Paul Belloni Du Chaillu.

Stories of the gorilla country online

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sight, all located on the summits of hills.

The lake, alas ! had changed with the season too. It
was still a beautiful sheet of water, but all over its placid
face the dry season had brought out an eruption of those


black mud islands which we had noticed before, and on
these reposed I fear to say what number of crocodiles.
Wherever the eye was turned, these disgusting creatures,
with their dull leering eyes and huge savage jaws, ap-
peared in prodigious numbers. The water was alive with
fish, on which I supposed the crocodiles had fat living ;
but pelicans and herons, ducks and other water-birds also
abounded, drawn hither by the abundance of their prey.

Paddling carefully past great numbers of crocodiles,
into whose ready jaws I was by no means anxious to fall,
and past several villages, whose people looked at us with
mute amazement, we reached at last the town of Dama-
gondai. A great crowd was assembled to receive us,
headed by the king himself, who stood on the shore.
Quarters were provided for me by his majesty, who, a
short time after my arrival, presented me with a goat.
He was dressed in the usual middle-cloth of the natives,
and a tarnished scarlet soldier's coat, but was innocent of
trowsers. His welcome, however, was not the less hearty
because the pantaloons were absent.

His town, which contains about fifty huts, lies on some
high ground, at a little distance from the water. I dis-
tributed presents among the graybeards, and beads among
the women, and thus put them all in good-humor.

Damagondai, the king, then insisted that I must get
married to at least two or three women. He was amazed
when I declined this flattering proposal, and insisted
upon it that my bachelor life must be very lonely and

The king was a tall, rather slim negro, over six feet
high, and well shaped. In war or in the chase he had
the usual amount of courage, but at home he was exceed-

K 2


ingly superstitious. As night came on he seemed to get
a dread of death, and at last began to groan that some of
the people wanted to bewitch him, in order to get his
property and his authority. Finally he would get excit-
ed, and begin to curse all witches and sorcerers. He
would say that no one should have his wives and slaves,
and that the people who wanted to kill him had better
beware ; the niboundou was ready.

Certainly poor Damagondai must have slept on the
wrong side, as I told him afterward, for the old fellow
began to lecture his wives, telling them to love him and
feed him well, for he had given a great deal of goods and
slaves to their parents for them, and they were a constant
expense to him. To all this the poor women listened
with respect.

Damagondai and I were very good friends. I really
don't know why, but, wherever I went, these negroes
seem to take a liking to me.

In the village of Damagondai there was an mbuiti,
" an idol," representing a female figure with copper eyes,
and a tongue made of a sharp, sword-shaped piece of
iron. This explained her chief attribute; she cuts to
pieces those with whom she is displeased. She was
dressed in the Shekiani cloth, covering her from the
neck down. She is said to speak, to walk, to foretell
events, and to take vengeance on her enemies. Her
house is the most prominent one in the whole village.
She comes to people by night, and tells them in their
sleep what is going to happen. In this way, they assert-
ed, my coming had been foretold. They worship her by
dancing around her and singing her praises, and their re-
quests. Sometimes a single woman or man comes alone


to prefer a request; and one evening I saw the whole
village engaged in tliis rite, all dancing and singing
around her. They offer her sugar-cane and other food,
which they believe she eats.

I tried to buy tin's goddess, but, ugly as she was, Dama-
gondai said that no amount of money would purchase
her. lie insinuated, however, in a very slight way, that
for a proper price I might obtain the mbuiti of the
slaves. Then a great council took place with the gray-
beards of the village. The slaves were on the planta-
tions. They agreed to tell them on their return that they
had seen their mbuiti walk off in the woods, and that she
had not returned. I could hear them laugh over what
they thought to be their clever plot.

I paid them a good price for it. I packed the mbuiti
up, and took her off with me, and her portrait, an exact
likeness, taken in New York from the idol itself, is found
in my book called " Equatorial Africa."

I have often thought since how much I should have
enjoyed seeing the return of the slaves to the village. I
should like to know if they really believed that their
mbuiti had left them ; if so, there must have been great
wailing and mourning for fear that the wrath of the
mbuiti would come upon them.






