×
Well done. You've clicked the tower. This would actually achieve something if you had logged in first. Use the key for that. The name takes you home. This is where all the applicables sit. And you can't apply any changes to my site unless you are logged in.

Our policy is best summarized as "we don't care about _you_, we care about _them_", no emails, so no forgetting your password. You have no rights. It's like you don't even exist. If you publish material, I reserve the right to remove it, or use it myself.

Don't impersonate. Don't name someone involuntarily. You can lose everything if you cross the line, and no, I won't cancel your automatic payments first, so you'll have to do it the hard way. See how serious this sounds? That's how serious you're meant to take these.

Read the full thing here.
×
Register


Required. 150 characters or fewer. Letters, digits and @/./+/-/_ only.
  • Your password can’t be too similar to your other personal information.
  • Your password must contain at least 8 characters.
  • Your password can’t be a commonly used password.
  • Your password can’t be entirely numeric.

Enter the same password as before, for verification.
Login

Grow A Dic
Define A Word
Make Space
Set Task
Mark Post
Apply Votestyle
Create Votes
(From: saved spaces)
Exclude Votes
Apply Dic
Exclude Dic
Upload A File
Submit Email

Buy Advertising

Follow the form on the landing page to bid
for an uncensored self-regulated ad position.
Each word included bears the same ad


Login to enable post sorting. Buy/sell dictionaries which contain words which contain spaces (subreddits) to conglomerate posts and sell ads. Adverts pay users for each click and are auctioned off to the highest bidder. No clicks no credits. Posts do not archive, they stay active but can recirculate by editing to add new spaces (you can post to multiple spaces at once). We do not track your data, not even an email. Your content is yours, so you can input a Creative Commons on every post.

Click here to flash read.

in which an aperture like a door gave
admittance into the empty centre; this was in Cambambe, and the hollow
was large enough for two of us to sit inside, with a small box between
us for a table, and have our breakfast, and room to spare for our cook
to attend on us. Whilst we were comfortably enjoying our meal in its
grateful shade, our cook suddenly gave a shout and rushed out, crying
“Nhoca, Nhoca,” “Snake, Snake,” and sure enough there was a fine fellow
about four feet long over-head, quietly surveying our operations; a
charge of shot settled this very quickly, and down he fell, a victim to
his curiosity.

The inner bark of the Adansonia is obtained by first chopping off the
softer outer bark of the tree with a matchet, and then stripping the
inner bark in large sheets. The smaller trees produce the finest and
softest fibre, and it is taken off all round the tree, which does not
appear to suffer much injury. A fresh layer of bark grows, and is thick
enough to take off in about six to eight years. The bark is only taken
off the large trunks in places where the outer bark is smooth and free
from knobs, &c. In the course of time, the trunk growing, shows the
scar, high above the ground, of the place where the bark has been taken
off years before. The layers of inner bark when cut are saturated with
sap; the pieces are beaten with a stick to soften them, and shaken
to get rid of some of the pithy matter attached to them. The bark is
then dried in the sun, when it is ready for pressing into bales, and
shipping.

This inner bark is put to a variety of uses by the natives. It is
twisted into string and rope for all sorts of purposes, or used in
strips to secure loads, and to tie the sticks, &c., in making their
huts. Finer pieces are pulled out so as to resemble a coarse network,
and the edges being sewn together, make handy bags for cotton, or gum,
grain, &c. and very strong bags are woven from thin strips, in which
coffee and ground-nuts are brought down from Cazengo to the coast.

Several amusing incidents occurred on my introducing the trade in
Baobab fibre among the natives. I had great difficulty at first in
inducing them to take to it, but they soon saw the advantage of doing
on a large scale what they had been accustomed to do for their own
small necessities; their principal reason for suspicion about it was
that it had never before been an article purchased by the white men;
they would not believe it was for making paper, but thought it must be
for making cloth, and one old fellow very sagely affirmed that it was
to be used for making mosquito curtains, from the open texture of the
finer samples. It was debated at the towns whether it should be allowed
to be cut and sold, and finally agreed to, and the trade was fully
established at Ambriz for several months, when a report spread amongst
the natives that the object of my buying it was to make it into ropes
to tie them up some fine day when they least expected it, and ship them
on board the steamers as slaves. Such was the belief in this absurd
idea that all the natives employed at the factories disappeared, and
not a man, woman, or child appeared in Ambriz for several days, and the
place was nearly starved out.

I had an old black as my head man of the name of “Pae Tomás” (Father
Thomas) who was very much respected in the country; he had been with
me for some years, and it took all his influence to get the natives to
return to Ambriz and to bring in fibre again for sale.

Another instance of how any little variation from the usual state of
things will excite the suspicions of these natives, even accustomed
as they have been to contact with white men for many years, was the
appearance at Ambriz of a four-masted steamer,--one of the Lisbon
monthly line: such a thing as a “ship with four sticks” had never been
seen before, and without waiting to inquire, every black ran away from
Ambriz, and the same thing happened on her return from Loanda; it
was only after repeated voyages that the natives lost their fear of
her; they could give no other reason than that it had never been seen
before, and that therefore it must be a signal for the white men to do
something or other they could not understand.

It was not till some time after putting up and working the hydraulic
press at Ambriz that I was able to go north and establish them at
other places. I had to invite the King and Council of Musserra to come
to Ambriz and see it at work, and convince them that it was quite an
inoffensive machine, and could only squeeze the fibre into bales; only
by this means could I get their leave to land one there and erect it
and begin the trade, and I believe that had I not been already long
known to them I should have been unable to do it so soon. They somehow
had the idea that the cylinder was a great cannon, and might be fired
off with gunpowder, and I might take the country from them with it, but
they were reassured when they saw it had no touch-hole at the breech,
and that it was set upright in the ground and worked by water.

At Kimpoaça, a neighbouring town was averse to one being landed there,
but as I had obtained the leave of the king and the townspeople they
felt bound to allow me to set it up, and for about a fortnight that
the surf prevented its being landed the whole of the inhabitants were
on the beach every day with loaded guns, to fight the other town, if
necessary, as they had threatened forcible opposition to its being put
up--it all went off quietly, however, but a couple of years after, the
rains having failed to come down at the proper time, the fetish men
declared that the “matari ampuena,” or the “big iron,” had fetished the
rain and prevented its appearance.

The matter was discussed in the country at a meeting of the people of
the neighbouring towns, and it was determined to destroy the press and
throw it into the sea if it was found to be a “feiticeiro,” or wizard.
This was, of course, to be proved by the ordeal by poison, namely,
by making it take “casca,” the bark that I have already described as
determining the innocence or guilt of any one accused of witchcraft;
but this difficulty presented itself to their minds, that as the “big
iron” had no stomach or insides, the “casca” could have no action, so
after much deliberation it was resolved to get over the difficulty by
giving the dose to a slave of the king, who represented the hydraulic
press. Very luckily the poison acted as an emetic, and the press was
proved innocent of bewitching the rain. After some time, the rains
persisting in not coming down, the poor slave was again forced to take
“casca,” but with the same fortunate result,--the press was saved,
and the natives have never again suspected it of complicity with evil
spirits.

It was these hydraulic presses for baling the baobab fibre, at Ambriz
and elsewhere, which more than anything else firmly established amongst
the natives the name they had given me of “Endoqui ampuena,” or, the
great wizard. There is something to them so marvellous in the simple
working of a lever at a distance, by a little water in a tank, that no
rational explanation is possible to their minds,--it is simply a case
of pure witchcraft.

The fruit of the baobab is like a long gourd, about fourteen to
eighteen inches in length, covered by a velvety greenish-brown coating,
and hanging by a stalk two to three feet long. It is filled inside
with a curious dry, pulverulent, yellowish-red substance, in which
the seeds, about the size of pigeon-beans, are imbedded. The seeds
are pounded and made into meal for food in times of scarcity, and the
substance in which they are embedded is also edible, but strongly and
agreeably acid. This gourd-like fruit is often used for carrying water
or storing salt, &c., the walls, or shell, being very hard and about
a quarter of an inch thick. From its shape it makes a very convenient
vessel for baling water out of a canoe, one end being cut slantwise,
and it is used by the natives everywhere on the coast for this purpose.

The finest orchilla weed is found growing on the baobab trees near
the coast, and the natives ascend the great trunks by driving pegs
into them one above the other, and using them as steps to get to the
branches. These trees are the great resort of the several species
of doves so abundant in Angola, and their favourite resting-place
on account of the many nooks and spaces on the monstrous trunks and
branches in which they can conveniently build their flat nests and rear
their young.

There is something peculiarly grand in the near appearance of these
trees, and it is impossible to describe the sensation caused by these
huge vegetable towers, that have braved in solitary grandeur the hot
sun and storms of centuries; and very pleasant it is to lie down under
the shade of one of these giants and listen to the soft, plaintive
“coo--coo--coo” of the doves above, the only sound that breaks the
noonday silence of the hot and dry untrodden solitude around.

A lowly plant, but perhaps the most important in native tropical
African agriculture, the ground-nut (_Arachis hypogæa_), next deserves
description. Many thousand tons of this little nut are grown on
the whole West Coast of Africa, large quantities being exported to
Europe,--principally to France,--to be expressed into oil. We have
already seen what a great increase has taken place in the cultivation
of this nut in the part of the coast I am now specially describing, and
I believe that it is destined to be one of the most important oil-seeds
of the future.

The native name for it is “mpinda” or “ginguba,” and it is cultivated
in the greatest abundance at a few miles inland from the coast, where
the comparatively arid country is succeeded by better ground and
climate. It requires a rich soil for its cultivation, and it is chiefly
grown, therefore, in the bottoms of valleys, or in the vicinity of
rivers and marshes. The plant grows from one to two feet high, with a
leaf and habit very much like a finely-grown clover. The bright-yellow
pea-like flowers are borne on long slender stalks; these, after
flowering, curl down, and force the pod into the ground, where it
ripens beneath the soil. Its cultivation is a very simple affair. The
ground being cleared, the weeds and grass are allowed to dry, and are
then burnt; the ground is then lightly dug a few inches deep by the
women with their little hoes--their only implement of agriculture--and
the seeds dropped into the ground and covered up. The sowing takes
place in October and November, at the beginning of the rainy season,
and the first crop of nuts for eating green is ready about April;
but they are not ripe for nine months after sowing, or about July or
August, when they are first brought down to the coast for trade.

A large plantation of ground-nuts is a very beautiful sight: a rich
expanse of the most luxuriant foliage of the brightest green, every
leaf studded with diamond-like drops glittering in the early sun. The
ground-nut is an important part of the food of the natives, and more
so in the country from Ambriz to the River Congo than south at Loanda
and Benguella. It is seldom eaten raw, but roasted, and when young and
green, and roasted in the husks, is really delicious eating. It is
excessively oily when fully ripe, and the natives then generally eat
it with bananas and either the raw mandioca root, or some preparation
of it, experience showing them the necessity of the admixture of a
farinaceous substance with an excessively oily food. The nuts are also
ground on a stone to a paste, with which to thicken their stews and
messes. This paste, mixed with ground Chili pepper, is also made into
long rolls, enveloped in leaves of the _Phrynium ramosissimum_, and is
eaten principally in the morning to stay the stomach in travelling till
they reach the proper camping-places for their breakfast or first meal
and rest, generally about noon. It is called “quitaba,” and I shall
never forget the first time I tasted this composition: I thought my
palate and tongue were blistered, so great was the proportion of Chili
pepper in it.

A considerable quantity of oil used to be prepared by the natives
from this nut by the most rudimentary process it is possible to
imagine. The nuts are first pounded into a mass in a wooden mortar; a
handful of this is then taken between the palms of the hands, and an
attendant pours a small quantity of hot water on it, and on squeezing
the hands tightly together the oil and water run out. Since the great
demand for, and trade in, the ground-nut, but little oil is prepared
by the natives, as they find it more advantageous to sell the nuts
than to extract the oil from them by the wasteful process I have just
described. Ground-nut oil is very thin and clear, and is greatly used
in cookery in Angola, for which it is well adapted as it is almost free
from taste and smell.

The greater part of the several thousand tons of nuts that at present
constitute the season’s crop in this part of the country is grown
in the Mbamba country, lying parallel with the coast, at a distance
of from thirty to eighty miles inland, or at the first and second
elevation. Some idea of the great population of this comparatively
small district may be formed from the fact that the whole of the above
ground-nuts are shelled by hand, and brought down to the coast on the
heads of the natives. It is difficult for any one unacquainted with the
subject to realise the vast amount of labour implied in the operation
of shelling this large quantity by hand.

The trade in coffee is almost entirely restricted to Ambriz, and it
comes principally from the district of Encoge, a considerable quantity
also being brought from the Dembos country and from Cazengo, to the
interior of Loanda, from which latter place the trade is shut out by
the stupid and short-sighted policy of high custom-house duties on
goods, and other restrictions on trade of the Portuguese authorities.
Very little of the coffee produced in the provinces of Encoge and
Dembos is cultivated; it is the product of coffee-trees growing
spontaneously in the virgin forests of the second elevation. The
natives, of course, have no machinery of any kind to separate the berry
from the pod, these being dried in the sun and then broken in a wooden
mortar, and the husks separated by winnowing in the open air.

The sesamum seed (_Sesamum indicum_) has only very recently become an
article of trade in Angola. It was cultivated sparingly by the natives,
who employ it, ground to a paste on a stone in the same manner as
the ground-nut, to add to their other food in cooking. It is as yet
cultivated for trade principally by the natives about Mangue Grande,
and only since about the year 1868, but there is no doubt it will be
an important product all over Angola, as it is found to grow near the
coast, in soil too arid for the ground-nut.

The red gum copal, called “maquata” by the natives, is of the finest
quality, and is almost entirely the product of the Mossulo country.
It is known to exist north, in the vicinity of Mangue Grande, but it
is “fetish” for the natives to dig it, and consequently they will not
bring it for trade, and even refuse to tell the exact place where it is
found, but there can be no doubt about it, as they formerly traded in
it with the white men.

Until about the year 1858, it was a principal article of export from
Ambriz; vessels being loaded with it, chiefly to America, but with the
American war the trade ceased, and it has never since attained anything
like its former magnitude. I believe it to be a fossil gum or mineral
resin. I have examined quantities of it, to discover any trace of
leaves, insects, or other remains, that might prove it to have been of
vegetable origin, but in vain.

