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Title: On the Edge of the Primeval Forest - Experiences and Observations of a Doctor in Equatorial Africa
Author: Schweitzer, Albert
Language: English
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  Experiences and Observations of
  a Doctor in Equatorial Africa





  4, 5, & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.1


  To the friends, dead and living,
  who have helped me in the enterprise
  of which this book is a part,
  in deepest gratitude

  REPRINTED 1922, 1923, 1924,
  1926, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1934, and 1937






IV. JULY, 1913--JANUARY, 1914









_With regard to the English Edition of this book I owe a debt of thanks
to two friends.  Mr. C. T. Campion, M.A., had the goodness to prepare
and to put at my disposal his very excellent translation, and Mr. John
Naish of Oxford, was kind enough to revise the proofs and to undertake
the final corrections._


  OF THE OGOWE . . . . . . _Frontispiece_
















_Note_.--I am indebted for a large part of the photographs to the
kindness of a grateful patient.  Illustrations Nos. 5 and 6 are based
on a slide made by Mr. Ottmann.  For illustration No. 3 I have to thank
Mr. Pelot, and for Nos. 4 and 15 Mr. Morel.

a map by the Rev. Mr. Haug._)]





I gave up my position of professor in the University of Strasbourg, my
literary work, and my organ-playing, in order to go as a doctor to
Equatorial Africa.  How did that come about?

I had read about the physical miseries of the natives in the virgin
forests; I had heard about them from missionaries, and the more I
thought about it the stranger it seemed to me that we Europeans trouble
ourselves so little about the great humanitarian task which offers
itself to us in far-off lands.  The parable of Dives and Lazarus seemed
to me to have been spoken directly of us!  We are Dives, for, through
the advances of medical science, we now know a great deal about disease
and pain, and have innumerable means of fighting them: yet we take as a
matter of course the incalculable advantages which this new wealth
gives us!  Out there in the colonies, however, sits wretched Lazarus,
the coloured folk, who suffers from illness {2} and pain just as much
as we do, nay, much more, and has absolutely no means of fighting them.
And just as Dives sinned against the poor man at his gate because for
want of thought he never put himself in his place and let his heart and
conscience tell him what he ought to do, so do we sin against the poor
man at our gate.

      *      *      *      *      *

The two or three hundred doctors whom the European States maintain as
medical officers in the colonial world could undertake only a very
small part (so I argued to myself) of the huge task, even if the
majority of them were not there for the benefit, first of all, of the
white colonists and the troops.  Society in general must recognise this
work of humanity to be its task, and there must come a time when
doctors go out into the world of their own free will, but sent and
supported by society and in numbers corresponding to the need, to work
for the benefit of the natives.  Then only shall we be recognising and
beginning to act upon the responsibility in respect of the coloured
races which lies upon us as inheritors of the world's civilisation.

[Sidenote: The decision]

Moved by these thoughts I resolved, when already thirty years old, to
study medicine and to put my ideas to the test out there.  At the
beginning of 1913 I graduated as M.D.  That same spring I started with
my wife, who had qualified as a nurse, for the River Ogowe in
Equatorial Africa, there to begin my active work.

I chose this locality because some Alsatian missionaries in the service
of the Paris Evangelical Mission {3} had told me that a doctor was
badly needed there on account of the constantly spreading sleeping
sickness.  The mission was prepared also to place at my disposal one of
the houses at their station at Lambarene, and to allow me to build a
hospital in their grounds, promising further to give me help with the

The actual expenses of the undertaking, however, I had to provide
myself, and to that I devoted what I had earned by giving organ
concerts, together with the profits from my book on Bach, which had
appeared in German, French, and English.  In this way the old Thomas
Cantor of Leipsig, Johann Sebastian himself, helped me in the provision
of a hospital for negroes in the virgin forest, and kind friends in
Germany, France, and Switzerland contributed money.  When we left
Europe, the undertaking was securely financed for two years, the
expenses--apart from the journey out and back--being, as I reckoned,
about 15,000 francs[1] a year, and this calculation proved to be very
nearly correct.

[1] _I.e._, about £600 p.a. at the then normal rate of exchange.

The keeping of the accounts and the ordering of all the things needed
had been undertaken by self-sacrificing friends in Strasbourg, and the
cases, when packed, were sent to Africa by the mission with their own.

My work then lived--to use a scientific term--in symbiosis with the
Paris Evangelical Mission, but it was, in itself, undenominational and
international.  It was, and is still, my conviction that the
humanitarian work to be done in the world should, for its
accomplishment, call upon us as men not as members of any particular
nation or religious body.


[Sidenote: The Ogowe district]

Now for a word about the country which was the scene of our labours.
The Ogowe district belongs to the Colony of Gaboon, and the Ogowe
itself is a river, 700 to 800 miles long, north of, and roughly
parallel to, the Congo.  Although smaller than the latter, it is yet a
magnificent river, and in the lower part of its course its width is
from 1,200 to 2,200 yards.  For the last 120 miles it divides into a
number of arms which enter the Atlantic near Cape Lopez, but it is
navigable for fairly large river steamers as far as N'Djôle, about 250
miles up stream.  At that point begins the region of hills and
mountains which leads up to the great plateau of Central Africa.  Here
also begins a series of rapids which alternate with stretches of
ordinary open river, and these rapids can only be surmounted by small
screw steamers, built for the purpose, and by native canoes.

While along the middle and upper course of the Ogowe the country is a
mixture of prairie and wood, there is along the lower part of the
river, from N'Djôle downwards, nothing but water and virgin forest.
This damp, low-lying ground is admirably suited for the cultivation of
coffee, pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, and cocoa; the oil palm also grows
well in it.  But the chief business of Europeans is neither the
cultivation of these things, nor the collection of rubber in the
forest, but the timber trade.  Now on the west coast of Africa, which
is very poor in harbours, especially in such as have rivers discharging
into them, conditions are very seldom favourable for the loading of
timber cargoes.  But the Ogowe has the great advantage of discharging
into an excellent roadstead without any bar; the huge rafts can lie
alongside the steamers {5} which are to take them away without danger
of being broken up and scattered on a bar or by a heavy swell.  The
timber trade, therefore, is likely to be for an indefinite period the
chief industry of the Ogowe district.

Cereals and potatoes it is, unfortunately, impossible to cultivate,
since the warm, damp atmosphere makes them grow too fast.  Cereals
never produce the usual ear, and potato haulms shoot up without any
tubers below.  Rice, too, is for various reasons not cultivable.  Cows
cannot be kept along the lower Ogowe because they cannot eat the grass
that grows there, though further inland, on the central plateau, they
flourish splendidly.  It is necessary, therefore, to import from Europe
flour, rice, potatoes, and milk, a fact which makes living a
complicated business and very expensive.

Lambarene lies a little south of the Equator, so that its seasons are
those of the Southern hemisphere: winter when it is summer in Europe,
and _vice versâ_.  Its winter is characterised by its including the dry
season, which lasts from the end of May to the beginning of October,
and summer is the rainy season, the rain falling from early in October
to the middle of December, and from the middle of January to the end of
May.  About Christmas one gets three to four weeks of continuous summer
weather, and it is then that the thermometer record is highest.

The average shade temperature in the rainy season is 82°-86° F.,[2] in
the dry season about 77°-82° F., the nights being always nearly as hot
as the days.  This circumstance, and the excessive moisture of the {6}
atmosphere, are the chief things which make the climate of the Ogowe
lowlands such a trial for a European.  After a year's residence fatigue
and anæmia begin to make themselves disagreeably perceptible.  At the
end of two or three years he becomes incapable of real work, and does
best to return to Europe for at least eight months in order to recruit.

[2] _I.e._, 28° to 30° and 25° to 28° C.

The mortality among the whites at Libreville, the capital of Gaboon,
was, in 1903, 14 per cent.

      *      *      *      *      *

Before the war there lived in the Ogowe lowlands about two hundred
whites: planters, timber merchants, storekeepers, officials, and
missionaries.  The number of the natives is hard to estimate, but, at
any rate, the country is not thickly inhabited.  We have at present
merely the remains of eight once powerful tribes, so terribly has the
population been thinned by three hundred years of alcohol and the slave
trade.  Of the Orungu tribe, which lived in the Ogowe delta, there are
scarcely any left; of the Galoas, who belonged to the Lambarene
district, there remain still 80,000 at most.  Into the void thus
created there swarmed from inland the cannibal Fans, called by the
French Pahouins, who have never yet come into contact with
civilisation, and but for the opportune arrival of the Europeans this
warrior folk would by this time have eaten up the old tribes of the
Ogowe lowlands.  Lambarene forms in the river valley the boundary
between the Pahouins and the old tribes.

[Sidenote: The colonization of Ogowe and its missions.]

Gaboon was discovered by the Portuguese at the end of the fifteenth
century, and by 1521 there was a Catholic mission settlement on the
coast between the {7} mouths of the Congo and the Ogowe.  Cape Lopez is
named after one of them, Odoardo Lopez, who came out there in 1578.  In
the eighteenth century the Jesuits had extensive plantations on the
coast, with thousands of slaves, but they were as far from penetrating
to the hinterland as were the white traders.

When, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the French and the
English combined to fight the slave trade on the west coast, they
chose, in 1849, the bay which lies north of that of Cape Lopez for the
headquarters of their fleet, establishing there also a settlement to
which they could send the rescued slaves: hence the name Libreville.
That the narrow channels which empty themselves here and there into
Cape Lopez bay belonged to a great river, the whites did not yet know,
for the natives inhabiting the coast had withheld the information in
order to keep the inland trade in their own hands.  It was not till
1862 that Lieut. Serval, while on an excursion to the south-east of
Libreville, discovered the Ogowe in the neighbourhood of Lambarene.
Then began the exploration, from Cape Lopez, of the lower course of the
river, and the chiefs were gradually brought to acknowledge the French

When in the eighties the need was felt of finding the most convenient
route for trade from the coast up to the navigable parts of the Congo,
de Brazza believed that it was to be found in the Ogowe, since this
river rises only some 125 miles north-west of Stanley Pool, and is
separated from the Alima, a navigable tributary of the Congo, only by a
narrow watershed.  He even succeeded in getting to the Congo by this
route a steamer which could be taken to pieces and transported by {8}
land, but the route proved to be impracticable for trade on account of
the difficulties caused by the rapids in the upper part of the Ogowe.
The construction of the Belgian-Congo railway between Matadi and
Brazzaville was finished in 1898, and this put a final end to any idea
of making the Ogowe a way to the Congo.  To-day the Ogowe is used only
by the traffic which goes up to its own still comparatively unexplored

The first Protestant missionaries on the Ogowe were Americans, who came
there about 1860, but as they could not comply with the requirement of
the French Government that they should give their school instruction in
French, they resigned their work later on to the Paris Missionary

To-day this society owns four stations: N'Gômô, Lambarene, Samkita, and
Talagouga.  N'Gômô is about 140 miles from the coast, and the others
follow one another in that order at intervals of about 35 miles.
Talagouga is situated on a picturesque island just in front of N'Djôle,
which is the farthest point to which the river steamer goes.

At each Protestant mission station there are generally one unmarried
and two married missionaries, and, as a rule, a woman teacher also,
making five or six persons, without reckoning the children.

The Catholic mission has three stations in the same district: one in
Lambarene, one in N'Djôle, and one near Samba, on the N'Gounje, the
largest tributary of the Ogowe, and on each station there live about
ten whites: usually three priests, two lay brothers, and five sisters.

The administrative officials of the district are {9} stationed at Cape
Lopez, at Lambarene, at Samba, and at N'Djôle, with about five hundred
coloured soldiers distributed over it to act as a police force.

Such was the country, and such the people among whom for four and a
half years I worked as the forest doctor.  What I experienced during
that time and the observations I made previous to the outbreak of the
war, I shall now describe with the help of the reports which I wrote
every six months in Lambarene and sent as printed letters to my friends
and supporters.  During the war such correspondence was, of course,
impossible, and for that later period and for what is said about the
religious and social problems treated of, I rely on memoranda which I
made for my own use.




LAMBARENE, _July_, 1913.

[Sidenote: From the Vosges to Teneriffe]

The church bells in my native Alsatian village of Günsbach, in the
Vosges, had just ceased ringing for the afternoon service on Good
Friday, 1913, when the train appeared round the corner of the wood, and
the journey to Africa began.  We waved our farewells from the platform
of the last coach, and for the last time saw the _flêche_ on the church
tower peeping up among the trees.  When should we see them again?  When
next day Strasbourg Cathedral sank out of sight we seemed to be already
in a foreign land.

On Easter Sunday we heard once more the dear old organ of S. Sulpice's
Church in Paris and the wonderful playing of our friend Widor.  At two
o'clock the Bordeaux train glided out of the underground station at the
Quai d'Orsay, and we began a delightful journey.  Everywhere we saw
people in their holiday dress; the sunshine was brilliant, and the warm
spring breeze brought out of the distance the sound of the village
church bells, which seemed to be greetings to the train that was
hurrying past.  It was an Easter Day which seemed a glorious dream.

The Congo steamers do not start from Bordeaux but from Pauillac, which
is an hour and a half by train nearer the sea.  But I had to get my big
packing case, which had been sent in advance by goods train, out of
{11} the custom house at Bordeaux, and this was closed on Easter
Monday.  There would have been no time on Tuesday to manage it, but
fortunately an official observed and was touched by our anxiety, and
enabled me to get possession of my goods without all the prescribed
formalities.  But it was only at the last minute that two motor cars
got us and our belongings to the harbour station, where the train was
already waiting which was to convey the passengers for the Congo to
their ship.  The feeling of relief can hardly be described with which,
after all the excitement and the payment of all those who had helped us
off, we sank into our seats in the railway carriage.  The guard blew
his whistle; the soldiers who were also going took their places; we
moved out into the open, and for a time had the enjoyment of blue sky
and pleasant breeze, with the sight here and there of water, and yellow
broom in flower, and cows quietly grazing.  In an hour and a half we
are at the quay among packing cases, bales, and barrels, ten yards from
the ship, called the _Europe_, which is gently tossing on the somewhat
restless waters of the Gironde.  Then came a time of crushing,
shouting, signalling to porters; we push and are pushed till, over the
narrow gangway, we get on board and, on giving our names, learn the
number of the cabin which is to be our home for three whole weeks.  It
is a roomy one, well forward and away from the engines, which is a
great advantage.  Then we had just time to wash before the bell rang
for lunch.

We had at our table several officers, the ship's doctor, an army
doctor, and two wives of colonial officials who were returning to their
husbands after a voyage home to recruit.  All of them, as we soon
discovered, had {12} already been in Africa or in other colonies, so
that we felt ourselves to be poor untravelled home birds.  I could not
help thinking of the fowls my mother used to buy every summer from
Italian poultry dealers to add to her stock, and which for several days
used to walk about among the old ones very shyly and humbly!  One thing
that struck me as noticeable in the faces of our fellow travellers was
a certain expression of energy and determination.

As there was still a great deal of cargo to come aboard we did not
start till the following afternoon, when under a gloomy sky we drew
slowly down the Gironde.  As darkness gradually set in the long roll of
the waves told us that we had reached the open sea, and about nine
o'clock the last shimmering lights had disappeared.

Of the Bay of Biscay the passengers told each other horrid tales.  "How
I wish it were behind us!" we heard at every meal-time, but we were to
make full proof of its malice.  On the second day after starting a
regular storm set in, and the ship pitched and tossed like a great
rocking-horse, and rolled from starboard to port, and back from port to
starboard, with impartial delight.  The Congo boats do this more than
others in a heavy sea because, in order to be able to ascend the river
as far as Matadi, whatever the state of the water, they are of a
comparatively shallow build.

Being without experience of ocean travel, I had forgotten to make the
two cabin trunks fast with cords, and in the night they began to chase
each other about.  The two hat cases also, which contained our sun
helmets, took part in the game without reflecting how badly off they
might come in it, and when I tried to catch the trunks, I nearly got
one leg crushed between them and {13} the wall of the cabin.  So I left
them to their fate and contented myself with lying quietly in my berth
and counting how many seconds elapsed between each plunge made by the
ship and the corresponding rush of our boxes.  Soon there could be
heard similar noises from other cabins and, added to them, the sound of
crockery, etc., moving wildly about in the galley and the dining
saloon.  With morning came a steward, who showed me the scientific way
of making the baggage fast.

For three days the storm lasted with undiminished force.  Standing or
even sitting in the cabins or the saloons was not to be thought of; one
was thrown about from one corner to the other, and several passengers
received more or less serious injuries.  On Sunday we had cold food
only, because the cooks were unable to use the galley fire, and it was
not till we were near Teneriffe that the storm abated.

I had been looking forward to the first sight of this island, which is
always said to be so magnificent, but, alas!  I overslept myself and
woke only as we were entering the harbour.  Then, scarcely had the
anchor been dropped, when we were hemmed in on both sides by
coaling-hulks from which were hoisted sacks of food for the engines, to
be emptied through the hatches into the ship's hold.

      *      *      *      *      *

Teneriffe lies on high ground which slopes rather steeply into the sea,
and has all the appearance of a Spanish town.  The island is carefully
cultivated and produces potatoes enough to supply the whole coast {14}
of West Africa, besides bananas, early potatoes, and other vegetables
for Europe.

[Sidenote: From Teneriffe to Cape Lopez]

We weighed anchor about three o'clock, and I stood in the bows and
watched how the anchor slowly left the bottom and came up through the
transparent water.  I watched also, with admiration, what I took for a
blue bird flying gracefully above the surface of the sea, till a sailor
told me it was a flying fish.

Then, as we moved from the coast southwards, there rose slowly up
behind the island the snow-capped summit of its highest mountain, till
it lost itself in the clouds, while we steamed away over a gently
heaving sea and admired the entrancing blue of the water.

It was during this portion of the voyage that we found it possible to
become acquainted with one another.  The other passengers were mostly
army officers and doctors and civil service officials; it surprised me
to find so few traders on board.  The officials, as a rule, are told
only where they are to land, and not until on shore do they get to know
their ultimate destination.

Among those whom we got to know best were a lieutenant and a Government
official.  The latter was going to the Middle Congo region and had to
leave his wife and children for two years.  The lieutenant was in much
the same position, and was expecting to go up to Abescher.  He had
already been in Tonquin, and in Madagascar, on the Senegal, the Niger,
and the Congo, and he was interested in every department of colonial
affairs.  He held crushing views about Mahommedanism as it prevails
among the natives, seeing in it the greatest danger there is for the
future of Africa.  "The Mahommedan negro," he said, "is no longer any
{15} good for anything.  You may build him railways, dig him canals,
spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to provide irrigation for the
land he is to cultivate, but it all makes no impression on him; he is
absolutely and on principle opposed to everything European, however
advantageous and profitable it may be.  But let a marabout--a
travelling preacher of Islam--come into the village on his ambling
horse with his yellow cloak over his shoulders, then things begin to
wake up!  Everybody crowds round him, and brings his savings in order
to buy with hard cash charms against sickness, wounds, and snake bite,
against bad spirits and bad neighbours.  Wherever the negro population
has turned Mahommedan there is no progress, either socially or
economically.  When we built the first railway in Madagascar, the
natives stood for days together round the locomotive and wondered at
it; they shouted for joy when it let off steam, and kept trying to
explain to each other how the thing could move.  In an African town
inhabited by Mahommedan negroes, the local water power was used once
for an installation of electric light, and it was expected that the
people would be surprised at the novel brightness.  But the evening
that the lamps were first used the whole population remained inside
their houses and huts and discussed the matter there, so as to show
their indifference to the novelty."[1]

[1] In some African colonies Mahommedan negroes are more open to

Very valuable I found my acquaintance with a military doctor who had
already had twelve years' experience of Equatorial Africa, and was
going to Grand Bassam as director of the Bacteriological Institute
there.  {16} At my request he spared me two hours every morning, during
which he gave me an account of the general system of tropical medicine,
illustrated by his own experiments and experiences.  It was very
necessary, he thought, that as many independent doctors as possible
should devote themselves to the care of the native population; only so
could we hope to get the mastery of the sleeping sickness.

The day after we left Teneriffe the troops were ordered to wear their
sun-helmets whenever they were outside the saloons and cabins.  This
precaution struck me as noticeable, because the weather was still cool
and fresh, hardly warmer than it is with us in June, but on the same
day I got a warning from an "old African," as I was enjoying the sight
of the sunset with nothing on my head.  "From to-day onwards," he said,
"you must, even though the weather is not yet hot, regard the sun as
your worst enemy, and that whether it is rising, or high in heaven, or
setting, and whether the sky is cloudy or not.  Why this is so, and on
what the sun's power depends, I cannot tell you, but you may take it
from me that people get dangerous sunstrokes before they get close to
the equator, and that the apparently mild heat of the rising or setting
sun is even more treacherous than the full glow of that fiery body at

At Dakar, the great harbour of the Colony of Senegambia, my wife and I
set foot for the first time on the soil of Africa to which we were to
devote our lives, and we felt it as a somewhat solemn moment.  Of Dakar
itself I have no kindly remembrance, for I cannot forget the cruelty to
animals which is universal there.  The town lies on a steep slope, the
streets are {17} mostly in very bad condition, and the lot of the poor
beasts of burden which are at the mercy of the negroes is terrible: I
have never seen such overworked horses and mules as here.  On one
occasion when I came on two negroes who were perched on a cart heavily
laden with wood which had stuck in the newly mended street, and with
loud shouts were belabouring their poor beast, I simply could not pass
by, but compelled them to dismount and to push behind till the three of
us got the cart on the move.  They were much disconcerted, but obeyed
without replying.  "If you cannot endure to see animals ill-treated,
don't go to Africa!" said the lieutenant to me when I got back.  "You
will see plenty of that kind of horror here."

At this port we took on board a number of Senegalese tirailleurs with
their wives and children.  They lay about the foredeck, and at night
crept, head and all, into big sacks, as they had to sleep in the open.
The wives and children were heavily loaded with charms, enclosed in
little leather bags, even the babies at the breast not being exempt.

The shores of Africa I had pictured to myself as desert, and when, on
the way to Konakri, the next place of call to Dakar, we put in towards
the coast, I was surprised to see nothing but magnificently green woods
coming down right to the water's edge.  With my telescope I could see
the pointed huts of the negro villages, and rising between us and them,
like a cloud, the spray of the waves on the bar; the sea, however, was
fairly calm, and the coast, so far as I could see, was flat.

"A shark!  A shark!"  I rushed from the writing saloon, and was shown a
black triangular object {18} projecting from the water and moving in
the direction of the ship.  It was a fin of that dreaded sea-monster,
and whoever has once seen it never forgets it or confuses it with
anything else.  The West African harbours all swarm with sharks.  In
Kotonou I saw one, enticed by the kitchen refuse, come to about twelve
yards from the ship.  The light being good and the water very
transparent, I could see for several minutes the whole length of its
glistening grey and yellow body, and observe how the creature turned
over nearly on to its back to get what it considered worth devouring
into its mouth, which, as we all know, is placed on the underside of
its head.

In spite of the sharks the negroes in all these harbours are ready to
dive for coins, and accidents seldom happen to them, because the noise
they make during the proceedings gets on the nerves of even these
wolves of the sea.  At Tabou I was astonished to see one of the divers
quite silent while the rest were crying out for more coins, but I
noticed later that he was the most skilful of the lot and had to keep
silent because his mouth served as his purse, and he could hardly shut
it for the number of nickel and silver coins that were in it.

From Konakri onwards we were almost always within sight of the coast.
The Pepper Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast, the Slave Coast!  If
only that line of forest on the horizon could tell us about all the
cruelty it has had to witness!  Here the slave dealers used to land and
ship their living cargoes for transport to America.  "It is not all as
it should be, even today," said to me an employee of a big trading
firm, who was returning for a third period of work to his post {19} in
Africa.  "We bring the negroes strong drink and diseases which were
previously unknown among them.  Do the blessings we bring the natives
really outweigh the evils that go with them?"

Several times during meals I found myself watching the guests at the
different tables.  All had already worked in Africa, but with what
objects?  What ideals had they?  So pleasant and friendly here, what
sort of people were they away in their places of work?  What
responsibility did they feel?  In a few days the three hundred of us
who left Bordeaux together will have landed in Africa, and in a few
weeks we shall be separated, taking up our duties on the Senegal, on
the Niger, on the Ogowe, on the Congo and its tributaries, some even as
far away as Lake Chad, to work in these different regions for three
years or so.  What shall we accomplish?  If everything could be written
down that is done during these years by all of us who are now here on
this ship, what a book it would be!  Would there be no pages that we
should be glad to turn over as quickly as possible? ...

But the ship is carrying us on and on.  Grand Bassam ... Kotonou ...
Each time there are hearty farewells exchanged between many who have
hardly spoken to each other.  "Good health to you!"  The words are
spoken with a smile, but again and again, and in this climate they have
a serious sound.  How will those to whom they are spoken look when they
come on board next?  And will they all come back? ... The windlasses
and cranes begin to creak; the boats are dancing on the waves; the red
roofs of the seaside town throw us a bright greeting from out of the
mass of greenery; the waves breaking on the sandy bar send {20} up
their clouds of spray ... and behind them all lies the immeasurable
stretch of land, at some place in which every one who leaves us here is
to be a lord and master, all his doings having a significance of some
sort for the great land's future.  "Good health to you!  Good health to
you!"  It seems to be scarcely a solemn enough farewell for all that
lies in the future!

At Tabou and at Grand Bassam, on the Ivory Coast, and at Kotonou, the
swell is so heavy even in good weather that passengers cannot get into
the boats by the rope-ladder, but must be lowered into them four at a
time in wooden boxes, such as one sees on merry-go-rounds at village
fairs.  It is the duty of the engineer who manages the crane to seize
the right moment for letting the cradle with its four occupants safely
down into the bottom of the boat which is dancing up and down on the
waves; the negro in the boat has to see that his craft is exactly below
the cradle as it descends, and accidents are not infrequent.  The
unloading of cargo is also a very difficult operation and only possible
in calm weather.  I now understand the assertions that West Africa is
very poor in good harbours.

At Tabou we took on board, as is done on every voyage, some fifty
negroes for handling the cargo.  They are taken as far as the Congo, to
be landed again on the return voyage, and they helped with the
unloading at Libreville, Cape Lopez, and Matadi, the places to which
most of the freight is consigned.  They do their work perfectly, almost
better than the dock labourers at Pauillac, but their behaviour towards
the other coloured folk on board is brutal.  Whenever the latter get
the least bit in their way they come to blows.



Every evening the glimmer of the sea, as the ship ploughs her way
through it, is wonderful: the foam is phosphorescent, and little
jelly-fishes spring up through it like glowing balls of metal.  After
leaving Konakri we saw almost every night the reflection of storms that
swept across the country, and we passed through several deluges of rain
accompanied by tornadoes that did nothing, however, to cool the air.
On cloudy days the heat was worse than on others, and the sun, although
not shining directly on us, was said to be much more dangerous in such
weather than at other times.

Early on April 13th, a Sunday, we reached Libreville, and were welcomed
by Mr. Ford, the American missionary, who brought us a preliminary gift
from Africa of flowers and fruit from the mission-house garden.  We
thankfully accepted his invitation to visit the mission station, which
is called Baraka, and is situated on a hill about 2½ miles along the
coast from Libreville.  As we mounted the hill through the rows of neat
bamboo huts belonging to the negroes, the chapel doors opened after
service.  We were introduced to some of the congregation and had a
dozen black hands to shake.  What a contrast between these clean and
decently clothed people and the blacks that we had seen in the
seaports, the only kind of native we had met up to now!  Even the faces
are not the same.  These had a free and yet modest look in them that
cleared from my mind the haunting vision of sullen and unwilling
subjection, mixed with insolence, which had hitherto looked at me out
of the eyes of so many negroes.

From Libreville to Cape Lopez it is only an eight hours' run.  When,
early on Monday, April 14th, we {22} came in sight of the harbour, an
anxiety seized me which I had felt before occasionally during the last
week or so.  The custom house and the duties!  During the latter part
of the voyage all sorts of tales had been told at meal times about the
colonial duties.  "Ten per cent. on the value of all you bring you'll
have to fork out!" said an old African.  "And whether the things are
new or old doesn't matter in the least!" added another.  However, the
customs officer was fairly gracious to us.  Perhaps the anxious faces
we showed, as we laid before him the list of the things in our seventy
cases, toned him down to a gentler mood, and we returned to the ship
with a delightful feeling of relief, to sleep in it for the last time.
But it was an uncomfortable night: cargo was being unloaded and coal
taken in, till the negroes at the cranes could no longer stand for

      *      *      *      *      *

Early on Tuesday we transferred to the _Alembe_, which, being a river
boat, was built broad and shallow, and its two paddle-wheels were side
by side at the stern, where they are safe from wandering tree trunks.
It took up only the passengers and their personal luggage, being
already full of cargo.  Our cases were to follow in the next boat a
fortnight later.  We started at 9 a.m., so as to pass safely at high
tide over the sandbanks which block the mouth of the Ogowe, and a few
passengers who had stayed on shore too long were left behind.  They
overtook us, however, later on in a motor boat.

[Sidenote: Up the Ogowe to Lambarene]

River and forest...!  Who can really describe the first impression they
make?  We seemed to be {23} dreaming!  Pictures of antediluvian scenery
which elsewhere had seemed to be merely the creation of fancy, are now
seen in real life.  It is impossible to say where the river ends and
the land begins, for a mighty network of roots, clothed with
bright-flowering creepers, projects right into the water.  Clumps of
palms and palm trees, ordinary trees spreading out widely with green
boughs and huge leaves, single trees of the pine family shooting up to
a towering height in between them, wide fields of papyrus clumps as
tall as a man, with big fan-like leaves, and amid all this luxuriant
greenery the rotting stems of dead giants shooting up to heaven....  In
every gap in the forest a water mirror meets the eye; at every bend in
the river a new tributary shows itself.  A heron flies heavily up and
then settles on a dead tree trunk; white birds and blue birds skim over
the water, and high in air a pair of ospreys circle.  Then--yes, there
can be no mistake about it!--from the branch of a palm there hang and
swing--two monkey tails!  Now the owners of the tails are visible.  We
are really in Africa!

