Josiah Tyler.

Livingstone lost and found online

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legs, places a feathered saddle on his shoulders, takes a stuffed
head and neck of an ostrich in his right hand, and his bows
and poisoned arrows in his left. At a distance it is impossible
v for the eye to detect the fraud.

" This human bird appears to pick away at the verdure,
turning the head as if keeping a sharp look-out, shakes his
feathers, now walks, and then trots till he gets within bow-
shot ; and when the flock runs from one receiving an arrow,
he runs too. The male ostriches will, on some occasions, give
chase to the strange bird, when he tries to elude them in a
way to prevent them catching his scent ; for when once they
do, the spell is broken. Should one happen to get too near
in pursuit, he has only to ran to windward, or throw off his
saddle, to avoid a stroke from a wing which would lay him

" When we reached the Bamangwato, the chief, Sekomi,
was particularly friendly, collected all his people to the relig-
ious services we held, and explained his reasons for compel-
ling some Englishmen to pay him a horse.


" * They would not sell him any powder, thongh they had
plenty ; so he compelled them to give it and the horse for
nothing. He would not deny the extortion to me ; that would
be ' boherehere ' (swindling).' "

Livingstone here witnessed the second part of a ceremony
called " sechu," which was practiced by the Bechuana and
Caifre tribes, the rites of which are carefully concealed.

" Just at the dawn of day, a row of boys of nearly fourteen
years of age, stood naked in the kotla, each having a pair of
sandals as a shield on his hands. Facing them stood the men
of the town in a similar state of nudity, all armed with long,
thin wands, of a tough, strong, supple bush called moretloa
(Greioia Jlava), and engaged in a dance named 'koha,' in
which questions are put to the boys, as ' Will you guard the
chief well ?' ' Will you herd the cattle well ?' and, while the
latter give an affirmative response, the men rush forward to
them, and each aims a full-weight blow at the back of one of
the boys. Shielding himself with the sandals above his head,
he causes the supple wand to descend and bend into his back,
and every stroke inflicted thus makes the blood squirt out of
a wound a foot or eighteen inches long. At the end of the
dance, the boys' backs are seamed with wounds and weals,
the scars of which remain through life. This is intended to
harden the young soldiers, and prepare them for the rank of
men. After this ceremony, and after killing a rhinoceros,
they may marry a wife.

" A somewhat analogous ceremony (boyale) takes place for
young women, and the protegees appear abroad, drilled under
the surveillance of an old lady, to the carrying of water.
They are clad during the whole time, in a dress composed of
ropes made of alternate pumpkin-seeds and bits of reed strung
together, and wound round the body in a figure-of-eight
fashion. They are inured in this way to bear fatigue, and
carry large pots of water under the guidance of the stern old
hag. They have often scars from bits of burning charcoal
having been applied to the forearm, which must have been
done to test their power of bearing pain.


On the 8th of February, Livingstone left Motlatsa, and
passed down the dry bed of the Mokoko which, in the mem-
ory of persons now living, was a flowing stream. At Ncho-
kotsa the thermometer stood at 96 during the day in the
coolest shade ; the country was parched, and water scarce.

" We dug out several wells ; and as we had on each occasion
to wait till the water flowed in again, and then allow our cat-
tle to feed a day or two, and slake their thirst thoroughly, as
far as that could be done, before starting, our progress was
but slow. At Koobe there was such a mass of mud in the
pond, worked up by the wallowing rhinoceros to the consis-
tency of mortar, that only by great labor could we get a space
cleared at one side for the water to ooze through and collect
in for the oxen. Should the rhinoceros come back, a single'
roll in the great mass we had thrown on one side, would have
rendered all our labor vain. It was therefore necessary
for us to guard the spot at night. On these great flats all
around we saw in the white, sultry glare, herds of zebras,
gnus, and occasionally buffaloes, standing for days, looking
wistfully toward the wells for a share of the nasty water.

" As we went north the country became very lovely ; many
new trees appeared ; the grass was green, and often higher
than the wagons ; the vines festooned the trees, among which
appeared the real banian, with its drop shoots, and the wild
date and palmyra, and several other trees which were new to
me; the hollows contained large patches of water. Next
came water-courses, now resembling small rivers, twenty yards
broad and four feet deep. The further we went, the broader
and deeper these became ; their bottoms contained great num-
bers of deep holes, made by elephants wading in them ; in
these the oxen floundered desperately, so that our wagon-pole
broke, compelling us to work up to the breast in water for
three hours and a half ; yet I suffered no harm.

" The forest, through which we were slowly toiling, daily
became more dense, and we were kept almost constantly at
work with the axe ; there was much more leanness in the
trees here than farther south.