It is obtained from a part of Angola where white men are not permitted
by the natives to penetrate, and I have consequently not been an actual
observer of the locality in which it occurs; but by all the accounts
received from intelligent natives, it is found below the surface of a
highly ferruginous hard clay or soil, at a depth of a few inches to
a couple of feet. It is very likely that if the ground were properly
explored, it would be found deeper, but most probably this is as deep
as the natives care to dig for it, if they can obtain it elsewhere
nearer the surface. It is said to be found in irregular masses, chiefly
flat in shape, and from small knobs to pieces weighing several pounds.
These are all carefully chopped into small nearly uniform pieces, the
object of this being to enable the natives to sell it by measure,--the
measures being little “quindas” or open baskets; the natives of the
country where it is obtained not only bring it to the coast for barter,
but also sell it to the coast natives, who go with goods to purchase it
from them.

The blacks of the gum country are so indolent that they will only dig
for the gum during and after the last and heaviest rains, about March,
April, and May, and these, and June and July, are the months when it
almost all makes its appearance, and they will only allow a certain
quantity to leave the country, for fear that its price on the coast may
fall; hence only a few tons of this beautiful gum are now obtained,
where some years ago hundreds were bought. It is said by the natives
that no trees grow on or near the places where the gum copal is found,
and that even grass grows very sparingly: the very small quantities
of red earth and sand sometimes attached to the gum show it to be so
highly ferruginous, that I should imagine such was really the case.

The white Angola gum is said to be the product of a tree growing near
rivers and water, a little to the interior of the coast. I have never
had an opportunity of seeing the tree myself, however.

We now come to one of the most curious products of this interesting
country, namely, india-rubber, called by the natives “Tangandando.”
It had been an article exported in considerable quantities north of
the River Congo, and knowing that the plant from which it was obtained
grew in abundance in the second region, about sixty miles inland from
Ambriz, I distributed a number of pieces of the india-rubber to natives
of the interior, and offered a high price for any that might be brought
for sale. In a very short time it began to come in, and the quantity
has steadily increased to the present day.

The plant that produces it is the giant tree-creeper (_Landolphia,
florida?_), covering the highest trees, and growing principally on
those near rivers or streams. Its stem is sometimes as thick as
a man’s thigh, and in the dense woods at Quiballa I have seen a
considerable extent of forest festooned down to the ground, from tree
to tree, in all directions with its thick stems, like great hawsers;
above, the trees were nearly hidden by its large, bright, dark-green
leaves, and studded with beautiful bunches of pure white star-like
flowers, most sweetly scented. Its fruit is the size of a large orange,
of a yellow colour when ripe, and perfectly round, with a hard brittle
shell; inside it is full of a soft reddish pulp in which the seeds are
contained. This pulp is of a very agreeable acid flavour, and is much
liked by the natives. The ripe fruit, when cleaned out, is employed
by them to contain small quantities of oil, &c. It is not always easy
to obtain ripe seeds, as this creeper is the favourite resort of a
villainous, semi-transparent, long legged red ant--with a stinging bite
like a red-hot needle--which is very fond of the pulp and seeds.

Every part of this creeper exudes a milky juice when cut or wounded,
but unlike the india-rubber tree of America, this milky sap will not
run into a vessel placed to receive it, as it dries so quickly as to
form a ridge on the wound or cut, which stops its further flow.

The blacks collect it, therefore, by making long cuts in the bark with
a knife, and as the milky juice gushes out, it is wiped off continually
with their fingers, and smeared on their arms, shoulders, and breast
until a thick covering is formed; this is peeled off their bodies and
cut into small squares, which are then said to be boiled in water.

From Ambriz the trade in this india-rubber quickly spread south to the
River Quanza, from whence considerable quantities are exported.

The ivory that reaches this part of the coast is brought down by
natives of the Zombo country. These are similar in appearance to the
Mushicongos, to which tribe they are said to be neighbours, and are
physically a poor-looking race, dressed mostly in native grass-cloth,
and wearing the wool on their heads in very small plaits, thickly
plastered with oil and charcoal dust, which they also plentifully apply
to their faces and bodies.

They are about thirty days on the journey from their country to the
coast, which can therefore be very closely calculated to be about
300 miles distance. The road they follow passes near Bembe, and the
caravans shortly afterwards divide into three portions, one taking the
road to Moculla, another to Ambrizzette, and the third to Quissembo,
the three centres, at present, of the ivory trade. The caravans of
ivory generally travel in the “cacimbo” or dry season, on account of
the great number of streams and gullies they have to cross on their
long journey, and almost impassable in the rainy season. These caravans
never bring down any other produce with them but ivory, except at
times a few grass-cloths, some bags of white haricot-beans, and fine
milk-white onions, neither of which are cultivated by the natives near
the coast. The tusks are carried by the natives on their heads or
shoulders, and, to prevent their slipping, are fastened in a sort of
cage of four short pieces of wood (Plate IV.). Very heavy teeth are
slung to a long pole and carried by two blacks. The largest tusks I
have seen were two that came to Quissembo, evidently taken from the
same animal; they weighed respectively 172 and 174 pounds!

[Illustration: PLATE IV.

1. Ankle-ring--2. Ring to ascend Palm-trees.--3. Cage for carrying
Ivory Tusks. 4. Engongui.--5. Fetish figure.--6. Mask.--7. Pillow.

_To face page 140._]

The knives on Plate V. were obtained from natives composing these
caravans.

From all the more intelligent natives I always obtained the same
information respecting the origin of the ivory brought down to the
coast, namely, that it was all from animals killed, and not from
elephants found dead. The natives from the interior always laughed at
the idea of ivory becoming scarce from the numbers of elephants that
must necessarily be killed to supply the large number of tusks annually
brought down,--the number slaughtered must therefore be very small in
comparison to the living herds they must be in the habit of seeing on
the vast plains of the interior. They are said to be shot, and that the
natives put such a charge of powder and iron bullets into their guns
that when fired from the shoulder the hunter cannot use his gun again
that day, so great is the kick he gets from its recoil. I can well
understand that this is not an exaggerated account, from the manner in
which blacks always load a gun, the charge of powder being one handful,
as much as it can hold, then a wadding of baobab fibre, then lead shot,
or lead or iron bullets (in default of which they use the heavy round
pieces of pisolitic iron ore very common in the country), another wad
of baobab fibre, and the gun must then show that it is loaded a “palm,”
or about eight or nine inches of the barrel.

On festive occasions, or at their burials, the guns are loaded with a
tamping of “fuba,” or fine mandioca-meal, instead of other wadding, and
they then give a terrific report when fired off, and not unfrequently
burst.

This coast abounds with fish, but very few of the natives engage in
their capture, as they make so much by trading that they will not take
the trouble. Several fish, such as the “Pungo,” weighing as much as
three “arrobas,” or ninety-six pounds, visit the coast only in the
“cacimbo” or cold season of the year, or from June to August.

The Bay of Musserra is a noted place for large captures of this fine
fish, as many as forty or fifty being caught in a day by the natives,
with hook and line, from their small curious shaped canoes. It is a
very firm-fleshed fish, and cut up, salted, and dried in the sun, was
a great article of trade at Musserra, being sold to the natives from
the interior, particularly to the “Zombos” composing the caravans of
ivory, who are very fond of salt fish. There was a great row in the
season 1870, which was a very scarce one for ground-nuts, between the
natives of the interior and the blacks at Musserra, on account of the
latter taking to collect Adansonia fibre in preference to catching
“Pungo,” and therefore disappointing the inlanders of their favourite
salt delicacy.

The canoes on this part of the coast, and as far north as Cabinda, are
very curious, and totally unlike any that I have seen anywhere else.
They are composed of two rounded canoes lashed or sewn together below,
and open at the top. This aperture is narrow, and each canoe forms, as
it were, a long pocket. The natives stand or sit on them with their
legs in the canoe, or astride, as most convenient according to the
state of the surf, on which these canoes ride beautifully.

The town of Musserra was formerly a large and populous one, but
small-pox and “sleep disease” have reduced it to a mere handful.

This “sleep disease” was unknown south of the River Congo, where it
formerly attacked the slaves collected in the barracoons for shipment.
It suddenly appeared at the town of Musserra alone, where, I was told
by the natives, as many as 200 of the inhabitants died of it in a few
months. This was in 1870, and, curious to say, it did not spread to the
neighbouring towns. I induced the natives to remove from the old town,
and the mortality decreased till the disease died out.

This singular disease appears to be well known at Gaboon, &c., and is
said to be an affection of the cerebellum. The subjects attacked by it
suffer no pain whatever, but fall into a continual heavy drowsiness
or sleep, having to be awakened to be fed, and at last become unable
to eat at all, or stand, and die fast asleep as it were. There is no
cure known for it, and the patients are said to die generally in about
twenty to forty days after being first attacked.

There was nothing in the old town to account for this sudden and
singular epidemic; it was beautifully clean, and well built on high,
dry ground, surrounded by mandioca plantations, and the last place to
all appearance to expect such a curious outbreak.

About four or five miles inland of Musserra, on a ridge of low
hills, stands the remarkable granite pillar marked on the charts, and
forming a capital landmark to ships at sea (Plate V.).

[Illustration: PLATE V.

Granite Pillar of Musserra.--1. Wooden Trumpet.--2. Hoe.--3. Pipe.--4.
Knives.--5 and 6. Clapping Hands, and Answer.

_To face page 145._]

The country at that distance from the coast is singularly wild in
appearance, from the whole being broken up into what can only be
compared to a vast granite quarry:--huge blocks of this rock, of
every imaginable size and shape, are scattered over the hilly ground,
thickly interspersed with gigantic baobabs and creepers. Some of the
masses of rock imitate grotesquely all manner of objects: a very
curious one is exactly like a huge cottage-loaf stuck on the top of a
tall slender pillar. Others are generally rounded masses, large and
small, piled one on top of another, and poised and balanced in the
most fantastic manner. This extraordinary appearance is due to softer
horizontal layers or beds in the granite weathering unequally, and to
strongly-marked cleavage planes running N.N.E. and S.S.W.

The granite pillar itself stands on the top of one of the last of the
low hills forming the rocky ridge that comes down to within a few miles
of the coast. It consists of a huge slice or flat piece of granite,
facing the sea, standing upright on another block that serves it for a
pedestal. The top piece is about forty-five feet high, and twenty-seven
broad at the base, and eight to ten feet thick. Its faces correspond to
the cleavage plane of the granite of the country, and from large masses
that lie around on the same hill, it is clear that these have fallen
away from each side, and left it alone standing on the top. The square
pedestal on which it stands is about forty feet long, and twenty high,
by twenty-seven wide. I climbed once to the top of this square block
by the help of a small tree growing against it, and found that the
top piece rested on three points that I could just crawl under. Under
some lichen growing there I found numbers of a beetle (_Pentalobus
barbatus_, Fabr.), which I presented to the British Museum.

A considerable quantity of salt is made by the natives of this part of
the coast, from Quissembo to Ambrizzette, particularly at the latter
place, in the small salt marshes near the sea, and with which they
carry on a trade with the natives from the interior.

At the end of the dry season the women and children divide the surface
of these marshes into little square portions or pans, by raising mud
walls a few inches high, so as to enclose in each about two or three
gallons of the water, saturated with salt from the already nearly
evaporated marsh. As the salt crystallizes in the bottom of these
little pans, it is taken out, and more water added, and so the process
is continued until the marsh is quite dry. In many cases a small
channel is cut from the marsh to the sea (generally very close to it)
to admit fresh sea-water at high tide.

It is an amusing sight to see numbers of women and children, all stark
naked, standing sometimes above their knees in the water, baling
it into the “pans” with small open baskets or “quindas,” and all
singing loudly a monotonous song;--others are engaged in filling large
“quindas” with dirty salt from the muddy pans, whilst others again are
busily washing the crystallized salt by pouring sea-water over it till
all the mud is washed away, and the basketfuls of salt shine in the sun
like driven snow.

Towards evening long lines of women and children will be seen carrying
to their towns, on their heads, the harvest of salt, and great is the
fun and chaff from them if they meet a white man travelling in a
hammock,--all laughing and shouting, and wanting to shake hands, and
running to keep pace with the hammock-bearers.

The proprietress of each set of little evaporating pans marks them as
her property by placing a stick in each corner, to which is attached
some “fetish” to keep others from pilfering. This “fetish” is generally
a small bundle of strips of cloth or rags, or a small gourd or baobab
fruit containing feathers, fowl-dung, “tacula” (red wood), or very
often some little clay or wooden figure, grotesquely carved, and
coloured red and white.

Quantities of little fish are also captured about the same time from
these marshes, being driven into corners, &c., and prevented from
returning to the marsh by a mud wall. The water from the enclosure thus
formed is then baled out by the women with baskets, and the fish caught
in the mud. I have often seen as many as twenty women all standing in a
line, baling out the water from a large pool in which they had enclosed
shoals of little fish. These are spread out on the ground to dry in the
sun, and the stench from them during the process is something terrific.
When dry they are principally sold to natives from the interior.

Many kinds of aquatic birds of all sizes flock in the dry season to
these marshes, where a rich abundance of finny food awaits them, and it
is curious to see what little regard they pay to the women collecting
salt or baling water, and singing loudly in chorus, very often quite
close to them. The reason of this tameness is that the natives seldom
fire at or molest them, only a very few hunters shooting wild-ducks for
sale to the white men, though they will always eat any kind of rank
gull or other bird that a white man may shoot. Very beautiful are the
long lines of spoonbills, flamingoes, and herons of different species,
standing peacefully in these shallow marshes, their snow-white plumage
and tall graceful forms brightly reflected on the dark unruffled
surface of the water.

The marshes on this coast are fortunately not extensive enough to
influence much the health of the white residents; they are all
perfectly salt, and free from mangrove or other vegetation, and
generally dry up completely (with rare exceptions) in the dry season,
when sometimes the stench from them is very perceptible.

The worst season for Europeans is about May, June, and July, when the
marshes are quite full from the last heavy rains, and exhale no smell
whatever.

The point at Musserra is composed of sandstone, the lower beds of which
are strongly impregnated with bitumen, so strongly, indeed, that it
oozes out in the hot season.

At Kinsao, near Mangue Grande, and a few miles to the interior, a lake
of this mineral pitch is said to exist, but of course the natives will
not allow a white man to visit the locality to ascertain the fact,
and it is also “fetish” for the natives to trade in it. The fear of
annexation of the country by the white men has caused the natives to
“fetish” and absolutely prohibit even the mention of another very
important article--malachite--of which there is every reason to believe
a large deposit exists, about six miles up the river at Ambrizzette.
The scenery up this little river is very lovely, but the natives will
not allow white men to ascend more than a few miles or up to a hill
beyond which the deposit or mine of malachite is believed to exist. In
the slave-trading time quantities of this mineral in fine lumps used to
be purchased of the natives from this locality, but on the occupation
of Ambriz by the Portuguese, in 1855, for the purpose of reaching the
malachite deposit at Bembe, the natives of Ambrizzette closed the
working of their mine, and it remains so to this day, and nothing will
induce them to open it again.