So it goes on hour by hour.  Each new corner, each new bend, is like
the last.  Always the same forest and the same yellow water.  The
impression which nature makes on us is immeasurably deepened by the
constant and monotonous repetition.  You shut your eyes for an hour,
and when you open them you see exactly what you saw before.  The Ogowe
is not a river but a river system, three or four branches, each as big
as the Rhine, twisting themselves together, and in between are lakes
big and little.  How the black pilot finds his way correctly through
this maze of watercourses is a riddle to me.  With the spokes of the
great wheel in {24} his hand he guides the ship, without any map before
him, from the main stream into a narrow side channel, from this into
the lake, and from the lake back into the main stream; and so again and
again.  But he has worked up and down this stretch of water for sixteen
years, and can find his way along even by moonlight!

The current in the lower part of the river is sluggish, but it is very
different higher up, though it nowhere becomes as strong as that of the
Rhine.  Invisible sandbanks and tree trunks floating just below the
surface demand very cautious navigation, and the boat's average speed
is not more than eight miles an hour.

After a long run we stop at a small negro village, where, stacked on
the river bank, are several hundred logs of wood, such as bakers often
use, and we lie to in order to ship them, as wood is the fuel used for
the engines.  A plank is put out to the bank; the negroes form line and
carry the logs on board.  On the deck stands another negro with a
paper, and as soon as ten logs have passed, another on the plank calls
to him in musical tones, "Put a one."  When the hundredth log comes,
the call, in the same pleasant tone, is, "Put a cross."  The price is
from four to five francs a hundred, which is rather high when one
considers that the logs are all windfalls and only have to be collected.

The captain abuses the village elder for not having had logs enough
ready.  The latter excuses himself with pathetic words and gestures.
At last they come to an agreement that he shall be paid in spirits
instead of in cash, because he thinks that the whites get their liquor
cheaper than the blacks do, so that he will make a better bargain....
Every litre of alcohol pays two {25} francs duty on coming into the
colony, and I pay for the absolute alcohol which I use for medical
purposes the same duty as is paid on the ordinary liquor for drinking.

Now the voyage continues.  On the banks are the ruins of abandoned
huts.  "When I came out here fifteen years ago," said a trader who
stood near me, "these places were all flourishing villages."  "And why
are they so no longer?" I asked.  He shrugged his shoulders and said in
a low voice, "L'alcohol...."

A little after sunset we lay to opposite a store, and two hours were
spent in shipping 3,000 logs.  "If we had stopped here in daylight,"
said the merchant to me, "all the negro passengers" (there were about
sixty of them) "would have gone ashore and bought spirits.  Most of the
money that the timber trade brings into the country is converted into
rum.  I have travelled about in the colonies a great deal, and can say
that rum is the great enemy of every form of civilisation."

Thus with the ennobling impressions that nature makes are mingled pain
and fear; with the darkness of the first evening on the Ogowe there
lowers over one the shadow of the misery of Africa.  Through the
gloaming chimes the monotonous call, "Make a one," "Make a cross"; and
I feel more convinced than ever that this land needs to help it men who
will never let themselves be discouraged.

With the help of the moon we are able to go further.  Now we see the
forest like a gigantic border on the river bank; now we seem to graze
its dark wall, from which there streams out a heat that is almost
unendurable.  The starlight lies gently on the water; in the distance
there is summer lightning.  Soon after midnight the {26} vessel is
anchored in a quiet bay, and the passengers creep into their mosquito
nets.  Many sleep in the cabins; others on the couches along the walls
of the dining saloon, under which are stored the mail sacks.

About 5 a.m. the engines are set in motion again.  We have now covered
nearly 130 miles (200 kilometres), and the forest is more imposing than
further downstream.  In the distance appears a hill with red roofs upon
it: the mission station of N'Gômô; and the two hours spent in shipping
logs gives us time to see the station and its sawmill.

Five hours later the slopes of Lambarene come in sight, and the steamer
sounds its syren, though it will take another half hour to reach the
village.  But the inhabitants of the widely scattered stores must be
warned in good time, so that they can bring their canoes to the landing
stage and take possession of the goods that we have brought for them.

The Lambarene mission station is an hour further on by canoe, so that
no one could be at the landing stage to greet us, but while the cargo
was being unloaded I suddenly saw a long, narrow canoe, rowed by
merrily singing boys, shoot round the ship, and so fast, indeed, that
the white man in the stern had only just time to throw himself
backwards and save his head from contact with the ship's cable.  It is
Mr. Christol, with the lower class of the boys' school, and behind them
comes another boat with Mr. Ellenberger, rowed by the upper class.  The
boys had made it a race, and the younger ones had won; perhaps,
however, because they were given the lighter boat.  They were,
therefore, allowed to convey the doctor and his wife; the others took
the luggage aboard.  What charming young {27} faces!  One little man
walked solemnly about, carrying my heavy rifle.

The canoe journey we found at first anything but comfortable.  These
vessels are only tree trunks hollowed out and are therefore both flat
and narrow, so that their equilibrium is very easily disturbed.
Moreover, the rowers do not sit, but stand, which, again, does not
contribute to their stability.  With a long, narrow paddle, which is
held freely in the hands, the crew strike the water, singing also so as
to keep in time with each other, and a single awkward movement of one
of the rowers may upset the canoe.  However, in half an hour's time we
had overcome our anxiety, and enjoyed the trip thoroughly.  The steamer
was by now again on its way upstream, and the boys raced it, with such
eagerness, too, that they nearly ran into another canoe with three old
negresses in it.

In half an hour's time we leave the main stream for a branch one, the
singing still going on as merrily as ever, and we can see some white
spots on a hill that is flooded with light from the setting sun: the
houses of the mission station!  The nearer we get, the louder is the
singing, and, after crossing a stream which gusts of wind make rather
rough, the canoe glides into a quiet little bay.

First there are a dozen black hands to shake, but that seems now quite
natural.  Then, Mrs. Christol, Miss Humbert, the schoolmistress, and
Mr. Kast, the manual worker, conduct us to our little house, which the
children have hastily decorated with palms and flowers.  Built of wood,
the house stands on some forty iron piles, which raise it about 20
inches from the ground, and a verandah runs all round its four small
rooms.  The {28} view is entrancing: below us is the stream, which here
and there widens into a lake; all round is forest, but in the distance
can be seen a stretch of the main stream, and the background is a range
of blue hills.

We have scarcely time to unpack the things we need at once when night
comes on, as it does here always just after six.  Then the bell summons
the children to prayers in the schoolroom, and a host of crickets begin
to chirp, making a sort of accompaniment to the hymn, the sound of
which floats over to us, while I sit on a box and listen, deeply moved.
But there comes an ugly shadow creeping down the wall; I look up,
startled, and see a huge spider, much bigger than the finest I had ever
seen in Europe.  An exciting hunt, and the creature is done for.

After supper with the Christols the school children appear in front of
the verandah, which has been decorated with paper lanterns, and sing in
two parts to the tune of a Swiss _Volkslied_ some verses composed by
Mr. Ellenberger in honour of the doctor's arrival.  Then we are
escorted by a squad of lantern-bearers up the path to our house, but
before we can think of retiring to rest we have to undertake a battle
with spiders and flying cockroaches, who seem to regard as their own
domain the house which has been so long uninhabited.

At six o'clock next morning the bell rings; the hymn sung by the
children in the schoolroom is soon heard, and we prepare to begin our
new work in our new home.

[Illustration: MY LITTLE BUNGALOW.  Above: Distant view, with orange
and citron trees in the foreground: Below: Near view.]




LAMBARENE, _July_, 1913.

Strict orders had been widely published that only the most serious
cases were to be brought to the doctor for the first three weeks, so
that he might have time to settle in, but, naturally, not much
attention was paid to them.  Sick people turned up at every hour of the
day, but practical work was very difficult, as, first of all, I had to
rely on any interpreter who might be picked up on the road, and,
secondly, I had no drugs, instruments, or bandages except what I had
brought in my trunk.

A year before my arrival a black teacher in the mission school at
Samkita, N'Zeng by name, had offered his services as interpreter and
doctor's assistant, and I had sent word to him to come to Lambarene
immediately on my arrival, but he did not come because in his native
village, sixty miles away, he had to carry through a legal dispute over
a will.  At last I had to send a canoe with a message that he must come
at once, and he promised to do so, but week after week went by and
still he did not arrive.  Then Mr. Ellenberger said to me with a smile:
"Doctor, your education has begun.  You are finding out for the first
time what every day will prove to you more conclusively, how impossible
it is to rely upon the blacks."


During the night of April 26th we heard the whistle of the steamer and
soon learnt that our cases had been unloaded at the Catholic mission
station, which is on the river bank, the captain having refused to
venture on the, to him, unknown water of our branch stream.
Fortunately, however, Mr. Champel and Mr. Pelot, the industrial
missionaries from N'Gômô, had come to Lambarene, with ten of their
native labourers, to help us.  I was extremely anxious about the
conveyance of my piano with pedal attachment, built for the tropics,
which the Bach Society of Paris had given me, in recognition of many
years' service as their organist, so that I might keep myself in
practice even in Africa.  It seemed to me impossible that such a piano,
in its heavy zinc-lined case, could be carried in a hollowed-out tree
trunk, and yet there are no other boats here!  One store, however,
possessed a canoe, hewn out of a gigantic tree, which could carry up to
three tons weight, and this they lent me.  It would have carried five

[Sidenote: Settling in]

Soon, by dint of hard work, we got our seventy cases across, and to get
them up the hill from the river bank every sound set of limbs in the
station came to help, the school children working as zealously as any
one.  It was amusing to see how a case suddenly got a crowd of black
legs underneath it and two rows of woolly heads apparently growing out
of its sides, and how, amid shouting and shrieking, it thus crept up
the hill!  In three days everything had been carried up, and the N'Gômô
helpers were able to go home.  We hardly knew how to thank them enough,
for without their help we could not possibly have managed the job.

Unpacking was a trial, for it was difficult to dispose {31} of the
various articles.  I had been promised a corrugated-iron building as a
hospital, but it was impossible to get its framework erected, as there
were no labourers to be had.  For several months the timber trade had
been very good, and the traders paid the labourers wages with which the
Mission could not compete.  In order, however, that I might have ready
at hand, at any rate, the most necessary drugs, Mr. Kast, the
industrial missionary, fixed some shelves in my sitting-room, the wood
for which he had himself cut and planed.  One must be in Africa to
understand what a boon some shelves on the wall are!

That I had no place in which to examine and treat the sick worried me
much.  Into my own room I could not take them for fear of infection.
One arranges at once in Africa (so the missionaries impressed on me
from the beginning) that the blacks shall be in the white people's
quarters as little as possible.  This is a necessary part of one's care
for oneself.  So I treated and bandaged the sick in the open air before
the house, and when the usual evening storm came on, everything had to
be hastily carried into the verandah.  Treating patients in the sun
was, moreover, very fatiguing.

      *      *      *      *      *

Under the pressure of this discomfort I decided to promote to the rank
of hospital the building which my predecessor in the house, Mr. Morel,
the missionary, had used as a fowlhouse.  I got some shelves fixed on
the walls, installed an old camp-bed, and covered the worst of the dirt
with whitewash, feeling myself more than fortunate.  It was, indeed,
horribly close in the {32} little windowless room, and the bad state of
the roof made it necessary to wear my sun-helmet all day, but when the
storm came on I did not have to move everything under cover.  I felt
proud the first time I heard the rain rattling on the roof, and it
seemed incredible that I could go quietly on with my bandaging.

At the same time I discovered an interpreter and assistant.  Amongst my
patients there turned up a very intelligent-looking native, who spoke
French remarkably well, and said he was a cook by trade but had had to
give up that kind of work as it disagreed with his health.  I asked him
to come to us temporarily, as we could not find a cook, and at the same
time to help me as interpreter and surgical assistant.  His name was
Joseph, and he proved extremely handy.  It was hardly surprising that,
as he had acquired his knowledge of anatomy in the kitchen, he should,
as a matter of habit, use kitchen terms in the surgery: "This man's
right leg of mutton (gigot) hurts him." "This woman has a pain in her
upper left cutlet, and in her loin!"  At the end of May N'Zeng arrived,
the man whom I had written to engage beforehand, but as he did not seem
to be very reliable, I kept Joseph on.  Joseph is a Galoa, N'Zeng a

[Sidenote: Practice in a fowlhouse]

Work was now fairly well started.  My wife had charge of the
instruments and made the necessary preparations for the surgical
operations, at which she served as assistant, and she also looked after
the bandages and the washing of the linen.  Consultations begin about
8.30, the patients waiting in the shade of my house in front of the
fowlhouse, which is my surgery, and every morning one of the assistants
reads out--



1. Spitting near the doctor's house is strictly forbidden.

2. Those who are waiting must not talk to each other loudly.

3. Patients and their friends must bring with them food enough for one
day, as they cannot all be treated early in the day.

4. Any one who spends the night on the station without the doctor's
permission will be sent away without any medicine.  (It happened not
infrequently that patients from a distance crowded into the schoolboys'
dormitory, turned them out, and took their places.)

5. All bottles and tin boxes in which medicines are given must be

6. In the middle of the month, when the steamer has gone up the river,
none but urgent cases can be seen till the steamer has gone down again,
as the doctor is then writing to Europe to get more of his valuable
medicines.  (The steamer brings the mail from Europe about the middle
of the month, and on its return takes our letters down to the coast.)

These six commandments are read out every day very carefully in the
dialects of both the Galoas and the Pahouins, so that no long
discussion can arise afterwards.  Those present accompany each sentence
with a nod, which indicates that they understand, and at the finish
comes a request that the doctor's words shall be made known in all the
villages, both on the river and on the lakes.

At 12.30 the assistant announces: "The doctor is going to have his
lunch."  More nods to show that they understand, and the patients
scatter to eat their own bananas in the shade.  At 2 p.m. we return,
but at {34} 6 p.m. there are often some who have not yet been seen, and
they have to be put off till the next day.  To treat them by lamplight
cannot be thought of because of the mosquitoes and the risk of fever

Each patient is given, on leaving, a round piece of cardboard on a
string of fibre, on which is the number under which his name, his
complaint, and the medicines given him are recorded in my register, so
that if he comes back I have only to turn to the page to learn all
about the case, and be spared a time-wasting second diagnosis.  The
register records also all the bottles, boxes, bandages, etc., which
were given; only with this means of control is it possible to demand
the return of these things, which in about half the cases we do get
back.  How valuable bottles and boxes are away from the civilised world
only he can rightly estimate who has had to get medicines ready in the
primeval forest for patients to take home with them!

The atmosphere is so damp here that medicines, which in Europe can be
wrapped in paper or distributed in cardboard boxes, can only be kept in
good condition in a corked bottle or in a tin box which closes
perfectly.  I had not taken sufficient account of this, and I found
myself in such difficulty about it that I had to fall out with patients
who said they had forgotten or lost a tin box.  My friends in Europe
were entreated by every post to collect from their acquaintances
bottles big and little, glass tubes with corks, and tin boxes of all
sorts and sizes.  How I look forward to the day when I shall have a
sufficient supply of such things!

The round cardboard ticket with the number on it most of the patients
wear round their neck, together with {35} the metal one which shows
that they have paid their five franc poll tax for the current year.  It
is seldom lost or forgotten, and many of them, especially among the
Pahouins, regard it as a kind of fetish.

My name among the natives in Galoa is "Oganga," _i.e._, fetishman.
They have no other name for a doctor, as those of their own tribesmen
who practise the healing art are all fetishmen.  My patients take it to
be only logical that the man who can heal disease should also have the
power of producing it, and that even at a distance.  To me it is
striking that I should have the reputation of being such a good
creature and yet, at the same time, such a dangerous one!  That the
diseases have some natural cause never occurs to my patients: they
attribute them to evil spirits, to malicious human magic, or to "the
worm," which is their imaginary embodiment of pain of every sort.  When
they are asked to describe their symptoms, they talk about the worm,
telling how he was first in their legs, then got into their head, and
from there made his way to their heart; how he then visited their
lungs, and finally settled in their stomach.  All medicines have to be
directed to expelling him.  If I quiet a colic with tincture of opium,
the patient comes next day beaming with joy and tells me the worm has
been driven out of his body but is now settled in his head and is
devouring his brain: will I please give him something to banish the
worm from his head too?

A great deal of time is lost trying to make them understand how the
medicines are to be taken.  Over and over again the interpreter tells
them, and they repeat it after him; it is written, also, on the bottle
or box, so that they can hear the directions again from {36} any one in
their village who can read, but in the end I am never sure that they do
not empty the bottle at one go, and eat the ointment, and rub the
powders into their skin.  I get, on the average, from thirty to forty
people a day to treat, and the chief complaints are skin diseases of
various sorts, malaria, the sleeping sickness, leprosy, elephantiasis,
heart complaints, suppurating injuries to the bones (osteomyelitis),
and tropical dysentery.  To stop the discharge from the sores the
natives cover the place with powder made from the bark of a certain
tree.  This hardens gradually into a paste which hinders the escape of
the pus and, of course, makes the case much worse.

From the list of the complaints which come oftenest to be treated the
itch (scabies) must not be omitted.  It causes the blacks very great
distress, and I have had patients who had not slept for weeks because
they had been so tortured by the itching; many had scratched their
whole body till the blood came, so that there were festering sores to
treat as well as scabies.  The treatment is very simple.  The patient
first washes in the river, and is then rubbed all over, however tall he
is, with an ointment compounded of flower of sulphur (_sulphur
depuratum_), crude palm oil, remains of oil from sardine tins, and soft
soap.  In a tin which once contained sterilised milk he receives a
quantity of this ointment with which to give himself at home two more
rubbings.  The success of this is wonderful, the itching ceasing to
worry on the second day, and this ointment has in a very few weeks made
me famous far and wide.  The natives have great confidence in the white
man's medicine, a result which is partly, at any rate, due to the
self-sacrificing spirit and the wise understanding {37} with which they
have been treated for a generation here on the Ogowe.  In this
connection I may specially mention Mrs. Lantz, of Talagouga, a native
of Alsace, who died in 1906, and Mr. Robert, of N'Gômô, a Swiss, who is
now lying seriously ill in Europe.

My work is rendered much harder by the fact that I can keep so few
medicines in the fowlhouse.  For almost every patient I have to cross
the court to my dispensary, there to weigh out or to prepare the
medicine needed, which is very fatiguing and wastes much time.  When
will the iron building for the hospital be seriously taken in hand?
Will it be ready before the autumn rainy season begins?  What shall I
do if it is not ready?  In the hot season I shall not be able to work
in the fowlhouse.

I am worried, too, by the fact that I have hardly any medicines left,
for my _clientèle_ is much more numerous than I had expected.  By the
June mail I sent off an extensive order, but the things will not be
here for three or four months, and my quinine, anti-pyrin, bromide of
potassium, salol, and dermatol are almost exhausted.

Yet what do all these disagreeables count for compared with the joy of
being here, working and helping?  However limited one's means are, how
much one can do with them!  Just to see the joy of those who are
plagued with sores, when these have been cleanly bandaged up and they
no longer have to drag their poor, bleeding feet through the mud, makes
it worth while to work here.  How I should like all my helpers to be
able to see on Mondays and Thursdays--the days set apart for the
bandaging of sores--the freshly bandaged patients walking or being
carried down the {38} hill, or that they could have watched the
eloquent gestures with which an old woman with heart complaint
described how, thanks to digitalis, she could once more breathe and
sleep, because the medicine had made "the worm" crawl right away down
to her feet!

As I look back over the work of two months and a half, I can only say
that a doctor is needed, terribly needed, here; that for a huge
distance round the natives avail themselves of his help, and that with
comparatively small means he can accomplish a quite disproportionate
amount of good.  The need is terrible.  "Here, among us, everybody is
ill," said a young man to me a few days ago.  "Our country devours its
own children," was the remark of an old chief.



JULY, 1913--JANUARY, 1914

LAMBARENE, _February_, 1914.

The Lambarene mission station is built on hills, the one which lies
farthest upstream having on its summit the buildings of the boys'
school, and on the side which slopes down to the river the storehouse
and the largest of the mission houses.  On the middle hill is the
doctor's little house, and on the remaining one the girls' school and
the other mission house.  Some twenty yards beyond the houses is the
edge of the forest.  We live, then, between the river and the virgin
forest, on three hills, which every year have to be secured afresh
against the invasion of wild Nature, who is ever trying to get her own
back again.  All round the houses there are coffee bushes, cocoa trees,
lemon trees, orange trees, mandarin trees, mango trees, oil palms, and
pawpaw trees.  To the negroes its name has always been "Andende."
Deeply indebted are we to the first missionaries that they took so much
trouble to grow these big trees.

The station is about 650 yards long and 110 to 120 yards across.  We
measure it again and again in every direction in our evening and Sunday
constitutionals, which one seldom or never takes on the paths that lead
to the nearest villages.  On these {40} paths the heat is intolerable,
for on either side of these narrow passages rises the forest in an
impenetrable wall nearly 100 feet high, and between these walls not a
breath of air stirs.  There is the same absence of air and movement in
Lambarene.  One seems to be living in a prison.  If we could only cut
down a corner of the forest which shuts in the lower end of the station
we should get a little of the breeze in the river valley; but we have
neither the money nor the men for such an attack on the trees.  The
only relief we have is that in the dry season the river sandbanks are
exposed, and we can take our exercise upon them and enjoy the breeze
which blows upstream.

It had been originally intended to put the hospital buildings on the
ridge of high ground on which the boys' school stands, but as the site
was both too far away and too small, I had arranged with the staff of
the station that I should be given a place for it at the foot of the
hill on which I myself lived, on the side next the river.  This
decision had, however, to be confirmed by the Conference of
Missionaries which had been called to meet at Samkita at the end of
July.  So I went there with Mr. Ellenberger and Mr. Christol, to put my
case, and that was my first long journey in a canoe.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: First journey in a canoe]

We started one misty morning two hours before daybreak, the two
missionaries and myself sitting one behind the other in long folding
chairs in the bow.  The middle of the canoe was filled with our tin
boxes, our folded camp-bedsteads, the mattresses, and with the bananas
which formed the rations of the natives.  Behind these things were the
twelve rowers in six {41} pairs one behind the other; these sang about
the destination to which we were bound and about who was on board,
weaving in plaintive remarks about having to begin work so early and
the hard day's work they had in front of them!  Ten to twelve hours was
the time usually allowed for the thirty to thirty-five miles upstream
to Samkita, but our boat was so heavily laden that it was necessary to
allow somewhat longer.  As we swung out from the side channel into the
river, day broke, and enabled us to see along the huge sandbank some
350 yards ahead some dark lines moving about in the water.  The rowers'
song stopped instantly, as if at a word of command.  The dark lines
were the backs of hippopotami, which were enjoying their morning bath
after their regular grazing time on land.  The natives are much afraid
of them and always give them a wide berth, for their temper is very
uncertain, and they have destroyed many a canoe.

There was once a missionary stationed in Lambarene who used to make
merry over the timidity of his rowers, and challenge them to go nearer
to the great animals.  One day, just as he was on the point of bursting
into laughter, the canoe was suddenly shot up into the air by a
hippopotamus which rose from its dive immediately beneath it, and he
and the crew only saved themselves with difficulty.  All his baggage
was lost.  He afterwards had a square patch, with the hole that the
creature had made, sawn out of the bottom of the canoe, that he might
keep it as a souvenir.  This happened some years ago, but the story is
told to any white man who asks his crew to row nearer to a hippopotamus.

In the main stream the natives always keep close to the bank where the
current is not so strong: there {42} are even stretches of river where
one finds a counter-current flowing upstream.  And so we creep along,
as far as possible in the shade of the overhanging trees.  This canoe
has no rudder, but the rower nearest the stern guides it in obedience
to signals from the one in front, who keeps a sharp lookout for
shallows, rocks, and floating tree trunks.  The most unpleasant thing
on these trips is the way in which the light and heat are reflected
from the water.  One feels as if from the shimmering mirror one were
being pierced with arrows of fire.  To quench our thirst we had some
magnificent pineapples, three for each of us.

Sunrise brought the tsetse fly, which is active only by day, and
compared with which the worst mosquito is a comparatively harmless
creature.[1]  It is about half as large again as our ordinary house
fly, which it resembles in appearance, only its wings, when closed, do
not lie parallel to each other but overlap like the blades of a pair of
scissors.  To get blood it can pierce the thickest cloth, but it is
extremely cautious and artful, and evades cleverly all blows of the
hands.  The moment it feels that the body on which it has settled makes
the slightest movement, it flies off and hides itself on the side of
the boat.  Its flight is inaudible and a small fly-whisk is the only
means of protecting oneself to some extent from it.  Its habit of
caution makes it avoid settling on any light-coloured object, on which
it would be easily detected: hence white clothes are the best
protection against it.  This statement I found fully confirmed during
this trip, for two of us wore white, and one yellow clothes.  The two
of {43} us hardly ever had a fly upon us: our companion had to endure
continual annoyance, but the blacks were the worst sufferers.

[1] The _Glossina palpalis_, which conveys the germs of the sleeping
sickness, belongs, as is well known, to the Tsetse family.

At mid-day we stopped at a native village, and while we ate the
provisions we had brought with us, our crew roasted their bananas.  I
wished that after such hard work they could have had some more
substantial food.  It was very late in the evening before we reached
our destination.

With the conference, which sat for a whole week, I was strongly
impressed.  I felt it inspiring to be working with men who for years
had practised such renunciation in order to devote themselves to the
service of the natives, and I enjoyed thoroughly the refreshing
atmosphere of love and good-will.  My proposal had a most friendly
reception: it was decided that the iron shed and the other hospital
buildings should be erected on the place I had in view, and the mission
gave me £80 (4,000 fr.) towards the cost of building.

On our return journey we crossed the river twice in order to avoid
groups of hippopotami, one of which came up only fifty yards away.
Darkness had already come on when we reached our side channel, and for
a whole hour we had to pick our way between sandbanks, the crew having
now and again to jump out and pull or push the canoe forward.  At last
we got into deep water: the song of the crew deepened into a roar, and
soon we saw lights moving, which advanced in zigzag lines down to a
lower level and there came to a halt together.  It was the ladies of
Lambarene and the negro women who had come to meet the returning
travellers at the landing place.  The canoe cuts through the water with
a whish, and with a last spurt is carried high up the beach.  The {44}
rowers give a yell of triumph, while black hands without number reach
out for the boxes, the beds, the bags, and the vegetables we have
brought from Samkita.  "This is Mr. Christol's." "This is Mr.
Ellenberger's." "This is the Doctor's." "Two of you to that; it's too
heavy for one!" "Don't drop it!" "Be careful with the guns!" "Wait: not
here; put it over there!" and so on.  At last the whole cargo has been
distributed to the right places, and we go joyfully up the hill.

Our immediate task now was to level the site for the hospital by the
removal of several cubic metres of soil.  After a world of trouble the
Mission managed to secure four or five labourers whose laziness was
perfectly magnificent, till my patience at last gave way.  A timber
merchant whom we knew, Mr. Rapp, had just arrived with a working party
in order to examine the neighbouring forest, in which he wanted to
secure a concession, and he was staying at the Catholic mission in
order to clear off his correspondence.  At my request he put eight of
his sturdy carriers at my disposal.  I promised them handsome pay and
took a spade in hand myself, while the black foreman lay in the shade
of a tree and occasionally threw us an encouraging word.  With two days
of steady work we had got the soil cleared away and the spot levelled.
The labourers went off with their pay, but on the way back, I regret to
say, they stopped at a store and, in spite of my warnings, turned it
all into spirits.  They reached home in the middle of the night, blind
drunk, and the next day were fit for nothing.  But we were now in a
position to begin building the hospital.

      *      *      *      *      *


Joseph and I were now doing all the work without help.  N'Zeng went off
to his village on leave in August, and, as he did not return at the
time agreed on, he was discharged.  Joseph gets 70 francs (£2 16s.) a
month, though as a cook at Cape Lopez he used to get 120 (£4 16s.).  He
finds it hard that work demanding some education should be worse paid
than the common kinds.

[Sidenote: Heart disease.  Mental maladies.  Poison]

The number of people with heart complaints astonishes me more and more.
They, on the other hand, are astonished that I know all about their
trouble as soon as I have examined them with the stethoscope.  "Now I
believe we've got a real doctor!" said an old woman to Joseph not long
ago.  "He knows that I can often hardly breathe at night, and that I
often have swollen feet, yet I've never told him a word about it and he
has never even looked at my feet."  I cannot help saying to myself that
there is something really glorious in the means which modern medicine
has for treating the heart.  I give digitalis according to the new
French method (daily doses of a tenth of a milligram of digitalin
continued for weeks and months) and am more than pleased with the
results obtained.  It must be said that it is easier to treat heart
disease here than it is in Europe, for when patients are told that they
must rest and keep quiet for weeks, they are never obliged to object
that they will lose their wages and perhaps their work.  They simply
live at home and "recruit," and their family, in the widest sense of
that word, supports them.

Mental complaints are relatively rarer here than in Europe, though I
have already seen some half-dozen such.  They are a great worry as I do
not know how to {46} dispose of them.  If they are allowed to remain on
the station they disturb us with their cries all the night through, and
I have to get up again and again to quieten them with a subcutaneous
injection.  I can look back on several terrible nights which resulted
in my feeling tired for many a day afterwards.  The difficulty can be
surmounted in the dry season, for then I can make the mental patients
and their friends camp out on a sandbank about 600 yards away, although
getting across to see them twice a day consumes a great deal both of
time and of energy.

