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Title: A Modern Slavery
Author: Nevinson, Henry W.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Modern Slavery" ***

 [Illustration: HENRY W. NEVINSON
 Photograph by Elliott & Fry]







  Copyright, 1906, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

  _All rights reserved._

  Published May, 1906.





  CHAP.                                        PAGE

  I. INTRODUCTORY                                 1



  IV. ON ROUTE TO THE SLAVE CENTRE               59

  V. THE AGENTS OF THE SLAVE-TRADE               83


  VII. SAVAGES AND MISSIONS                     126


  IX. THE EXPORTATION OF SLAVES                 168

  X. LIFE OF SLAVES ON THE ISLANDS              187

  INDEX                                         211


  HENRY W. NEVINSON                            _Frontispiece_

  MAP OF PORTUGUESE WEST AFRICA            _Facing p._      1

  AN AFRICAN SWAMP                              ”           6

  COAST                                         ”          16

  NATIVES IN CHARACTERISTIC DRESS               ”          22

  PLANTER’S HOUSE ON AN ANGOLA ESTATE           ”          34

  FIRST MAIL-STEAMER AT LOBITO BAY              ”          40


  AWKWARD CROSSING                              ”          60

  CATHOLIC MISSION AT CACONDA                   ”          78

  CARRIERS ON THE MARCH                         ”          84

  BIHÉAN MUSICIANS                              ”          96

  CROSSING THE CUANZA                           ”         104

  NATIVES BURNING GRASS FOR SALT                ”         108

  HUNGRY COUNTRY                                ”         112

  MADE                                          ”         128

  A CHIBOKWE WOMAN AND HER FETICHES             ”         132

  ON THE WAY TO THE COAST                       ”         150

  CARRIERS’ REST-HUTS                           ”         160


  SAN THOMÉ                                     ”         182

  LINED UP ON THE PIER AT SAN THOMÉ             ”         184

  SLAVE QUARTERS ON A PLANTATION                ”         192



The following chapters describe my journey in the Portuguese province
of Angola (West Central Africa), and in the Portuguese islands of San
Thomé and Principe, during the years 1904, and 1905.

The journey was undertaken at the suggestion of the editor of _Harper’s
Monthly Magazine_, but in choosing this particular part of Africa for
investigation I was guided by the advice of the Aborigines Protection
Society and the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in London, and
I wish to thank the secretaries of both these societies for their great

I also wish to thank the British and American residents on the mainland
and the islands--and especially the missionaries--for their unfailing
hospitality and help. As far as possible, I kept the object of my
journey from them, knowing that direct aid to my purpose might bring
trouble on them afterwards. Yet even when they knew or suspected the
truth, I found no difference in their kindliness, though I was often
tiresome with sickness, and their own provisions were often very short.

The illustrations are from photographs taken by myself, but on the mail
slave-ship from Benguela to San Thomé I had the advantage of borrowing
a better camera than my own.

 LONDON, _March, 1906_.

[Illustration: MAP OF PORTUGUESE WEST AFRICA showing islands of
Principe and San Thomé To which slaves are deported from the interior]




For miles on miles there is no break in the monotony of the scene. Even
when the air is calmest the surf falls heavily upon the long, thin
line of yellow beach, throwing its white foam far up the steep bank of
sand. And beyond the yellow beach runs the long, thin line of purple
forest--the beginning of that dark forest belt which stretches from
Sierra Leone through West and Central Africa to the lakes of the Nile.
Surf, beach, and forest--for two thousand miles that is all, except
where some great estuary makes a gap, or where the line of beach rises
to a low cliff, or where a few distant hills, leading up to Ashanti,
can be seen above the forest trees.

It is not a cheerful part of the world--“the Coast.” Every prospect
does not please, nor is it only man that is vile. Man, in fact, is no
more vile than elsewhere; but if he is white he is very often dead.
We pass in succession the white man’s settlements, with their ancient
names so full of tragic and miserable history--Axim, Sekundi, Cape
Coast Castle, and Lagos. We see the old forts, built by Dutch and
Portuguese to protect their trade in ivory and gold and the souls of
men. They still gleam, white and cool as whitewash can make them,
among the modern erections of tin and iron that have a meaner birth.
And always, as we pass, some “old Coaster” will point to a drain or an
unfinished church, and say, “That was poor Anderson’s last bit.” And
always when we stop and the officials come off to the ship, drenched
by the surf in spite of the skill of native crews, who drive the
boats with rapid paddles, hissing sharply at every stroke to keep the
time--always the first news is of sickness and death. Its form is
brief: “Poor Smythe down--fever.” “Poor Cunliffe gone--black-water.”
“Poor Tompkinson scuppered--natives.” Every one says, “Sorry,” and
there’s no more to be said.

It is not cheerful. The touch of fate is felt the more keenly because
the white people are so few. For the most part, they know one another,
at all events by classes. A soldier knows a soldier. Unless he is
very military, indeed, he knows the district commissioner, and other
officials as well. An official knows an official, and is quite on
speaking terms with the soldiers. A trader knows a trader, and ceases
to watch him with malignant jealousy when he dies. It is hard to
realize how few the white men are, scattered among the black swarms of
the natives. I believe that in the six-mile radius round Lagos (the
largest “white” town on the Coast) the whites could not muster one
hundred and fifty among the one hundred and forty thousand blacks. And
in the great walled city of Abeokuta, to which the bit of railway from
Lagos runs, among a black population of two hundred and five thousand,
the whites could hardly make up twenty all told. So that when one white
man disappears he leaves a more obvious gap than he would in a London
street, and any white man may win a three days’ fame by dying.

Among white women, a loss is naturally still more obvious and
deplorable. Speaking generally, we may say the only white women on the
Coast are nurses and missionaries. A benevolent government forbids
soldiers and officials to bring their wives out. The reason given is
the deadly climate, though there are other reasons, and an exception
seems to be made in the case of a governor’s wife. She enjoys the
liberty of dying at her own discretion. But Accra, almost alone of the
Coast towns, boasts the presence of two or three English ladies, and I
have known men overjoyed at being ordered to appointments there. Not
that they were any more devoted to the society of ladies than we all
are, but they hoped for a better chance of surviving in a place where
ladies live. Vain hope; in spite of cliffs and clearings, in spite of
golf and polo, and ladies, too, Death counts his shadows at Accra much
the same as anywhere else.

You never can tell. I once landed on a beach where it seemed that death
would be the only chance of comfort in the tedious hell. On either
hand the flat shore stretched away till it was lost in distance. Close
behind the beach the forest swamp began. Upon the narrow ridge nine
hideous houses stood in the sweltering heat, and that was all the
town. The sole occupation was an exchange of palm-oil for the deadly
spirit which profound knowledge of chemistry and superior technical
education have enabled the Germans to produce in a more poisonous
form than any other nation. The sole intellectual excitement was the
arrival of the steamers with gin, rum, and newspapers. Yet in that
desolation three European ladies were dwelling in apparent amity, and a
volatile little Frenchman, full of the joy of life, declared he would
not change that bit of beach--no, not for all the _cafés chantants_ of
his native Marseilles. “There is not one Commandment here!” he cried,
unconsciously imitating the poet of Mandalay; and I suppose there is
some comfort in having no Commandments, even where there is very little
chance of breaking any.

The farther down the Coast you go the more melancholy is the scene.
The thin line of yellow beach disappears. The forest comes down into
the sea. The roots of the trees are never dry, and there is no firm
distinction of land and water. You have reached “the Rivers,” the delta
of the Niger, the Circle of the mangrove swamps, in which Dante would
have stuck the Arch-Traitor head downward if only he had visited this
part of the world. I gained my experience of the swamps early, but
it was thorough. It was about the third time I landed on the Coast.
Hearing that only a few miles away there was real solid ground where
strange beasts roamed, I determined to cut a path through the forest in
that direction. Engaging two powerful savages armed with “matchets,”
or short, heavy swords, I took the plunge from a wharf which had been
built with piles beside a river. At the first step I was up to my
knees in black sludge, the smell of which had been accumulating since
the glacial period. Perhaps the swamps are forming the coal-beds of a
remote future; but in that case I am glad I did not live at Newcastle
in a remote past. As in a coronation ode, there seemed no limit to the
depths of sinking. One’s only chance was to strike a submerged trunk
not yet quite rotten enough to count as mud. Sometimes it was possible
to cling to the stems or branches of standing trees, and swing over the
slime without sinking deep. It was possible, but unpleasant; for stems
and branches and twigs and fibres are generally covered with every
variety of spine and spike and hook.

In a quarter of an hour we were as much cut off from the world as on
the central ocean. The air was dark with shadow, though the tree-tops
gleamed in brilliant sunshine far above our heads. Not a whisper of
breeze nor a breath of fresh air could reach us. We were stifled with
the smell. The sweat poured from us in the intolerable heat. Around us,
out of the black mire, rose the vast tree trunks, already rotting as
they grew, and between the trunks was woven a thick curtain of spiky
plants and of the long suckers by which the trees draw up an extra
supply of water--very unnecessarily, one would have thought.

Through this undergrowth the natives, themselves often up to the middle
in slime, slowly hacked a way. They are always very patient of a
white man’s insanity. Now and then we came to a little clearing where
some big tree had fallen, rotten from bark to core. Or we came to a
“creek”--one of the innumerable little watercourses which intersect
the forest, and are the favorite haunt of the mud-fish, whose eyes are
prominent like a frog’s, and whose side fins have almost developed into
legs, so that, with the help of their tails, they can run over the
slime like lizards on the sand. But for them and the crocodiles and
innumerable hosts of ants and slugs, the lower depths of the mangrove
swamp contain few living things. Parrots and monkeys inhabit the
upper world where the sunlight reaches, and sometimes the deadly
stillness is broken by the cry of a hawk that has the flight of an owl
and fishes the creeks in the evening. Otherwise there is nothing but
decay and stench and creatures of the ooze.

[Illustration: AN AFRICAN SWAMP]

After struggling for hours and finding no change in the swamp and no
break in the trees, I gave up the hope of that rising ground, and
worked back to the main river. When at last I emerged, sopping with
sweat, black with slime, torn and bleeding from the thorns, I knew that
I had seen the worst that nature can do. I felt as though I had been
reforming the British War Office.

It is worth while trying to realize the nature of these wet forests and
mangrove swamps, for they are the chief characteristic of “the Coast”
and especially of “the Rivers.” Not that the whole even of southern
Nigeria is swamp. Wherever the ground rises, the bush is dry. But from
a low cliff, like “The Hill” at Calabar, although in two directions you
may turn to solid ground where things will grow and man can live, you
look south and west over miles and miles of forest-covered swamp that
is hopeless for any human use. You realize then how vain is the chatter
about making the Coast healthy by draining the mangrove swamps. Until
the white man develops a new kind of blood and a new kind of inside,
the Coast will kill him. Till then we shall know the old Coaster
by the yellow and streaky pallor of a blood destroyed by fevers, by
a confused and uncertain memory, and by a puffiness that comes from
enfeebled muscle quite as often as from insatiable thirst.

It is through swamps like these that those unheard-of “punitive
expeditions” of ours, with a white officer or two, a white sergeant
or two, and a handful of trusty Hausa men, have to fight their way,
carrying their Maxim and three-inch guns upon their heads. “I don’t
mind as long as the men don’t sink above the fork,” said the commandant
of one of them to me. And it is beside these swamps that the traders,
for many short-lived generations past, have planted their “factories.”

The word “factory” points back to a time when the traders made the
palm-oil themselves. The natives make nearly the whole of it now and
bring it down the rivers in casks, but the “factories” keep their name,
though they are now little more than depots of exchange and retail
trade. Formerly they were made of the hulks of ships, anchored out in
the rivers, and fitted up as houses and stores. A few of the hulks
still remain, but of late years the traders have chosen the firmest
piece of “beach” they could find, or else have created a “beach” by
driving piles into the slime, and on these shaky and unwholesome
platforms have erected dwelling-houses with big verandas, a series of
sheds for the stores, and a large barn for the shop. Here the “agent”
(or sometimes the owner of the business) spends his life, with one or
two white assistants, a body of native “boys” as porters and boatmen,
and usually a native woman, who in the end returns to her tribe and
hands over her earnings in cash or goods to her chief.

The agent’s working-day lasts from sunrise to sunset, except for the
two hours at noon consecrated to “chop” and tranquillity. In the
evening, sometimes he gambles, sometimes he drinks, but, as a rule,
he goes to bed. Most factories are isolated in the river or swamp,
and they are pervaded by a loneliness that can be felt. The agent’s
work is an exchange of goods, generally on a large scale. In return
for casks of oil and bags of “kernels,” he supplies the natives with
cotton cloth, spirits, gunpowder, and salt, or from his retail store he
sells cheap clothing, looking-glasses, clocks, knives, lamps, tinned
food, and all the furniture, ornaments, and pictures which, being too
atrocious even for English suburbs and provincial towns, may roughly be
described as Colonial.

From the French coasts, in spite of the free-trade agreement of 1898,
the British trader is now almost entirely excluded. On the Ivory Coast,
Dahomey, French Congo, and the other pieces of territory which connect
the enormous African possessions of France with the sea, you will
hardly find a British factory left, though in one or two cases the
skill and perseverance of an agent may just keep an old firm going. In
the German Cameroons, British houses still do rather more than half the
trade, but their existence is continually threatened. In Portuguese
Angola one or two British factories cling to their old ground in hopes
that times may change. In the towns of the Lower Congo the British
firms still keep open their stores and shops; but the well-known policy
of the royal rubber merchant, who bears on his shield a severed hand
sable, has killed all real trade above Stanley Pool. In spite of all
protests and regulations about the “open door,” it is only in British
territory that a British trader can count upon holding his own. It may
be said that, considering the sort of stuff the British trader now
sells, this is a matter of great indifference to the world. That may be
so. But it is not a matter of indifference to the British trader, and,
in reality, it is ultimately for his sake alone that our possessions
in West Africa are held. Ultimately it is all a question of soap and

We need not forget the growing trade in mahogany and the growing trade
in cotton. We may take account of gold, ivory, gums, and kola, besides
the minor trades in fruits, yams, red peppers, millet, and the beans
and grains and leaves which make a native market so enlivening to a
botanist. But, after all, palm-oil and kernels are the things that
count, and palm-oil and kernels come to soap and candles in the end.
It is because our dark and dirty little island needs such quantities
of soap and candles that we have extended the blessings of European
civilization to the Gold Coast and the Niger, and beside the lagoons of
Lagos and the rivers of Calabar have placed our barracks, hospitals,
mad-houses, and prisons. It is for this that district commissioners
hold their courts of British justice and officials above suspicion
improve the perspiring hour by adding up sums. For this the natives
trim the forest into golf-links. For this devoted teachers instruct the
Fantee boys and girls in the length of Irish rivers and the order of
Napoleon’s campaigns. For this the director of public works dies at his
drain and the officer at a palisade gets an iron slug in his stomach.
For this the bugles of England blow at Sokoto, and the little plots of
white crosses stand conspicuous at every clearing.

That is the ancestral British way of doing things. It is for the sake
of the trade that the whole affair is ostensibly undertaken and carried
on. Yet the officer and the official up on “The Hill” quietly ignore
the trader at the foot, and are dimly conscious of very different aims.
The trader’s very existence depends upon the skill and industry of the
natives. Yet the trader quietly ignores the native, or speaks of him
only as a lazy swine who ought to be enslaved as much as possible. And
all the time the trader’s own government is administering a singularly
equal justice, and has, within the last three years, declared slavery
of every kind at an end forever.

In the midst of all such contradictions, what is to be the real
relation of the white races to the black races? That is the ultimate
problem of Africa. We need not think it has been settled by a century’s
noble enthusiasm about the Rights of Man and Equality in the sight
of God. Outside a very small and diminishing circle in England and
America, phrases of that kind have lost their influence, and for the
men who control the destinies of Africa they have no meaning whatever.
Neither have they any meaning for the native. He knows perfectly well
that the white people do not believe them.

The whole problem is still before us, as urgent and as uncertain as
it has ever been. It is not solved. What seemed a solution is already
obsolete. The problem will have to be worked through again from the
start. Some of the factors have changed a little. Laws and regulations
have been altered. New and respectable names have been invented. But
the real issue has hardly changed at all. It has become a part of the
world-wide issue of capital, but the question of African slavery still

We may, of course, draw distinctions. The old-fashioned export of human
beings as a reputable and staple industry, on a level with the export
of palm-oil, has disappeared from the Coast. Its old headquarters were
at Lagos; and scattered about that district and in Nigeria and up the
Congo one can still see the remains of the old barracoons, where the
slaves were herded for sale or shipment. In passing up the rivers you
may suddenly come upon a large, square clearing. It is overgrown now,
but the bush is not so high and thick as the surrounding forest, and
palms take the place of the mangrove-trees. Sometimes a little Ju-ju
house is built by the water’s edge, with fetiches inside; and perhaps
the natives have placed it there with some dim sense of expiation.
For the clearing is the site of an old barracoon, and misery has
consecrated the soil. Such things leave a perpetual heritage of woe.
The English and the Portuguese were the largest slave-traders upon the
Coast, and it is their descendants who are still paying the heaviest
penalty. But that ancient kind of slave-trade may for the present be
set aside. The British gun-boats have made it so difficult and so
unlucrative that slavery has been driven to take subtler forms, against
which gun-boats have hitherto been powerless.

We may draw another distinction still. Quite different from the
plantation slavery under European control, for the profit of European
capitalists, is the domestic slavery that has always been practised
among the natives themselves. Legally, this form of slavery was
abolished in Nigeria by a proclamation of 1901, but it still exists
in spite of the law, and is likely to exist for many years, even in
British possessions. It is commonly spoken of as domestic slavery, but
perhaps tribal slavery would be the better word. Or the slave might be
compared to the serf of feudal times. He is nominally the property of
the chief, and may be compelled to give rather more than half his days
to work for the tribe. Even under the Nigerian enactment, he cannot
leave his district without the chief’s consent, and he must continue to
contribute something to the support of the family. But in most cases a
slave may purchase his freedom if he wishes, and it frequently happens
that a slave becomes a chief himself and holds slaves on his own

It is one of those instances in which law is ahead of public custom.
Most of the existing domestic slaves do not wish for further freedom,
for if their bond to the chief were destroyed, they would lose the
protection of the tribe. They would be friendless and outcast, with
no home, no claim, and no appeal. “Soon be head off,” said a native,
in trying to explain the dangers of sudden freedom. At Calabar I came
across a peculiar instance. Some Scottish missionaries had carefully
trained up a native youth to work with them at a mission. They had
taught him the height of Chimborazo, the cost of papering a room,
leaving out the fireplace, and the other things which we call education
because we can teach nothing else. They had even taught him the
intricacies of Scottish theology. But just as he was ready primed for
the ministry, an old native stepped in and said: “No; he is my slave.
I beg to thank you for educating him so admirably. But he seems to me
better suited for the government service than for the cure of souls. So
he shall enter a government office and comfort my declining years with
half his income.”

The elderly native had himself been educated by the mission, and that
added a certain irony to his claim. When I told the acting governor
of the case, he thought such a thing could not happen in these days,
because the youth could have appealed to the district commissioner,
and the old man’s claim would have been disallowed at law. That may
be so; and yet I have not the least doubt that the account I received
was true. Law was in advance of custom, that was all, and the people
followed custom, as people always do.