I have had many private conversations with them, and tried hard to make
them work it again, but, as might be expected, without success.

CHAPTER VI.

AMBRIZ--TRADE--MALACHITE--ROAD TO
BEMBE--TRAVELLING--MOSQUITOES--QUIBALLA TO QUILUMBO--QUILUMBO TO BEMBE.

Ambriz, seen from the sea, consists of a high rocky cliff or
promontory, with a fine bay sweeping with a level beach northward
nearly to the next promontory, on which stand the trading factories
forming the place called Quissembo, or Kinsembo of the English.

In the bay the little River Loge has its mouth, and marks the northern
limit of the Portuguese possession of Angola. The country beyond,
described in the last chapter, is in the hands of the natives, under
their own laws, and owing no allegiance or obedience to any white
power. Ambriz was, up to the year 1855, when it was occupied by the
Portuguese, also in the hands of the natives, and was one of the
principal ports for the shipment of, and trade in slaves, from the
interior.

There were also established there American and Liverpool houses,
trading in gum copal, malachite, and ivory, and selling, for hard cash,
Manchester and other goods to the slave dealers from Cuba and the
Brazils, with which goods the slaves from the interior were all bought
by barter from the natives.

The Portuguese, following their usual blind and absurd policy, at
once established a custom-house, and levied high duties on all goods
imported. The consequence was, that the foreign houses, to escape their
exactions, at once removed to Quissembo, on the other side of the River
Loge, and the trade of Ambriz was completely annihilated and reduced
to zero. For many years the revenue barely sufficed to pay the paltry
salaries of the custom-house officials, but when I established myself
at Ambriz, I succeeded in inducing the Governor-General of Angola to
reduce the duties, so as to enable us at Ambriz to compete successfully
with the factories at Quissembo, six miles off, where they paid no
duties whatever, with the annual exception of a few pounds’ worth of
cloth, &c., in “customs” or presents to the natives.

The Governor, Francisco Antonio Gonçalves Cardozo, a naval officer,
had the common sense to perceive that moderate duties would yield a
greater revenue, and would be the only means of bringing back trade
to the place. An import duty of six per cent. ad valorem was decreed,
notwithstanding the violent opposition of the petty merchants, and
ignorant officials at Loanda. The experiment, it is needless to say,
was highly successful, and the receipts of the Ambriz custom-house now
amount to a considerable sum, of which a third is devoted to public
works. The factories at Quissembo are at present doing but little
trade, except in ivory, which has not yet been coaxed back to Ambriz.

The town of Ambriz consists principally of one long, broad street or
road, on the ridge that ends at the cliff or promontory forming the
southern point of the bay. At the end of the road a small fort has been
built, in which are the barracks for the detachment of troops forming
the garrison. This useless fort has been a source of considerable
profit to the many ill-paid Portuguese governors or commandants of
Ambriz, and though it has cost the country thousands of pounds, it is
not yet finished. There is a tumble-down house for the commandant, and
an attempt at an hospital, also unfinished, though it has been building
for many years. There are no quarters for the officers, who live as
best they can with the traders, or hire whatever mud or grass huts they
can secure.

The custom-house is in ruins, notwithstanding many years of
expenditure, for which, in fact, fort, hospital, barracks,
custom-house, and all other government and public works might have
been built long ago, of stone and building materials from Portugal. A
church was commenced to be built by subscriptions, the walls only were
raised, and thus it remains to this day. There is a government paid
priest who celebrates mass on most Sunday mornings in a small room in
the commandant’s house, but for whom no school-room, residence, or any
convenience whatever is provided, and who lives in a hut in a back
street, where he trades for produce with the natives on week days.

The garrison is badly armed and disciplined. Some time ago the
soldiers revolted, and for some days amused themselves by firing
their muskets about the place, and demanding drink and money from
the traders. There was nobody killed or wounded, no house or store
robbed or sacked, the mutineers in fact behaving remarkably well.
The commandant kept indoors until the news reached Loanda, and after
several days the Governor-General arrived in a Portuguese man-of-war
with troops, which were disembarked, the valiant Governor-General
remaining on board till order was restored, when he landed, had a
couple of the ringleaders thrashed, made a speech to the rest of the
mutineers, and returned to Loanda, leaving the tall commandant to twirl
his moustaches. The Governor-General was at that time an officer called
José da Ponte e Horta, and though not one of the most competent men
that Portugal has sent to Angola as governor, the inhabitants of Loanda
have to thank him for paving a great part of their sandy city.

Were not the natives of Ambriz such a remarkably inoffensive and
unwarlike race, they would long ago have driven the Portuguese into the
sea. It is a great pity that Portugal should neglect so disgracefully
her colonies, so rich in themselves, and offering such wonderful
advantages in every way for colonization and development.

In the year 1791 the Portuguese built a fort at Quincollo, about six
miles up the River Loge, on a low hill commanding the road from Ambriz
to Bembe and St. Salvador, where they then had a large establishment,
and the masses of masonry still remain, a standing memorial of the
former energy and bravery of the Portuguese who subjugated the then
powerful kingdom of Congo and the savage tribes of the coast, so
strikingly in contrast to the present spiritless and disgraceful
military misrule of Angola.

Ambriz boasts of the only iron pier in Angola, and this was erected
at my instigation. It is 200 feet long, and is a great advantage in
loading and discharging cargo into or from the lighters.

Ambriz is an open roadstead, and vessels have to anchor at a
considerable distance from the beach, and though the surf sometimes
interferes with the above operations on the beach, vessels are always
safe, such things as storms or heavy seas being unknown.

Behind the beach a salt, marshy plain extends inland for a mile or so,
and nearly to Quissembo in a northerly direction. Along the edge of
this plain is the road to Quincollo, and many little ravines or valleys
lead into it. These, in the hot season particularly, are most lovely in
their vegetation, the groups of gigantic euphorbias festooned with many
delicate-leaved creepers being especially quaint and beautiful.

A handsome orange and black diurnal moth is found abundantly about
Ambriz, and is curious from its exhaling a strong smell of gum benzoin,
so strong indeed as to powerfully scent the collecting box. It is the
_Eusemia ochracea_ of entomologists.

In 1872, the ship “Thomas Mitchell” took a cargo of coals from England
to Rio de Janeiro, and after discharging proceeded in ballast to
Ambriz. The crew on arrival were suffering from “chigoes” or “jiggers”
in their feet, which they contracted in the Brazils. These pests were
quickly communicated to the black crews of our boats and introduced on
shore, and in a short time every one in Ambriz had them in their feet
and hands. Many of the blacks were miserable objects from the ravages
of this horrid insect on their feet and legs, in the skin of which they
burrow and breed. They gradually extended up the coast, but not towards
the interior. By last advices they appear to be dying out at Ambriz. It
is to be hoped that such is the case, and that this fresh acquisition
to the insect scourges of tropical Africa may be only temporary. A
friend just arrived from the coast tells me that they have already
reached Gaboon, and they will doubtlessly run all the way up the coast.

Previous to the occupation of Ambriz by the Portuguese in 1855, the
natives used to bring down a considerable quantity of fine malachite
from Bembe for sale. A Brazilian slave-dealer, a man of great energy
and enterprise, called Francisco Antonio Flores, who, after the
abolition of the slave-trade, laboured incessantly to develop the
resources of Angola, in which effort he sank the large fortune he had
previously amassed, obtained the concession of the Bembe mines from the
Portuguese Government, who sent an expedition to occupy the country,
and succeeded without any opposition on the part of the natives.

In January, 1858, I was engaged by the Western Africa Malachite Copper
Mines Company, who had acquired the mines from Senhor Flores, to
accompany a party of twelve miners sent under a Cornish mining captain
to explore them. We arrived at Bembe on the 8th March, and the next day
seven of the men were down with fever; the others also quickly fell
ill, and for three months that followed of the heavy rainy season, they
passed through great discomforts from want of proper accommodation.
Ultimately eight died within the next nine months, and the rest had to
be sent home, with the exception of one man and myself. This result was
not so much the effect of the climate, as the want of proper lodgings
and care.

The superintendent was at that time the Portuguese commandant, who of
course did not interfere with the mining captain, an ignorant man, who
made the men work in the same manner of day and night shifts as if they
were in Cornwall, in the full blaze of the sun, in their wet clothes,
&c.

An English superintendent next arrived, but he unfortunately was
addicted to intemperance, and soon died from the effects of the brandy
bottle. After being at Bembe eight or nine months, the mining captain,
either from stupidity or wilfulness, not only had not discovered a
single pound of malachite, but insisted that there was none in the
place, where the natives for years previously had extracted from 200 to
300 tons every dry season! In view of his conduct I took upon myself
the responsibility of taking charge of the mining operations, and
sent him back to England. A few days after we discovered fine blocks
of malachite, fifteen tons of which I sent to the Company in the same
steamer that took him home.

It would not interest the reader to describe minutely the causes that
led gradually to the abandonment of the working of these mines, and
to the heavy loss sustained by the Company, but I am convinced that,
had duly qualified and experienced men directed the working from the
beginning, they would have proved a success. Many hundred tons of
malachite were afterwards raised, with the help of a very few white
miners, but too late to correct the previous mistakes and losses.

During the years 1858 and 1859 I travelled the road from Ambriz to
Bembe eight times, and in the month of April 1873, I went again, for
the last time, with my wife.

Lieutenant Grandy and his brother had been our guests at Ambriz, where
we had supplied them with the greater part of the beads and goods they
required for their arduous journey into the interior. These gentlemen,
it will be recollected, were sent by the Royal Geographical Society to
discover the source of the Congo, and to meet and aid Dr. Livingstone
in the interior should he have crossed the continent from the east
coast, as it was imagined he might probably do.

We had arranged to proceed together from Ambriz as far as Bembe,
but owing to the great mortality in the country from two successive
visitations of small-pox, which had ravaged the coast, we were unable
to obtain the necessary number of carriers. The two brothers alone
required nearly 200, and as only a few comparatively could be had
at a time, they went singly first, and, about a week after they had
both started, my wife and myself were able to get together sufficient
carriers to leave also.

To travel in a country like Angola it is necessary to be provided with
almost everything in the way of food and clothing, and goods for money,
and as everything has to be carried on men’s heads, a great number of
carriers are necessarily requisite.

The “tipoia,” or hammock, is the universal travelling apparatus in
Angola (Plate I.), and is of two forms, the simple hammock slung to
a palm pole (the stem of the leaf of a _Metroxylon_, Welw.), which
is very strong and extremely light, or the same with a light-painted
waterproof cover, and curtains, very comfortable to travel in, and
always used by the Portuguese to the interior of Loanda, where the
country is more open, and better paths or roads exist, but they
would quickly be torn to pieces north, and on the road to Bembe,
from the very dense bush, and in the wet season the very high grass;
consequently the plain hammock and pole only are generally employed,
the traveller shading himself from the sun by a movable cover
held in position by two cords, or by using a white umbrella. When
travelling long distances six or eight bearers are necessary: the two
hammock-carriers generally run at a trot for about two hours at a
stretch, when another couple take their places.

On any well-known road the natives have established changing or resting
places, which, when not at a town, are generally at some shady tree or
place where water is to be had,--or at the spots where fairs are held,
or food cooked and exposed for sale by the women.

When the road was clear of grass, in the dry season, I have more than
once travelled from Ambriz to Bembe--a distance of not less than 130
miles--in four days, with only eight bearers and light luggage, and
this without in any way knocking up or distressing the carriers, and
only running from daybreak to nightfall;--very often they joined in
a “batuco” or dance, for several hours into the night, at the town I
slept at, and were quite fresh and ready to start next morning.

It is only the stronger blacks that are good hammock-bearers,
especially the coast races, very few of the natives of the interior,
such as the Mushicongos, being sufficiently powerful to carry a hammock
for any distance. The motion is extremely disagreeable at first, from
the strong up and down jerking experienced, but one soon becomes quite
used to it, and falls asleep whilst going at full trot, just as if
it were perfectly still. The natives of Loanda and Benguella, though
not generally such strong carriers as the Ambriz blacks, take the
hammock at a fast walk instead of the sharp trot of the latter, and
consequently hammock travelling there is very lazy and luxurious.

The pole is carried on the shoulder, and rests on a small cushion
generally made of fine grass-cloth stuffed with wild cotton, the
silky fibre in the seed-pod of the “Mafumeira,” or cotton-wood tree
(_Eriodendron anfractuosum_), or “isca,” a brown, woolly-like down
covering the stems of palm-trees. Each bearer carries a forked stick on
which to rest the pole when changing shoulders, and also to ease the
load by sticking the end of it under the pole behind their backs, and
stretching out their arm on it. No one who has not tried can form an
idea what hard, wearying work it is to carry a person in a hammock, and
it is wonderful how these blacks will run with one all day, in the hot
sun, nearly naked, with bare shaved heads, and not feel distressed.

On arriving at any stream or pool they dash at once into the water,
and wash off the perspiration that streams from their bodies, and I
never heard of any ill consequence occurring from this practice. The
hammock-bearers do not as a rule carry loads; by native custom they
are only obliged to carry the white man’s bed, his provision-box,
and one portmanteau. To take my wife, myself, a tent--as it was the
rainy season--provisions, bedding, and a few changes of clothes, only
what was absolutely necessary for a month’s journey, we had to engage
exactly thirty carriers: this included our cook and his boy with the
necessary pots and pans; our “Jack Wash,” as the laundry-boys are
called, with his soap and irons; and one man with the drying-papers and
boxes for collecting plants and insects. We also took a Madeira cane
chair, very useful to be carried in across the streams or marshes we
should meet with.

All being ready we started off, passing Quincollo and arriving at
Quingombe, where we encamped for the night on top of a hill, to be
out of the way, as I thought, of a peculiarly voracious mosquito very
abundant there, and of which I had had experience in my former journeys
to and from Bembe.

I shall never forget the first night I passed there in going up to
the mines with the twelve miners. There was at that time a large
empty barracoon built of sticks and grass for the accommodation of
travellers. Soon after sunset a hum like that of distant bees was
heard, and a white mist seemed to rise out of the marshy land below,
which was nothing less than a cloud of mosquitoes. The men were
unprovided with mosquito nets, and the consequence was that sleep was
perfectly out of the question, so they sat round the table smoking and
drinking coffee, and killing mosquitoes on their hands and faces all
night long. I had been given an excellent mosquito bar or curtain, but
the ground was so full of sand-fleas, that although I was not troubled
with mosquitoes, the former kept me awake and feverish. In the morning
we laughed at our haggard appearance, and swollen faces and hands;
luckily we were not so troubled any more on our journey up.