The condition of these poor creatures out here is dreadful.  The
natives do not know how to protect themselves from them.  Confinement
is impossible, as they can at any time break out of a bamboo hut.  They
are therefore bound with cords of bast, but that only makes their
condition worse, and the final result almost always is that they are
somehow or other got rid of.  One of the Samkita missionaries told me
once that a couple of years before, while sitting one Sunday in his
house, he had heard loud cries in a neighbouring village.  He got up
and started off to see what was the matter, but met a native who told
him it was only that some children were having the sand flies cut out
from their feet; he need not worry, but might go home again.  He did
so, but learnt the next day that one of the villagers, who had become
insane, had been bound hand and foot and thrown into the water.

My first contact with a mentally-diseased native happened at night.  I
was knocked up and taken to a palm tree to which an elderly woman was
bound.  Around a fire in front of her sat the whole of her family, and
behind them was the black forest wall.  It was a {47} glorious African
night and the shimmering glow of the starry sky lighted up the scene.
I ordered them to set her free, which they did, but with timidity and
hesitation.  The woman was no sooner free than she sprang at me in
order to seize my lamp and throw it away.  The natives fled with
shrieks in every direction and would not come any nearer, even when the
woman, whose hand I had seized, sank quietly to the ground as I told
her, and offered me her arm for an injection of morphia and scopolamin.
A few moments later she followed me to a hut, where, in a short time,
she went to sleep.  The case was one of an attack of recurrent maniacal
disturbance, and in a fortnight she was well again, at least for a
time.  In consequence of this the report spread that the doctor was a
great magician and could cure all mental diseases.

Unfortunately, I was soon to learn that there are forms of maniacal
disturbance here with which our drugs can do little or nothing.  The
second case was an old man, and he, too, was brought with hands and
feet bound.  The ropes had cut deeply into his flesh, and hands and
feet alike were covered with blood and sores.  I was amazed at the
small effect produced by the strongest doses of morphia, scopolamin,
chloral hydrate, and bromide of potassium.  On the second day Joseph
said to me: "Doctor, believe me, the man is out of his mind because he
has been poisoned.  You will make nothing of him; he will get weaker
and wilder, and at last he will die."  And Joseph was right; in a
fortnight the man was dead.  From one of the Catholic fathers I learnt
that he had robbed some women, and, therefore, had been followed up and
poisoned by their relatives.

A similar case I was able to study from the beginning.  {48} One Sunday
evening there arrived in a canoe a woman who was writhing with cramp.
I thought at first that it was simple hysteria, but the next day
maniacal disturbance supervened, and during the night she began to rave
and shriek.  On her, too, the narcotics had hardly any effect, and her
strength rapidly diminished.  The natives surmised that she had been
poisoned, and whether they were right or not I am not in a position to

From all I hear it must be true that poison is much used in these
parts, and further south that is still oftener the case: the tribes
between the Ogowe and the Congo are notorious in this respect.  At the
same time there are, among the natives, many inexplicable cases of
sudden death which are quite unjustifiably regarded as the result of

Anyhow, there must be many plants the juices of which have a peculiarly
stimulating effect on the system.  I have been assured by trustworthy
persons that there are certain leaves and roots which enable men to row
for a whole day without experiencing either hunger, thirst, or fatigue,
and to display at the same time an increasingly boisterous merriment.
I hope in time to learn something more definite about these medicines,
but it is always difficult to do so, because the knowledge about them
is kept a strict secret.  Any one who is suspected of betraying
anything about them, and, above all, if it is to a white man, may count
with certainty on being poisoned.

That the medicine men employ poison to maintain their authority I
learnt in a peculiar way through Joseph.  About the middle of the dry
season his village went off to a sandbank about three hours {49}
upstream from here, on a fishing expedition.  These fishing days are
not unlike the Old Testament harvest festivals, when the people
"rejoiced before Yahweh."  Old and young live together for a fortnight
in "booths" made with branches of trees and eat at every meal fresh
fish, boiled, baked, or stewed.  Whatever is not consumed is dried and
smoked, and if all goes well, a village may take home with it as many
as ten thousand fish.  As Joseph's eyes nearly start from their sockets
whenever the conversation turns on fish, I proposed to allow him to go
out with his village for the first afternoon, and asked him to take a
small tub in which to bring back a few fishes for the doctor.  He
showed, however, no enthusiasm at the prospect, and a few questions put
me in possession of the reason.  On the first day there is no fishing
done, but the place is blessed.  The "elders" pour rum and throw
tobacco leaves into the water to put the evil spirits into a good
humour, so that they may let the fish be caught in the nets and may
injure no one.  These ceremonies were once omitted several years ago,
but the following year an old woman wrapped herself up in a net and let
herself be drowned.  "But--why?  Most of you are Christians!" I
exclaimed; "you don't believe in these things!"  "Certainly not," he
replied, "but any one who spoke against them or even allowed himself to
smile while the rum and tobacco were being offered, would assuredly be
poisoned sooner or later.  The medicine men never forgive, and they
live among us without any one knowing who they are."  So he stayed at
home the first day, but I allowed him to go some days later.

      *      *      *      *      *


Besides the fear of poison there is also their dread of the
supernatural power for evil which one man can exert over another, for
the natives here believe that there are means of acquiring such powers.
Whoever has the right fetish can do anything; he will always be
successful when hunting, and he can bring bad luck, sickness, and death
on any one whom he wishes to injure.  Europeans will never be able to
understand how terrible is the life of the poor creatures who pass
their days in continual fear of the fetishes which can be used against
them.  Only those who have seen this misery at close quarters will
understand that it is a simple human duty to bring to these primitive
peoples a new view of the world which can free them from these
torturing superstitions.  In this matter the greatest sceptic, did he
find himself out here, would prove a real helper of mission work.

[Sidenote: Fetishism]

What is fetishism?  It is something born of the fears of primitive man.
Primitive man wants to possess some charm to protect him from the evil
spirits in nature and from those of the dead, as well as from the power
for evil of his fellow men, and this protecting power he attributes to
certain objects which he carries about with him.  He does not worship
his fetish, but regards it as a little bit of property which cannot but
be of service to him through its supernatural powers.

What makes a fetish?  That which is unknown is supposed to have magical
power.  A fetish is composed of a number of little objects which fill a
small bag, a buffalo horn, or a box; the things most commonly used are
red feathers, small parcels of red earth, leopard's claws and teeth,
and ... bells from Europe!  Bells of an old-fashioned shape which date
from the {51} barter transactions of the eighteenth century!  Opposite
the mission station a negro has laid out a small cocoa plantation, and
the fetish which is expected to protect it hangs on a tree in a corked
bottle.  Nowadays valuable fetishes are enclosed in tin boxes, so that
they may not be damaged by termites, from whose ravages a wooden box
gives no permanent protection.

There are big fetishes and little ones.  A big one usually includes a
piece of human skull, but it must be from the skull of some one who was
killed expressly to provide the fetish.  Last summer at a short
distance below the station an elderly man was killed in a canoe.  The
murderer was discovered, and it is considered to have been proved that
he committed the crime in order to secure a fetish by means of which he
hoped to ensure the fulfilment of their contracts by people who owed
him goods and money!

A few weeks later my wife and I took a walk one Sunday through the
forest to Lake Degele, which is about two hours distant.  In the
village in which we took a mid-day rest the people had nothing to eat
because for several days the women had been afraid to go out to the
banana field.  It had become known that several men were prowling about
the neighbourhood who wanted to kill some one in order to obtain a
fetish.  The women of Lambarene asserted that these men had also been
seen near one of our wells, and the whole district was in a state of
excitement for several weeks.

I am myself the possessor of a fetish.  The most important objects in
it are two fragments of a human skull, of a longish oval shape and dyed
with some sort of red colouring matter; they seem to me to be from {52}
the parietal bones.  The owner was ill for many months, and his wife
also, both suffering tortures from sleeplessness.  Several times,
however, the man heard in a dream a voice which revealed to him that
they could only get well if they took the family fetish he had
inherited to Mr. Haug, the missionary in N'Gômô, and followed Mr.
Haug's orders.  Mr. Haug referred him to me, and made me a present of
the fetish.  The man and his wife stayed with me several weeks for
treatment, and were discharged with their health very much improved.

The belief that magical power dwells in human skulls which have been
obtained expressly for this purpose, must be a quite primitive one.  I
saw not long ago in a medical periodical the assertion that the
supposed cases of trephining which have often been recognised during
the excavation and examination of prehistoric graves were by no means
attempts at treatment of tumours on the brain or similar growths, as
had been assumed, but were simply operations for the securing of fetish
objects.  The author of the article is probably right.[2]

[2] In Keith's "Antiquity of Man" (Williams and Norgate, 1915), p. 21,
is a picture of a prehistoric skull in which there is a hole made by
trephining, as is shown by the fact that the edges are bevelled off.
The condition of the bone shows further that the wound had healed prior
to death.

      *      *      *      *      *

In the first nine months of my work here I have had close on two
thousand patients to examine, and I can affirm that most European
diseases are represented here; I even had a child with whooping-cough.
{53} Cancer, however, and appendicitis I have never seen.  Apparently
they have not yet reached the negroes of Equatorial Africa.  On the
other hand, chills play a great part here.  At the beginning of the dry
season there is as much sneezing and coughing in the church at
Lambarene as there is in England at a midnight service on New Year's
Eve.  Many children die of unrecognised pleurisy.

[Sidenote: Chills and nicotine poisoning]

In the dry season the nights are fresher and colder than at other
times, and as the negroes have no bed clothes they get so cold in their
huts that they cannot sleep, even though according to European
standards the temperature is still fairly high.  On cold nights the
thermometer shows at least 68° F., but the damp of the atmosphere,
which makes people sweat continually by day, makes them thereby so
sensitive that they shiver and freeze by night.  White people, too,
suffer continually from chills and colds in the head, and there is much
truth in a sentence I came across in a book on tropical medicine,
though it seemed at the time rather paradoxical: "Where the sun is hot,
one must be more careful than elsewhere to avoid chills."  Especially
fatal to the natives is the camp life on the sandbanks when they are
out on their summer fishing expeditions.  Most of the old folk die of
pneumonia which they have caught on these occasions.

Rheumatism is commoner here than in Europe, and I not infrequently come
across cases of gout, though the sufferers cannot be said to bring it
on by an epicurean diet.  That they eat too much flesh food cannot
possibly be alleged, as except for the fish-days in summer they live
almost exclusively on bananas and manioc.


That I should have to treat chronic nicotine poisoning out here I
should never have believed.  At first I could not tell what to think of
acute constipation which was accompanied by nervous disturbances and
only made worse by aperients, but while treating a black Government
official who was suffering severely I came to see clearly, through
observation and questioning, that the misuse of tobacco lay at the root
of it.  The man soon got well and the case was much talked of, as he
had been a sufferer for years and had become almost incapable of work.
From that time, whenever a case of severe constipation came to me, I
asked at once: "How many pipes a day do you smoke?" and I recognised in
a few weeks what mischief nicotine produces here.  It is among the
women that cases of nicotine poisoning are most frequent.  Joseph
explained to me that the natives suffer much from insomnia, and then
smoke all through the night in order to stupefy themselves.

Tobacco comes here from America in the form of leaves, seven of which
form a head (_tête de tabac_).  It is a plant which is frightfully
common and also frightfully strong (much stronger than that which is
smoked by white people), and it largely takes the place of small coins:
_e.g._, one leaf, worth about a halfpenny, will buy two pineapples, and
almost all temporary services are paid for by means of it.  If you have
to travel, you take for the purchase of food for the crew, not money,
for that has no value in the forest, but a box of tobacco-leaves, and
to prevent the men from helping themselves to its valuable contents you
make it your seat.  A pipe goes from mouth to mouth during the journey;
and anybody who wants to travel fast and will promise {55} his crew an
extra two leaves each, is sure to arrive an hour or two sooner than he
otherwise would.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Teeth.  First operation.  Hippos]

The teeth also give the natives much trouble.  Many of my patients
suffer from shrinking of the gums together with purulent discharges
(_pyorrhoea_) caused by accumulations of tartar.  Then, in course of
time, all the teeth get loose and fall out.  Strange to say, these
cases get well more quickly here than in Europe, where the complicated
treatment often fails to attain its object.  I have obtained successful
results from regular painting with an alcoholic solution of thymol,
only the patient has to be careful not to swallow any of the liquid,
which is, of course, very poisonous.

It seems to the natives almost incredible that I can extract teeth
which are not yet loose, but they do not all trust the polished
forceps!  A chief who was plagued with toothache would not submit to
their use till he had gone home again to consult his wives.  Presumably
the family decision was unfavourable, as he did not present himself
again.  On the other hand, some request me to take all their teeth out
and to get them new ones from Europe.  A few old folk have, through the
missionaries, actually got some double sets, "made by the white
people," and they are now an object of much envy.

Abdominal tumours are very common here with the women.

My hope that I should not need to perform any major operation before
the medical ward was ready for use was disappointed.  On August 15th I
had to operate on a case of strangulated hernia which had been brought
{56} in the evening before.  The man, whose name was Aïnda, begged me
to operate, for, like all the natives, he knew well enough the dangers
of his condition.  There was, in fact, no time to lose, and the
instruments were brought together as quickly as possible.  Mr. Christol
allowed me to use his boys' bedroom as an operating theatre; my wife
undertook to give the anæsthetic, and a missionary acted as assistant.
Everything went off better than we could have expected, but I was
almost staggered by the quiet confidence with which the man placed
himself in position on the operating table.

A military doctor from the interior, who is going to Europe on leave,
tells me that he envies me the excellent assistance I had for my first
operation on hernia!  He himself, he said, had performed his with one
native prisoner handing him the instruments and another administering
the chloroform by guesswork, while each time they moved the fetters on
their legs rattled; but his regular assistant was ill and there was no
one who could take his place.

The aseptic precautions were, naturally, far from perfect, but the
patient recovered.

January 10th, 1914.  I had scarcely finished writing the above
paragraphs this afternoon when I had to hurry off to the landing place.
Mrs. Faure, the wife of the missionary at N'Gômô, arrived in a motor
boat, suffering from a severe attack of malaria, and I had scarcely
given her a first intramuscular injection of quinine when a canoe
brought in a young man who had had his right thigh broken and badly
mutilated by a hippopotamus in Lake Sonange.  In other respects, too,
the poor fellow was in a bad condition.  He and a friend had gone out
together to fish, but not far from {57} the landing place of their
village a hippopotamus had come up unexpectedly and hurled their boat
into the air.  The friend escaped, but my patient was chased about in
the water by the enraged beast for half an hour, though he was able at
last to get to shore in spite of his broken thigh.  I was afraid there
would be serious blood poisoning, for they had brought him the twelve
hours' canoe journey with his mutilated thigh wrapped in dirty rags.

I have myself had a meeting with a hippo, but it, fortunately, ended
well.  One autumn evening I was called up to visit a planter, and to
get to him we had to pass a narrow canal about fifty yards long with a
very strong current.  On the journey out we saw two hippos in the
distance.  For the journey home, which would be in the dark, for night
had fallen, the store people advised me to make a detour of a couple of
hours so as to avoid the canal and the animals, but the rowers were so
tired that I would not ask them for so much extra exertion.  We had
just got to the entrance of the canal when the two hippos came up from
a dive thirty yards ahead of us, their roar sounding much as if
children were blowing a trumpet into a watering can, only louder.  The
crew at once drew in close to the bank, where the current was least
strong, but we advanced very slowly, foot by foot, the hippos
accompanying us, swimming along the other bank.  It was a wonderful,
exciting experience.  Some palm tree stems, which had got fixed in
mid-stream, rose out of the water and swayed about like reeds; on the
bank the forest rose straight up like a black wall, and an enchanting
moonlight illuminated the whole scene.  The rowers gasped with fear and
encouraged each other with low calls {58} while the hippos pushed their
ugly heads out of the water and glared angrily across at us.  In a
quarter of an hour we had got out of the canal and were descending the
narrow arm of the river, followed by a parting roar from the hippos.  I
vowed that never in future would I be so scrupulous about adding even
two hours to a journey in order to get out of the way of these
interesting animals, yet I should be sorry not to be able to look back
on those wonderful minutes, uncomfortable though the experience seemed
at the time.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Sunstroke and its treatment.  The hospital]

Towards evening on November 1st I was again called upon to go to
N'Gômô.  Mrs. Faure had, without thinking, walked a few yards in the
open without anything on her head, and was now prostrate with severe
fever and other threatening symptoms.  Truly my fellow-traveller on the
_Europe_ was right when he said that the sun was our great enemy.  Here
are some further examples:--

A white man, working in a store, was resting after dinner with a ray of
sunshine falling on his head through a hole in the roof about the size
of a half-crown: the result was high fever with delirium.

Another lost his pith helmet when his boat was upset.  As soon as he
got on to the boat, which was floating away keel uppermost, he threw
himself on his back and, anticipating danger, at once took off his coat
and his shirt to protect his head with them.  It was too late, however,
and he got a bad sunstroke.

The skipper of a small merchant vessel had to make some small repairs
to the keel of his craft, which had been drawn up dry on land.  While
working at them he {59} bent his head so far that the sun shone upon
his neck below his helmet.  He, too, was for a time at death's door.

Children, however, are less affected than adults.  Mrs. Christol's
little daughter not long ago ran unobserved out of the house and walked
about in the sun for nearly ten minutes without taking any harm.  I am
now so used to this state of things that I shudder every time I see
people represented in illustrated papers as walking about bareheaded in
the open air, and I have to reassure myself that even white people can
do this with impunity in Europe.

The skipper of the little steamer, who had himself been down with
sunstroke, had been kind enough to offer to fetch me to N'Gômô, and my
wife went with me to help to nurse the patient.  Following the advice
of an experienced colonial doctor, I treated the sunstroke as if it
were complicated with malaria, and gave intra-muscular injections of a
strong solution of quinine.  It has been proved that sunstroke is
especially dangerous to people who are already infected with malaria,
and many doctors even assert that quite half the symptoms are to be put
down to the malarial attack which is brought on by the sunstroke.  A
further necessity in such cases, when the patient can take nothing or
brings everything up again, is to introduce sufficient fluid into the
system to avert such injury to the kidneys as might endanger life.
This is effected best with a pint of distilled and sterilised water
containing 65 grains (4½ grams) of the purest kitchen salt, which is
introduced under the skin or into a vein in the arm with a cannula.

On our return from N'Gômô we were agreeably surprised to hear that the
corrugated iron hospital ward {60} was ready.  A fortnight later the
internal fitting up was practically finished, and Joseph and I left the
fowlhouse and settled in, my wife helping us vigorously.  I owe hearty
thanks for this building to Mr. Kast and Mr. Ottmann, the two practical
workers of the Mission; the former a Swiss, the latter a native of the
Argentine.  It was a great advantage that we could discuss all details
together, and that these two were willing to listen to the
considerations, suggested by my medical knowledge.  Hence the building,
although it is so plain and so small, is extraordinarily convenient:
every nook and corner is made use of.

The building has two rooms, each 13 feet square, the outer of which
serves as consulting room, the inner as operating theatre.  There are
also two small side rooms under the very wide projections of the roof:
one is the dispensary, the other the sterilising room.  The floor is of
cement.  The windows are very large and go right up to the roof.  That
prevents any accumulation of hot air at the top of the room, and every
one is astonished to find how cool it is, although corrugated iron
buildings are always condemned in the tropics as being intolerably hot.
There is no glass in the windows, only fine wire netting to keep out
mosquitoes, but there are wooden shutters outside, which are necessary
on account of the storms.  Along the walls run wide shelves, many of
them of the rarest woods.  We had no common boards left, and it would
have cost much more to have had new ones sawn than to use even the most
expensive that we had ready, besides throwing the work weeks backward.
Under the roof white calico is stretched tightly as a protection
against mosquitoes, which otherwise would find their way in through


During December the waiting-room was got ready and a shed for housing
the patients.  Both buildings are constructed like large native huts
out of unhewn logs and raffia leaves, and I myself, under Mr.
Christol's direction, took part in the work.  The patients' dormitory
measures 42 feet by 19 feet 6 inches.  Joseph has a large hut to
himself.  These buildings lie along both sides of a path about 30 yards
long which leads from the iron building to a bay in the river, in which
the canoes of the patients are moored.  The bay is overshadowed by a
magnificent mango tree.

When the roof of the dormitory was ready, I marked on the floor of
beaten earth with a pointed stick sixteen large rectangles, each
indicating a bed, with passages left between them.  Then the patients
and their attendants, who hitherto had been lodged, so far as possible,
in a boathouse, were called in.  Each patient was put into a rectangle,
which was to be his sleeping place, and their attendants were given
axes with which to build the bedsteads; a piece of bast on a peg showed
the height they were to have.  A quarter of an hour later canoes were
going up and down stream to fetch the wood needed, and the beds were
ready before nightfall.  They consist of four short posts ending in
forks, on which tie two strong side-poles, with shorter pieces lying
across, the whole bound firmly together with creeper stalks.  Dried
grass serves as a mattress.  The beds are about 20 inches from the
ground, so that boxes, cooking utensils, and bananas can be stored
below, and they are broad enough for two or three persons to occupy
them at once; if they do not provide room enough, the attendants sleep
on the floor.  They bring their own mosquito nets with them.


There is no separation of the sexes in the big shed; they arrange
themselves in their usual way.  The only thing I insist on is that the
healthy shall not take possession of a bed while a patient has to sleep
on the ground.  I must soon build some more huts for their
accommodation, as the one dormitory is not enough.  I must also have
some rooms in which to isolate infectious cases, especially the
dysentery ones.  The patients with sleeping sickness, again, I cannot
keep for any length of time in hospital, as they endanger the health of
the whole station, and later on I shall build a hut for them in a quiet
spot on the other side of the river.  There is plenty of work to do
beside the mere medical treatment.

      *      *      *      *      *

With the hospital building finished, the doctor's wife can develop her
activity to the full.  In the fowlhouse there was only room for Joseph
and myself.  She shares with me the work of teaching Joseph how to
clean and handle the instruments and to prepare for operations.  She
also superintends the washing, and it takes a great deal of trouble to
ensure that the dirty and infected bandages are properly cleaned and
sufficiently boiled.  She appears punctually at ten o'clock, and stays
till twelve, insisting on everything being kept in good order.

[Illustration: THE HOSPITAL AT LAMBARENE.  Showing corrugated iron
buildings and huts, with coffee bushes in the foreground.]

To understand what it means when my wife leaves her household work to
give most of the morning to the medical work as well as not a few
afternoons to the operations, for which she administers the
anæsthetics, one must know how complicated the simplest style of
housekeeping is in Africa.  This is the result of two {63} causes:
first, the strict division of duties among the native servants, and,
second, their unreliability.  We have to keep, as is customary, three
servants: a boy, a cook, and a washerman.  To assign the work of the
last-named to either the boy or the cook, as is often done in small
households, is impossible in our case, on account of the extra washing
which comes to the house from the hospital.  Apart from this, a
moderately good European maid could do the whole of the work quite well
by herself.  The cook does nothing but the cooking, the washerman the
washing and ironing, and the boy looks after the rooms and the fowls.
Each of them, as soon as he has finished his own work, goes off to
rest!  So we have to do ourselves whatever work there is which does not
belong to either of their strictly defined departments.  Women servants
are not to be had out here.  Mrs. Christol has as nursemaid for her
eighteen months old baby girl a native boy of fourteen, M'Buru by name.

Then, again, all one's servants, even the best of them, are so
unreliable that they must not be exposed to the slightest temptation.
This means that they must never be left alone in the house.  All the
time they are at work there my wife must be there too, and anything
that might be attractive to their dishonesty must be kept locked up.
Each morning the cook is given exactly what is to be prepared for our
meals, so much rice, fat, and potato; in the kitchen he keeps just a
small supply of salt, flour, and spice, and if he forgets anything, my
wife will have to go up the hill again to the house from the hospital
in order to give it out to him.

That one can never leave them alone in a room, {64} that one keeps
everything locked up and does not trust them with more than the exact
amount of foodstuffs, is not taken by the black servants as an insult.
They themselves expect us to observe these precautionary measures
strictly, in order that they may not be held responsible for any
occasional theft.  Joseph insists on my locking the dispensary if I go
into the dormitory from the iron building for even two minutes, and
leave him alone in the consulting-room, from which one goes into the
dispensary.  If a European does not observe these precautions then his
blacks steal his things with a good conscience.  What is not locked up
"goes for a walk," to use Joseph's language; you may steal anything
from a person who is so careless!

Worse still, however, than this, the negro steals not merely what will
be of value to him, but anything that attracts him for the moment.  Mr.
Rambaud, of Samkita, lost in this way part of a valuable work in
several volumes, and there disappeared one day from my bookshelf the
piano edition of Wagner's "Meistersinger" and the copy of Bach's
Passion Music (S. Matthew), into which I had written the organ
accompaniment, which I had worked out very carefully!  This feeling of
never being safe from the stupidest piece of theft brings one sometimes
almost to despair, and to have to keep everything locked up and turn
oneself into a walking bunch of keys adds a terrible burden to life.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Operations.  Gratitude of patients]

If I went simply by what the blacks ask for, I should now have to
operate on some one every day; the people with hernia quarrel as to who
shall submit to the knife {65} first!  However, at present we manage to
get off with two or three operations a week.  For more than this my
wife would be unable to manage the necessary preparations and the
cleaning and putting away of the instruments afterwards; nor should I
be equal to the work.  I have often to operate in the afternoon when I
have been busy till one o'clock or even later with bandaging and
examination; and in this land one cannot take so much upon one as in a
more temperate climate.

That Joseph can allow himself to collect the vessels with blood in them
after an operation and to wash the instruments, is a sign of very high
enlightenment.  An ordinary negro will touch nothing that is defiled
with blood or pus, because it would make him unclean in the religious
sense.  In many districts of Equatorial Africa it is difficult, or even
impossible, to persuade the natives to let themselves be operated on,
and why those on the Ogowe even crowd to us for the purpose I do not
know.  Their readiness is probably connected with the fact that some
years ago an army doctor, Jorryguibert by name, stayed some time with
the District Commandant at Lambarene, and performed a series of
successful operations.  He sowed, and I am reaping.

Not long ago I got a rare case of injury to operate on, for which many
a famous surgeon might envy me.  It was a case of strangulated hernia
which protruded under the ribs, the so-called lumbar hernia.  There was
every imaginable complication present, and when darkness fell I had not
finished; for the final sutures Joseph had to hold the lamp for me.
But the patient recovered.

Much notice was attracted by an operation on a boy {66} who for a year
and a half had had a piece of necrosed bone, as long as his hand,
projecting from his leg below the knee.  It was a case of
osteomyelitis, and the pus secreted stank so horribly that no one could
stay near him for long.  The boy himself was reduced to a skeleton, but
now he is fat and healthy and is beginning to walk again.

Hitherto all my operations have been successful, and that raises the
confidence of the natives to a pitch that almost terrifies me.  What
impresses them most of all is the anæsthetics, and they talk a great
deal about them.  The girls in our school exchange letters with those
in a Sunday school at home, and in one of them there was the following
piece of news: "Since the Doctor came here we have seen the most
wonderful things happen.  First of all he kills the sick people; then
he cures them, and after that he wakes them up again."  For anæsthesia
seems to the native the same thing as being dead, and similarly if one
of them wants to make me understand that he has had an apoplectic fit,
he says: "I was dead."

There are sometimes patients who try to show their gratitude.  The man
who in August was freed from a strangulated hernia collected 20 francs
among his relations, "in order to pay the Doctor for the expensive
thread with which he sewed up my belly."

An uncle of the boy with the sores on his feet, a joiner by trade, put
in fourteen days' work for me making cupboards out of old boxes.

A black trader offered me his labourers in order that the roof of my
house might be put in order in good time before the rains.

Another came to see me and thank me for having {67} come out to help
the natives, and when he left me he presented me with 20 francs for the
medicine chest.

Another patient presented my wife with a kiboko (or sjambok) of
hippopotamus hide.  It is made in this way: When a hippopotamus is
killed, its hide, which is from ½ inch to 1 inch thick, is cut into
strips about 1½ inches wide and nearly 5 feet long.  One end is nailed
to a board, the strip is twisted into a spiral, and the other end is
nailed down.  When it is dry that supple, sharp-cornered, and justly
dreaded instrument of torture is ready.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Drugs and their cost]

These last few weeks I have been busy stowing away the supply of drugs,
etc., which arrived in October and November.  The reserve stock we
place in the small iron room on the hill, of which I have had the use
since Mr. Ellenberger went away, and which the grateful uncle mentioned
above has fitted with the necessary cupboards and shelves.  It is true
that they do not look handsome, being put together from cases and
bearing still the addresses that were painted on them, but we have a
place for everything: that is the essential thing.  In Africa we learn
not to be too exacting.

While I was worrying over the cost of these valuable supplies of
medicines, bandages, and lint, the December mail brought me news of
fresh gifts which made my heart lighter again.  How can we thank
sufficiently all our friends and acquaintances?  By the time anything
comes to Lambarene it costs about three times its European price, and
this increase is accounted for by the cost of packing, which must be
very carefully done, of the railway journey, of shipping and unloading,
of {68} the voyage, of the colonial import duty, of conveyance up the
river, and allowance for the general losses which result from heat or
water in the hold or from rough handling at the ports.

Our health continues excellent; not a trace of fever, though we need a
few days' rest.

Just as I close this chapter there arrives at the station an old man
with leprosy.  He and his wife have come from the Fernando Vaz lagoon,
which lies south of Cape Lopez and is connected with Ogowe by one of
its smaller mouths.  The poor creatures have rowed themselves 250 miles
upstream to visit the doctor, and can hardly stand for exhaustion.




