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Lander's Travels The Travels of Richard Lander into the Interior of Africa online

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the character of the Arabs, and they sent back word, that they would
be still more obliged to him, if he would dispense with their going
to the sansan, or camp, at a short distance from the town, to visit
the king of Nouffie.

Rabba stands in an opposite direction to Zagozhi, and appears at the
distance of about two miles, to be an immensely large, populous, and
flourishing town. It is built on the slope of a gentle hill, and on a
spot almost entirely bare of trees; the Niger here flowed in a
direction to the south of east.


According to their announcement on the preceding day, the messengers
from the chiefs arrived, bringing with them two fine sheep and a
great quantity of rice, and it appeared that they would be required
to give presents to nine people, before they should be able to get
away from the place.

Having prepared the presents, the messengers were collected, and
Richard Lander laid before each of them those that were intended for
their masters, and in order to make them some reward, and secure
their good will, he gave something to each of them, and dismissed

On the following morning they were visited by two young men, Arabs,
from Rabba, one of whom was very eager to claim acquaintance with
Richard Lander, and to bring to his memory certain scenes which had
taken place on his former journey to Houssa. Having in some degree
recovered from his surprise at his salutation, on looking at him more
attentively, he recognized in him the very same individual, that had
been employed by Captain Clapperton, whom he had abused and cheated,
and who was subsequently engaged by Lander himself as a guide from
Kano. He was the same person also, who decamped with Captain Pearce's
sword, and a large sum of money in kowries. The fellow, however, on
being taxed with his dishonesty, made very light of his offence, and
with the utmost effrontery begged every thing that he saw, so that
the Landers lost their temper with the scoundrel, and turned him out
of the hut in disgust. He, however, could not believe that they were
in earnest with him, "Oh, it must be all sport," said he, but at last
they threatened to shoot him, if ho did not go about his business,
and being apprehensive that they would put their threats into
execution, he ran off as fast as he could.

The market at Rabba is very celebrated, and considered by traders as
one of the largest and best in the whole country, of which it may be
styled the emporium. On one market day, between one and two hundred
men, women, and children were exposed for sale in ranks and lines,
like the oxen at Smithfield. These poor creatures had for the most
part been captured in war. The price of a strong healthy lad was
about forty thousand kowries, (£8 sterling,) a girl fetches about
fifty thousand, and perhaps more, if she be at all interesting. The
value of men and women varies according to their age, and abilities.

The situation of the travellers now assumed a critical aspect, for
early one morning, Mallam Dendo, the old king of Rabba sent for
Pascoe in a great hurry, with a message that he was waiting
impatiently his arrival at Rabba, having something of the utmost
consequence to communicate. As may be easily conjectured, the Landers
were rather surprised at this unexpected summons, and waited Pascoe's
return with much anxiety, for they had no doubt whatever, that
themselves were principally concerned in it. When, however, he _did_
come back, and entered the hut, he looked very wistfully, and
informed them with considerable agitation both of voice and manner,
that Mallam Dendo had expressed to him the greatest dissatisfaction
at the things which he had received from them as presents, declaring
them to be perfectly worthless, and with the exception of the
looking-glass, "fit only for a child," that he well knew they could
have sent him something more useful and of greater value, if they had
thought proper; but that if they persisted in their refusal to do so,
he should demand of them their guns, pistols, and powder, before he
would consent or permit them to leave Zagozhi.

This news made them very uneasy and unhappy, and they sat down in
gloom and thoughtfulness without uttering a word, for they believed
this to be a death-blow to all their hones. To part with the only
defensive weapons in their possession, they felt determined not to
do, for they knew if they were to be deprived of them, they should be
entirely in the power of a set of fellows remarkable neither for
generosity nor nobleness of principle, without the means of helping
themselves, and they resolved never to part with their guns, unless
compelled to do so by the most urgent necessity. Having reflected
deliberately on their situation, they felt convinced that something
on their part must be done by way of conciliation, if they had any
intention of quitting the country, and of prosecuting their
enterprise. On a sudden, they thought of Mr. Park's tobe, which was
given to them by the king of Boossa, and they hoped that in
consequence of the splendour of its appearance, and its intrinsic
value, it might prove an acceptable present to the covetous prince,
and be the means of effecting a perfect reconciliation between them.
They therefore immediately despatched Ibrahim with it to Rabba,
although their hearts misgave them at the time, that it would, after
all, be thought lightly of, as an excuse for further extortions.