Even where there is no question of slave-ownership, the power of the
chiefs is often despotic. If a chief covets a particularly nice canoe,
he can purchase it by compelling his wives and children to work for
the owner during so many days. Or take the familiar instance of the
“Krooboys.” The Kroo coast is nominally part of Liberia, but as the
Liberian government is only a fit subject for comic opera, the Kroo
people remain about the freest and happiest in Africa. Their industry
is to work the cargo of steamers that go down the Coast. They get a
shilling a day and “chop,” and the only condition they make is to
return to “we country” within a year at furthest. Before the steamer
stops off the Coast and sounds her hooter the sea is covered with
canoes. The captain sends word to the chief of the nearest village
that he wants, say, fifty “boys.” After two or three hours of excited
palaver on shore, the chief selects fifty boys, and they are sent on
board under a headman. When they return, they give the chief a share of
their earnings as a tribute for his care of the tribe and village in
their absence. This is a kind of feudalism, but it has nothing to do
with slavery, especially as there is a keen competition among the boys
to serve. When a woman who has been hired as a white man’s concubine
is compelled to surrender her earnings to the chief, we may call it
a survival of tribal slavery, or of the patriarchal system, if you
will. But when, as happens, for instance, in Mozambique, the agents
of capitalists bribe the chiefs to force laborers to the Transvaal
mines, whether they wish to go or not, we may disguise the truth as
we like under talk about “the dignity of labor” and “the value of
discipline,” but, as a matter of fact, we are on the downward slope
to the new slavery. It is easy to see how one system may become merged
into the other without any very obvious breach of native custom. But,
nevertheless, the distinction is profound. As Mr. Morel has said in his
admirable book on _The Affairs of West Africa_, between the domestic
servitude of Nigeria and plantation slavery under European supervision
there is all the difference in the world. The object of the present
series of sketches is to show, by one particular instance, the method
under which this plantation slavery is now being carried on, and the
lengths to which it is likely to develop.


“In the region of the Unknown, Africa is the Absolute.” It was one of
Victor Hugo’s prophetic sayings a few years before his death, when he
was pointing out to France her road of empire. And in a certain sense
the saying is still true. In spite of all the explorations, huntings,
killings, and gospels, Africa remains the unknown land, and the nations
of Europe have hardly touched the edge of its secrets. We still think
of “black people” in lumps and blocks. We do not realize that each
African has a personality as important to himself as each of us is in
his own eyes. We do not even know why the mothers in some tribes paint
their babies on certain days with stripes of red and black, or why an
African thinks more of his mother than we think of lovers. If we ask
for the hidden meaning of a Ju-ju, or of some slow and hypnotizing
dance, the native’s eyes are at once covered with a film like a seal’s,
and he gazes at us in silence. We know nothing of the ritual of scars
or the significance of initiation. We profess to believe that external
nature is symbolic and that the universe is full of spiritual force;
but we cannot enter for a moment into the African mind, which really
believes in the spiritual side of nature. We talk a good deal about our
sense of humor, but more than any other races we despise the Africans,
who alone out of all the world possess the same power of laughter as

In the higher and spiritual sense, Victor Hugo’s saying remains
true--“In the region of the Unknown, Africa is the Absolute.” But now
for the first time in history the great continent lies open to Europe.
Now for the first time men of science have traversed it from end to
end and from side to side. And now for the first time the whole of it,
except Abyssinia, is partitioned among the great white nations of the
world. Within fifty years the greatest change in all African history
has come. The white races possess the Dark Continent for their own, and
what they are going to do with it is now one of the greatest problems
before mankind. It is a small but very significant section of this
problem which I shall hope to illustrate in my investigations.



Loanda is much disquieted in mind. The town is really called St. Paul
de Loanda, but it has dropped its Christian name, just as kings drop
their surnames. Between Moorish Tangiers and Dutch Cape Town, it is
the only place that looks like a town at all. It has about it what
so few African places have--the feeling of history. We are aware of
the centuries that lie behind its present form, and we feel in its
ruinous quays the record of early Portuguese explorers and of the Dutch

In the mouldering little church of Our Lady of Salvation, beside the
beach where native women wash, there exists the only work of art which
this side of Africa can show. The church bears the date of 1664, but
the work of art was perhaps ordered a few years before that, while the
Dutch were holding the town, for it consists of a series of pictures in
blue-and-white Dutch tiles, evidently representing scenes in Loanda’s
history. In some cases the tiles have fallen down, and been stuck on
again by natives in the same kind of chaos in which natives would
rearrange the stars. But in one picture a gallant old ship is seen
laboring in a tempest; in another a gallant young horseman in pursuit
of a stag is leaping over a cliff into the sea; and in the third a
thin square of Christian soldiers, in broad-brimmed hats, braided
tail-coats, and silk stockings, is being attacked on every side by a
black and unclad host of savages with bows and arrows. The Christians
are ranged round two little cottages which must signify the fort of
Loanda at the time. Two little cannons belch smoke and lay many black
figures low. The soldiers are firing their muskets into the air, no
doubt in the hope that the height of the trajectory will bring the
bullets down in the neighborhood of the foe, though the opposing forces
are hardly twenty yards apart. The natives in one place have caught
hold of a priest and are about to exalt him to martyrdom, but I think
none of the Christian soldiers have fallen. In defiance of the cannibal
king, who bears a big sword and is twice the size of his followers,
the Christian general grasps his standard in the middle of the square,
and, as in the shipwreck and the hunting scene, Our Lady of Salvation
watches serenely from the clouds, conscious of her power to save.

Unhappily there is no inscription, and we can only say that the scene
represents some hard-won battle of long ago--some crisis in the
miserable conflict of black and white. Since the days of those two
cottages and a flag, Loanda has grown into a city that would hardly
look out of place upon the Mediterranean shore. It has something now
of the Mediterranean air, both in its beauty and its decay. In front
of its low red and yellow cliffs a long spit of sand-bank forms a calm
lagoon, at the entrance of which the biggest war-ships can lie. The
sandy rock projecting into the lagoon is crowned by a Vauban fortress
whose bastions and counter-scarps would have filled Uncle Toby’s heart
with joy. They now defend the exiled prisoners from Portugal, but
from the ancient embrasures a few old guns, some rusty, some polished
with blacking, still puff their salutes to foreign men-of-war, or to
new governors on their arrival. In blank-cartridge the Portuguese War
Department shows no economy. If only ball-cartridge were as cheap, the
mind of Loanda would be less disquieted.

There is an upper and a lower town. From the fortress the cliff,
though it crumbles down in the centre, swings round in a wide arc
to the cemetery, and on the cliff are built the governor’s palace,
the bishop’s palace, a few ruined churches that once belonged to
monastic orders, and the fine big hospital, an expensive present from
a Portuguese queen. Over the flat space between the cliff and the
lagoon the lower town has grown up, with a cathedral, custom-house,
barracks, stores, and two restaurants. The natives live scattered about
in houses and huts, but they have chiefly spread at random over the
flat, high ground behind the cliff. As in a Turkish town, there is much
ruin and plenty of space. Over wide intervals of ground you will find
nothing but a broken wall and a century of rubbish. Many enterprises
may be seen growing cold in death. There are gardens which were meant
to be botanical. There is an observatory which may be scientific still,
for the wind-gage spins. There is an immense cycle track which has
delighted no cyclist, unless, indeed, the contractor cycles. There are
bits of pavement that end both ways in sand. There is a ruin that was
intended for a hotel. There is a public band which has played the same
tunes in the same order three times a week since the childhood of the
oldest white inhabitant. There is a technical school where no pupil
ever went. There is a vast municipal building which has never received
its windows, and whose tower serves as a monument to the last sixpence.
There are oil-lamps which were made for gas, and there is one drain,
fit to poison the multitudinous sea.

So the city lies, bankrupt and beautiful. She is beautiful because she
is old, and because she built her roofs with tiles, before corrugated
iron came to curse the world. And she is bankrupt for various reasons,
which, as I said, are now disquieting her mind. First there is the war.
Only last autumn a Portuguese expedition against a native tribe was
cut to pieces down in the southern Mossamedes district, not far from
the German frontier, where also a war is creeping along. No Lady of
Salvation now helped the thin Christian square, and some three hundred
whites and blacks were left there dead. So things stand. Victorious
natives can hardly be allowed to triumph in victory over whites, but
how can a bankrupt province carry on war? A new governor has arrived,
and, as I write, everything is in doubt, except the lack of money. How
are safety, honor, and the value of the milreis note to be equally


But there is an uneasy consciousness that the lack of money, the war
itself, and other distresses are all connected with a much deeper
question that keeps on reappearing in different forms. It is the
question of “contract labor.” Cheap labor of some sort is essential,
if the old colony is to be preserved. There was a time when there was
plenty of labor and to spare--so much to spare that it was exported in
profitable ship-loads to Havana and Brazil, while the bishop sat on the
wharf and christened the slaves in batches. But, as I have said, that
source of income was cut off by British gun-boats some fifty years ago,
and is lost, perhaps forever. And in the mean time the home supply of
labor has been lamentably diminished; for the native population, the
natural cultivators of the country, have actually decreased in number,
and other causes have contributed to raise their price above the limit
of “economic value.”

Their numbers have decreased, because the whole country, always exposed
to small-pox, has been suffering more and more from the diseases which
alcoholism brings or leaves, and, like most of tropical Africa, it has
been devastated within the last twenty or thirty years by this new
plague to humanity, called “the sleeping-sickness.” Men of science are
undecided still as to the cause. They are now inclined to connect it
with the tsetse-fly, long known in parts of Africa as the destroyer
of all domesticated animals, but hitherto supposed to be harmless
to man, whether domesticated or wild. No one yet knows, and we can
only describe its course from the observed cases. It begins with an
unwillingness to work, an intense desire to sit down and do nothing, so
that the lowest and most laborious native becomes quite aristocratic
in his habits. The head then keeps nodding forward, and intervals of
profound sleep supervene. Control over the expression of emotion is
lost, so that the patient laughs or cries without cause. This has been
a very marked symptom among the children I have seen. In some the
great tears kept pouring down; others could not stop laughing. The
muscles twitch of themselves, and the glands at the back of the neck
swell up. Then the appetite fails, and in the cases I have seen there
is extreme wasting, as from famine. Sometimes, however, the body
swells all over, and the natives call this kind “the Baobab,” from
the name of the enormous and disproportioned tree which abounds here,
and always looks as if it suffered from elephantiasis, like so many
of the natives themselves. Often there is an intense desire to smoke,
but when the pipe is lit the patient drops it with indifference. Then
come fits of bitter cold, and during these fits patients have been
known to fall into the fire and allow themselves to be burned to death.
Towards the end, violent trembling comes on, followed by delirium and
an unconsciousness which may continue for about the final fortnight.
The disease lasts from six to eight months; sometimes a patient lives
a year. But hitherto there has been no authenticated instance of
recovery. Of all diseases, it is perhaps the only one which up to now
counts its dead by cent per cent. It attacks all ages between five
years and forty, and even those limits are not quite fixed. It so
happens that most of the cases I have yet seen in the country have been
children, but that may be accidental. For a long time it was thought
that white people were exempt. But that is not so. They are apparently
as liable to the sickness as the natives, and there are white patients
suffering from it now in the Loanda hospital.

My reason for now dwelling upon the disease which has added a new
terror to Africa is its effect upon the labor-supply. It is very
capricious in its visitation. Sometimes it will cling to one side of
a river and leave the other untouched. But when it appears it often
sweeps the population off the face of the earth, and there are places
in Angola which lately were large native towns, but are now going
back to desert. So people are more than ever wanted to continue the
cultivation of such land as has been cultivated, and, unhappily, it
is now more than ever essential that the people should be cheap. The
great days when fortunes were made in coffee, or when it was thought
that cocoa would save the country, are over. Prices have sunk. Brazil
has driven out Angola coffee. San Thomé has driven out the cocoa. The
Congo is driving out the rubber, and the sugar-cane is grown only for
the rum that natives drink--not a profitable industry from the point
of view of national economics. Many of the old plantations have come
to grief. Some have been amalgamated into companies with borrowed
capital. Some have been sold for a song. None is prosperous; but
people still think that if only “contract labor” were cheaper and more
plentiful, prosperity would return. As it is, they see all the best
labor draughted off to the rich island of San Thomé, never to return,
and that is another reason why the mind of Loanda is much disquieted.

I do not mean that the anxiety about the “contract labor” is entirely
a question of cash. The Portuguese are quite as sensitive and kindly
as other people. Many do not like to think that the “serviçaes”
or “contrahidos,” as they are called, are, in fact, hardly to be
distinguished from the slaves of the cruel old times. Still more do
not like to hear the most favored province of the Portuguese Empire
described by foreigners as a slave state. There is a strong feeling
about it in Portugal also, I believe, and here in Angola it is the
chief subject of conversation and politics. The new governor is thought
to be an “antislavery” man. A little newspaper appears occasionally in
Loanda (_A Defeza de Angola_) in which the shame of the whole system
is exposed, at all events with courage. The paper is not popular with
the official or governing classes. No courageous newspaper ever can
be; for the official person is born with a hatred of reform, because
reform means trouble. But the paper is read none the less. There is a
feeling about the question which I can only describe again as disquiet.
It is partly conscience, partly national reputation; partly also it
is the knowledge that under the present system San Thomé gets all the
advantage, and the mainland is being drained of laborers in order that
the island’s cocoa may abound.

Legally the system is quite simple and looks innocent enough. Legally
it is laid down that a native and a would-be employer come before a
magistrate or other representative of the Curator-General of Angola,
and enter into a free and voluntary contract for so much work in return
for so much pay. By the wording of the contract the native declares
that “he has come of his own free will to contract for his services
under the terms and according to the forms required by the law of April
29, 1875, the general regulation of November 21, 1878, and the special
clauses relating to this province.”

The form of contract continues:

 1. The laborer contracts and undertakes to render all such [domestic,
 agricultural, etc.] services as his employer may require.

 2. He binds himself to work nine hours on all days that are not
 sanctified by religion, with an interval of two hours for rest, and
 not to leave the service of the employer without permission, except in
 order to complain to the authorities.

 3. This contract to remain in force for five complete years.

 4. The employer binds himself to pay the monthly wages of ----, with
 food and clothing.

Then follow the magistrate’s approval of the contract, and the
customary conclusion about “signed, sealed, and delivered in the
presence of the following witnesses.” The law further lays it down that
the contract may be renewed by the wish of both parties at the end of
five years, that the magistrates should visit the various districts and
see that the contracts are properly observed and renewed, and that all
children born to the laborers, whether man or woman, during the time
of his or her contract shall be absolutely free.

Legally, could any agreement look fairer and more innocent? Or could
any government have better protected a subject population in the
transition from recognized slavery to free labor? Even apart from the
splendor of legal language, laws often seem divine. But let us see how
the whole thing works out in human life.

An agent, whom for the sake of politeness we may call a labor merchant,
goes wandering about among the natives in the interior--say seven or
eight hundred miles from the coast. He comes to the chief of a tribe,
or, I believe, more often, to a little group of chiefs, and, in return
for so many grown men and women, he offers the chiefs so many smuggled
rifles, guns, and cartridges, so many bales of calico, so many barrels
of rum. The chiefs select suitable men and women, very often one of
the tribe gives in his child to pay off an old debt, the bargain is
concluded, and off the party goes. The labor merchant leads it away
for some hundreds of miles, and then offers its members to employers
as contracted laborers. As commission for his own services in the
transaction, he may receive about fifteen or twenty pounds for a man
or a woman, and about five pounds for a child. According to law, the
laborer is then brought before a magistrate and duly signs the above
contract with his or her new master. He signs, and the benevolent law
is satisfied. But what does the native know or care about “freedom
of contract” or “the general regulation of November 21, 1878”? What
does he know about nine hours a day and two hours rest and the days
sanctified by religion? Or what does it mean to him to be told that the
contract terminates at the end of five years? He only knows that he has
fallen into the hands of his enemies, that he is being given over into
slavery to the white man, that if he runs away he will be beaten, and
even if he could escape to his home, all those hundreds of miles across
the mountains, he would probably be killed, and almost certainly be
sold again. In what sense does such a man enter into a free contract
for his labor? In what sense, except according to law, does his
position differ from a slave’s? And the law does not count; it is only
life that counts.

I do not wish at present to dwell further upon this original stage in
the process of the new slave-trade, for I have not myself yet seen it
at work. I only take my account from men who have lived long in the
interior and whose word I can trust. I may be able to describe it more
fully when I have been farther into the interior myself. But now I will
pass to a stage in the system which I have seen with my own eyes--the
plantation stage, in which the contract system is found in full working

For about a hundred miles inland from Loanda, the country is flattish
and bare and dry, though there are occasional rivers and a sprinkling
of trees. A coarse grass feeds a few cattle, but the chief product
is the cassava, from which the natives knead a white food, something
between rice and flour. As you go farther, the land grows like the “low
veldt” in the Transvaal, and it has the same peculiar and unwholesome
smell. By degrees it becomes more mountainous and the forest grows
thick, so that the little railway seems to struggle with the
undergrowth almost as much as with the inclines. That little railway
is perhaps the only evidence of “progress” in the province after three
or four centuries. It is paid for by Lisbon, but a train really does
make the journey of about two hundred and fifty miles regularly in two
days, resting the engine for the night. To reach a plantation you must
get out on the route and make your way through the forest by one of
those hardly perceptible “bush paths” which are the only roads. Along
these paths, through flag-grasses ten feet high, through jungle that
closes on both sides like two walls, up mountains covered with forest,
and down valleys where the water is deep at this wet season, every bit
of merchandise, stores, or luggage must be carried on the heads of
natives, and every yard of the journey has to be covered on foot.

After struggling through the depths of the woods in this way for three
or four hours, we climbed a higher ridge of mountain and emerged from
the dense growth to open summits of rock and grass. Far away to the
southeast a still higher mountain range was visible, and I remembered,
with what writers call a momentary thrill, that from this quarter of
the compass Livingstone himself had made his way through to Loanda on
one of his greatest journeys. Below the mountain edge on which I stood
lay the broad valley of the plantation, surrounded by other hills
and depths of forest. The low white casa, with its great barns and
outhouses, stood in the middle. Close by its side were the thatched
mud huts of the work-people, the doors barred, the little streets all
empty and silent, because the people were all at work, and the children
that were too small to work and too big to be carried were herded
together in another part of the yards. From the house, in almost every
direction, the valleys of cultivated ground stretched out like fingers,
their length depending on the shape of the ground and on the amount of
water which could be turned over them by ditch-canals.

It was a plantation on which everything that will grow in this part
of Africa was being tried at once. There were rows of coffee, rows of
cocoa-plant, woods of bananas, fields of maize, groves of sugar-cane
for rum. On each side of the paths mango-trees stood in avenues, or the
tree which the parlors of Camden Town know as the India-rubber plant,
though in fact it is no longer the chief source of African rubber. A
few other plants and fruits were cultivated as well, but these were the
main produce.

The cultivation was admirable. Any one who knows the fertile parts
of Africa will agree that the great difficulty is not to make things
grow, but to prevent other things from growing. The abundant growth
chokes everything down. An African forest is one gigantic struggle for
existence, and an African field becomes forest as soon as you take your
eyes off it. But on the plantation the ground was kept clear and clean.
The first glance told of the continuous and persistent labor that
must be used. And as I was thinking of this and admiring the result,
suddenly I came upon this continuous and persistent labor in the flesh.

It was a long line of men and women, extended at intervals of about a
yard, like a company of infantry going into action. They were clearing
a coffee-plantation. Bent double over the work, they advanced slowly
across the ground, hoeing it up as they went. To the back of nearly
every woman clung an infant, bound on by a breadth of cotton cloth,
after the African fashion, while its legs straddled round the mother’s
loins. Its head lay between her shoulders, and bumped helplessly
against her back as she struck the hoe into the ground. Most of the
infants were howling with discomfort and exhaustion, but there was no
pause in the work. The line advanced persistently and in silence. The
only interruption was when a loin-cloth had to be tightened up, or when
one of the little girls who spend the day in fetching water passed
along the line with her pitcher. When the people had drunk, they turned
to the work again, and the only sound to be heard was the deep grunt or
sigh as the hoe was brought heavily down into the mass of tangled grass
and undergrowth between the rows of the coffee-plants.