LAMBARENE, _End of June_, 1914.

At the end of January and the beginning of February my wife and I were
in Talagouga busy looking after Mr. Hermann, a missionary, who was
suffering from a bad attack of boils with high fever, and at the same
time I treated the sick of the neighbourhood.  Among the latter was a
small boy who, with every sign of extreme terror, refused to enter the
room, and had to be carried in by force.  It transpired later that he
quite thought the doctor meant to kill and eat him!  The poor little
fellow had got his knowledge of cannibalism, not from nursery tales,
but from the terrible reality, for even to-day it has not been quite
extirpated among the Pahouins.  About the area over which it still
prevails it is hard to say anything definite, as fear of the heavy
penalties attached to it make the natives keep every case as secret as
possible.  A short time ago, however, a man went from the neighbourhood
of Lambarene into some outlying villages to collect arrears of debt,
and did not come back.  A labourer disappeared in the same way from
near Samkita.  People who know the country say that "missing" is often
to be interpreted as "eaten."

Even the keeping of slaves by natives, though it is no longer
acknowledged as such, is not yet a thing of the {70} past, in spite of
the war that both Government and missions carry on against it.  I often
notice among the attendants of a sick man some whose features are not
those of any tribe that is settled here or in the neighbourhood.  But
if I ask whether they are slaves, I am assured with a rather peculiar
smile that they are only "servants."  The lot of these unacknowledged
slaves is by no means a hard one.  They never have to fear
ill-treatment, and they never think of escaping and putting themselves
under the protection of the Government.  If an inquiry is held, they
usually deny obstinately that they are slaves, and it often happens
that after a number of years of slavery they are admitted as members of
the tribe, thereby becoming free and obtaining a right of domicile in a
definite place.  The latter is what they regard as most valuable.

[Sidenote: Remains of cannibalism and slavery]

The reason for the continued secret existence of domestic slavery in
the district of the lower Ogowe, is to be looked for in the food
conditions of the interior.  It is the disastrous lot of Equatorial
Africa never to have had at any time either fruit-bearing plants or
fruit-bearing trees.  The banana stocks, the manioc, the yam, the
potato, and the oil palm were introduced from their West Indian islands
by the Portuguese, who were the great benefactors of Equatorial Africa.
In the districts where these useful products have not been introduced,
or where they are not well established, permanent famine prevails.
Then parents sell their children to districts lower down stream, in
order that these, at any rate, may have something to eat.  In the upper
course of the N'Gounje, a tributary of the Ogowe, there must be such a
famine district; it is from there that the majority of the domestic
slaves on the Ogowe come, {71} and I have patients from there who
belong to the "earth eaters."  These are driven by hunger to accustom
themselves to this practice, and they keep it up even when they have a
sufficiency of food.

That the oil palm was imported one can notice evidence to-day, for on
the river and round the lakes where there are, or once were, villages,
there are whole woods of oil palms, but when one goes about on the main
roads into the virgin forest, where there has never been a human
settlement, there is not one to be seen.

On our return journey from Talagouga we stayed two days in Samkita with
Mr. and Mrs. Morel, the missionaries from Alsace.  Samkita is the
leopard station, and one of these robbers broke, one night last autumn,
into Mrs. Morel's fowl-house.  On hearing the cries of their feathered
treasures, her husband hurried off to get some one to help, while she
kept a look-out in the darkness, for they supposed a native had forced
his way in to steal something for his dinner.  Then, hearing a noise on
the roof, Mrs. Morel went nearer in hopes of identifying the intruder.
The latter, however, had already vanished in the darkness with a mighty
spring, and when they opened the door twenty-two fowls lay dead on the
floor with their breasts torn open.  It is only the leopard that kills
in this fashion, his chief object being to get blood to drink.  His
victims were removed, but one of them, stuffed with strychnine, was
left lying before the door.  Two hours later the leopard returned and
devoured it, and while it was writhing in cramp it was shot by Mr.
Morel.  Shortly before our arrival another leopard had made his
appearance in Samkita, and had devoured several goats.


At the house of Mr. Cadier, a missionary, we ate monkey flesh for the
first time, for Mr. Cadier is a great sportsman.  With me, on the
contrary, the blacks are far from pleased, because I use my rifle so
little.  On one of my journeys we passed a cayman, asleep on a tree
which was growing out of the water, and when I merely watched it
instead of shooting it the cup of their indignation ran over.  "Nothing
ever happens with you," the crew exclaimed through their spokesman.
"If we were with Mr. Cadier, he would long ago have shot us a couple of
monkeys and some birds so that we could have some meat.  But you pass
close by a cayman and never even touch your shooter!"  I willingly put
up with the reproach.  Birds which circle above the water I never like
shooting; monkeys are perfectly safe from my weapon.  One can often
bring down or wound three or four in succession and yet never secure
their bodies.  They get caught among the thick branches or fall into
the undergrowth which covers an impenetrable swamp; and if one finds
the body, one often finds also a poor little baby monkey, which clings,
with lamentations, to its dying mother.  My chief reason for keeping a
gun is to be able to shoot snakes, which swarm on the grass around my
house, and the birds of prey which plunder the nests of the weaver bird
in the palm trees in front of it.

On our return journey we met a herd of fifteen hippos, who soon plunged
into the water on our approach, but a quite young one remained amusing
itself on the sandbank, and would not obey its mother when she called
to it.

      *      *      *      *      *


During our absence Joseph had carried out his duties very well, and had
treated the surgical cases with intelligence.  On his own initiative he
had dressed the festering stump of a man's arm with a solution of
hydrogen peroxide, which he had to make from biborate of sodium!

[Sidenote: Negro ideas of law and right]

The young man who had been mauled by the hippo I found in a very bad
state.  My three weeks' absence had prevented me from operating at the
right time, and he died during the amputation of his leg, which I now
hastily undertook.  As he drew his last breaths his brother began to
look angrily at the companion who had gone with him on the fatal
expedition, and had come to the station to help to look after him.  He
spoke to him also in a low voice, and as the body became cold there
began an excited duel of words between them.  Joseph drew me aside and
explained what it meant.  N'Kendju, the companion, had been with the
dead man on the expedition, and they had, in fact, gone on his
invitation.  He was, therefore, according to native law, responsible
for him, and could be called to account.  That was why he had had to
leave his village to stay all these weeks by his friend's bedside, and
now that they were taking the dead man back to his village he was
expected to go with them, that the case against him might be settled at
once.  He did not want to go, however, as he knew that it would mean
death.  I told the brother that I regarded N'Kendju as being now in my
service, and that I would not let him go, which led to an angry
altercation between him and myself while the body was being placed in
the canoe, where the mother and the aunts began the funeral
lamentations.  He asserted {74} that N'Kendju would not be put to
death, but would only have to pay a fine.  Joseph, however, assured me
that no reliance could be placed on such statements, and I felt obliged
to remain at the river side till they started, as they would otherwise,
no doubt, have dragged N'Kendju into the canoe by force.

My wife was troubled that while the patient was breathing his last his
brother showed no sign of grief, and was thinking only of the putting
into force of the legal rights, and she expressed herself angrily about
his want of feeling.  But in that she was no doubt wronging him.  He
was only fulfilling a sacred duty in beginning at once to take care
that the person who, from his point of view, was responsible for his
brother's death, did not escape the penalty due to him.  For to a negro
it is unthinkable that any such act should remain unatoned for, a point
of view which is thoroughly Hegelian!  For him the legal side of an
event is always the important one, and a large part of his time is
spent in discussing legal cases.[1]  The most hardened litigant in
Europe is but a child compared to the negro, and yet it is not the mere
love of litigation that is the latter's motive; it is an unspoilt sense
of justice, such as is, on the whole, no longer felt by Europeans.  I
was getting ready one day to tap an old Pahouin who was {75} suffering
badly from abdominal dropsy, when he said to me: "Doctor, see that all
the water runs off as soon as possible, so that I can breathe and get
about again.  My wife has deserted me because my body has got so big,
and I must go and press for the return of the money I paid for her at
the wedding."  On another occasion a child was brought to me in a most
miserable condition; its right leg had an open sore along it right up
to the hip.  "Why didn't you come before?"  "Doctor, we couldn't; there
was a palaver to finish."  A palaver means any sort of quarrel which is
brought up for a legal settlement, and the little ones are discussed in
the same detail and with the same earnestness as the big ones.  A
dispute involving a single fowl will keep the village elders employed
for a whole afternoon.  Every negro is a law expert.

[1] "No other race on a similar level of culture has developed as
strict methods of legal procedure as has the negro.  Many of his legal
forms remind us strongly of those of mediæval Europe." (_Prof. Boas in
"The Ethnical Record," March_, 1904, _p._ 107.)

"Everywhere in Africa where the life of the people has not been
disturbed by outside influences, the people are governed by law.  There
is law relating to property, to morality, to the protection of life, in
fact, in many portions of Africa law is more strictly regarded than in
many civilised countries."  (_Booker Washington: "The Story of the
Negro," Vol. I., p._ 70.)

The legal side of life is extremely complicated with them, because the
limits of responsibility are, according to our notions, very wide
indeed.  For a negro's debts the whole of his family, down to the
remotest degree of relationship, is responsible.  Similarly the
penalties are extraordinarily severe.  If a man has used another's
canoe illegally for a single day, he must pay the third of its value as
a fine.

Together with this unspoilt sense of justice goes the fact that the
native accepts the punishment as something obvious and needing no
defence, even when it is, according to our notions, much too severe.
If he did not get punished for an offence, his only conclusion would be
that his victims were remarkably foolish.  Yet the lightest sentence,
if unjust, rouses him to great indignation; he never forgives it, and
he recognises the penalty as just only if he is really convicted and
{76} obliged to confess.  So long as he can lie with the slightest
plausibility, he inveighs against his condemnation with most
honourable-seeming indignation, even if he is actually guilty.  This is
a feature in primitive man which every one who has to do with him must
take into account.

That N'Kendju ought to pay some compensation to the family of his
companion on the unfortunate fishing expedition is obvious, even though
he was only so very indirectly responsible for the other's death.  But
they must get the case against him settled in orderly fashion in the
District Court at Lambarene.

      *      *      *      *      *

I am always able to rely on Joseph.  True, he can neither read nor
write, but in spite of that he never makes a mistake when he has to get
a medicine down from the shelf.  He remembers the look of the words on
the label, and reads this, without knowing the individual letters.  His
memory is magnificent, and his capacity for languages remarkable.  He
knows well eight negro dialects, and speaks fairly well both French and
English.  He is at present a single man, as his wife left him, when he
was a cook down on the coast, to go and live with a white man.  The
purchase price of a new life companion would be about 600 francs (£24),
but the money can be paid in instalments.  Joseph, however, has no mind
to take another wife under these conditions, for he thinks they are an
abomination.  "If one of us," he said to me, "has not completely paid
for his wife, his life is most uncomfortable.  His wife does not obey
him, and whenever an opportunity offers she taunts him with having no
right {77} to say anything to her, because she has not yet been paid


As Joseph does not understand how to save any better than the other
natives, I have bestowed on him a money-box in which to save up for the
purchase of a wife.  Into this goes all his extra pay for sitting up at
night or other special services, and all the tips he gets from white
patients.  How extravagant the "first assistant of the doctor in
Lambarene" (as he calls himself) can be, I experienced about this time.
He was with me at a store, and while I was buying some nails and screws
his eye was caught by a pair of patent leather shoes which, from
standing a long time in a Paris shop window, had got sun-dried and
rotten, and had then, like many other odds and ends, found their way to
Africa.  Although they cost nearly as much as the amount of his monthly
wages, he meant to buy them, and warning looks from me were useless, as
were also a couple of digs in the ribs which I gave him quietly while
we were standing at the counter among a crowd of staring negroes.  I
could not venture openly to dissuade him, as it would have offended the
dealer, who was thankful to get rid of the shoes.  So at last I pinched
him unperceived as hard as I could just above the back of his thigh
till he could stand the pain no longer, and the transaction was broken
off.  In the canoe I gave him a long lecture on his childish taste for
extravagance, with the result that the very next day he went to the
store again on the quiet and bought the shoes!  Quite half of what he
earns from me he spends in clothes, shoes, ties, and sugar.  He dresses
much more elegantly than I do.

[Sidenote: Great access of patients]

All through the last few months the work has been {78} steadily
growing.  Our hospital is splendidly situated.  Upstream and
downstream, from places hundreds of kilometres away on the Ogowe and
its tributaries, sick people are brought here, and the fact that those
who bring them can be lodged here is a further encouragement to come in
great numbers.  And there is yet another attraction: the fact that I am
always at home, unless--and this has happened only two or three times
so far--I have to go to some other mission station to treat a
missionary who is ill, or some member of his family.  Thus the native
who has undertaken the trouble and the expense of the journey here from
a distance, is sure of seeing me.  That is the great advantage which
the independent doctor has over one appointed by the Government.  The
latter is ordered now here, now there, by the authorities, or has to
spend a long time with a military column on the march.  "And that you
have not got to waste so much time on correspondence, reports, and
statistics, as we have to, is also an advantage, the reality of which
you have not yet grasped," said an army doctor not long ago, during a
short chat with me on his way past.

      *      *      *      *      *

The hut for the sleeping sickness victims is now in course of erection
on the opposite bank, and costs me much money and time.  When I am not
myself superintending the labourers whom we have secured for grubbing
up the vegetation and building the hut, nothing is done.  For whole
afternoons I have to neglect the sick to play the part of foreman there.

[Sidenote: Sleeping sickness]

Sleeping sickness prevails more widely here than I suspected at first.
The chief focus of infection is in the {79} N'Gounje district, the
N'Gounje being a tributary of the Ogowe about ninety miles from here,
but there are isolated centres round Lambarene and on the lakes behind

What is the sleeping sickness?  How is it spread?  It seems to have
existed in Equatorial Africa from time immemorial, but it was confined
to particular centres, since there was little or no travelling.  The
native method of trade with the sea coast was for each tribe to convey
the goods to the boundary of its territory, and there to hand them over
to the traders of the adjoining one.  From my window I can see the
place where the N'Gounje enters the Ogowe, and so far only might the
Galoas living round Lambarene travel.  Any one who went beyond this
point, further into the interior, was eaten.

When the Europeans came, the natives who served them as boats' crews,
or as carriers in their caravans, moved with them from one district to
another, and if any of them had the sleeping sickness they took it to
fresh places.  In the early days it was unknown on the Ogowe, and it
was introduced about thirty years ago by carriers from Loango.
Whenever it gets into a new district it is terribly destructive, and
may carry off a third of the population.  In Uganda, for example, it
reduced the number of inhabitants in six years from 300,000 to 100,000.
An officer told me that he once visited a village on the Upper Ogowe
which had two thousand inhabitants.  On passing it again two years
later he could only count five hundred; the rest had died meanwhile of
sleeping sickness.  After some time the disease loses its virulence,
for reasons that we cannot as yet explain, though it continues to carry
off {80} a regular, if small, number of victims, and then it may begin
to rage again as destructively as before.

The first symptom consists of irregular attacks of fever, sometimes
light, sometimes severe, and these may come and go for months without
the sufferer feeling himself really ill.  There are victims who enter
the sleep stage straight from this condition of apparent health, but
usually severe headaches come during the fever stage.  Many a patient
have I had come to me crying out: "Oh, doctor! my head, my head!  I
can't stand it any longer; let me die!"  Again, the sleep stage is
sometimes preceded by torturing sleeplessness, and there are patients
who at this stage get mentally deranged; some become melancholy, others
delirious.  One of my first patients was a young man who was brought
because he wanted to commit suicide.

As a rule, rheumatism sets in with the fever.  A white man came to me
once from the N'Gômô lake district suffering from sciatica.  On careful
examination, I saw it was the beginning of the sleeping sickness, and I
sent him at once to the Pasteur Institute at Paris, where French
sufferers are treated.  Often, again, an annoying loss of memory is
experienced, and this is not infrequently the first symptom which is
noticed by those around them.  Sooner or later, however, though it may
be two or three years after the first attacks of fever, the sleep sets
in.  At first it is only an urgent need of sleep; the sufferer falls
asleep whenever he sits down and is quiet, or just after meals.

A short time ago a white non-commissioned officer from Mouila, which is
six days' journey from here, visited me because, while cleaning his
revolver, he had {81} put a bullet through his hand.  He stayed at the
Catholic mission station, and his black boy accompanied him whenever he
came to have his hand dressed, and waited outside.  When the N.C.O. was
ready to go, there was almost always much shouting and searching for
his attendant, till at last, with sleepy looks, the latter emerged from
some corner.  His master complained that he had already lost him
several times because, wherever he happened to be, he was always taking
a long nap.  I examined his blood and discovered that he had the
sleeping sickness.

Towards the finish the sleep becomes sounder and passes at last into
coma.  Then the sick man lies without either feeling or perception; his
natural motions take place without his being conscious of them, and he
gets continually thinner.  Meanwhile his back and sides get covered
with bed-sores; his knees are gradually drawn up to his neck, and he is
altogether a horrible sight.  Release by death has, however, often to
be awaited for a long time, and sometimes there is even a lengthy spell
of improved health.  Last December I was treating a case which had
reached this final stage, and at the end of four weeks the relatives
hurried home with him that, at least, he might die in his own village.
I myself expected the end to come almost at once, but a few days ago I
got the news that he had recovered so far as to eat and speak and sit
up, and had only died in April.  The immediate cause of death is
usually pneumonia.

Knowledge of the real nature of sleeping sickness is one of the latest
victories of medicine, and is connected with the names of Ford,
Castellani, Bruce, Button, Koch, Martin, and Leboeuf.  The first
description of {82} it was given in 1803 from cases observed among the
natives of Sierra Leone, and it was afterwards studied also in negroes
who had been taken from Africa to the Antilles and to Martinique.  It
was only in the 'sixties that extensive observations were begun in
Africa itself, and these first led to a closer description of the last
phase of the disease, no one even suspecting a preceding stage or that
there was any connection between the disease and the long period of
feverishness.  This was only made possible by the discovery that both
these forms of sickness had the same producing cause.

Then in 1901 the English doctors, Ford and Button, found, on examining
with the microscope the blood of fever patients in Gambia, not the
malaria parasites they expected, but small, active creatures which on
account of their form they compared to gimlets, and named
Trypanosomata, _i.e._, boring-bodies.  Two years later the leaders of
the English expedition for the investigation of sleeping sickness in
the Uganda district found in the blood of a whole series of patients
similar little active creatures.  Being acquainted with what Ford and
Button had published on the subject, they asked whether these were not
identical with those found in the fever patients from the Gambia
region, and at the same time, on examination of their own fever
patients, they found the fever to be due to the same cause as produced
the sleeping sickness.  Thus it was proved that the "Gambia fever" was
only an early stage of sleeping sickness.

The sleeping sickness is most commonly conveyed by the _Glossina
palpalis_, a species of tsetse fly which flies only by day.  If this
fly has once bitten any one with sleeping sickness, it can carry the
disease to others for a {83} long time, perhaps for the rest of its
life, for the trypanosomes which entered it in the blood it sucked live
and increase and pass in its saliva into the blood of any one it bites.

Still closer study of sleeping sickness revealed the fact that it can
be also conveyed by mosquitoes, if these insects take their fill of
blood from a healthy person immediately after they have bitten any one
with sleeping sickness, as they will then have trypanosomes in their
saliva.  Thus the mosquito army continues by night the work which the
_glossina_ is carrying on all day.  Poor Africa![2]

[2] I must, however, in justice add that the mosquito does not harbour
the trypanosomes permanently, and that its saliva is poisonous only for
a short time after it has been polluted by the blood of a sleeping
sickness victim.

In its essential nature sleeping sickness is a chronic inflammation of
the meninges and the brain, one, however, which always ends in death,
and this ensues because the trypanosomes pass from the blood into the
cerebro-spinal fluid.  To fight the disease successfully it is
necessary to kill them before they have passed from the blood, since it
is only in the blood that atoxyl,[3] one weapon that we at present
possess, produces effects which can to any extent be relied on; in the
cerebro-spinal marrow the trypanosomes are comparatively safe from it.
A doctor must, therefore, learn to recognise the disease in the early
stage, when it first produces fever.  If he can do that, there is a
prospect of recovery.

[3] Atoxyl (meta-arsenic anilid) is a compound of arsenic with an
aniline product.

In a district, therefore, where sleeping sickness has to be treated,
its diagnosis is a terribly complicated business because the
significance of every attack of fever, of {84} every persistent
headache, of every prolonged attack of sleeplessness, and of all
rheumatic pains must be gauged with the help of the microscope.
Moreover, this examination of the blood is, unfortunately, by no means
simple, but takes a great deal of time, for it is only very seldom that
these pale, thin parasites, about one eighteen-thousandth (1/18000) of
a millimetre long, are to be found in any considerable number in the
blood.  So far I have only examined one case in which three or four
were to be seen together.  Even when the disease is certainly present
one can, as a rule, examine several drops of blood one after another
before discovering a single trypanosome, and to scrutinise each drop
properly needs at least ten minutes.  I may, therefore, spend an hour
over the blood of a suspected victim, examining four or five drops
without finding anything, and even then have no right to say there is
no disease; there is still a long and tedious testing process which
must be applied.  This consists in taking ten cubic centimetres of
blood from a vein in one of the sufferer's arms, and keeping it
revolving centrifugally for an hour according to certain prescribed
rules, at the same time pouring off at intervals the outer rings of
blood.  The trypanosomes are expected to have collected into the last
few drops, and these are put under the microscope; but even if there is
again a negative result, it is not safe to say that the disease is not
present.  If there are no trypanosomes to-day, I may find them ten days
hence, and if I have discovered some to-day, there may be none in three
days' time and for a considerable period after that.  A white official,
whose blood I had proved to contain trypanosomes, was subsequently kept
under observation for weeks, in {85} Libreville, without any being
discovered, and it was only in the Sleeping Sickness Institute at
Brazzaville that they were a second time proved to be there.

If, then, I wish to treat such patients conscientiously, a couple of
them together can tie me for a whole morning to the microscope, while
outside there are sitting a score of sick people who want to be seen
before dinner-time!  There are also surgical patients whose dressings
must be renewed; water must be distilled, and medicines prepared; sores
must be cleansed, and there are teeth to be drawn!  With this continual
drive, and the impatience of the waiting sick, I often get so worried
and nervous that I hardly know where I am or what I am doing.

Atoxyl is a frightfully dangerous drug.  If the solution is left for
some time in the light it decomposes, just like salvarsan, and works as
a poison, but even if it is prepared faultlessly and is in perfect
condition, it may cause blindness by injuring the nerves of sight.  Nor
does this depend on the size of the dose; small ones are often more
dangerous than large ones, and they are never of any use.  If one
begins with too small a dose, in order to see whether the patient can
take the drug, the trypanosomes get inured to it; they become
"atoxyl-proof," as it is called, and then can defy the strongest doses.
Every five days my sleeping sick come to me for an injection, and
before I begin I always ask in trepidation whether any of them have
noticed that their sight is not as good as usual.  Happily, I have so
far only one case of blinding to record, and that was a man in whom the
disease had already reached a very advanced stage.  Sleeping sickness
now prevails from the east coast of Africa right to the west, and from
the {86} Niger in the north-west to the Zambesi in the south-east.
Shall we now conquer it?  A systematic campaign against it over this
wide district would need many doctors and the cost would be
enormous....  Yet, where death already stalks about as conqueror, the
European States provide in most niggardly fashion the means of stopping
it, and merely undertake stupid defensive measures which only give it a
chance of reaping a fresh harvest in Europe itself.

      *      *      *      *      *

After the sleeping sickness it is the treatment of sores and ulcers
which takes up most time.  They are far more common here than in
Europe--one in four of the children in our school has a permanent sore.
What is the cause?

[Sidenote: Sandfleas, crawcraw, raspberry disease, etc.]

Many sores are caused by sandfleas (_Rynchoprion penetrans_), a species
much smaller than the common flea.  The female bores into the tenderest
part of the toe, preferably under the nail, and grows under the skin to
the size of a small lentil.  The removal of the insect causes a small
wound, and if this gets infected through dirt, there sets in a kind of
gangrene, which causes the loss of a joint, or even of a whole toe.
Negroes with ten complete toes are almost rarer than those who have one
or more mutilated.

It is an interesting fact that the sandflea, which is now a regular
plague to Central Africa, is not indigenous there, but was brought over
from South America as late as 1872.  In ten years from that time it had
spread all over the Dark Continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
In East Africa it is known as the "Jigger."  One of the worst species
of ants which we have here, the {87} sangunagenta, is also an
importation, having come over in cases of goods brought from South

Besides the sores caused by the sandflea we have the so-called
crawcraw.  These generally occur several together, most commonly on the
foot and leg, and are frightfully painful, but the cause of them we do
not yet know.  The treatment consists in cleaning out the sore with a
plug of cotton-wool till it bleeds naturally, when it is washed out
with mercuric chloride and filled with boracic powder.  It is then
bandaged and left to itself for ten days.

Another kind of sore is that of the so-called raspberry disease
(_framboesia_), which may attack any part of the body.  The name was
given because it shows itself first in largish pustules, covered with a
yellow crust, the removal of which reveals a slightly bleeding surface
which looks exactly like a raspberry stuck on the skin.  There was
brought to me once an infant which had got infected through contact
with its mother's breast, and looked exactly as if it had been first
painted over with some viscous substance and then stuck all over with
raspberries.  These pustules may disappear, but for years afterwards
surface sores occur in the most varied parts of the body.

This disease, which is common in all tropical countries, is very
infectious, and almost all the negroes here have it at some time or
other.  The old treatment consisted in dabbing the sore with a solution
of sulphate of copper (_cupri sulphas_) and giving the patient every
day two grammes of iodide of potassium (_potassii iodidum_) in water.
It has recently been proved that arseno-benzol injected into the veins
of the arm effects a speedy and permanent cure; the sores disappear as
if by magic.


The worst sores of all are the tropical eating sores (_ulcus
phagedenicum tropicum_), which spread in all directions.  Not
infrequently the whole leg surface is one single sore, in which the
sinews and bones show like white islands.  The pain is frightful, and
the smell is such that no one can stay near the patient for any length
of time.  The sufferers are placed in a hut by themselves, and have
their food brought to them; there they gradually waste away and die
after terrible sufferings.  This most horrible of all the different
sores is very common on the Ogowe, and merely to disinfect and bandage
does no good.  The sufferer must be put under an anæsthetic and the
sore carefully scraped right down to the sound tissue, during which
operation blood flows in streams.  The sore is then bathed with a
solution of permanganate of potash, but a careful inspection must be
made every day so as to detect any new purulent centre that may show
itself, as this must at once be scraped out like the others.  It is
weeks, perhaps months, before the sore is healed, and it will use up
half a case of bandages.  What a sum it costs us, too, to feed the
patient for so long!  But what joy when--limping, indeed, for the
healed wounds leave the foot permanently deformed, but rejoicing at his
freedom from the old pain and stench--he steps into the canoe for the
journey home!

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Leprosy, malaria, dysentery]

The lepers are another class of sick people who give one much trouble.
This disease is caused by a bacillus which is closely allied to that of
tuberculosis, and this was discovered in 1871 by a Norwegian doctor,
Hansen by name.  Isolation, which is always insisted on where {89}
possible, is not to be thought of here, and I often have four or five
lepers among the other sick folk in the hospital.  The most remarkable
fact about it is that we have to assume that the infection passes from
one individual to another, although no one has yet discovered how it
does so, or succeeded in producing infection experimentally.  The only
drug we have at our disposal for fighting this disease is the so-called
Chaulmoogra oil (_oleum gynocardiæ_), which is obtained from the seed
of a tree in Further India.  It is expensive, and usually comes into
the market adulterated.  I obtain what I want through a retired
missionary, Mr. Delord, a native of French Switzerland, who had a great
deal to do with leprosy when he worked in New Caledonia, and can get
supplies direct from a reliable source.  Following a hint from him I
administer the nauseous drug in a mixture of sesame and earth-nut oils
(_huile d'arachides_), which makes it more tolerable for taking.
Recently the administration of Chaulmoogra oil by subcutaneous
injection has also been recommended.


A real cure of leprosy is beyond our powers, but a great improvement in
a patient's health can be effected, and the disease can be reduced to a
state of quiescence which lasts so long that it is practically
equivalent to a cure.  The attempts which have been made in recent
years to cure the disease by means of a serum prepared from the
bacillus that causes it, and known under the name of Nastin, allow us
to hope that some day we shall be able to fight it effectively in this

With swamp fever, or tropical malaria, I have, unfortunately, like
every other doctor in the tropics, plenty to do.  To the natives it is
merely natural that {90} every one of them should from time to time
have fever with shivering fits, but children are the worst sufferers.
As a result of this fever the spleen, as is well known, swells and
becomes hard and painful, but with them it sometimes projects into the
body like a hard stone from under the left ribs, not seldom reaching as
far as the navel.  If I place one of these children on the table to
examine him, he instinctively covers the region of the spleen with his
arms and hands for fear I should inadvertently touch the painful stone.
The negro who has malaria is a poor, broken-down creature who is always
tired and constantly plagued with headache, and finds even light work a
heavy task.  Chronic malaria is known to be always accompanied by
anæmia.  The drugs available for its treatment are arsenic and quinine,
and our cook, our washerman, and our boy each take 7 to 8 grains (half
a gram) of the latter twice a week.  There is a preparation of arsenic
called "Arrhenal," which enormously enhances the effect of the quinine,
and I give it freely to white and black alike in subcutaneous

Among the plagues of Africa tropical dysentery must not be forgotten.
This disease, also, is caused by a special kind of amoeba, which
settles in the large intestine and injures the membrane.  The pain is
dreadful, and day and night alike, without intermission, the sufferer
is constantly wanting to empty the bowels, and yet passes nothing but
blood.  Formerly the treatment of this dysentery, which is very common
here, was a tedious process and not really very successful.  The drug
used was powdered ipecacuanha root, but it could seldom be administered
in sufficient quantities to act effectively, because when taken {91}
through the mouth it caused vomiting.  For some years, however, use has
been made of a preparation of the essential principle contained in this
root, under the title of emetin (_emetinum hydrochloricum_).  Six to
eight cubic centimetres of a 1 per cent. solution of this is injected
subcutaneously for several days in succession, and this is followed at
once by a great improvement and usually by a permanent cure; in fact,
the results attained border on the miraculous.  There is no need for
care about diet; the patient can eat what he likes--hippopotamus steak,
if he is black; potato salad, if he is white.  If a doctor could effect
no cures in the tropics beyond what these newly-discovered means of
healing, arseno-benzol and emetin, make possible, it would still be
worth his while to come out here.  At the fact that a great part of the
labour entailed upon a doctor in the tropics consists in combating
various diseases, each one more loathsome than the last, which have
been brought to these children of nature by Europeans, I can here only
hint.  But what an amount of misery is hidden behind the hint!