In this, however, they were agreeably disappointed, for in less than
two hours after his departure, Ibrahim returned from his errand with
a quick step and cheerful looks, and informed them that the tobe was
accepted by the prince with rapturous admiration. By this present
they had made him their friend for ever. "Ask the white men," said
he, "what they would desire, and if Rabba can supply them with it,
tell them they shall always have it. Well," he continued, "I must
purchase this tobe, I will not accept it as a gift; that would be
against my principles, and besides, it would be wrong for me to be
guilty of such injustice. Now I shall be something like a king," he
added, turning the tobe inside and out; "let no man know of it, my
neighbours will behold me with envy, and as for my own people, I will
surprise them some morning by putting it on when they are going to
war: it will dazzle their eyes. How great will be their
astonishment?" In this manner the king of the Fellatas talked to

On the following day, Pascoe was sent to Rabba, well tutored by his
masters, and in consequence of the offer made by the king to make
them any compensation for the handsome tobe, Pascoe informed him,
that the first wish of the white men was to obtain a large canoe, and
to pursue their journey on the Niger as fast as possible. He promised
to settle the business of the canoe, and sent some presents to the
Landers, which at the time were very acceptable.

They had, however, scarcely got over the dilemma with the king of
Rabba, than a messenger arrived to that monarch from the king of
Nouffie, who had despatched him privately to Mallam Dendo, with an
intimation to him, that if it met with his approbation, he (the
magia) would order the white men to be detained at Zagozhi, until
they would consent to make him a present of a certain number of
dollars, or something equivalent to them in value; that he
disbelieved the story of their poverty altogether, and would
therefore search their luggage, in order to discover whether their
assertion were true or false, that they had no greater presents to

So much dissimulation, meanness, and rapacity, which this trait in
his character exhibited, they had little reason to expect from the
king of Nouffie, after expressing for them so warmly and repeatedly
as he had done, protestations of the most cordial, candid, and
lasting friendship. They could not forbear feeling very indignant at
this foul breach of the laws of hospitality and good faith, which
previously to this act, they had experienced in every part of the
country. Perhaps it was well that they had presented the prince of
Rabba with Mr. Park's tobe, for he treated the message and its bearer
with contempt, and answered energetically, "Tell the magia, your
sovereign, that I would rebuke him for this expression of his
sentiments, and that I detest his base insinuations; that I will
never consent to his wishes, and that I reject his proposal with
disdain. What! shall the white men, who have come from such distant
lands to visit our country, who have spent their substance amongst
us, and made us presents before we had leisure to do any good for
them, shall they be treated so inhumanly? never! They have worn their
shoes from their feet, and their clothes from their persons, by the
length and tediousness of their journeys; they have thrown themselves
into our hands, to claim our protection and partake of our
hospitality; shall we treat them as robbers, and cast them from us
like dogs? Surely not. What would our neighbours, what would our
friends - our foes say to this? What could be a greater reproach than
the infamy, which would attach itself to our characters, and to our
name, should we treat these poor, unprotected, wandering strangers,
and white men too, in the manner your monarch, the king of Nouffie
proposes? After they have been received and entertained with so much
hospitality and honour in Yarriba, at Wowow, and at Boossa, shall it
be said that Rabba treated them badly? that she shut her doors upon
them and plundered them? No, never! I have already given my word to
protect them, and I will not forfeit that sacred pledge for all the
guns and swords in the world." Such was the answer of a man whom we
call a savage - it was worthy of a prince and a Christian.

