Paul Belloni Du Chaillu.

Stories of the gorilla country online

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I did not want to tell him thait I would not, for all the
world, marry one of his people.

It was getting very warm in the hut, and there was a
strong odor. The people were packed so close together
that they reminded one of herrings in a barrel, and you
must remember I said the house had no windows.

Then the king presented me with one fowl, two eggs,
and one bunch of plantain ; and as. I went away he said
I had better give him my umbrella. But I went off as
if I had not heard what he said. I thought it was rather
too much for a king to ask a stranger to give up his um-
brella. I had just begun to learn what African longs

The people followed me every where ; I wish I could
have understood their language. One man could talk
English, and I am going now to give you a specimen of
his English.

When he thought I must be hungry, he said, " Want


chop ? "Want chop ?" "When he saw that I could not
understand what he meant, he made signs with his hands
and mouth, which at once explained to me that he had
asked me if I wanted to eat. I said " Yes ;" and after
a while, some cooked plantains, with some fish, were
brought to me. I did not care for the plantains ; it was
the first time I had ever tasted them.

After my meal, I walked through the street of the vil-
lage and came to a house, in the recess of which I saw
an enormous idol. I had never in all my life seen such
an ugly thing. It was a rude representation of some
human being, of the size of life, and was made of wood.
It had large copper eyes, and a tongue of iron which shot
out from its mouth to show that it could sting. The
lips were painted red. It wore large iron earrings. Its
head was ornamented with a feather cap. Most of the
feathers were red, and came from the tails of gray par-
rots, while the body and face were painted red, white,
and yellow. It was dressed in the skins of wild animals.
Around it were scattered skins of tigers and serpents,
and the bones and skulls of animals. Some food also
was placed near, so that it might eat if it chose.

It was now sunset, and night soon set -in over the
village. For the first time in my life I stood alone in
this dark world, surrounded by savages, without any
white people near me. There was no light in the street,
and only the reflection of the fires could be seen now and
then. How dismal it was !

I looked at my pistols and my guns, and was glad to
find that they were in good order.

By-and-by the people began to come out of their huts,
and I saw some torches lighted, and taken toward the


large mbuiti, as they call the idol, and there placed on
the ground. The large drums or tom-toms were also
carried there, and the women and men of the village
gathered around. The tom-toms beat ; and, soon after,
I heard the people singing. I went to see what was the

What a sight met my eyes !

The men had their bodies painted in different colors.
Some had one cheek red and the other white or yellow.
A broad wliite or yellow stripe was painted across the
middle of the chest and along both the arms. Others
had their bodies, spotted. Most ngly they looked ! The
women wore several iron or brass rings around their
wrists and ankles.

Then the singing began, and the dancing! I had
never seen such dancing before. It was very ungrace-
ful. The drummers beat on the tom-toms with all their
might. As they became warm with exertion their bodies
shone like seals, so oily w'ere they.

I looked and looked, with my eyes wide open ; I was
nearly stunned with the noise. As the women danced
and sung, the brass and iron rings which they wore
struck against each other, and kept time with the music
and the beating of the tom-toms.

But why were they all there, dancing and screeching
around the idol ? I will tell you.

They were about to start on a hunting expedition, and
they were asking the idol to give them good luck in
their sport.

When I found it was to be a hunting expedition, I
wanted to go at once with these savages, though I was
only a lad under twenty years old.


I retired to my hut with a valiant heart ; I was going
to do great things.

If you had been in my place, boys, would you not have
felt the same ? Would you have left the gorillas alone ?
I am sure you all shout at once, " No ! no !" Would you
have left the elephants go unmolested in the forest?
" Certainly not," will be your answer.

And what about the chimpanzee, and the big leopards
who carry away so many people and eat them, the huge
buffaloes, the wild boars, the antelopes, and the gazelles ?

Would you have left the snakes alone ?

