Paul Belloni Du Chaillu.

Stories of the gorilla country online

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liideous. I stood a long time looking at one of the most
beautiful landscapes I ever beheld in Africa. It was
certainly not grand, but extremely pretty. Before me,


the little stream, whose fall over the cliff filled the forest
with a gentle murmur, resembling very much, as I have
said, when far enough off, the pattering of a shower of
rain, ran along between steep banks, the trees of which
seemed to meet above it. Away down the valley we
could see its course, traced like a silver line over the
plain, till it was lost to our sight in a denser part of the

I have often thought of these caverns since I saw
them, and I have regretted that I did not pay more at-
tention to them. If I had made my camp in the vicini-
ty, and explored them, and dug in them for days, I think
that I should have been amply rewarded for the trouble.
At that time I did not feel greatly interested in the sub-
ject. I had not read the works of M. Boucher de Perthes
and others, or heard that the bones of animals now ex-
tinct had been discovered in caverns in several parts of
Europe, and that implements made of flint, such as axes,
sharp-pointed arrows, etc., etc., had been found in such
places. If I had excavated I might perhaps have f ound
the remains of charcoal fires, or other things, to prove
that these caverns had been made by men who lived in
Africa long before the negro. I feel certain these cav-
erns must have been human habitations. I do not see
how they could have been made except by the hand of

On my last journey I thought once or twice of going
to them from the Fernand-Vaz, to explore and dig in
them. I thought I might be rewarded for my labor by
discovering the bones of unknown beasts, or of some re-
mains of primitive men.

These caverns are fortunately not far away from the
E 2


sea I should think not more than ten or fifteen miles
and are situated between the Muni and the Moonda Riv-
ers. Any one desiring to explore them would easily find
the way to them. The cavern under the waterfall would
be extremely interesting to explore.

The valley itself was a pleasant wooded plain, which,
it seemed, the hand of man had not yet disturbed, and
whence the song of birds, the chatter of monkeys, and
the hum of insects came up to us, now and then, in a
confusion of sounds very pleasant to the ear.

But I could not loiter long over this scene, being anx-
ious to reach the sea-shore. After we set off again we
found ourselves continually crossing or following ele-
phant tracks, so we walked very cautiously, expecting
every moment to find ourselves face to face with a herd.

By-and-by the country became quite flat, the elephant
tracks ceased, and presently, as we neared a stream, we
came to a mangrove swamp. It was almost like seeing
an old friend, or, I may say, an old enemy, for the re-
membrances of musquitoes, tedious navigation, and ma-
laria, which the mangrove-tree brought to my mind, were
by no means pleasant. It is not very pleasant to be laid
up with African fever, I assure you.

From a mangrove-tree to a mangrove swamp and for-
est is but a step. They never stand alone. Presently we
stood once more on the banks of the little stream, whose
clear, pellucid water had so charmed me a little farther
up the country. Now it was only a swamp a mangrove
swamp. Its bed, no longer narrow, was spread over a flat
of a mile, and the now muddy water meandered slowly
through an immense growth of mangroves, whose roots
extended entirely across, and met in the middle, where


they rose out of the mire and water like the folds of
some vast serpent.

It was high tide. There was not a canoe to be had.
To sleep on this side, among the mangroves, was to be
eaten up by the musquitoes, which bite much harder
than those of America, for they can pierce through your
trowsers and drawers. This was not a very pleasant an-
ticipation, but there seemed to be no alternative, and I
had already made up my mind that I should not be able
to go to sleep. But my men were not troubled at all
with unpleasant anticipations. We were to cross over,
quite easily too, they said, on the roots which projected
above the water, and which lay from two to three feet
apart, at irregular distances.