Where mosquitoes are in such abundance, nothing but a proper curtain
will avail against them; smoking them out is of very little use, as
only such a large amount of acrid smoke will effectually drive them
away as to make the remedy almost unbearable. The substances usually
burnt in such cases are dry cow-dung, mandioca-meal, or white Angola
gum.

There are several species of mosquito in Angola; that found in marshes
is the largest, and is light brown in colour, and very sluggish in its
flight or movements. When the fellow settles to insert his proboscis,
it is quite sufficient to put the tip of a finger on him to annihilate
him, but none of the others can be so easily killed; two or three
species--notably a little black shiny fellow, only found near running
water--are almost impossible to catch when settled and sucking, even
with the most swiftly delivered slap. Another species is beautifully
striped or banded with black, body and legs.

Mosquitoes rarely attack in the daytime, except in shady places, where
they are fond of lying on the under side of leaves of trees. Some with
large beautiful plumed antennæ appear at certain times of the year in
great numbers, and are said to be the males, and are not known to bite
or molest in any way.

Although we pitched our tent on top of a hill to escape the marsh
mosquitoes, and had a terrific rain-storm nearly the whole of the
night, they found us out, and in the morning the inner side of our
tent was completely covered with them;--had we not slept under a good
mosquito net, we should have passed just such another night as I have
described. We had to stop a second night on this hill to wait for our
full number of carriers. The scenery from it is magnificent, low hills
covered with dense bush of the prickly acacia tree (_A. Welwitschii_),
high grass, baobabs and euphorbias, and in the low places a great
abundance of a large aloe, with pale crimson flowers in tall spikes.

At last all loads were properly distributed and secured in the
“mutetes,” an arrangement in which loads are very conveniently carried.
They are generally made from the palm leaves, the leaflets of which are
woven into a kind of basket, leaving the stems only about five or six
feet long; a little shoe or slipper, made of wood or hide, is secured
to the under side. When the carrier wishes to rest, he bends down his
head until the palm stems touch the ground, and the load is then leant
up against a tree. If there is not a tree handy, then the end of their
stick or staff being inserted into the shoe, forms with the two ends
three legs, on which it stands securely. This shoe is also useful with
the staff when on the journey, to rest the carrier for a few minutes by
easing the weight of the load off his head without setting it down. The
natives of the interior carry loads on their heads that they are unable
to lift easily from the ground, and the “mutete” is therefore very
convenient. In carrying a large bag of produce, a long stick is tied on
to each side, to act in the same way as the “mutete.”

In four days we arrived at Quiballa, where we rested a couple of days,
to collect plants and some fine butterflies from the thick surrounding
woods, and to dry the plants we had gathered thus far. The country we
had passed was comparatively level, and the scenery for the most part
was very like that of a deserted park overgrown with rank grass and
weeds.

As Quiballa is approached the country becomes very hilly in all
directions, and the vegetation changes to fine trees and creepers,
conspicuous amongst which is the india-rubber plant already described.

Quiballa is a large town most picturesquely situated on a low,
flat-topped hill, surrounded on all sides by other higher hills, and
separated from them by a deep ravine filled with magnificent forest
vegetation, and in the bottom of which a shallow stream of the clearest
water runs swiftly over its fantastic rocky bed--all little waterfalls
and shady transparent pools. Our finest specimens of butterflies, such
as _Godartia Trajanus_, _Romaleosoma losinga_, _R. medon_, _Euryphene
Plistonax_ and others, were collected in these lovely woods; they do
not come out into the sunny open, but flit about in the shadiest part
under the trees, flying near the ground, and occasionally settling on
a leaf or branch on which a streak of sunshine falls through the leafy
vault above. Other species, such as the Papilios (_P. menestheus_, _P.
brutus_, _P. demoleus_, _P. erinus_, _Diadema misuppus_), &c. &c., on
the contrary, we only found in the full sunshine, on the low bushes and
flowering plants, skirting, as with a broad belt, the woods or forest.

The change in vegetation from the coast to Quiballa may be due not
only to difference of altitude, but partly to the rock of the country,
which is a large-grained, very quartzose mica rock or gneiss from the
coast to near Quiballa, where it changes to a soft mica slate, easily
decomposed by water and atmospheric influences. Several species of
birds, very abundant on the coast and as far as Matuta, disappear about
Quiballa, the most notable being the common African crow (_Corvus
scapulatus_), the brilliantly-coloured starlings (_Lamprocolius_),
and the several rollers; doves also, so abundant on the coast, are
comparatively rare after passing Quiballa.

The _Coracias caudata_, the most beautiful of the African rollers, has
a very extraordinary manner of flying, tumbling about in a zig-zag
fashion in the air as if drunk, and chattering loudly all the time. I
once shot at one on the top of a high tree at Matuta; it fell dead,
as I thought, but on picking it up I was gladly surprised to find
it quite uninjured, and only stunned apparently. I placed it in a
hastily-constructed cage, and took it with me to Bembe, where it became
quite tame, and I had it several months, till my boy, feeding it one
morning, left the door of its cage open, and it flew away. In its
native state it feeds principally on grasshoppers; in captivity its
food was mostly raw meat, which it ate greedily.

The starlings of darkest shades of blue, with bright yellow eyes, are
strikingly beautiful when seen flying, the sunshine reflecting the
metallic lustre of their plumage.

The cooing of the doves serves the natives at night instead of a clock,
as they coo at the same hours as the common cock, and in travelling, if
the natives are asked the time during the night, they always refer to
the “dove having sung,” as they term it, or not. Its cooing a little
before day-dawn is the signal to prepare for the start that day.

At the town of Quirillo, where we slept one night, the Madeira chair
first came into use, to cross a stream and marsh in which the water
came up to the men’s necks. Our hammock-boys thought it fine fun to
pass us over the different streams in the chair; all twelve would stand
in the water close together, with the chair on their shoulders, and
pass my wife across first, singing in chorus, “Mundelle mata-bicho,
Mundelle mata-bicho” (Mundelle = white-man, mata-bicho = a “dash” of a
drink of rum). On landing her safely they would yell and whistle like
demons, accompanied by all the rest on the banks, and splash and dabble
about like ducks in the water. The chair would then come back for me,
and the same scene be again enacted. A bottle of rum, or a couple of
bunches of beads, was always the reward for crossing us over without
wetting us.

Quiballa is by far the largest town to be met with from Ambriz, and
contains several hundred huts distributed irregularly over the flat top
of the hill on which it stands. The huts are square, built of sticks
covered with clay, and roofed with grass. The principal room in the
largest hut was swept out, and placed at our disposal by the king, and
we made ourselves very comfortable in it. The king, Dom Paolo, is a
fine, tall old negro, and knowing of our arrival sent his son and a
number of men to meet us, when they took my wife’s hammock, and raced
her into the town at a great pace. He has considerable influence in the
country, where his is an important town, as it marks the limits of the
coast or Ambriz race, and that of the Mushicongo tribe beyond.

There is a good deal of rivalry between the two races;--the Ambriz
blacks do not like going beyond Quiballa, and the Mushicongos object
to go into the Ambriz country. Before the road was taken possession of
by the Portuguese, Quiballa was the great halting-place for the two
tribes, the Mushicongos bringing the proceeds of the copper mines at
Bembe to sell to the Ambriz natives, who then carried it to the traders
on the coast. With the increased trade in other produce, a great deal
of this separation has been done away with, and both tribes now mingle
more freely; but at the time I was engaged at the Bembe mines we were
obliged to have a large store at Quiballa to receive loads going up
from Ambriz, and copper ore coming down from Bembe, and there change
carriers.

The Ambriz negroes, being very much stronger, never objected to any
loads, however heavy, some of these going up the country with sixteen
or twenty carriers, such as the heavy pieces of the steam-engine,
saw-mill, pumps, &c. There was great difficulty in inducing the
Mushicongos to take these heavy and very often cumbersome loads from
Quiballa to Bembe, and once, when loads for upwards of 1000 carriers
had accumulated at the store, I was obliged to hit upon the following
plan to get the Mushicongos to take them up, and it succeeded admirably.

I engaged 1000 carriers at Bembe to go empty-handed to Quiballa for
the cargo there, and paid them only the customary number of beads for
rations on the road, rations for the return journey to be paid at
Quiballa, and pay for the whole journey at Bembe, on delivery of the
loads. My calculation was that the greater number would be forced from
hunger to take them, and so it happened. The morning after we arrived
at Quiballa they all flatly refused to take a single load of the
machinery in the store;--I very quietly told them they might go about
their business, and for three days I was yelled at by them, but they
were at last forced to accept my terms, and I returned to Bembe with
800 loads.

It was at Quiballa that we were so fortunate as to obtain specimens
of the flowers, and a quantity of ripe seeds of the beautiful plant
named _Camoensia maxima_ by its discoverer, Dr. Welwitsch. We saw
it growing along the sides of the road as soon as we left the gneiss
formation and entered on the mica slate, but most abundantly in the
more bare places on the sides of the hills at Quiballa, in the very
hard clay of the decomposed mica slate.

[Illustration: PLATE VI.

VIEW IN THE HILLY COUNTRY OF QUIBALLA--CAMOENSIA MAXIMA.

_To face page 177._]

The _Camoensia maxima_ (Plate VI.) grows as a hard, woody bush, with
rather straggling long branches covered with fine large leaves, and
bearing bunches of flowers, the lower, and by far the largest petal
of which is shaped like a shell, of a delicate creamy white, with its
edges exquisitely crisped, bordered with a golden rim, and nearly the
size of an open hand. Its roots spread underground to great distances
and shoot out into other plants, so that on attempting to remove what
we thought nice small plants, we always came on great thick roots which
we followed and found to proceed from old bushes at a considerable
distance. Several small plants that we brought away alive died
subsequently at Ambriz. Half a dozen of the seeds germinated on arrival
at Kew Gardens, so that I hope this lovely flower will be shortly in
cultivation, a welcome addition to our hot-houses. All the plants that
we collected and dried are deposited in the herbarium at Kew Gardens.

A peculiarity of the towns on the coast inhabited by the Ambriz blacks,
and which disappears inland, is their being surrounded by a thick, high
belt or hedge of a curious, thin, very branching Euphorbia.

The huts in coast towns are all built separately, but near one another,
in a clear space, and not separated by trees or hedges; in the
interior, however, the space occupied by the towns is very much larger,
and many of the huts are built in a square piece of ground and enclosed
by a hedge either of a square-stemmed, prickly, cactus-like euphorbia,
or more generally of the Physic-nut plant (_Jatropha curcas_), the
“Purgueira” of the Portuguese, and from the greater number of trees
and palms left standing, the towns are very much prettier, some being
remarkably picturesque. Most of them are situated in woods, which are
not found in the littoral region. The huts of the Mushicongos, from
the greater abundance of building materials, are very much larger than
those of the Ambriz blacks, and very often contain two rooms. The towns
of both are remarkably clean, and are always kept well swept, as are
also the interiors of their huts;--their brooms are a bundle of twigs,
and the dust, ashes, &c., are always thrown into the bush surrounding
the towns.

A cleanly habit of all blacks, and one which it always struck me might
be imitated with advantage by more civilized countries, is that of
always turning away their faces to expectorate, and invariably covering
it with dust or sand with their feet.

At certain places on the road, generally in the vicinity of water, or
where several trees afford a convenient shade, a kind of little market
is held all day, of plantains, green indian-corn, mandioca roots,
and other articles of food for the supply of the carriers or natives
passing up and down. Here the women from the neighbouring towns come
with their pots, and cook food, such as dry fish and beans, and sell
“garapa” or “uallua,” as a kind of beer made from indian-corn is called.

My wife, of course, excited the greatest curiosity in all the towns we
passed through; only two white women (both Portuguese) had before made
the journey to Bembe, and the remarks and observations made on her
appearance, principally by the women, were often very amusing. One old
woman at a town where we stayed to breakfast, and who was the king’s
mother, after watching us for some time, expressed her satisfaction
at our conduct, and said we appeared to be a very loving pair, as I
had helped my wife first to food and drink. She was very thankful for
a cup of coffee, and a handful of lumps of sugar for her cough. Their
greatest astonishment, however, was at our india-rubber bed and bath,
and the whole town would flock round in breathless amazement to see
them blown out ready for use, when our tent had been put up. Some would
ask to be allowed to touch them, and would then look quite frightened
at their peculiar feel.

In the mornings on coming out of our tent we would generally find a
large audience squatted on the ground waiting for our appearance, to
wish us good morning, though curiosity to see the finishing touches of
our toilette was the principal cause.

My wife’s last operations of hair-dressing, which could not be
conveniently effected in the closed tent, seemed to cause them most
surprise. Beyond this very natural curiosity to see us, we were never
once annoyed by any rudeness or impropriety on the part of the natives.

Having rested a couple of days at Quiballa, we again started on
our journey. The road (which is nowhere other than a narrow path,
only admitting the passage of blacks in single file), after leaving
Quiballa, winds around some rocky hills, which are succeeded by a
couple of miles of level valley thickly grown with cane and very
high grass, until the hill called Tuco is reached, the first great
sudden elevation. On the left is a deep valley, filled with an almost
impenetrable forest of the most luxuriant foliage and creepers; the
great trunks and branches of the high trees are mostly white and
shiny, and contrast in a singular manner with the dark green of their
leaves. On the right the hill-side is also covered with trees and bush
on which was growing abundantly a beautiful creeper, bearing large
handsome leaves and bright yellow flowers (_Luffa sp._). From the top,
looking back towards Quiballa, a magnificent view is obtained. As far
as the eye can reach is seen a succession of forest-covered mountains
brightly lit in the cloudless sun to the distant horizon, shaded off
into a haze of lovely blue. It is almost impossible to imagine a more
exquisite panorama, and words fail to describe its beauty and grandeur.

After this hill is passed, the country continues comparatively level
for some miles, and is very beautiful, being covered with dense
vegetation, in which are seen abundance of dark feathery palms,
relieved by the bright green patches of the banana groves, planted
round the little towns. The soil is very fertile, and many ground-nut
and mandioca plantations are seen everywhere.

Our first halt was at Ngungungo, a large and very picturesque town,
where there is a considerable trade carried on in mandioca root and
its different preparations, as well as in beans and ground-nuts, the
produce of the country around.

After passing this town the road becomes very rocky and stony,
necessitating getting out of the hammocks and walking a good deal over
the rough ground. Farther on, another steep but bare hill had to be
ascended, and finally we reached a little new town called Quioanquilla,
where we slept. This had been a large and important town, but the
natives having robbed several caravans going up to the mines, the
Portuguese punished them by burning it some years ago. We saw a
considerable quantity of wild pineapples growing about this town, but
the natives make no use of its fine fibre, contenting themselves with
eating the unripe fruit.