Perhaps you are all going to say "Yes" to that; and I
think you are right, for many of these snakes are very
poisonous, and they are numerous in these great forests ;
for the country I am telling you about is nothing but an
immense jungle. When a man is bitten by one of these
snakes he often dies in a few minutes. There is also to
be found in those woods an immense python, or boa, that
swallows antelopes, gazelles, and many other animals. I
shall have a good deal to tell you about them by-and-by.

So I resolved that I would try to see all these native
tribes ; that I would have a peep at the Cannibals ; that
I would have a good look also at the dwarfs.

I am sure that, if any one of you had been with me on
that coast, you would have said to me, " Du Chaillu, let
us go together and see all these things, and then~~come
back home and tell the good folks all we have seen."

Yes, I am certain that every one of you would have
felt as I did.






Now, boys, fancy yourselves transported into the midst
of a very dense and dark forest, where the trees never
shed their leaves all at one time, where there is no food
to be had except what you can get with your gun, and
where wild beasts prowl around you at night while you

I found myself in such a place.

Immediately after we arrived in those gloomy soli-
tudes we began to build an olako to shelter us from the

I must tell you that Benito is a very strange country.
It is situated, as you have seen by the map, near the
equator. Of course you know what the equator is?
There, at a certain time of the year, the sun is directly
above your head at noon, and hence it is the hottest part
of the earth. The days and nights are of the same
length. The sun rises at six o'clock in the morning, and
the sunset takes place at six o'clock in the evening.
There is only a difference of a few minutes all the year
round. There is no twilight, and half an hour before
sunrise or after sunset it is dark. There is no snow



except on very high mountains. There is no winter.
There are only two seasons the rainy season and the
dry season. Our winter-time at home is the time of the
rainy season in Equatorial Africa, and it is also the
hottest period of the year. It rains harder there than
in any other country. No such rain is to be witnessed
either in the United States or Europe. And as to the
thunder and lightning, you never have heard or seen the
like ; it is enough to make the hair of your head stand
on end ! Then come the tornadoes, a kind of hurricane
which, for a few minutes, blows with terrible violence,
carrying before it great trees. How wild the sky looks !
How awful to see the black clouds sweeping through the
sky with fearful velocity !

So you will not wonder that we busied ourselves in
preparing our shelter, for I remember well it was in the
month of February. "We took good care not to have big
trees around us, for fear they might be hurled upon us
by a tornado, and bury us all alive under their weight.
Accordingly, we built our olako near the banks of a
beautiful little stream, so that we could get as much wa-
ter as we wanted. Then we immediately began to fell
trees. We carried two or three axes with us, for the axe
is an indispensable article in the forests. With the foli-
age we made a shelter to keep off the rain.

While the men were busy building the olako, the
women went in search of dried wood to cook our supper.
We had brought some food from the village with us.

We were ready just in time. A most terrific tornado
came upon us. The ram poured down in torrents. The
thunder was stunning. The lightning flashed so vividly
and often as nearly to blind us.


Our dogs had hidden themselves indeed, all animals
and birds of the forest were much frightened, which was
not to be wondered at. How thankful I was to be shel-
tered from such a storm ! We had collected plenty of
fuel, and our fires burned brightly.

We formed a strange group while seated around the
fires, the men and women smoking their pipes and telling
stories. We had several fires, and, as they blazed up,
their glare was thrown out through the gloom of the
forest, and filled it with fantastic shadows. Though
tired, every body seemed merry. We were full of hope
for the morrow. Every one spoke of the particular ani-
mal he wished to kill, and of which he was most fond.
Some wished for an antelope, others for an elephant, a
wild boar, or a buffalo. I confess that I myself inclined
toward the wild boar ; and I believe that almost every
one had the same wish, for that animal, when fat, is very
good eating. Indeed, they already began to talk as if
the pig were actually before them. All fancied they
could eat a whole leg apiece, and their mouths fairly
watered in thinking about it. No wonder they are so
fond of meat, they have it so seldom. Who among us
does not relish a good dinner, I should like to know ?