I RESOLVED to embark again on the waters of the
Anengue Lake, and make a little journey of exploration.
Damagondai went in the canoe with me. He was to
take me to another king, a friend of his.

"We reached the residence of King Shimbouvenegani,
a king with a long name and a small village. We had
to paddle through very shallow water before reaching
this place.

When we arrived, the king with the long name was
not at his village. We were told he was at his olako
a place temporarily erected in the woods when villagers
go out to hunt, or fish, or pursue agriculture.


They had chosen a charming spot in the woods, just
upon the shores of the lake, which here had abrupt
banks. The musquito nets were hung up under the
trees ; every family had a fire built, and from the pots
came the fragrant smell of plantain and fish cooking.
The savor was very pleasant to me, for I was hungry.

Presently Shimbouvenegani came up. He was re-
joiced to see me, and thanked his friend Damagondai for
bringing his white man to visit him.

The appearance of Shimbouvenegani was comical.
He was between sixty and seventy years of age, and was
quite lean. His only garment was a very dirty swallow-
tailed coat, which certainly must have belonged to the
time of my grandfather. The buttons were all gone.
On his head he wore a broad beaver hat, which dated
nearly as far back as the coat itself. The fur was en-
tirely worn off, and the hat had a very seedy appearance.
But the king seemed very proud when he made his ap-
pearance. He thought his costume was just the thing,
and he looked around, as if to say, " Am I not a fine-
looking fellow ?" And truly, though his dress did not
amount to much according to our notions, I doubt not it
had cost him several slaves.

He asked me how I liked his costume, at the same
time taking one of the smaller tails in his hand and
shaking it.

Presently some large pots of palm wine were brought,
with which all hands proceeded to celebrate my arrival.
Damagondai and Shimbouvenegani soon got drunk, and
swore to each other eternal friendship, and Shimbouven-
egani promised to give one of his daughters in mar-
riage to Damagondai.


Meantime Damagondai had presented me to his eldest
son, Okabi, who resided in the village of Shimbouvene-
gani. Okabi arranged a nice little place for me, with
branches of trees, and made a kind of bed for me. He
then gave me his two wives to take care of me, and to
cook for me.

I had a very agreeable time in hunting while I was
with Shimbouvenegani. It was during my stay there
that I discovered the nshiego inbouve, of which I will
speak by-and-by.

We also had a great crocodile hunt, which pleased the
people very much, as they are extravagantly fond of the
meat. Now ana then, during my travels, for lack of
something better, I have been obliged to eat crocodiles.
I have tried it in all sorts of ways steaks, stews, boiled,
and broth, but I must say I was never fond of it.

They killed more or fewer crocodiles every day at this
village, but the negroes were so lazy that they were glad
to have me go and save them the trouble. Moreover,
the crocodile has not much meat on him ; so that, though
some were killed every day, the village was never suffi-
ciently supplied.

We went in canoes. These canoes on the Anengue
are of very singular construction. They are quite flat-
bottomed and of very light draught ; many of them are
about fifty feet long, with a breadth of not more than
two feet, and a depth of ten or twelve inches. They are
made of a single tree. They are ticklish craft. The
oarsmen stand up, and use paddles seven feet long, with
which they can propel one of these canoes at a very good
rate. They are, of course, easily capsized, the gunwale
being but a very few inches above the water ; but they


do not often tip over. What surprised me most was the
way in which the negro paddlers stood up at their work
all day without tiring.

The negroes on the Anengue hunt the crocodile both
with guns and with a kind of harpoon. The vulnerable
part of the animal is near the joints of his fore legs, and
there they endeavor to wound it. Though so many are
killed they do not decrease in numbers, nor, strange to
say, do they seem to grow more wary. They were to be
seen every where during the dry season ; when the rainy
season comes they disappear.