It was now high time that their journey should be completed, for
their goods were very nearly exhausted, and so far from being in a
condition to make further presents, their means were scarcely
adequate to procure the bare necessaries of life. Their stock of
cloth, looking-glasses, snuff-boxes, knives, scissors, razors, and
tobacco pipes, had been already given away, and they had only needles
and a few silver bracelets left, to present to the chiefs whom they
might reasonably expect to fall in with on their voyage down the

The population of Zagozhi cannot well be estimated on account of its
lowness, and the prevailing flatness of the country round, on which
neither a hillock nor eminence of any kind can be discerned. However,
it must be immense, and the Landers considered it to be one of the
most extensive and thickly inhabited towns, as well as one of the
most important trading places in the whole kingdom of Nouffie, not
excepting even Coulfoo.

Having at length received permission to quit Zagozhi on the following
day, to pursue their journey down the Niger, they made the necessary
preparations for their departure. They were in hope of obtaining a
canoe capable of holding the whole of their party, as it would be a
much more satisfactory arrangement for them, and more convenient than
two small ones. The chief of the island promised to send a messenger
with them as far as Egga, which was the last town down the river
belonging to the Nouffie territory. The chief was, however, unwilling
to part with a canoe under any consideration, yet as a token of his
friendship and regard, he offered to spare them one for twenty
thousand kowries, in addition to their own canoe, which they had
brought from Patashie. A messenger from the prince of Rabba arrived
just after this proposal had been made to them, with full powers to
treat with the "King of the dark water" for the canoe. In a short
time, he returned from his errand, with the pleasing intelligence of
his having succeeded in obtaining the long-talked-of canoe, and which
was to be in readiness to receive them on board at an early hour on
the following morning.

On Friday, October 16th, they rose at an early hour, to pack up their
clothes, and to get their luggage ready for embarkation. But when
this was all done, they met with a sudden and unforeseen
embarrassment, for the sable king of the dark water laughed at the
idea of giving them a canoe on the faith of receiving payment from
the prince of the Fellatas, and at first, he even refused to deliver
up their own canoe, which they had brought from Patashie, and which
they had kept with so much anxiety and trouble. At length, however,
he consented to restore to them all their property, and the whole of
the articles were accordingly moved into the canoes.

When all this was done, and they were quite ready to start, the old
chief came down to the water side to bid them farewell, according to
his avowed purpose, but in reality to offer them a commodious canoe
in exchange for their own, if they would consent to give him ten
thousand kowries in addition to them. They had fortunately realized a
sufficient number of kowries from the sale of needles at Rabba, and
while Richard Lander was shifting the things from their own canoe
into another, John Lander walked back with the old chief to his
residence, where he found all the people of the house gathered round
the trunk of a large tree, which was burning in the hut. Here he paid
the chief ten thousand kowries for the canoe, which having done, he
rejoined his brother at the water side.

The canoes made here are of a particular description, very much
resembling what are called punts in England, but are perfectly
straight and flat bottomed. They are generally formed out of one log
of wood, and are of an immense size; that which the Landers
purchased, was about fifteen feet in length and four in breadth, but
they are sometimes made nearly as large again. To this offer the
Landers most willingly acceded, and as soon as all the goods were
transferred into the purchased canoe, they found, after all, that it
was not nearly large enough for their purpose, independently of its
being extremely leaky, and patched up in a thousand places; they had
been prevented from perceiving the canoe's defect before, by the
excitement of preparation, and the hurry of departure. They now saw
that they had been cheated by the artful king of the dark water, but
rather than enter into an interminable dispute on the subject, which
might involve them in further difficulties, they held their peace and
put up with the imposition without a murmur; after, getting all their
luggage into her, they waited for the arrival of a messenger, who was
to have accompanied them a little way on their journey, but as he did
not come, they resolved to depart without him, so bidding farewell to
the king of the dark water, and hundreds of spectators who were
gazing at them, they fired two muskets, and launching out into the
river, they were soon out of sight of Zagozhi.