It seemed a desperate venture, but they set out jump-
ing like monkeys from place to place, and I followed,
expecting every moment to fall in between the roots in
the mud, there to be attacked perhaps by some noxious
reptile whose rest my fall would disturb. I had to take
off my shoes, whose thick soles made me more likely to
slip. I gave all my baggage, and guns, and pistols to the
men, and then commenced a journey, the like of which I
hope never to take again. We were an hour in getting
across an hour of continual jumps and hops, and hold-
ing on. In the midst of it all, a man behind me flopped
into the mud, calling out "Omemba!" in a frightful

Now omemba means snake. The poor fellow had put
his hands on an enormous black snake, and, feeling its
cold, slimy scales, he let go his hold and fell. All hands
immediately began to run faster than before, both on the
right and the left. There was a general panic, and every


one began to shout and make all kinds of noises to fright-
en the serpent. The poor animal also got badly scared,
and began to crawl away among the branches as fast as
he could. Unfortunately, his fright led him directly to-
ward me, and a general panic ensued. Every body ran
as fast as he could to get out of danger. Another man
fell into the mud below, and added his cries to the gen-
eral tiimult. Two or three times I was on the point of
getting a mud bath myself, but I luckily escaped. My
feet were badly cut and bruised, but at last we were safe
across, and I breathed freely once more, as soon after I
saw the deep blue sea.




CAPE LOPEZ is a long sandy arm of land reaching out
into the sea. As you approach it from the ocean it has
the appearance of overflowed land. It is so low that the
bushes and the trees growing on it seem, from a distance
seaward, to be set in the water.

The bay formed by Cape Lopez is about fourteen miles
long. Among several small streams which empty their
water into it is the Nazareth River, one of whose branches
is the Fetich Eiver. The bay has numerous shallows and
small islands, and abounds in all sorts of delicious fish.
On the cape itself many large turtles from the ocean
come to lay their eggs. I will tell you by-and-by what a
nice time I had fishing at Cape Lopez, but I have many
other things to talk about before I come to that.

I arrived at Cape Lopez one evening when it was al-
most dark. The next morning I prepared myself for a
visit to King Bango, the king of the country. The royal
palace is set upon a tolerably high hill, and fronts the
sea-shore. Between the foot of this hill and the sea there
is a beautiful prairie, over which are scattered the nu-
merous little villages called Sangatanga. I never tired


of looking at tliis prairie. I had lived so long in the
gloomy forest that it gave me great delight to see once
more the green and sunlit verdure of an open meadow.
I found the royal palace surrounded by a little village of
huts. As I entered the village I was met by the ma-
fouga, or officer of the king, who conducted me to the
palace. It was an ugly-looking house of two stories,
resting on pillars. The lower story consisted of a dark
hall, flanked on each side by rows of small dark rooms,
which looked like little cells. At the end of the hall was
a staircase, steep and dirty, up which the maf ouga piloted
me. When I had ascended the stairs I found myself in
a large room, at the end of which was seated the great
King Bango, who claims to be the greatest chief of this
part of Africa. lie was surrounded by about one hund-
red of his wives.

King Bango was fat, and seemed not over clean. He
wore a shirt and an old pair of pantaloons. On his head
was a crown, which had been presented to him by some
of his friends, the Portuguese slavers. Over his shoulders
he wore a flaming yellow coat, with gilt embroidery, the
cast-off garment of some rich man's lackey in Portugal
or Brazil. When I speak of a crown you must not think
it was a wonderful thing, made of gold and mounted
with diamonds. It was shaped like those commonly
worn by actors on the stage, and was probably worth,
when new, about ten dollars. His majesty had put round
it a circlet of pure gold, made with the doubloons he got
in exchange for slaves. He sat on a sofa, for he was
paralyzed ; and in his hand he held a cane, which also
answered the purpose of a sceptre.

This King Bango, whom I have described so minutely,


was the greatest slave king of that part of the coast. At
that time there were large slave depots on his territory.
He is a perfect despot, and is much feared by his people.
He is also very superstitious.

Though very proud, he received me kindly, for I had
come recommended by his great friend, Rompochombo,
a king of the Mpongwe tribe. He asked me how I liked
his wives. I said, Yery well. He then said there were
a hundred present, and that there were twice as many
more, three hundred in all. Fancy three hundred wives !
He also claimed to have more than six hundred children.
I wonder if all these brothers and sisters could know and
recognize each other !

