ostensibly to replenish the supply of firewood for the
After a land-journey of forty days, we returned to the ship on the 6th of October, 1859, in a somewhat exhausted condition, arising more from a sort of poisoning, than from the usual fatigue of travel. We had taken a little mulligatawney paste, for making soup, in case of want of time to cook other food. Late one afternoon, at the end of an unusually long march, we reached Mikena, near the base of Mount Njongone to the north of Zomba, and the cook was directed to use a couple of spoonfuls of the paste; but, instead of doing so, he put in the whole potful. The soup tasted rather hot, but we added boiled rice to it, and, being very hungry, partook freely of it; and, in consequence of the overdose, we were delayed several days in severe suffering, and some of the party did not recover till after our return to the ship. Our illness may partly have arisen from another cause. One kind of cassava (Jatropha maligna) is known to be, in its raw state, poisonous, but by boiling it carefully in two waters, which must be thrown off, the poison is extracted and the cassava rendered fit for food. The poisonous sort is easily known by raising a bit of the bark of the root, and putting the tongue to it. A bitter taste shows poison, but it is probable that even the sweet kind contains an injurious principle. The sap, which, like that of our potatoes, is injurious as an article of food, is used in the "Pepper-pot" of the West Indies, under the name of "Cassereep," as a perfect preservative of meat. This juice put into an earthen vessel with a little water and Chili pepper is said to keep meat, that is immersed in it, good for a great length of time; even for years. No iron or steel must touch the mixture, or it will become sour. This "Pepper-pot," of which we first heard from the late Archbishop Whately, is a most economical meat-safe in a hot climate; any beef, mutton, pork, or fowl that may be left at dinner, if put into the mixture and a little fresh cassereep added, keeps perfectly, though otherwise the heat of the climate or flies would spoil it. Our cook, however, boiled the cassava root as he was in the habit of cooking meat, namely, by filling the pot with it, and then pouring in water, which he allowed to stand on the fire until it had become absorbed and boiled away. This method did not expel the poisonous properties of the root, or render it wholesome; for, notwithstanding our systematic caution in purchasing only the harmless sort, we suffered daily from its effects, and it was only just before the end of our trip that this pernicious mode of boiling it was discovered by us.
In ascending 3000 feet from the lowlands to the highlands, or on reaching the low valley of the Shire from the higher grounds, the change of climate was very marked. The heat was oppressive below, the thermometer standing at from 84 degrees to 103 degrees in the shade; and our spirits were as dull and languid as they had been exhilarated on the heights in a temperature cooler by some 20 degrees. The water of the river was sometimes 84 degrees or higher, whilst that we had been drinking in the hill streams was only 65 degrees.
It was found necessary to send two of our number across from the Shire to Tette; and Dr. Kirk, with guides from Chibisa, and accompanied by Mr. Rae, the engineer, accomplished the journey. We had found the country to the north and east so very well watered, that no difficulty was anticipated in this respect in a march of less than a hundred miles; but on this occasion our friends suffered severely. The little water to be had at this time of the year, by digging in the beds of dry watercourses, was so brackish as to increase thirst--some of the natives indeed were making salt from it; and when at long intervals a less brackish supply was found, it was nauseous and muddy from the frequent visits of large game. The tsetse abounded. The country was level, and large tracts of it covered with mopane forest, the leaves of which afford but scanty shade to the baked earth, so that scarcely any grass grows upon it. The sun was so hot, that the men frequently jumped from the path, in the vain hope of cooling, for a moment, their scorched feet under the almost shadeless bushes; and the native who carried the provision of salt pork got lost, and came into Tette two days after the rest of the party, with nothing but the fibre of the meat left, the fat, melted by the blazing sun, having all run down his back. This path was soon made a highway for slaving parties by Captain Raposo, the Commandant. The journey nearly killed our two active young friends; and what the slaves must have since suffered on it no one can conceive; but slaving probably can never be conducted without enormous suffering and loss of life.
Mankokwe now sent a message to say that he wished us to stop at his village on our way down. He came on board on our arrival there with a handsome present, and said that his young people had dissuaded him from visiting us before; but now he was determined to see what every one else was seeing. A bald square-headed man, who had been his Prime Minister when we came up, was now out of office, and another old man, who had taken his place accompanied the chief. In passing the Elephant Marsh, we saw nine large herds of elephants; they sometimes formed a line two miles long.
