Copyright
Paul Belloni Du Chaillu.

Stories of the gorilla country online

. (page 3 of 18)
Online LibraryPaul Belloni Du ChailluStories of the gorilla country → online text (page 3 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


strong-hold.

I waited and waited, but no leopard came. The goat
cried all the time. It was so dark that even if the leop-
ard had come I could not have seen it.

The moon rose by one o'clock. It was in its last quar-
ter ; and very strange and fantastic it made every thing
look. There were the shadows of the tall trees thrown
upon the white sand of the beach, while in the forest the
gloom was somewhat greater. The sea came rolling on
the beach in gentle waves, which, as they broke, sent up
thousands of bright phosphorescent flashes. There was
a dead silence every where, except when the goat cried,
or some wild beast made the forest resound with its dis-
mal howl. The wind wliispered gently, mournfully
through the woods.



38 STORIES OF THE GORILLA COUNTRY.

I could not account for it, but now and then a cold
shudder ran through me. I was quite alone, for the
negro I had taken with me was fast asleep.

One o'clock. No leopard. I looked in vain all round
me ; I could see nothing.

Two o'clock. Nothing yet.

Suddenly I spied something a long way off on the
beach, so far that I could not make out what it was. It
came slowly toward me. What could it be? I asked
myself. Soon I recognized a big spotted leopard. The
goat, which had seen it, began to cry more loudly. The
big beast came nearer and nearer. He began to crouch.
Then he lay flat on the ground. How his eyes glitter-
ed! They looked like two pieces of bright, burning
charcoal.

My heart beat. The first thought that came to me
was, Is my house strong enough to resist his attack, in
case I should wound him, or if, perchance, he should
prefer me to the goat, and make an onslaught upon it ?

The savage beast crawled nearer, and again crouched
down on the ground. I took my gun, and, just as I
was getting ready to fire, he made an immense leap, and
bounded upon the goat. I fired. I do not know how,
but, in the twinkling of an eye, the goat was seized, and
both leopard and goat disappeared in the dark forest. I
fired again, but with no better success. In the morning
I saw nothing but the traces of the poor goat's blood.

I did not return to the village till morning, for I dared
not go outside of my palisade that night. So, the goat
being gone, I concluded I had better light a fire, to warm
myself, and drive away the musquitoes. I always car-
ried a box of matches with me. I struck one, and soon



LYING IN WAIT FOR THE LEOPARD. 39

succeeded in making a blaze with the little firewood I
had collected.

Strange enough I must have looked, inside of my cage,
while the fire sent its glimmering light around.

Finally, seeing that every thing was well secured, I
went to sleep, taking good care to put myself in the
middle of the fort, so that if, by any chance, a leopard
came, he could not get hold of me with his paw. When
I awoke it was broad daylight, and I immediately started
for Imonga's village.





FLOCKS OF BIRDS.

CHAPTEE V.

THE BAY OF COEISCO. THE MANGROVE-TREES. THE WON-
DERFUL FLOCK OF BIRDS. WHAT I FOUND IN THE POUCH

OF A PELICAN. HOW AN OLD KING IS BURIED, AND THE

NEW KING CROWNED.

Now that you have followed me in the Benito coun-
try, and to Cape St. John, I will take you a little farther
down the coast to the Bay of Corisco. There, two rivers
empty their waters into the sea. One of them is called
the Muni River, and the other the Monda.

I will leave the Muni, for we shall have to come to it
by-and-by, and will speak to you only of the Monda. It
is throughout a low-banked, swampy stream. The banks
are covered with mangrove-trees. Every limb or branch
that grows in the water is covered with oysters real
oysters, too so that at low tide you can see, in some



LARGE FLOCKS OF BIRJJS. 41

places for a long distance, immense beds of this kind of
shell-fish.

The mangroves, on which the oysters grow so curious-
ly, are very extraordinary trees. The main trunk, or
parent tree, grows to an immense size. From a single
tree a whole forest will grow up in time, for the branches
send down shoots into the ground, which in their turn
take root and become trees; so that, generally, almost
the whole of the mangrove forest may be said to be knit-
ted together.

The inhabitants of the country at the mouth of the
river are called Shekiani. They are a very warlike tribe,
and many of them are armed with guns, which they ob-
tain from the vessels which come here from time to time
to buy barwood, ivory, or India-rubber.