The next night a great ball was given in my honor by
the king. The room where I had been received was the
ballroom. I arrived there shortly after dark, and I
found about one hundred and fifty of the king's wives,
and I was told that the best dancers of the country were

I wish you could have seen the room. It was ugly
enough : there were several torches to light it ; but, not-
withstanding these, the room was by no means brilliant-
ly illuminated. The king wanted only his wives to dance
before me. During the whole of the evening not a sin-
gle man took part in the performance ; but two of his
daughters were ordered to dance, and he wanted me to
marry one of them.

Not far from the royal palace were three curious and
very small houses, wherein were deposited five idols,
which were reputed to have far greater power and knowl-
edge than the idols or gods of the surrounding countries.
They were thought to be the great protectors of the


Oroungou tribe, and particularly of Sangatanga and of
the king. So I got a peep inside the first house. There
I saw the idol called Pangeo : he was made of wood, and
looked very ugly ; by his side was his wife Aleka, an-
other wooden idol. Pangeo takes care of the king and
of his people, and watches over them at night.

I peeped also into the second little house. There I
saw a large idol called Makambi, shaped like a man, and
by his side stood a female figure, Abiala his wife. Poor
Makambi is a powerless god, his wife having usurped the
power. She holds a pistol in her hand, with which, it is
supposed, she can kill any one she pleases ; hence the
natives are much afraid of her; and she receives from
them a constant supply of food, and many presents (I
wonder who takes the presents away ?). When they fall
sick they dance around her, and implore her to make
them well. For these poor heathen never pray to the
true God. They put their trust in wooden images, the
work of their own hands.

I looked into the third house, and there I saw an idol
called Numba. He had no wife with him, being a bach-
elor deity. He is the Oroungou Neptune and Mercury
in one Neptune in ruling the waves, and Mercury in
keeping off the evils which threaten from beyond the

As I came away after seeing the king, I shot at a bird
sitting upon a tree, but missed it, for I had been taking
quinine and was nervous. But the negroes standing
around at once proclaimed that this was a " fetich bird"
w-a sacred bird and therefore I could not shoot it, even
if I fired at it a hundred times.

I fired again, but with no better success. Hereupon


they grew triumphant in their declarations ; while I, loth
to let the devil have so good a witness, loaded again, took
careful aim, and, to my own satisfaction and their utter
dismay, brought my bird down.

During my stay in the village, as I was one day out
shooting birds in a grove not far from my house, I saw a
procession of slaves coming from one of the barracoons
toward the farther end of my grove. As they came
nearer, I saw that two gangs of six slaves each, all chain-
ed about the neck, were carrying a burden between them,
wliich I knew presently to be the corpse of another slave.
They bore it to the edge of the grove, about three hund-
red yards from my house, and, throwing it down there
on the bare ground, they returned to their prison, accom-
panied by the overseer, who, with his whip, had marched
behind them.

" Here, then, is the burying-ground of the barracoons,"
I said to myself, sadly, thinking, I confess, of the poor
fellow who had been dragged away from his home and
friends who, perhaps, had been sold by his own father
or relatives to die here and be thrown out as food for the
vultures. Even as I stood wrapped in thought, these
carrion birds were assembling, and began to darken the
air above my head ; ere long they were heard fighting
over the corpse.

The grove, which was, in fact, but an African Acel-
dama, was beautiful to view from my house, and I had
often resolved to explore it, or to rest in the shade of its
dark-leaved trees. It seemed a ghastly place enough
now, as I approached it more closely. The vultures fled
when they saw me, but flew only a little way, and then
perched upon the lower branches of the surrounding


