David Livingstone.

Livingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean online

. (page 9 of 36)
Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 9 of 36)
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by night. Sekeletu, now in power, received us in what ia
considered royal style, setting before us a great number
of pots of boyaloa, the beer of the country. These were
brought by women, and each bearer takes a good draught
of the beer when she sets it down, by way of 'Hasting,"
to show that there is no poison.


Tbo court herald, an old man who occupied the post also
in Sebituane's time, stood up, and after some antics, such
as leaping, and shouting at the top of his voice, roared out
flome adulatory sentences, as, ^' Don't I see the white man ?
Don't I see the comrade of Sebituane? Don't I see the
father of Sekeletu ?" — " We want sleep." — " Give your son
sleep,- my lord," &c. &c. The perquisites of this man are
the heads of all the cattle slaughtered by the chief, and he
f ren takes a share of the tribute before it is distributed
and taken out of the kotla. He is expected to utter all the
prcalamationS; call assemblies, keep the kotla clean, and
the fire burning every evening, and when a person is
executed in public he drags away the body.

I found Sekeletu a young man of eighteen years of age,
of that dark yellow or coffee-and-milk color of which the
M^akololo are so proud, because it distinguishes them
C(>nsiderably from the black tribes on the rivers. He is
U'bout five feet seven in height, and neither so good-looking
iior of so much ability as his father was, but is equally
friendly to the English. Sebituane installed his daughter
Mamochisane into the chieftainship long before his death,
but, with all his acuteness, the idea of her havmg a hus-
band who should not be her lord did not seem to enter his
mind. He wished to make her his successor, probably in
imi^xtion of some of the negro tribes with whom he had
come into contact; but, being of the Bechuana race, he
could not look upon the husband except as the woman's
lord; so he told her all the men were hers, — she might
take any one, but ought to keep none. In fact, he thought
eh« might do with the men what he could do with the
•?k^c>men; but these men had other wives; and, aecordiag
to a saying in the country, '' the tongues of women can-
not, be governed," they made her miserable by their re-
m.arks. One man whom she chose was even called her wife,
and her son the child of Mamochisane's wife; but the ar-
rangement was so distasteful to Mamochisane herself that,
tt« soon as Sebituane died, she said she never would consont



to govern the Makololo so long as she had a brother living.
Sekeletu, being afraid of another member of the family,
Mpepe, who had pretensions to the chieftainship, urged hia
sister strongly to remain as she had always been, and
allow him to support her authority by leading the Mako-
lolo when they went forth to war. Three days were spent
in public discussion on the point. Mpepe insinuated that
Sekeletu was not the lawful son of Sebituane, on account
of his mother having been the wife of another chief before
her marriage with Sebituane; Mamochisane, however,
upheld Sekeletu's claims, and at last stood up in the as-
sembly and addressed him with a womanly gush of tears :
— "I have been a chief only because my father wished it.
I always would have preferred to be married and have a
family like other women. You, Sekeletu, must be chief,
and build up your father's house." This was a death-blow
to the hopes of Mpepe, who was soon after speared for an
attempt to assassinate Sekeletu.

Soon after our arrival at Linyanti, Sekeletu took me
aside, and pressed me to mention those things I liked best
and hoped to get from him. Any thing, either in or out
of his town, should be freely given if I would only men-
tion it. 1 explained to him that my object was to elevate
him and his people to be Christians; but he replied he did
not wish to learn to read the Book, for he was afraid " it
might change his heart, and make him content with only
one wife, like Sechele." It was of little use to urge that
She change of heart implied a contentment with one wife
equal to his present complacency in polygamy. Such a
preference after the change of mind could not now be
understood by him any more than the real, unmistakable
pleasure of religious services can by those who have not
experienced what is known by the term the " new heart."
I assured him that nothing was expected but by his own
voluntary decision. " No, no ; he wanted always to have
five wives at least." I liked the frankness of Sekeletu, for


nothing is so wearying to the spirit as talking to those

who agree with every thing advanced. I

At our public religious services in the kot^a, the Mako-
lolo women always behaved with decorum from the first,
except at the conclusion of the prayer. When all knelt
down, many of those who had children, in following the
example of the rest, bent over their little ones : the chil-
dren, in terror of being crushed to death, set up a simul-
taneous yell, which so tickled the whole assembly there
was often a subdued titter, to be turned into a hearty
laugh as soon as they heard Amen.