I arrived at the mouth of the river in a small canoe
manned by several Mbinga men. The canoe was made
of the trunk of a single tree, and had a mat for a sail.
At the mouth of the river, high above the swamps that
surround its banks, are two hills. On the top of one of
these hills a village was situated. There I staid. It was
a village of insignificant size.

At low tide, the high, muddy banks of the river are
exposed. So many birds as are there I never saw else-
where : they are to be seen in countless thousands. The
shore, the mud islands, and the water were so covered with
them that it was really a sight worth seeing. Here and
there flocks of pelicans swam majestically along, keeping
at a good distance from my canoe. You would probably
wish to know what these pelicans are like. I will tell
you. They are large birds, and have an enormous bill,
under which is a large pouch, capable of containing sev-



42 STORIES OF THE GORILLA COUNTRY.

eral pounds of fish. They have webbed feet, and their
feathers are wliite. I wish you could see them looking
out for their prey. How slyly they pry in the water for
the fish they are in search of, and how quickly they
pounce upon them unawares with their powerful bea !
In an instant the fish are killed and stored away in the
pouch ; and when this is full, then Master Pelican begins
to eat. The fish are put in the pouch as if it were a
store-house.

Now and then a string of flamingoes go stretching
along the muddy shore, looking for all the world like a
line of fire. Most beautiful are these flamingoes ! and
very singular they appear when not on the wing, but
standing still on their long red legs ! They are very
wild, however, and difficult of approach.

Wherever the mud peeped out of the water, there
were herons, cranes, gulls of various kinds. Scattered
every where were seen those beautiful white birds (Egretr
ta flavirostris). Some of the shore trees were covered
with them, looking like snow in the distance.

Of course I wished to kill some of these birds. So I
took a tiny little canoe, and covered it with branches of
trees, that the birds might think it was a tree coming
down the stream, as is often the case. Then I took a
Shekiani with me to paddle, and, putting two guns in the
canoe, we made for the pelicans. The sly birds seemed
to suspect something, and did not give me a chance to
approach them for a long time. But, as you know, in
order to succeed in any thing, people must have patience
and perseverance. So, after chasing many, I finally suc-
ceeded in approaching one. He was just in the act of
swallowing a big fish when bang ! I fired, and wounded



SHOOT A PELICAN AND TWO FLAMINGOES. 43

him so that he could not fly. His wing had been broken
by my shot. At the noise made by firing my gun, the
birds flo\7 av/ay by thousands. I made for Master Peli-
can. The chase became exciting ; but, at last, we suc-
ceeded in coming near him. But how to get hold of
him was now the question. His wing only was broken ;
and, with his great beak, he might perhaps be able to
cut one of my fingers right off. I was afraid to spoil his
feathers if I fired again. He became exhausted, and
with one of the paddles I gave him a tremendous blow
on the head, which stunned him. Another blow finished
him, and we lifted him into the canoe.

I can not tell you how pleased I was. His pouch was
full of fish. They were so fresh that I resolved to make
a meal out of them.

I had hardly put the bird at the bottom of the canoe,
when there came flying toward me a flock of at least two
hundred flamingoes. In a moment I had my gun in
readiness. "Would they come near enough for me to get
a shot at them ? I watched them anxiously. Yes !
Now they are near enough ; and bang ! bang ! I fired
the two barrels right into the middle of the flock, and
two beautiful flamingoes fell into the water. Quickly
we paddled toward them. In order to go faster, I took
a paddle also, and worked away as well as I could. They
were dead. Both had received shots in the head.

We made for the shore. "When I opened the pouch
of the pelican just think of it ! I found a dozen large
fishes inside ! They were quite fresh, and I am sure
they had not been caught more than half an hour. You
will agree with me that the pelican makes quick work
when he goes a fishing.



44 STORIES OF THE GORILLA COUNTRY.

In the evening I felt so tired that I went straight to
bed ; and I slept so soundly, that if the Shekianis had
chosen, they could have murdered me without my even
opening my eyes.

This village had a new king; and I wondered if his
majesty were made king in the same fashion as the sov-
ereign of the Mpongwe tribe a tribe of negroes among
whom I have resided, and I will tell you how their king
was made.