      *      *      *      *      *

As to operations, one undertakes, naturally, in the forest only such as
are urgent and which promise a successful result.  The one I have had
to perform oftenest is that for hernia, a thing which afflicts the
negroes of Central Africa much more than it does white people, though
why this should be so we do not know.  They also suffer much oftener
than white people from strangulated hernia, in which the intestine
becomes constricted and blocked, so that it can no longer empty itself.
It then becomes enormously inflated by the {92} gases which form, and
this causes terrible pain.  Then after several days of torture death
takes place, unless the intestine can be got back through the rupture
into the abdomen.  Our ancestors were well acquainted with this
terrible method of dying, but we no longer see it in Europe because
every case is operated upon as soon as ever it is recognised.  "Let not
the sun go down upon your--strangulated hernia," is the maxim
continually impressed upon medical students.  But in Africa this
terrible death is quite common.  There are few negroes who have not as
boys seen some man rolling in the sand of his hut and howling with
agony till death came to release him.  So now, the moment a man feels
that his rupture is a strangulated one--rupture is far rarer among
women--he begs his friends to put him in a canoe and bring him to me.

[Sidenote: Operations]

How can I describe my feelings when a poor fellow is brought me in this
condition?  I am the only person within hundreds of miles who can help
him.  Because I am here and am supplied by my friends with the
necessary means, he can be saved, like those who came before him in the
same condition and those who will come after him, while otherwise he
would have fallen a victim to the torture.  This does not mean merely
that I can save his life.  We must all die.  But that I can save him
from days of torture, that is what I feel as my great and ever new
privilege.  Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death

So, when the poor, moaning creature comes, I lay my hand on his
forehead and say to him: "Don't be afraid!  In an hour's time you shall
be put to sleep, and when you wake you won't feel any more pain."  Very
soon he is given an injection of omnipon; the {93} doctor's wife is
called to the hospital, and, with Joseph's help, makes everything ready
for the operation.  When that is to begin she administers the
anæsthetic, and Joseph, in a long pair of rubber gloves, acts as
assistant.  The operation is finished, and in the hardly lighted
dormitory I watch for the sick man's awaking.  Scarcely has he
recovered consciousness when he stares about him and ejaculates again
and again: "I've no more pain!  I've no more pain!" ... His hand feels
for mine and will not let it go.  Then I begin to tell him and the
others who are in the room that it is the Lord Jesus who has told the
doctor and his wife to come to the Ogowe, and that white people in
Europe give them the money to live here and cure the sick negroes.
Then I have to answer questions as to who these white people are, where
they live, and how they know that the natives suffer so much from
sickness.  The African sun is shining through the coffee bushes into
the dark shed, but we, black and white, sit side by side and feel that
we know by experience the meaning of the words: "And all ye are
brethren" (Matt. xxiii. 8).  Would that my generous friends in Europe
could come out here and live through one such hour!




CAPE LOPEZ, _July_ 25_th_-29_th_, 1914

An abscess, for the opening of which the help of the military doctor at
Cape Lopez seemed to be necessary, compelled me about this time to go
down to the coast, but we had scarcely got there when it fortunately
burst, and the risk of further complications was avoided.  My wife and
I were kindly entertained at the house of a factory employee called
Fourier, whose wife had spent two months that summer at Lambarene,
awaiting her confinement at our house.  Monsieur Fourier is a grandson
of the French philosopher Fourier (1772-1837), in whose social theories
I was much interested when a student in Paris.  Now one of his
great-grandchildren has entered the world under our roof!

I cannot yet move about, so spend the whole day in an armchair on the
verandah with my wife, looking out over the sea and inhaling with
enjoyment the fresh sea breezes.  That there is a breeze at all is a
delight to us, for in Lambarene there is never any wind except during
the short storms, which are known as tornadoes.  This time of leisure I
will employ in writing something about the life of the lumbermen and
the raftsmen on the Ogowe.


It was only about thirty years ago that attempts were first made to
exploit the great forests of West and Equatorial Africa, but the work
is not as easy as might be thought.  Magnificent timber is there in any
quantity, but how fell and transport it?  At present the only timber on
the Ogowe that has any commercial value is that which is near the
river.  The most magnificent tree a kilometre from the water is safe
from the axe, for what is the good of felling it if it cannot be taken

Why not build light railways, then, to convey the logs to the water?
That question will be asked only by those who do not know what a forest
in Equatorial Africa is like.  The ground on which it stands is nothing
but a mass of gigantic roots and swamp.  To prepare the ground for even
200 or 300 yards of light railway means cutting down the trees, getting
rid of their roots, and filling up the swamp; and that would cost more
than a hundred tons of the finest timber would fetch at Cape Lopez.  It
is, therefore, only at the most favourable spots that light railways
can be built cheaply enough.  In these forests one learns how impotent
man is when pitted against Nature!

Work, then, has, as a rule, to be carried on in a primitive way, and
this for the further reason, also, that only primitive men can be got
for labourers, and not a sufficient number even of them.  The
introduction of Annamites and Chinese has been talked of, but it is a
hopeless proposal.  Foreigners are of no use in the African forest,
because they cannot endure the heat and the camp life in it, and,
moreover, cannot live on the foods produced locally.

[Sidenote: The choice of a site for work]

The first thing to be done is to choose the right place {96} for work.
In the virgin forest the trees grow in the most capricious fashion, and
it pays to fell them only where there is near the water's edge a
considerable number of the kind of trees required.  These places are
generally some distance within the forest, but when the river is high,
are usually connected with the latter by some narrow watercourse, or by
a pond, which at such times becomes a lake.  The natives know well
enough where these places are, but they keep the knowledge to
themselves, and make a point of misleading any white man who comes into
their neighbourhood to look for them.  One European told me that the
natives of a certain village kept taking from him for two months
liberal presents of brandy, tobacco, and cloth while they went out with
him every day on the search for such a place, but not a single one was
discovered which seemed to promise profitable exploitation.  At last,
from a conversation which he happened to overhear, he learnt that they
purposely took him past all the favourable spots, and then their
friendly relations came to a sudden end.  Of the timber that stands
near enough to the river to be easily transported, nearly the whole has
already been felled.

About half the forest area has been put, through concessions, into the
hands of big European companies.  The rest is free, and any one, white
or black, can fell timber there as he pleases.  But even in the
woodlands covered by the concessions the companies often allow the
natives to fell trees as freely as they can in the other parts, on the
one condition that they sell the timber to the company itself, and not
to other dealers.

The important thing, after all, is not to own woods, but to have timber
for sale, and the timber which the {97} negroes cut down on their own
account and then offer to the company works out cheaper than what the
latter get through their contract labour.  On the other hand, the
supply from the free natives is so uncertain that it cannot be relied
upon for trade purposes.  They may take it into their heads to
celebrate a festival, or to have a big fishing expedition just when the
demand for timber is greatest, so the companies, while they buy all
they can from the natives, also keep their own labourers constantly at

      *      *      *      *      *

When a suitable spot has been discovered, there come to it either the
men of a village who have agreed to exploit it together, or the white
man with his labourers, and huts are erected to live in.  The great
difficulty is food.  One is faced with the problem of securing supplies
for from sixty to one hundred men for weeks and months together, and
that in the middle of the virgin forest.  The nearest village and the
nearest plantations are perhaps twenty-five miles away, and only to be
reached by a weary struggle through jungle and swamp.  Unfortunately,
too, the staple foods of banana and manioc[1] are bulky, and therefore
troublesome to transport; moreover, they only keep good for a few days.
The great drawback attaching to Equatorial {98} Africa is that none of
its food products keep long.  Bananas and manioc ripen the whole year
through, now freely, now sparingly, according to the time of year, but
bananas go bad six days after gathering, and manioc bread ten days
after it is made.  The manioc root by itself is unusable, as there are
poisonous species which contain cyanic acid, to get rid of which the
roots are soaked for some days in running water.  Stanley lost three
hundred carriers because they too hastily ate manioc root which had not
been washed long enough.  When it is taken out of the water it is
crushed and rubbed, and undergoes fermentation, and this produces a
kind of tough, dark dough, which is moulded into thin sticks and
wrapped in leaves for preservation.  Europeans find this a very poor

[1] Manioc, better known perhaps to English readers as cassava, belongs
to the Euphorbiaceæ.  The two chief kinds are Manihot utilissima, the
bitter, which contains the hydrocyanic acid, and Manihot Aipi, the
sweet, which is harmless.  The roots are 3 feet long and 6 to 9 inches
in diameter, filled with milky juice.  The starch as prepared for food
is known first as Brazilian arrowroot, and this, when further prepared,
as the tapioca of commerce.  (_Encycl. Brit., s.v._)

[Sidenote: Life on the chosen site]

Since, then, the regular provision of local foodstuffs is so difficult,
these native timber workers have to reconcile themselves to living on
rice and preserved foods from Europe.  This means mostly cheap tins of
sardines, prepared specially for export to the inland regions of
Africa, and of these the stores always have a big supply in stock.
Variety is secured by means of tinned lobster, tinned asparagus, and
Californian fruits.  The expensive tinned stuff which the well-to-do
European denies himself as too expensive, the negro, when felling
timber, eats from necessity!

And shooting?  In the real forest shooting is impossible.  There is,
indeed, wild life in plenty, but how is it to be discovered and pursued
in the thick jungle?  Good shooting is only to be had where grassland
or treeless marshes alternate with the forest, but in such places there
is usually no timber to be felled.  Thus, paradox though it seems, it
is nowhere easier to starve {99} than amid the luxurious vegetation of
the game-haunted forests of Equatorial Africa!

How the timber-workers manage to get through the day with the tsetse
fly, and through the night with the mosquito, it is hard to tell.
Often, too, they have to work for days together up to the hips in
water.  Naturally they all suffer from fever and rheumatism.

The felling of the trees is very troublesome work because of the
thickness of the trunks.  Moreover, the giants of the forest do not
grow up out of the earth round and smooth; they are anchored to the
ground by a row of strong, angular projections, which as they leave the
stems become the main roots, and act as buttresses.  Mother Nature, as
though she had studied under the best architects, gives these forest
giants the only sort of protection which could be effective against the
force of the tornadoes.

In many cases the hewing of the trees at ground level is not to be
thought of.  The axe can begin its work only at the height of a man's
head, or it may even be necessary to erect a scaffold on which the
hewers can then stand.

Several men must toil hard for days before the axe can finish its work,
and even then the tree does not always fall.  It is tangled into a
single mass with its neighbours by powerful creepers, and only when
these have been cut through does it come, with them, to the ground.
Then begins the process of cutting up.  It is sawn, or hewn with axes,
into pieces from 12 to 15 feet long, until the point is reached at
which the diameter is less than 2 feet.  The rest is left, and decays,
and with it those portions also which are too thick, that is, which
{100} are more than 5 to 5½ feet in diameter, as such huge pieces are
too awkward to handle.

The felling and cutting up of the trees takes place as a rule in the
dry season, that is, between June and October.  The next work is to
clear the track by which these mighty logs, weighing sometimes as much
as three tons, are to be rolled to the nearest piece of water.  Then
begins a contest with the roots which have been left in the ground and
the huge tree tops which are lying upon it, and not infrequently the
mighty trunk itself has in its fall embedded itself three feet in the
soil.  But in time the track is got fairly ready, the portions which
run through swamp being filled up with wood.  The pieces--spoken of as
"billets" (French, _billes_)--are rolled on to the track, thirty men,
with rhythmical shouts, pushing and shoving at each one and turning it
slowly over and over on its axis.  If a piece is very large, or not
quite round, human strength may not suffice, and the movement is
effected by means of jacks.  Then a hillock in the way may present a
difficulty to be overcome; or, again, the wood-packing in the swamp may
give way!  The thirty men in an afternoon's work seldom move one of
these "billets" more than eighty to ninety yards.

And time presses!  All the timber must be got to the pond to be ready
for the high water at the end of November and the beginning of
December, since it is only just then that the pond is in connection
with the rivers.  Any timber that misses this connection remains in the
forest, and is reduced to such a condition by the parasitic
wood-insects--especially by a species of Bostrichid beetle--that it is
not worth buying.  At best it can be saved when the spring high water
comes, {101} but that is often not high enough to connect all the
ponds, and if the timber has to stay there till the next autumn flood
it is assuredly lost.

[Illustration: STUMP OF A MAHOGANY TREE.  The tree was so thick at its
base that it could only be cut through at a height of 13 feet from the
ground.  The woodcutters stood on a staging erected around the trunk.]

Occasionally, once perhaps in ten years, even the autumn flood does not
rise high enough, and then the season's work is wholly lost on many
timber-working sites.  This happened last autumn (1913), and many
middle-sized and small trading firms are reported to have been nearly
ruined.  The male populations of many villages, too, after labouring
for months, did not earn enough to cover their debts for the rice and
tinned foods that they had had to buy.

At last the timber is in the river, moored to the jungle on the bank
with ropes of creepers, and the white trader comes to buy what the
negroes of the different villages have to offer him.  And here caution
is necessary.  Is the timber really of the kind desired, or have the
negroes smuggled in among it pieces of some other tree with a similar
bark and similar veining which stood at the water's edge?  Is it all
freshly cut, or are there some last year's logs, or even some of the
year before last, which have had their ends sawn off to make them look
new?  The inventive skill of the negroes with a view to cheating in
timber borders on the incredible!  Let the newcomer be on his guard!
For example: In Libreville Bay a young English merchant was to buy for
his firm some ebony, a heavy wood, which comes into the market in short
logs.  The Englishman reported with satisfaction that he had secured
some huge pieces of magnificent ebony, but no sooner had his first
purchase reached England than he received a telegram saying that what
he had bought and despatched for ebony was nothing of the kind; that
{102} his expensive stuff was worthless, and he himself responsible for
the loss involved!  The fact was that the negroes had sold him some
hard wood which they had allowed to lie for several months in the black
swamp.  There it had soaked in the colour so thoroughly that at the
ends and to a certain depth all over it seemed to be the finest ebony;
the inner part, however, was of a reddish colour.  The inexperienced
white man had neglected to test his bargain by sawing one of the logs
in two!

The dealer, then, measures and purchases the timber.  The measuring is
a difficult job, as he has to jump about on the logs, which turn over
in the water with his weight.  Then he pays up half the purchase money,
keeping the rest till the timber, on which the trade mark of his firm
is now cut, has been brought safely down to the coast.  Sometimes,
however, it happens that natives sell the timber four or five times
over, pocketing the money each time and then disappearing into the
forest till the transaction has been forgotten, or till the white man
is tired of spending time and money in going after the swindlers, by
whom, indeed, he is not likely to be indemnified, seeing that, long
before he finds them, they will have spent the money in tobacco and
other things.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: The rafts.  The voyage]

Next comes the building of the rafts, or floats, for which neither rope
nor wire is needed, as the supple creepers of the forest are cheaper
and better than either, and can be had as thin as a finger or as thick
as one's arm.  From 60 to 100 of the 12 to 15 feet trunks are arranged
one behind the other in two rows and bound {103} together, so that the
raft is from 25 to 30 feet broad, and about 130 feet long, and its
weight may be as much as 200 tons.  Long planks are also bound upon it
on a regular plan, and these give it the necessary strength and
firmness.  Next huts of bamboo and raffia leaves are built upon it, and
a special platform of logs is coated with clay to serve as a fireplace
for cooking.  Powerful steering-oars are fixed in front and behind in
strong forks, so that the course of the raft can be to some extent
guided, and as each of these needs at least six men to work it, there
must be a crew of between fifteen and twenty men.  Then when all the
bananas and manioc sticks that can be procured have been placed upon
it, the voyage begins.

The crew must know well the whereabouts of the continually shifting
sandbanks, in order to avoid them, and these, covered as they are with
brown water, are very hard to detect at any considerable distance.  If
the raft strikes one, there is no way of getting it afloat again but by
releasing from it one by one the logs which have got fixed in the sand,
and putting them back again afterwards.  Sometimes the raft has to be
taken entirely to pieces and re-made, a proceeding which under those
conditions takes a week and involves the loss of a certain number of
the logs, which the stream carries away during the work.  Time, too, is
precious, for provisions are usually not too abundant, and the further
they get down the Ogowe, the harder it is to get more.  For a few
wretched bananas the people of the villages on the lower Ogowe exact
from the hungry raftsmen a franc, or a franc and a half; or they may
refuse to supply anything at all.

It happens not infrequently during the voyage that {104} the crew sell
some of the good logs in the raft to other negroes, and replace them
with less valuable ones of exactly the same sizes, putting the firm's
trade mark upon these with deceptive accuracy.  These inferior pieces
that have been thrown away in the forest have been lying in dozens ever
since the last high water, either on the sandbanks or in the little
bays on the river banks, and there are said to be villages which keep a
big store of them of all possible sizes.  The good timber which has
been taken from the raft is later made unrecognisable, and is sold over
again to a white man.

Other reasons, too, the white man has for anxiety about his raft on its
way down.  In so many days the ship which is to take the timber will be
at Cape Lopez, and the rafts have till then to come in: the crew have
been promised a handsome bonus if they arrive in good time.  But if the
tomtom is sounded in a river-bank village as they pass, they may
succumb to the temptation to moor the raft and join in the
festivities--for two, four, six days!  Meanwhile the ship waits at Cape
Lopez and the trader must pay for the delay a fine which turns his
hoped-for profitable stroke of business into a serious loss.


The 200 miles (350 kilometres) from Lambarene to Cape Lopez usually
take such a raft fourteen days.  The, at first, comparatively quick
rate of progress slows down towards the end, for about fifty miles from
the river mouth the tide makes itself felt in the river.  For this
reason, too, the river water can no longer be drunk, and as there are
no springs within reach, the canoe which is attached to the raft is
filled in good time with fresh water.  From now on progress can be made
only with the ebb tide and when the flood tide sets in {105} the raft
is moored to the bank with a creeper as thick as a man's arm, so that
it may not be carried back upstream.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: In Cape Lopez Bay]

The next step is to get the raft into a narrow, winding side stream
about twenty miles long which enters the sea through the southern shore
of Cape Lopez Bay.  If it is swept into any of the other arms which
have their outlet in the middle of the bay it is lost, for the strong
current of the rivers, which, after being dammed up by the flood tide,
rushes down at five miles an hour, carries it right out to sea.
Through the southern arm, however, it comes out into a strip of shallow
water which runs along the coast, and over this it can be navigated
with long poles to Cape Lopez.  Here again, if the raft gets a few
yards too far from the shore so that the punting-poles cannot touch
bottom, it can no longer be guided and gets swept out to sea, and
within these last ten miles a mighty contest often develops between the
crew and the elements.  If a land breeze gets up there is hardly
anything to be done.  If, indeed, the position of the raft is noticed
at Cape Lopez, they try to send a boat to it with an anchor and a
cable, and that may save it if the waves are not so strong as to break
it up.  But if that happens, there is only one thing for the crew to
do, if they do not wish to be lost also, and that is to leave the raft,
in the canoe--and at the right moment.  For once out at the mouth of
the bay, no canoe can make its way back to Cape Lopez in the teeth of
the ebb tide and the regular current of the river.  The flat, keelless
vessels which are used in the river are useless in a contest with the


In this way more than one raft has been lost, and more than one crew
has disappeared in the waves.  One of my white patients once found
himself on one of these unlucky rafts.  They were driven out to sea
after dark by a breeze which got up quite unexpectedly, and the force
of the waves made it hopeless to think of escaping in the canoe.  The
raft was beginning to break up when a motor longboat came to the
rescue, some one on the shore having noticed the lantern which the
despairing men had waved to and fro as they drove past, and sent the
rescue boat, which happened fortunately to have its steam up, in
pursuit of the moving light.

Brought safely to Cape Lopez, the raft is taken to pieces and the logs
go into "the park."  At the most sheltered part of the bay two rows of
tree-trunks are bound together so as to form a sort of double chain.
This is effected by driving into the trunks iron wedges which end in
rings through which strong wire ropes are drawn.  This double chain of
logs protects the calm water from the movement of the sea, and behind
this "breakwater," or boom, float as many logs as there is room for.
The logs are further fastened together by other wire ropes, running
through iron rings which have been driven into them, and every two or
three hours a watchman goes round to see whether the boom is all right,
whether the rings are still holding, and whether the continual rubbing
in the rings and the frequent bending with the up and down movement of
the water has not made the wire ropes worn and unsafe.  But often the
utmost foresight and care is useless.  A rope in the breakwater gives
way during the night without any one noticing it, and when in the
morning the owner of the logs comes to inspect them, they have
journeyed out {107} to sea, never to return.  Some months ago an
English firm lost in this way, in a single night, timber worth
something like £1,600 (40,000 francs).  But if a tornado comes there is
no controlling anything.  The huge trunks in the park plunge about like
dolphins bewitched, and finally make an elegant jump over the boom into
the free water beyond.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Loading.  Chief kinds of timber]

Thus every day that the raft lies in the bay brings a risk, and
anxiously is the ship awaited which is to take the logs away.  No
sooner has it arrived than the motor boats tow raft after raft to its
landward side, those that are to be shipped having been prepared first
by having wire ropes run through a line of rings at each end.  Negroes
jump about on the tossing raft, and knock the two rings out of the log
that is to be shipped next, so that it floats free of the raft, and
then they slip round it the chain with which it is to be hoisted on
board.  This needs a tremendous amount of skill, for if a labourer
falls into the water from the wet and slippery surface of a rolling log
he will probably get his legs crushed between these two or three-ton
masses of wood which are continually dashing against one another.

From the verandah I can watch through my glasses some negroes occupied
with this work, which is made much harder for them by the delightful
breeze I am enjoying, and I know that if a tornado comes, or even a
really stiff breeze, the rafts which are lying along the ship's side
will certainly be lost.

The losses in timber, then, between the places where it is felled and
its successful hoisting on board ship, are {108} tremendous, and the
lagoons near the mouth of the Ogowe are veritable timber graveyards.
Hundreds and hundreds of gigantic tree trunks stick out of the mud
there, the majority being trees which could not be got away at the
right time and were left to rot, till a bigger flood than usual carried
them out to the river.  When they got to the bay, wind and tide carried
them into the lagoons, from which they will never emerge.  At this
present minute I can count, with the help of my glasses, some forty
trunks which are tossing about in the bay, to remain the plaything of
ebb and flood and wind till they find a grave either in the lagoons or
in the ocean.

As soon as the raft has been safely delivered the crew make haste to
get back up the river, either in their canoe or in a steamer, in order
that they may not starve in Cape Lopez, for all the fresh provisions in
the port town have to be brought some 125 miles down the river from the
interior, since nothing of the kind can be grown in the sands of the
coast or the marshes of the river mouth.  When they have got back home,
and have been paid off by the purchaser of the timber, quantities of
tobacco, brandy, and all sorts of goods are bought by them at the
latter's store.  As rich men, according to native notions, they return
to their villages, but in a few weeks, or even earlier, the whole of
the money has run through their fingers, and they look out for a new
place at which to begin their hard work over again.


The export of timber from Cape Lopez is increasing steadily; at the
present time (1914) it amounts to about 150,000 tons a year.  The chief
sorts dealt in are mahogany, which the natives call _ombega_, and
okoume {109} (_Aucoumea klaineana_), the so-called false mahogany.  The
latter is softer than real mahogany, and is used mostly for making
cigar-boxes, but it is employed also for furniture, and has a great
future before it.  Many species of it are almost more beautiful than
the real mahogany.

If the timber is left too long in the water it is attacked by the
boring mollusc, the _teredo navalis_ (French _taret_).  This is a small
worm-like creature, really a kind of mussel, which eats a passage for
itself straight to the centre of the log.  For this reason any timber
that has to wait a long time for the ship is rolled on to the shore,
and advantage is usually taken of this to hew off the sap wood, so that
the trunk becomes a square beam.

But besides the okoume and mahogany there are many other valuable kinds
of wood on the Ogowe.  I will mention the _ekewasengo_, or rosewood
(_bois de rose_), and coralwood (_bois de corail_), both of which have
a beautiful red colour, and the ironwood, which is so hard that in the
sawmill at N'Gômô there are cog-wheels in use that are made of it.
There grows here also a wood which, when planed, looks like white
_moiré_ silk.

The finest woods, however, are not exported, because they are not yet
known in European markets, and are, therefore, not in demand.  When
they do become known and sought after, the Ogowe timber trade will
become even more important than it is to-day.  The reputation of being
the best wood expert on the Ogowe belongs to Mr. Haug, one of the
missionaries at N'Gômô, who has a valuable collection of specimens of
every kind of it.  At first I could not understand how it is that
everybody {110} here, even people who have nothing to do with the
timber trade, is so interested in the different kinds of wood.  In the
course of time, however, and thanks to continual intercourse with
timber merchants, I have myself become, as my wile says, a timber




WRITTEN WHILE ON THE RIVER, _July_ 30_th_--_Aug._ 2_nd_, 1914.

I am again fit for work, and the skipper of a small steamer, which
belongs to a trading firm at N'Djoli, has been kind enough to take us
with him to Lambarene, but our progress is only slow, as we have a
heavy cargo of kerosene.  This comes in square tins, each holding four
gallons (eighteen litres), straight from the U.S.A. to the Ogowe, and
the natives are beginning to use it freely.

I am profiting by the long voyage to arrange and clear my ideas as to
the social problems which, to my astonishment, I have come across in
the forest.  We talk freely in Europe about colonisation, and the
spread of civilisation in the colonies, but without making clear to
ourselves what these words mean.

But are there really social problems in the forest?  Yes; one has only
to listen for ten minutes to conversation between any two white men,
and one will certainly hear them touch on the most difficult of them
all, viz., the labour problem.  People imagine in Europe that as many
labourers as are wanted can always be found among the savages, and
secured for very small wages.  The real fact is the very opposite.
Labourers are nowhere more difficult to find than {112} among primitive
races, and nowhere are they paid so well in proportion to the work they
do in return.  This comes from their laziness, people say; but is the
negro really so lazy?  Must we go a little deeper into the problem?

[Sidenote: The labour problem]

Any one who has seen the population of a native village at work, when
they have to clear a piece of virgin forest in order to make a new
plantation, knows that they are able to work enthusiastically, and with
all their might, for weeks together.  This hardest of all work, I may
say in passing, is forced upon every village triennially.  The banana
exhausts the soil with extraordinary rapidity, so that every three
years they must lay out a new plantation, manured by the ashes of the
jungle, which they cut down and burn.  For my part I can no longer talk
ingenuously of the laziness of the negro after seeing fifteen of them
spend some thirty-six hours in almost uninterrupted rowing in order to
bring up the river to me a white man who was seriously ill.

The negro, then, under certain circumstances works well, but--only so
long as circumstances require it.  The child of nature--here is the
answer to the puzzle--is always a casual worker.


In return for very little work nature supplies the native with nearly
everything that he requires for his support in his village.  The forest
gives him wood, bamboos, raffia leaves, and bast for the building of a
hut to shelter him from sun and rain.  He has only to plant some
bananas and manioc, to do a little fishing and shooting, in order to
have by him all that he really needs, without having to hire himself
out as a labourer and to earn regular wages.  If he does take a
situation, {113} it is because he needs money for some particular
object; he wishes to buy a wife, or his wife, or his wives, want some
fine dress material, or sugar, or tobacco; he himself wants a new axe,
or hankers after rum or cheap spirits, or would like to wear boots and
a suit of khaki.  There are, then, various needs differing in number
with the individual, but all lying outside the regular struggle for
existence, which bring the child of nature to hire himself out for
work.  If he has no definite object in view for which to earn money he
stays in his village.  If he is at work anywhere and finds that he has
earned enough to supply his heart's desires, he has no reason for
troubling himself any further, and he returns to his village, where he
can always find board and lodging.

The negro, then, is not idle, but he is a free man; hence he is always
a casual worker, with whose labour no regular industry can be carried
on.  This is what the missionary finds to be the case on the mission
station and in his own house on a small scale, and the planter or
merchant on a large one.  When my cook has accumulated money enough to
let him gratify the wishes of his wife and his mother-in-law, he goes
off without any consideration of whether we still want his services or
not.  The plantation owner is left in the lurch by his labourers just
at the critical time when he must wage war on the insects that damage
the cocoa plant.  Just when there comes from Europe message after
message about timber, the timber merchant cannot find a soul to go and
fell it, because the village happens at the moment to be out on a
fishing expedition, or is laying out a new banana plot.  So we are all
filled with righteous indignation at the lazy negroes, though the real
reason why we cannot get them is that they have {114} not yet learnt to
understand what we really mean by continuous work.

There is, therefore, a serious conflict between the needs of trade and
the fact that the child of nature is a free man.  The wealth of the
country cannot be exploited because the native has so slight an
interest in the process.  How train him to work?  How compel him?