The numbers who attended at the summons of the
herald, who acted as beadle, were often from five to seven
hundred. The service consisted of reading a small portion
of the Bible and giving an explanatory address, usually
short enough to prevent weariness or want of attention.
So long as we continue to hold services in the kotla, the as-
sociations of the place are unfavorable to solemnity; hence
it is always desirable to have a place of worship as soon as
possible ; and it is of importaiioe, too^ to treat such place
with reverence, as an aid to secure that serious attention
rhich religious subjects demand. This will appear more
evident when it is recollected that, in the very spot where
we had been engaged in acts of devotion, half an hour
aflwr a dance would be got up; and these habits cannot be
at first opposed without the appearance of assuming too
much authority over them. It is always unwise to hurt
their feelings of independence.

To give an idea of the routine followed for months to-
gether, on other days as well as on Sundays, I may advert
to my habit of treating the sick for complaints which
seemed to surmount the skill of their own doctors. I re-
frained from going to any one unless his own doctor
wished it or had given up the case. This led to my
having a selection of the severer cases only, and prevented
the doctors' being offended at my taking their practice oui
of their hands. When attacked by fever myself, and wish


ing to ascertain what their practices were, I could safely
intrust myself in their hands, on account of their well-
known friendly feelings.

I proposed to teach the Makololo to read ; but, for the
reasons mentioned, Sekeletu at first declined : after some
weeks, however, Motibe, his father-in-law, and some others^
determined to brave the mysterious book. To all who
have not acquired it, the knowledge of letters is quite
unfathomable; there is naught like it within the compass
of their observation ; and we have no comparison with
any thing except pictures, to aid them in comprehending
the idea of signs of words. It seems to them supernatural
that we see in a book things taking place or having oc-
curred at a distance. Ko amount of explanation conveys
the idea unless they learn to read. Machinery is equally
inexplicable, and money nearly as much so until they seo
it in actual use. They are famihar with barter alone; and
in the centre of the country, where gold is totally un-
known, if a button and sovereign were left to their choice,
they would prefer the former on account of its having an

In beginning to learn, Motibe seemed to himself in the
position of the doctor, who was obliged to drink his potion
before the patient, to show that it contained nothing detri-
mental ; after he had mastered the alphabet, and reported
the thing so far safe, Sekeletu and his young companions
came forward to try for themselves. He must have re-
solved to watch the effects of the book against his views
on polygamy, and abstain whenever he perceived any ten-
dency, in reading it, toward enforcing him to put his wives
away. A number of men learned the alphabet in a short
time, and were set to teach others, but before much pro-
gress could be made I was on my way to Loanda.

As I had declined to name any thing as a present from
Sekeletu, except a canoe to take me up the river, he brought
ten fine elephants' tusks and laid them down beside my
wagon. He would take no denial, though I told him 1


Bhould prefer to see him trading with Fleming, a man of
color from the West Indies, who had come for the purpose
I had, during the eleven years of my previous course,
invariably abstained from taking presents of ivory, from an
idea that a religious instructor degraded himself by accept-
ing gifts from those whose spiritual welfare he professed
to seek. My precedence of all traders in the line of dis-
covery put me often in the way of very handsome offers j
but I always advised the donors to sell their ivory to
traders, who would be sure to follow, and when at some
future time they had become rich by barter they might
remember me or my children. When Lake ]N"gami was
discovered, I might have refused permission to a trader
who accompanied us; but when he applied for leave to
form part of our company, knowing that Mr. Oswell
would no more trade than myself, and that the people of
the lake would be disappointed if they could not dispose
of their ivory, I willingly granted a sanction, without
which his people would not at that time have ventured so
far. This was surely preferring the interest of another to
my own. The return I got for this was a notice in one
of the Cape papers that this " man was the true discoverei
of the lake I''