As we started out, we saw them swimming in all di-
rections, and lying on the mud banks sunning themselves.
They took no notice of our canoe at all. As we were to
shoot them we were obliged to look for our prizes on the
shore, for if killed in the water they sink and are lost.
Presently we saw one immense fellow extended on the
bank among some reeds. We approached cautiously.
I took good aim and knocked him over. He struggled
hard to get to the water, but his strength gave out ere he
could reach it, and, to our great joy, he expired. We
could not think of taking his body into our canoe, for he
was nearly twenty feet long.

We killed another which measured eighteen feet. I
never saw more savage-looking jaws ; they were armed
with most formidable rows of teeth, and looked as though
a man would scarcely be a mouthful for them.

We had brought another canoe along, and, capsizing
this upon the shore, we rolled the dead monsters into it,
and paddled off for the village. Then we returned to
the olako.

During the heat of the day these animals retire to the


reeds, where they lie sheltered. In the morning, and
late in the afternoon, they come f orth to seek their prey.
They swim very silently, and scarcely make even a rip-
ple on the water, though they move along quite rapidly.
The motion of their paws in swimming is like those of a
dog, over and over. They can remain quite still on the
top of the water, where they may be seen watching for
prey with their dull, wicked-looking eyes. When they
are swimming the head is the only part of the body vis-
ible ; and when they are still, it looks exactly like an old
piece of wood which has remained long in the water, and
is tossing to and fro. They sleep among the reeds. Their
eggs they lay in the sand on the island, and cover them
over with a layer of sand. It is the great abundance of
fish in the lake which makes them multiply so fast as
they do. The negroes seemed rather indifferent to their

On my journey back to Damagondai's I saw an exam-
ple of the manner in which the crocodile seizes upon his
prey. As we were paddling along 1 perceived in the
distance ahead a beautiful gazelle, looking meditatively
into the waters of the lagoon, of which from time to time
it took a drink. I stood up to get a shot, and we ap-
proached with the utmost silence, but just as I raised my
gun to fire a crocodile leaped out of the water, and, like
a flash, dived back again, with the struggling animal in
its powerful jaws. So quickly did the beast take its prey
that, though I fired at him, I was too late. I do not think
my bullet hit him.

After hunting on the water I thought I would have
a few rambles in the forest near the olako. I killed a
beautiful monkey, which the natives call nkago, whose


head is crowned with a cap of bright red, or rather brown
hair. The nkagos are very numerous in these woods.

While walking in the forest I found, near the water,
the hole or burrow of an ogata. This is a species of cay-
man, which lives near the pools, and makes a long hole in
the ground, with two entrances. In this hole it sleeps
and watches for its prey. The ogata is very unlike the
crocodile in its habits. It is a night-roving animal, and
solitary in its ways. It scrapes out its hole with its paws
with considerable labor. It lives near a pool, for the
double reason, I imagine, that it may bathe, and because
thither come gazelles and other animals, for whom it lies
in wait. The negroes told me that they rush out with
great speed upon any wandering animal, and drag it into
the hole to eat it. When the negroes discover one of
these holes they come with their guns, which are gener-
ally loaded with iron spikes, and watch at one end, while
a fire is built at the other entrance. When it becomes
too hot, the ogata rushes out and is shot. I killed one,
which proved to be seven feet in length. It had great
strength in its jaws, and its teeth were very formidable.
Like the crocodile, its upper jaw is articulated, and is
raised when the mouth is opened.

Sometimes fire is put at both ends of the hole, and the
animal is smoked to death. At other times a trap is
made at the end where there is no fire, and when the
ogata rushes out it is ensnared.







As I was trudging along one day in the woods, rather
tired of the sport, and on the point of going back to the
camp, I happened to look up at a high tree which we
were passing, and saw a most singular shelter or home
built in its branches. I immediately stopped and asked
Okabi why the hunters slept in that way in the woods.
Okabi laughed, after looking at me quizzically, and then
lie told me that no man had ever built that shelter. He


said that it was made by a kind of man of the woods,
called nsliiego mbouve', an animal which had no hair on
the top of its head. I really thought Okabi was joking.
An animal a man-monkey with no hair on the top of
his head ? a bald-headed ape ? It was now my turn to
laugh, for I did not believe Okabi's story about the bald-
headed animal, though I believed what he said about the
shelter in the tree.