"Create in him as many needs as possible; only so can the utmost
possible be got out of him," say the State and commerce alike.  The
former imposes on him involuntary needs in the shape of taxes.  With us
every native above fourteen pays a poll tax of five francs a year, and
it is proposed to double it.  If that is done, a man with two wives and
seven children will contribute £4 (100 francs) a year, and have to
provide a corresponding amount either of labour or of products of the
soil.  The trader encourages voluntary needs in him by offering him
wares of all sorts, useful ones such as clothing material or tools,
unnecessary ones such as tobacco and toilet articles, and harmful ones
like alcohol.  The useful ones would never be enough to produce an
amount of labour worth mentioning.  Useless trifles and rum are almost
more effective.  Just consider what sort of things are offered for sale
in the forest!  Not long ago I got the negro who manages for a white
man a little shop close to a small lake, miles away from civilisation,
to show me all his stock.  Behind the counter stood conspicuous the
beautiful white painted cask of cheap spirits.  Next to it stood the
boxes of tobacco leaves and the tins of kerosene.  Further on was a
collection of knives, axes, saws, nails, screws, sewing machines,
flat-irons, string for making fishing-nets, plates, glasses, enamelled
dishes of all sizes, {115} lamps, rice, tinned stuff of every variety,
salt, sugar, blankets, dress material, muslin for mosquitoes, Gillette
safety razors (!), collars and ties in rich variety, blouses and
chemises trimmed with lace, corsets, elegant shoes, openwork stockings,
gramophones, concertinas, and fancy articles of all sorts.  Among the
last named was a plate, resting on a stand, of which there were several
dozen.  "What is that?" I asked.  The negro moved a lever in the bottom
part and a little musical box at once began to play.  "This is my best
paying article," said he.  "All the women in the neighbourhood want one
of these plates, and plague their husbands till they have earned enough
to buy one!"

It is true that taxes and new needs can make a negro work more than he
used to, but they do not train him to work, or only to a small extent.
They make him anxious for money and for enjoyment, but not reliable or
conscientious.  If he does take service anywhere, he only thinks how he
can get most money for least work, and he works only so long as his
employer is near.  Just recently I engaged some day labourers to build
a new hut for the hospital, but when I came in the evening to see the
work, nothing had been done.  On the third or fourth day I got angry,
but one of the blacks--and one who was by no means the worst of
them--said to me: "Doctor, don't shout at us so!  It is your own fault.
Stay here and we shall work, but if you are in the hospital with the
sick folk, we are alone and do nothing."  Now I have adopted a plan,
and when I engage any day labourers I arrange to have two or three
hours free.  During this time I make them work till their dark skins
glisten with sweat, and so I manage to get a certain amount done.


[Sidenote: The problem of compulsory labour]

Increasing their needs does effect something, but not much.  The child
of nature becomes a steady worker only so far as he ceases to be free
and becomes unfree, and this can be brought about in several ways.  The
first step to be taken is to prevent him for a certain time from
returning to his village.  Planters and forest-owners never, on
principle, hire labourers from the neighbourhood, but engage for a year
young men from strange tribes who live at a distance, and then bring
them where they are wanted by water.  The agreements are drawn up by
the Government, and, like many other things in French colonial
administration, are calculated to effect their object with due regard
to humanity.  At the end of each week the labourer is paid half, but
only half, of his wages; the rest is put by and is handed over to him
at the end of the year when the white man has to send him home.  He is
thus prevented from spending his money as quickly as he earns it, and
from going home with empty hands.  Most of them hire themselves out in
this way to get money enough to buy a wife.

And what is the result?  They have to hold out for the year, because
they cannot get back to their village, but very few of them are really
useful workers.  Many get homesick.  Others cannot put up with the
strange diet, for, as no fresh provisions are to be had, they must as a
rule live chiefly on rice.  Most of them fall victims to the taste for
rum, and ulcers and diseases spread rapidly among them, living, as they
do, a kind of barrack life in overcrowded huts.  In spite of all
precautions they mostly get through their pay as soon as the contract
time is up, and return home as poor as they went away.


The negro is worth something only so long as he is in his village and
under the moral control of intercourse with his family and other
relatives; away from these surroundings he easily goes to the bad, both
morally and physically.  Colonies of negro labourers away from their
families are, in fact, centres of demoralisation, and yet such colonies
are required for trade and for the cultivation of the soil, both of
which would be impossible without them.

      *      *      *      *      *

The tragic element in this question is that the interests of
civilisation and of colonisation do not coincide, but are largely
antagonistic to each other.  The former would be promoted best by the
natives being left in their villages and there trained to various
industries, to lay out plantations, to grow a little coffee or cocoa
for themselves or even for sale, to build themselves houses of timber
or brick instead of huts of bamboo, and so to live a steady and worthy
life.  Colonisation, however, demands that as much of the population as
possible shall be made available in every possible way for utilising to
the utmost the natural wealth of the country.  Its watchword is
"Production," so that the capital invested in the colonies may pay its
interest, and that the motherland may get her needs supplied through
her connection with them.  For the unsuspected incompatibilities which
show themselves here, no individual is responsible; they arise out of
the circumstances themselves, and the lower the level of the natives
and the thinner the population, the harder is the problem.  In
Zululand, for example, agriculture and cattle raising are possible, and
the {118} natives develop naturally into a peasantry attached to the
land and practising home industries, while, at the same time, the
population is so thick that the labour requirements of European trade
can also be met; there, then, the problems of the condition of the
natives and the promotion of civilisation among them are far less
difficult than in the colonies where the country is mostly virgin
forest and the population is at a really primitive stage of culture.
Yet even there, too, it may come about that the economic progress aimed
at by colonisation is secured at the expense of civilisation and the
native standard of life.

What, then, is the real educational value of the much discussed
compulsory labour as enforced by the State?  What is meant by labour

It means that every native who has not some permanent industry of his
own must, by order of the State, spend so many days in the year in the
service of either a trader or a planter.  On the Ogowe we have no
labour compulsion.  The French colonial administration tries, on
principle, to get on without any such measure.  In German Africa, where
labour compulsion was enforced in a humane but effective manner, the
results were, according to some critics, good; according to others,
bad.  I myself hold labour compulsion to be not wrong in principle, but
impossible to carry through in practice.  The average colony cannot get
on without having it on a small scale.  If I were an official and a
planter came to tell me that his labourers had left him just as the
cocoa crop had to be gathered, and that the men in the neighbouring
villages refused to come to his help at this critical time, I should
think I had a right, and that it was even my duty, to secure him the
labour {119} of these men so long as he needed it for the saving of his
crop, on payment, of course, of the wages usual in the locality.  But
the enforcement of general labour compulsion is complicated by the fact
that under it men have practically always to leave their village and
their family and go to work many miles away.  Who provides their food
on the journey?  What becomes of them if they fall ill?  Who will
guarantee that the white man does not call on them for their labour
just when their village has to set about its own planting, or when it
is the best time for fishing expeditions?  Will he not, perhaps, keep
them longer than he is entitled to, on the plea that they have done no
work?  Will he treat them properly?  There is always the danger that
compulsory labour may become, secretly but really, a kind of slavery.

Connected to some extent with the question of compulsory labour is that
of the management of colonies by the method of "concessions."  What is
meant by a "concession"?  A company with plenty of capital has a large
stretch of territory assigned to it, which it is to manage for so many
years, and no other trader may establish himself there.  Competition
being thus excluded, the natives become very seriously dependent on the
company and its employees.  Even if the sovereign rights of the State
are reserved to it on paper, the trading company does in practice come
to exercise many of them more or less completely, especially if the
taxes which are owed to the State can be paid to the company in the
form of natural products or of labour, to be handed on by it to the
State in the form of cash.  The question has been much discussed at
times, because the system of large concessions led {120} in the Belgian
Congo to great abuses, and I do not ignore its dangers; it can, if
taken advantage of wrongly, lead to the native belonging to the trader
or planter as a creature that has no rights.  But it has also its good
points.  The upper course of the Ogowe has been granted as a concession
to the "Company of the Upper Ogowe," and I have discussed the question
thoroughly with employees of this company who were with me for
considerable periods for medical treatment, thus getting to know the
arguments of both sides.  When a company has not to fear competition,
it can--as the "Company of the Upper Ogowe" does--banish rum and cheap
spirits from its district, and provide for sale in its stores only
things that are worth buying, without any rubbish.  Directed by men of
intelligence and wide views, it can exert much educational influence,
and since the land belongs wholly to it for a long period, it has a
real interest in seeing that it is managed properly; and it is little
tempted to exhaust the soil.


On the whole, then, the general principle of labour compulsion, in the
sense that the State puts the natives at the disposal of private
individuals, is to be rejected.  The State has to apply it to a quite
sufficient extent in the work it has to exact from the natives for
generally necessary public objects.  It must have at its disposal
boatmen and carriers for its officials when they travel; it must have
men in its service for the construction and maintenance of roads, and
under certain circumstances it must exact contributions of foodstuffs
for the support of its troops and its staff generally.

There are two things which are terribly difficult in Africa: one is to
provide any place which has a large {121} population with fresh
provisions, and the other is to maintain roads through the forest; and
both of these become proportionately more difficult where the
population is thin and the distances great.  I speak from experience.
What trouble I have to secure food for my two assistants and for those
of the sick in my hospital who live too far away to get what is
necessary sent to them regularly from home!  There come times when I
have to resort to compulsory measures, and say that every one who comes
for treatment must bring a contribution of so many bananas or manioc
sticks.  This leads to endless wranglings with the patients, who say
either that they do not know about the order or that they have not
enough for themselves.  Of course, I do treat the serious cases and
those who come from long distances, even if they have not brought the
modest tribute demanded, but, however strongly I insist on this
contribution being made, it does sometimes happen that I have to send
sick people away because I no longer have the means of feeding them.
The head of the mission station, who has to provide food for the 100 or
150 children in the school, is sometimes in the same position, and the
school has to be closed, and the children sent home, because we cannot
feed them.

The labour levies and the food requisitions naturally affect chiefly
the villages which lie nearest the white settlements.  However
considerate and just the action of the Government is, these natives
feel it, nevertheless, as a burden, and endeavour to migrate to more
distant parts, where they will be left in peace.  Hence, in the
neighbourhoods where there are only primitive tribes, and these not in
great numbers, there comes into {122} existence round the settlements
of the whites a zone which is uninhabited.  Then the compulsion has to
be applied in another way.  The natives are forbidden to move their
villages, and those at a distance are ordered to come near the white
settlements, or to move to specified points on the caravan routes or on
the river.  This must be done, but it is tragic that it should be
necessary, and the authorities have to take care that no change is
enforced beyond what is really needful.  In the Cameroons the forest
has been pierced with a network of roads, which are kept in splendid
condition and are the admiration of all visitors from other colonies.
But has not this great achievement been brought about at the cost of
the native population and their vital interests?  One is forced to ask
questions when things have gone so far that women are impressed for the
maintenance of the roads.  It is impossible to acquiesce when, as is
often the case, the colony itself prospers, while the native population
diminishes year by year.  Then the present is living at the expense of
the future, and the obvious fatal result is only a question of time.
The maintenance of the native population must be the first object of
any sound colonial policy.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: The problem of the educated native]

Close on the problem of labour comes that of the educated native.
Taken by itself, a thorough school education is, in my opinion, by no
means necessary for these primitive peoples.  The beginning of
civilisation with them is not knowledge, but industry and agriculture,
through which alone can be secured the economic conditions of higher
civilisation.  But both Government and trade require natives with
extensive {123} knowledge whom they can employ in administration and in
the stores.  The schools, therefore, must set their aims higher than is
natural, and produce people who understand complicated figures and can
write the white man's language perfectly.  Many a native has such
ability that the results of this attempt are, so far as intellectual
knowledge goes, astounding.  Not long ago there came to me a native
Government clerk, just at the time that there was also a missionary
staying with me.  When the clerk went away, the missionary and I said
to each other: "Well, we could hardly compete with him in essay
writing!"  His chief gives him documents of the most difficult sort to
draw up and most complicated statistics to work out, and he does it all

But what becomes of these people?  They have been uprooted from their
villages, just like those who go off to work for strangers.  They live
at the store, continually exposed to the dangers which haunt every
native so closely, the temptations to defraud and to drink.  They earn
good wages, indeed, but as they have to buy all their necessaries at
high prices, and are a prey to the black man's innate love of spending,
they often find themselves in financial difficulties and even in want.
They do not now belong to the ordinary negroes, nor do they belong to
the whites either; they are a _tertium quid_ between the two.  Quite
recently the above-mentioned Government clerk said to the wife of a
missionary: "We negro intellectuals are in a very uncomfortable
position.  The women in these parts are too uneducated to be good wives
for us.  They should import wives for us from the higher tribes in
Madagascar."  This loss of class position in an upwards {124} direction
is the misfortune which comes to many of the best of the natives.

Emancipation from the savage state produced by the accumulation of
wealth plays no part here, though it may do so in other colonies.  It
is a still more dangerous method than that of intellectual education.

Social problems are also produced by imports from Europe.  Formerly the
negroes practised a number of small industries; they carved good
household utensils out of wood; they manufactured excellent cord out of
bark fibre and similar substances; they got salt from the sea.  But
these and other primitive industries have been destroyed by the goods
which European trade has introduced into the forest.  The cheap
enamelled ware has driven out the solid, home-made wooden bucket, and
round every negro village there are heaps of such things rusting in the
grass.  Many minor crafts which they once practised are now almost
forgotten; it is now only the old women who know how to make cord out
of bark, and sewing cotton out of the fibres of the pineapple leaves.
Even the art of canoe-making is dying out.  Thus native industries are
going backwards instead of forwards, just when the rise of a solid
industrial class would be the first and surest step towards

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: The drink problem]

One first gets a clear idea of the real meaning of the social danger
produced by the importation of cheap spirits, when one reads how much
rum per head of the population comes every year to the port towns, and
when one has seen in the villages how the children drink with their
elders.  Here on the Ogowe officials {125} and traders, missionaries
and chiefs are all unanimous that the importation of cheap spirits
should be stopped.  Why, then, is it not stopped?  Because it is so
profitable to the revenue.  The import duty on rum produces one of the
biggest items in the receipts of the colony, and if it ceased there
would be a deficit.  The financial position of the African colonies is
well known to be anything but brilliant, and the duty on spirits has a
second advantage, that it can be increased every year without
diminishing by a litre the quantity consumed.  The position here, as in
other colonies, is that the Government says: "Abolish cheap spirits?
Willingly--to-day rather than to-morrow; but tell us first what we can
find to cover the deficit which that will cause in the budget."  And
the strongest opponents of alcohol have not been able to make any
practicable proposal.  When shall we find some way out of this idiotic
dilemma?  The one hope is that some day a governor will come who will
put the future of the colony above the financial worries of the
present, and have the courage to banish rum at the price of having to
carry on for some years with a deficit.[1]

[1] In the year 1919 the Governor actually ventured to try this policy
to the great joy of the whole colony.

It is often asserted that alcoholism would prevail among the natives
even if there were no importation of spirits.  This is mere talk.  Of
alcoholic drinks produced in the country itself palm wine is the only
one which has to be considered in the forest, and that is no great
danger.  It is simply the sap of the palm tree allowed to ferment, but
the boring of the trees and the taking the necessary vessels to them
needs a good deal of labour, for the work has to be done on the quiet
at a {126} distance from the village, the boring of the trees being
expressly forbidden.  Moreover, palm wine will not keep.  Its existence
makes it possible, therefore, for the people of a village to get drunk
several times a year, on the occasions of their festivals, but it is
not a continual danger like the cheap spirits sold in the stores.
Fresh palm wine tastes, when it is fermenting, very like the must of
grape wine, and by itself it is not any more intoxicating than the
latter; but the natives are accustomed to put various species of bark
into it, and then it can produce a terrible kind of drunkenness.

[Sidenote: Polygamy and wife-purchase]

Polygamy is another difficult social problem.  We Europeans come here
with our ideal of monogamy, and missionaries contend with all their
resources against polygamy, in some places even urging the Government
to suppress it by law.  On the other hand, all of us here must allow
that it is closely bound up with the existing economic and social
conditions.  Where the population lives in bamboo huts, and society is
not so organised that a woman can earn her own living, there is no room
for the unmarried woman, and if all women are to be married, polygamy
is a necessary condition.  Moreover, there are in the forest neither
cows nor nanny goats, so that a mother must suckle her child for a long
time if it is to be reared.  Polygamy safeguards the claims of the
child, for after its birth the woman has the right, and the duty, of
living only for her child; she is now no longer a wife, but only a
mother, and she often spends the greater part of this time with her
parents.  At the end of three years comes the weaning, which is marked
by a festival, and then she returns to her husband's hut to be a wife
once more.  But this living for her child is not to be thought of
unless the man has another wife, {127} or other wives, to make a home
for him and look after his banana plots.

Here is another point for consideration.  Among these nature-peoples
there are no widows unprovided for and no neglected orphans.  The
nearest male relative inherits the dead man's widow, and must maintain
her and her children.  She enters into enjoyment of all the rights of
his other wives, even though she can later, with his consent, take
another husband.

To agitate, therefore, against polygamy among primitive peoples, is to
undermine the whole structure of their society.  Have we the right to
do this if we are not also in a position to give them a new social
order which suits their own circumstances?  Were the agitation
successful, would not polygamy still continue to exist, with the single
difference that the later wives would be illegitimate ones?  These
questions naturally cause missionaries much anxious thought.

But, as a matter of fact, the more developed the economic condition of
a people becomes, the easier becomes the contest with polygamy.  When
men begin to live in permanent houses, and to practise the rearing of
cattle, and agriculture, it disappears of itself because it is no
longer demanded by their circumstances, and is no longer even
consistent with them.  Among the Israelites, as their civilisation
advanced, monogamy peacefully drove out polygamy.  During the prophetic
period they were both practised side by side; the teaching of Jesus
does not even hint at the existence of the latter.

Certainly mission teaching should put forward monogamy as the ideal and
as what Christianity demands, but it would be a mistake for the State
to {128} make it compulsory.  It is also a mistake, so far as I can
judge, to identify the fight against immorality with that against
polygamy.  Under this system the relation of the wives to each other is
usually good.  A negress does not, in fact, like being the only wife,
because then she has the care of the banana plot, which always falls to
the wives, all to herself, and this is a laborious duty, as the plots
are usually at a distance from the village in some well-concealed part
of the forest.

What I have seen in my hospital of life with many wives has not shown
me, at any rate, the ugly side of the system.  An elderly chief once
came as a patient and brought two young wives with him.  When his
condition began to cause anxiety, a third appeared who was considerably
older than the first two; this was his first wife.  From the day of her
arrival she sat continually on his bed, held his head in her lap, and
gave him what he wanted to drink.  The two young ones behaved
respectfully to her, took orders from her, and looked after the cooking.

One can have the experience in this land of a fourteen-year-old boy
announcing himself as a _paterfamilias_.  It comes about in the
following way.  He has inherited from some deceased relative a wife
with children, and though the woman has contracted a marriage with
another man, that does not touch his rights over the children nor his
duty towards them.  If they are boys, he will some day have to buy
wives for them; if they are girls, he will get the customary purchase
price from those who wish to marry them.

Should one declaim against the custom of wife-purchase, or tolerate it?
If it is a case of a young {129} woman being promised, without being
herself consulted, to the man who bids most for her, it is obviously
right to protest.  If it merely means that in accordance with local
custom the man who is courting a girl must, if she is willing to marry
him, pay to the family a sum mutually agreed upon, there is no more
reason for objecting than there is in the matter of the dowry,
customary in Europe.  Whether the man, if the marriage comes off, pays
money to the family or receives money from it, is in principle the same
thing; in either case there is a definite money transaction which has
its origin in the social views of the period.  What has to be insisted
on, both among ourselves and among "natives," is that the money
transaction must remain subordinate, and not so influence the personal
choice that either the wife is bought, as in Africa, or the husband, as
in Europe.  What we have to do, then, is not to fight against the
custom of wife-purchase, but to educate the natives up to seeing that
they must not give the girl to the highest bidder, but to the suitor
who can make her happy, and whom she is herself inclined to take.  As a
rule, indeed, the negro girls are not so wanting in independence as to
let themselves be sold to any one who offers.  Love, it is true, does
not play the same part in marriage here as with us, for the child of
nature knows nothing of the romantic, and marriages are usually decided
on in the family council; they do, however, as a rule, turn out happily.

Most girls are married when they are fifteen, even those in the girls'
schools.  Those in our mission school are mostly already engaged to
some husband, and marry as soon as they leave school.  They can even be
promised to a husband before they are born, as I learnt {130} through a
case of most unprincipled wife-purchase, which took place at Samkita,
and was related to me by a missionary.  A man owed one of his
neighbours £16 (400 fr.), but, instead of repaying it, he bought a wife
and married her with the usual ceremonies.  While they were at the
wedding feast, the creditor made his appearance, and overwhelmed the
bridegroom with abuse for having bought a wife instead of paying his
debt.  A palaver began which ended in an agreement that the debtor
should give his creditor the first girl born of the marriage for a
wife, on which the latter joined the guests and took his part in the
festivities.  Sixteen years later he came as a wooer, and so the debt
was paid!

My opinion is, and I have formed it after conversation with all the
best and most experienced of the white men in this district, that we
should accept, but try to improve and refine, the rights and customs
which we find in existence, and make no alterations which are not
absolutely necessary.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Relations between whites and blacks]

A word in conclusion about the relations between the whites and the
blacks.  What must be the general character of the intercourse between
them?  Am I to treat the black man as my equal or as my inferior?  I
must show him that I can respect the dignity of human personality in
every one, and this attitude in me he must be able to see for himself;
but the essential thing is that there shall be a real feeling of
brotherliness.  How far this is to find complete expression in the
sayings and doings of daily life must be settled by circumstances.  The
negro is a child, and with children nothing can be {131} done without
the use of authority.  We must, therefore, so arrange the circumstances
of daily life that my natural authority can find expression.  With
regard to the negroes, then, I have coined the formula: "I am your
brother, it is true, but your elder brother."

The combination of friendliness with authority is therefore the great
secret of successful intercourse.  One of our missionaries, Mr. Robert,
left the staff some years ago to live among the negroes as their
brother absolutely.  He built himself a small house near a village
between Lambarene and N'Gômô, and wished to be recognised as a member
of the village.  From that day his life became a misery.  With his
abandonment of the social interval between white and black he lost all
his influence; his word was no longer taken as the "white man's word,"
but he had to argue every point with them as if he were merely their

When, before coming to Africa, I heard missionaries and traders say
again and again that one must be very careful out here to maintain this
authoritative position of the white man, it seemed to me to be a hard
and unnatural position to take up, as it does to every one in Europe
who reads or hears the same.  Now I have come to see that the deepest
sympathy and kindness can be combined with this insistence on certain
external forms, and indeed are only possible by means of them.  One of
our unmarried missionaries at N'Gômô--the story belongs to a period
some years back--allowed his cook to be very free in his behaviour
towards him.  One day the steamer put in with the Governor on board,
and the missionary went to pay his respects to the high official.  He
was standing on deck in an elegant suit of white among a group of
officials and military men, {132} when a negro, with his cap on his
head and a pipe in his mouth, pushed himself into the group and said to
him: "Well, what are we to have for supper to-night?"  The cook wanted
to show on what good terms he stood with his master!

The prevention of unsuitable freedom is, however, only the external and
technical part, so to say, of the problem of authority.  A white man
can only have real authority if the native respects him.  No one must
imagine that the child of nature looks up to us merely because we know
more, or can do more, than he can.  This superiority is so obvious to
him that it ceases to be taken into account.  It is by no means the
case that the white man is to the negro an imposing person because he
possesses railways and steamers, can fly in the air, or travel under
water.  "White people are clever and can do anything they want to,"
says Joseph.  The negro is not in a position to estimate what these
technical conquests of nature mean as proofs of mental and spiritual
superiority, but on one point he has an unerring intuition, and that is
on the question whether any particular white man is a real, moral
personality or not.  If the native feels that he is this, moral
authority is possible; if not, it is simply impossible to create it.
The child of nature, not having been artificialised and spoilt as we
have been, has only elementary standards of judgment, and he measures
us by the most elementary of them all, the moral standard.  Where he
finds goodness, justice, and genuineness of character, real worth and
dignity, that is, behind the external dignity given by social
circumstances, he bows and acknowledges his master; where he does not
find them he remains really defiant in spite of all appearance {133} of
submission, and says to himself: "This white is no more of a man than I
am, for he is not a better one than I am."

I am not thinking merely of the fact that many unsuitable, and not a
few quite unworthy men, go out into the colonies of all nations.  I
wish to emphasise a further fact that even the morally best and the
idealists find it difficult out here to be what they wish to be.  We
all get exhausted in the terrible contest between the European worker
who bears the responsibility and is always in a hurry, and the child of
nature who does not know what responsibility is and is never in a
hurry.  The Government official has to record at the end of the year so
much work done by the native in building and in road-maintenance, in
service as carrier or boatman, and so much money paid in taxes; the
trader and the planter are expected by their companies to provide so
much profit for the capital invested in the enterprise.  But in all
this they are for ever dependent on men who cannot share the
responsibility that weighs on them, who only give just so much return
of labour as the others can force out of them, and who if there is the
slightest failure in superintendence, do exactly as they like without
any regard for the loss that may be caused to their employers.  In this
daily and hourly contest with the child of nature every white man is
continually in danger of gradual moral ruin.

My wife and I were once very much delighted with a newly-arrived
trader, because in the conversations we had with him he was always
insisting on kindness towards the natives, and would not allow the
slightest ill-treatment of them by his foremen.  The next spring, {134}
however, he had the following experience.  Lying in a pond some sixty
miles from here he had a large quantity of mahogany, but he was
summoned to Lambarene to clear off some urgent correspondence just as
the water began to rise.  He ordered his foremen and labourers to be
sure to use the two or three days of high water to get all the timber,
if possible, into the river.  When the water had fallen he went back to
the place and found that nothing whatever had been done!  They had
smoked, and drunk, and danced; the timber which had already lain too
long in the pond was almost completely ruined, and he was responsible
to his company for the loss.  His men had been thoughtless and
indifferent because they did not fear him enough.  This experience
changed him entirely, and now he laughs at those who think it is
possible to do anything with the natives without employing relentless

Not long ago the termites, or white ants, got into a box which stood on
our verandah.  I emptied the box and broke it up, and gave the pieces
to the negro who had been helping me.  "Look," I said to him, "the ants
have got into it; you mustn't put the wood with the rest of the
firewood or the ants will get into the framework of the hospital
building.  Go down to the river and throw it into the water.  Do you
understand?" "Yes, yes, you need not worry."  It was late in the day,
and being too tired to go down the hill again, I was inclined to break
my general rule and trust a black--one who was in fact on the whole
intelligent and handy.  But about ten o'clock I felt so uneasy that I
took the lantern and went down to the hospital.  There was the wood
with the ants in it lying with the rest of the firewood.  To save
himself the trouble of going {135} the twenty yards down to the river
the negro had endangered all my buildings!

The greater the responsibility that rests on a white man, the greater
the danger of his becoming hard towards the natives.  We on a mission
staff are too easily inclined to become self-righteous with regard to
the other whites.  We have not got to obtain such and such results from
the natives by the end of the year, as officials and traders have, and
therefore this exhausting contest is not so hard a one for us as for
them.  I no longer venture to judge my fellows after learning something
of the soul of the white man who is in business from those who lay as
patients under my roof, and whose talk has led me to suspect that those
who now speak savagely about the natives may have come out to Africa
full of idealism, but in the daily contest have become weary and
hopeless, losing little by little what they once possessed of

That it is so hard to keep oneself really humane, and so to be a
standard-bearer of civilisation, that is the tragic element in the
problem of the relations between white and coloured men in Equatorial




A war-Christmas in the virgin forest!  When the candles on the little
palm which served us as Christmas tree had burnt to half their length I
blew them out.  "What are you doing?" asked my wife.  "They are all we
have," said I, "and we must keep them for next year."  "For next year?"
... and she shook her head.

On August 4th, two days after our return from Cape Lopez, I had
prepared some medicine for a lady who was ill there, and sent Joseph to
a store to ask that their steamer might take the packet down there on
its next journey.  He brought back a short note: "In Europe they are
mobilising and probably already at war.  We must place our steamer at
the disposal of the authorities, and cannot say when it will go next to
Cape Lopez."


We needed days to realise that Europe was at war, though it was not
that we had failed to take the possibility of it into account; indeed,
following the advice of an experienced merchant, I had brought with me
a considerable sum in metal money in case it should come about.  But
since the beginning of July we had received no news from Europe, and we
knew nothing of the entanglements which finally brought on the fatal

[Sidenote: Native impressions regarding the war]

The negroes had, at first, very little understanding of {137} what was
going on.  The Catholics among them were more really interested in the
papal election than in the war, during the autumn.  "Doctor," said
Joseph to me during a canoe journey, "how do the Cardinals really elect
the Pope; do they take the oldest one, or the most religious, or the
cleverest?"  "They take one kind of man this time, and another kind the
next, according to circumstances," was my reply.

At first the black labourers felt the war as by no means a misfortune,
as for several weeks very few were impressed for service.  The whites
did little but sit together and discuss the news and the rumours from
Europe.  By now, however (Christmas, 1914), the coloured folk are
beginning to learn that the war has consequences which affect them
also.  There being a shortage of ships, no timber can be exported, and
therefore the labourers from a distance who had been engaged for a year
are being discharged by the stores, and as, further, there are no
vessels plying on the rivers that could take them back to their homes,
they collect in groups and try to reach the Loango coast, from which
most of them come, on foot.