trees, and watched me with eyes askance, as though fear-
ful I should rob them of their prey. As I walked to-
ward the corpse, I felt something crack under my feet.
Looking down, I saw that I was already in the midst of
a field of skulls and bones. I had inadvertently stepped
upon the skeleton of some poor creature who had been
lying here long enough for the birds and ants to pick his
bones clean, and for the rains to bleach them. I think
there must have been the relics of a thousand skeletons
within sight. The place had been used for many years ;
and the mortality in the barracoons is sometimes fright-
ful, in spite of the care they seem to take of their slaves.
Here their bodies were thrown, and here the vultures
found their daily carrion. The grass had j ust been burnt,
and the white bones scattered every where gave the
ground a singular, and, when the cause was known, a
frightful appearance. Penetrating farther into the bush,
I found several great piles of bones. This was the place,
years ago when Cape Lopez was one of the great slave-
markets on the West Coast, and barracoons were more
numerous than they are now where the poor dead were
thrown, one upon another, till even the mouldering bones
remained in high piles, as monuments of the nefarious
traffic. Such was the burial-ground of the poor slaves
from the interior of Africa.






ONE day I passed by an immense inclostire protected
by a fence of palisades about twelve feet high, and sharp-
pointed at the top. Passing through the gate, which was
standing open, I found myself in the midst of a large
collection of shanties, surrounded by shade-trees, under
which were lying, in various positions, a great many ne-
groes. As I walked round, I saw that the men were
fastened, six together, by a little stout chain, which passed
through a collar secured about the neck of each. Here
and there were buckets of water for the men to drink ;
and, they being chained together, when one of the six
wanted to drink, the others had to go with him.

Then I came to a yard full of women and children.
These could roam at pleasure through their yard. No


men were admitted there. These people could not all
understand each other's language ; and you may proba-
bly wish to know who they were. They were Africans
belonging to various tribes, who had been sold, some by
their parents or by their families, others by the people of
their villages. Some had been sold on account of witch-
craft ; but there were many other excuses for the traffic.
They would find suddenly that a boy or girl was " dull,"
and so forth, and must be sold. Many of them came
from countries far distant.

Some were quite merry; others appeared to be very
sad, thinking they were bought to be eaten up. They
believed that the white men beyond the seas were great
cannibals, and that they were to be fattened first, and
then eaten. In the interior, one day, a chief ordered a
slave to be killed for my dinner, and I barely succeeded
in preventing the poor wretch from being put to death.
I could hardly make the chief believe that I did not, in
my own country, live on human flesh.

Under some of the trees were huge caldrons, in which
beans and rice were cooking for the slaves ; and others
had dried fish to eat. In the evening they were put into
large sheds for the night. One of the sheds was used as
a hospital.

In the midst of all this stood the white man's house
yes, the white man's house ! and in it were white men
whose only business was to buy these poor creatures from
the Oroungou people !

After I had seen every thing I left the barracoon, for
that is the name given to such a place as I have just de-
scribed. I wandered about, and it was dark before I re-
turned to the little bamboo house which the king had


given me. I got in, and then, striking a match carefully,
I lighted a torch, so that I might not go to bed in dark-
ness. You may smile when I say bed, for my couch
was far from bearing any resemblance to our beds at
home, with mattress, and pillows, and sheets, and blank-
ets. Travelers in Equatorial Africa are utter strangers
to such luxuries.

After I had lighted the torch, I cast my eyes round to
see if any thing had been disturbed ; for a thief, so dis-
posed, could easily break into these houses. I noticed
something glittering and shining under my akoko, or
bedstead. The object was so still that I did not pay any
attention to it ; in fact, I could not see it well by the dim
light of the torch. But when I approached the bed to
arrange it, I saw that the glitter was produced by the
shining scales of an enormous serpent, which lay quietly
coiled up there within two feet of me. What was I to
do ? I had fastened my door with ropes. If the snake
were to uncoil itself and move about, it might, perhaps,
take a spring and wind itself about me, quietly squeeze
me to death, and then swallow me as he would a gazelle.
These were not comforting thoughts. I was afraid to
cry out for fear of disturbing the snake, which appeared
to be asleep. Besides, no one could get in, as I had bar-
ricaded the only entrance, so I went quietly and unfast-
ened the door. When every thing was ready for a safe
retreat, I said to myself, " I had better try to kill it."
Then, looking for my guns, I saw, to my utter horror,
that they were set against the wall at the back of the
bed, so that the snake was between me and them. Aft-
er watching the snake intently, and thinking what to do,
I resolved to get my gun ; so, keeping the door in my


rear open, in readiness for a speedy retreat at the first
sign of life in the snake, I approached on tiptoe, and, in
the twinkling of an eye, grasped the gun which was load-
ed heavily with large shot. How relieved I felt at that
moment ! I was no longer the same man. Fortimately,
the snake did not move. With my gun in one hand, I
went again toward the reptile, and fairly placing the
muzzle of the gun against it, I fired, and then ran out of
the house as fast as I could.