Next day’s journey brought us, early in the afternoon, to a very
prettily situated new town, of which a little old woman was the queen;
her two sons were the head men, and we were most hospitably received by
them.

We had, fortunately, thus far escaped rain-storms during the day
whilst travelling; rain had always come down at night, when we were
comfortably housed in our tent or in the hut at Quiballa. We put up
our tent in an open space in the middle of the town, and took the
precaution, as usual, of cutting a small trench round it to carry
away the water in case of rain. When we retired the weather was fine,
but we had not been asleep long before we were awakened by a terrific
thunderstorm, accompanied by torrents of rain. The trench overflowed,
and a stream of water began to enter our tent. In the greatest hurry
I cut another trench along the side of our bed, a foot wide and about
nine inches deep, and for two hours did this drain run full of water,
such was the downpour of rain. Next morning we continued our journey,
and in about half-an-hour’s time arrived at a rivulet that drained
what was usually a large marsh, but the storm of the previous night
had turned the marsh into a lake and the rivulet into a roaring stream
quite impassable. After trying it lower down, and finding we could not
ford it, we had no alternative but to return to the town and remain
there for that day, or till the water should have subsided sufficiently
to enable us to cross. The remainder of the day we employed in
collecting insects and in drying the plants we had gathered the last
few days.

A child was born whilst we were in this town, and, being a girl, it was
at once named Rose, after my wife, who had therefore to make the mother
a present of a piece of handkerchiefs and an extra fine red cotton one
for the baby.

Next day we were able to pass the swollen stream in our chair, after
a couple of hours spent in cutting away branches of trees, &c., that
obstructed the passage, at a place where the depth of water was about
five feet. In a fish-trap I here found the curious new fish described
by Dr. A. Günther, and named by him _Gymnallabes apus_ (‘Annals and
Magazine of Natural History’ for August, 1873).

[Illustration: PLATE VII.

QUILUMBO. _To face page 185._]

That day’s journey, through a country alternately covered with lovely
forest and high grass, brought us to the large town of Quilumbo,
beautifully situated in a forest, and with a great number of oil-palm
trees (Plate VII.). This is at present the largest and most important
town on the road to Bembe, containing several hundred huts and quite
a swarm of inhabitants. About noon we halted for breakfast at a
market-place near a town on the River Lifua. Here were about forty
or fifty armed blacks, with the king from the neighbouring town, all
getting rapidly drunk on “garapa,” or indian-corn beer; their faces and
bodies painted bright red, with a few white spots, looking like so many
stage demons, dancing, singing, and flourishing their guns about. They
were all going to a town where we heard the kings of five towns were
to have their heads cut off that day for complicity in the murder of a
woman by one of them. They were accompanied by a man blowing a large
wooden trumpet of most extraordinary form (Plate V.).

This trumpet is made of the hollow root and stem of a tree, said to
grow in the mud of rivers and marshes; it does not appear to have been
thinned away much at its narrow end, but seems to have grown naturally
from the large flat root to a thin stem at a short distance above it. I
immediately wanted to buy this instrument, but nothing would induce the
king to part with it till I offered to exchange it for a brass bugle. I
had to give them a “mucanda” or order for one at our store at Ambriz;
even then it was not delivered to me, but the king agreed to send one
of his sons to Ambriz with it on my return from Bembe, which he did,
and thus I became possessed of it.

Next day’s journey was through pretty undulating country, covered
principally with high grass, and after passing a couple of small
towns we arrived, early in the afternoon, at the River Luqueia,
which we passed over on a very good plank bridge, just built by the
Portuguese officer commanding the small detachment at Bembe. Here our
carriers stopped for about an hour, bathing in the river, and dressing
themselves in their best cloths and caps, that they had brought with
them carefully packed--so as to make their appearance in a dandy
condition on entering Bembe, which we did in about half-an-hour’s time,
having to walk up a stiff hill, too steep to be carried up in our
hammocks.

We had thus travelled the whole distance from Ambriz to Bembe, which,
as I have before stated, is certainly not less than 130 miles, in
eight travelling days. This will give some idea of the endurance of
the Ambriz natives, as, from having to take down and pack the tent
every morning, and make hot tea or coffee before starting, it was never
before seven or eight o’clock that we were on the move. Moreover, from
the rain and heavy dew at night, the high grass was excessively wet,
and it would not do to start till it had somewhat dried in the morning
sun. In going through woods we generally got out of our hammocks in
the grateful, cool shade, and collected butterflies, the finest being
found in such places. In rocky and hilly places my wife, of course,
could not get over the ground on foot so quickly as a man might have
done.

A description of the dress she adopted may be useful to other ladies
who may travel in similar wild countries, as she found it exceedingly
comfortable and convenient for going through wet grass and tangled
bush, and through the excessively spiny trees and thorny bushes of
the first thirty or forty miles of the road. It was very simple and
loose, and consisted of one of my coloured cotton shirts instead of the
usual dress-body, and the skirt made short and of a strong material,
fastening the shirt round the waist; either or both could then be
easily and promptly changed as required.

[Illustration: PLATE VIII.

BEMBE VALLEY. _To face page 189._]

CHAPTER VII.

BEMBE--MALACHITE DEPOSIT--ROOT PARASITE--ENGONGUI--MORTALITY
OF CATTLE--FAIRS--KING OF CONGO--RECEPTIONS--CUSTOMS--SAN
SALVADOR--FEVERS--RETURN TO AMBRIZ.

Bembe is the third great elevation, and it stands boldly and cliff-like
out of the broad plain on which we have been travelling, and at its
base runs the little river Luqueia.

Approaching it from the westward, we see a high mountain to the right
of the plateau of Bembe, separated from it by a narrow gorge thickly
wooded that drains the valley, separating in its turn the table-land
of Bembe from the high flat country beyond, in a north and easterly
direction. This valley, in which the great deposit of malachite exists,
is about a mile long in a straight line and runs N.N.W. by S.S.E.
(Plate VIII.).

It is a _cul-de-sac_ at its northern end, terminating in a beautiful
waterfall which the waters of a rivulet have worn in the clay slate
of the country. This rivulet, after running at the bottom of the
valley, takes a sudden bend at its southern end, and escapes through
the narrow gorge described above as separating the peak or mountain
from the table-land of Bembe. The side of the valley next to Bembe is
very steep along its whole length, and shows the clay slate of the
country perfectly; the other side, however, is a gradual slope, and is
covered by a thick deposit of clayey earths, in which the malachite is
irregularly distributed for the whole length of the valley.

The malachite is often found in large solid blocks;--one resting on
two smaller ones weighed together a little over three tons, but it
occurs mostly in flat veins without any definite dip or order, swelling
sometimes to upwards of two feet in thickness, and much fissured in
character from admixture with dark oxide of iron, with which it is
often cemented to the clay in which it is contained.

Two kinds of clay are found, a ferruginous red, and an unctuous black
variety. The malachite occurs almost entirely in the former. A large
proportion was obtained in the form of small irregularly-shaped shot,
by washing the clay in suitable apparatus. Large quantities had been
raised by the natives from this valley before the country was taken
possession of by the Portuguese.

For about fifteen years previously, as before stated, from 200 to 300
tons per annum had been brought down to Ambriz by the natives for sale.
The mining captain sent out by the English Company did not judiciously
employ his force of miners in properly exploring the deposit, so that
its extent was never fully ascertained; no shafts were sunk to more
than six or eight fathoms in depth at the bottom of the valley, from
the quantity of water met with, but in several places the bottom of
these shafts was found to be pure solid malachite. In no case was
malachite ever found in the clay-slate rock of the country, and there
can be no doubt that this vast deposit was brought and deposited in
the valley by the agency of water. No other mineral is to be found in
the valley, and only some rounded, water-worn pieces of limestone were
found in the clay and associated with the malachite.

In some pieces of this a few crystals of atacamite are to be rarely
seen. The clay-slate is completely bare of minerals,--with very few
veins of quartz, which is highly crystalline,--has well-defined
cleavage planes, with a strike of N.W. by S.E., and dips to the S.S.W.
at an angle of about 55°.

In no part of Angola, except at Mossamedes, have any regular lodes or
deposits of copper or other metals (except iron) been found _in situ_;
all bear unmistakable evidences of having been brought from elsewhere,
and deposited by the action of water in the places where they are now
found.

I have no doubt that the country farther to the interior will be found
immensely rich--in copper principally--where the lodes most likely
exist that have supplied the enormous amount of copper carbonates found
all over Angola, and farther north at Loango.

Some idea may be formed of the great extent of the Bembe deposit, if
we consider the manner in which the natives formerly extracted the
malachite. It was entirely by means of little round pits, about three
or four feet in diameter, sunk in the bottom of the valley and along
its whole length, particularly at several places where the water
draining from the country above had washed away the clay, and formed
little openings on the same level as the bottom of the valley. When I
arrived at Bembe, many of these pits were still open for a couple of
fathoms deep, as many as eight or nine pits being sunk together in a
rich spot. They sunk them only in the dry season, and as deep as four
or five fathoms, but of course they were never carried down quite
perpendicularly, but in an irregular zigzag fashion, and not being
timbered they often fell together, and numbers of blacks were buried
alive in them every year. We several times came across bones of blacks
who had thus lost their lives. During the rainy season, of course,
these pits were filled up with water and mud, and fresh ones had to be
dug in the succeeding dry season.

To ascend and descend them the natives drove wooden pegs into the
walls, and their only mining tools were the little hoes used in
clearing and cultivating the ground, and the cheap spear-pointed
knives, ten or eleven inches long, they received in barter at Ambriz
from the traders.

The mines belonged to several of the towns in the immediate
neighbourhood, principally to one called Matuta; but they allowed the
natives of other towns to extract malachite from them, on payment of a
certain quantity of the ore they raised.

The natives of Ambriz who went up to Bembe to buy malachite of the
Mushicongos were seldom allowed to pass the River Luqueia, where the
malachite was brought down for sale by measure, in little baskets,
being like the red gum copal, broken into moderate-sized pieces, except
the finer lumps, which were sold entire. Most of the malachite has
since been obtained by means of levels driven into the side from the
bottom of the valley, but the great mass, below the level at which
water is reached, remains practically untouched.

The failure of the English Company, from causes to which it is here
unnecessary further to advert, caused the works at the mines to be
gradually abandoned, and for the last few years the Portuguese have
allowed the blacks to work them in their own fashion again; and I was
very sorry to see the place in a complete state of ruin, with only a
few stone walls overgrown with a luxuriant growth of creepers and other
plants to mark the places where the houses and stores formerly stood,
and where several hundred natives used to be daily at work.

During the years 1858 and 1859, when I was first at Bembe, any number
of natives could be had from the neighbouring towns, willing to work at
the mines, and as many as 200 to 300 were daily employed, principally
in carrying the ore and clay to the washing-floors, cutting timber,
clearing bush, &c. they were generally engaged for a week’s time,
their pay ranging from one to three cotton handkerchiefs, and twenty or
thirty beads for rations per day. Some few worked steadily for several
weeks or even months, when they would go off to their towns, with
perhaps only a few handkerchiefs, leaving the rest of their earnings
to the care of some friend at Bembe till their return, as, if they
took such an amount of wealth to their towns, they ran the risk of
being accused of “fetish” and of having the whole taken from them, with
perhaps a beating besides. Very often they would go “on the spree” for
a week or more till they had spent it all on drink and rioting, when
they would return to visit their towns nearly as poor as when they
arrived.

Our best workmen were the soldiers of the garrison, mostly blacks
and mulattoes from Loanda, and belonging to a sapper corps, and
consequently having some knowledge of working, and of tools and
implements. It was great trouble to teach the natives the use of the
pick and shovel, and the wheelbarrow was a special difficulty and
stumbling-block;--when not carrying it on their heads, which they
always did when it was empty, two or three would carry it; but the
most amusing manner in which I saw it used, was once where a black was
holding up the handles, but not pushing at all, whilst another in front
was walking backward, and turning the wheel round towards him with his
hands. As many as 1000 carriers at a time could easily be had from the
neighbouring towns to carry the copper ore to Quiballa or Ambriz, by
giving them two or three days’ notice.

The carriers, either at Bembe or on the coast, are always accompanied
by a head-man, called a “Capata” (generally from each town, and
bringing from 10 to 100 or more carriers), who is responsible for the
loads and men. The load of the carriers used to be two and a half
“arrobas” or eighty pounds of malachite, and some few strong fellows
used to carry two such loads on their heads all the way to Ambriz.
Their pay was one piece of ten cotton handkerchiefs, and 300 blue
glass beads for each journey--the “Capata” taking double pay and no
load. This was equal to about 5_l._ per ton carriage to Ambriz. At
present the cost would be much more on account of the great decrease of
population from several epidemics of small-pox, and from the very large
carrying trade in ground-nuts and coffee.

At the end of the valley, where it joins the narrow gorge that drains
it, an enormous mass of a very hard metamorphic limestone, destitute
of fossil remains, rises from the bottom to a height of about thirty
feet, and in it are contained two caverns or large chambers. This mass
of rock is imbedded in a dense forest, and is overgrown by trees and
enormous creepers, the stems of which, like great twisted cables, hang
down through the crevices and openings to the ground below.

Great numbers of bats inhabit the roof of the darkest of these caverns,
and some that I once shot were greatly infested with a large, and very
active, nearly white species of the curious spider-looking parasite
Nyctiribia, that lives on this class of animals.

In the thick damp shade of the trees surrounding this mass of rock,
we collected the rose-coloured flowers of that extremely curious root
parasite, the _Thonningea sanguinea_ (Dr. Hooker, ‘Transactions of the
Linnean Society,’ 1856).--These specimens are now in the Kew Museum.

The Portuguese built a fine little fort at Bembe, with a dry ditch
round it, which has stood one or two sieges; but the Mushicongos are
a cowardly set without any idea of fighting, so that they were easily
beaten off by the small garrison.

At the time of my first arrival at Bembe, there were about 200 men
in garrison, who were well shod, clothed, and cared for. They had a
band of music of some fifteen performers, and the manner in which it
was got up was most amusing. One of the officers sent to Loanda for a
number of musical instruments, and picking out a man for each, he was
given the option of becoming a musician, or of being locked up in the
calaboose on bread and water for a certain period. They all, of course,
preferred the former alternative, and there happening to be a mulatto
in the garrison who had been a bandsman, he was elevated to the post of
bandmaster, and forthwith ordered to teach the rest.

The performances of this band may be best left to the imagination,
but wonderful to relate, the governor (Andrade) used to take pleasure
in listening to the excruciating din, which would have delighted a
Hottentot, and would make them play under his quarters several evenings
a week.

