"M'ganwazam has chosen the young men who are to sleep in
Stopping one afternoon at a Kebrabasa village, a man, who pretended to be able to change himself into a lion, came to salute us. Smelling the gunpowder from a gun which had been discharged, he went on one side to get out of the wind of the piece, trembling in a most artistic manner, but quite overacting his part. The Makololo explained to us that he was a Pondoro, or a man who can change his form at will, and added that he trembles when he smells gunpowder. "Do you not see how he is trembling now?" We told them to ask him to change himself at once into a lion, and we would give him a cloth for the performance. "Oh no," replied they; "if we tell him so, he may change himself and come when we are asleep and kill us." Having similar superstitions at home, they readily became as firm believers in the Pondoro as the natives of the village. We were told that he assumes the form of a lion and remains in the woods for days, and is sometimes absent for a whole month. His considerate wife had built him a hut or den, in which she places food and beer for her transformed lord, whose metamorphosis does not impair his human appetite. No one ever enters this hut except the Pondoro and his wife, and no stranger is allowed even to rest his gun against the baobab-tree beside it: the Mfumo, or petty chief, of another small village wished to fine our men for placing their muskets against an old tumble-down hut, it being that of the Pondoro. At times the Pondoro employs his acquired powers in hunting for the benefit of the village; and after an absence of a day or two, his wife smells the lion, takes a certain medicine, places it in the forest, and there quickly leaves it, lest the lion should kill even her. This medicine enables the Pondoro to change himself back into a man, return to the village, and say, "Go and get the game that I have killed for you." Advantage is of course taken of what a lion has done, and they go and bring home the buffalo or antelope killed when he was a lion, or rather found when he was patiently pursuing his course of deception in the forest. We saw the Pondoro of another village dressed in a fantastic style, with numerous charms hung round him, and followed by a troop of boys who were honouring him with rounds of shrill cheering.
It is believed also that the souls of departed chiefs enter into lions, and render them sacred. On one occasion, when we had shot a buffalo in the path beyond the Kafue, a hungry lion, attracted probably by the smell of the meat, came close to our camp, and roused up all hands by his roaring. Tuba Mokoro, imbued with the popular belief that the beast was a chief in disguise, scolded him roundly during his brief intervals of silence. "You a chief, eh? You call yourself a chief, do you? What kind of chief are you to come sneaking about in the dark, trying to steal our buffalo meat! Are you not ashamed of yourself? A pretty chief truly; you are like the scavenger beetle, and think of yourself only. You have not the heart of a chief; why don't you kill your own beef? You must have a stone in your chest, and no heart at all, indeed!" Tuba Mokoro producing no impression on the transformed chief, one of the men, the most sedate of the party, who seldom spoke, took up the matter, and tried the lion in another strain. In his slow quiet way he expostulated with him on the impropriety of such conduct to strangers, who had never injured him. "We were travelling peaceably through the country back to our own chief. We never killed people, nor stole anything. The buffalo meat was ours, not his, and it did not become a great chief like him to be prowling round in the dark, trying, like a hyena, to steal the meat of strangers. He might go and hunt for himself, as there was plenty of game in the forest." The Pondoro, being deaf to reason, and only roaring the louder, the men became angry, and threatened to send a ball through him if he did not go away. They snatched up their guns to shoot him, but he prudently kept in the dark, outside the luminous circle made by our camp fires, and there they did not like to venture. A little strychnine was put into a piece of meat, and thrown to him, when he soon departed, and we heard no more of the majestic sneaker.
The Kebrabasa people were now plumper and in better condition than on our former visits; the harvest had been abundant; they had plenty to eat and drink, and they were enjoying life as much as ever they could. At Defwe's village, near where the ship lay on her first ascent, we found two Mfumos or headmen, the son and son-in-law of the former chief. A sister's son has much more chance of succeeding to a chieftainship than the chief's own offspring, it being unquestionable that the sister's child has the family blood. The men are all marked across the nose and up the middle of the forehead with short horizontal bars or cicatrices; and a single brass earring of two or three inches diameter, like the ancient Egyptian, is worn by the men. Some wear the hair long like the ancient Assyrians and Egyptians, and a few have eyes with the downward and inward slant of the Chinese.