The conclusion I had come to was that it is quite lawful,
though perhaps not expedient, for missionaries to trade ;
but barter is the only means by which a missionar}^ in the
interior can pay his way, as money has no value. In all
the journeys I had previously undertaken for wider diffu-
sion of the gospel, the extra expenses were defrayed from
my salary of £100 per annum. This sum is sufficient to
enable a missionary to live in the interior of South Africa,
supposing he has a garden capable of yielding corn and
vegetables ; but should he not, and still consider that six
or eight months cannot lawfully be spent simply in getting
goods at a lower price than they can be had from itinerant
traders, the sum mentioned is barely sufficient for the
poorest fare and plainest apparel. As we never felt our-


selves justified in making journeys to the colony for the
sake of securing bargains, the most frugal living was ne-
cessary to enable us to be a little charitable to others; but
when to this were added extra travelling-expenses, the
wants of an increasing family, and liberal gifts to chiefs, it
was difficult to make both ends meet. The pleasure of
missionary labor would be enhanced if one could devote
his life to the heathen without drawing a saiary from a
society at all. The luxury of doing good from one's own
private resources, without ajopearing to either natives oi
Europeans to be making a gain of it, is far preferable, and
an object worthy the ambition of the rich. But few men
of fortune, however, now devote themselves to Christian
missions, as of old. Presents were always given to the
chiefs whom we visited, and nothing accepted in return ;
but when Sebituane (in 1<S51) offered some ivory, I took
it, and was able by its sale to present his son with a num-
ber of really useful articles of a higher value than I had
ever been able to give before to any chief. In doing this,
of course, I appeared to trade, but, feeling I had a right to
do so, I felt perfectly easy in my mind"; and, as I still held
the view of the inexpediency of combining the two profes-
8ions, I was glad of the proposal of one of the most honor-
able merchants of Cape Town, Mr. H. E. Eutherford, that
he should risk a sum of money in Fleming's hands for the
purpose of attempting to develoj) a trade with the Ivlako-
lolo. It was to this man I suggested Sekeletu should sell
the tusks which he had presented for my acceptance ; but
the chief refused to take them back from me. The goods
which Fleming had brought were ill adapted for the use
of the natives, but he got a pretty good load of ivory in
exchange ; and though it was his first attempt at trading,
and the distance travelled over made the expenses enor*
mous, he was not a loser by the trip. Other traders fol-
lowed, who demanded 90 lbs. of ivory for a musket. The
Makololo, knowing nothing of steelyards, but supposing
that they were meant to cheat them, declined to trade


except by exchanging one bull and one cow elephant's
tusk for each gun. This would average 70 lbs. of ivory,
which sells at the Cape for 5s. per pound, for a second-
hand rausket worth 10s. I, being sixty miles distant, did
not witness this attempt at barter, but, anxious to enable
my countrymen to drive a brisk trade, told the Makololo
to sell my ten tusks on their own account for whatever
they would bring. Seventy tusks were for sale, but, the
parties not understanding each other's talk, no trade was
established ; and when I passed the spot some time after-
ward I found that the whole of that ivory had been de-
stroyed by an accidental fire, which broke out in the village
when all the people were absent. Success in trade is as
much dependent on knowledge of the language as success
In travelling.

I had brought with me as presents an improved breed
of goats, fowls, and a pair of cats. A superior bull was
bought, also as a gift to Sekeletu; but I was compelled to
leave it on account of its having become foot-sore. As the
Makololo are very fond of improving the breed of their
domestic animals, they were much pleased with my selec-
tion. I endeavored to bring the bull, in performance of a
promise made to Sebituane before he died. Admiring a
calf which we had with us, he proposed to give me a cow for
it, which in the native estimation was offering three times
Its value. I presented it to him at once, and promised to
bring him another and a better one. Sekeletu was
jtrratified by my attempt to keep my word given to l»ii