They paddled along the banks at a distance of not less than thirty
miles, every inch of which they had attentively examined, but not a
bit of dry land could anywhere be discovered, which was firm enough
to bear their weight. Therefore, they resigned themselves to
circumstances, and all of them having been refreshed with a little
cold rice and honey, and water from the stream, they permitted the
canoe to drive down with the current, for their men were too much
fatigued with the labours of the day to work any longer. But here a
fresh evil arose, which they were unprepared to meet. An incredible
number of hippopotami arose very near them, and came plashing and
snorting and plunging all round the canoe, and placed them in
imminent danger. Thinking to frighten them off, they fired a shot or
two at them, but the noise only called up from the water, and out of
the fens, about as many more of their unwieldy companions, and they
were more closely beset than before. Their people, who had never in
all their lives been exposed in a canoe to such huge and formidable
beasts, trembled with fear and apprehension, and absolutely wept
aloud; their terror was not a little increased by the dreadful peals
of thunder, which rattled over their heads, and by the awful darkness
which prevailed, broken at intervals by flashes of lightning, whose
powerful glare was truly awful.

However, the hippopotami did them no kind of mischief whatever; no
doubt at first when they interrupted them, they were only sporting
and wallowing in the river for their own amusement, but had they
upset the canoe, the travellers would have paid dearly for it.

Having travelled, according to their own computation, a distance
little short of a hundred miles, they stopped at a small
insignificant fishing village called _Dacannie_, where they were very
glad to land. The Niger here presented a very magnificent appearance;
and was reckoned to be nearly eight miles in breadth.

Whilst they were at breakfast, under the shelter of a tree, the
promised messenger from Zagozhi arrived, and introduced himself to
them. He said that he had followed their track during the night, and
had heard the report of their guns, but though he strove to come up
with them, yet he had not been able.

It was between nine and ten in the morning, that the guide desired
them to proceed onwards, promising to follow them in a few minutes.
With this arrangement they cheerfully complied, and instantly pushed
off the shore, for of all persons, a messenger is the most unpleasant
companion; he is fond of procrastination, sullen when rebuked, and
stops at every paltry village wherein he fancies that he can levy his
contributions without the fear of interruption.

The messenger, whom they had left at Dacannie, soon overtook them,
and kept company with them till they drew near to two cities of
prodigious extent, one on each side of the river, and directly
opposite each other. To that lying on the right, the guide expressed
his intention of going, and endeavoured to entice the Landers with
many promises to accompany him there, but they refused, for they had
formed a resolution to husband their resources to the utmost of their
ability, and consequently to land at little hamlets only, where they
might do just as they pleased, without being amenable for their
actions to those powerful beings, who are styled "the mighty" of the

They now took leave of the Zagozhi messenger, who promised to follow
them as before, and in an hour afterwards they put into a small
village, situated on an island called Gungo, the natives of which
appeared to be a mild, inoffensive, quiet, and good-natured people.
About sunset, the inhabitants of the whole island, amounting to about
a hundred men, women, and children, dressed in very decent apparel,
and headed by their chief, a venerable old man, paid them a visit.
The chief was dressed in the mahommedan costume, and he arranged his
people, and made them sit down round the hut which the Landers
occupied, in the most orderly manner. The men evinced no alarm, but
the women and pretty little plump-faced children were much frightened
at their white faces, and seemed not a little glad to get away.
Before they retired, they distributed about two hundred needles among
them, and they went away highly pleased with their present.

At Zagozhi, they had been strongly recommended to put into a large
and important trading town called _Egga_, which was reported to be
three days journey down the river from thence, and they had been
promised a guide or messenger to accompany them thither, but they had
neither heard nor seen any thing of him since the preceding day. From
motives of prudence, however, they thought proper to make inquiries
concerning the Egga, of which they had been told, lest by any means,
they should pass it without seeing it.