On the anniversary of the signing of the “Carta Constitucional,” a
great day in Portugal, the same governor invited us all to a picnic
at the top of the Peak, where a large tent had been erected and a
capital breakfast provided: a three-pounder gun had been dragged up
to fire salutes, and we enjoyed a very pleasant day. From the summit
a magnificent view of the surrounding country is obtained, and on
descending, we proceeded to visit the town of Matuta, some little
distance off. On approaching the town, the band struck up, accompanied
by the big drum beaten to the utmost. Our approach had not been
perceived, and at the unaccountable uproar of the band as we entered
the town, a most laughable effect was produced on the inhabitants,
who fled in all directions in the greatest dismay, with the children
crying and yelling as only small negroes can. After our sitting down,
and holding out bottles of rum and bunches of beads, they quickly
became convinced of our peaceable intentions and flocked round us, and
in a little time the king, a short thin old man, made his appearance,
dressed in a long red cloak, a large cavalry helmet on his head, and
carrying a cutlass upright in his hand, at arm’s-length. After the
usual drinks and compliments, the band played again, to the now intense
enjoyment of the inhabitants, who capered and danced and shouted around
like demons. So great was the effect and pleasure produced on them by
the band, that they made a subscription of beads, and presented it to
the performers.

From this town we went to another close by, separated only by a small
stream, which was governed by another king, also a very old man,
who, we found, was nearly dying of age and rheumatism. In crossing
the stream, our king of the red cloak and helmet presented a comical
appearance, for to save his finery from wetting, he tucked it up
rather higher than was necessary or dignified. This same king, having
on one occasion brought into Bembe a couple of blacks who had robbed
their loads in coming up the country from Ambriz, got so drunk upon
the rum which he received as part of the reward for capturing them,
that his attendants stripped him of his state uniform and helmet, and
left him by the side of the road stark naked, with a boy sitting by his
side holding an umbrella over him till his everyday clothes were sent
from his town, and he was sufficiently sober to walk home. In Africa,
as everywhere else, there is often but a step from the sublime to the
ridiculous!

Mr. Flores’s agent at Bembe used to buy ivory, though after a time he
had to give up trading there, partly on account of having to carry
up the goods for barter from Ambriz, and from the natives wanting
as much for the tusks as they were in the habit of getting on the
coast;--blacks having no regard whatever for time or distance, eight or
ten days’ journey more or less being to them perfectly immaterial. The
road followed by the caravans of ivory from the interior passes, as I
have said before, near Bembe; consequently a good many caravans left
the usual track and came there to sell their ivory, or if they could
not agree on the terms, passed on to the coast, and it was interesting
to see them arrive, and watch the process of bartering.

From Bembe we could descry the long black line of negroes composing
the “Quibucas” or caravans, far away on the horizon across the mine
valley, and it was here that I became convinced of the superiority of
the negro’s eyesight over the white man’s. Our blacks, particularly
old Pae Tomás, could tell with the naked eye the number of tusks, and
the number of bags of “fuba” or meal, in a caravan, and whether they
brought any pigs or sheep with them, at such a distance that not one of
us could distinguish anything without a glass--in fact, when we could
only see a moving black line. Caravans of 200 and 300 natives, bringing
as many as 100 large tusks of ivory, were not unfrequent.

As soon as they came within hearing distance, they beat their
“Engongui,” as the signal bells are called, one of which accompanies
every “Quibuca,” and is beaten to denote their approach, the towns
answering them in the same manner, and intimating whether they can
pass or not, if there is war on the road, and so on. These “Engongui”
(Plate IV.) are two flat bells of malleable iron joined together by a
bent handle, and are held in the left hand whilst being beaten with
a short stick. There is a regular code of signals, and as each bell
has a different note, a great number of variations can be produced by
striking each alternately, or two or three beats on one to the same, or
lesser number on the other; a curious effect is also produced by the
performer striking the mouths of the bells against his naked stomach
whilst they are reverberating from the blows with the stick.

As the caravans were coming down the valley, Pae Tomás used to amuse
himself sometimes by signalling “war,” or that the road was stopped,
when the whole caravan would squat down, whilst the “Capatas,” or
head-men in charge, would come on alone, but at the signal “all right,”
or “road clear,” all would start forward again.

Only one “Engongui” can be allowed in each town, and belongs to the
king, who cannot part with it on any account, as it is considered a
great “fetish,” and is handed down from king to king. To obtain the
one in my possession, I had to send Pae Tomás to the “Mujolo” country,
where they are principally made, but as he was away only four days, I
believe he must have got it nearer Bembe than the “Mujolo,” which lies
to the N.N.E. of Bembe, but according to all accounts at many days’
journey, which I am inclined to believe, as these “Mujolos” never come
down to the coast, and were formerly very rarely brought as slaves in
the caravans. They are greatly prized as slaves by the Portuguese,
as they are very strong and intelligent, and work at any trade much
better than any other race in Angola. They have very peculiar square
faces, and are immediately known by their cheeks being tattooed in fine
perpendicular lines, in fact the only race in Angola that tattoo the
face at all. They are said to be a very savage race, and to practise
cannibalism.

When the caravans approached Bembe, the “Capatas” would dress
themselves in their best and each carry an open umbrella, or when
the “Capata” was a very important personage, the umbrella used to be
carried before him by a black, whilst he followed behind in the sun.

The day of their arrival was always spent in looking over the stock of
goods, and receiving presents of cloth and rum, and generally a pig
for a feast. The next day the tusks would be produced and the barter
arranged in the manner explained in the preceding chapter.

The caravans seldom brought any curiosities, only very rarely a few
mats or skins; one skin that I purchased proved to be that of a new
monkey, described by Dr. P. L. Sclater as the _Colobus Angolensis_
(‘Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London,’ May, 1860).

A few slaves were sometimes brought to Bembe from the interior, and
sold to the Cabinda blacks, who were our washer-boys, and also to
the Ambriz men, our servants, slaves being amongst the natives in
Angola the principal investment of their savings. The prices paid for
them varied according to size, sex, age, and freedom from blemish
or disease, and ranged from one to two pieces of “chilloes” (a
Manchester-made cloth, in pieces of fourteen yards, and costing about
3_s._ each) for a boy or girl; to six or seven pieces, at most, for a
full-grown man or woman.

Gum Elemi, called “Mubafo,” used to be brought in large cakes, and is
said to be very abundant not many days’ journey from Bembe, but its low
price in Europe does not allow of its becoming an article of trade from
this part of Africa at present.

There are no cattle from the River Congo to the latitude of Loanda.
At Bembe a few oxen used to arrive from a country eight to ten days’
journey off, in a S.E. direction, but, although carefully tended, would
gradually lose flesh and die in a few months. On the coast they seem to
thrive very well in the hands of white men, but yet the natives never
breed them, whether from indolence, or from the climate not being quite
suitable to them, it is difficult to say, but most likely from the
former.

The Portuguese expedition to occupy Bembe took mules, donkeys, and
camels from the Cape de Verde Islands, but they all died, though in
charge of a veterinary surgeon, who attributed their death to the
character of the grass, most of the species having the blades very
serrated, and according to him causing death by injury to the coats of
the stomach.

In connection with the mortality of cattle and other animals, I may
mention that all the cats at Bembe had their hind quarters more or
less paralysed, generally when a few months old, sometimes even when
quite young kittens, when it certainly could not be the result of any
blow. This was the case without exception during the two years I was at
Bembe. I have seen the same occur on the coast, but more rarely.

Sheep and goats breed very well, particularly about Ambrizzette. The
sheep are a very peculiar variety, long-legged, and covered with short
hair. The goats are small but especially beautiful, and generally black
and white in colour. Cocks and hens are small and tasteless and always
scarce, as the natives are too indolent to rear any, only keeping a few
animals that can find their own living: they never think of giving them
any food or water unless they are actually dying, the consequence is
that only sheep and goats and a few fowls thrive or are seen in their
towns. I have only seen a few pigeons in two or three towns. Their
pigs, as might be imagined, are painful to look upon, living on grass
and what few roots they can grub up, and on all the excrement and filth
of the towns. It is impossible to conceive anything more distressingly
thin and gaunt than the poor pigs, perfectly flat, and hardly able to
trot along.

On our journey to Bembe the natives were greatly surprised at our
giving some boiled rice from our plates to a brood of pretty little
chickens at a town where we breakfasted, as they did not belong to us.
Their dogs, wretched, small, starved, long-eared animals, like little
jackals, live, like the pigs, upon rubbish, and hunt rats and other
small game. I once saw a dog eating the grains off a green indian-corn
cob, which he was holding down with his two front paws, nibbling it as
a sheep would, and seeming to enjoy it. Cats are very rarely seen in
the towns;--they are greatly esteemed by the Mushicongos for food, and
their skins for wearing as an ornament. I once shot a half-wild cat
that used to visit my fowl-yard, and had eaten some chickens; my cook
skinned it, and sold the flesh for 300 beads, and the skin for 200--300
beads being then a fancy price for the largest fowl, ordinary chickens
usually averaging 100 beads each only.

Provisions at that time were fabulously cheap, though not more so,
perhaps, than should be expected from the wonderful fertility of the
soil, the little trouble the natives have in its cultivation, and their
small necessities. Eggs and bananas were sold at one blue glass bead
each, of a kind made in Bohemia, and costing wholesale under twopence
for a bunch of 600. Mandioca-meal, beans, &c., were sold at a similar
rate.

One ugly black was the principal purveyor of eggs; he used to collect
them at all the towns and fairs around, and bring them into Bembe for
sale, but he was a sad rogue, and never sold a basketful of eggs but a
number were sure to be found rotten. At the fort he was once tied over
a gun and well thrashed, but this did not cure him, and at last, tired
of buying bad eggs from him, I had him held by a couple of our servants
the next time he brought me a basket of eggs for sale, whilst my cook
broke them into a basin one by one, the rotten ones being rubbed on
his great woolly head, on which he had allowed the hair to grow like
a great frizzled bush. His appearance when released was most comical,
and produced the greatest excitement among the rest of the niggers,
who danced and yelled and hooted at him as he ran along, crying, to the
stream at the mines to wash himself. The cure was effectual this time,
and we never had further cause of complaint against him.

There are four weekly fairs or markets held near Bembe, the principal
one being at Sona, about six miles off. To this market natives from
many miles distant come with produce, &c., to barter for cloth, rum,
and beads from the coast. To travel two or three days to attend a fair
is thought nothing of by the blacks,--this is not to be wondered at
when we consider the climate, and that a mat to sleep on is the most
they need or carry with them on a journey. Their food being almost
entirely vegetable and uncooked, they either take it with them, or buy
it on the road.

Another celebrated fair is at Quimalenço, on the road to Bembe, and
about thirty miles distant, and our servants and blacks working at the
mine were constantly asking leave to go to it. Both at Sona and the
latter fair no blacks are allowed with sticks or knives, a very wise
precaution, considering the quantity of palm wine, garapa, and other
intoxicating liquors consumed. I have seen not less than 2000 natives
assembled at these fairs, selling and buying beans, mandioca roots and
meal of different kinds, Indian corn, ground-nuts, palm-nuts and oil;
pigs, sheep, goats, fowls; cotton cloth, handkerchiefs, &c. crockery,
clay pipes, and pipe-stems, but not a single article manufactured by
themselves, with the exception, perhaps, of a few sleeping-mats, and
the conical open baskets called “Quindas,” in which the women carry
roots, meal, and other produce on their heads.

During my first stay in Bembe, the king of Congo having died, his
successor, the Marquis of Catende, came in state to Bembe to ask the
Portuguese to send priests to San Salvador, to bury his predecessor and
to crown him king. In former times, San Salvador, the capital of the
kingdom of Congo, was the chief missionary station of the Portuguese,
who built a cathedral and monasteries there, the ruins of which still
exist; they appear to have been very successful in civilizing the
natives, and though the mission was abandoned more than a hundred
years ago, their memory is revered in the country to this day. I have
been told by the Portuguese priests and officers who have been at San
Salvador that the graves of the former missionaries are still carefully
tended and preserved, with every sign of respect, and that missals
and other books, letters, chalices, and other church furniture of the
olden time still exist, and the natives would not part with them on any
account.

In times past the King of Congo was very powerful; all the country, as
far as and including Loanda, the River Congo, and Cabinda, was subject
to him, and paid him tribute. The missionaries under his protection
worked far and wide, attained great riches, and were of immense
benefit to the country, where they and the Portuguese established and
fostered sugar-cane plantations, indigo manufacture, iron smelting, and
other industries. With the discovery and colonization of the Brazils,
however, and the expulsion of the Jesuits from Angola, the power of the
Portuguese and of the king of Congo has dwindled away to its present
miserable condition. The king of Congo is now only the chief of San
Salvador and a few other small towns, and does not receive the least
tribute from any others, nor does he possess any power in the land.
Among the natives of Angola, however, he still retains a certain amount
of prestige as king of Congo, and all would do homage to him in his
presence, as he is considered to possess the greatest “fetish” of all
the kings and tribes, though powerless to exact tribute from them.

The Marquis came to Bembe attended by a retinue of 300 blacks and his
private band, consisting of eight elephant tusks blown like horns, and
six drums. These tusks were moderate sized, about three to three and
a half feet long, and were bored down the centre nearly to the point,
to a small hole, or narrow aperture cut in the side, to which the lips
are applied to produce the sound, which is deep and loud, but soft in
tone, and can be heard at a great distance. The drums are hollowed
out of one piece of wood, generally of the “Mafumeira” tree, which is
very soft and easily worked: the open end is covered with a sheepskin
tightly stretched and rubbed over with bees-wax, a small portion of
which is left sticking in the middle. Before use, these drums are
slightly warmed at a fire to soften the wax and make the skin a little
sticky, when being struck by the flat of the fingers (not the palms
of the hands) they adhere slightly, and cause the blows to produce a
more resonant sound. The better made ones are rubbed quite smooth on
the outside with the dry leaf of a certain tree, which is very rough,
and acts like sand-paper, and then dyed a bright red with the fresh red
pulp enveloping the seeds of the Annatto plant (_Bixa Orellana_), which
I have seen growing wild in the interior.

When the Marquis approached Bembe he made known his coming by his
band blowing the horns and thumping the drums, and we could see the
caravan in the distance slowly winding through the grass. On arriving
at the edge of the mine valley they all halted, and the band again
struck up. The Marquis got out of his hammock, attired like any other
black, unlocked a small box containing his wardrobe, and proceeded
to dress himself, in which operation he was assisted by his two
secretaries;--first he put on a white shirt, but not having taken the
precaution to unbutton the front, it was some time before his head
emerged from it; a gaily-coloured cloth was next produced from the box
and fastened round his waist; a blue velvet cloak edged with gold lace
was put on his shoulders, and on his head a blue velvet cap, which
completed his royal costume; his feet bare of course.