" Fleming had until this time always assisted to drive his
own wagon, but about the end of March he knocked up, as
well as his people. As I could not drive two wagons, I shared
with him the remaining water, half a caskful, and went on,
with the intention of coming back for him as soon as we
should reach the next pool. Heavy rain now commenced ; I
was employed the whole day in cutting down trees, and every
stroke of the axe brought down a thick shower on my back,
which in the hard work was very refreshing, as the water
found its way down into my shoes. In the evening we met
some Bushmen, who volunteered to show us a pool ; and hav-
ing unyoked, I walked some miles in search of it. As it
became dark they showed their politeness a quality which
is by no means confined entirely to the civilized by walking
in front, breaking the branches which hung across the path,
and pointing out the fallen trees. On returning to the wagon,
we found that being left alone had brought out some of Flem-
ing's energy, for he had managed to come up.

" As the water in this pond dried up, we were soon obliged
to move again. One of the Bushmen took out his dice, and,
after throwing them, said that God told him to go home. He
threw again in order to show me the command, but the oppo-
site result followed ; so he remained and was useful, for we
lost the oxen by a lion driving them off a great distance.

" The Bechuanas will keep on the sick-list as long as they
feel any weakness ; so I at last began to be anxious that they
should make a little exertion to get forward on our way. One
of them, however, happening to move a hundred yards from
the wagon, fell down, and, being unobserved, remained the
whole night in the pouring rain totally insensible ; another
was subjected to frequent swooning ; but, making beds in the
wagons for these our worst cases, with the help of the Bak-
wain and the Bushmen, we moved slowly on. We had to
nurse the sick like children ; and, like children recovering
from illness, the better they became the more impudent they
grew. This was seen in the peremptory orders they would
give with their now piping voices. Nothing that we did


pleased them ; and the laughter with which I received their
ebullitions, though it was only the real expression of gladness
at their recovery, and amusement at the ridiculous part they
acted, only increased their chagrin.

" We at last came to the Sanshureh, which presented an
impassable barrier, so we drew up under a magnificent baobab-
tree, and resolved to explore the river for a ford. The great
quantity of water we had passed through was part of the
annual inundation of the Chobe ; and this, which appeared a
large, deep river, filled in many parts with reeds, and having
hippopotami in it, is only one of the branches by which it
sends its superabundant water to the southeast. In company
with the Bushmen I explored the banks of the Sanshureh.
We waded a long way among the reeds in water breast deep,
but always found a broad, deep space free from vegetation
and unfordable."

After much delay and trouble, Livingstone and one of his
men took a pontoon to the junction of the Sanshureh with
the Chobe, and launched themselves on a deep river from
eighty to one hundred yards wide.

" I gave my companion strict injunctions to stick by the
pontoon in case a hippopotamus should look at us ; nor was
this caution unnecessary, for one came up at our side, and
made a desperate plunge off. We had passed over him. The
wave he made caused the pontoon to glide quickly away from

"We paddled on from midday till sunset. There was
nothing but a wall of reed on each bank, and we saw every
prospect of spending a supperless night in our float ; but just
as the short twilight of these parts was commencing, we per-
ceived on the north bank the village of Moremi, one of the
Makololo, whose acquaintance I had made on our former visit,
and who was now located on the island Mahonta (lat. 17 58 '
S., long. 24 6 ' E.). The villagers looked as we may suppose
people do who see a ghost, and in their figurative way of
speaking said,

" l He has dropped among us from the clouds, yet came


riding on the back of a hippopotamus ! "We Makololo thought
no one could cross the Chobe without our knowledge, but
here he drops among us like a bird.'

"Next day we returned in canoes across the flooded lands,
and found that, in our absence, the men had allowed the cat-
tle to wander into a very small patch of wood to the west
containing the tsetse : this carelessness cost me ten fine large
oxen. After remaining a few days, some of the head men of
the Makololo came down from Linyanti, with a large party
of Barotse, to take us across the river. This they did in fine
style, swimming and diving among the oxen more like alli-
gators than men, and taking the wagons to pieces and carry-
ing them across on a number of canoes lashed together. "We
were now among friends ; so going about thirty miles to the
north, in order to avoid the still flooded lands on the north
of the Chobe, we turned westward toward Linyanti (lat. 18
17' 20" S., long. 23 50' 9" E.), where we arrived on the
23d of May, 1853. This is the capital town of the Makololo
and only a short distance from our wagon-stand of 1851.**


whole population of Linyanti, numbering between
_L six and seven thousand souls, turned out en masse to see
the wagons in motion. They had never witnessed the phe-
nomenon before, we having on the former occasion departed by
night. Sekeletu, now in power, received us in what is con-
sidered 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 ' tasting,' to show that there
is no poison.

" The 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 some
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,' etc., etc.