By-and-by all became silent ; one after the other we
fell asleep, with the exception of two or three men who
were to watch over the fires and keep them bright ; for
there were plenty of leopards prowling in the neighbor-
ing forest, and none of us wanted to serve as a meal for
them. In fact, before going to sleep we had heard some
of these animals howling in the far distance. During
the night one came very near our camp. He went round
and round, and, no doubt, lay in wait to see if one of us


would go out alone, and then he would have pounced
upon the careless fellow. I need not say we did not give
him a chance ; and you may be sure we kept the fire
blazing. Finally, we fired a few guns, and he went off.

These leopards are dreadf ul animals, and eat a great
many natives. They are generally shy ; but once they
have tasted human flesh, they become, very fond of it,
and the poor natives are carried off, one after another, in
such numbers that the villages have to be abandoned.

The next day we went hunting. I had hardly gone
into the forest when I saw, creeping on the ground un-
der the dry leaves, an enormous black snake : I fancy I
see it still. How close it was to me ! One step more,
and I should have just trodden upon it, and then should
have been bitten, and a few minutes after have died,
and then, boys, you know I should have had nothing to
tell you about Africa. This snake was a cobra of the
black variety (Dendro/pspis angusticeps). It is a very
common snake in that region, and, as I have said, very

As soon as the reptile saw me he rose up, as if ready
to spring upon me, gave one of his hissing sounds, and
looked at me, showing, as he hissed, his sharp-pointed
tongue. Of course, the first thing I did was to make a
few steps backward. Then, leveling my gun, I fired and
killed him. He was about eight feet long. I cut his
head off, and examined his deadly fangs. What horrible
things they were ! They looked exactly like fish-bones,
with very sharp ends. I looked at them carefully, and
saw that he could raise and lower them at will ; while
the teeth are firmly implanted in a pouch, or little bag,
which contains the poison. I saw in the end of the fang


a little hole, wliich communicated with the pouch. When
the snake opens his mouth to bite, he raises his fangs.
Then he strikes them into the flesh of the animal he
bites, and brings a pressure on the pouch, and the poison
comes out by the little hole I have spoken of.
" I cut open the cobra, and found in his stomach a very
large bird. Andeke* packed the bird and snake in leaves,
and, on our return to the camp, the men were delight-
ed. In the evening they made a nice soup of the snake,
which they ate with great relish.

I had also killed a beautiful little striped squirrel,
upon which I made my dinner. I felt almost sorry to
kill it, it was such a pretty creature.

In the evening, as I was sitting by the fire and look-
ing at the log that was burning,! spied a big, ugly black
scorpion coming out of one of the crevices. I immedi-
ately laid upon its back a little stick which I had in my
hand. You should have seen how its long tail flew up
and stung the piece of wood ! I shuddered as I thought
that it might have stung my feet or hands instead of the
wood. I immediately killed it, and the natives said these
scorpions were quite common, and that people have to
be careful when they handle dry sticks of wood, for these
poisonous creatures delight to live under the dry bark,
or between the crevices.

A nice country this to live in, thought I, after killing
a snake and a scorpion the same day !.

So, when I lay down on my pillow, which was merely
a piece of wood, I looked to see if there were any scor-
pions upon it. I did not see any ; but, during the night,
I awoke suddenly and started up. I thought I felt hund-
reds of them creeping over me, and that one had just


stung me, and caused me to wake up. The sweat cov-
ered my body. I looked around and saw nothing but
sleeping people. There was no scorpion to be found.
I must have been dreaming.

Not far from our camp was a beautiful little prairie.
I had seen, during my rambles there, several footprints
of wild buffaloes, so I immediately told Andeke we must
go in chase of them. Andekd, the son of the king, was
a very nice fellow, and was, besides, a good hunter just
the very man I wanted.