About mid-day they touched at a large village to inquire whereabouts
Egga lay, and they were informed that they had not a long way to go.
They journeyed onwards for about an hour, when they perceived a
large, handsome town, behind a deep morass. It was the
long-sought-for Egga, and they instantly proceeded up a creek to the
landing place. The town was upwards of two miles in length, they
halted a few minutes before landing, no one having conveyed
intelligence of their arrival to the chief. A young Fellata was the
first who invited them on shore, and they despatched Pascoe to the
chief to tell him who they were, and what they wanted. He quickly
returned, saying that the old chief was ready to receive them, and
they immediately proceeded to his residence.

In a few minutes, they arrived at the Zollahe or entrance hut, in
which they found the old man ready to receive them. They discovered
him squatting on a cow's hide, spread on the ground, smoking from a
pipe of about three yards long, and surrounded by a number of
Fellatas, and several old mallams. They were welcomed in the most
friendly and cordial manner, and as a mark of peculiar distinction,
they were invited to seat themselves near the person of the chief. He
looked at them with surprise from head to foot, and told them that
they were strange-looking people, and well worth seeing. Having
satisfied his curiosity, he sent for all his old wives, that they
might do the same; but as they did not altogether relish so much
quizzing, they requested to be shown to a hut. A house, "fit for a
king," to use his own expression, was speedily got ready for their
reception, and as soon as he had learnt with surprise, that they
subsisted on the same kind of food as himself, they were led to their
dwelling, and before evening received a bowl of tuah and gravy from
his wives. They were soon pestered with the visits of the mallams and
the chief's wives, the latter of whom brought them presents of goora
nuts as a sort of introduction to see them. As soon as the news of
their arrival spread through the town, the people flocked by hundreds
to their hut, for the purpose of satisfying their curiosity with a
sight of the white people. The mallams and the king's wives had given
them trouble enough, but the whole population of Egga was too much
for them, so that they were literally obliged to blockade the
doorways, and station three of their people at each to keep them

The Landers were extremely anxious to expedite their departure from
Egga, for although the old chief was extremely kind and hospitable,
yet the annoyance from the natives was more than could be borne; for
they never could have a moment of rest, their windows and doorways
being blocked up by visitors, so that they were literally prevented
from inhaling the fresh air, but were like prisoners in a cage to be
examined and quizzed by every one, who thought they could pass their
jokes with impunity.

Having expressed their intention of continuing their journey, the
elders of the town remonstrated with them, that it would be highly
dangerous to go by themselves, and endeavoured to persuade them to
alter the arrangement for their own sakes. They promised to procure
them a convoy of traders, if they would consent to wait three days
longer, which was to leave Egga at the end of that time to attend a
famous market called Bocqua. When they sent word to the chief that
they intended departing on the following day, he begged of them to
remain a few days longer, declaring the banks of the river to be
inhabited by people, who were little better than savages, and
plundered every one that came near them. He was then asked, if he
would send a messenger with them, but he refused, saying, that the
Fellata power and his own extended no further down the river; that
Egga was the last town of Nouffie, and that none of his people traded
below it. "If that be the case," said Richard Lander, "it will be as
safe for us to go to-morrow as any other day," and with this
determination he left him.

He then proceeded to give directions for his people to prepare
themselves for starting, when to the great astonishment of himself
and his brother, Pascoe and the mulatto Ibrahim were the only two who
agreed to go, the rest of them refusing to a man. Richard said all he
could to them to change their determination; he talked to them half
an hour, telling them they were cowards, and that his life and that
of his brother were as good as theirs, but he could not make the
slightest impression upon them, and therefore told them to go out of
his sight, and that they would do without them. Partly, however, by
threats, and partly by bribes, the men agreed to accompany them,
although the impression could not be effaced from their minds, that
they were going where they should be murdered, or at least sold as

At length every thing being in readiness, they bade farewell to the

Online LibraryRobert HuishLander's Travels The Travels of Richard Lander into the Interior of Africa → online text (page 59 of 72)