Again, a sudden rise in the price of tobacco, sugar, rice, kerosene,
and rum, brings home to the negro's consciousness the fact that there
is a war going on, and this rise is what gives them more concern than
anything else for the moment.  Not long ago, while we were bandaging
patients, Joseph began to complain of the war, as he had several times
done before, as the cause of this rise in prices, when I said to him:
"Joseph, you mustn't talk like that.  Don't you see how troubled the
faces of the doctor and his wife are, and the faces of all the
missionaries?  For us the war means very {138} much more than an
unpleasant rise in prices.  We are, all of us, anxious about the lives
of so many of our dear fellow-men, and we can hear from far away the
groaning of the wounded and the death rattle of the dying."  He looked
up at me with great astonishment at the time, but since then I have
noticed that he now seems to see something that was hidden from him

We are, all of us, conscious that many natives are puzzling over the
question how it can be possible that the whites, who brought them the
Gospel of Love, are now murdering each other, and throwing to the winds
the commands of the Lord Jesus.  When they put the question to us we
are helpless.  If I am questioned on the subject by negroes who think,
I make no attempt to explain or to extenuate, but say that we are in
"front" of something terrible and incomprehensible.  How far the
ethical and religious authority of the white man among these children
of nature is impaired by this war we shall only be able to measure
later on.  I fear that the damage done will be very considerable.

In my own house I take care that the blacks learn as little as possible
of the horrors of war.  The illustrated papers we receive--for the post
has begun to work again fairly regularly--I must not leave about, lest
the boys, who can read, should absorb both text and pictures and retail
them to others.

Meanwhile the medical work goes on as usual.  Every morning when I go
down to the hospital I feel it as an inexpressible mercy that, while so
many men find it their duty to inflict suffering and death on others, I
can be doing good and helping to save human life.  This feeling
supports me through all my weariness.

The last ship which left Europe before the declaration {139} of war
brought me several cases of drugs and two of bandages, the last a gift
from a lady supporter, so that I am now provided with what is necessary
for carrying on the hospital for some months.  The goods for Africa
which were not sent by this vessel are still lying on the quays of
Havre and Bordeaux.  Who knows when they will arrive, or whether they
will get here at all?

      *      *      *      *      *

I am worried, however, about how to provide food for the sick, for
there is something like a famine in the district--thanks to the
elephants!  People in Europe usually imagine that where "civilisation"
comes, the wild animals begin to die out.  That may be the case in many
districts, but in others the very opposite happens, and that for three
reasons.  First, if, as is often the case, the native population
diminishes, there is less hunting done.  Secondly, what hunting is done
is less successful, for the natives have forgotten how to trap the
animals in the primitive but often extremely ingenious manner of their
ancestors, and have got accustomed to hunting them with firearms.  But
in view of eventual possibilities it has been for years the policy of
all Governments in Equatorial Africa to allow the natives only small
quantities of gunpowder; nor may they possess modern sporting guns;
they can only have the old flintlocks.  Thirdly, the war on the wild
animals is carried on much less energetically because the natives no
longer have the time to devote to it.  At timber felling and rafting
they earn more money than they can by hunting, so that the elephants
flourish and increase in numbers almost unhindered, and the results of
this we are now beginning to {140} experience.  The banana plantations
of the villages north-west from here, which provide us with so much of
our food, are continually visited by elephants.  Twenty of these
creatures are enough to lay waste a whole plantation in a night, and
what they do not eat they trample underfoot.

[Sidenote: Famine, elephants, and hunting]

It is not, however, to the plantations only that the elephants are a
danger.  The telegraph line from N'Djôle to the interior knows
something about the damage they do.  The long, straight clearing
through the forest which marks its course is in itself a tremendous
attraction to the animals, but the straight, smooth telegraph poles are
irresistible.  They seem to have been provided expressly for pachyderms
to rub themselves against!  They are not all very firm, and a very
little rubbing brings one of the weaker ones to the ground, but there
is always another like it not very far off.  Thus, in a single night
one strong elephant can bring down a big stretch of telegraph line, and
days may pass before the occupants of the nearest guard station have
discovered the damage and repaired it.

Although the elephants that roam the neighbourhood cause me so much
anxiety about the feeding of my patients, I have not yet seen one, and
very probably never shall.  During the day they stay in unapproachable
swamps in order to sally out at night and plunder the plantations which
they have reconnoitred beforehand.  A native who is here for the
treatment of his wife, who has heart complaint, is a clever
wood-carver, and carved me an elephant.  Though I admired this work of
primitive art, I ventured to remark that he seemed not to have got the
body quite right.  The artist, insulted, shrugged his shoulders.  "Do
you {141} think you can teach me what an elephant looks like?  I once
had one on top of me, trying to trample me underfoot."  The artist was,
in fact, also a famous elephant hunter.  Their method now is to go out
by day and creep to within ten paces of the elephant, when they
discharge their flintlock at him.  If the shot is not fatal and they
are discovered by the animal, they are then, of course, in a very
unpleasant position.

Hitherto I have been able to help out the feeding of my sick with rice,
if bananas were short, but I can do so no more.  What we still have
left we must keep for ourselves, for whether we shall get any more from
Europe is more than questionable.




Christmas again in the forest, but again a war Christmas!  The candle
ends which we saved from last year have been used up on our this year's
Christmas (palm) tree.

It was a year of difficulties, with a great deal of extra work during
the early months.  Heavy rainstorms had undermined the spot on which
the largest hospital ward stood, so that I had to decide to build a
wall round it, and also to lay stone gutters throughout the hospital to
carry off the water which streamed from the hill just above it.  This
needed a number of stones, some of them big ones, and these were either
fetched by canoe or rolled down from the hill; but I had always to be
on the spot, and often to lend a hand.  Our next object was the wall,
for which we got help from a native who knew something about building,
and we fortunately had on the station a cask of half-spoilt cement.  In
four months the work was finished.

[Sidenote: Termites.  Traveller ants]

I was hoping now to have a little rest, when I discovered that, in
spite of all our precautions, the termites had got into the chests
where we kept our store of drugs and bandages.  This necessitated the
opening and unpacking of the cases, a work which occupied all our spare
time for weeks.  Fortunately, I had noticed them in good time, or the
damage done {143} would have been much greater; but the peculiar
delicate smell, like that of burning, which the termites produce, had
attracted my attention.  Externally there was no sign of them; the
invasion had been made from the floor through a tiny hole, and from the
first case they had eaten their way into the others which stood by and
upon it.  They had apparently been attracted by a bottle of medicinal
syrup, the cork of which had got loose.

Oh, the fight that has to be carried on in Africa with creeping
insects!  What time one loses over the thorough precautions that have
to be taken!  And with what helpless rage one has to confess again and
again that one has been outwitted!  My wife learnt how to solder, in
order to be able to close up the flour and maize in tins, but it
sometimes happens that you find swarms of the terrible little weevils
(French _charanons_) even in the soldered tins.  The maize for the
fowls they soon reduce to dust.

Very much dreaded here, too, are small scorpions and other poisonous
insects.  One learns to be so careful that one never puts one's hand
straight into a drawer or a box as in Europe.  The eyes must precede
the hand.

Another serious enemy is the traveller ant, which belongs to the genus
_Dorylus_, and from it we suffer a great deal.  On their great
migrations they march five or six abreast in perfect order, and I once
watched a column near my house which took thirty-six hours to march
past.  If their course is over open ground and they have to cross a
path, the warriors form up in several rows on either side and with
their large jaws form a kind of palisade to protect the procession, in
{144} which the ordinary traveller ants are carrying the young ones
with them.  In forming the palisade the warriors turn their backs to
the procession--like the Cossacks when protecting the Czar--and in that
position they remain for hours at a time.

As a rule there are three or four columns marching abreast of each
other, but independently, from five to fifty yards apart.  All at once
they break up the column and disperse, though how the word of command
is given we do not yet know.  Anyhow, in the twinkling of an eye a huge
area is covered with a quivering, black mass, and every living thing
upon it is doomed.  Even the great spiders in the trees cannot escape,
for these terrible ravagers creep after them in crowds up to the very
highest twigs; and if the spiders, in despair, jump from the trees,
they fall victims to the ants on the ground.  It is a horrible sight.
The militarism of the forest will very nearly bear comparison with that
of Europe!

Our house lies on one of the main routes of the traveller ants, which
swarm mostly during the night.  A peculiar scratching and clucking of
the fowls gives us warning of the danger, and then there is no time to
be lost.  I jump out of bed, run to the fowl house, and open the door,
through which the birds rush out.  Shut in, they would inevitably be
the prey of the ants, which creep into their mouths and nostrils until
they are suffocated, and then devour them, so that in a short time
nothing is left but their white bones.  The chickens usually fall
victims to the robbers; the fowls can defend themselves till help comes.

Meanwhile my wife has taken the bugle from the wall and blown it three
times, which is the signal for {145} N'Kendju and some men from the
hospital to bring bucketfuls of water from the river.  When they
arrive, the water is mixed with lysol, and the ground all round the
house and under it is sprinkled.  While we are doing this we get very
badly treated by the warriors, for they creep over us and bite us
vigorously; I once counted nearly fifty on me.  They bite themselves so
firmly in with their jaws that one cannot pull them off.  If one tries
to do so the body comes away, but the jaws remain in the flesh and have
to be taken out separately afterwards.  At last the ants move on,
leaving thousands of corpses in the puddles, for they cannot stand the
smell of the lysol; and so ends the little drama which we have been
playing in the darkness, with no light but that of the lantern which my
wife has been holding.  Once we were attacked by them three times in
one week, and Mr. Coillard, the missionary, records in his memoirs,
which I am just now reading, that he, too, suffered severely from them
in the Zambesi district.

The most extensive migrations of these ants take place at the beginning
and end of the rainy season, and between these two periods there is
much less reason to expect an attack.  As to size, these ants are not
much bigger than our European red ones, but their jaws are much more
strongly developed, and they march at a much greater speed, a
difference which I have noticed as being common to all species of
African ants.

      *      *      *      *      *

Joseph has left me.  Being cut off from Strasbourg, the source of my
funds, and obliged to contract debts, I found myself compelled to
reduce his wages from {146} 70 francs to 35 francs, telling him I had
decided on this only from extreme necessity.  Nevertheless, he gave me
notice, adding that "his dignity would not allow him to serve me for so
small a sum."  He lives with his parents on the opposite bank of the
river, and had been keeping a money-box with a view to the purchase of
a wife.  This had now to be opened, and it contained nearly £8 (200
francs), but in a few weeks it had all been frittered away.

[Sidenote: Hospital happenings]

Now I have to depend only on N'Kendju's help.  He is quite handy and
useful, except on the days when he is out of temper, when nothing can
be done with him; but in any case I have to do a good many things that
Joseph used to do.

In the treatment of ulcers and suppurating wounds I have found pure
methylen-violet most useful.  This is a drug which is known to the
trade as Merk's Pyoktanin.  The credit of having made the decisive
experiments regarding the disinfecting power of concentrated dyestuffs
belongs to Professor Stilling, of Strasbourg, a specialist in diseases
of the eye.  He placed at my disposal a quantity of Pyoktanin which had
been prepared under his superintendence--so that I might test it
here--and it reached me not long before the outbreak of war.  I began
its use with some prejudice against it, but the results are such that I
gladly put up with the unpleasant colour.  Methylen-violet has the
peculiarity of killing the bacteria without affecting or injuring the
tissues or being in the least degree poisonous; in this respect it is
much superior to corrosive sublimate, carbolic acid, or tincture of
iodine.  For the doctor in the forest it is indispensable.  Besides
this, Pyoktanin does, so far as my observation {147} goes, promote in a
striking way the growth of new skin when ulcers are healing.

Before the war I had begun to make a small charge for the medicine to
those patients who seemed not to be absolutely poor, and this brought
in something like 200 francs (£8) a month.  Even though it was only a
fraction of the real value of the medicines dispensed, it was
something.  Now there is no money in the country, and I have to treat
the natives almost entirely for nothing.

Of the whites, many who have been prevented by the war from going home
have now been four or five years under the equator and are thoroughly
exhausted, so that they have to resort to the doctor "for repairs," as
we say on the Ogowe.  Such patients are sometimes with us for weeks,
coming often two and three together.  Then I let them use my bedroom
and sleep myself in a part of the verandah which has been protected
from mosquitoes by wire-netting.  That is, however, no great
self-denial, for there is more air there than inside.  The recovery of
the patients is often due much less to my medicines than to the
excellent invalid diet provided by the doctor's wife--fortunately we
still have a good supply of tins of condensed milk for our
patients--and I have for some time had to take care that sick people do
not come up here from Cape Lopez for the sake of the diet instead of
letting themselves be treated by the doctor there--when there is one.
With many of my patients I have become quite intimate, and from
conversation with those who stay here a long time I am always learning
something fresh about the country and the problem of its colonisation.

      *      *      *      *      *


[Sidenote: Toothache.  Necessity of mental work]

Our own health is not first-class, though it is not really bad;
tropical anæmia has, indeed, already set in.  It shows itself in the
way the slightest exertion tires one; I am quite exhausted, for
example, after coming up the hill to my house, a matter of four
minutes' walk.  We also perceive in ourselves a symptom that
accompanies it, an excessive nervousness, and besides these two things
we find that our teeth are in a bad condition.  My wife and I put
temporary fillings into each other's teeth, and in this way I give her
some relief, but no one can do for me what is really necessary, for
that means the removal of two carious teeth which are too far gone to
be saved.  What stories could be told of toothache in the forest!  One
white man whom I know was in such pain, a few years ago, that he could
hold out no longer.  "Wife," he cried, "get me the small pincers from
the tool-chest."  Then he lay down, his wife knelt on his chest and got
hold of the tooth as well as she could.  The man put his hands on hers
and together they got out the tooth, which was kind enough to let this
treatment be successful.

My mental freshness I have, strange to say, preserved almost completely
in spite of anæmia and fatigue.  If the day has not been too exhausting
I can give a couple of hours after supper to my studies in ethics and
civilisation as part of the history of human thought, any books I need
for it and have not with me being sent me by Professor Strohl, of
Zurich University.  Strange, indeed, are the surroundings amid which I
study; my table stands inside the lattice-door which leads on to the
verandah, so that I may snatch as much as possible of the light evening
breeze.  The palms rustle an _obbligato_ to the loud music of the
crickets and {149} the toads, and from the forest come harsh and
terrifying cries of all sorts.  Caramba, my faithful dog, growls gently
on the verandah, to let me know that he is there, and at my feet, under
the table, lies a small dwarf antelope.  In this solitude I try to set
in order thoughts which have been stirring in me since 1900, in the
hope of giving some little help to the restoration of civilisation.
Solitude of the primeval forest, how can I ever thank you enough for
what you have been to me? ...


The hour between lunch and the resumption of work in the hospital is
given to music, as is also Sunday afternoon, and here, too, I feel the
blessing of working "far from the madding crowd," for there are many of
J. S. Bach's organ pieces into the meaning of which I can now enter
with greater ease and deeper appreciation than ever before.

Mental work one must have, if one is to keep one's self in moral health
in Africa; hence the man of culture, though it may seem a strange thing
to say, can stand life in the forest better than the uneducated man,
because he has a means of recreation of which the other knows nothing.
When one reads a good book on a serious subject one is no longer the
creature that has been exhausting itself the whole day in the contest
with the unreliability of the natives and the tiresome worry of the
insects; one becomes once more a man!  Woe to him who does not in some
such way pull himself together and gather new strength; the terrible
prose of African life will bring him to ruin!  Not long ago I had a
visit from a white timber merchant, and when I accompanied him to the
canoe on his departure I asked him whether I could not provide him with
something to read on the two days' journey in front of him.  "Many
{150} thanks," he replied, "but I am already supplied," and he showed
me, lying on the thwart of the boat, a book, which was Jacob Boehme's
"Aurora."  The work of the great German shoemaker and mystic, written
at the beginning of the seventeenth century, accompanies him on all his
journeys.  We know how nearly all great African travellers have taken
with them solid matter for reading.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Newspapers.  War news]

Newspapers one can hardly bear to look at.  The printed string of
words, written with a view to the single, quickly-passing day, seems
here, where time is, so to say, standing still, positively grotesque.
Whether we will or no, all of us here live under the influence of the
daily repeated experience that nature is everything and man is nothing.
This brings into our general view of life--and this even in the case of
the less educated--something which makes us conscious of the
feverishness and vanity of the life of Europe; it seems almost
something abnormal that over a portion of the earth's surface nature
should be nothing and man everything!

News of the war comes here fairly regularly.  Either from N'Djôle,
through which passes the main telegraph line from Libreville to the
interior, or from Cape Lopez, telegraphic news comes to us every
fortnight, a selection from the various daily items.  It is sent by the
District Commandant to the stores and the two mission stations by means
of a native soldier, who waits till we have read it and give it back to
him.  Then for another fortnight we think of the war only in the most
{151} general way.  What the frame of mind must be of those who have to
go through the excitement of reading war news every day we can hardly
imagine.  Certainly we do not envy them!

About this time it became known that of the whites who had gone home to
fulfil their military duties ten had already been killed, and it made a
great impression on the natives.  "Ten men killed already in this war!"
said an old Pahouin.  "Why, then, don't the tribes meet for a palaver?
How can they pay for all these dead men?"  For, with the natives, it is
a rule that all who fall in a war, whether on the victorious or on the
defeated side, must be paid for by the other side.

Directly the post has come in, Aloys, my cook, stops me to ask:
"Doctor, is it still war?"  "Yes, Aloys, still war."  Then he shakes
his head sadly and says to himself several times: "Oh, lala!  Oh,
lala!"  He is one of the negroes whose soul is really saddened by the
thought of the war.

Now we have to be very economical with our European foodstuffs, and
potatoes have become a delicacy.  A short time ago a white neighbour
sent me by his boy a present of several dozen, from which I inferred
that he was not well and would soon be needing my services, and so it
turned out!  Since the war we have trained ourselves to eat monkey
flesh.  One of the missionaries on the station keeps a black huntsman,
and sends us regularly some of his booty; it is monkeys that he shoots
most frequently, since they are the game he finds easiest to bring
down.  Their flesh tastes something like goat's flesh, but has a kind
of sweetish taste that the latter has not.  People may think what they
like about Darwinism and the descent of man, but the {152} prejudice
against monkey flesh is not so easily got rid of.  "Doctor," said a
white man to me a few days ago, "eating monkeys is the first step in

At the end of the summer (1916) we were able to join our missionary
neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Morel, of Samkita, in a visit of some weeks to
Cape Lopez, where a trading company, several of whose employees had
benefited by our treatment and hospitality during illness, placed three
rooms in one of their stores at our disposal.  The sea air worked
wonders for our health.




_July_, 1916.

It is the dry season.  Every evening we go for a walk on the big
sandbanks in the river bed and enjoy the breeze which is blowing
upstream.  The hospital is not so busy as usual at this season, for the
villagers are occupied with their great fishing expeditions, and will
not bring me any patients till they are over.  So I will make use of
these vacant hours to note down the impressions I have formed about the
mission.  What do I really think about mission work after three years
on a mission station?

What does the forest dweller understand of Christianity, and how does
he understand--or misunderstand--it?  In Europe I met the objection
again and again that Christianity is something too high for primitive
man, and it used to disturb me; now, as a result of my experience, I
can boldly declare, "No; it is not."

First, let me say that the child of nature thinks a great deal more
than is generally supposed.  Even though he can neither read nor write,
he has ideas on many more subjects than we imagine.  Conversations I
have had in the hospital with old natives about the ultimate things of
life have deeply impressed me.  The distinction between white and
coloured, educated and {154} uneducated, disappears when one gets
talking with the forest dweller about our relations to each other, to
mankind, to the universe, and to the infinite.  "The negroes are deeper
than we are," a white man once said to me, "because they don't read
newspapers," and the paradox has some truth in it.

[Sidenote: Primitive man and the religion of Jesus]

They have, then, a great natural capacity for taking in the elements of
religion, though the historical element in Christianity lies,
naturally, outside their ken.  The negro lives with a general view of
things which is innocent of history, and he has no means of measuring
and appreciating the time-interval between Jesus and ourselves.
Similarly, the doctrinal statements which explain how the divine plan
of redemption was prepared and effected, are not easily made
intelligible to him, even though he has an elementary consciousness of
what redemption is.  Christianity is for him the light that shines amid
the darkness of his fears; it assures him that he is not in the power
of nature-spirits, ancestral spirits, or fetishes, and that no human
being has any sinister power over another, since the will of God really
controls everything that goes on in the world.

  "I lay in cruel bondage,
  Thou cam'st and mad'st me free!"

These words from Paul Gerhardt's Advent hymn express better than any
others what Christianity means for primitive man.  That is again and
again the thought that fills my mind when I take part in a service on a
mission station.

It is well known that hopes and fears about a world beyond play no part
in the religion of primitive man; the child of nature does not fear
death, but regards it merely as something natural.  The more mediæval
{155} form of Christianity which keeps anxiety about a judgment to come
in the foreground, has fewer points of contact with his mentality than
the more ethical form.  To him Christianity is the moral view of life
and the world, which was revealed by Jesus; it is a body of teaching
about the kingdom of God and the grace of God.

Moreover, there slumbers within him an ethical rationalist.  He has a
natural responsiveness to the notion of goodness and all that is
connected with it in religion.  Certainly, Rousseau and the illuminati
of that age idealised the child of nature, but there was nevertheless
truth in their views about him--in their belief, that is, in his
possession of high moral and rational capacities.  No one must think
that he has described the thought-world of the negro when he has made a
full list of all the superstitious ideas which he has taken over, and
the traditional legal rules of his tribe.  They do not form his whole
universe, although he is controlled by them.  There lives within him a
dim suspicion that a correct view of what is truly good must be
attainable as the result of reflection.  In proportion as he becomes
familiar with the higher moral ideas of the religion of Jesus, he finds
utterance for something in himself that has hitherto been dumb, and
something that has been tightly bound up finds release.  The longer I
live among the Ogowe negroes, the clearer this becomes to me.

Thus redemption through Jesus is experienced by him as a two-fold
liberation; his view of the world is purged of the previously dominant
element of fear, and it becomes ethical instead of unethical.  Never
have I felt so strongly the victorious power of what is simplest in the
teaching of Jesus as when, in the big schoolroom {156} at Lambarene,
which serves as a church as well, I have been explaining the Sermon on
the Mount, the parables of the Master, and the sayings of St. Paul
about the new life in which we live.

      *      *      *      *      *

But now, how far does the negro, as a Christian, really become another
man?  At his baptism he has renounced all superstition, but
superstition is so woven into the texture of his own life and that of
the society in which he lives, that it cannot be got rid of in
twenty-four hours; he falls again and again in big things as in small.
I think, however, that we can take too seriously the customs and
practices from which he cannot set himself entirely free; the important
thing is to make him understand that nothing--no evil spirit--really
exists behind his heathenism.

If a child enters the world in our hospital its mother and itself are
both painted white all over face and body so as to make them look
terrifying, a custom which is found in practice among almost all
primitive peoples.  The object is to either frighten or to deceive the
evil spirits which on such an occasion have a special opportunity of
being dangerous.  I do not worry myself about this usage; I even say
sometimes, as soon as the child is born: "Take care you don't forget
the painting!"  There are times when a little friendly irony is more
dangerous to the spirits and the fetishes than zeal expended on a
direct attack upon them.  I venture to remind my readers that we
Europeans, ourselves, have many customs which, although we never think
about it, had their origin in heathen ideas.

[Illustration: THE BOYS' SCHOOL AT LAMBARENE.  View from my bungalow.
Below is the little corrugated iron shed containing reserve stores of
bandages and drugs.]

The ethical conversion, also, is often incomplete with {157} a negro,
but in order to be just to such a convert one must distinguish between
the real morality which springs from the heart, and the respectable
morality of society; it is wonderful how faithful he often is to the
former.  One must live among them to know how much it means when a man,
because he is a Christian, will not wreak the vengeance which he is
expected to take, or even the blood revenge which is thought to be an
obligation on him.  On the whole I feel that the primitive man is much
more good natured than we Europeans are; with Christianity added to his
good qualities wonderfully noble characters can result.  I expect I am
not the only white man who feels himself put to shame by the natives.

But to give up the common habit of lying and the readiness to steal,
and to become a more or less reliable man in our sense, is something
different from practising the religion of love.  If I may venture on a
paradox, I would say that the converted native is a moral man more
often than he is an honourable one.  Still, little can be effected by
condemnatory expressions.  We must see to it that we put as few
temptations as possible in the way of the coloured Christian.

[Sidenote: Native Christians]

But there are native Christians who are in every respect thoroughly
moral personalities; I meet one such every day.  It is Ojembo, the
teacher in our boys' school, whose name means "the song"; I look upon
him as one of the finest men that I know anywhere.

How is it that traders and officials so often speak so unfavourably of
native Christians?  On my very first journey up the river I learnt from
two fellow travellers that they never, on principle, engage any
Christian "boys."  The fact is that Christianity is considered {158}
responsible for the unfavourable phenomena of intellectual
emancipation.  The young Christians have mostly been in our mission
schools, and get into the difficult position which for the native is so
often bound up with a school education.  They think themselves too good
for many kinds of work, and will no longer be treated as ordinary
negroes.  I have experienced this with some of my own boys.  One of
them, Atombogunjo by name, who was in the first class at N'Gômô, worked
for me once during the school holidays.  On the very first day, while
he was washing up on the verandah, he stuck up a school book, open,
before him.  "What a fine boy!  What keenness for learning!" said my
wife.  Ultimately, however, we found that the open school book meant
something beyond a desire for knowledge; it was also a symbol of
independence intended to show us that the fifteen-year-old youth was
too good for ordinary service, and was no longer willing to be treated
as a mere "boy," like other "boys."  Finally, I could stand his conceit
no longer, and put him unceremoniously outside the door.

Now in the colonies almost all schools are mission schools--the
Governments establish hardly any, but leave the work to the
missions--so that all the unhealthy phenomena which accompany
intellectual emancipation show themselves among the scholars and are
therefore put down as the fault of Christianity.  The whites, however,
often forget what they owe to the missions.  Once, when, on board the
steamer, the manager of a large company began to abuse the missions in
my presence, I asked him: "Where, then, did the black clerks and the
black store employees who work for you, get their education?  To whom
do you owe it that you {159} can find natives here on the Ogowe who can
read, write, and handle figures, and who are to a certain extent
reliable?"  He had no reply to make to that.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: How a mission works]

But how is a mission carried on?  With what must it be provided, and
how does it work?  In Europe many people picture it as a sort of
village parsonage set down in the virgin forest, but it is something
much more comprehensive than that, and more complicated too; it may be
said to be the seat of a bishop, an educational centre, a farming
establishment, and a market!

In an ordinary mission station there must be one missionary as head,
another for the mission work in the district, a man to teach in the
boys' school, and a woman for the girls' school, with one or two
practical workers, and, if possible, a doctor.  Only a mission station
of that size can accomplish anything worth mentioning; an incomplete
one only uses up men and money with no permanent result.

As an illustration of this take Talagonga, where at the beginning of my
time here there was a splendid evangelist working, Mr. Ford, an
American, but the station had no practical workers.  There came a time
when it was absolutely necessary to repair the floor of the house,
built upon piles, in which Mr. and Mrs. Ford and their children lived,
because mosquitoes found their way in through the holes in it, and, as
fever carriers, endangered the lives of the inmates.  So Mr. Ford set
to work at the job and finished it in about two months, during which
time the neighbourhood was left without any spiritual direction.  A
practical worker would have {160} done it all in three weeks and made a
permanent job of it, not mere temporary patchwork.  This is one example
out of hundreds of the useless, unprofitable condition of
insufficiently manned mission stations.

In the tropics a man can do at most half of what he can manage in a
temperate climate.  If he is dragged about from one task to another he
gets used up so quickly that, though he is still on the spot, the
working capacity he represents is _nil_.  Hence a strict division of
labour is absolutely necessary, though on the other hand, each member
must be able, when circumstances demand it, to turn his hand to
anything.  A missionary who does not understand something of practical
work, of garden work, of treatment of the sick, is a misfortune to a
mission station.

The missionary who is there for the evangelistic work must as a rule
have nothing to do with the carrying on of the daily work of the
station; he must be free to undertake every day his longer or shorter
journeys for the purpose of visiting the villages, nor must he be
obliged to be back at the mission on a particular day.  He may be
invited while out on one of his journeys to go to this or that village
which was not included in his plan, because the people there want to
hear the Gospel.  He must never answer that he has no time, but must be
able to give them two or three days or even a whole week.  When he gets
back he must rest, for an unbroken fortnight on the river or on forest
paths will certainly have exhausted him.

Too few missionary journeys, and those too hastily carried through,
that is the miserable mistake of almost all missions, and the cause of
it always is that in consequence of an insufficient number of workers
or of {161} unwise division of work, the evangelist takes part in the
superintendence of the station, and the Head of the station goes

On the Head of the station falls the work of the services in the
station and in the nearest villages, together with the superintendence
of the schools and of the cultivated land.  He ought really never to
leave the station for a day; he must have his eyes everywhere, and any
one ought to be able to speak to him at any time.  His most prosaic
business is conducting the market.  The foodstuffs which we need for
the school children, the labourers, and the boatmen of the station, we
do not have to buy with money.  Only when the natives know that they
can get satisfactory goods of all sorts from us, do they bring us
regular supplies of manioc, bananas, and dried fish; so the mission
must have a shop.  Two or three times a week the natives come with the
product of their plots and with fish, and barter what they have brought
for salt, nails, kerosene, fishing materials, tobacco, saws, knives,
axes, and cloth.  We do not supply rum or spirits.  This takes up the
Head's whole morning, and then what a time it takes him in addition to
send off his European orders correctly and at the right time, to keep
the accounts accurately, to pay the boatmen and the labourers their
wages, and to look after all the cultivated ground!  What losses are
entailed, too, if he fails to have necessary material in hand when it
is wanted!  A roof has to be put on, and there are no raffia leaves
ready, dried and sewn into sheets; there is some building to be done,
and there are no beams and no boards; or the best time for brickmaking
has been allowed to pass unused; or he has postponed too long the
re-smoking of the {162} store of dried fish for the school children,
and discovers one morning that it is all a mass of worms and good for
nothing!  It all depends on the Head whether the mission station does
its work cheaply and successfully, or expensively and unsuccessfully.

