolutely say, but I think 
largely with the latter. 



464 FETISH CHAP. 



Among the Benga I saw a witch-doctor going round a 
village ringing a small bell which was to stop ringing outside 
the hut of the guilty. Among the Cabindas (Fjort) I saw, 
at different times, two witch-doctors trying to find witches, 
one by means of taking on and off the lid of a small basket 
while he repeated the names of all the people in the village. 
When the lid refused to come off at the name of a person, 
that person was doomed. The other Cabinda doctor first 
tried throwing nuts upon the ground, also repeating names. 
That method apparently failed. Then he resorted to another, 
rubbing the flattened palms of his hands against each other. 
When the palms refused to meet at a name, and his hands 
flew about wildly, he had got his man. 

The accused person, if he denies the guilt, and does not 
claim the ordeal, is tortured until he not only acknowledges 
his guilt but names his accomplices in the murder, for re- 
member this witchcraft is murder in the African eyes. It is 
not just producing the parlour tricks of modern spiritualists. 

If he claims the ordeal, as he usually does, he usually has 
to take a poison drink. Among all the Bantu tribes I know 
this is made from Sass wood (sass = bad ; sass water = rough 
water ; sass surf = bad surf, &c.), and is a decoction of the 
freshly pulled bark of a great hard wood forest tree, which has 
a tall unbranched stem, terminating in a crown of branches 
bearing small leaves. Among the Calabar tribes the ordeal 
drink is of two kinds : one made from the Calabar bean, the 
other, the great ju-ju drink Mbiam, which is used also in taking 
oaths. 

In both the sass-wood and Calabar bean drink the only 
chance for the accused lies in squaring the witch-doctor, so that 
in the case of the sass-wood drink it is allowed to settle before 
administration, and in the bean that you get a very heavy dose, 
both arrangements tending to produce the immediate emetic 
effect indicative of innocence. If this effect does not come on 
quickly you die a miserable death from the effects of the poison 
interrupted by the means taken to kill you as soon as it is 
decided from the absence of violent sickness that you are 
guilty. 

The Mbiam is not poisonous, nor is its use confined, as the 






xx MBIAM OATH FORMULA 465 



use of the bean is, entirely to witch palaver ; but it is the most 
respected and dreaded of all oaths, and from its decision there 
is but one appeal, the appeal open to all condemned persons, 
but rarely made the appeal to Long ju-ju. This Long ju-ju 
means almost certain death, and before it a severe frightening 
that is worse to a negro mind than mere physical torture. 

The Mbiam oath formula I was able to secure in the upper 
districts of the Calabar. One form of it runs thus, and it is 
recited before swallowing the drink made of filth and blood : 

" If I have been guilty of this crime, 

"If I- have gone and sought the sick one's hurt, 

" If I have sent another to seek the sick one's hurt, 

" If I have employed any one to make charms or to cook 
bush, 

" Or to put anything in the road, 

" Or to touch his cloth, 

" Or to touch his yarns, 

" Or to touch his goats, 

" Or to touch his fowl, 

" Or to touch his children, 

" If I have prayed for his hurt, 

" If I have thought to hurt him in my heart, 

" If I have any intention to hurt him, 

" If I ever, at any time, do any of these things (recite in 
full), 

" Or employ others to do these things (recite in full) 

" Then, Mbiam ! Thou deal with me." 

This form I give was for use when a man was sick, and 
things were generally going badly with him, for it is not cus- 
tomary in cases of disease to wait until death occurs before 
making an accusation of witchcraft. In the case of Mbiam 
being administered after a death this long and complicated 
oath would be worded to meet the case most carefully, the 
future intention clauses being omitted. In all cases, whenever 
it is used, the greatest care is taken that the oath be recited 
in full, oath-takers being sadly prone to kiss their thumb, as it 
were, particularly ladies who are taking Mbiam for accusations 
of adultery, in conjunction with the boiling oil ordeal. Indeed, 
so unreliable is this class of offenders, or let us rather say this 

H H 



466 FETISH CHAP. 

class of suspected persons, that some one usually says the oath 
for them. 

From the penalty and inconveniences of these accusations 
of witchcraft there is but one escape, namely flight to a sanc- 
tuary. There are several sanctuaries in Congo Frangais. The 
great one in the Calabar district is at Omon. Thither mothers 
of twins, widow r s, thieves, and slaves fly, and if they reach 
it are safe. But an attempt at flight is a confession of guilt ; 
no one is quite certain the accusation will fall on him, or her, 
and hopes for the best until it is generally too late. Moreover, 
flying anywhere beyond a day's march, is difficult work in 
West Africa. So the killing goes on and it is no uncommon 
thing for ten or more people to be destroyed for one man's 
sickness or death ; and thus over immense tracts of country 
the death-rate exceeds the birth-rate. Indeed some of the 
smaller tribes have thus been almost wiped out. In the 
Calabar district I have heard of entire villages taking the 
bean voluntarily because another village had accused it en bloc 
of witchcraft. It amounts almost to a mania with these 
people. Miss Slessor has frequently told me how, during a 
quarrel, one person has accused another of witchcraft, and 
the accused has bolted off in a towering rage and swallowed 
the bean. 

The witch-doctor is not always the cause of people being 
subjected to the ordeal or torture. In Calabar and the Okyon 
districts all the widows of a dead man are subjected to 
ordeal. 

They have to go the next night after the death, before an 
assemblage of chiefs and the general surrounding crowd, to a 
cleared space where there is a fire burning. A fowl is tied to 
the right hand of each widow, and should that fowl fail to 
cluck at the sight of the fire the woman is held guilty of 
having bewitched her dead husband and is dealt with accord- 
ingly. 

Among the Bantu, although the killing among the wives 
from the accusation of witchcraft is high, some of them being 
almost certain to fall victims, yet there is not the wholesale 
slaughter of women and slaves sent down with the soul of the 
dead that there is among the Negroes. 



xx POST-MORTEM EXAMINATIONS 467 



Dr. Nassau told me of an interesting case which had come 
under his notice. Once he met a native heathen Akele 
chief who showed him a string of shells, horns, and wild cats' 
tails which he said could turn aside bullets. Although the 
Doctor is well known as a dead shot, the Akele dared him, in 
a friendly way, to shoot at him with a rifle, and to try him the 
Doctor pointed the rifle at him, at the distance of a few paces, 
but the Akele never quailed, and " of course," said the Doctor, 
" I did not fire." Two years after, that same man when 
hunting was charged by a wounded elephant and pierced 
by its tusks. His attendants drove off the beast, and the 
fearfully lacerated man survived just long enough to accuse 
one of his women and some slaves of having bewitched his 
gun and thus caused his death, and on this accusation four 
people were killed. The ingenious ethnologist may trace 
from this the accusations made against guns by European 
sportsmen and recognise survivals in them. 

In doubtful cases of death, i.e., in all cases not arising from 
actual violence, when blood shows in the killing, the Bantu of 
the S.W. Coast make post-mortem examinations. Notably 
common is this practice among the Cameroons and Batanga 
region tribes. The body is cut open to find in the entr