After fording the rapid Luia, we left our former path on the banks of the Zambesi, and struck off in a N.W. direction behind one of the hill ranges, the eastern end of which is called Mongwa, the name of an acacia, having a peculiarly strong fetor, found on it. Our route wound up a valley along a small mountain-stream which was nearly dry, and then crossed the rocky spurs of some of the lofty hills. The country was all very dry at the time, and no water was found except in an occasional spring and a few wells dug in the beds of watercourses. The people were poor, and always anxious to convince travellers of the fact. The men, unlike those on the plains, spend a good deal of their time in hunting; this may be because they have but little ground on the hill-sides suitable for gardens, and but little certainty of reaping what may be sown in the valleys. No women came forward in the hamlet, east of Chiperiziwa, where we halted for the night. Two shots had been fired at guinea-fowl a little way off in the valley; the women fled into the woods, and the men came to know if war was meant, and a few of the old folks only returned after hearing that we were for peace. The headman, Kambira, apologized for not having a present ready, and afterwards brought us some meal, a roasted coney (Hyrax capensis), and a pot of beer; he wished to be thought poor. The beer had come to him from a distance; he had none of his own. Like the Manganja, these people salute by clapping their hands. When a man comes to a place where others are seated, before sitting down he claps his hands to each in succession, and they do the same to him. If he has anything to tell, both speaker and hearer clap their hands at the close of every paragraph, and then again vigorously at the end of the speech. The guide, whom the headman gave us, thus saluted each of his comrades before he started off with us. There is so little difference in the language, that all the tribes of this region are virtually of one family.
We proceeded still in the same direction, and passed only two small hamlets during the day. Except the noise our men made on the march, everything was still around us: few birds were seen. The appearance of a whydahbird showed that he had not yet parted with his fine long plumes. We passed immense quantities of ebony and lignum-vitae, and the tree from whose smooth and bitter bark granaries are made for corn. The country generally is clothed with a forest of ordinary- sized trees. We slept in the little village near Sindabwe, where our men contrived to purchase plenty of beer, and were uncommonly boisterous all the evening. We breakfasted next morning under green wild date-palms, beside the fine flowery stream, which runs through the charming valley of Zibah. We now had Mount Chiperiziwa between us, and part of the river near Morumbwa, having in fact come north about in order to avoid the difficulties of our former path. The last of the deserters, a reputed thief, took French leave of us here. He left the bundle of cloth he was carrying in the path a hundred yards in front of where we halted, but made off with the musket and most of the brass rings and beads of his comrade Shirimba, who had unsuspectingly intrusted them to his care.
Proceeding S.W. up this lovely valley, in about an hour's time we reached Sandia's village. The chief was said to be absent hunting, and they did not know when he would return. This is such a common answer to the inquiry after a headman, that one is inclined to think that it only means that they wish to know the stranger's object before exposing their superior to danger. As some of our men were ill, a halt was made here.
As we were unable to march next morning, six of our young men, anxious to try their muskets, went off to hunt elephants. For several hours they saw nothing, and some of them, getting tired, proposed to go to a village and buy food. "No!" said Mantlanyane, "we came to hunt, so let us go on." In a short time they fell in with a herd of cow elephants and calves. As soon as the first cow caught sight of the hunters on the rocks above her, she, with true motherly instinct, placed her young one between her fore-legs for protection. The men were for scattering, and firing into the herd indiscriminately. "That won't do," cried Mantlanyane, "let us all fire at this one." The poor beast received a volley, and ran down into the plain, where another shot killed her; the young one escaped with the herd. The men were wild with excitement, and danced round the fallen queen of the forest, with loud shouts and exultant songs. They returned, bearing as trophies the tail and part of the trunk, and marched into camp as erect as soldiers, and evidently feeling that their stature had increased considerably since the morning.
Sandia's wife was duly informed of their success, as here a law decrees that half the elephant belongs to the chief on whose ground it has been killed. The Portuguese traders always submit to this tax, and, were it of native origin, it could hardly be considered unjust. A chief must have some source of revenue; and, as many chiefs can raise none except from ivory or slaves, this tax is more free from objections than any other that a black Chancellor of the Exchequer could devise. It seems, however, to have originated with the Portuguese themselves, and then to have spread among the adjacent tribes. The Governors look sharply after any elephant that may be slain on the Crown lands, and demand one of the tusks from their vassals. We did not find the law in operation in any tribe beyond the range of Portuguese traders, or further than the sphere of travel of those Arabs who imitated Portuguese customs in trade. At the Kafue in 1855 the chiefs bought the meat we killed, and demanded nothing as their due; and so it was up the Shire during our visits. The slaves of the Portuguese, who are sent by their masters to shoot elephants, probably connive at the extension of this law, for they strive to get the good will of the chiefs to whose country they come, by advising them to make a demand of half of each elephant killed, and for this advice they are well paid in beer. When we found that the Portuguese argued in favour of this law, we told the natives that they might exact tusks from THEM, but that the English, being different, preferred the pure native custom. It was this which made Sandia, as afterwards mentioned, hesitate; but we did not care to insist on exemption in our favour, where the prevalence of the custom might have been held to justify the exaction.
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