Five or six yards behind the slowly advancing line, like the officers
of a company under fire, stood the overseers, or gangers, or drivers of
the party. They were white men, or three parts white, and were dressed
in the traditional planter style of big hat, white shirt, and loose
trousers. Each carried an eight-foot stick of hard wood, whitewood,
pointed at the ends, and the look of those sticks quite explained the
thoroughness and persistency of the work, as well as the silence, so
unusual among the natives whether at work or play.

At six o’clock a big bell rang from the casa, and all stopped working
instantly. They gathered up their hoes and matchets (large, heavy
knives), put them into their baskets, balanced the baskets on their
heads, and walked silently back to their little gathering of mud
huts. The women unbarred the doors, put the tools away, kindled
the bits of firewood they had gathered on the path from work, and
made the family meal. Most of them had to go first to a large room in
the casa where provisions are issued. Here two of the gangers preside
over the two kinds of food which the plantation provides--flour and
dried fish (a great speciality of Angola, known to British sailors as
“stinkfish”). Each woman goes up in turn and presents a zinc disk to
a ganger. The disk has a hole through it so that it may be carried
on a string, and it is stamped with the words “Fazenda de Paciencia
30 Reis,” let us say, or “Paciencia Plantation 1½_d._” The number of
reis varies a little. It is sometimes forty-five, sometimes higher. In
return for her disks, the woman receives so much flour by weight, or
a slab of stinkfish, as the case may be. She puts them in her basket
and goes back to cook. The man, meantime, has very likely gone to the
shop next door and has exchanged his disk for a small glass of the
white sugar-cane rum, which, besides women and occasional tobacco, is
his only pleasure. But the shop, which is owned by the plantation and
worked by one of the overseers, can supply cotton cloth, a few tinned
meats, and other things if desired, also in exchange for the disks.


The casa and the mud huts are soon asleep. At half-past four the big
bell clangs again. At five it clangs again. Men and women hurry out
and range themselves in line before the casa, coughing horribly and
shivering in the morning air. The head overseer calls the roll. They
answer their queer names. The women tie their babies on to their
backs again. They balance the hoe and matchet in the basket on their
heads, and pad away in silence to the spot where the work was left off
yesterday. At eleven the bell clangs again, and they come back to feed.
At twelve it clangs again, and they go back to work. So day follows day
without a break, except that on Sundays (“days sanctified by religion”)
the people are allowed, in some plantations, to work little plots of
ground which are nominally their own.

“No change, no pause, no hope.” That is the sum of plantation life. So
the man or woman known as a “contract laborer” toils, till gradually or
suddenly death comes, and the poor, worn-out body is put to rot. Out in
the forest you come upon the little heap of red earth under which it
lies. On the top of the heap is set the conical basket of woven grasses
which was the symbol of its toil in life, and now forms its only
monument. For a fortnight after death the comrades of the dead think
that the spirit hovers uneasily about the familiar huts. They dance and
drink rum to cheer themselves and it. When the fortnight is over, the
spirit is dissolved into air, and all is just as though the slave had
never been.

There is no need to be hypocritical or sentimental about it. The fate
of the slave differs little from the fate of common humanity. Few men
or women have opportunity for more than working, feeding, getting
children, and death. If any one were to maintain that the plantation
life is not in reality worse than the working-people’s life in most
of our manufacturing towns, or in such districts as the Potteries,
the Black Country, and the Isle of Dogs, he would have much to say.
The same argument was the only one that counted in defence of the old
slavery in the West Indies and the Southern States, and it will have
to be seriously met again now that slavery is reappearing under other
names. A man who has been bought for money is at least of value to
his master. In return for work he gets his mud hut, his flour, his
stinkfish, and his rum. The driver with his eight-foot stick is not so
hideous a figure as the British overseer with his system of blackmail;
and as for cultivation of the intellect and care of the soul, the less
we talk about such things the better.

In this account I only mean to show that the difference between the
“contract labor” of Angola, and the old-fashioned slavery of our
grandfathers’ time is only a difference of legal terms. In life there
is no difference at all. The men and women whom I have described as
I saw them have all been bought from their enemies, their chiefs, or
their parents; they have either been bought themselves or were the
children of people who had been bought. The legal contract, if it
had been made at all, had not been observed, either in its terms or
its renewal. The so-called pay by the plantation tokens is not pay
at all, but a form of the “truck” system at its very worst. So far
from the children being free, they now form the chief labor supply
of the plantation, for the demand for “serviçaes” in San Thomé has
raised the price so high that the Angola plantations could not carry
on at all without the little swarms of children that are continually
growing up on the estates. Sometimes, as I have heard, two or three
of the men escape, and hide in the crowd at Loanda or set up a little
village far away in the forest. But the risk is great; they have no
money and no friends. I have not heard of a runaway laborer being
prosecuted for breach of contract. As a matter of fact, the fiction of
the contract is hardly even considered. But when a large plantation
was sold the other day, do you suppose the contract of each laborer
was carefully examined, and the length of his future service taken
into consideration? Not a bit of it. The laborers went in block with
the estate. Men, women, and children, they were handed over to the new
owners, and became their property just like the houses and trees.

Portuguese planters are not a bit worse than other men, but their
position is perilous. The owner or agent lives in the big house with
three or four white or whitey-brown overseers. They are remote from all
equal society, and they live entirely free from any control or public
opinion that they care about. Under their absolute and unquestioned
power are men and women, boys and girls--let us say two hundred in all.
We may even grant, if we will, that the Portuguese planters are far
above the average of men. Still I say that if they were all Archbishops
of Canterbury, it would not be safe for them to be intrusted with such
powers as these over the bodies and souls of men and women.



Some two hundred miles south of St. Paul de Loanda, you come to a deep
and quiet inlet, called Lobito Bay. Hitherto it has been desert and
unknown--a spit of waterless sand shutting in a basin of the sea at the
foot of barren and waterless hills. But in twenty years’ time Lobito
Bay may have become famous as the central port of the whole west coast
of Africa, and the starting-place for traffic with the interior. For
it is the base of the railway scheme known as the “Robert Williams
Concession,” which is intended to reach the ancient copper-mines of the
Katanga district in the extreme south of the Congo State, and so to
unite with the “Tanganyika Concession.” It would thus connect the west
coast traffic with the great lakes and the east. A branch line might
also turn off at some point along the high and flat watershed between
the Congo and Zambesi basins, and join the Cape Town railway near
Victoria Falls. Possibly before the Johannesburg gold is exhausted,
passengers from London to the Transvaal will address their luggage
“viâ Lobito Bay.”


But this is only prophecy. What is certain is that on January 5,
1905, a mail-steamer was for the first time warped alongside a little
landing-stage of lighters, in thirty-five feet of water, and I may go
down to fame as the first man to land at the future port. What I found
were a few laborers’ huts, a tent, a pile of sleepers, a tiny engine
puffing over a mile or two of sand, and a large Portuguese custom-house
with an eye to possibilities. I also found an indomitable English
engineer, engaged in doing all the work with his own hands, to the
entire satisfaction of the native laborers, who encouraged him with

At present the railway, which is to transform the conditions of Central
Africa, runs as a little tram-line for about eight miles along the
sand to Katumbella. There it has something to show in the shape of a
great iron bridge, which crosses the river with a single span. The day
I was there the engineers were terrifying the crocodiles by knocking
away the wooden piles used in the construction, and both natives
and Portuguese were awaiting the collapse of the bridge with the
pleasurable excitement of people who await a catastrophe that does not
concern themselves. But; to the general disappointment, the last prop
was knocked away and the bridge still stood. It was amazing. It was
contrary to the traditions of Africa and of Portugal.

Katumbella itself is an old town, with two old forts, a dozen
trading-houses, and a river of singular beauty, winding down between
mountains. It is important because it stands on the coast at the end
of the carriers’ foot-path, which has been for centuries the principal
trade route between the west and the interior. One sees that path
running in white lines far over the hills behind the town, and up and
down it black figures are continually passing with loads upon their
heads. They bring rubber, beeswax, and a few other products of lands
far away. They take back enamelled ware, rum, salt, and the bales of
cotton cloth from Portugal and Manchester which, together with rum,
form the real coinage and standard of value in Central Africa, salt
being used as the small change. The path ends, vulgarly enough, at an
oil-lamp in the chief street of Katumbella. Yet it is touched by the
tragedy of human suffering. For this is the end of that great slave
route which Livingstone had to cross on his first great journey,
but otherwise so carefully avoided. This is the path down which the
caravans of slaves from the basin of the Upper Congo have been brought
for generations, and down this path within the last three or four years
the slaves were openly driven to the coast, shackled, tied together,
and beaten along with whips, the trader considering himself fairly
fortunate if out of his drove of human beings he brought half alive to
the market. There is a notorious case in which a Portuguese trader,
who still follows his calling unchecked, lost six hundred out of nine
hundred on the way down. At Katumbella the slaves were rested, sorted
out, dressed, and then taken on over the fifteen miles to Benguela,
usually disguised as ordinary carriers. The traffic still goes on,
almost unchecked. But of that ancient route from Bihé to the coast I
shall write later on, for by this path I hope to come when I emerge
from the interior and catch sight of the sea again between the hills.


As to the town of Benguela, there is something South African about it.
Perhaps it comes from the eucalyptus-trees, the broad and sandy roads
ending in scrubby waste, and the presence of Boer transport-riders
with their ox-wagons from southern Angola. But the place is, in fact,
peculiarly Portuguese. Next to Loanda, it is the most important town
in the colony, and for years it was celebrated as the very centre
of the slave-trade with Brazil. In the old days when Great Britain
was the enthusiastic opponent of slavery in every form, some of her
men-of-war were generally hanging about off Benguela on the watch.
They succeeded in making the trade difficult and unlucrative; but
we have all become tamer now and more ready to show consideration
for human failings, provided they pay. Call slaves by another name,
legalize their position by a few printed papers, and the traffic
becomes a commercial enterprise deserving of every encouragement. A
few years ago, while gangs were still being whipped down to the coast
in chains, one of the most famous of living African explorers informed
the captain of a British gun-boat what was the true state of things
upon a Portuguese steamer bound for San Thomé. The captain, full of
old-fashioned indignation, proposed to seize the ship. Whereupon the
British authorities, flustered at the notion of such impoliteness,
reminded him that we were now living in a civilized age. These men and
women, who had been driven like cattle over some eight hundred miles of
road to Benguela were not to be called slaves. They were “serviçaes,”
and had signed a contract for so many years, saying they went to San
Thomé of their own free will. It was the free will of sheep going to
the butcher’s. Every one knew that. But the decencies of law and order
must be observed.

Within the last two or three years the decencies of law and order have
been observed in Benguela with increasing care. There are many reasons
for the change. Possibly the polite representations of the British
Foreign Office may have had some effect; for England, besides being
Portugal’s “old ally,” is one of the best customers for San Thomé
cocoa, and it might upset commercial relations if the cocoa-drinkers
of England realized that they were enjoying their luxury, or exercising
their virtue, at the price of slave labor. Something may also be due to
the presence of the English engineers and mining prospectors connected
with the Robert Williams Concession. But I attribute the change chiefly
to the helpless little rising of the natives, known as the “Bailundu
war” of 1902. Bailundu is a district on the route between Benguela and
Bihé, and the rising, though attributed to many absurd causes by the
Portuguese--especially to the political intrigues of the half-dozen
American missionaries in the district--was undoubtedly due to the
injustice, violence, and lust of certain traders and administrators.
The rising itself was an absolute failure. Terrified as the Portuguese
were, the natives, were more terrified still. I have seen a place where
over four hundred native men, women, and children were massacred in
the rocks and holes where their bones still lie, while the Portuguese
lost only three men. But the disturbance may have served to draw
the attention of Portugal to the native grievances. At any rate, it
was about the same time that two of the officers at an important
fort were condemned to long terms of imprisonment and exile for open
slave-dealing, and Captain Amorim, a Portuguese gunner, was sent out as
a kind of special commissioner to make inquiries. He showed real zeal
in putting down the slave-trade, and set a large number of slaves at
liberty with special “letters of freedom,” signed by himself--most of
which have since been torn up by the owners. His stay was, unhappily,
short, but he returned home, honored by the hatred of the Portuguese
traders and officials in the country, who did their best to poison him,
as their custom is. His action and reports were, I think, the chief
cause of Portugal’s “uneasiness.”

So the horror of the thing has been driven under the surface; and what
is worse, it has been legalized. Whether it is diminished by secrecy
and the forms of law, I shall be able to judge better in a few months’
time. I found no open slave-market existing in Benguela, such as
reports in Europe would lead one to expect. The spacious court-yards
or compounds round the trading-houses are no longer crowded with gangs
of slaves in shackles, and though they are still used for housing the
slaves before their final export, the whole thing is done quietly, and
without open brutality, which is, after all, unprofitable as well as

In the main street there is a government office where the official
representative of the “Central Committee of Labor and Emigration for
the Islands” (having its headquarters in Lisbon) sits in state, and
under due forms of law receives the natives, who enter one door as
slaves and go out of another as “serviçaes.” Everything is correct. The
native, who has usually been torn from his home far in the interior,
perhaps as much as eight hundred miles away, and already sold twice,
is asked by an interpreter if it is his wish to go to San Thomé, or
to undertake some other form of service to a new master. Of course he
answers, “Yes.” It is quite unnecessary to suppose, as most people
suppose, that the interpreter always asks such questions as, “Do
you like fish?” or, “Will you have a drink?” though one of the best
scholars in the languages of the interior has himself heard those
questions asked at an official inspection of “serviçaes” on board ship.
It would be unnecessary for the interpreter to invent such questions.
If he asked, “Is it your wish to go to hell?” the “serviçal” would say
“yes” just the same. In fact, throughout this part of Africa, the name
of San Thomé is becoming identical with hell, and when a man has been
brought hundreds of miles from his home by an unknown road, and through
long tracts of “hungry country”--when also he knows that if he did get
back he would probably be sold again or killed--what else can he answer
but “yes”? Under similar circumstances the Archbishop of Canterbury
would answer the same.

The “serviçal” says “yes,” and so sanctions the contract for his
labor. The decencies of law and order are respected. The government
of the colony receives its export duty--one of the queerest methods
of “protecting home industries” ever invented. All is regular and
legalized. A series of new rules for the serviçal’s comfort and
happiness during his stay in the islands was issued in 1903, though its
stipulations have not been carried out. And off goes the man to his
death in San Thomé or Il Principe as surely as if he had signed his own
death-warrant. To be sure, there are regulations for his return. By
law, three-fifths of his so-called monthly wages are to be set aside
for a “Repatriation Fund,” and in consideration of this he is granted a
“free passage” back to the coast. A more ingenious trick for reducing
the price of labor has never been invented, but, for very shame, the
Repatriation Fund has ceased to exist, if it ever existed. Ask any
honest man who knows the country well. Ask any Scottish engineer upon
the Portuguese steamers that convey the “serviçaes” to the islands, and
he will tell you they never return. The islands are their grave.

These are things that every one knows, but I will not dwell upon them
yet or even count them as proved, for I have still far to go and
much to see. Leaving the export trade in “contracted labor,” I will
now speak of what I have actually seen and known of slavery on the
mainland under the white people themselves. I have heard the slaves
in Angola estimated at five-sixths of the population by an Englishman
who has held various influential positions in the country for nearly
twenty years. The estimate is only guesswork, for the Portuguese are
not strong in statistics, especially in statistics of slavery. But
including the very large number of natives who, by purchase or birth,
are the family slaves of the village chiefs and other fairly prosperous
natives, we might probably reckon at least half the population as
living under some form of slavery--either in family slavery to natives,
or general slavery to white men, or in plantation slavery (under
which head I include the export trade). I have referred to the family
slavery among the natives. Till lately it has been universal in Africa,
and it still exists in nearly all parts. But though it is constantly
pleaded as their excuse by white slave-owners, it is not so shameful a
thing as the slavery organized by the whites, if only because whites
do at least boast themselves to be a higher race than natives, with
higher standards of life and manners. From what I have seen of African
life, both in the south and west, I am not sure that the boast is
justified, but at all events it is made, and for that reason white men
are precluded from sheltering themselves behind the excuse of native

On the same steamer by which I reached Benguela there were five little
native boys, conspicuous in striped jerseys, and running about the ship
like rats. I suppose they were about ten to twelve years old, perhaps
less. I do not know where they came from, but it must have been from
some fairly distant part of the interior, for, like all natives who see
stairs for the first time, they went up and down them on their hands
and knees. They were travelling with a Portuguese, and within a week of
landing at Benguela he had sold them all to other white owners. Their
price was fifty milreis apiece (nearly £10). Their owner did rather
well, for the boys were small and thin--hardly bigger than another
native slave boy who was at the same time given away by one Portuguese
friend to another as a New-Year’s present. But all through this part
of the country I have found the price of human beings ranging rather
higher than I expected, and the man who told me the price of the boys
had himself been offered one of them at that figure, and was simply
passing on the offer to myself.

Perhaps I was led to underestimate prices a little by the statement
of a friend in England that at Benguela one could buy a woman for £8
and a girl for £12. He had not been to that part of the coast himself,
though for five years he had lived in the Katanga district of the Congo
State, from which large numbers of the slaves are drawn. Perhaps he
had forgotten to take into account the heavy cost of transport from
the interior and the risk of loss by death upon the road. Or perhaps
he reckoned by the exceptionally low prices prevailing after the dry
season of 1903, when, owing to a prolonged drought, the famine was
severe in a district near the Kunene in southeast Angola, and some
Portuguese and Boer traders took advantage of the people’s hunger to
purchase oxen and children cheap in exchange for mealies. Similarly,
in 1904, women were being sold unusually cheap in a district by the
Cuanza, owing to a local famine. Livingstone, in his _First Expedition
to Africa_, said he had never known cases of parents selling children
into slavery, but Mr. F. S. Arnot, in his edition of the book, has
shown that such things occur (though as a rule a child is sold by
his maternal uncle), and I have myself heard of several instances
in the last few weeks, both for debt and hunger. Necessity is the
slave-trader’s opportunity, and under such conditions the market
quotations for human beings fall, in accordance with the universal

The value of a slave, man or woman, when landed at San Thomé, is about
£30, but, as nearly as I could estimate, the average price of a grown
man in Benguela is £20 (one hundred dollars). At that price the traders
there would be willing to supply a large number. An Englishman whom I
met there had been offered a gang of slaves, consisting of forty men
and women, at the rate of £18 a head. But the slaves were up in Bihé,
and the cost of transport down to the coast goes for something; and
perhaps there was “a reduction on taking a quantity.” However, when he
was in Bihé, he had bought two of them from the Portuguese trader at
that rate. They were both men. He had also bought two boys farther in
the interior, but I do not know at what price. One of them had been
with the Batatele cannibals, who form the chief part of the “Révoltés,”
or rebels, against the atrocious government of the Belgians on the
Upper Congo. Perhaps the boy himself really belonged to the race which
had sold him to the Bihéan traders. At all events, the racial mark was
cut in his ears, and the other “boys” in the Englishman’s service were
never tired of chaffing him upon his past habits. Every night they
would ask him how many men he had eaten that day. But a point was added
to the laugh because the ex-cannibal was now acting as cook to the
party. Under their new service all these slaves received their freedom.