" The perquisites of this man are the heads of all the cattle
slaughtered by the chief, and he even takes a share of the
tribute before it is distributed and taken out of the kotla.
He is expected to utter all the proclamations, call assemblies,
keep the kotla clean, and the fire burning every evening,
and when a person is executed in public, he drags away the

" I found Sekeletu a young man of eighteen years of age,
of that dark yellow or coffee-and-milk color, of which the



Makololo are so proud, because it distinguishes them consid-
erably from the black tribes on the river. He is about five
feet seven in height, and neither so good looking nor of so much
ability as his father was, but is equally friendly to the English.

" Sebituane installed his daughter Mamoehisane, into the
chieftainship long before his death, but, with all his acute-
ness, the idea of her having a husband who should not be her
lord did not seem to enter his mind. He wished to make
her his successor, probably in imitation 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 she might do w r ith the men what he could
do with the women ; but these men had other wives ; and,
according to a saying in the country, " the tongues of women
can not be governed," they made her miserable by their
remarks. One man whom she chose was even called her
wife, and her son the child of Mamochisane's wife ; but the
arrangement was so distasteful to Mamochisaue herself that,
as soon as Sebituane died, she said she never would consent
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 his
sister strongly to remain as she had always been, and allow
him to support her authority by leading the Makololo 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 assembly 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. '


" 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 mention it. I
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

"It was of little use to urge that the change of heart
implied contentment with one wife equal to his present com-
placency 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 talk-
ing to those who agree with every thing advanced.

" The Makololo ladies are liberal in their presents of milk
and other food, and seldom require to labor, except in the
way of beautifying their own huts and court-yards. They
cut their woolly hair quite short, and delight in having the
whole person shining with butter. Their dress is a kilt
reaching to the knees ; its material is ox-hide, made as soft as
cloth. It is not ungraceful. A soft skin mantle is thrown
across the shoulders when the lady is unemployed, but when
engaged in any sort of labor she throws this aside, and works
in the kilt alone. The ornaments most coveted are large
brass anklets as thick as the little finger, and armlets of both
brass and ivory, the latter often an inch broad. Strings of
beads are hung around the neck, the fashionable colors being
light green and pink.

" The women have somewhat the same ideas with ourselves
of what constitutes comeliness. They came frequently and
asked for the looking-glass; and the remarks they made


while I was engaged in reading, and apparently not attend-
ing to them on first seeing themselves therein, were amus-
ingly ridiculous. " Is that me ? " " What a big mouth I
have? " " My ears are as big as pumpkin-leaves." " I have
no chin at all." Or, " I would have been pretty, but am
spoiled by these high cheek-bones." " See how my head
shoots up in the middle ! " laughing vociferously all the time
at their own jokes. They readily perceive any defect in
each other, and give nick-names accordingly. One man came
alone to have a quiet gaze at his own features once, when he
thought I was asleep ; after twisting his mouth about in
various directions, he remarked to himself,

" ' People say I am ugly, and how very ugly I am indeed ! '

" My object being first of all to examine the country for a
healthy locality, before attempting to make a path to either
the East or "West Coast, I proposed to Sekeletu the plan of
ascending the great river which we had discovered in 1851.
He volunteered to accompany me, and, when we got about
sixty miles away, on the road to Sesheke, we encountered
Mpepe. Sekeletu and his companions were mounted on
oxen, though, having neither saddle nor bridle, they were
perpetually falling off.

" Mpepe, armed with a little axe, came along a path parallel
to, but a quarter of a mile distant from, that of our party,
and, when he saw Sekeletu, he ran with all his might toward
ns ; but Sekeletu, being on his guard, galloped off to an adja-
cent village. He then withdrew somewhere till all our party
came up. Mpepe had given his own party to understand
that he would cut down Sekeletu, either on their first meet-
ing, or at the breaking up of their first conference. The
former intention having been thus frustrated, he then deter-
mined to effect his purpose after their first interview. I
happened to sit down between the two in the hut where they
met. Being tired with riding all day in the sun, I soon asked
Sekeletu where I should sleep, and he replied :

" ' Come, I will show you.'

" As we rose together, I unconsciously covered Sekeletu's


body with mine, and saved him from the blow of the assassin.
I knew nothing of the plot, but remarked that all Mpepe's
men kept hold of their arms, even after we had sat down a
thing quite unusual in the presence of a chief; and when
Sekeletu showed me the hut in which I was to spend the
night, he said to me :

" ' That man wishes to kill me.'