Old King Glass died. lie had been long ailing, but
clung to life with determined tenacity. He was a disa-
greeable old heathen; but in his last days he became
very devout after his fashion. His idol was always
freshly painted and brightly decorated; his fetich, or
" monda," was the best-cared-f or fetich in Africa ; and
every few days some great doctors were brought down
from the interior, and paid a large fee for advising the
old king. He was afraid of witchcraft ; he thought every
body wanted to put him out of the way by bewitching
him. So the business of the doctors was to keep off the
witches, and assure his majesty that he would live a long
time. This assurance pleased him wonderfully, and he
paid his doctors well.

The tribe had got tired of their king. They thought,
indeed, that he was himself a most potent and evil-dis-
posed wizard ; and, though the matter was not openly
talked about, there were very few natives indeed who
would pass his house after night, and none who could be
tempted inside by any slighter provocation than an irre-
sistible glass of rum. In fact, if he had not been a great
king, he would probably have been killed.

"When he got sick at last, every body seemed very



DEATH OF OLD KING GLASS. 45

sorry ; but several of my friends told me, in confidence,
that the whole town hoped he would die, and die he did.
I was awakened one morning by those mournful cries
and wails with which the African oftener covers a sham
sorrow than expresses a real grief. All the women of
the village seemed to be dissolved in tears. It is a most
singular thing to see how readily the women of Africa
can supply tears on the slightest occasion, or for no occa-
sion at all. They will cry together at certain times of
the day, on mourning occasions, when a few minutes be-
fore they were laughing. They need no pain or real grief
to excite their tears. They can, apparently, weep at will.

The mourning and wailing on this occasion lasted six
days. On the second day the old king was secretly
buried by a few of the most trusty men of the tribe, very
early in the morning, before others were up or perhaps
at night. Some said he had been buried at night, while
others said he had been buried in the morning, thus show-
ing that they did not know. This custom arises from a
belief that the other tribes would much like to get the
head of the king, in order that with his brains they might
make a powerful fetich.

During the days of mourning the old men of the vil-
lage busied themselves in choosing a new king. This,
also, is a secret operation, and the result is not communi-
cated to the people generally till the seventh day.

It happened that Njogoni (fowl), a good friend of mine,
was elected. I do not know that Njogoni had the slight-
est suspicion of his elevation. At any rate, he shammed
ignorance very well.

While he was walking on the shore on the morning of
the seventh day probably some one had told him to go



46 STORIES OF THE GORILLA COUNTRY.

he was suddenly set upon by the entire populace, who
proceeded with a ceremony which is preliminary to the
crowning. In a dense crowd they surrounded him, and
then began to heap upon him every manner of abuse that
the worst of mobs could imagine. Some spat in his face.
Some beat him with their fists not very hard, of course.
Some kicked him. Others threw dirty things at him.
Those unlucky ones who stood on the outside, and could
only reach the poor fellow with their voices, assiduously
cursed him, and also his father, and especially his mother,
as well as his sisters and brothel's, and all his ancestors
to the remotest generation. A stranger would not have
given a farthing for the life of him who was presently to
be crowned.

Amid the noise and struggle, I caught the words which
explained all to me ; for every few minutes some fellow,
administering a comparatively severe blow or kick, would
shout out, " You are not our king yet ; for a little while
we will do what we please with you. By-and-by we shall
have to do your will."

Njogoni bore himself like a man and a prospective
king, and took all this abuse with a smiling face. When
it had lasted about half an hour, they took him to the
house of the old king. Here he was seated, and became
again for a little while the victim of his people's curses
and ill usage.

Suddenly all became silent, and the elders of the peo-
ple rose, and said solemnly (the people repeating after
them), " Now we choose you for our king ; we engage to
listen to you, and to obey you."

Then there was silence; and presently the silk hat,
of " stove-pipe" fashion, which is the emblem of royal-



HOW THE MPONGWE ELECT A KING. 4.7

ty among the Mpongwe and several other tribes was
brought in, and placed on Njogoui's head. lie was then
dressed in a red gown, and received the greatest murks
of respect from all those who had just now abused him.

Then followed six days of festival, during which the
poor king, who had taken the name of his predecessor,
was obliged to receive his subjects in his own house, and
was not allowed to stir out. The whole time was occu-
pied in indescribable gorging of food, and drinking of
bad nun and palm wine. It was a scene of beastly glut-
tony, and drunkenness, and uproarious confusion. Every
thing to eat and drink was furnished freely, and all com-
ers were welcome.

Old King Glass, for whom during six days no end of
tears had been shed, was now forgotten ; and new king
Glass, poor fellow, was sick with exhaustion.