The price of women on the mainland is more variable, for, as in
civilized countries, it depends almost entirely on their beauty and
reputation. Even on the Benguela coast I think plenty of women could be
procured for agricultural, domestic, and other work at £15 a head or
even less. But for the purposes for which women are often bought the
price naturally rises, and it depends upon the ordinary causes which
regulate such traffic. A full-grown and fairly nice-looking woman may
be bought from a trader for £18, but for a mature girl a man must pay
more. At least a stranger who is not connected with the trade has to
pay more. While I was in the town a girl was sold to a prospector, who
wanted her as his concubine during a journey into the interior. Her
owner was an elderly Portuguese official of some standing. I do not
know how he had obtained her, but she was not born in his household
of slaves, for he had only recently come to the country. Most likely
he had bought her as a speculation, or to serve as his concubine if
he felt inclined to take her. The price finally arranged between him
and the prospector for the possession of the girl was one hundred
and twenty-five milreis, which was then nearly equal to £25. For the
visit of the King of Portugal to England and the revival of the “old
alliance” had just raised the value of the Portuguese coinage.

When the bargain was concluded, the girl was led to her new master’s
room and became his possession. During his journey into the interior
she rode upon his wagon. I saw them often on the way, and was told the
story of the purchase by the prospector himself. He did not complain
of the price, though men who were better acquainted with the uses of
the woman-market considered it unnecessarily high. But it is really
impossible to fix an average standard of value where such things
as beauty and desire are concerned. The purchaser was satisfied,
the seller was satisfied. So who was to complain? The girl was not
consulted, nor did the question of her price concern her in the least.

I was glad to find that the Portuguese official who had parted with
her on these satisfactory terms was no merely selfish speculator in
the human market, as so many traders are, but had considered the
question philosophically, and had come to the conclusion that slavery
was much to a slave’s advantage. The slave, he said, had opportunities
of coming into contact with a higher civilization than his own. He was
much better off than in his native village. His food was regular, his
work was not excessive, and, if he chose, he might become a Christian.
Being an article of value, it was likely that he would be well treated.
“Indeed,” he continued, in an outburst of philanthropic emotion, “both
in our own service and at San Thomé, the slave enjoys a comfort and
well-being which would have been forever beyond his reach if he had not
become a slave!” In many cases, he asserted, the slave owed his very
life to slavery, for some of the slaves brought from the interior were
prisoners of war, and would have been executed but for the profitable
market ready to receive them. As he spoke, the old gentleman’s face
glowed with noble enthusiasm, and I could not but envy him his
connection with an institution that was at the same time so salutary
to mankind and so lucrative to himself.

As to the slave’s happiness on the islands, I cannot yet describe it,
but according to the reports of residents, ships’ officers, and the
natives themselves, it is brief, however great. What sort of happiness
is enjoyed on the Portuguese plantations of Angola itself I have
already described. As to the comfort and joy of ordinary slavery under
white men, with all its advantages of civilization and religion, the
beneficence of the institution is somewhat dimmed by a few such things
as I have seen, or have heard from men whom I could trust as fully as
my own eyes. At five o’clock one afternoon I saw two slaves carrying
fish through an open square at Benguela, and enjoying their contact
with civilization in the form of another native, who was driving them
along like oxen with a sjambok. The same man who was offered the forty
slaves at £18 a head had in sheer pity bought a little girl from a
Portuguese lady last autumn, and he found her back scored all over
with the cut of the _chicote_, just like the back of a trek-ox under
training. An Englishman coming down from the interior last African
winter, was roused at night by loud cries in a Portuguese trading-house
at Mashiko. In the morning he found that a slave had been flogged, and
tied to a tree in the cold all night. He was a man who had only lately
lost his liberty, and was undergoing the process which the Portuguese
call “taming,” as applied to new slaves who are sullen and show no
pleasure in the advantages of their position. In another case, only a
few weeks ago, an American saw a woman with a full load on her head and
a baby on her back passing the house where he happened to be staying.
A big native, the slave of a Portuguese trader in the neighborhood,
was dragging her along with a rope, and beating her with a whip as
she went. The American brought the woman into the house and kept her
there. Next day the Portuguese owners came in fury with forty of his
slaves, breathing out slaughters, but, as is usual with the Portuguese,
he shrank up when he was faced with courage. The American refused to
give the woman back, and ultimately she was restored to her own distant
village, where she still is.

I would willingly give the names in the last case and in all others;
but one of the chief difficulties of the whole subject is that it
is impossible to give names without exposing people out here to the
hostility and persecution of the Portuguese authorities and traders.
In most instances, also, not only the people themselves, but all the
natives associated with them, would suffer, and the various kinds of
work in which they are engaged would come to an end. It is the same
fear which keeps the missionaries silent. The Catholic missions are
supported by the state. The other missions exist on sufferance. How
can missionaries of either division risk the things they have most
at heart by speaking out upon a dangerous question? They are silent,
though their conscience is uneasy, unless custom puts it to sleep.

Custom puts us all to sleep. Every one in Angola is so accustomed to
slavery as part of the country’s arrangements that hardly anybody
considers it strange. It is regarded either as a wholesome necessity
or as a necessary evil. When any question arises upon the subject, all
the antiquated arguments in favor of slavery are trotted out again.
We are told that but for slavery the country would remain savage and
undeveloped; that some form of compulsion is needed for the native’s
good; that in reality he enjoys more freedom and comfort as a slave
than in his free village. Let us at once sweep away all the talk
about the native’s good. It is on a level with the cant which said
the British fought the Boers and brought the Chinese to the Transvaal
in order to extend to both races a higher form of religion. The only
motive for slavery is money-making, and the only argument in its favor
is that it pays. That is the root of the matter, and as long as we
stick to that we shall, at least, be saved from humbug.

As to the excuse that there is a difference between slavery and
“contracted labor,” this is no more than legal cant, just as the
other pleas are philanthropic or religious cant. Except in the eyes
of the law, it makes no difference whether a man is a “serviçal” or
a slave; it makes no difference whether a written contract exists or
not. I do not know whether the girl I mentioned had signed a contract
expressing her willingness to serve as the prospector’s concubine for
five years, after which she was to be free unless the contract were
renewed. But I do know that whether she signed the contract or not,
her price and position would have been exactly the same, and that
before the five years are up she will in all probability have been
sold two or three times over, at diminishing prices. The “serviçal”
system is only a dodge to delude the antislavery people, who were at
one time strong in Great Britain, and have lately shown signs of life
in Portugal. Except in the eyes of a law which is hardly ever enforced,
slavery exists almost unchecked. Slaves work the plantations, slaves
serve the traders, slaves do the housework of families. Ordinary free
wage-earners exist in the towns and among the carriers, but, as a rule,
throughout the country the system of labor is founded on slavery,
and very few of the Portuguese or foreign residents in Angola would
hesitate to admit it.

From Benguela I determined to strike into a district which has long had
an evil reputation as the base of the slave-trade with the interior--a
little known and almost uninhabited country.



He who goes to Africa leaves time behind. Next week is the same as
to-morrow, and it is indifferent whether a journey takes a fortnight
or two months. That is why the ox-wagon suits the land so well. Mount
an ox-wagon and you forget all time. Like the to-morrows of life, it
creeps in its petty pace, and soon after its wheels have reached their
extreme velocity of three miles an hour you learn how vain are all
calculations of pace and years. Yet, except in the matter of speed,
which does not count in Africa, the ox-wagon has most of the qualities
of an express-train, besides others of greater value. Its course is at
least equally adventurous, and it affords a variety of sensations and
experiences quite unknown to the ordinary railway passenger.

Let me take an instance from the recent journey on which I have crossed
some four hundred and fifty or five hundred miles of country in two
months. A good train would have traversed the distance in a winter’s
night, and have left only a tedious blank upon the mind. On a railway
what should I have known of a certain steep descent which we approached
one silent evening after rain? The red surface was just slippery with
the wet. The oxen were going quietly along, when, all of a sudden, they
were startled by the heavy thud of the wheels jolting over a tree stump
on the track. Within a few yards of the brink they set off at a trot,
the long and heavy chain hanging loose between them.

“Kouta! Kouta ninni!” (“Brake! Hard on!”) shouted the driver, and we
felt the Ovampo boy behind the wagon whirl the screw round till the
hind wheels were locked. But it was too late. We were over the edge
already. Backing and slipping and pulling every way, striking with
their horns, charging one another helplessly from behind, the oxen
swept down the steep. Behind them, like a big gun got loose, came the
wagon, swaying from side to side, leaping over the rocks, plunging into
the holes, at every moment threatening to crush the hinder oxen of the
span. Then it began to slide sideways. It was almost at right angles to
the track. In another second it would turn clean over, with all four
wheels in air, or would dash us into a great tree that stood only a few
yards down.

“Kouta loula!” (“Loose the brake!”) yelled the driver, but nothing
could stop the sliding now. We clung on and thought of nothing. Men on
the edge of death think of nothing. Suddenly the near hind wheel
was thrown against a high ridge of clay. The wagon swung straight, and
we were plunged into a river among the struggling oxen, all huddled
together and entangled in the chain.

[Illustration: AWKWARD CROSSING]

“That was rather rapid,” I said, as the wagon came to a dead stop in
the mud and we took to the water, but in no language could I translate
the expression of the driver’s emotions.

Only last wet season the owner of a wagon started down a place like
that with twenty-four fine oxen, and at the bottom he had eight oxen,
and more beef than he could salt.

Beside another hill lies the fresh grave of a poor young Boer, who was
thrown under his wagon wheels and never out-spanned again. Such are the
interests of an ox-wagon when it takes to speed.

Or what traveller by train could have enjoyed such experiences as were
mine in crossing the Kukema--a river that forms a boundary of Bihé?
At that point it was hardly more than five feet deep and twenty yards
wide. In a train one would have leaped over it without pause or notice.
But in a wagon the passage gave us a whole long day crammed with varied
labor and learning. Leading the oxen down to the brink at dawn, we
out-spanned and emptied the wagon of all the loads. Then we lifted its
“bed” bodily off the four wheels, and spreading the “sail,” or canvas
hood, under it, we launched it with immense effort into the water as
a raft. We anchored it firmly to both banks by the oxen’s “reems” (I
do not know how the Boers spell those strips of hide, the one thing,
except patience, necessary in African travel), and dragging it to
and fro through the water, we got the loads over dry in about four
journeys. Then the oxen were swum across, and tying some of them to the
long chain on the farther side, we drew the wheels and the rest of the
wagon under water into the shallows. Next came the task of taking off
the “sail” in the water and floating the “bed” into its place upon the
beam again--a lifelong lesson in applied hydraulics. When at last the
sun set and white man and black emerged naked, muddy, and exhausted
from the water, while the wagon itself wallowed triumphantly up the
bank, I think all felt they had not lived in vain. Though, to be sure,
it was wet sleeping that night, and the rain came sousing down as if
poured out of one immeasurable slop-pail.

A railway bridge? What a dull and uninstructive substitute that would
have been!

Or consider the ox, how full of personality he is compared to the
locomotive! Outwardly he is far from emotional. You cannot coax him as
you coax a horse or a dog. A fairly tame ox will allow you to clap his
hind quarters, but the only real pleasure you can give him is a lick
of salt. For salt even a wild ox will almost submit to be petted. The
smell of the salt-bag is enough to keep the whole span sniffing and
lowing round the wagon instead of going to feed, and, especially on
the “sour veldt,” the Sunday treat of salt spread along a rock is a
festival of luxury.

But unexpressive as oxen are, one soon learns the inner character of
each. There is the wise and willing ox, who will stick to the track
and always push his best. He is put at the head of the span. In the
middle comes the wild ox, who wants to go any way but the right; the
sullen ox, who needs the lash; and the well-behaved representative of
gentility, who will do anything and suffer anything rather than work.
Nearest the wagon, if possible for as many as four spans, you must put
the strong and well-trained oxen, who answer quickly to their names. On
them depends the steering and safety of the wagon. At the sound of his
name each ox is trained to push his side of the yoke forward, and round
trees or corners the wagon follows the curve of safety.

“Blaawberg! Shellback! Rachop! Blomveldt!” you cry. The oxen on the
left of the four last spans push forward the ends of their yokes, and
edging off to the right, the wagon moves round the segment of an arc.
To drive a wagon is like coxing an eight without a rudder.

But on a long and hungry trek even the leaders will sometimes turn
aside into the bush for tempting grass, or as a hint that it is time
to stop. In a moment there is the wildest confusion. The oxen behind
are dragged among the trees. The chain gets entangled; two oxen pull
on different sides of a standing trunk; yoke-pegs crack; necks are
throttled by the halters; the wagon is dashed against a solid stump,
and trees and stump and all have to be hewn down with the axe before
the span is free again. Sometimes the excited and confused animals drag
at the chain while one ox is being helplessly crushed against a tree.
Often a horn is broken off. I know nothing that suggests greater pain
than the crack of a horn as it is torn from the skull. The ox falls
silently on his knees. Blood streams down his face. The other oxen
go on dragging at the chain. When released from the yoke, he rushes
helplessly over the bush, trying to hide himself. But flinging him on
his side and tying his legs together, the natives bind up the horn, if
it has not actually dropped, with a plaster of a poisonous herb they
call “moolecky,” to keep the blow-flies away. Sometimes it grows on
again. Sometimes it remains loose and flops about. But, as a rule, it
has to be cut off in the end.

To avoid such things most transport-riders set a boy to walk in front
of the oxen as “toe-leader,” though it is a confession of weakness.
Another difficulty in driving the ox is his peculiar horror of mud
from the moment that he is in-spanned. By nature he loves mud next
best to food and drink. He will wallow in mud all a tropical day,
and the more slimy it is, the better he likes it. But put him in the
yoke, and he becomes as cautious of mud as a cat, as dainty of his
feet as a lady crossing Regent Street. It seems strange at first, but
he has his reasons. When he comes to one of those ghastly mud-pits
(“slaughter-holes” the Boers call them), which abound along the road in
the wet season, his first instinct is to plunge into it; but reflection
tells him that he has not time to explore its cool depths and
delightful stickiness, and that if he falls or sticks the team behind
and perhaps the wagon itself will be upon him. So he struggles all he
can to skirt delicately round it, and if he is one of the steering
oxen, the effort brings disaster either on the wagon or himself. No
less terrible is his fate when for hour after hour the wagon has to
plough its way through one of the upland bogs; when the wheels are sunk
to the hubs, and the legs of all the oxen disappear, and the shrieking
whips and yelling drivers are never for a moment still. Why the ox also
very strongly objects to getting his tail wet I have not found out.

Another peculiarity is that the ox is too delicate to work if it is
raining. Cut his hide to ribbons with rhinoceros whips, rot off his
tail with inoculation for lung-sickness, let ticks suck at him till
they swell as large as cherries with his blood--he bears all patiently.
But if a soft shower descends on him while he is in the yoke, he will
work no more. Within a minute or two he gets the sore hump--a terrible
thing to have. There is nothing to do but to stop. The hump must be
soothed down with wagon-grease--a mixture of soft-soap, black-lead,
and tar--and I have heard of wagons halted for weeks together because
the owner drove his oxen through a storm. Seeing that it rains in
water-spouts nearly every morning or afternoon from October to May, the
working-hours are considerably shortened, and unhappy is the man who is
in haste. I was in haste.

To be happy in Africa a man should have something oxlike in his nature.
Like an ox, or like “him that believeth,” he must never make haste. He
must accept his destiny and plod upon his way. He must forget emotion
and think no more of pleasures. He must let time run over him, and hope
for nothing greater than a lick of salt.

But there is one kind of ox which develops further characteristics, and
that is the riding-ox. He is the horse of Angola and of all Central
Africa where he can live. With ring in nose and saddle on back, he will
carry you at a swinging walk over the country, even through marshes
where a horse or a donkey would sink and shudder and groan. One of my
wagon team was a riding-ox, and it took four men to catch and saddle
him. To avoid the dulness of duty he would gallop like a racer and
leap like a deer. But when once saddled his ordinary gait was discreet
and solemn; and though his name was Buller, I called him “Old Ford,”
because he somehow reminded me of the Chelsea ’bus.

All the oxen in the team, except Buller, were called by Boer names.
Nor was this simply because Dutch is the natural language of oxen.
Very nearly every one concerned with wagons in Angola is a Boer, and
it is to Boers that the Portuguese owe the only two wagon tracks that
count in the country--the road from Benguela through Caconda to Bihé
and on towards the interior, and the road up from Mossamedes, which
joins the other at Caconda. I think these tracks form the northernmost
limit of the trek-ox in Africa, and his presence is entirely due to a
party of Boers who left the Transvaal rather more than twenty years
ago, driven partly by some religious or political difference, but
chiefly by the wandering spirit of Boers. I have conversed with a man
who well remembers that long trek--how they Started near Mafeking and
crept through Bechuanaland, and skirting the Kalahari Desert, crossed
Damaraland, and reached the promised land of Angola at last. They were
five years on the way--those indomitable wanderers. Once they stopped
to sow and reap their corn. For the rest they lived on the game they
shot. Now you find about two hundred families of them scattered up
and down through South Angola, chiefly in the Humpata district. They
are organized for defence on the old Transvaal lines, and to them the
Portuguese must chiefly look to check an irruption of natives, such as
the Cunyami are threatening now on the Cunene River.

Yet the Portuguese have taken this very opportunity (February, 1905)
for worrying them all about licenses for their rifles, and threatening
to disarm them if all the taxes are not paid up in full. At various
points I met the leading Boers going up to the fort at Caconda,
brooding over their grievances, or squatted on the road, discussing
them in their slow, untiring way. On further provocation they swore
they would trek away into Barotzeland and put themselves under British
protection. They even raised the question whether the late war had
not given them the rights of British subjects already. A slouching,
unwashed, foggy-minded people they are, a strange mixture of simplicity
and cunning, but for knowledge of oxen and wagons and game they have no
rivals, and in war I should estimate the value of one Boer family at
about ten Portuguese forts. They trade to some extent in slaves, but
chiefly they buy them for their own use, and they almost always give
them freedom at the time of marriage. Their boy slaves they train with
the same rigor as their oxen, but when the training is complete the boy
is counted specially valuable on the road.

Distances in Africa are not reckoned by miles, but by treks or by days.
And even this method is very variable, for a journey that will take
a fortnight in the dry season may very well take three months in the
wet. A trek will last about three hours, and the usual thing is two
treks a day. I think no one could count on more than twelve miles a
day with a loaded wagon, and I doubt if the average is as much as ten.
But it is impossible to calculate. The record from Bihé to Benguela by
the road is six weeks, but you must not complain if a wagon takes six
months, and the journey used to be reckoned at a year, allowing time
for shooting food on the way. In a straight line the distance is about
two hundred and fifty miles, or, by the wagon road, something over four
hundred and fifty, as nearly as I can estimate. But when it takes you
two or three days to cross a brook and a fortnight to cross a marsh,
distance becomes deceptive.

One thing is very noticeable along that wagon road: from end to end of
it hardly a single native is to be seen. After leaving Benguela, till
you reach the district of Bihé, you will see only one native village,
and that is three miles from the road. Much of the country is fertile.
Villages have been plentiful in the past. The road passes through
their old fields and gardens. Sometimes the huts are still standing,
but all is silent and deserted now. Till this winter there was one
village left, close upon the road, about a day’s trek past Caconda.
But when I hoped to buy a few potatoes or peppers there, I found it
abandoned like the rest. Where the road runs, the natives will not
stay. Exposed continually to the greed, the violence, and lust of white
men and their slaves, they cannot live in peace. Their corn is eaten
up, their men are beaten, their women are ravished. If a Portuguese
fort is planted in the neighborhood, so much the worse. Time after time
I have heard native chiefs and others say that a fort was the cruelest
thing to endure of all. It is not only the exactions of the Chefe in
command himself, though a Chefe who comes for about eighteen months
at most, who depends entirely on interpreters, and is anxious to go
home much richer than he came, is not likely to be particular. But it
is the brutality of the handful of soldiers under his command. The
greater part of them are natives from distant tribes, and they exercise
themselves by plundering and maltreating any villagers within reach,
while the Chefe remains ignorant or indifferent. So it comes that where
a road or fort or any other sign of the white man’s presence appears
the natives quit their villages one by one, and steal away to build new
homes beyond the reach of the common enemy. This is, I suppose, that
“White Man’s Burden” of which we have heard so much. This is “The White
Man’s Burden,” and it is the black man who takes it up.