So we went toward the little prairie, and lay hidden
on the borders of it, among the trees. By-and-by I spied
a huge bull, who was perfectly unaware of my presence,
for the wind blew from him to me ; had the wind blown
the other way, the animal would have scented me and
have made off. As it was, he came slowly toward me.
I raised my gun and fired. My bullet struck a creeper
on its way, and glanced aside, so I only wounded the
beast Turning fiercely, he rushed at me in a furious
manner, with his head down. I was scared ; for I was,
at that time, but a young hunter ; I got ready to run,
though I had a second barrel in reserve. I thought the
infuriated bull was too powerful for me, he looked so
big. Just as I was about to make my escape, I found
my foot entangled and hopelessly caught in a tough and
thorny creeper. The bull was dashing toward me with
head down and eyes inflamed, tearing down brushwood
and creepers which barred his progress. Turning to
meet the enemy, I felt my nerves suddenly grow firm as
a rock. If I missed the bull, all would be over with me.
He would gore me to death. I took time to aim care-
fully, and then fired at his head. He gave one loud,


hoarse bellow, and tumbled almost at my feet. In the
mean time, Andeke was coming to the rescue.

I must say I felt very nervous after all was over.
But, being but a lad, I thought I had done pretty well.
It was the first direct attack a wild beast liad ever made
upon me. I found afterward that the bulls are gener-
ally very dangerous when wounded.

Now I must tell you how this beast looked. He was
one of the wild buffaloes frequently to be met with in
this part of Africa. During the greater part of the day
they hide in the forest. When much hunted they be-
come very shy. They are generally found in herds of
from ten to twenty-five, though I have found them some-
times in much greater number.

This animal (Bos brachicheros) is called by some of
the natives " mare?' It is of the size of our cattle. It
is covered with thin red hair, which is much darker in
the bull than in the cow. The hoofs are long and sharp ;
the ears are fringed with most beautiful silky hair ; the
horns are very handsome, and bend backward in a grace-
ful curve. In shape, the buffalo looks like something be-
tween an antelope and a common cow ; and, when seen
afar off, you might think these wild buffaloes were a herd
of our cattle at home.

How glad the people were when Andeke* and I brought
the news that we had killed a bull ! There was great
rejoicing. But I was tired, and remained in the camp,
while they went with knives and swords to cut the buf-
falo to pieces, and bring in the flesh.

What a fine place it was for hunting ! The animals
seemed to come down from the mountains beyond, and
remain in the flat woody country along the sea-shore.


There were a great many wild boars. You know we
all wanted one of these. So one night Andekd and I
agreed to go and lie in wait for them on the prairie.
Li order to look like Andeke', I blackened my face and
hands with charcoal, so that in the night the color of my
face could not be distinguished.

We started from the camp before dark, and reached
the prairie before night. I stationed myself behind a
large ant-hill not far from the open space. There I lay;
one hour passed two hours three hours, and still nei-
ther wild boar nor buffaloes. I looked at Andeke*. He
was fast asleep, at the f oojt of another ant-hill close by.
Once I saw a whole herd of gazelles pass by ; but they
were too far from me. Occasionally a grunt, or the
cracking of a twig, told me that a wild boar was not far
off. At last every thing became silent, and I fell asleep

Suddenly I was awakened by an unearthly roar the
yell of a wild beast.

I rubbed my eyes in a hurry what could be the mat-

I looked round me, and saw nothing. The woods
were still resounding with the cry that had startled me.
Then I heard a great crash in the forest, made by some
heavy animal running away. Then I saw emerge from
the forest a wild bull, on whose neck crouched an im-
mense leopard. The poor buffalo reared, tossed, roared,
and bellowed, but in vain. The leopard's enormous claws
were firmly fixed in his victim's body, while his teeth
were sunk deeply in the bull's neck. The leopard gave
an awful roar, which seemed to make the earth shake.
Then both buffalo and leopard disappeared in the forest,


and the roare and the crashing of the trees soon ceased.
All became silent again.

I had fired at the leopard, but it was too far off.

We staid a week here, and I enjoyed myself very
much in the woods. I collected birds and butterflies,
killed a few nice little quadrupeds, and then we return-
ed to the sea-shore village.. There the fever laid me low
on my bed of sickness. How wretched I felt ! I had
never had the fever before. For a few days my head
was burning hot. When I got better, and looked at my-
self in my little looking-glass, I could not recognize my-
self ; I had not a particle of color left in my cheeks, and
I looked as "yellow and pale as a lemon. I got fright-
ened. This fever was the forerunner of what I had to
expect in these equatorial regions.