I saw at once that I was on the trail of an animal
which no civilized man had ever seen before. I no lon-
ger felt tired, but pushed on through the woods with re-
newed ardor and with increased caution, so as not to
alarm our prey. The shelter we had seen was an old
one, which had been abandoned, but we had a hope of
finding another which should be still occupied.

We were not disappointed. We soon found two more
shelters. They were about twenty feet from the ground,
and were on two trees which stood a little apart from the
others, and which had no limbs below the one on which
the nests were placed. This location for its house is
probably chosen by the animals to secure them at night
from beasts and serpents, and from the falling limbs of
surrounding trees. They build only in the loneliest part
of the forest. They are very shy, and are seldom seen,
even by the negroes.

Okabi, who was an old and intelligent hunter, told me
that the male and female together select the material for
their nest or shelter. It is constructed in part of the
branches of the tree itself, which they twist in with the
boughs of other trees collected by them for the purpose.
The shelters I saw had the shape of an umbrella.

We concealed ourselves by lying flat on the ground


amid the bushes near by, and keeping perfectly still. My
patience was sorely tried. Musquitoes and flies were
continually biting me. Ants now and then were creep-
ing upon me, and some of them managed to get under
my clothes. Besides, I had some fear of the Bashikouay,
or of the white ants, coming to disturb me, or of snakes
creeping upon me. So, as you may imagine, I was not
comfortable, neither had I pleasant thoughts.

At length, just at dusk, we heard the loud peculiar
" hew, hew, hew," which is the call of the male to his
mate. I was glad to know I had not waited in vain ;
and, looking up, I saw a nshiego mbouve' sitting under
his nest. His feet rested on the lower branch ; his head
reached quite into the little dome of a roof ; and his arm
was clasped firmly about the tree trunk. This, I sup-
pose, is the position in which they sleep. Soon after his
mate came and ascended the tree.

After gazing till I was tired, I saw that one of the an-
imals showed signs of being alarmed. Had they smelt
us ? had we made a noise that excited their suspicions ?
Anyhow, we raised our guns and fired through the gloom
at the one that seemed asleep. I almost felt sorry for
the unfortunate beast, which fell with a tremendous
crash, and died without a struggle. The other uttered
an awful shriek, and came down the tree with the utmost
rapidity. I fired, but missed the animal, and in less time
than I take to write it the poor creature had disappeared
in the woods.

I was very hungry, for I had eaten nothing since break-
fast. We built a fire at once, and made our camp. Then
we built several more fires, to prevent an attack of the
Bashikouay ants, in case they should come that way.


The poor ape was hung up to a limb out of reach. Dur-
ing the night I could hear, now and then, in the distance,
the piercing shriek of its mate, which no doubt was call-
ing for the absent one. At last I fell asleep on my bed
of leaves and grass, as pleased a man, perhaps, as any in
the world.

The next morning I examined the nshiego mbouv^.
Okabi, pointing to the head, triumphantly exclaimed,
" See, Chaillie, is not the animal bald-headed ? Did I
not tell you the truth?" So it was. The nshiego was
quite bald ; not a hair could be seen on the top of his
head. He was a full-grown specimen, and measured
three feet and eleven inches in height. His color was
intensely black, and the body was covered with short,
rather blackish hair. On the legs the hair was of a dirty
gray, mixed with black. On the shoulders and back the
hair grew two or three inches long. This animal was
old, and his hair was a little mixed with gray. The arms
also, down to the wrists, were covered with long black
hair. The hair is much thinner than on the gorilla, and
is blacker, longer, and glossier. The nose, also, is not so
prominent. Though only three feet and eleven inches in
height, the animal had an extremely broad chest, though
not so powerful as that of the gorilla. The fingers, also,
were much longer, and not large ; and the hand was
longer than the foot ; while the gorilla, like man, has the
foot longer than the hand.