To the picturesque traveller who is provided with plenty of tinned
things to eat, the solitude of the road may add a charm. For it is far
more romantic to hear the voice of lions than the voice of man. But,
indeed, to every one the road is of interest from its great variety.
Here in a short space are to be seen the leading characteristics of all
the southern half of Africa--the hot and dry edging near the shore,
the mountain zone, and the great interior plateau of forest or veldt,
out of which, I suppose, the mountain zone has been gradually carved,
and is still being carved, by the wash and dripping from the central
marshes. The three zones have always been fairly distinct in every part
of Africa that I have known, from Mozambique round to the mouth of the
Congo, though in a few places the mountain zone comes down close to the

From Benguela I had to trek for six days, often taking advantage of the
moon to trek at night as well, before I saw a trace of water on the
surface of the rivers, and nine days before running water was found,
though I was trekking in the middle of the wet season. There are one
or two dirty wet places, nauseous with sulphur, but all drinking-water
for man or ox must be dug for in the beds of the sand rivers, and
sometimes you have to dig twelve feet down before the sand looks damp.
It is a beautiful land of bare and rugged hills, deeply scarred by
weather, and full of the wild and brilliant colors--the violet and
orange--that bare hills always give. But the oxen plod through it as
fast as possible, really almost hurrying in their eagerness for a
long, deep drink. Yet the district abounds in wild animals, not only
in elands and other antelopes, which can withdraw from their enemies
into deserts drier than teetotal States and can do without a drink for
days together. But there are other animals as well, such as lions and
zebras and buffaloes, which must drink every day or die. Somewhere,
not far away, there must be a “continuous water-supply,” as a London
County Councillor would say, and hunters think it may be the Capororo
or Korporal or San Francisco, only eight hours south of the road, where
there is always real water and abundance of game. A thirsty lion would
easily take his tea there in the afternoon and be back in plenty of
time to watch for his dinner along the road.

Lions are increasing in number throughout the district, and, I believe,
in all Angola, though they are still not so common as leopards.
Certainly they watch the road for dinner, and all the way from Benguela
to Bihé you have a good chance of hearing them purring about your wagon
any night. Sometimes, then, you may find a certain satisfaction in
reflecting that you are inside the wagon and that twenty oxen or more
are sleeping around you, tied to their yokes. An ox is a better meal
than a man, but to men as well as to oxen the lions are becoming more
dangerous as the wilder game grows scarcer. A native, from the wagon
which crossed the Cuando just after mine, was going down for water in
the evening, when a lion sprang on him and split the petroleum-can with
his claw. The boy had the sense to beat his cup hard against the tin,
and the monarch of the forest was so disgusted at the noise that he
withdrew; but few boys are so quick, and many are killed, especially in
the mountain zone, about one hundred miles from the coast.

I think it is ten years ago now that one of the Brothers of the Holy
Spirit was walking in the mission garden at Caconda in the cool of the
evening, meditating vespers or something else divine, when he looked
up and saw a great lion in the path. Instead of making for the nearest
tree, he had the good sense to fall on his knees, and so he went to
death with dignity. And on one of the nights when I was encamped near
the convent six lions were prowling round it. Vespers were over, but it
was a pleasure to me to reflect how much better prepared for death the
Brothers were than I.

It is very rarely that you have the luck to see a lion, even where they
abound. They are easily hidden. Especially in a country like this,
covered with the tawny mounds and pyramids of the white ant, you may
easily pass within a few yards of a whole domestic circle of lions
without knowing it. Nor will they touch an armed white man unless
pinched with hunger. Yet, in spite of all travellers’ libels, the lion
is really the king of beasts, next to man. You have only to look at
his eye and his forearm to know it. I need not repeat stories of his
strength, but one peculiarity of his was new to me, though perhaps
familiar to most people. A great hunter told me that when, with one
blow of his paw, a lion has killed an ox, he will fasten on the back of
the neck and cling there in a kind of ecstasy for a few seconds, with
closed eyes. During that brief interval you can go quite close to him
unobserved and shoot him through the brain with impunity.

I found the most frequent spoor of lions in a sand river among the
mountains, about a week out from Benguela. The country there is very
rich in wild beasts--Cape buffalo, many antelopes, and quagga (or
Burchell’s zebra, as I believe they ought to be called, but the hunters
call them quagga).

I was most pleased, however, to find upon the surface of the sand river
the spoor of a large herd of elephants which had passed up it the night
before. It was difficult to make out their numbers, for they had thrust
their trunks deep into the sand for water, and having found it, they
evidently celebrated the occasion with a fairy revel, pouring the water
over their backs and tripping it together upon the yellow sands. But
when they passed on, it was clear that the cows and calves were on
the right, while the big males kept the left, and probably forced the
passages through the thickest bush. A big bull elephant’s spoor on sand
is more like an embossed map of the moon with her mountains and valleys
and seas than anything else I can think of. A cow’s footprint is the
map of a simpler planet. And the calf’s is plain, like the impression
of a paving-hammer, only slightly oval.

There was no nasty concealment about that family. The path they had
made through the forest was like the passage of a storm or the course
of a battle. They had broken branches, torn up trees, trampled the
grass, and snapped off all the sugary pink flowers of the tall aloes,
which they love as much as buns in the Zoo. So to the east they
had passed away, open in their goings because they had nothing to
fear--nothing but man, and unfortunately they have not yet taken much
account of him. The hunters say that they move in a kind of zone or
rough circle--from the Upper Zambesi across the Cuando into Angola and
the district where they passed me, and so across the Cuanza northward
and eastward into the Congo, and round towards Katanga and the sources
of the Zambesi again. The hunters are not exactly sure that the same
elephants go walking round and round the circle. They do not know. But
a prince might very profitably spend ten years in following an elephant
family round from point to point of its range--profitably, I mean,
compared to his ordinary round of royal occupations.

I must not stay to tell of the birds--the flamingoes that pass down the
coast, so high that they look no more than geese; the eagles, vultures,
and hawks of many kinds; the parrots, few but brilliant; the metallic
starling, of two species at least, both among the most gorgeous of
birds; the black-headed crane and the dancing crane whose crest is
like Cinderella’s fan, full-spread and touched with crimson; the many
kinds of hornbill, including the bird who booms all night with joy at
approaching rain; the great bustard, which the Boers in their usual
slipshod way called the pau or peacock, simply because it is big, just
as they call the leopard a tiger and the hyena a wolf. Nor must I tell
of the guinea-fowl and francolins, or of the various doves, one of
which begins with three soft notes and then runs down a scale of seven
minor tones, fit to break a mourner’s heart; nor of the aureoles and
the familiar bird that pleases his wives by growing his tail so long he
can hardly hover over the marshes; nor even of our childhood’s friend,
the honey-guide, whose cheery twitter may lead to the wild bees’ nest,
but leads just as cheerily to a python or a lion asleep. I cannot speak
of these, though I feel there is the making of a horrible tract in that

When you have climbed the mountains--in one place the wagon crawls
over a pass or summit of close upon five thousand feet--you gradually
leave the big game (except the lions) and the most brilliant of the
birds behind. But the deer become even more plentiful in places. The
road is driving them away, as it has driven the natives, and for
the same reason. But within a few hours of the road you may find
them still--the beautiful roan antelope, the still more beautiful
koodoo, the bluebock, the lechwe, the hartebeest (and, I believe, the
wildebeest, or gnu, as well), the stinking water-buck, the reedbuck,
the oribi, and the little duiker, or “diver,” called from its way of
leaping through the high grass and disappearing after each bound. It is
fine to see any deer run, but there can be few things more delightful
than to watch the easy grace of a duiker disappearing in the distance
after you have missed him.

Caconda is, in every sense, the turning-point of the journey; first,
because the road, after running deviously southeast, here turns almost
at right angles northeast on its way to Bihé; secondly, because Caconda
marks the entire change in the character of the scenery from mountains
to the great plateau of forest and marshy glades. And besides, Caconda
is almost the one chance you have of seeing human habitations along the
whole course of the journey of some four hundred and fifty miles. The
large native town has long since disappeared, though you can trace its
ruins; but about five miles south of the road is a rather important
Portuguese station of half a dozen trading-houses, a church--only in
its second year, but already dilapidated--and a fort, with a rampart,
ditch, a toy cannon, and a commandant who tries with real gravity to
rise above the level of a toy. Certainly his situation is grave. The
Cunyami, who ate up the Portuguese force on the Cunene in September of
1904, have sent him a letter saying they mean next to burn him and his
fort and the trading-houses too. He has under his command about thirty
black soldiers and a white sergeant; and he might just as well have
thirty black ninepins and a white feather. He impressed me as about the
steadiest Portuguese I had yet seen, but no wonder he looked grave.

He is responsible, further, for the safety of the Catholic mission,
which stands close beside the wagon track itself, overlooking a wide
prospect of woodland and grass which reminds one of the view over the
Weald of Kent from Limpsfield Common or Crockham Hill. The mission
has a tin-roofed church, a gate-house, cells for the four Fathers and
five Brothers, dormitories for a kind of boarding-school they keep,
excellent workshops, a forge, and a large garden, where the variety
of plants and fruits shows what the natives might do but for their
unalterable belief that every new plant which comes to maturity costs
the life of some one in the village.


Though under Portuguese allegiance and drawing money from the state,
all the Fathers and Brothers were French or Alsatian. The superior
was a blithe and energetic Norman, who probably could tell more about
Angola and its wildest tribes than any one living. But to me, caution
made him only polite. The Fathers are said to maintain that acrid
old distinction between Catholic and Protestant--not, one would have
thought, a matter of great importance--and in the past they have shown
much hostility to all other means of enlightening the natives except
their own. But things are quieter just now, and over the whole mission
itself broods that sense of beauty and calm which seems almost peculiar
to Catholicism. One felt it in the gateway with its bell, in the rooms,
whitewashed and unadorned, in the banana-walk through the garden, in
the workshops, and even under that hideous tin roof, when some eighty
native men and women knelt on the bare, earthen floor during the Mass
at dawn.

It is said, but I do not know with what truth, that the Fathers buy
from the slave-traders all the “boys” whom they bring up in the
mission. The Fathers themselves steadily avoided the subject in
conversing with me, but I think it is very probable. About half a mile
off is a Sisters’ mission, where a number of girls are trained in
the same way. When the boys and girls intermarry, as they generally
do, they are settled out in villages within sight of the mission.
I counted five or six such villages, and this seems to show, though
it does not prove, that most of the boys and girls came originally
from a distance, or have no homes to return to. On the whole, I am
inclined to believe that but for slavery the mission’s work must have
taken a different form. But why the Fathers should be so cautious
about confessing it I do not know, unless they are afraid of being
called supporters of the slave-trade because they buy off a few of its
victims, and so might be counted among its customers.

From Caconda it took me only three weeks with the wagon to reach the
Bihé district, which, I believe, was a record for the wet season.
There are five rivers to cross, all of them difficult, and the first
and last--the Cuando and the Kukema--dangerous as well. The track also
skirts round the marshy source of other great watercourses, and it was
with delight that I found myself at the morass which begins the great
river Cunene, and, better still, at a little “fairy glen” of ferns and
reeds where the Okavango drips into a tiny basin, and dribbles down
till it becomes the great river which fills Lake Ngami--Livingstone’s
Lake Ngami, so far away, on the edge of Khama’s country!

The wagon had, besides, to struggle across many of those high, upland
bogs which are the terror of the transport-rider in summer-time. The
worst and biggest of these is a wide expanse something like an Irish
bog or a wet Salisbury Plain, which the Portuguese call Bourru-Bourru,
from the native Vulu-Vulu. It is over five thousand feet above the
sea, and so bare and dreary that when the natives see a white man with
a great bald head they call it his Vulu-Vulu. It was almost exactly
midsummer there when I crossed it, and I threw no shadow at noon,
but at night I was glad to cower over a fire, with all the coats and
blankets I had got, while the mosquitoes howled round me as if for

Two points of history I must mention as connected with this part of my
journey. The day after I crossed the Calei I came, while hunting, to a
rocky hill with a splendid view over the valley, only about a mile from
the track. On the top of the hill I found the remains of ancient stone
walls and fortifications--a big circuit wall of piled stones, an inner
circle, or keep, at the highest point, and many cross-walls for streets
or houses. The whole was just like the remains of some rude mediæval
fortress, and it may possibly have been very early Portuguese. More
likely, it was a native chief’s kraal, though they build nothing of
the kind now. Among the natives themselves there is a vague tradition
of a splendid ancient city in this region, which they remember as “The
Mountain of Money.” Possibly this was the site, and it is strange that
no Boers or other transport-riders I met had ever seen the place.

The other point comes a little farther on--about three days after
one crosses the Cunughamba. It is the place by the roadside where,
three years ago, the natives burned a Portuguese trader alive and
made fetich-medicine of his remains. It happened during the so-called
“Bailundu war” of 1902, to which I have referred before. On the spot
I still found enough of the poor fellow’s bones to make any amount
of magic. But if bones were all, I could have gathered far more in
the deserted village of Candombo close by. Here a great chief had his
kraal, surrounded by ancient trees, and clustered round one of the
mightiest natural fortresses I have ever seen. It rises above the trees
in great masses and spires of rock, three or four hundred feet high,
and in the caves and crevasses of those rocks, now silent and deserted,
I found the pitiful skeletons of the men, women, and children of all
the little tribe, massacred in the white man’s vengeance. Whether the
vengeance was just or unjust I cannot now say. I only know that it was
exacted to the full.



The few English people who have ever heard of Bihé at all probably
imagine it to themselves as a largish town in Angola famous for its
slave-market. Nothing could be less like the reality. There is no town,
and there is no slave-market. Bihé is a wide district of forest and
marsh, part of the high plateau of interior Africa. It has no mountains
and no big rivers, except the Cuanza, which separates it from the land
of the Chibokwe on the east. So that the general character of the
country is rather indistinctive, and you might as well be in one part
of it as another. In whatever place you are, you will see nothing but
the broad upland, covered with rather insignificant trees, and worn
into quiet slopes by the action of the water, which gathers in morasses
of long grass, hidden in the midst of which runs a deep-set stream.
Except that it is well watered, fairly cool, and fairly healthy, there
is no great attraction in the region. There are a good many leopards
and a few wandering lions in the north. Hippos come up the larger
streams to breed, and occasionally you may see a buck or two. But
it is a poor country for beasts and game, and poor for produce too,
though the orange orchards and strawberry-beds at the mission stations
show it is capable of better things. On the whole, the impression of
the country is a certain want of character. Often while I have been
plodding through woods looking over a grassy valley I could have
imagined myself in Essex, except that here there are no white roads and
no ancient villages. The whole scene is so unlike the popular idea of
tropical Africa that it is startling to meet a naked savage carrying a
javelin, and almost shocking to meet a lady with only nine inches of

There is no town and no public slave-market. The Portuguese fort
at Belmonte, once the home of that remarkable man and redoubtable
slave-trader, Silva Porto, and the scene of his rather splendid suicide
in 1890, may be taken as the centre of the district. But there are
only two or three Portuguese stores gathered round it, and scattered
over the whole country there are only a very limited number of other
trading-houses, the largest being the headquarters of the Commercial
Company of Angola, established at Caiala, one day’s journey from the
fort. The trading-houses are, I think, without exception, worked
by slave labor, as are the few plantations of sweet-potato for the
manufacture of rum, which, next to cotton cloth, is the chief
coinage in all dealings with the natives. The exchange from the native
side consists chiefly of rubber, oxen, and slaves, a load of rubber
(say fifty to sixty pounds), an ox, and a young slave counting as about
equal in the recognized currency. In English money we might put the
value at £9.


It is through these trading-houses that the slave-trade has hitherto
been chiefly conducted, and if you want slaves you can buy them readily
from any of the larger houses still. But the Bihéans have themselves
partly to blame for the ill repute of their country. They are born
traders, and will trade in anything. For generations past, probably
long before the Portuguese established their present feeble hold upon
the country, the Ovimbundu, as they are called, have been sending their
caravans of traders far into the interior--far among the tributaries
of the Congo, and even up to Tanganyika and the great lakes. Like all
traders in Central Africa, they tramp in single file along the narrow
and winding foot-paths which are the roads and trade routes of the
country. They carry their goods on their heads or shoulders, clamped
with shreds of bark between two long sticks, which act as levers. The
regulation load is about sixty pounds, but for his own interest a man
will sometimes carry double as much. As a rule, they march five or six
hours a day, and it takes them about two months to reach the villages
of Nanakandundu, which may be taken as the centre of African trade,
as it is the central point of the long and marshy watershed which
divides the Zambesi from the Congo. For merchandise, they carry with
them cotton cloth, beads, and salt, and at present they are bringing
out rubber for the most part and a little beeswax. As to slaves, guns,
gunpowder, and cartridges are the best exchange for them, owing to
the demand for such things among the “Révoltés”--the cannibal and
slave-dealing tribes who are holding out against the Belgians among the
rivers west of the Katanga district. But the conditions of this caravan
slave-trade have been a good deal changed in the last three years, and
I shall be able to say more about it after my farther journey into the

As traders, the Bihéans have gained certain advantages. Their Umbundu
language almost takes the place in Central West Africa that the
Swahili takes on the eastern side. It will carry you fairly well,
at all events, along the main foot-paths of trade. They are richer
than other tribes, too; they live a little better, they wear rather
larger cloths, and get more to eat. But they are naturally despised by
neighbors who live by fighting, hunting, fishing, and the manly arts.
They are tainted with the softness of trade. In the rising against the
Portuguese in 1902, which brought such benefits to all this part of
Angola, nearly all of them refused to take any share. They are losing
all skill and delight in war. They are almost afraid of their own oxen,
and scarcely have the courage to train them. For the wilder side of
African life a Bihéan is becoming almost as useless as a board-school
boy from Hackney. For skill or sense of beauty in the common arts of
metal-work, wood-work, basket-weaving, or ornament, they cannot compare
to any of the neighboring tribes. In fact, they are a commercial
people, and they pay the full penalty which all commercial peoples have
to pay.

Away from the main trade route the country is rather thickly inhabited.
The villages lie scattered about in clusters of five or six together.
All are strongly stockaded, for custom rather than defence (unless
against leopards), and all have rough gates of heavy swinging beams
that can be dropped at night, like a portcullis. Most people would say
the huts were round; but only the cattle-breeding tribes, like the
Ovampos in the south, have round huts. The Bihéan huts are intended to
be oblong or square, but as natives have no eye for the straight line,
and the roofs are invariably conical, one is easily mistaken. Except to
those who have seen nothing better than the filth and grime of English
cities, the villages would not appear remarkably clean. They cannot
compare for neatness and careful arrangement to the Zulu villages,
for instance, nor even to the neighboring Chibokwe. But each family
has its separate enclosure, with huts according to its size or the
number of the wives, and usually a little patch of garden--for peppers,
tomatoes the size of damsons, and perhaps some tobacco. Somewhere in
the centre of the enclosures there is sure to be a largish open space
with a town hall or public club (onjango). This is much the same in
all villages in Central Africa--a pointed, shady roof, supported by
upright beams, set far enough apart to admit of entrance on any side.
It serves as a parliament-house, a court of justice, a general workshop
(especially for metal-workers among the Chibokwe), and for lounge, or
place of conversation and agreeable idleness. Perhaps a good club is
the best idea we can form of it. It forms a meeting-place for politics,
news, chatter, money-making, and games, nor have I ever seen a woman

On the dusty floor a piece of hard ground, three or four inches above
the rest of the surface, is usually left as the throne or place of
honor for the chief. There he reclines, or sits on a stool six inches
high, and exercises the usual royal functions. He is clothed in apparel
which one soon comes to recognize as kingly. It is some sort of cap or
hat and a shirt. The original owners of both were probably European,
but time enough has elapsed to secure them the veneration due to the
symbols of established authority, and they are covered with layer
upon layer of tradition. Thus arrayed, the chief sits from morning
till evening in the very heart of his kingdom and contemplates its
existence. Sometimes a criminal case or a dispute about debt comes up
for his decision. Then he has the assistance of three elders of the
village, and in extreme cases he is supposed to seek the wisdom of
the white man at the fort. But the expense of such wisdom is at least
equal to its value, and rather than risk the delay, the uncertainty
of justice, and the certainty of some contribution to the legal fees
in pigs, oxen, or rubber, the villagers usually settle up their own
differences more quickly and good-naturedly now than they used, and
so out of the strong comes forth sweetness. In the last resort the
ancient tests of poison and boiling water are still regarded as final
(as, indeed, they are likely to be), and men who have lived long in
the country and know it well assure me that those tests are still
recommended by the wisdom of the white man at the fort.