At the noise of the gun there was a rush of negroes
from all sides to know what was the matter. They
thought some one had shot a man, and run into my
house to hide himself ; so they all rushed into it, helter-
skelter; but I need not tell you they rushed out just
as fast on finding a great snake writhing about on the
floor. Some had trodden upon, it, and been frightened
out of their wits. You have no idea how they roared
and shouted ; but no one appeared disposed to enter the
house again, so I went- in cautiously myself to see how
matters stood, for I did not intend to give undisputed
possession of my hut so easily to Mr. Snake. I entered,
and looked cautiously around. The dim light of the
torch helped me a little, and there I saw the snake on
the ground. Its body had been cut in two by the dis-
charge, and both ends were flapping about the floor. At
first I thought these ends were two snakes, and I did not
know what to make of it ; but, as soon as I perceived my
mistake, I gave a heavy blow with a stick on the head
of the horrible creature, and finished it. Then I saw it
disgorge a duck a whole duck and such a long duck !
It looked like an enormous long-feathered sausage. Aft-
er eating the duck, the snake thought my bedroom was


just the place for him to go to sleep in and digest his
meal ; for snakes, after a hearty meal, always fall into a
state of torpor. It was a large python, and it measured
would you believe it ? eighteen feet. Fancy my sit-
uation if this fellow had sprung upon me, and coiled
round me ! It would soon have been all over with me.
I wonder how long it would have taken to digest me,
had I been swallowed by the monster !

One fine day, while walking on the beach of this in-
hospitable shore, I spied a vessel. It approached nearer
and nearer, and at last ran in and hove-to a few miles
from the shore. Immediately I observed a gang of slaves
rapidly driven down from one of the barracoons. I stood
and watched. The men were still in gangs of six, but
they had been washed, and each had a clean cloth on.
The canoes were immense boats, with twenty-six paddles,
and held about sixty slaves each. The poor slaves seem-
ed much terrified. They had never been on the rough
water before, and they did not know what that dancing
motion of the sea was. Then they were being taken
away, they knew not whither. As they skimmed over
the waves, and rolled, now one way, now another, they
must have thought their last day had come, and that they
were to be consigned to a watery grave.

I was glad that "these poor creatures could not see me,
for I was liidden from their view by trees and bushes. I
felt ashamed of myself I actually felt ashamed of being
a white man ! Happily, such scenes are rarely, if ever,
witnessed nowadays, and the slave-trade will soon belong-
to the past.

Two hours afterward, the vessel, with a cargo of six
hundred slaves, was on her way to Cuba.







AFTER this I went again to visit King Bango, and was
announced to his majesty by his great mafouga. I had
an important object in paying this visit. I wished to ask
the king to permit me to go into the interior, and to spare
me some people to show me the way. *

Bango liked me, though I had declined to marry one
of liis beautiful daughters. So he granted my request,
and gave me twenty-five men, some of whom were re-
puted great hunters in that country. They had killed
many elephants, and brought all the ivory to their king.
They were the providers of the royal table, and passed
their lives in the hunt and in the forest.


"We made great preparations for the chase, for game
was said to be plentiful. .We were to encamp many
days in the forest, and to have a jolly time, and a hard
time too, for the hunter's life is not an easy one. I was
invited by the king to sleep in his palace, so that the next
day I might start early ; so I was led to my bedroom by
the great mafouga. It was so dirty and gloomy that I
wished myself fast asleep under a tree in the forest. I
looked around, thinking that perhaps the king wanted to

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Online LibraryPaul Belloni Du ChailluStories of the gorilla country → online text (page 7 of 18)