up his temporary abode in the hut of one of his younger
The juices of plants, and decaying vegetable matter in the mud, probably form the natural food of mosquitoes, and blood is not necessary for their existence. They appear so commonly at malarious spots, that their presence may be taken as a hint to man to be off to more healthy localities. None appear on the high lands. On the low lands they swarm in myriads. The females alone are furnished with the biting apparatus, and their number appears to be out of all proportion in excess of the males. At anchor, on a still evening, they were excessively annoying; and the sooner we took refuge under our mosquito curtains, the better. The miserable and sleepless night that only one mosquito inside the curtain can cause, is so well known, and has been so often described, that it is needless to describe it here. One soon learns, from experience, that to beat out the curtains thoroughly before entering them, so that not one of these pests can possibly be harboured within, is the only safeguard against such severe trials to one's tranquillity and temper.
A few miles above Mboma we came again to the village (16 degrees 44 minutes 30 seconds S.) of the chief Tingane, the beat of whose war- drums can speedily muster some hundreds of armed men. The bows and poisoned arrows here are of superior workmanship to those below. Mariano's slave-hunting parties stood in great awe of these barbed arrows, and long kept aloof from Tingane's villages. His people were friendly enough with us now, and covered the banks with a variety of articles for sale. The majestic mountain, Chipirone, to which we have given the name of Mount Clarendon, now looms in sight, and further to the N.W. the southern end of the grand Milanje range rises in the form of an unfinished sphinx looking down on Lake Shirwa. The Ruo (16 degrees 31 minutes 0 seconds S.) is said to have its source in the Milanje mountains, and flows to the S.W., to join the Shire some distance above Tingane's. A short way beyond the Ruo lies the Elephant marsh, or Nyanja Mukulu, which is frequented by vast herds of these animals. We believe that we counted eight hundred elephants in sight at once. In the choice of such a strong hold, they have shown their usual sagacity, for no hunter can get near them through the swamps. They now keep far from the steamer; but, when she first came up, we steamed into the midst of a herd, and some were shot from the ship's deck. A single lesson was sufficient to teach them that the steamer was a thing to be avoided; and at the first glimpse they are now off two or three miles to the midst of the marsh, which is furrowed in every direction by wandering branches of the Shire. A fine young elephant was here caught alive, as he was climbing up the bank to follow his retreating dam. When laid hold of, he screamed with so much energy that, to escape a visit from the enraged mother, we steamed off, and dragged him through the water by the proboscis. As the men were holding his trunk over the gunwale, Monga, a brave Makololo elephant-hunter, rushed aft, and drew his knife across it in a sort of frenzy peculiar to the chase. The wound was skilfully sewn up, and the young animal soon became quite tame, but, unfortunately the breathing prevented the cut from healing, and he died in a few days from loss of blood. Had he lived, and had we been able to bring him home, he would have been the first AFRICAN elephant ever seen in England. The African male elephant is from ten to a little over eleven feet in height, and differs from the Asiatic species more particularly in the convex shape of his forehead, and the enormous size of his ears. In Asia many of the males, and all the females, are without tusks, but in Africa both sexes are provided with these weapons. The enamel in the molar teeth is arranged differently in the two species. By an admirable provision, new teeth constantly come up at the part where in man the wisdom teeth appear, and these push the others along, and out at the front end of the jaws, thus keeping the molars sound by renewal, till the animal attains a very great age. The tusks of animals from dry rocky countries are very munch more dense and heavier than those from wet and marshy districts, but the latter attain much the larger size.
The Shire marshes support prodigious numbers of many kinds of water- fowl. An hour at the mast-head unfolds novel views of life in an African marsh. Near the edge, and on the branches of some favourite tree, rest scores of plotuses and cormorants, which stretch their snake-like necks, and in mute amazement turn one eye and then another towards the approaching monster. By and-by the timid ones begin to fly off, or take "headers" into the stream; but a few of the bolder, or more composed, remain, only taking the precaution to spread their wings ready for instant flight. The pretty ardetta (Herodias bubulcus), of a light yellow colour when at rest, but seemingly of a pure white when flying, takes wing, and sweeps across the green grass in large numbers, often showing us where buffaloes and elephants are, by perching on their backs. Flocks of ducks, of which the kind called "Soriri" (Dendrocygna personata) is most abundant, being night feeders, meditate quietly by the small lagoons, until startled by the noise of the steam machinery. Pelicans glide over the water, catching fish, while the Scopus (Scopus umbretta) and large herons peer intently into pools. The large black and white spur-winged goose (a constant marauder of native gardens) springs up, and circles round to find out what the disturbance can be, and then settles down again with a splash. Hundreds of Linongolos (Anastomus lamelligerus) rise on the wing from the clumps of reeds, or low trees (the Eschinomena, from which pith hats are made), on which they build in colonies, and are speedily high in mid-air. Charming little red and yellow weavers (Ploceidae) remind one of butterflies, as they fly in and out of the tall grass, or hang to the mouths of their pendent nests, chattering briskly to their mates within. These weavers seem to have "cock nests," built with only a roof, and a perch beneath, with a doorway on each side. The natives say they are made to protect the bird from the rain. Though her husband is very attentive, we have seen the hen bird tearing her mate's nest to pieces, but why we cannot tell. Kites and vultures are busy overhead, beating the ground for their repast of carrion; and the solemn-looking, stately-stepping Marabout, with a taste for dead fish, or men, stalks slowly along the almost stagnant channels. Groups of men and boys are searching diligently in various places for lotus and other roots. Some are standing in canoes, on the weed- covered ponds, spearing fish, while others are punting over the small intersecting streams, to examine their sunken fish-baskets.