Adjoining the public square the chief has his own enclosure, with the
royal hut for his wives, who may number anything from four to ten or
so, the number, as in all countries, being regulated by the expense.
Leaving the politics, law, games, and other occupations of public life
to the more strictly intellectual sex, the wives, like the other women
of the village, follow the primeval labor of the fields (which, as a
rule, are of their own making), and go out at dawn with basket and hoe
on their heads and babies wrapped to their backs, returning in the
afternoon to pound the meal in wooden mortars, and otherwise prepare
the family’s food.

I have had difficulty in finding out why one man is chief rather
than another. It is not entirely a matter of blood or of wealth,
still less of character. But all these go for something, and the
villagers themselves appear to have a certain voice in the selection,
though the choice must lie within the bounds of the “blood royal.”
Constitutionally, I believe, the same principle holds in the case of
the British crown. I have never heard of a disputed succession in an
African village, though disputes often arise in the larger tribes, as
among the Cunyami, where a very intelligent chief was lately poisoned
by his brother, as too peaceable and philosophic for a king. But there
is no longer a king or head chief in Bihé. The last was captured over
twenty years ago, after a mythical resistance in his umbala or capital
of Ekevango, the ancient trees of which can be seen from the American
mission at Kamundongo. So he joined the kings in exile, and, I believe,
still drags out an existence of memories in the Santiago of Portuguese
Guinea. There remain the chiefs of districts, and the headmen of
villages, and though, as I have described, their state is hardly to be
distinguished from that of royalty, they are generally allowed to live
to enjoy it.

But best of all I like a chief in his moments of condescension, when
he steps down from his four inches of mud and squats in the level
dust with the rest, just to show the young men how games should be
played. Chiefs appear to be specially good at the games which take
the place of cards and similar leisurely pastimes in European courts.
The favorite is a mixture of backgammon and “Archer up.” It is played
either on a hewn log or in the dust, and consists in getting a large
number of beans through four rows of holes. At first it looks like “go
as you please,” but in time, as you watch, certain rules rise out of
chaos, and you find that the best player really wins. The best player
is nearly always the chief, and I have no doubt he devotes long hours
of his magnificent leisure to pondering over the more scientific
aspects of the pursuit. In the same way one has heard of European kings
renowned for their success at Monte Carlo, baccarat, and bridge.

But, besides the games, the chiefs are the repositories of traditional
wisdom, and for this function it is harder to find a parallel among
civilized courts. The wisdom is usually expressed in symbolic diagrams
upon the dust. In his moments of fatherly instruction the chief will
smooth a surface with his hand, and on it trace with his fingers a
mystic line--I think it must always be a continuous and unbroken
line--which expresses some secret of human existence. Sometimes the
design is merely heraldic, as in this conventional figure of a
one-headed eagle, which I recommend to the German Emperor for a new
flag. But generally there is a hidden significance, not to be detected
without superior information. The chief, for instance, will imprint
five spots on the sand, and round them trace an interminable line
which just misses each spot in turn. The five spots signify the vain
ambitions of man, and the line is man’s vain effort ever to reach
them. Or again, he will mark nine points with his finger on the sand
and trace a line which will surround eight of them and always come
back to the ninth, which stands in the centre. Till superior wisdom
informed you, probably you would hardly guess that the eight points are
the “thoughts” of man, and that the ninth, to which the line always
returns, is the end of the whole matter--that no solution of the
thoughts of man is ever to be found:

  “Earth could not answer, nor the seas that mourn.”

It is surprising to find a philosophy so Omarian so far from Nashipur
and Babylon, but there it is.

The Ovimbundu of Bihé, like all the natives in this part of Africa,
have also a large stock of proverbs. Out of a number of Umbundu
proverbs I have heard, we may take three as pretty fair samples of
wisdom: “If you miss, don’t break your bow,” which I like better than
the English doggerel of, “Try, try, try again,” or, “A bad carpenter
quarrels with his tools”; “Speak of water and the fish are gone,”
a proverb that will bear many interpretations, though I think it
really means, “Never introduce your donah to your pal”; and, “The lion
needs no servant,” which I like best of all, but can find no parallel
for among a race so naturally snobbish as ourselves. A variation of
the proverb runs, “A pig has no servant, a lion needs none.” I have
heard many stories of folk-lore, too--legends or fables of animals,
something in the manner of “Uncle Remus.” As that the mole came late
and got no tail, or that the hen one day claimed the crocodile for her
brother, and all the beasts, under the hippo, assembled to support the
crocodile, and all the birds, under the eagle, to support the hen.
After long argument the hen demanded whether the crocodile did not
spring from an egg like herself. The claim was admitted, and since then
the crocodile and the hen have been brother and sister.

More in the character of “Uncle Remus” is the favorite story how the
dog became the friend of man. Once upon a time a leopard intrusted a
starving dog with the care of her cubs. All went well till a turtle
appeared upon the scene and induced the dog to bring out one of the
cubs and share it between them, saying she could show the leopard
the same cub twice over and persuade her that the whole brood was
flourishing. This went on very satisfactorily for some days, the dog
and turtle devouring a cub daily, and the dog producing one of the cubs
for the leopard’s inspection twice, three times, four times over, as
the case demanded. At last only one cub was left alive, and it had to
be produced eight or nine times, according to the original number of
the litter. Next day there was no cub left at all, and the dog invited
the leopard to walk into the den and contemplate her healthy young
nursery for herself. No sooner had she entered the cave than the dog
bolted for the nearest village, and rushed among the huts, crying,
“Man, man, the leopard is coming!” Since which day the dog has never
left the village, but has remained the friend of man.

Nearly akin to folk-lore are the quaint sayings and brief stories
which sum up the daily experience of a people. Take, for instance,
this dilemma, turning on an antipathy which appears to be the common
heritage of all mankind: “I go to bury my mother-in-law. The king sends
for me to attend his council. If I do not go to the king, he will cut
my head off. If I do not bury my mother-in-law, she may come to life.
I go to bury my mother-in-law.” More unusual to English ears was the
statement made quite seriously in my presence by a young man who was
inquiring about the manner of life in England. “If you can buy things
there,” he said, “there is no need to marry.” Certainly not; when
you can buy meal in a shop, why expose yourself to the annoyance and
irritation of keeping wives to sow and gather and pound and sift the
mealies for you?

Like all the tribes of this region, the Bihéans are much given to
dancing, especially under a waxing moon, and when the dry season is
just beginning--say in the end of April. It so happens that the Bihéan
dances I have seen have been almost always the dances of children, and
they were very pretty. Sometimes a girl is lifted on the hands of a
group of children and jumped up and down in that perilous position,
while the others dance and sing round her. Sometimes the dance is a
kind of “hen and chickens” or “prisoners’ base.” But the prettiest
dance I know is the frog dance, in which the children crouch down in
rows and leap over the ground, clapping their elbows sharply against
their naked sides, with exactly the effect of Spanish castanets, while
their hard, bare feet stamp the dust in time. Then they have a game
something like “hunt the slipper,” two rows sitting on the ground
opposite each other, and tossing about a knotted cloth with their
legs. All these dances and games are accompanied by monotonous and
violent singing, the words of the song being repeated over and over
again. They are generally of the simplest kind, and have no apparent
connection with the dance. The song which I heard to the frog dance,
for instance, ran: “I am going to my mother in the village. I am going
to my mother in the village.”

Various musical instruments are used all through this part of Africa,
perhaps the simplest being the primeval fiddle. A string of bark is
stretched across half a gourd, and made to vibrate with a notched
stick drawn to and fro across it. The player holds the gourd against
his breastbone, and hisses through his teeth in time to the movement,
sometimes adding a few words of song. After an hour or so he thus
works himself and his audience up almost to hypnotic frenzy. If this
is the simplest instrument, the alimba is the most elaborate. It is
a series of wooden slats--twelve or fourteen--attached to a curved
framework about six feet long. Behind the slats gourds are fixed
as sounding-boards, but the number of gourds does not necessarily
correspond to the slats. The player squats in the middle of the curve
and strikes the wood with rubber hammers. Though there is no true scale
of any kind, the individual notes are often fine and the result very
beautiful, especially before the singing begins.

But the true instruments of Central Africa are the ochisanji and
the drum. The ochisanji is the primeval piano, a row of iron keys
(sometimes two rows) being laid upon a small oblong board, which
is covered with carving. The keys are played with the thumbs, and
some loose beads or bits of iron at the bottom of the board set up a
rattling which, to us, does not improve the music. But it is really
a beautiful instrument, and I can well imagine that when a native hears
it far from his village he is filled with the same yearning that a
Swiss feels at the sound of a cow-horn. It is the common accompaniment
to all native songs, the words being spoken to it rather than sung.
Nearly all carriers have an ochisanji tied round their necks, and one
of my carriers used to sing me a minor song, lamenting his poverty, his
loss of an ox, and loss of a lover, and between each verse he put in
a sobbing refrain, very musical and melancholy. The ochisanji also is
sometimes laid across half a hollow gourd, to improve the tone.

[Illustration: BIHÉAN MUSICIANS]

And then there is the drum! The drum is undoubtedly as much the
national instrument of Africa as the bagpipe is of Scotland. It is
made out of almost anything--the bark of a tree stitched together into
a cylinder and covered with goat-skin at each end, or a hollow stump,
or even a large gourd will serve. But there is one kind of drum valued
above all others--so precious that, when a village owns one, it is
kept in a little house all to itself. This drum is shaped just like an
old-fashioned carpet-bag, half open, except that the top is longer than
the bottom. It measures about four feet high by three feet long, and is
about eight inches broad at the bottom, the sides tapering as towards
the mouth. The inside is hollowed out with axes, the whole being made
of one solid block of wood. Half-way along the sides, near the top or
mouth, rough lumps of rubber are fixed, and these are thumped either
with a rubber-headed drumstick or with the fist, while a second player
taps the wood with a bit of stick. The result is the most overwhelming
sound I have heard. I know the war-drum, and I know the glory of the
drums in the Ninth Symphony, but I have never known an instrument that
had such an effect upon the mind as this African ochingufu. To me it
is intensely depressing. At its first throb my heart sinks into my
boots. Far from being roused to battle by such a sound, my instinct
would be to hide under the blanket. But to the native soul it is truly
inspiring. To all their great dances this is the sole accompaniment,
and for hour after hour of the night they will keep up its unvaried
beat without intermission, one drummer after another taking his turn,
while the dance goes on, and from time to time the dancers and the
crowd raise their monotonous chant. The invention of this terrible
instrument was altogether beyond Bihéan art, though they sometimes
imitate the models for themselves. But the greater number of the drums
are still imported from the far interior, around the sources of the
Zambesi, and they have become a regular article of commerce. Many
a time, along the great foot-path of trade, I have seen a carrier
bringing down the drum as part of his load from some village hundreds
of miles east of Bihé, and I have wondered at the demon of terror and
revelry which lay enchanted in that common-looking piece of hollow wood.

But then the whole country is full of other demons, not of revelry,
but certainly of terror. At the gates (that is, the narrow gaps in the
stockade) of nearly all villages stands a little cluster of sticks with
the skulls of antelopes on their tops. Sometimes the sticks are roofed
over with a little straw. Sometimes they are tied up with strips of
cloth like little flags, or a few bits of broken pot are laid in the
shrine and a little meal is scattered around. Often a similar shrine is
set up inside the village itself, and where a chief lives in his umbala
or capital among the ancient trees it will very likely have developed
into a “Kandundu”--the abode of a great magic spirit, who dwells in a
kind of cage on the top of a long pole. The worship of the Kandundu is
in some vague way connected with a frog, and the spirit is supposed to
reveal himself and utter his oracles to the witch-doctor in that form.
But if you get a chance of exploring that cage on the palm pole, you
generally find no frog, but only greasy rags. The bright point about
the Kandundu is that the spirit can become actively benevolent instead
of being merely a terror to be averted, like most of the spirits in
Africa. The same high praise can also be given to Okevenga, whose name
may be connected with the great river Okavango, and who is certainly
a benevolent spirit, watching over women, and helping them with their
fields, their sowing, and their children.

These are the only two exceptions I have hitherto met with to the
general malignity of the spiritual world in this part of Africa. The
spirits of the dead are always evil disposed, when they return at
all, and they are the common agents of the witchcraft that plays so
large a part in village life and is the cause of so much slavery. It
is not uncommon for a woman to kill herself in order to haunt her
mother-in-law or another wife of whom she is jealous. And it is partly
to keep the spirit quiet for the year or so before it gradually fades
away into nothingness that poles surmounted by the skulls of oxen are
set above a grave. Partly also this is to display the wealth of the
family, which could afford to kill an ox or two at the funeral feast;
just as in England the mass of granite heaped upon a tomb is intended
rather to establish the respectability of the deceased than to secure
his repose.

Slavery exists quite openly throughout Bihé in the three forms of
family slavery among the natives themselves, domestic slavery to the
Portuguese traders, and slavery on the plantations. The purchase of
slaves is rendered easier by certain native customs, especially by the
peculiar law which gives the possession of the children to the wife’s
brother, even during the lifetime of both parents. The law has many
advantages in a polygamous country, and the parents can redeem their
children and make them their own property by various payments, but,
unless the children are redeemed, the wife’s brother can claim them
for the payment of his own debts or the debts of his village. I think
this is chiefly done in the payment of family debts for witchcraft,
and I have seen a case in which, for a debt of that kind, a mother has
been driven to pawn her own child herself. Her brother had murdered
her eldest boy, and, going into the interior to trade, had died there.
Of course his wives and other relations charged her with witchcraft
through her murdered boy’s spirit, and she was condemned to pay a fine.
She had nothing to pay but her two remaining children, and as the girl
was married and with child, she was unwilling to take her. So she
pawned her little boy to a native for the sum required, though she knew
he would almost certainly be sold as a slave to the Portuguese long
before she could redeem him, and she would have no chance of redress.

In that particular case, which happened recently, a missionary, who
knew the boy, advanced an ox in his place; but the missionary’s
intervention was, of course, entirely accidental, and the facts are
only typical of the kind of thing that is repeatedly happening in
places where there is no one to help or to know.

In a village in the northwest of Bihé I have seen a man--the headman
of the place--who has been gradually tempted on by a Portuguese trader
till he has sold all his children and all the other relations in his
power for rum. Last of all, one morning at the beginning of this winter
(1905), he told his wife to smarten herself up and come with him to
the trader’s house. She appears to have been a particularly excellent
woman, of whom he was very fond. Yet when they arrived at the store he
received a keg of rum and went home with it, leaving his wife as the
trader’s property.

In the same district I met a boy who told me how his father was sold
in the middle of last January. They were slaves to a native named
Onbungululu in the village of Chariwewa, and his father, in company
with twenty other of the slaves, was sold to a certain Portuguese
trader, who acts on behalf of the “Central Committee of Labor and
Emigration,” and was draughted quietly away through the bush for the
plantations in San Thomé.

To show how low the price of human beings will run, I may mention a
case that happened in January, 1905, on the Cuanza, just over the
northeast frontier of Bihé. I think I noticed in an earlier chapter
that there was much famine there last winter, and so it came about that
a woman was sold for forty yards of cloth and a pig (cloth being worth
about fourpence a yard), and was brought into Bihé by the triumphant

But that was an exception, and the following instance of the
slave-trader’s ways is more typical. Last summer a Portuguese, who is
perhaps the most notorious and reckless slave-trader now living in
Bihé, and whose name is familiar far in the interior of Africa, sent a
Bihéan into the southern Congo with orders to bring out so many slaves
and with chains to bind them. As the Bihéan was returning with the
slaves, one of them escaped, and the trader demanded another slave and
three loads of rubber as compensation. This the Bihéan has now paid,
but in the mean time the trader’s personal slaves have attacked and
plundered his village. The trader himself is at present away on his
usual business in the remote region of the Congo basin called Lunda,
and it is thought his return is rather doubtful; for the “Révoltés” and
other native tribes in those parts accuse him of selling cartridges
that will not fit their rifles. But he appears to have been flourishing
till quite lately, for the natives in the village where I am staying
say that he has sent out a little gang of seven slaves, which passed
down the road only the day before yesterday, on their way to San Thomé.

But about that road, which has been for centuries the main slave route
from the interior to the Portuguese coast, I shall say more in my next
letter, when I have myself passed up and down it for some hundreds of
miles and had an opportunity of seeing its present condition.



I was going east along the main trade route--the main slave route--by
which the Bihéans pass to and fro in their traffic with the interior.
It is but a continuation of the track from Benguela, on the coast,
through the district of Bihé, and it follows the long watershed of
Central Africa in the same way. The only place where that watershed is
broken is at the passage of the Cuanza, which rises far south of the
bank of high ground, but has made its way northward through it at a
point some three days’ journey east of the Bihéan fort at Belmonte, and
so reaches the sea on the west coast, not very far below Loanda.

It forms the frontier of Bihé, dividing that race of traders from the
primitive and savage tribes of the interior. But on both sides along
its banks and among its tributaries you find the relics of other races
of very different character from the Bihéans--the Luimbi, whose women
still wear the old coinage of white cowry-shells in their hair, and the
Luchazi, who support their loads with a strap round their foreheads,
like the Swiss, and whose women dress their hair with red mud, and
carry their babies straddled round the hip instead of round the back.

Going eastward along this pathway into the interior, I had reached the
banks of the Cuanza one evening towards the end of the wet season. It
had been raining hard, but at sunset there was a sullen clear which
left the country steaming with damp. On my left I could hear the roar
of the Cuanza rapids, where the river divides among rocky islands and
rushes down in breakers and foam. And far away, across the river’s
broad valley, I could see the country into which I was going--straight
line after line of black forest, with the mist rising in pallid lines
between. It was like a dreary skeleton of the earth.


Such was my first sight of “the Hungry Country”--that accursed stretch
of land which reaches from just beyond the Cuanza almost to the
Portuguese fort at Mashiko. How far that may be in miles I cannot say
exactly. A rapid messenger will cover the distance in seven days, but
it took me nine, and it takes most people ten or twelve. My carriers
had light loads, and in spite of almost continuous fevers and poisoned
feet we went fast, walking from six till two or even four o’clock
without food, so that, even allowing for delays at the deep morasses
and rivers and the long climbs up the forest hills, I think we cannot
have averaged less than twenty miles a day, and probably we often made
twenty-five. I should say that the distance from the Cuanza to Mashiko
must be somewhere about two hundred and fifty miles, and it is Hungry
Country nearly the whole way.