On the SCtli of May I was seized with fever, for the first
time. We reached the town of Linyanti on the 23d; and,
as my habits were suddenly changed from great exertion to
comparative inactivity, at the commencement of the cold
season I suffered from a severe attack of stoppage of the
secretions, closely resembling a common cold. Warm baths
and drinks relieved me, and I had no idea but that I was
now recovering from- the effects of a chill got by leaving
the warm wagon in the evening in order to conduct family
worship at my people's fire. But on the 2d of June a
relapse showed to the Makololo, who knew the complaint,
that my indisposition was no other than the fever, with
which I have since made a more intimate acquaintance.
Cold east winds prevail at this time; and as they come
over the extensive flats inundated by the Chobe, as well as
many other districts where pools of rain-water are now
drying up, they may be supposed to be loaded with mala-
ria and watery vapor, and many cases of fever follow. The
usual symptoms of stopped secretion are manifested, —
shivering and a feeling of coldness, though the skin ia
quite hot to the touch of another. The heat in the axillaa,
over the heart and region of the stomach, was in my case
100°, but along the spine and at the nape of the neck lOS''.
The internal processes were all, with the exception of the
kidneys and liver, stopped; the latter, in its efforts to free
the blood of noxious particles, often secretes enormous
quantities of bile. There were pains along the spine, and
frontal headache. Anxious to ascertain whether the natives
possessed the knowledge of any remedy of which we were
Ignorant, I requested the assistance of one of Sekeletu's
doct/ors He put some roots into a poi with water, and,


when it was boilingj placed it on a spot beneath a blanket
thrown around both me and it. This produced no im-
mediate effect : he then got a small bundle of differenii
kinds of medicinal woods, and, burning them in a potsherd
nearly to ashes, used the smoke and hot vapor arising from
them as an auxiliary to the other in causing diaphoresis.
I fondly hoped that they had a more potent remedy than
our .own medicines afford; but after being stewed in their
vapor-baths, smoked like a red herring over green twigs,
and charmed secundum artem, I concluded that I could cure
the fever more quickly than they can. If we employ a wet
sheet and a mild aperient in combination with quinine, in
addition to the native remedies, they are an important aid
in curing the fever, as they seem to have the same stimu-
Jating effects on the alimentary canal as these means have
on the external surface. Purgatives, general bleeding, or
indeed any violent remedies, are injurious; and the ap-
pearance of a herpetic eruption near the mouth is regarded
as an evidence that no internal organ is in danger. There
is a good deal in not '^giving in" to this disease. He who
is low-spirited, and apt to despond at every attack, will die
sooner than the man who is not of such a melancholic nature.
The Makololo had made a garden and planted maize for
me, that, as they remarked when I was parting with them
to proceed to the Cape, I might have food to eat when I
returned, as well as other people. The maize was now
pounded by the women into fine meal. This they do in
large wooden mortars, the counterpart of which may be
seen depicted on the Egyptian monuments. Sekeletu added
to this good supply of meal ten or twelve jars of honey,
each of which contained about two gallons. Liberal sup-
plies of groundnuts were also furnished every time tho
tributary tribes brought their dues to Linyanti, and an ox
was given for slaughter every week or two. Sekeletu also
appropriated two cows to be milked for us every morning
and evening. This was in accordance with the acknow
ledged rule throughout the country, that the chief should


feed all the strangers wlio come on any special business to
him and take up their abode in his kotla.

The Makololo cultivate a large extent of land around
their villages. Those of them who are real Basuto^ still
retain the habits of that tribe, and may be seen going out
with their wives with their hoes in hand, — a state of things
never witnessed at Kolobeng, or among any other Be-
chuana or CafFre tribe. The great chief Moshesh aifojds
an example to his people annually, by not only taking the hoe
m hand, but working hard with it on certain public occasions.
His Basutos are of the same family with the Makololo to
-vhom I refer. The younger Makololo, who have been
accustomed from their infancy to lord it over the conquered
Makalaka, have unfortunately no desire to imitate the
agricultural tastes of their fathers, and expect their sub-
jects to perform all the manual labor. They are the aris-
tocracy of the country, and once possessed almost unlimited
power over their vassals. Their privileges were, however,
much abridged by Sebituane himself