On the 2nd of November we anchored off Shamoara, and sent the boat to Senna for biscuit and other provisions. Senhor Ferrao, with his wonted generosity, gave us a present of a bullock, which he sent to us in a canoe. Wishing to know if a second bullock would be acceptable to us, he consulted his Portuguese and English dictionary, and asked the sailor in charge if he would take ANOTHER; but Jack, mistaking the Portuguese pronunciation of the letter h, replied, "Oh no, sir, thank you, I don't want an OTTER in the boat, they are such terrible biters!"
We had to ground the vessel on a shallow sandbank every night; she leaked so fast, that in deep water she would have sunk, and the pump had to be worked all day to keep her afloat. Heavy rains fell daily, producing the usual injurious effects in the cabin; and, unable to wait any longer for our associates, who had gone overland from the Shire to Tette, we ran down the Kongone and beached her for repairs. Her Majesty's ship "Lynx," Lieut. Berkeley commanding, called shortly afterwards with supplies; the bar, which had been perfectly smooth for some time before, became rather rough just before her arrival, so that it was two or three days before she could communicate with us. Two of her boats tried to come in on the second day, and one of them, mistaking the passage, capsized in the heavy breakers abreast of the island. Mr. Hunt, gunner, the officer in charge of the second boat, behaved nobly, and by his skilful and gallant conduct succeeded in rescuing every one of the first boat's crew. Of course the things that they were bringing to us were lost, but we were thankful that all the men were saved. The loss of the mail-bags, containing Government despatches and our friends' letters for the past year, was felt severely, as we were on the point of starting on an expedition into the interior, which might require eight or nine months; and twenty months is a weary time to be without news of friends and family. In the repairing of our crazy craft, we received kind and efficient aid from Lieutenant Berkeley, and we were enabled to leave for Tette on December 16th.
We had now frequent rains, and the river rose considerably; our progress up the stream was distressingly slow, and it was not until the 2nd of February, 1860, that we reached Tette. Mr. Thornton returned on the same day from a geological tour, by which some Portuguese expected that a fabulous silver-mine would be rediscovered. The tradition in the country is, that the Jesuits formerly knew and worked a precious lode at Chicova. Mr. Thornton had gone beyond Zumbo, in company with a trader of colour; he soon after this left the Zambesi and, joining the expedition of the Baron van der Decken, explored the snow mountain Kilimanjaro, north-west of Zanzibar. Mr. Thornton's companion, the trader, brought back much ivory, having found it both abundant and cheap. He was obliged, however, to pay heavy fines to the Banyai and other tribes, in the country which is coolly claimed in Europe as Portuguese. During this trip of six mouths 200 pieces of cotton cloth of sixteen yards each, besides beads and brass wire, were paid to the different chiefs, for leave to pass through their country. In addition to these sufficiently weighty exactions, the natives of THIS DOMINION have got into the habit of imposing fines for alleged milandos, or crimes, which the traders' men may have unwittingly committed. The merchants, however, submit rather than run the risk of fighting.
The general monotony of existence at Tette is sometimes relieved by an occasional death or wedding. When the deceased is a person of consequence, the quantity of gunpowder his slaves are allowed to expend is enormous. The expense may, in proportion to their means, resemble that incurred by foolishly gaudy funerals in England. When at Tette, we always joined with sympathizing hearts in aiding, by our presence at the last rites, to soothe the sorrows of the surviving relatives. We are sure that they would have done the same to us had we been the mourners. We never had to complain of want of hospitality. Indeed, the great kindness shown by many of whom we have often spoken, will never be effaced from our memory till our dying day. When we speak of their failings it is in sorrow, not in anger. Their trading in slaves is an enormous mistake. Their Government places them in a false position by cutting them off from the rest of the world; and of this they always speak with a bitterness which, were it heard, might alter the tone of the statesmen of Lisbon. But here there is no press, no booksellers' shops, and scarcely a schoolmaster. Had we been born in similar untoward circumstances--we tremble to think of it!
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