Still less is it certain how far the district extends in breadth
from north to south. I have often looked from the top of its highest
uplands, where a gap in the trees gave me a view, in the hope of seeing
something beyond. But, though the hill might be six thousand feet above
the sea, I could never get a sight of anything but forest, and still
more forest, till the waves of the land ended in a long, straight
line of blue--almost as straight and blue as the sea--and nothing but
forest all the way, with not a trace of man. Yet the whole country is
well watered. Deep and clear streams run down the middle of the open
marshes between the hills. For the first day or two of the journey they
flow back into the Cuanza basin, but when you have climbed the woody
heights beyond, you find them running north into the Kasai, that great
tributary of the Congo, and south into the Lungwebungu or the Luena,
the tributaries of the Zambesi. At some points you stand at a distance
of only two days’ journey from the Kasai and the Lungwebungu on either
side, and there is water flowing into them all the year round. In
Africa it is almost always the want of water that makes a Hungry
Country, but here the rule does not hold.

At first I thought the character of the soil was sufficient reason for
the desert. Except for the black morasses, it is a loose white sand
from end to end. The sand drifts down the hills like snow, and banks
itself up along any sheltered or level place, till as you plod through
it hour after hour, almost ankle-deep, while your shadow gradually
swallows itself up as the sun climbs the sky, your only thought becomes
a longing for water and a longing for one small yard of solid ground.
The trees are poor and barren, and I noticed that the farther I went
the soft joints of the grasses, which ought to be sweet, became more
and more bitter, till they tasted like quinine.

This may be the cause of another thing I noticed. All living creatures
in this region are crazy for salt, just like oxen on a “sour veldt.”
Salt is far the best coinage you can take among the Chibokwe. I do not
mean our white table-salt. They reject that with scorn, thinking it
is sugar or something equally useless; but for the coarse and dirty
“bay-salt” they will sell almost anything, and a pinch of it is a
greater treat to a child than a whole bride-cake would be in England.

I have tested it especially with the bees that swarm in these forests
and produce most of the beeswax that goes to Europe. I first noticed
their love of salt when I salted some water one afternoon in the
vain hope of curing the poisoned sores on my feet. In half an hour
the swarms of bees had driven me from my tent. I was stung ten times,
and had to wait about in the forest till the sun set, when the bees
vanished, as by signal.

Another afternoon I tested them by putting a heap of sugar, a paper
smeared with condensed milk, and a bag of salt tightly wrapped up in
tar-paper side by side on the ground. I gave them twenty minutes, and
then I found nothing on the sugar, five flies on the milk, and the
tar-paper so densely covered with bees that they overlapped one another
as when they swarm. For want of anything better, they will fight over
a sweaty shirt in the same way; and once, by the banks of a stream,
they sent all my carriers howling along the path by creeping up under
their loin-cloths. The butterflies seek salt also. If you spread out
a damp rag anywhere in tropical Africa, you will soon have brilliant
butterflies on it. But if you add a little salt in the Hungry Country,
the rag will be a blaze of colors, unless the bees come and drive the
butterflies off.

As I said, the natives feel the longing too. Among the Chibokwe, the
women burn a marsh-grass into a potash powder as a substitute; and if
a native squats down in front of you, puts out a long, pink tongue and
strokes it appealingly with his finger, you may know it is salt he
wants. The scarcity has become worse since the Belgians, following
their usual highwayman methods, have robbed the natives of the great
salt-pans in the south of the Congo State and made them a trade


In the character of the soil, then, there seemed to be sufficient
reason for the name of the country, and I should have been satisfied
with it but for distinct evidences that a few spots along the path
have been inhabited not so very long ago. Here and there you come upon
plants which grow generally or only on the site of deserted villages or
fields; such as the atundwa--a plant with branching fronds that smell
like walnut leaves. It yields a fruit whose hard and crimson case just
projects from the ground and holds a gray bag of seeds, very sour, and
almost as good to eat or drink as lemons. But still more definite is
the evidence of travellers, like the missionary explorer Mr. Arnot, who
first traversed the country over twenty years ago, and has described
to me the villages he found there then. There was, for instance, the
large Chibokwe town of Peho, which was built round the head of a marsh
close upon the main path some two or three days west of Mashiko. You
will still find the place marked, about the size of London, on any map
of Angola or Africa, but I have looked everywhere for it along the
route in vain. A Portuguese once told me he thought it was a few days’
journey north of his house near Mashiko. But he was wrong. The whole
place has entirely disappeared, and has less right than Nineveh to a
name on a modern map.[1]

The Chibokwe have a custom of destroying their villages and abandoning
the site whenever a chief dies, and this in itself is naturally very
puzzling to all geographers. But I think it hardly explains the utter
abandonment of the Hungry Country. It is commonly supposed that no
wild animals will live in the region, but that is not true, either.
Many times, when I have wandered away from the foot-path, I have put
up various antelopes--lechwe and duikers--and beside the marshes in
the early morning I have seen the fresh spoor of larger deer, as well
as of porcupines and wart-hogs. Cranes are fairly common, and green
parrots very abundant. Almost every night one hears the leopards roar.
“Roar” is not the word: it is that deep note of pleasurable expectancy
that they sound a quarter of an hour before feeding-time at the Zoo,
and they would not make that noise if there was nothing in the country
to eat. All these reasons put together drive me unwillingly to think
there may be some truth in the native belief that the whole land has
been laid under a curse which will never be removed. As I write, the
rumor reaches us that the basin of the Zambesi and all its tributaries
have just been awarded to Great Britain, so that nearly the whole of
the Hungry Country will come under English rule. It is important for
England, therefore, that the curse should be forgotten, and in time it
may be. All I know for certain is that undoubtedly a curse lies upon
the country now.[2]

There are two ferries over the Cuanza, one close under the Portuguese
fort, the other a comfortable distance up-stream, well out of
observation. It is a typically Portuguese arrangement. The Commandant’s
duty is to stop the slave-trade, but how can he be expected to see what
is going on a mile or so away! Even as you come down to the river, you
find slave-shackles hanging on the bushes. You cross the stream in
dugout canoes, running the chance of being upset by one of the hippos
which snort and pant a little farther up. You enter the forest again,
and now the shackles are thick upon the trees. This is the place where
most of the slaves, being driven down from the interior, are untied. It
is safe to let them loose here. The Cuanza is just in front, and behind
them lies the long stretch of Hungry Country, which they could never
get through alive if they tried to run back to their homes. So it is
that the trees on the western edge of the Hungry Country bear shackles
in profusion--shackles for the hands, shackles for the feet, shackles
for three or four slaves who are clamped together at night. The drivers
hang them up with the idea of using them again when they return for the
next consignment of human merchandise; but, as a rule, I think, they
find it easier to make new shackles as they are wanted.

A shackle is easily made. A native hacks out an oblong hole in a log
of wood with an axe; it must be big enough for two hands or two feet
to pass through, and then a wooden pin is driven through the hole from
side to side, so that the hands or feet cannot stir until it is drawn
out again. The two hands or feet do not necessarily belong to the same
person. You find shackles of various ages--some quite new, with the
marks of the axe fresh upon them, some old and half eaten by ants. But
none can be very old, for in Africa all dead wood quickly disappears,
and this is a proof that the slave-trade did not really end after the
war of 1902, as easy-going officials are fond of assuring us.

When I speak of the shackles beside the Cuanza, I do not mean that
this is the only place where they are to be found. You will see them
scattered along the whole length of the Hungry Country; in fact,
I think they are thickest at about the fifth day’s journey. They
generally hang on low bushes of quite recent growth, and are most
frequent by the edge of the marshes. I cannot say why. There seems
to be no reason in their distribution. I have been assured that each
shackle represents the death of a slave, and, indeed, one often finds
the remains of a skeleton beside a shackle. But the shackles are so
numerous that if the slaves died at that rate even slave-trading would
hardly pay, in spite of the immense profit on every man or woman who
is brought safely through. It may often happen that a sick slave drags
himself to the water and dies there. It may be that some drivers think
they can do without the shackles after four or five days of the Hungry
Country. But at present I can find no satisfactory explanation of the
strange manner in which the shackles are scattered up and down the
path. I only know that between the Cuanza and Mashiko I saw several
hundreds of them, and yet I could not look about much, but had to watch
the narrow and winding foot-path close in front of me, as one always
must in Central Africa.


That path is strewn with dead men’s bones. You see the white
thigh-bones lying in front of your feet, and at one side, among the
undergrowth, you find the skull. These are the skeletons of slaves who
have been unable to keep up with the march, and so were murdered or
left to die. Of course the ordinary carriers and travellers die too.
It is very horrible to see a man beginning to break down in the middle
of the Hungry Country. He must go on or die. The caravan cannot wait
for him, for it has food for only the limited number of days. I knew a
distressful Irishman who entered the route with hardly any provision,
broke down in the middle, and was driven along by his two carriers,
who threatened his neck with their axes whenever he stopped, and only
by that means succeeded in getting him through alive. Still worse was
a case among my own carriers--a little boy who had been brought to
carry his father’s food, as is the custom. He became crumpled up with
rheumatism, and I found he had bad heart-disease as well. He kept on
lying down in the path and refusing to go farther. Then he would creep
away into the bush and hide himself to die. We had to track him out,
and his father beat him along the march till the blood ran down his

But with slaves less trouble is taken. After a certain amount of
beating and prodding, they are killed or left to die. Carriers are
always buried by their comrades. You pass many of their graves, hung
with strips of rag or decorated with a broken gourd. But slaves are
never buried, and that is an evidence that the bones on the path are
the bones of slaves. The Bihéans have a sentiment against burying
slaves. They call it burying money. It is something like their strong
objections to burying debtors. The man who buries a debtor becomes
responsible for the debts; so the body is hung up on a bush outside
the village, and the jackals consume it, being responsible for nothing.

Before the great change made by the “Bailundu war” of 1902, the horrors
of the Hungry Country were undoubtedly worse than they are now. I have
known Englishmen who passed through it four years ago and found slaves
tied to the trees, with their veins cut so that they might die slowly,
or laid beside the path with their hands and feet hewn off, or strung
up on scaffolds with fires lighted beneath them. My carriers tell me
that this last method of encouraging the others is still practised away
from the pathway, but I never saw it done myself. I never saw distinct
evidence of torture. The horrors of the road have certainly become
less in the last three years, since the rebellion of 1902. Rebellion
is always good. It always implies an unendurable wrong. It is the only
shock that ever stirs the self-complacency of officials.

I have not seen torture in the Hungry Country. I have only seen murder.
Every bone scattered along that terrible foot-path from Mashiko to the
Cuanza is the bone of a murdered man. The man may not have been killed
by violence, though in most cases the sharp-cut hole in the skull shows
where the fatal stroke was given. But if he was not killed by violence,
he was taken from his home and sold, either for the buyer’s use, or
to sell again to a Bihéan, to a Portuguese trader, or to the agents
who superintend the “contract labor” for San Thomé, and are so useful
in supplying the cocoa-drinkers of England and America, as well as in
enriching the plantation-owners and the government. The Portuguese and
such English people as love to stand well with Portuguese authority
tell us that most of the men now sold as slaves are criminals, and so
it does not matter. Very well, then; let us make a lucrative clearance
of our own prisons by selling the prisoners to our mill-owners as
factory-hands. We might even go beyond our prisons. It is easy to prove
a crime against a man when you can get £10 or £20 by selling him. And
if each of us that has committed a crime may be sold, who shall escape
the shackles?

The most recent case of murder that I saw was on my return through the
Hungry Country, the sixth day out from Mashiko. The murdered man was
lying about ten yards from the path hidden in deep grass and bracken.
But for the smell I should have passed the place without noticing
him as I have no doubt passed scores, and perhaps hundreds, of other
skeletons that lie hidden in that forest. How long the man had been
murdered I could not say, for decay in Africa varies with the weather,
but the ants generally contrive that it shall be quick. I think the
thing must have been done since I passed the place on my way into the
country, about a month before. But possibly it was a few days earlier.
My “headman” had heard of the event (a native hears everything), but it
did not impress him or the other carriers in the least. It was far too
common. Unhappily I do not understand enough Umbundu to make out the
exact date or the details, except that the man was a slave who broke
down with the usual shivering fever on the road and was killed with an
axe because he could go no farther. As to the cause of death there was
no doubt. When I tried to raise the head, the thick, woolly hair came
off in my hand like a woven pad, leaving the skull bare, and revealing
the deep gash made by the axe at the base of the skull just before it
merges with the neck. As I set it down again, the skull broke off from
the backbone and fell to one side. Having laid a little earth upon the
body, I went on. It would take an army of sextons to bury all the poor
bones which consecrate that path.

Yet, in spite of the shackles hanging on the trees, and in spite of the
skeletons upon the path and the bodies of recently murdered men, I have
not seen a slave caravan such as has been described to me by almost
every traveller who has passed along that route into the interior. I
mean, I have not seen a gang of slaves chained together, their hands
shackled, and their necks held fast in forked sticks. I am not sure
of the reason; there were probably many reasons combined. It is just
the end of the wet season, just the time when the traders think of
sending in for slaves, and not of bringing them out. Directly the
natives in the Bihéan village near which I was staying heard I was
going to Mashiko, though they knew nothing of my object, they said,
“Now a messenger will be sent ahead to warn the slave-traders that
an Englishman is coming.” The same was told me by two Englishmen who
traversed the country last autumn for the mining concession, and in
my case I have not the slightest doubt that messengers were sent.
Again, a Portuguese trader, living on the farther side of the Hungry
Country, upon the Mushi-Moshi (the Simoï, as the Portuguese classically
call it), told me the drivers now bring the slaves through unknown
bush-paths north of the old route. He kept a store which, being on
the edge of the Hungry Country, was as frequented and lucrative as a
wine-and-spirit house must be on the frontier of a prohibition State.
And he was the only Portuguese I have met who recognized the natives as
fellow-subjects, and even as fellow-men, with rights of their own. He
also boasted, I think justly, of the good effects of the war in 1902.

All these reasons may have contributed. But still I think that the
old caravan system has been reduced within the last three years. The
shock to public feeling in Portugal owing to the Bailundu war and its
revelations; the disgrace of certain officers at the forts, who were
convicted of taking a percentage of slaves from the passing caravans
as hush-money; the strong action of Captain Amorim in trying to
suppress the whole traffic; the instructions to the forts to allow no
chained gangs to pass--all these things have, I believe, acted as a
check upon the old-fashioned methods. There is also an increased risk
in obtaining slaves from the interior in large batches. The Belgians
strongly oppose the entrance of the traders into their state, partly
because guns and powder are the usual exchange for slaves, partly
because they wish to retain their own natives under their own tender
mercies. The line of Belgian forts along the frontier is quickly
increasing. Some Bihéan traders have been shot. In one recent case,
much talked of, a bullet from a Maxim gun struck the head of a gang
of slaves, marching as usual in single file, and killed nine in
succession. In any case, the traders seem to have discovered that the
palmy days when they used to parade their chained gangs through the
country, and burn, flog, torture, and cut throats as they pleased, are
over for the present. For many months after the war even the traffic
to San Thomé almost ceased. It has begun again now and is rapidly
increasing. As I noted in a former letter, an order was issued in
December, 1904, requiring the government agents to press on the supply.
But at present, I think, the slaves are coming down in smaller gangs.
They are not, as a rule, tortured; they are shackled only at night,
and the traders take a certain amount of pains to conceal the whole
traffic, or at least to make it look respectable.

As to secrecy, they are not entirely successful. A man whose word no
one in Central Africa would think of doubting has just sent down notice
from the interior that a gang of two hundred and fifty slaves passed
through the Nanakandundu district, bound for the coast, in the end of
February (1905), shackles and all. The man who brought the message had
done his best to avoid the gang, fearing for his life. But there is
no doubt they are coming through, and I ought to have met them near
Mashiko if they had not taken a by-path or been broken up into small

It was probably such a small group that I met within a day’s journey of
Caiala, the largest trading-house in Bihé. I was walking at about half
an hour’s distance from the road, when suddenly I came upon a party of
eighteen or twenty boys and four men hidden in the bush. At sight of
me they all ran away, the men driving the boys before them. But they
left two long chicotes or sjamboks (hide whips) hanging on the trees,
as well as the very few light loads they had with them. After a time
I returned, and they ran away again. I then noticed that they posted
a man on a tree-top to observe my movements, and he remained there
till I trekked on with my own people. Of course the evidence is not
conclusive, but it is suspicious. Men armed with chicotes do not hide
a group of boys in the bush for nothing, and it is most probable that
they formed part of a gang going into Bihé for sale.

I may have passed many such groups on my journey without knowing it,
for it is a common trick of the traders now to get up the slaves as
ordinary carriers. But among all of them, there was only one which
was obviously a slave gang, almost without concealment. My carriers
detected them at once, and I heard the word “apeka” (slaves)[3] passed
down the line even before I came in sight of them. The caravan numbered
seventy-eight in all. In front and rear were four men with guns, and
there were six of them in the centre. The whole caravan was organized
with a precision that one never finds among free carriers, and nearly
the whole of it consisted of boys under fourteen. This in itself would
be almost conclusive, for no trade caravan would contain anything like
that proportion of boys, whereas boys are the most easily stolen from
native villages in the interior, and, on the whole, they pay the cost
of transport best. But more conclusive even than the appearance of the
gang was the quiet evidence of my own carriers, who had no reason for
lying, who never pointed out another caravan of slaves, and yet had not
a moment’s doubt as to this.

The importation of slaves from the interior into Angola may not be what
it was. It may not be conducted under the old methods. There is no
longer that almost continuous procession of chained and tortured men
and women which all travellers who crossed the Hungry Country before
1902 describe. For the moment rubber has become almost as lucrative as
man. The traffic has been driven underground. There is now a feeling of
shame and risk about it, and the military authorities dare not openly
give it countenance as before. But I have never heard of any case in
which they openly interfered to stop it, and the thing still goes on.
It is, in fact, fast recovering from the shock of the rebellion of
1902, and is now increasing again every month.

It will go on and it will increase as long as the authorities and
traders habitually speak of the natives as “dogs,” and allow the men
under their command to misuse them at pleasure. To-day a negro soldier
in the white Portuguese uniform seized a little boy at the head of
my carriers, pounded his naked feet with the butt of his rifle, and
was beating him unmercifully with the barrel, when I sprang upon him
with two javelins which I happened to be carrying because my rifle was
jammed. At sight of me the emblem of Portuguese justice crawled on the
earth and swore he did not know it was a white man’s caravan. That was
sufficient excuse.

Three days ago word came to me on the march that one of my carriers had
been shot at and wounded. We were in a district where three Chibokwe
natives actually with shields and bows as well as guns had hung upon
our line as we went in. I had that morning warned the carriers for the
twentieth time that they must keep together, and had set an advanced
and rear guard, knowing that stray carriers were being shot down.
But natives are as incapable of organization as of seeing a straight
line, and my people were straggled out helplessly over a length of
five or six miles. Hurrying forward, I found that the bullet--a cube
of copper--had just missed my carrier’s head, had taken a chip out of
his hand, and gone through my box. The carrier behind had caught the
would-be murderer, and there he stood--a big Luvale man, with filed
teeth, and head shaved but for a little tuft or pad at the top. I
supposed he ought to be shot, but my rifle was jammed, and I am not a
born executioner. However, I cleared a half-circle and set the man in
the middle. A great terror came into his face as I went through the
loading motions. I had determined, having blindfolded him, to catch
him a full drive between the eyes. This would give him as great a
shock as death. He would think it was death, and yet would have time
to realize the horror of it afterwards, which in the case of death he
would not have. But when all was ready, my carriers, including the
wounded man, set up a great disturbance, and seized the muzzle of my
rifle and turned it aside. They kept shouting some reason which I did
not then understand. So I gave the punishment over to them, and they
took the man’s gun--a trade-gun or “Lazarino,” studded with brass
nails--stripped him of his powder-gourd, cloth, and all he had, beat
him with the backs of their axes, and drove him naked into the forest,
where he disappeared like a deer.