Towards evening, hundreds of pretty little hawks (Erythropus vespertinus) are seen flying in a southerly direction, and feeding on dragon-flies and locusts. They come, apparently, from resting on the palm-trees during the heat of the day. Flocks of scissor-bills (Rhyncops) are then also on the wing, and in search of food, ploughing the water with their lower mandibles, which are nearly half an inch longer than the upper ones.
At the north-eastern end of the marsh, and about three miles from the river, commences a great forest of palm-trees (Borassus Aethiopium). It extends many miles, and at one point comes close to the river. The grey trunks and green tops of this immense mass of trees give a pleasing tone of colour to the view. The mountain-range, which rises close behind the palms, is generally of a cheerful green, and has many trees, with patches of a lighter tint among them, as if spots of land had once been cultivated. The sharp angular rocks and dells on its sides have the appearance of a huge crystal broken; and this is so often the case in Africa, that one can guess pretty nearly at sight whether a range is of the old crystalline rocks or not. The Borassus, though not an oil-bearing palm, is a useful tree. The fibrous pulp round the large nuts is of a sweet fruity taste, and is eaten by men and elephants. The natives bury the nuts until the kernels begin to sprout; when dug up and broken, the inside resembles coarse potatoes, and is prized in times of scarcity as nutritious food. During several months of the year, palm-wine, or sura, is obtained in large quantities; when fresh, it is a pleasant drink, somewhat like champagne, and not at all intoxicating; though, after standing a few hours, it becomes highly so. Sticks, a foot long, are driven into notches in the hard outside of the tree--the inside being soft or hollow--to serve as a ladder; the top of the fruit-shoot is cut off, and the sap, pouring out at the fresh wound, is caught in an earthen pot, which is hung at the point. A thin slice is taken off the end, to open the pores, and make the juice flow every time the owner ascends to empty the pot. Temporary huts are erected in the forest, and men and boys remain by their respective trees day and night; the nuts, fish, and wine, being their sole food. The Portuguese use the palm-wine as yeast, and it makes bread so light, that it melts in the mouth like froth.
Beyond the marsh the country is higher, and has a much larger population. We passed a long line of temporary huts, on a plain on the right bank, with crowds of men and women hard at work making salt. They obtain it by mixing the earth, which is here highly saline, with water, in a pot with a small hole in it, and then evaporating the liquid, which runs through, in the sun. From the number of women we saw carrying it off in bags, we concluded that vast quantities must be made at these works. It is worth observing that on soils like this, containing salt, the cotton is of larger and finer staple than elsewhere. We saw large tracts of this rich brackish soil both in the Shire and Zambesi valleys, and hence, probably, sea-island cotton would do well; a single plant of it, reared by Major Sicard, flourished and produced the long staple and peculiar tinge of this celebrated variety, though planted only in the street at Tette; and there also a salt efflorescence appears, probably from decomposition of the rock, off which the people scrape it for use.
The large village of the chief, Mankokwe, occupies a site on the right bank; he owns a number of fertile islands, and is said to be the Rundo, or paramount chief, of a large district. Being of an unhappy suspicious disposition, he would not see us; so we thought it best to move on, rather than spend time in seeking his favour.
On the 25th August we reached Dakanamoio island, opposite the perpendicular bluff on which Chibisa's village stands; he had gone, with most of his people, to live near the Zambesi, but his headman was civil, and promised us guides and whatever else we needed. A few of the men were busy cleaning, sorting, spinning, and weaving cotton. This is a common sight in nearly every village, and each family appears to have its patch of cotton, as our own ancestors in Scotland had each his patch of flax. Near sunset an immense flock of the large species of horn-bill (Buceros cristatus) came here to roost on the great trees which skirt the edge of the cliff. They leave early in the morning, often before sunrise, for their feeding-places, coming and going in pairs. They are evidently of a loving disposition, and strongly attached to each other, the male always nestling close beside his mate. A fine male fell to the ground, from fear, at the report of Dr. Kirk's gun; it was caught and kept on board; the female did not go off in the mornings to feed with the others, but flew round the ship, anxiously trying, by her plaintive calls, to induce her beloved one to follow her: she came again in the evenings to repeat the invitations. The poor disconsolate captive soon refused to eat, and in five days died of grief, because he could not have her company. No internal injury could be detected after death.
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