They then came into Bembe, and proceeded to the fort, where they were
received with a salute of four guns, which it was the Marquis’s right
to receive from the Portuguese, but which being evidently unexpected,
made one half of the crowd scamper as fast as they could, till they
were recalled. At the gate the guard turned out and presented arms,
and, preceded by the band of the fort, he was taken to the Governor’s
quarters, where we were all assembled to meet him.

The usual complimentary speeches then took place, his secretary
translating for him, and the Governor’s cook being interpreter on our
side. The Marquis spoke only a few words of Portuguese, and never
having been among white men, he was rather strange to the use of knives
and forks, so at dinner his meat was cut up small for him, which he
forked slowly into his mouth, now and then draining a whole tumblerful
of Lisbon wine. The dinner-service of crockery and glass, &c., seemed
to strike him as being of marvellous magnificence.

After first tasting a glass of beer myself, according to the fashion
of the country, I offered it to him, to see how he would like it; he
took a mouthful, but immediately turned round and spat it out, with a
very wry face. He passed the remainder to his two secretaries, who were
squatted on the ground behind him, eating stewed fowl and mandioca-meal
out of a dish with their fingers. As it would have been an unpardonable
incivility on their part not to drink whatever he gave them, they each
took a mouthful from the glass, though he was making faces and wiping
his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt, but both got up instantly and
hurried outside, where we could hear them spitting and sputtering at
the bitter draught.

On handing round the “palitos” or toothpicks after dinner, he took one,
but did not know what to do with it till he saw to what use they were
applied by us, when he burst out laughing, and said in Congo language,
“that the white men were very strange people, who, after putting such
delicious food into their mouths, must needs pick out the little bits
from their teeth with a stick,” and he asked for a few, which he gave
to his secretaries to keep, to take back to his country as curiosities.

He is a handsome, stout, middle-aged man, and with a very much better
cast of countenance than is usual among the Mushicongos.

During the time that he was at Bembe, the kings of the neighbouring
towns came together one morning to pay him homage, and his state
reception was a very amusing and interesting ceremony.

The kings and their people appeared, not in their best, but in the
poorest and most ragged condition possible, whether according to
custom, or from a fear that the Marquis might, in view of their
riches, demand tribute from them as formerly, I know not. The Marquis
was seated on a chair placed on a large mat, with his bare feet on a
leopard skin;--behind his chair squatted the whole of his retinue.

The kings, with their people, not less than 100 blacks, on arriving at
some little distance, dropped on their knees, bowed their heads to the
ground, and then clapped their hands, to which the Marquis replied by
moving the fingers of his right hand to them; one of his secretaries,
a very tall, lanky negro, dressed in a quaker coat with a very high,
straight collar, then knelt before him, and presented him with the
sword of state, which the Marquis pulled out of the scabbard and
returned to him.

The tall secretary now borrowed a red cloak from one of the retinue,
which he secured round his waist with his left hand, allowing it
to drag behind him like a long red tail, and commenced a series of
most extraordinary antics, dancing about brandishing his sword, and
pretending to cut off heads, to exemplify the fate in store for his
majesty’s enemies.

Approaching the kneeling embassy, he shook his sword at them like a
harlequin at a clown in a pantomime, when they all rose and followed
him for a few paces, and then dropped on their knees whilst he went
through the dance and sword exercise again; this performance repeated,
brought them nearer the Marquis, and a third time brought the whole lot
to his feet, where they all rubbed their foreheads and fingers in the
dust, whilst the secretary knelt and placed the sword across his knees;
then came a general clapping of hands, and the king of Matuta and
several others made long speeches, to which the Marquis replied, not
to them directly, but to his secretary, who repeated it, every twenty
or thirty words being interrupted by a great blowing of the horns and
beating of the drums, lasting for a couple of minutes.

After the speeches the kings presented their offering, which consisted
only of a gourd of palm wine, of which, according to custom, the
Marquis had to drink.

The Governor of Bembe had provided him with a couple of bottles of
Lisbon wine for the ceremony, and also a tumbler; this last was filled
with palm wine from the gourd, and given to the secretary, and he
handed it to the Marquis, who made the sign of the cross over it with
his hand, repeating at the same time some words in Latin: this they
have learnt from the ceremonies of the mass in the old Roman Catholic
missals still in their possession.

The Marquis, not feeling inclined to drink palm wine, availed himself
of the custom of the kings of Congo not eating or drinking in public,
to practise a little deception. Whilst two attendants held up a
large mat before him, he passed the tumblerful of palm wine to his
secretaries, who quickly swallowed its contents, and taking up one of
the bottles of Lisbon wine from under his chair, put it to his mouth,
and nearly emptied it at a draught. The curtain was then removed, and
the nearly empty bottle of wine passed to the king of Matuta, who
poured the contents into the tumbler, took a drink himself, and passed
it to the rest, who had a sip each till it was drained dry. Speeches
were again made, and the embassy, having once more rubbed their
foreheads and fingers in the dust, got up and bent nearly double, then
turned and walked away very slowly and carefully, reminding me most
comically of cats after they have been fighting.

A singular custom of the kings of Congo is that of never expectorating
on the ground in public, it being “fetish” to do so, and foretelling
some calamity. When the Marquis wished to clear his throat, the lanky
secretary would kneel before him, and taking a dirty rag out of a grass
pouch suspended from his shoulder, would present it to him with both
his hands, to spit into; the rag was then carefully doubled up, kissed,
and replaced in the pouch.

I was told by the padre at Bembe, who went on a mission to Engoge,
that the king there, the “Dembo Ambuilla,” also has the same custom,
but performed in a much more disgusting manner, as, instead of spitting
into a rag like the King of Congo, the “Dembo” expectorates into the
palm of an attendant’s hand, who then rubs it on his head!

Having heard at Loanda that Dr. Bastian had passed through San
Salvador, I inquired of the Marquis whether he had seen him. He replied
that a white man, whose name he knew not, had lately been through
his town (a little distance from San Salvador), and had given him a
“mucanda” or letter, which he would show me: and, taking me into his
hut, he took out of his box a parcel of rags, which he carefully undid
till he came to a half-sheet of small paper, on which was engraved the
portrait of some British worthy dressed in the high-collared coat in
fashion some thirty or forty years ago. As the lower half of the sheet
was torn off, there was no inscription on it by which I could identify
the portrait, which seemed to have been taken from a small octavo
volume. The Marquis would not show the portrait to the Governor or any
Portuguese, as he was afraid that it might say something that would
compromise him with them, and on my assuring him that there was no
danger whatever in it, he seemed to be much easier in his mind.

On the Sunday morning the Marquis attended the garrison’s military
mass, and caused much amusement by bringing his band with him, which
played during the service. Although he had never before heard mass, his
conduct, and that of the head men who accompanied him, was most proper
and decorous; they knelt, crossed themselves, and seemed to pray as
earnestly as if they had been brought up to it all their lives.

A visit they paid the works at the mines greatly interested them, the
steam-engine and saw-mill specially attracting their attention; but
the most incomprehensible wonder to them was an ordinary monkey, or
screw-jack, which was fixed under one end of a huge trunk of a tree
lying on the ground, and on which as many blacks were asked to sit as
it could carry;--great was their astonishment to see me lift the whole
tree and blacks by simply turning the handle of the monkey. After
much clapping of their hands to their mouths, the universal way of
expressing surprise by the blacks, the Marquis asked, through his tall
secretary, how I had performed the wonderful “fetish?” I explained as
well as I could, that it was due to the mechanism inside, but I could
see they did not believe me, and I afterwards ascertained that they
thought the power was contained in the handle.

The king only spoke a few words of Portuguese, but the tall secretary
not only spoke, but wrote it very fairly. He assured me that he had
not been taught by the white men, but by blacks whose ancestors had
acquired the language from the old missionaries. I am inclined to
believe that he must have been a native of Ambaca, or some other
province of the interior of Angola, where a great many of the natives
at the present day can read and write Portuguese, transmitted from
father to son since the olden time.

Some time after the Marquis left, the Portuguese sent a padre from
Loanda to join the one at Bembe, and proceed together to San Salvador,
with an escort in charge of the officer at Bembe, an ignorant man, who,
after the old king had been buried, became frightened and suddenly
decamped without allowing them to crown the Marquis of Catende. A
second expedition of 100 soldiers was then sent. The priests were
welcomed with demonstrations of the greatest joy by the natives, who
loaded them with presents; but the military were coldly received, and
not a single present was given to them or the officer in command, who,
alarmed at their hostility and vexed at the reception given to the
padres, again retreated to Bembe as fast as he could, and to screen his
want of success and cowardice, intrigued with the Governor-General at
Loanda, and the padres were censured for that for which he himself was
alone to blame.

Nearly 200 blacks presented themselves to the padres, saying that
they were the descendants of the slaves of the former missionaries,
and offering to rebuild the church and monasteries, if they were only
directed and fed.

Had the Portuguese allowed the padres to go to San Salvador alone,
unaccompanied by a military force, which gave an air of conquest to
the expedition, a great step would have been made in the introduction
of trade and civilization in that part of the interior, and it would
have opened the way to geographical discovery. I am convinced that the
invincible opposition to Lieutenant Grandy’s passage into the interior
was due principally to the fear of the natives that the Portuguese
might follow in his steps, and annex the country from whence they
derive their ivory.

The soil about Bembe is magnificent, and will produce almost
anything. Sugar-cane grows to a huge size, and vegetables flourish
in a remarkable manner. During the time I was there I had a fine
kitchen-garden, and not only kept the miners supplied with vegetables,
but almost every day sent as much as one, and sometimes two, blacks
could carry to the fort for the soldiers. Greens of all kinds and
cabbages grow beautifully, although the latter seldom form a hard
head; all kinds of salad grow equally well, such as endive, lettuce,
radishes, mustard and cress, &c. peas, turnips, carrots, mint, and
parsley also flourish, and tomatoes, larger than I ever saw them even
in Spain and Portugal. Cucumbers, melons, and vegetable-marrows, we
obtained very fine the first season, but the succeeding year a swarm
of very small grasshoppers prevented us from getting a single one.
Broad beans, although growing and flowering luxuriantly, never produced
pods. I gave seeds to the old King of Matuta, and promised to buy
their produce from him, and we very quickly had a load of beautiful
vegetables every day.

It is almost impossible to estimate the advantage, in a country
and climate like Africa, of an abundant supply of fresh salad and
vegetables, and yet, although growing so luxuriantly, and with so small
an amount of trouble, they are never cultivated by the natives of any
part of Angola, and rarely by the Portuguese; the market at Loanda, for
instance, is very badly supplied with vegetables.

Benguella and Mossamedes--particularly the latter--are the only
exceptions to the general and stupid want of attention to the
cultivation of vegetables. The only vegetable introduced by the former
missionaries that still exists in cultivation in the country is the
cabbage, which is sometimes seen in the towns (generally as a single
plant only), growing with a thick stem, which is kept closely cropped
of leaves, and as much as four or five feet high, surrounded by a
fence to keep the goats and sheep from browsing on it; but I have never
seen it in their plantations.

About Bembe a handsome creeper (_Mucuna pruriens_), with leaves like
those of a scarlet-runner, and bearing large, long bunches of dark
maroon bean-like flowers, grows very abundantly. The flowers are
succeeded by crooked pods covered with fine hairs (cow-itch) which
cause the most horrible itching when rubbed on the skin. The first
time I pulled off a bunch of the pods I shook some of the hairs over
my hand and face, and the sensation was alarming, like being suddenly
stung all over with a nettle. I have seen blacks, when clearing bush
for plantations, shake these hairs on their hot, naked bodies, and jump
about like mad, until they were rubbed with handfuls of moist earth.

I saw at Bembe a striking illustration of the immunity of Europeans
from fever and ague when travelling or otherwise actively employed.

One hundred Portuguese soldiers having misconducted themselves in some
way at Loanda, were ordered to Bembe as a punishment. They marched
from Ambriz in the worst part of the rainy season without tents (which,
singular to say, are never used in Angola by the Portuguese troops),
and were a fortnight in reaching Bembe.

They were not a bad-looking set of men, and were well shod and
clothed, but had been badly fed on the road, principally on beans and
mandioca-meal, and had had only water from the swollen pools and rivers
to drink. Notwithstanding the exposure and hardships, only twelve fell
ill on the march, and of those, only four or five had to be brought
into Bembe in hammocks.

Fine barracks at the fort had been prepared for them, but next morning,
on inspection by the doctor, no less than forty were ordered into
hospital; next day thirty more followed, and within a week of their
arrival every one of the 100 men had passed through the doctor’s
hands, suffering principally from attacks of intermittent fever and
ague, remittent fever, and a few cases of diarrhœa; but, to show the
comparatively healthy climate of Angola, only one man died.

We were not so fortunate with our Cornish miners, all fine, strong,
healthy, picked men; several causes contributed to their ill-health
and deaths; exposure to sun and wet whilst at work, bad lodging, but
principally great want of care on their part in eating and drinking
whilst recovering from an attack of illness.

One circumstance that struck the doctor greatly, was the total want
of pluck in the Cornishmen when ill; they used actually to cry like
children, and lie down on their beds when suffering from only a slight
attack of fever that a Portuguese would think nothing of. When they
were seriously ill, it was with the greatest difficulty we could make
them keep up their spirits, which is so essential to recovery, in
fevers particularly. When convalescent, on the contrary, they could not
be kept from eating or drinking everything, however indigestible or
objectionable, that came in their way; and often was our good doctor
vexed, and obliged to employ the few words of abuse he knew in English,
on finding them, after a serious illness, eating unripe bananas, or a
great plateful of biscuit and cheese and raw onions.

So constant were their relapses, from want of the commonest care on
their part, that the doctor at last refused to attend them unless
they were placed under lock and key till fit to be let out and feed
themselves. Their complaints and grumblings, when well even, were
incessant, and they were the most unhandy set imaginable; they could
not even mend a broken bedstead, or put up a hook or shelf to keep
their things from the wet or rats. There was but one exception, a
boiler-maker, named Thomas Webster, who was a universal favourite from
his constant good-humour and willingness. Poor fellow! after recovering
from a very severe attack of bilious fever, he died at Ambriz, whilst
waiting for the steamer that was to take him home.

The worthy Portuguese officer in command at Bembe on my last visit,
Lieutenant Vital de Bettencourt Vasconcellos Canto do Corte Real, had
prepared for our use the old house in which I had formerly lived, and
received us most hospitably. We breakfasted and dined with him for the
eight days of our stay, and with Lieutenant Grandy and his brother,
who were also his guests. We were all the more thankful for Lieutenant
Vital’s very kind reception, from our cook having fallen ill the day
before we arrived, and being consequently unable to prepare our food.