" I afterward learned that some of Mpepe's attendants had
divulged the secret ; and, bearing in mind his father's instruc-
tions, Sekeletu put Mpepe to death that night. It was man-
aged so quietly, that, although I was sleeping within a few
yards of the scene, I knew nothing of it till the next day.
J^okuane went to the fire, at which Mpepe sat, with a hand-
ful of snuff, as if he were about to sit down and regale him-
self therewith. Mpepe said to him, " Nsepisa " (cause me to
take a pinch) ; and, as he held out his hand, Nokuane caught
hold of it, while another man seized the other hand and
leading him out a mile speared him.

" This is the common mode of executing criminals. They
are not allowed to speak; though on one occasion a man,
feeling his wrist held too tightly, said, 'Hold me gently,
can't you ? you will soon be led out in the same way your-

"Mpepe's men fled to the Bajrotse, and, it being unad-
visable for us to go thither during the commotion which
followed on Mpepe's death, we returned to Linyanti.

" Having waited a month at Linyanti, we again departed,
for the purpose of ascending the river from Sesheke. To
the Barotse country, the capital of which is ISTariele or Naliele
(lat 15 24' 17 " S., long. 23 5' 54" E.), I went in company
with Sekeletu and about one hundred and sixty attendants.
We had most of the young men with us, and many of the
under-chief besides.

" It was pleasant to look back on the long-extended line of
our attendants, as it twisted and bent according to the curves
of the footpath, or in and out behind the mounds, the ostrich
feathers of the men waving in the wind. Some had the


white ends of ox-tails on their heads, Hussar fashion, and
others great bunches of black ostrich feathers, or caps made
of lions' manes. Some wore red tunics, or various-colored
prints which the chief had bought from Fleming ; the com-
mon men carried burdens; the gentlemen walked with a
small club of rhinoceros-horn in their hands, and had servants
to carry their shields; while the "Machaka," battle-axe men,
carried their own, and were liable at any time to be sent off
a hundred miles on an errand, and expected to run all the

"Sekeletu is always accompanied by his own Mopato, a
number of young men of his own age. When he sits down
they crowd around him ; those who are nearest eat out of the
same dish, for the Makololo chiefs pride themselves on eat-
ing with their people.

" When we arrived at any village the women all turned
out to lulliloo their chief. Their shrill voices, to which they
give a tremulous sound by a quick motion of the tongue,
psal forth, Great lion ! " " Great chief ! " " Sleep, my lord ! "
etc. The men utter similar salutations; and Sekeletu
receives all with becoming indifference. After a few min-
utes' conversation and telling the news, the head man of the
village, who is almost always a Makololo, rises, and brings
forth a number of large pots of beer. Calabashes, being used
.as drinking-cups, are handed round, and as many as can par-
take of the beverage do so, grasping the vessels so eagerly
that they are in danger of being broken.

" Sekeletu and I had each a little gypsy-tent in which to
sleep. The Makololo huts are generally clean, while those
of the Makalaka are infested with vermin. The cleanliness
of the former is owing to the habit of frequently smearing
the floors with a plaster composed of cowdung and earth. If
we slept in the tent in some villages, the mice ran over our
faces and disturbed our sleep, or hungry prowling dogs would
eat our shoes and leave only the soles. When they were
guilty of this and other misdemeanors, we got the loan of a
hut. The best sort of Makololo huts consist of three circular


walls, with small holes as doors, each similar to that in a dog-
house ; and it is necessary to bend down the body to get in,
even when on all-fours. The roof is formed of reeds or straight
sticks, in shape like a Chinaman's hat, bound firmly together
with circular bands, which are lashed with the strong inner
bark of the mimosa-tree. When all prepared except the
thatch, it is lifted on to the circular wall, the rim resting on
a circle of poles, between each of which the third wall is
built. The roof is thatched w r ith fine grass, and sewed with
the same material as the lashings ; and, as it projects far be-
yond the walls, and reaches within four feet of the ground,
the shade is the best to be found in the country. These huts
are very cool in the hottest day, but are close and deficient in
ventilation by night.

" The river at Katonga is somewhat broader than at Sesheke,
and certainly not less than six hundred yards. It flows some-
what slowly in the first part of its eastern course. When the
canoes came from Sekhesi to take us over, one of the comrades
of Sebituane rose, and, looking to Sekeletu, called out,

" ' The elders of a host always take the lead in an attack.'

" This was understood at once ; and Sekeletu, with all the
young men, were obliged to give the elders the precedence,
and remain on the southern bank and see that all went order-
ly into the canoes.

" Having procured a sufficient number of canoes, we began
to ascend the river. I had six paddlers, and the larger canoe
of Sekeletu had ten. They stand upright, and keep the
stroke with great precision, though they change from side to
side as the course demands. The men at the head and stern
are selected from the strongest and most expert of the whole.
The canoes, being flat-bottomed, can go into very shallow

Online LibraryJosiah TylerLivingstone lost and found → online text (page 11 of 51)