The tribes which Sebituane subjected in this great
country pass by the general name of Makalaka. The Ma-
kololo were composed of a great number of other tribes,
as well as thes<» central negroes. The nucleus of the whole
were Basuto, who came with Sebituane from a compara-
tively cold anl hilly region in the south. When he con-
quered various tribes of the Bechuanas, as Bakwains,
Bangwaketze, Bamangwato, Batauana, &c., he incorpo-
rated the young of these tribes into his own. Great mor-
tality by fever having taken place in the original stock, he
wisely adopted the same plan of absorption on a large scale
with the Makalaka. So we found him with even the sons
of the chiefs of the Barotse closely attached to his person :
and they say to this day, if any thing else but natural
death had assailed their father, every one of them would
have laid down his life in his defence. One reason for their
strong affection was their emancipation by the decree of
Sebituane, "all are children of tbe chief."


Sekeleta receives tribute from a great number of tribes
in co^'ii or dura, groundnuts, hoes, spears, honey, canoes,
paddloB, wooden vessels, tobacco, mutokuane, (^Cannabis sa-
tiva,) various wild fruits, (dried,) prepared skins, and ivor}'.
When these articles are brought into the kotla, Sekelety
has the honor of dividing them among the loungers who
usually con^-regate there. A email portion only is reserved
for himself The ivory belongs nominally to him too, but
this is simply a way of making a fair distribution of the
profits. The chief sells it only with the approbation of his
counsellors, and the proceeds are distributed in open day
among the people as before. He has the choice of every
thing; but, if he is not more liberal to others than to him-
self, he loses in popularity. I have known instances in this
and other tribes in which individuals aggrieved, because
they had been overlooVed, fled to other chiefs. One discon-
tented person, having fled to Lechulatebe, was encouraged
to go to a village of the Bapalleng, on the river Cho or Tso,
and abstracted the tribute of ivory thence which ought to
have come to Sekeletu. This theft enraged the whole of
the Makololo, because they all felt it to be a personal loss
Some of Lechulatebe's people having come on a visit to
Linyanti, a demonstration was made, in which about five
hundred Makololo, armed, went through a mimic fight; the
principal warriors pointed their spears toward the lake
where Lechulatebe lives, and every thrust in that direction
was answered by all with the shout, " Hoo !" while every
Btab on the ground drew out a simultaneous ^' Huzz !" On
these occasions all capable of bearing arms, even the old,
must turn out at the call. In the time of Sebituane, any
one remaining in his house was searched for and killed
without mercy.

This offence of Lechulatebe was aggravated by repeti-
tion, and by a song sung in his town accompanying the
dances, which manifested joy at the death of Sebituane.
lie had enjoined his people to live in peace with those at
the lake, and Sekeletu felt disposed to follow his advice;

108 lecuulatebe's provocations.

but Lechulatebe had now got possession of fire-arms, and
considered himself more than a match for the Makololo.
His father had been dispossessed of many cattle by Sebi-
tuane; and, as forgiveness is not considered among the
virtues by the heathen, Lechulatebe thought he had a
right to recover what he could. As I had a good deal of
influence with the Makololo, I persuaded them that, before
they could have peace, they must resolve to give the same
blessing to others, and they never could do that without
forgiving and forgetting ancient feuds. It is hard to make
them feel that shedding of human blood is a great crime :
they must be conscious that it is wrong, but, having been
accustomed to bloodshed from infancy, they are remarkably
callous to the .enormity of the crime of destroying human

I sent a message at the same time to Lechulatebe, advising
him to give up the course he had adopted, and especially
the song; because, though Sebituane was dead, the arms
with which he had fought were still alive and strong.

Sekeletu, in order to follow up his father's instructions
and promote peace, sent ten cows to Lechulatebe to be ex-
changed for sheep ; these animals thrive well in a bushy
country like that around the lake, but will scarcely live in
the flat prairies between the network of waters north of
the Chobe. The men who took the cows carried a number
of hoes to purchase goats besides. Lechulatebe took the
cows and sent back an equal number of sheep. Now, ac-
cording to the relative value of sheep and cows in these
parts, he ought to have sent sixty or seventy.

One of the men who had hoes was trying to purchase in
a village without formal leave from Lechulatebe ; this chief
punished him by making him sit some hours on the broiling
hot sand, (at least 130°.) This further offence put a stop to

Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 9 of 36)