When he had stated his decision to the chief he was rather
Next day we arrived at the village of Mboma (16 degrees 56 minutes 30 seconds S.), where the people raised large quantities of rice, and were eager traders; the rice was sold at wonderfully low rates, and we could not purchase a tithe of the food brought for sale.
A native minstrel serenaded us in the evening, playing several quaint tunes on a species of one stringed fiddle, accompanied by wild, but not unmusical songs. He told the Makololo that he intended to play all night to induce us to give him a present. The nights being cold, the thermometer falling to 47 degrees, with occasional fogs, he was asked if he was not afraid of perishing from cold; but, with the genuine spirit of an Italian organ-grinder, he replied, "Oh, no; I shall spend the night with my white comrades in the big canoe; I have often heard of the white men, but have never seen them till now, and I must sing and play well to them." A small piece of cloth, however, bought him off, and he moved away in good humour. The water of the river was 70 degrees at sunrise, which was 23 degrees warmer than the
air at the same time, and this caused fogs, which rose like steam off the river. When this is the case cold bathing in the mornings at this time of the year is improper, for, instead of a glow on coming out, one is apt to get a chill; the air being so much colder than the water.
A range of hills, commencing opposite Senna, comes to within two or three miles of Mboma village, and then runs in a north-westerly direction; the principal hill is named Malawe; a number of villages stand on its tree-covered sides, and coal is found cropping out in the rocks. The country improves as we ascend, the rich valley becoming less swampy, and adorned with a number of trees.
Both banks are dotted with hippopotamus traps, over every track which these animals have made in going up out of the water to graze. The hippopotamus feeds on grass alone, and, where there is any danger, only at night. Its enormous lips act like a mowing-machine, and form a path of short-cropped grass as it feeds. We never saw it eat aquatic plants or reeds. The tusks seem weapons of both offence and defence. The hippopotamus trap consists of a beam five or six feet long, armed with a spear-head or hard-wood spike, covered with poison, and suspended to a forked pole by a cord, which, coming down to the path, is held by a catch, to be set free when the beast treads on it. Being wary brutes, they are still very numerous. One got frightened by the ship, as she was steaming close to the bank. In its eager hurry to escape it rushed on shore, and ran directly under a trap, when down came the heavy beam on its back, driving the poisoned spear-head a foot deep into its flesh. In its agony it plunged back into the river, to die in a few hours, and afterwards furnished a feast for the natives. The poison on the spear-head does not affect the meat, except the part around the wound, and that is thrown away. In some places the descending beam is weighted with heavy stones, but here the hard heavy wood is sufficient.
"She is leaking worse than ever forward, sir, and there is a foot of water in the hold," was our first salutation on the morning of the 20th. But we have become accustomed to these things now; the cabin- floor is always wet, and one is obliged to mop up the water many times a day, giving some countenance to the native idea that Englishmen live in or on the water, and have no houses but ships. The cabin is now a favourite breeding-place for mosquitoes, and we have to support both the ship-bred and shore-bred bloodsuckers, of which several species show us their irritating attentions. A large brown sort, called by the Portuguese mansos (tame), flies straight to its victim, and goes to work at once, as though it were an invited guest. Some of the small kinds carry uncommonly sharp lancets, and very potent poison. "What would these insects eat, if we did not pass this way?" becomes a natural question.
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.
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