B 2





ON the promontory called Cape St. John, about a de-
gree north of the equator, stood a Mbinga village, whose
chief was called Imonga. This was, I think, in the year
1852. The country around was very wild. The village
stood on the top of a high hill, which ran out into the
sea, and formed the cape itself. The waves there beat
with great violence against a rock of the tertiary forma-
tion. It was a grand sight to see those angry billows,
white with foam, dashing against the shore. You could
see that they were wearing away the rock. To land


there safely was very difficult. There were only two or
three places where, between the rocks, a canoe could
reach the shore. The people were as wild as the coun-
try round them, and very warlike. They were great fish-
ermen, and many of them spent their whole time fishing
in their little canoes. Game being very scarce, there
were but few hunters.

Imonga, the chief, had a hideous large scar on his face,
which showed at once that he was a fighting man. Not
a few of his men showed signs of wounds which they had
received in battle. Many of these fights or quarrels took
place in canoes on the water, among themselves, or with
people of other villages.

I do not know why, but Imonga was very fond of me,
and so also were his people. But one thing revolted me.
I found that several of Lnonga's wives had the first joint
of their little finger cut off. Imonga did this to make
them mind him ; for he wanted his wives to obey him

The woods around the village were full of leopards.
They were the dread of the people, for they were con-
stantly carrying off some one. At night they would
come into the villages on their errands of blood while
the villagers were asleep. There was not a dog nor a
goat left ; and within two months three people had been
eaten by them ; the very places could be seen in the huts
where the leopards had entered. They would tear up
the thin thatched palm-leaves of the roofs, and, having
seized their victims, they would go back through the hole
with a tremendous leap, and with the man in their jaws,
and run off into the forest.

The last man taken had uttered a piercing cry of an-


guish, which awoke all the villagers. They at once arose
and came to the rescue ; but it was too late. They only
found traces of blood as they proceeded. The leopard
had gone far into the woods, and there devoured his vic-
tim. Of course there was tremendous excitement, and
they went into the forest in search of the leopard ; but
he could never be found.

There were so many of these savage beasts that they
even walked along the beach, not satisfied with the woods
alone ; and when the tide was low, during the night, the
footprints of their large paws could be seen distinctly
marked on the sand. After ten or eleven o'clock at
night, no native could be seen on the sea-shore without

During the day the leopard hides himself either in the
hollow of some one of the gigantic trees with which
these forests abound, or sleeps quietly on some branch,
waiting for the approach of night. He seldom goes out
before one o'clock in the morning, unless pressed by
hunger, and about four o'clock he goes back to his lair.

I was now getting accustomed to face danger. Killing
the buffalo that attacked me had given me confidence.

To kill a leopard must be my next exploit.

I selected a spot very near the sands of the sea, where
I remarked the leopards used to come every night, when
the tide was low! I chose a day when the moon began
to rise at midnight, so that it might not be so dark that
I could not take a good aim at the leopard, and see what
was going on.

I then began to build a kind of pen or fortress, and I
can assure you I worked very hard at it. Every day I
went into the forest and cut branches of trees, witli which


I made a strong palisade. Every stick was about six feet
high, and was put in the ground about a foot deep.
These posts were fastened together with strong creepers.
My little fortress, for so I must call it, was about five feet
square. This would neyer answer; for the leopard might
leap inside and take hold of me. So, with the help of
some stout branches all tied strongly together, I built a
roof. Then I made loop-holes on all sides for my guns, so
that I might fire at the beast whenever he came in sight.

I was glad when I had finished, for I felt very tired.
My axe was not sharp, and it had required several days
to complete my work.

One clear starlight night, at about nine o'clock, I went
and shut myself up in my fortress. I had taken a goat
with me, which I tied a few yards from my place of con-
cealment. It was quite dark. After I had tied the goat,
I went back and shut myself very securely inside my

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Online LibraryPaul Belloni Du ChailluStories of the gorilla country → online text (page 2 of 18)