Finally, the rum and palm wine were drunk up, the
food was eaten, the allotted days of rejoicing had ex-
pired, and the people went back to their homes.





SCENE WITH TITE MI1OUBHA.



CHAPTER YI.

AN OLD MAN KILLED FOR WITCHCRAFT. JOURNEY TO THE

COUNTRY OF THE CANNIBALS. STARTING ON THE ROUTE.

IN the year 1856 I was again in the equatorial regions.
I was in the great forest, on my way to the Cannibal
country ; yes, the country where the people eat one an-
other. It was a long way off, and how was I to get there
through the dense jungle? How was I to find my way
in that vast African forest? These were the thoughts
that troubled me when I was in the village of Dayoko.

A glance at the map will show you how the village
of Dayoko is situated. It lies not far from the banks of
the Ntambounay River, and is surrounded by beautiful
groves of plantain-trees.

Dayoko is one of the chiefs of the Mbousha tribe, and
a wild and savage set of people they are, I can tell you.



HOW THEY KILL SORCERERS. 49

But Dayoko became my friend, and said he would spare
me a few men to take me part of the way.

These Mbousha people look very much like the Sheki-
ani I have already described. They are superstitious and
cruel, and believe in witchcraft. I staid among them
only a few days. I will now tell you what I saw there.

In a hut I found a very old man. His wool (hair)
was white as snow r his face was wrinkled, and his limbs
were shrunken. Ilis hands were tied behind him, and
his feet were placed in a rude kind of stocks. Several
negroes, armed to the teeth, stood guard over him, and
now and then insulted him by angry words and blows,
to which he submitted in silence. What do you suppose
all this meant ?

This old man was to be killed for witchcraft '

A truly horrible delusion this witchcraft is !

I went to Dayoko, the chief, to try to save the old
man's lif e, but I saw it was in vain.

During the whole night I could hear singing all over
the town, as well as a great uproar. Evidently they
were preparing for the sacrifice of the old man.

Early in the morning the people gathered together
with the fetich-man. His bloodshot eyes glared in sav-
age excitement as he went around from man to man.
In his hands he held a bundle of herbs, with which he
sprinkled, three times, those to whom he spoke. Mean-
time there was a man on the top of a high tree close by,
who shouted from time to time, " Jocou ! Jocou !" at the
same time shaking the trees.

"Jocou" means devil among the Mbousha ; and the
business of this man was to scare the evil spirit, and
keep it away.

C



50 STORIES OF THE GORILLA COUNTRY.

At last they all declared that the old man was a most
potent wizard, that he had killed many people by sorce-
ry, and that he must be killed.

You would like to know, I dare say, what these Afric-
ans mean by a wizard or a witch ? They believe that
people have within themselves the power of killing any
one who displeases them. They believe that no one dies
unless some one has bewitched him. Have you ever
heard of such a horrible superstition ? Hence those who
are condemned for witchcraft are sometimes subjected
to a very painful death ; they are burnt by slow fire,
and their bodies are given to the Bashikouay ant to be
devoured. I shall have something to tell you about ants
by -and -by. The poor wretches are cut into pieces;
gashes are made over their bodies, and Cayenne pepper
is put in the wounds. Indeed, it makes me shudder to
think of it, for I have witnessed such dreadful deaths,
and seen many of the mutilated corpses.

After I witnessed the ceremony, the people scattered,
and I went into my hut, for I was not well. After a
while I thought I saw a man pass my door almost like a
flash, and after him rushed a horde of silent but infuri-
ated men toward the river. In a little while I heard
sharp, piercing cries, as of a man in great agony, and
then all became still as death.

I came out, and, going toward the river, was met by
the crowd returning, every man armed with axe, spear,
knife, or cutlass ; and these weapons, as well as their own
hands, and arms, and bodies, were sprinkled with blood.
They had killed the poor old man they called a wizard,
hacked him to pieces, and finished by splitting open his
skull, and scattering the brains into the water. Then



SET OUT FOR THE FAN COUNTRY. 51

they returned. At night these blood-thirsty men seemed
to be as gentle as lambs, and as cheerful as if nothing
had happened.

Ought we not to be thankful that we were born in a
civilized country ?

Now came the "grand palaver" over my departure.
I called Dayoko and all the elders of the village togeth-
er. When they had all assembled, I told them I must go
into the Fan country inhabited by the Cannibals.

Dayoko said I should be murdered by the Cannibals,
and eaten up, and tried to dissuade me from going.