Some of the teeth were decayed ; so the poor fellow
must have had the toothache badly ; and I suppose there
were no dentists among the nshiego mbouve's. I have
killed several of these animals. One of them was a very
old one ; he had silvery hair ; nearly all his teeth were de-



cayed, and some were missing, which had dropped out
with age. He was getting so infirm that he had not
strength enough to pick berries or break nuts ; and, when
killed, he had only leaves in his stomach.

After enjoying myself thoroughly at the olako of
Shimbouvenegani, we returned to the village of Dam-
agondai. Shimbouvenegani dressed himself again in
state, that is to say, he put on his swallow-tailed coat and
his beaver hat. In this regal costume he accompanied
us to our canoes, and there bid us good-by.








NEWS came that Oshoria, the chief of Guabuirri, a vil-
lage situated at the junction of the Ogobai and Anengue
Rivers, intended to stop me on my way back to Wash-
ington. It was reported that he had assembled all his
fighting men, and was bent upon war.

Poor Damagondai was much troubled. He wanted
no war. He sent his brother down with a plate, a mug,
and a brass pan, to propitiate Oshoria. These were great
presents. A plate, a mug, and a pan are thought to be
very valuable in the regions of the Anengue.


I was very angry. I had done no harm to the peo-
ple of Guabuirri. I had passed their village in peace.
Oshoria wanted to exact tribute for my passage ; but he
was not the king of the country, and I determined to put
down Mr. Oshoria.

We cleaned our guns, and I prepared my revolvers,
and the next morning we set out, without waiting for
the return of the king's brother, greatly to the dismay
of Damagondai and of his peaceful people. But noth-
ing must stop us. We must return to Washington. My
men swore that they would fight to the death.

When we came in sight of Guabuirri, I saw that some
of my fellows, who a short time before were going to be
so brave, began to show the white feather. I therefore
pointed to my revolver, and told them that I would blow
out the brains of the first man who failed to fight to the
last. They had a great respect for this wonderful re-
volver, and they immediately answered, " We are men."

So we pulled down the stream and soon came ahnost
opposite Oshoria's people. I gave orders to make for the
town. On the shore stood about one hundred and fifty
fellows armed with spears and axes, and led by ten men
who had guns. All of them were making a great noise.

My men were all well armed, and, if I remember well,
there were only sixteen of us. I had my revolver in one
hand, and a double-barreled gun in the other. The men
all had guns, which were placed beside them in such a
way that the natives on shore could see them. At this
piece of bravado Oshoria's men became very civil. They
retreated as we approached the landing ; and instead of
continuing their war shouts and firing at us, they received
us peaceably, and shouted to us not to fire.


Damagondai's brother hurried down to meet me, and
announced that there was no palaver : I must not kill any
body. I was then led to where the quarrelsome Oshoria
stood. Looking at him with a stern look, I reproached
him for his conduct, telling him that if any body had
been killed, the palaver would have been on his own
head. He said he had been vexed that I did not stop to
see him on my way up ; and, after making farther ex-
cuses, added, " Aoue olom^," " thou art a man ;" an ex-
pression used in several ways, either to designate a smart
man or a rascal, or, in the best sense, a very brave man.
I was content to accept it as an intended compliment.

I was presented with fruits and fowls, and we were
presently the best of friends. To show them what I
could do in the way of shooting, I brought down a little
bird which sat on a very high tree. They all declared
that I must have a very big shooting fetich ; and they
reverenced me greatly.

The next morning I left Oshoria, and once more I
glided down the placid waters of the Ogobai. I reached
Washington in safety.

It was in the month of August, and the malaria of the
Anengue marshes began to tell on me. I fell sick with
dysentery, and symptoms of malignant fever. In three
days I took one hundred and eighty grains of quinine,
and thus happily succeeded in breaking the force of the
fever, which was the most dangerous of the two diseases.
I was ill from the 18th to the 31st of August, and I did
not regain my strength till the 9th of September. The
Commi waited patiently for my recovery before they
would go through some of their ceremonies.

There was to be a mhola ivoga at Biagano, that is, an



end of the mourning time, to be celebrated with cere-

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Online LibraryPaul Belloni Du ChailluStories of the gorilla country → online text (page 14 of 18)