[Illustration: PLATE IX.

BEMBE PEAK. _To face page 231._]

We made several excursions to the mines and to the caves, and one
morning my wife and myself ascended to the top of the peak or mountain
(Plate IX.), and breakfasted there.

On the 15th April, 1873, we bade good-bye to Bembe, and to the brothers
Grandy and Lieutenant Vital, who accompanied us to the River Luqueia.
On the third day we arrived at Quiballa, where we remained four days,
employing them, as before, in collecting butterflies and drying some
fine plants, amongst others the beautiful large red flowers almost
covering a fine tree (_Spathodea campanulata_--R. de B.?).

The second afternoon we were visited by a terrific thunderstorm; one
vivid flash of lightning was followed almost instantaneously by a
deafening clap of thunder; the former must have struck the ground very
near our hut, as both my wife and myself felt a slight shock pass
through our ankles quite distinctly, and on asking the owner of the hut
and one of our blacks who were with us, if they had felt anything, they
both described having felt the same sensation.

So much rain fell during this storm that we were forced to remain a
couple of days longer, as some carriers had been obliged to return to
Quiballa, unable to pass the rivers. It was now nearly the end of the
rainy season, when the heaviest falls occur, and we had already, after
leaving Bembe, found that a lovely bank on the River Lifua, on our
journey up the country, had been swept away by a flood, and a high pile
of sand covered the beautiful carpet of flowers and ferns.

A small dog that we had taken a fancy to on board the steamer in which
we went out, and who had been our constant companion, also accompanied
us on this journey, and it was amusing to see her attempts to swim
the swift currents, where she generally had to be carried across. The
faithful creature seemed to know that there was danger in crossing the
swollen streams, and she would yelp and cry on the bank till my wife
and myself had been carried over, when she would express her delight by
tearing along the banks and paths like mad.

Her solicitude for our safety was sometimes rather embarrassing, as
whenever she had passed a swamp, in which her legs generally sank
deep into the black mud, she would always insist on jumping up on the
hammocks, evidently to ascertain that we were all right, and of course
quite unmindful of the dreadful mess she made with her wet paws.

Like all European dogs, she never got over a certain antipathy to
the black race, and although on the best terms with our own boys,
who delighted in petting her, she always showed her contempt for the
natives by making sudden rushes at them, from under her mistress’s
hammock, when in passing through a town the women and children came
running along cheering and shouting, to see the “white woman.” Though
she never bit them, her sudden and fierce-looking attack would
generally scatter the crowd, who, however, always took it in good part.
At night we always put her under the Madeira chair, which made a very
good kind of cage, and which we placed at the foot of our bed under the
mosquito curtain, thus saving her from these pests, and also preventing
her from rushing out at any noise outside the tent.

The evening before we reached Quingombe, we raced the blackest
thunderstorm I have ever witnessed. About four o’clock in the
afternoon of the very fierce, hot and sultry day, the wind began to
lull and distant thunder was heard behind us. The sky indicated plainly
that no ordinary storm was gathering, the clouds deepening in colour
till at last they seemed to descend and touch the ground, forming a
nearly black curtain, which as it slowly advanced hid hills, trees, and
everything behind it; the top part of this thick black curtain seemed
to travel at a faster rate than the rest below, and slowly formed a
black arch over-head; at about five o’clock it seemed to be only a few
hundred yards behind us, like a solid angry night trying to overtake
us. Sudden flashes and long streaks of lightning seemed to shoot out of
it, up and down and in all directions, with scarcely any intermission
of the explosions of thunder that accompanied them.

Our carriers seemed perfectly frightened, and ran us along in our
hammocks as if racing for life, till, a little before sunset, we
reached a small village near the road, just as the advancing raindrops
at last overtook and began pattering down upon us. We hurried with our
baggage into a hut, but the wind suddenly seemed to increase in power
from the south, and blew the storm away from its path to the westward,
so that it only rained for about half an hour, and we had just time to
set up our tent before the darkness of night, calm and cool, came on.
Some of our carriers, who had remained behind and not been able to keep
ahead of the storm, described the rain as coming down on them like a
perfect deluge.

Next day we arrived late in the afternoon at Quingombe, and our
carriers tried to dissuade us from proceeding on to Ambriz, alleging
that the heavy rains had filled the marshes, so that they were
impassable in the dark; but disbelieving them, I hurried them on, and
reached the swamp that separates the town of Quingombe from the ferry
on the River Loge at Quincollo;--sure enough it was one sheet of water,
but unwilling to brave another night of mosquitoes we pushed on. Twice
we had to get out of our hammocks (which were slung as high as they
could possibly be) on to the Madeira chair, to be carried across deep
places; and for about two miles there was hardly a dry place, our poor
dog swimming and carried most of the time.

At last, at seven in the evening, we arrived at Quincollo to find that
the river had overflowed the banks, and that, with the exception of
a house and cane-mill, there was not a foot of dry ground to encamp
upon, except a great heap of cane refuse from the mill. This and the
house belonged to a convict, who had been a swineherd in Portugal, but
in consequence of the abolition of capital punishment in that country,
had escaped hanging, after committing a cruel murder. He is now a large
slaveholder, agent to the line of steamers from Lisbon owned by an
English firm at Hull, and much protected by the Portuguese authorities
at Loanda!

Not caring to sleep on his premises, we encamped on the heap of
refuse, on which we found it impossible to put up our tent, contenting
ourselves with hanging up the mosquito-bar alone. We had reached our
last biscuit and tin of preserved provision, and had just finished our
tea and supper when the white man in charge of the convict’s premises,
with his servants, came out with torches and armed, to find out who we
were, fearing it might be an attack of the natives of Quingombe. He
was most kind and pressing in his offers of shelter, in the absence of
the owner, but we declined. He made us promise, however, that we would
accept a canoe of his in the morning, which took us down the river
about six miles to the bar, from whence we rode in our hammocks along
the beach to Ambriz, thus happily ending our last excursion in Africa.

We had been absent just one month, in the worst part of the rainy
season, without the slightest illness, and returned laden with a very
interesting collection of insects and plants.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHARACTER OF THE NEGRO--FETISH--CUSTOMS--ARMS AND WAR--DRESS--ZOMBO
TRIBE--BURIAL--INSANITY.

The language, customs, and habits of the Mussurongo, Ambriz, and
Mushicongo tribes are very similar, and are distinguished in many
particulars from those of the natives of the district of Loanda, who
speak the Bunda language. This is not astonishing, when we consider
that Loanda has been constantly occupied by the white race since its
discovery, and that this intercourse has necessarily modified their
character to a certain extent. The former tribes are, however, still
almost in their primitive or natural condition, and should be studied
or described apart and before continuing the description of the country
south of about 8°, their limit in latitude.

I believe that it is very difficult to understand correctly the
character of the negro race in Africa, and that it requires long
intercourse with, and living amongst them, to get behind the scenes, as
it were, and learn their manner of thought or reasoning, and in what
way it influences their life and actions.

In the first instance, it is not easy to dispossess oneself of the
prejudices both against and in favour of the negro. It is so natural
to judge him by our own standard, and as we should wish him to be;--so
easy to think of him as agreeing with the preconceived idea that he is
just like one of ourselves, but simply in a state of innocent darkness,
and that we have only to show him the way for him to become civilized
at once.

It is very disagreeable to find in the negro an entirely new and
different state of things to that we had fondly imagined, and to have
to throw overboard our cherished theories and confess our ignorance and
that we have been entirely mistaken; but the truth must be told, and
we shall have to run counter to the self-satisfied wisdom of the great
number of people who judge from not always wilfully false reports, but
from hasty or superficial descriptions or tales that agree with their
foregone conclusions, and whose benevolent feelings and sympathy for
the negro are therefore established upon baseless grounds.

It is not my intention to deprecate any efforts for the benefit of the
negro race, but simply to show that the good seed in Africa _will_ fall
on bare and barren ground, and where weeds _will_ rise and choke it;
and I must warn philanthropy that its bounty is less productive of good
results on the negro of tropical Africa than perhaps on any other race.

It is heartrending to see money, lives, and efforts squandered and
wasted under the misguided idea of raising the negro to a position
which, from his mental constitution, he cannot possibly attain, whilst
so many of our own race are doomed from innocent infancy to grow up
among us to a future of misery and vice, and when we know that the
charity so lavishly shown to the negro and almost completely wasted
would enable many of these poor children to become good and useful
members of society. Let us, by all means, bring in the frozen vipers,
and feed the famished wolves and the hungry vultures, but do not let
us expect that because we have done so they will change into harmless
snakes, noble dogs, or innocent doves, or neglect to succour the lambs
and sheep of our own flock.

I cannot help thinking that so long as (in a rich country like England)
we read of poor creatures perishing from starvation on doorsteps and
in garrets, more care should be taken of our starving poor at home and
less charity showered upon the negro, who has growing close to his hut
all he wants to sustain life in almost absolute laziness.

The character of the negro is principally distinguished not so much by
the presence of positively bad, as by the absence of good qualities,
and of feelings and emotions that we can hardly understand or realize
to be wanting in human nature. It is hardly correct to describe the
negro intellect as debased and sunken, but rather as belonging to
an arrested stage. There is nothing inconsistent in this; it is,
on the contrary, perfectly consistent with what we have seen to be
their physical nature. It would be very singular indeed if a peculiar
adaptation for resisting so perfectly the malignant influences of
the climate of tropical Africa, the result of an inferior physical
organization, was unaccompanied by a corresponding inferiority of
mental constitution. It is only on the theory of “Natural Selection,
or the survival of the fittest” to resist the baneful influence of
the climate through successive and thousands of generations--the
“fittest” being those of greatest physical insensibility--that the
present fever-resisting, miasma-proof negro has been produced, and his
character can only be explained in the corresponding and accompanying
retardation or arrest of development of his intellect.

The negro knows not love, affection, or jealousy. Male animals and
birds are tender and loving to their females; cats show their affection
by delicious purring noises and by licking; horses by neighing and
pawing; cocks by calling their hens to any food they may find;
parroquets, pigeons, and other birds, by scratching one another’s polls
and billing and cooing; monkeys by nestling together and hunting for
inconvenient parasites on each other’s bodies; but in all the long
years I have been in Africa I have never seen a negro manifest the
least tenderness for or to a negress. I have never seen a negro, even
when inebriated, kiss a girl or ever attempt to take the least liberty,
or show by any look or action the desire to do so. I have never seen a
negro put his arm round a woman’s waist, or give or receive any caress
whatever that would indicate the slightest loving regard or affection
on either side. They have no words or expressions in their language
indicative of affection or love. Their passion is purely of an animal
description, unaccompanied by the least sympathetic affections of love
or endearment. It is not astonishing, therefore, that jealousy should
hardly exist; the greatest breach of conduct on the part of a married
woman is but little thought of. The husband, by their laws, can at
most return his wife to her father, who has to refund the present he
received on her marriage; but this extreme penalty is seldom resorted
to, fining the paramour being considered a sufficient satisfaction. The
fine is generally a pig, and rum or other drink, with which a feast is
celebrated by all parties. The woman is not punished in any way, nor
does any disgrace attach to her conduct. Adultery on the part of the
husband is not considered an offence at all, and is not even resented
by the wives.

It might be imagined that this lax state of things would lead to much
immorality: but such is not the case, as from their utter want of love
and appreciation of female beauty or charms, they are quite satisfied
and content with any woman possessing even the greatest amount of the
hideous ugliness with which nature has so bountifully provided them.
Even for their offspring they have but little love beyond that which
is implanted in all animals for their young. Mothers are very rarely
indeed seen playing with or fondling their babies: as for kissing them,
or children their mothers, such a thing is not even thought of. At the
same time I have never seen a woman grossly neglect or abandon her
child, though they think nothing of laying them down to sleep anywhere
in the sun, where they soon become covered with flies; but as this does
not appear to hurt or inconvenience them in the least, it can hardly be
termed neglect.

The negro is not cruelly inclined; that is to say, he will not inflict
pain for any pleasure it may cause him, or for revenge, but at the same
time he has not the slightest idea of mercy, pity, or compassion for
suffering. A fellow-creature, or animal, writhing in pain or torture,
is to him a sight highly provocative of merriment and enjoyment. I have
seen a number of blacks at Loanda, men, women, and children, stand
round, roaring with laughter at seeing a poor mongrel dog that had been
run over by a cart, twist and roll about in agony on the ground, where
it was yelping piteously, till a white man put it out of its misery.
An animal that does not belong to them, might die a thousand times of
hunger and thirst before they would think of stirring a foot to give
it either food or drink, and I have already described how even their
own animals are left to fare and shift as best they can on their own
resources, and their surprise that my wife should feed some little
chickens that did not belong to her, at a town on the road to Bembe.

In the houses it is necessary to see for oneself that all the animals
are regularly fed and watered every day, or they would quickly die
of neglect. We cannot, therefore, be surprised to find the negro so
completely devoid of vindictive feelings as he is. He may be thrashed
to within an inch of his life, and not only recover in a marvellously
short space of time, but bear no malice whatever, either at the time
or afterwards. In Angola, the attempt to take a white man’s life by
his slaves, for ill treatment or cruelty to them, is extremely rare.
If any amount of bad treatment is not resented, no benefit or good,
however great, done to a negro, is appreciated or recognised by him:
such a thing as gratitude is quite unknown to him; he will express
the greatest delight at receiving a present or any benefit, but it
is not from thankfulness; he only exhibits the pleasure he feels at
having obtained it without an effort on his part. He cannot be called
ungrateful exactly, because that would imply a certain amount of
appreciation for favours conferred, which he does not feel. In the same
way his constant want of truth, and his invariable dishonesty are the
result, not so much of a vicious disposition, as of the impossibility
to understand that there is anything wrong in being either a liar or a
thief: that they are not vicious thieves is shown by the few concerted
robberies practised by them, and the comparative safety of property in
general; their thieving, as a rule, is more of a petty and pilfering
description, in which, as might be expected, they are very cunning
indeed.

To sum up the negro character, it is deficient in the passions, and in
their corresponding virtues, and the life of the negro in his primitive
condition, apparently so peaceful and innocent, is not that of an
unsophisticated state of existence, but is due to what may be described
as an organically rudimentary form of mind, and consequently capable of
but little development to a higher type; mere peaceable, vegetarian,
prolific human rabbits and guinea pigs, in fact; they may be tamed and

Click here to read this post out
ID: 407373; Unique Viewers: 0
Unique Voters: 0
Latest Change: June 15, 2022, 2:20 a.m. Changes:
Dictionaries:
Words:
Spaces:
Comments:
Newcom

Posts:

Total post views:

There are no posts.