Finally I said that go I would.

So it was determined that I should go under Dayoko's
protection. Accordingly he gave me two of his sons to
accompany me, and ordered several men to carry my
chests, guns, powder, bullets, and shot.

They were to take me to one of Dayoko's fathers-in-
law, a Mbondemo chief who lived in the mountains.

I was going farther and farther from the sea ; if the
savages were to leave me and run away in the forest,
what would become of me ?

We started in canoes, ascended the Muni River, and
then paddled up a river called the Ntambounay (you
must not mind these hard names they are not of my
choice. I must call things by the names the natives
give them).

After paddling all day, toward sunset we all felt very
tired, for we had gone a long way up the river, and
reached a Shekiani village. I was quite astonished to
meet Shekiani here, but so it happened.

I shall always remember this Shekiani village, for I
thought I should be murdered and plundered there. Aft-



52 STORIES OF THE GORILLA COUNTRY.

er we had landed in the village, I was told, at once, that
I could not go any farther, for the road belonged to them.
I must pay a tribute of six shirts similar to those I wore,
three great-coats, beads, etc., etc. This would have en-
tirely ruined me.

I could not sleep at all. Through the whole night a
crowd surrounded my hut, talking, shouting, and singing
in the greatest excitement. My guns and revolvers were
all loaded, and I made up my mind not to be killed with-
out fighting desperately. If I was to die, I resolved, at
all events, to die like a brave man. All my party were
in my hut except Dayoko's two sons, who had gone to
talk with the Shekiani chief. The Shekiani chief was
a friend of Dayoko, and Dayoko's sons told Mm I was
their father's stranger-friend.

At last things became more quiet, and toward morn-
ing the people were still or asleep.

We left the hut. All was still peaceful. My men
said that Dayoko's sons had a big fetich to avert war.

I gave a present to the Shekiani chief , and off we
started. We left our large canoes and took smaller ones,
for we were to go through a very small stream.

AB we ascended the beautiful river, we could see the
lofty mountains of the interior. A great many islands
studded the stream. From the trees on the banks the
monkeys looked down at us with astonishment. What
curious creatures they were, with their black faces peep-
ing out through the dark foliage, and looking as if they
were making grimaces at us. By-and-by we left the
river, and made our way along the creeks or through the
woods toward the Mbondemo village. Now and then we
walked freely through the wide openings which the ele-



ARRIVE AT THE MBONDEMO CAMP. 53

phants had made. The rushing of a herd of elephants
effects quite a clearing in the forest. On we went, till
filially we came to a place where a great number of large
trees had been prostrated. Wherever we looked trees
were lying on the ground, many of them of enormous
size. As I looked I heard, not far off, a tremendous
crash a most awful noise. I could not conjecture what
was the matter. It turned out that a tree had come
down ; and as it fell, being a huge one, it crushed a dozen
others around it, and each, as it broke, gave a great crash,
so that the combined effect was awful to hear.

We had to go through these fallen trees; and what
tough work it was ! I never had seen any thing like it.
Now we had to climb on a fallen tree and follow its
trunk ; then we had to come down, and were entangled
in its branches, or in those of other trees. At other times
we had to creep under them. I was continually afraid
that my gun would be fired off by some creepers or
boughs getting hold of the trigger.

At last, when my patience was entirely gone, and my
few clothes literally hanging in ribbons about me, my
legs sadly wounded, and my face and hands scratched, we
arrived at the camp of the. Mbondenios, situated almost
at the foot of the mountain.

These mountains were covered with an immense for-
est ; and so thick were the trees that no open view could
be obtained in any direction. The mountains ended
somewhere in the interior, no one knew where, but this
they knew, that it was near the home of the Fans, a Can-
nibal tribe, and that elephants were plentiful, and goril-
las were occasionally seen there. This encampment of
the Mbondemos was called an olako. There was not a



54 STORIES OF THE GORILLA COUNTRY.

house in the camp, and it was a romantic scene to look
at. Scattered under huge trees, on the edge of the woods,
were leafy shelters, opening toward the forest. Under
these the people lived. A few sticks put close together
formed their beds. They contrived to sleep upon them,
and I did the same. I assure you that they were hard
enough, and reminded me that a mattress was a very
good thing. Every family had its fire prepared beside
the beds, and around these fires in the evening they
clustered, men, women, and children.


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryPaul Belloni Du ChailluStories of the gorilla country → online text (page 3 of 18)