On one of our stations, for example, there had been for several years a
succession of Heads who knew but little about land cultivation, and had
not pruned the coffee bushes properly.  They had let them grow so tall
that they no longer produced what they ought to have done, and ladders
had to be used to gather the crop.  Then it was necessary to cut them
off just above the ground, and it will be years before they have
produced new shoots which bear a normal crop.

Another of the Head's duties is to investigate the not infrequent cases
of theft, in which matter he has more opportunity than he likes for
developing whatever detective talent he may possess.  He has also to
straighten out all the disputes between the coloured inhabitants of the
settlement, and in this he must never show any impatience.  For hours
together he must listen attentively to their barren argumentations,
since otherwise he is not the upright judge according to their notions.
If canoes come from another station he must entertain and feed the
rowers.  If the steamer's siren sounds, he must be off with canoes to
the landing place to take charge of the mail and the cases of goods.

Again, it may happen that there has been too small a supply of
foodstuffs brought in on a market day; this means that canoes must be
sent off to the more distant villages to secure what is needed.  The
expedition may take two or three days; what work is to be left undone
because of it?  And then the canoes may {163} come back empty, so that
a similar expedition has to be made in another direction!

What a terribly unromantic business life for one who came out to preach
the religion of Jesus!  If he had not to conduct the morning and
evening services in the schoolroom and to preach on Sundays, the Head
could almost forget that he was a missionary at all!  But it is just by
means of the Christian sympathy and gentleness that he shows in all
this everyday business that he exercises his greatest influence;
whatever level of spirituality the community reaches is due to nothing
so much as to the success of its Head in this matter of--Preaching
without Words.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Mission schools]

A word now about the schools.  A school to which children come for
instruction while they live at home is impossible here because of the
distances; there are villages, for example, attached to the Lambarene
Station, which are sixty or seventy miles away from it.  The children
must therefore live on the station, and the parents bring them in
October and take them away in July when the big fishing expeditions
begin.  In return for the cost of their living the children, both boys
and girls, do some sort of work, and their day is arranged very much as
follows: From 7 to 9 in the morning they are at work cutting down grass
and bush, for the defence of the station against invasion by the forest
is in the main their task.  When they have done all the clearing that
is necessary at one end of the settlement they can always go to some
other part where the undergrowth will have shot up again as it was
before.  From 9 to 10 is a rest hour, during which they breakfast; from
{164} 10 to 12 there is school.  The recreation time between 12 and 1
is usually spent in bathing and fishing.  From 2 to 4 there is school
again, and after that, work again for about an hour and a half.  Some
help in the cocoa plantation; the boys often go to the practical worker
to help him, and they prepare bricks, carry building material where it
is wanted, or finish digging or other work on the soil.  Then the food
for the following day is given out; at 6 comes the evening service, and
after that they get supper ready.  There is a big shed under which the
children cook their bananas in native fashion, and they divide into
groups of five or six, each of which has a pot and a fire hole to
itself.  At 9 they go to bed, that is, they retire to their plank
bedsteads under the mosquito netting.  On Sunday afternoons they make
canoe expeditions, the mistress going out with a crew of girls.  In the
dry season they play on the sandbanks.

The work of the boys' school suffers, unfortunately, in this way, that
when the evangelist goes out on his preaching rounds, or when a canoe
expedition is needed for any purpose, a crew of boys has to be taken
for it, and they may be absent for as much as a week.  When shall we
reach such a stage of efficiency that every mission station has its
motor boat?

      *      *      *      *      *

Should a missionary have a thorough education?  Yes.  The better a
man's mental life and his intellectual interests are developed, the
better he will be able to hold out in Africa.  Without this safeguard
he is soon in danger of becoming a nigger, as it is called here.  This
shows itself in the way he loses every higher point of view; then his
capacity for intellectual work {165} diminishes, and he begins, just
like a negro, to attach importance to, and to argue at any length
about, the smallest matters.  In the matter of theology, too, the more
thorough the training the better.

That under certain circumstances a man may be a good missionary without
having studied theology is proved by the example of Mr. Felix Faure,
who at the present time is the Head of our station.  He is by training
an agricultural engineer (_ingénieur agronome_) and came to the Ogowe
first of all to manage the station's agricultural land.  At the same
time he proved to be such an excellent preacher and evangelist that he
became in time more missionary than planter.

[Sidenote: The problem of baptism]

I am not quite in agreement with the manner in which baptism is
practised here.  The rule is that only adults are baptised, it being
felt that only those should be received into the Christian community
whose way of life has stood some amount of testing.[1]  But do we
thereby build up a church on a broad and safe basis?  Is it essential
that the communities shall be composed only of members of comparatively
blameless life?  I think we must further consider the question of how
they are to make sure of a normal stream of new members.  If we baptise
the children of Christian parents, we have growing up among us a number
of natives who have been in the Church and under its influence from
their childhood upwards.  Certainly there will be some among them who
show themselves unworthy of the Christian name given them in their
childhood, but there {166} will be many others who, just because they
belong to the Church and find within it support in the dangers that
surround them, become and remain loyal members of it.  Thus the
question of infant baptism, which so disturbed the Church in the early
centuries, comes up again to-day in the mission field as a live issue.
But if we wished to decide for infant baptism in the Ogowe district we
should have in opposition to us nearly all the native evangelists and

[1] Most Protestant missions practise infant baptism.  There are some,
however, who object to it.  On the Ogowe, infant baptism is not
customary, because the American missionaries, who founded the
Protestant missions here, did not introduce it.--A.S.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Catholic and Protestant missions]

The most difficult problem in the mission field arises from the fact
that evangelistic work has to be done under two banners, the Catholic
and the Protestant.  How much grander would be the work undertaken in
the name of Jesus if this distinction did not exist, and there were
never two churches working in competition.  On the Ogowe, indeed, the
missionaries of both bodies live in quite correct, sometimes in even
friendly, relations with one another, but that does not remove the
rivalry which confuses the native and hinders the spread of the Gospel.

I often visit the Catholic mission stations in my capacity of doctor
and so have been able to gather a fairly clear idea of the way in which
they conduct their evangelistic work and their education.  As to
organisation, their missions seem to me to be better managed than ours
in several ways.  If I had to distinguish between the aims which the
two keep before them, I should say the Protestant mission puts in the
first place the building up of Christian personalities, while the
Catholic has in mind before all else the establishment on solid
foundations of a church.  The former object {167} is the higher one,
but it does not take sufficient account of realities.  To make the work
of training permanently successful, a firmly established church, which
grows in a natural way with the increase in the number of Christian
families, is necessary.  The church history of every period teaches
this.  Is it not the weakness as well as the greatness of Protestantism
that it means personal religion too much and church too little?

For the work which the American missionaries began here and the French
have continued, I feel a hearty admiration.  It has produced among the
natives human and Christian characters which would convince the most
decided opponents of missions as to what the teaching of Jesus can do
for primitive man.  But now we ought to have the men and the means to
found more stations further inland, and so exert an educational
influence on the natives before they are reached by the white man's
trade and the dangers and problems which it brings with it for the
child of nature.

Will this be possible within a measurable time?  What will be the lot
of mission work after the war?  How will the ruined peoples of Europe
be able to contribute any longer the necessary means for the various
spiritual undertakings in the world?  There is, also, this further
difficulty--that mission work can only flourish when it is to some
extent international; but the war has made anything international
impossible for a long time.  And, lastly, missions throughout the world
will soon feel that, owing to the war, the white race has lost a great
deal of its spiritual authority over the coloured ones.




For four years and a half we worked in Lambarene, but in the last of
them we were able to spend the hot, rainy months between autumn and
spring at the seaside.  A white man who pitied my almost utterly
exhausted wife put at our disposal, at the mouth of the Ogowe, two
hours from Cape Lopez, a house which before the war had been the home
of the man who watched his timber floats when they lay at anchor, but
which had been empty since the trade came to a standstill.  We shall
never forget his kindness.  Our principal food was herrings, which I
caught in the sea.  Of the abundance of fish in Cape Lopez Bay it is
difficult for any one to form an adequate idea.

[Sidenote: Last months in Africa]

Around the house stood the huts in which the white man's labourers had
lived when the trade was in full swing.  Now, half ruined, they served
as sleeping places for negroes who passed through.  On the second day
after our arrival I went to see whether there was any one in them, but
no one answered my calls.  Then I opened the doors one by one, and in
the last hut saw a man lying on the ground with his head almost buried
in the sand and ants running all over him.  It was a victim of sleeping
sickness whom his companions had left there, probably some days before,
because they could not take him any further.  He was past all help,
{169} though he still breathed.  While I was busied with him I could
see through the door of the hut the bright blue waters of the bay in
their frame of green woods, a scene of almost magic beauty, looking
still more enchanting in the flood of golden light poured over it by
the setting sun.  To be shown in a single glance such a paradise and
such helpless, hopeless misery, was overwhelming ... but it was a
symbol of the condition of Africa.

On my return to Lambarene I found plenty to do, but this did not
frighten me.  I was fresh and vigorous again.  Much of the work was
caused just then by men who were ill with dysentery.  Carriers for the
military colony of the Cameroons had been impressed in our district,
and many of them had caught the infection, but subcutaneous injections
of emetin proved very effective even in the oldest cases.

When this levy of carriers was made, one of my patients who had a bad
ulcer on his foot wanted to join as a volunteer, so that his brother,
who had been taken, might not have to go alone.  I represented to him
that in three or four days he would fall out and be left on the
roadside, where he would assuredly die.  However, he would not let
himself be convinced, and I almost had to use violence to keep him back.

I happened to be present when a body of impressed carriers who were to
be taken to the Cameroons by water were embarked on the river steamer
at N'Gômô.  Then the natives began to know by experience what war
really is.  The vessel had started amid the wailing of the women; its
trail of smoke had disappeared in the distance, and the crowd had
dispersed, but on a stone on the river bank an old woman whose son had
{170} been taken sat weeping silently.  I took hold of her hand and
wanted to comfort her, but she went on crying as if she did not hear
me.  Suddenly I felt that I was crying with her, silently, towards the
setting sun, as she was.

About that time I read a magazine article which maintained that there
would always be wars, because a noble thirst for glory is an
ineradicable element in the heart of man.  These champions of
militarism think of war only as idealised by ignorant enthusiasm or the
necessity of self-defence.  They would probably reconsider their
opinions if they spent a day in one of the African theatres of war,
walking along the paths in the virgin forest between lines of corpses
of carriers who had sunk under their load and found a solitary death by
the roadside, and if, with these innocent and unwilling victims before
them, they were to meditate in the gloomy stillness of the forest on
war as it really is.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Sidenote: Final results.  Why we should help]

How shall I sum up the resulting experience of these four and a half
years?  On the whole it has confirmed my view of the considerations
which drew me from the world of learning and art to the primeval
forest.  "The natives who live in the bosom of Nature are never so ill
as we are, and do not feel pain so much."  That is what my friends used
to say to me, to try to keep me at home, but I have come to see that
such statements are not true.  Out here there prevail most of the
diseases which we know in Europe, and several of them--those hideous
ones, I mean, which we brought here--produce, if possible, more misery
than they do amongst us.  And the child of nature feels them as we
{171} do, for to be human means to be subject to the power of that
terrible lord whose name is Pain.

Physical misery is great everywhere out here.  Are we justified in
shutting our eyes and ignoring it because our European newspapers tell
us nothing about it?  We civilised people have been spoilt.  If any one
of us is ill the doctor comes at once.  Is an operation necessary, the
door of some hospital or other opens to us immediately.  But let every
one reflect on the meaning of the fact that out here millions and
millions live without help or hope of it.  Every day thousands and
thousands endure the most terrible sufferings, though medical science
could avert them.  Every day there prevails in many and many a far-off
hut a despair which we could banish.  Will each of my readers think
what the last ten years of his family history would have been if they
had been passed without medical or surgical help of any sort?  It is
time that we should wake from slumber and face our responsibilities!

Believing it, as I do, to be my life's task to fight on behalf of the
sick under far-off stars, I appeal to the sympathy which Jesus and
religion generally call for, but at the same time I call to my help
also our most fundamental ideas and reasonings.  We ought to see the
work that needs doing for the coloured folk in their misery, not as a
mere "good work," but as a duty that must not be shirked.

Ever since the world's far-off lands were discovered, what has been the
conduct of the white peoples to the coloured ones?  What is the meaning
of the simple fact that this and that people has died out, that others
are dying out, and that the condition of others is getting worse and
worse as a result of their discovery by men {172} who professed to be
followers of Jesus?  Who can describe the injustice and the cruelties
that in the course of centuries they have suffered at the hands of
Europeans?  Who can measure the misery produced among them by the fiery
drinks and the hideous diseases that we have taken to them?  If a
record could be compiled of all that has happened between the white and
the coloured races, it would make a book containing numbers of pages,
referring to recent as well as to early times, which the reader would
have to turn over unread, because their contents would be too horrible.

We and our civilisation are burdened, really, with a great debt.  We
are not free to confer benefits on these men, or not, as we please; it
is our duty.  Anything we give them is not benevolence but atonement.
For every one who scattered injury some one ought to go out to take
help, and when we have done all that is in our power, we shall not have
atoned for the thousandth part of our guilt.  That is the foundation
from which all deliberations about "works of mercy" out there must

It goes without saying that Governments must help with the atonement,
but they cannot do so till there already exists in society a conviction
on the subject.  The Government alone can never discharge the duties of
humanitarianism; from the nature of the case that rests with society
and individuals.

The Government can send out as many colonial doctors as it has at its
disposal, and as the colonial budgets are able to pay for.  It is well
known that there are great colonising powers which cannot find even
enough doctors to fill the places of those already working in their
colonies, though these are far from sufficient to {173} cope with the
need.  So again, we see, the real burden of the humanitarian work must
fall upon society and its individual members.  We must have doctors who
go among the coloured people of their own accord and are ready to put
up with all that is meant by absence from home and civilisation.  I can
say from experience that they will find a rich reward for all that they
renounce in the good that they can do.

Among the poor people out here they will not as a rule be able to
collect the cost of their own living and work; men must come forward at
home who will provide what is necessary, and that is something that is
due from all of us.  But whom shall we get to make a beginning, without
waiting till the duty is universally recognised and acted on?

      *      *      *      *      *

The Fellowship of those who bear the Mark of Pain.  Who are the members
of this Fellowship?  Those who have learnt by experience what physical
pain and bodily anguish mean, belong together all the world over; they
are united by a secret bond.  One and all they know the horrors of
suffering to which man can be exposed, and one and all they know the
longing to be free from pain.  He who has been delivered from pain must
not think he is now free again, and at liberty to take life up just as
it was before, entirely forgetful of the past.  He is now a "man whose
eyes are open" with regard to pain and anguish, and he must help to
overcome those two enemies (so far as human power can control them) and
to bring to others the deliverance which he has himself enjoyed.  The
man who, with a doctor's help, has been pulled through a severe
illness, must aid in {174} providing a helper such as he had himself,
for those who otherwise could not have one.  He who has been saved by
an operation from death or torturing pain, must do his part to make it
possible for the kindly anæsthetic and the helpful knife to begin their
work, where death and torturing pain still rule unhindered.  The mother
who owes it to medical aid that her child still belongs to her, and not
to the cold earth, must help, so that the poor mother who has never
seen a doctor may be spared what she has been spared.  Where a man's
death agony might have been terrible, but could fortunately be made
tolerable by a doctor's skill, those who stood around his death bed
must help, that others, too, may enjoy that same consolation when they
lose their dear ones.

[Sidenote: The Fellowship of Pain]

Such is the Fellowship of those who bear the Mark of Pain, and on them
lies the humanitarian task of providing medical help in the colonies.
Their gratitude should be the source of the gifts needed.  Commissioned
by them, doctors should go forth to carry out among the miserable in
far-off lands all that ought to be done in the name of civilisation,
human and humane.

Sooner or later the idea which I here put forward will conquer the
world, for with inexorable logic it carries with it the intellect as
well as the heart.

But is just now the right time to send it out into the world?  Europe
is ruined and full of wretchedness.  With all the misery that we have
to alleviate even under our very eyes, how can we think of far-off

Truth has no special time of its own.  Its hour is now--always, and
indeed then most truly when it seems most unsuitable to actual
circumstances.  Care for distress at home and care for distress
elsewhere do but help each other if, working together, they wake men in
{175} sufficient numbers from their thoughtlessness, and call into life
a new spirit of humanity.

But let no one say: "Suppose 'the Fellowship of those who bear the Mark
of Pain' does by way of beginning send one doctor here, another there,
what is that to cope with the misery of the world?"  From my own
experience and from that of all colonial doctors, I answer, that a
single doctor out here with the most modest equipment means very much
for very many.  The good which he can accomplish surpasses a
hundred-fold what he gives of his own life and the cost of the material
support which he must have.  Just with quinine and arsenic for malaria,
with novarsenobenzol for the various diseases which spread through
ulcerating sores, with emetin for dysentery, and with sufficient skill
and apparatus for the most necessary operations, he can in a single
year free from the power of suffering and death hundreds of men who
must otherwise have succumbed to their fate in despair.  It is just
exactly the advance of tropical medicine during the last fifteen years
which gives us a power over the sufferings of the men of far-off lands
that borders on the miraculous.  Is not this really a call to us?

For myself, now that my health, which since 1918 had been very
uncertain, has been restored as the result of two operations, and that
I have succeeded, by means of lectures and organ concerts, in
discharging the debts which I had to incur during the war for the sake
of my work, I venture to resolve to continue my activity among the
suffering folk of whom I have written.  The work, indeed, as I began
it, has been ruined by the war.  The friends from two nations who
joined in supporting us, have been, alas! deeply divided by what has
{176} happened in the world, and of those who might have helped us
farther, many have been reduced to poverty by the war.  It will be very
difficult to collect the necessary funds, which again must be far
larger than before, for the expenses will be three times as heavy,
however modestly I replan our undertaking.

Nevertheless, I have not lost courage.  The misery I have seen gives me
strength, and faith in my fellow-men supports my confidence in the
future.  I do hope that I shall find a sufficient number of people who,
because they themselves have been saved from physical suffering, will
respond to requests on behalf of those who are in similar need....  I
do hope that among the doctors of the world there will soon be several
besides myself who will be sent out, here or there in the world, by
"the Fellowship of those who bear the Mark of Pain."

        _August_, 1920.




  ADMINISTRATION, French colonial, 116, 118
  African harbours, West, 20
  Agriculture, 118
  Alcohol, 6, 24, 25, 44, 49, 96, 114, 120, 124, 161
  American Mission, 21
  Anæmia, 6, 90, 148
  Anæsthetics, 66
  Analysis, blood, 84
  Animals, treatment of, at Dakar, 17
  Ant, traveller, 143
  Antipyrin, 37
  Apoplexy, 66
  Appendicitis, 53
  "Arrhenal," 90
  Arsenic, 90
  Arseno-benzol.  _See_ Raspberry disease.
  Atombogunjo, 158
  Atoxyl, 83, 85
  _Aucoumea hlaineana_, 109
  "Aurora," 150

  BACH, 3, 64, 149
  Banana, 70, 97, 140
  Barolea, 21
  Beetle, Bostrichid, 100
  Belgian-Congo Railway, 8
  Biborate of sodium, 73
  Blood analysis, 84
  Boehme, Jacob.  _See_ "Aurora."
  Boils, 69
  Books, 148; _see also_ "Aurora."
  Bostrichid beetle, 100
  Brazzaville, 85
  Bromide of potassium, 37, 47
  Bruce, 81
  Building, raft, 102

  CADIER, Mr., 72
  Cameroons, 122
  Cancer, 53
  Cannibalism, 6, 69
  Canoe journey, 40
  Castellani, 81
  Catholic Mission, sixteenth century, 6
  Catholic Mission Station, 81
  Catholic Missions, the, 166
  Cattle, 5, 118
  Cause of sleeping sickness, 79
  Cayman, 72
  Cereals, 5
  Chaulmoogra oil, 89; subcutaneous injection of, 89
  Chills, 53
  Chloral hydrate, 47
  Christianity, 153; natives and, 154
  Christol, Mr., 26, 61
  Cinnamon, 4
  Civilisation and colonisation, antagonism of, 117
  Civilisation, comparative, 127
  Climate, 5, 40, 53
  Cloth, 96
  Cocoa, 4
  Coffee, 4
  Coillard, Mr., 145
  Colonial administration, French, 116, 118
  Colonisation and civilisation, antagonism of, 117
  "Company of the Upper Ogowe," 120
  Compulsory labour, 118
  "Concessions," 119
  Conditions of Europeans, 6
  Conveyance of sleeping sickness, 83
  Coralwood, 109
  Crawcraw, 87

  DAKAR, 16
  De Brazza, 7
  Delord, Mr., 89
  Dentistry, 55
  Dermatol, 37
  Difficulties of temporary hospital, 37
  Digitalis, 45
  Disease, heart, 45; mental, 45
  Dishonesty, native, 64, 102, 162
  Drink.  _See_ alcohol.
  Drinking habits, native, 44
  Dropsy, 75
  Dutton, 81
  Dysentery, 36, 62, 90

  EATING sores, 88
  Ebony, 102
  Education, native, 122; of missionaries, 164
  Elephantiasis, 36
  Elephants, 139, 141
  Ellenberger, Mr., 26, 67
  Emetin (_Emetinum hydrochloricum_), 91, 169
  European imports, 5; influence, 91
  Europeans, conditions of, 6; mortality among, 6;
      relations between natives and, 130
  Evangelical Mission, Paris, 2, 3
  Exploration of River Ogowe, 7
  Export of timber, 108
  Extravagance, native, 77

  FANS, 6
  Faure, Mr. Felix, 165
  Faure, Mrs., 56, 58
  Felling and transport of timber, 95
  Fernando Vaz, 68
  Fetishes, 50, 51
  Finance, 3
  Fish and Fishing, 49, 168
  Food products, 98
  Foodstuffs, 151
  Ford, Mr., 159
  Forest roads, 121, 122
  Forest, the virgin, 23, 39
  Fourier, 94
  _Framboesia_, 87
  French colonial administration, 116, 118

  GABOON, 4, 6
  Galoas, 6
  "Gambia fever," 82
  Girls, native, 129
  _Glossina palpalis_, 42 _n._, 83
  Gout, 53
  Grand Bassam, 20
  Gratitude, native, 66

  HABITS, native drinking, 44
  Hansen, 88
  Harbours, West African, 20
  Haug, Mr. (N'Gômô), 52, 109
  Heart disease, 45
  Hermann, Mr., 69
  Hernia, 55, 64, 91
  Hippopotami, 41, 43, 56, 57, 72
  Hospital (temporary), difficulties of, 37; routine of, 32, 33
  Hospital, the, 31, 44, 59; its scope, 78
  Housekeeping, 62
  Hunting, elephant, 141
  Hydrogen peroxide, 73

  IMPORTS, European, 5
  Industries, native, 124
  Influence, European, 91; of war, 167; Portuguese, 70
  Insects, 143
  Insomnia, 54
  Ipecacuanha, 90
  Ironwood, 109
  Isolation of leprosy, 88
  Israelites, 127
  Itch (scabies), 36

  Jesuit plantations, 7
  Jesus Christ, 93, 127, 155
  Jorryguibert, 65
  Joseph, 32, 45, 48, 65, 73, 76, 132, 136, 145

  KAST, Mr., 27, 31, 60
  Kerosene, 114
  Kiboko (sjambok), 67
  Koch, 81

  LABOUR, compulsory, 118
  Labour, native, 20, 31, 78, 95, 111
  Labour problem.  _See_ Native labour.
  Labour, women's, 63
  Lambarene, 3, 5, 8, 26, 39, 169
  Law, native, 73, 151
  Laziness, native, 44, 112
  Leboeuf, 81
  Leopards, 71
  Leprosy, 36, 68, 88
  Libreville, 6, 21
  Lopez, Cape, 4, 94
  Lopez, Odoardo, 7
  Lumbar hernia, 65

  Malaria, 36, 56, 59, 89
  Manioc, 70, 97
  Martin, 81
  Medical science, sleeping sickness and, 82
  Medicine men, 35, 48
  Medicine, native, 35; tropical, 16
  Medicines, prices of, 67
  Memory, loss of, 80
  Mental disease, 45
  Merchandise for natives, 115
  Merk's Pyoktanin, 146
  Methylen-violet, 146
  Mission, American, 21; sixteenth century, Catholic, 6;
      nineteenth century, Protestant, 8
  Mission school, the, 121, 129, 158, 163
  Mission station, Catholic, 81
  Mission station, Lambarene, 39
  Mission, the, how worked, 159
  Missionaries, education of, 164
  Missionary Society, Paris, 8
  Missions, 153; stations and _personnel_ of, 8; the Catholic,
      166; the Protestant, 165
  Mollusc, the boring, 109
  Monkey flesh, 72, 151
  Monogamy, 126
  Morel, Mr. and Mrs., 71, 152
  Morphia, 47
  Mortality among Europeans, 6
  Mosquitoes, 60, 83
  Mouila, 80

  NASTIN, 89
  Native attitude towards war, 138, 151; confidence, 36;
    dishonesty, 64, 102, 162; drinking habits, 44;
    education, 122; extravagance, 77; girls, 129; gratitude, 66;
    industries, 124, 161; labour, 20, 31, 78, 95, 111; law,
    73, 151; laziness 44, 112; medicine, 35, 36; punishment, 75;
    superstitions, 65, 155; unreliability, 29, 63, 135; village, 24, 43
  Natives and Europeans, relations between, 130
  Natives, and Christianity, 154; merchandise for, 115; taxation of, 114
  Nature of sleeping sickness, 83
  Navigation, river, 22-26, 41
  N'Djôle, 4
  N'Gomje, River, 70
  N'Gômô, 8, 26
  N'Gounje, 78
  Nicotine, 54
  N'Kendju, 73, 146

  OGOWE, district of, 4
  Ogowe, River, 2, 4, 23; exploration of, 7
  Oil palm, 4, 70, 71
  Ojemba, 157
  Okoume, 108
  _Oleum gynocardiæ_, 89
  Omnipon, 92
  Operations, 55, 65, 91
  Opium, 35
  Orungu tribe, 6
  Osteomyelitis, 66

  Palm, oil, 4, 70, 71
  Paris Evangelical Mission, 2, 3
  Paris Missionary Society, 8
  Pepper, 4
  Permanganate of potash, 88
  _Personnel_ of missions, stations and, 8
  Pineapples, 42
  Plantations, Jesuit, 7
  Pleurisy, 53
  Pneumonia, 53
  Poison, 47, 48
  Polygamy, 126
  Portuguese influence, 70
  Potassium, bromide of, 37, 47
  Potatoes, 5, 70, 151
  Prices, 137
  Prices of medicine, 67
  Products, food, 98
  Protestant Mission, nineteenth century, 8
  Protestant missions, the, 165
  Punishment, native, 75
  Pyorrhoea, 55

  QUININE, 37, 56, 90

  RAFT building, 102
  Railway, Belgian-Congo, 8
  Rambaud, Mr., 64
  Raspberry disease, 87
  Rheumatism, 53, 80
  Rice, 5
  River navigation, 22-26, 41
  River N'Gomje, 70
  River Ogowe, 2, 23
  Roads, forest, 121, 122
  Robert, Mr., 131
  Rosewood, 109
  Rousseau, 155
  Routine of hospital (temporary), 32, 33
  Rubber, 4
  _Rynchoprion penetrans_, 86

  SALOL, 37
  Samkita, 8, 71
  Sandfleas, 86
  Sangunagenta, 87
  Scabies (itch), 36
  School, the Mission, 121, 129, 163
  Schools, mission, 158
  Sciatica, 80
  Scopolamin, 47
  Scorpions, 143
  Senegambia, 16
  Serval, Lieutenant, 7
  Skulls (for fetishes), 51
  Slavery, 6, 69
  Sleeping sickness, 36, 62, 78, 81; and medical science, 82;
      cause of, 79; conveyance of, 83; nature of, 83; symptoms of, 80
  Sleeping Sickness Institute, 85
  Snakes, 72
  Stanley, 98
  Stations and _personnel_ of missions, 8
  Stilling, Professor, 146
  Strohl, Professor, 148
  Subcutaneous injection of chaulmoogra oil, 89
  Sunstroke, 58, 59
  Superstition, native, 65, 155
  Symptoms of sleeping sickness, 80

  TABOU, 20
  Talagouga, 8, 71
  Taxation of natives, 114
  Teeth, 55, 148
  Teneriffe, 13
  Termites, 142
  Thymol, 55
  Timber, export of, 108; trade, 4, 5, 25, 94-100; felling
      and transport of, 95-101; varieties of, 108
  Tobacco, 49, 54, 96, 114
  Traveller ant, 143
  Treatment of animals at Dakar, 17
  Trees, 39
  Tropical medicine, 16
  Trypanosomata, 82
  Tsetse fly, 42
  Tumours, 55

  ULCERS, 86, 146
  Unreliability, native, 29, 63, 135

  Varieties of timber, 108
  Village, native, 24, 43
  Virgin forest, the, 23, 39

  WAR, 136; influence of, 167; native attitude towards, 138, 151
  Weaver bird, 72
  West African harbours, 20
  Whooping-cough, 52
  Wife-purchase, 76, 128
  Women, diseases of, 55
  Women's labour, 63

  YAM, 70








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