I found out afterwards that their reason for clemency was the fear of
Portuguese vengeance upon their villages, because the man was employed
by the fort at Mashiko, and therefore claimed the right of shooting any
other native at sight, even over a minute’s dispute about yielding the

Such small incidents are merely typical of the attitude which the
Portuguese take towards the natives and allow their own black soldiers
and slaves to take. As long as this attitude is maintained, the
immensely profitable slave-traffic which has filled with its horrors
this route for centuries past will continue to fill it with horrors, no
matter how secret or how legalized the traffic may become.

I have pitched my tent to-night on a hill-side not far from the fort of
Matota, where a black sergeant and a few men are posted to police the
middle of the Hungry Country. In front of me a deep stream is flowing
down to the Zambesi with strong but silent current in the middle of a
marsh. The air is full of the cricket’s call and the other quiet sounds
of night. Now and then a dove wakes to the brilliant moonlight, and
coos, and sleeps again. Sometimes an owl cries, but no leopards are
abroad, and it would be hard to imagine a scene of greater peace or of
more profound solitude. And yet, along this path, there is no solitude,
for the dead are here; neither is there any peace, but a cry.


[1] Commander Cameron describes the town and its chief, Mona Peho, in
_Across Africa_, p. 426 (1876).

[2] The King of Italy’s award on the disputed frontier between British
Barotzeland and Portuguese Angola was not published, in fact, till
July, 1905. Great Britain received only part of her claim, and the
Hungry Country, together with the whole of the slave route, remains
under Portuguese misgovernment.

[3] Properly speaking, vapeka is the plural of upeka, a slave, but in
Bihé apeka is used.



The Chibokwe do not sell their slaves; they kill them; and this
distinction between them and the Bihéans is characteristic. The Bihéans
are carriers and traders. They always have an eye fixed on the margin
of profit. They will sell anything, including their own children,
and it is waste to kill a man who may be sold to advantage. But the
Chibokwe are savages of a wilder race, and no Bihéan would dare buy a
Chibokwe slave, even if they had the chance. They know that the next
Bihéan caravan would be cut to pieces on its way.

It is impossible to fix the limits of the Chibokwe country. The people
are always on the move. It is partly the poverty of the land that
drives them about, partly their habit of burning the village whenever
the chief dies; and as villages go by the chief’s name, they are the
despair of geographers. But in entering the interior you may begin
to be on your guard against the Chibokwe two days after crossing
the Cuanza. They have a way of cutting off stray carriers, and, as
I mentioned in my last letter, my own little caravan was dogged by
three of them with shields and spears, who might have been troublesome
had they known that the Winchester with which I covered the rear was
only useful as a club. It was in the Chibokwe country, too, that the
one attempt was made to rob my tent at night, and again I only beat
off the thieves by making a great display with a jammed rifle. On one
side their villages are mixed up with the Luimbi, on the other with
the Luena people and the Luvale, who are scattered over the great, wet
flats between Mashiko and Nanakandundu. But they are a distinct people
in themselves, and they appear to be increasing and slowly spreading
south. If the King of Italy’s arbitration gives the Zambesi tributaries
to England, the Chibokwe will form the chief part of our new
fellow-subjects, and will share the legal advantages of Whitehall.[4]

They file or break their teeth into sharp points, whereas the Bihéans
compromise by only making a blunt angle between the two in front. It
used to be said that pointed teeth were the mark of cannibalism, but I
think it more likely that these tribes at one time had the crocodile or
some sharp-toothed fish as their totem, and certainly when they laugh
their resemblance to pikes, sharks, or crocodiles is very remarkable.
Anyhow, the Chibokwe are not cannibals now, except for medicine, or
in the hope of acquiring the moral qualities of the deceased. But I
believe they eat the bodies of people killed by lightning or other
sudden death, and the Bihéans do the same.

Though not so desert as the Hungry Country, the soil of their whole
district is poor, and the people live in great simplicity. Hardly
any maize is grown, and the chief food is the black bean, a meal
pounded from yellow millet, and a beetle about four inches long. In
all villages there are professional hunters and fishers, but game is
scarce, and the fish in such rivers as the Mushi-Moshi (Simoï) are not
allowed to grow much above the size of whitebait. Honey is to be found
in plenty, but for salt, which is their chief desire, they have to put
up with the ashes of a burned grass, unless they can buy real salt from
the Bihéans in exchange for millet or rubber. Just at present rubber
is their wealth, and they are doing rather a large trade in it. All
over the forests they are grubbing up the plant by the roots, and in
the villages you may hear the women pounding and tearing at it all the
afternoon. But rubber thus extirpated gives a brief prosperity, and in
two years, or five at the most, the rubber will be exhausted and the
Chibokwe thrown back on their natural poverty.

In the arts they far surpass all their neighbors on the west side.
They are so artistic that the women wear little else but ornament.
Their houses are square or oblong, with clean angles and straight
sides, and the roofs, instead of being conical, are oblong too, having
a straight beam along the top, like an English cottage. The tribe
is specially famous for its javelins, spears, knives, hatchets, and
other iron-work, which they forge in the open spaces round the village
club-house, working up their little furnaces with wooden tubes and
bellows of goat-skin, like loose drum-heads, pulled up and down with
bits of stick to make a draught. A simple pattern is hammered on some
of the axes, and on the side of one hut I saw an attempt at fresco--a
white figure on a red ground under a white moon--the figure being quite
sufficiently like an ox.


In dancing, the Chibokwe excel, like the Luvale people, who are their
neighbors on the eastern side, farther in the interior, and their
dances are much the same. It is curious that their favorite form is
almost exactly like the well-known Albanian dance of the Greeks.
Standing in a broken circle, they move round and round to a repeated
song, while the leader sets the pace, and now and again springs out
into the centre to display his steps. The Chibokwe introduce a few
varieties, the man in the centre beckoning with his hand to any one in
the ring to perform the next solo, and he in turn calling on another.
There is also much more movement of the body than in the Albanian
dance, the chief object of the art being to work the shoulders up and
down, and wriggle the backbone as much like a snake as possible. But
the general idea of the dance is the same, and neither the movement nor
the singing nor the beat of the drum alters much throughout a moonlit

It is natural that the Chibokwe should have retained much of the
religious feeling and rites which the commercial spirit has destroyed
in the Bihéans. They are far more alive to the spiritual side of
nature, and the fetich shrines are more frequent in all their villages.
The gate of every village, and, indeed, of almost every house, has its
little cluster of sticks, with antelope skulls stuck on the tops, or
old rags fluttering, or a tiny thatched roof covering a patch of strewn
meal. The people have a way of painting the sticks in red and black
stripes, and so the fisher paints the rough model of a canoe that he
hangs by his door to please the fishing spirit. Or sometimes he hangs
a little net, and the hunter, besides his cluster of horned skulls,
almost always hangs up a miniature turtle three or four inches long. I
cannot say for what reason, but all these charms are not to avert evil
so much as to win the favor of a benign spirit who loves to fish or
hunt. So far the rites are above the usual African religion of terror
or devil-worship. But when a woman with child carves a wooden bird to
hang over her door, and gives it meal every evening and sprinkles meal
in front of her door, I think her object is to ward off the spirits of
evil from herself and her unborn baby.

In a Chibokwe village, one burning afternoon, I found a native woman
being treated for sickness in the usual way. She was stretched on her
back in the dust and dirt of the public place, where she had lain for
four days. The sun beat upon her; the flies were thick upon her body.
Over her bent the village doctor, assiduous in his care. He knew, of
course, that the girl was suffering from witchcraft. Some enemy had
put an evil spirit upon her, for in Africa natural death is unknown,
and but for witchcraft and spirits man would be immortal. But still
the doctor was trying the best human means he knew of as well. He had
plastered the girl’s body over with a compound of leaves, which he had
first chewed into a pulp. He had then painted her forehead with red
ochre, and was now spitting some white preparation of meal into her
nose and mouth. The girl was in high fever--some sort of bilious fever.
You could watch the beating of her heart. The half-closed eyes showed
deep yellow, and the skin was yellow too. Evidently she was suffering
the greatest misery, and would probably die next day.

It happened that two Americans were with me, for I had just reached
the pioneer mission station at Chinjamba, beyond Mashiko. One of them
was a doctor, with ten years’ experience in a great American city, and
after commending the exertions of the native physician, he asked to be
allowed to assist in the case himself. The native agreed at once, for
the white man’s fame as an exorcist had spread far through the country.
Four or five days later I saw the same girl, no longer stretched on hot
dust, no longer smeared with spittle, leaves, and paint, but smiling
cheerfully at me as she pounded her meal among the other women.

The incident was typical of those two missionaries and their way of
associating with the natives. It is typical of most young missionaries
now. They no longer go about denouncing “idols” and threatening hell.
They recognize that native worship is also a form of symbolism--a
phase in the course of human ideas upon spiritual things. They do
not condemn, but they say, “We think we know of better things than
these,” and the native is always willing to listen. In this case, for
instance, after the girl had been put into a shady hut and doctored,
the two missionaries sat down on six-inch native stools outside the
club-house and began to sing. They were pioneers; they had only three
hymns in the Chibokwe language, and they themselves understood hardly
half the words. No matter; they took the meaning on trust. By continued
repetition, by feeling no shame in singing a hymn twenty or thirty
times over at one sitting, they had got the words fixed in the native
minds, and when it came to the chorus the whole village shouted
together like black stars. The missionaries understood the doctrine,
the people understood the words; it was not a bad combination, and I
thought those swinging choruses would never stop. The preaching was
perhaps less exhilarating to the audience, but so it has sometimes been
to other congregations, and the preacher’s knowledge of the language he
spoke was only five months old.


At the mission it was the same thing. The pioneers had set up a log
hut in the forest, admitting the air freely through the floor and
sides. They were living in hard poverty, but when they shared with me
their beans and unleavened slabs of millet, it was pleasant to know
that each of the two doors on either side of the hut was crammed with
savage faces, eagerly watching the antics of civilization at meals.
One felt like a lantern-slide, combining instruction with amusement.
The audience consisted chiefly of patients who had built a camp of
forty or fifty huts close outside the cabin, and came every morning to
be cured--cured of broken limbs, bad insides, wounds, but especially
of the terrible sores and ulcers which rot the shins and thighs,
tormenting all this part of Africa. Among the patients were three
kings, who had come far from the east. The greatest of them had brought
a few wives--eight, I think--and some children, including a singularly
fascinating princess with the largest smile I ever saw. Every morning
the king came to my tent, showed me his goitre, asked for tobacco, and
sat with me an hour in silent esteem. As I was not then accustomed to
royalty, I was uncertain how three kings would behave themselves in
hospital life; but in spite of their rank and station, they were quite
good, and even smiled upon the religious services, feeling, no doubt,
as all the rich feel, that such things were beneficial for the lower

On certain evenings the missionaries went out into the hospital camp to
sing and pray. They sat beside a log fire, which threw its light upon
the black or copper figures crowding round in a thick half-circle--big,
bony men, women shining with castor-oil, and swarms of children, hardly
visible but for a sudden gleam of eyes and teeth. The three invariable
hymns were duly sung--the chorus of the favorite being repeated
seventeen times without a pause, as I once counted, and even then
the people showed no sign of weariness. The woman next to me on that
occasion sang with conspicuous enthusiasm. She was young and beautiful.
Her mop of hair, its tufts solid with red mud, hung over her brow and
round her neck, dripping odors, dripping oil. Her bare, brown arms
jingled with copper bracelets, and at her throat she wore the section
of round white shell which is counted the most precious ornament of
all--“worth an ox,” they say. Her little cloth was dark blue with a
white pattern, and, squatted upon her heels, she held her baby between
her thighs, stuffing a long, pointed breast into his mouth whenever
he threatened to interrupt the music. For her whole soul was given to
the singing, and with wide-open mouth she poured out to the stars and
darkened forests the amazing words of the chorus:

  “Haleluyah! mwa aku kula,
  Jesu vene mwa aku sanga:”

There were two other lines, which I do not remember. The first line no
one could interpret to me. The second means, “Jesus really loves me.”
The other two said, “His blood will wash my black heart white.”

To people brought up from childhood in close familiarity with words
like these there may be nothing astonishing about them. They have
unhappily become the commonplaces of Christianity, and excite no more
wonder than the sunrise. But I would give a library of theology to know
what kind of meaning that brown Chibokwe woman found in them as she sat
beside the camp-fire in the forest beyond the Hungry Country, and sang
them seventeen times over to her baby and the stars.

When at last the singing stopped, one of the missionaries began to
read. He chose the first chapter of St. John, and in that savage tongue
we listened to the familiar sentences, “In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Again I looked
round upon that firelit group of naked barbarians. I remembered the
controversies of ages, the thinkers in Greek, the seraphic doctors,
the Byzantine councillors, the saints and sinners of the intellect,
Augustine in the growing Church, Faust in his study--all the great
and subtle spirits who had broken their thought in vain upon that
first chapter of St. John, and again I was filled with wonder. “For
Heaven’s sake, stop!” I felt inclined to cry. “What are these people
to understand by ‘the beginning’? What are we to understand by ‘the
Word’?” But when I looked again I recognized on all faces the mood of
stolid acquiescence with which congregations at home allow the same
words to pass over their heads year after year till they die as good
Christians. So that I supposed it did not matter.

There seems to be a fascination to missionaries in St. John’s Gospel,
and, of course, that is no wonder. It is generally the first and
sometimes the only part of the New Testament translated, and I have
seen an old chief, who was diligently learning to read among a class
of boys, spelling out with his black fingers such words as, “I am
in the Father, and the Father in me.” No doubt it may be said that
religion has no necessary connection with the understanding, but I
have sometimes thought it might be better to begin with something more
comprehensible, both to savages and ourselves.

On points of this kind, of course, the missionaries may very well be
right, but in one thing they are wrong. Most of them still keep up the
old habit of teaching the early parts of the Old Testament as literal
facts of history. But if there is anything certain in human knowledge,
the Old Testament stories have no connection with the facts of history
at all. No one believes they have. No scholar, no man of science,
no theologian, no sane man would now think of accepting the Book of
Genesis as a literal account of what actually happened when the world
and mankind began to exist. Yet the missionaries continue to teach
it all to the natives as a series of facts. I have heard one of the
most experienced and influential of all the missionaries discussing
with his highest class of native teachers whether all Persons of the
Trinity were present at Eve’s temptation; and when one of them asked
what would have happened if Adam had refused to eat the apple, the
class was driven to suppose that in that case men would have remained
perfect, while women became as wicked as we see them now. It was a
doctrine very acceptable to the native mind, but to hear those rather
beautiful old stories still taught as the actual history of the world
makes one’s brain whirl. One feels helpless and confused and adrift
from reason, as when another missionary, whose name is justly famous,
told me that there were references to Moscow in Ezekiel, and Daniel had
exactly foretold the course of the Russo-Japanese war. The native has
enough to puzzle his brain as it is. On one side he has the Christian
ideal of peace and good-will, of temperance and poverty and honor and
self-sacrifice, and of a God who is love. And on the other side he
has somehow to understand the Christian’s contumely, the Christian’s
incalculable injustice, his cruelty and deceit, his insatiable greed
for money, his traffic in human beings whom the Christian calls God’s
children. When the native’s mind is hampered and entangled in questions
like these, no one has a right to increase his difficulties by telling
him to believe primitive stories which, as historical facts, are no
truer than the native’s own myths.

But, happily, matters of intellectual belief have very little to do
with personality, and many good men have held unscientific views on
Noah’s Ark. Contrary to nearly all travellers and traders in Africa,
I have nothing but good to say of the missionaries and their work. I
have already mentioned the order of the Holy Spirit and their great
mission at Caconda. The same order has two other stations in South
Angola and a smaller station among the mountains of Bailundu, about two
hours distant from the fort and the American mission there. Its work
is marked by the same dignity and quiet devotion as marks the work of
all the orders wherever I have come across their outposts and places of
danger through the world. It is constantly objected that the Portuguese
have possessed this country for over four centuries, and have done
nothing for the improvement or conversion of the natives, and I bear in
mind those bishops of Loanda who sat on marble thrones upon the quay
christening the slaves in batches as they were packed off by thousands
to their misery in Cuba and Brazil. Both things are perfectly true.
The Portuguese are not a missionary people. I have not met any but
French, Alsatians, and Germans in the missions of the order out here.
But that need not in the least diminish our admiration of the missions
as they now are. Nor should we be too careful to remember the errors
and cruelties of any people or Church in the past, especially when we
reflect that England, which till quite lately was regarded as the great
foe of slavery all over the world, was also the originator of the slave
export, and that the supreme head of the Anglican Church was one of the
greatest slave-traders ever known.

As to the scandals and sneers of traders, officials, and
gold-prospectors against the missions, let us pass them by. They are
only the weary old language of “the world.” They are like the sneers
of butchers and publicans at astronomy. They are the tribute of the
enemy, the assurance that all is not in vain. It would be unreasonable
to expect anything else, and dangerous to receive it. The only thing
that makes me hesitate about the work of the order is that many
traders and officials have said to me, “The Catholic missions are,
at all events, practical; they do teach the natives carpentering and
wagon-building and how to dig.” It is perfectly true and admirable,
and, as a matter of fact, the other missions do the same. But a mission
might teach its followers to make wagons enough for a Boer’s paradise
and doors enough for all the huts in Africa and still have failed of
its purpose.

Besides the order of the Holy Spirit, there are two other notable
orders at work in Angola--the American mission (Congregationalist)
under the “American Board,” and the English mission (Plymouth Brethren)
under divine direction only. Each mission has four stations, and each
is about to start a new one. Some members of the English mission are
Americans, like the pioneers at Chinjamba, and all are on terms of
singular friendship, helping one another in every possible way, almost
like the followers of Christ. Of all sects that I have ever known,
these are the only two that I have heard pray for each other, and that
without condemnation--I mean they pray in a different spirit from
the Anglican prayer for Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics. There
is another American order, called the Wesleyan Episcopalian, with
stations at Loanda and among the grotesque mountains of Pungo Ndongo.
English-speaking missionaries have now been at work in Loanda for
nearly twenty-five years, and some of the pioneers, such as Mr. Arnot,
Mr. Currie, Mr. Stover, Mr. Fay, and Mr. Sanders, are still directing
the endeavor, with a fine stock of experience to guide them. They
have outlived much abuse; they have almost outlived the common charge
of political aims and the incitement of natives to rebellion, as in
1902. The government now generally leaves them alone. The Portuguese
rob them, especially on the steamers and in the customs, but then
the Portuguese rob everybody. Lately the American mission village at
Kamundongo in Bihé has been set on fire at night three or four times,
and about half of it burned down. But this appears to be the work of
one particular Portuguese trader, who has a spite against the mission
and sends his slaves from time to time to destroy it. An appeal to
the neighboring fort at Belmonte would, of course, be useless. If the
Chefe were to see justice done, the neighboring Portuguese traders
would at once lodge a complaint at Benguela or Loanda, and he would be
removed, as all Chefes are removed who are convicted of justice. But,
as a rule, the missions are now left very much to themselves by the
Portuguese, partly because the traders have found out that some of the
missionaries--four at least--are by far the cleverest doctors in the
country, and nobody devotes his time to persecuting his doctor.

As to the natives, it is much harder to judge their attitude. Their
name for a missionary is “afoola,” and though, I believe, the word
only means a man of learning, it naturally suggests an innocent
simplicity--something “a bit soft,” as we say. At first that probably
was the general idea, as was seen when M. Coillard, the great French
missionary of Barotzeland, had a big wash in his yard one afternoon,
and next Sunday preached to an enthusiastic congregation all dressed in
scraps of his own linen. And to some extent the feeling still exists.
There are natives who go to a mission village for what they can get,
or simply for a sheltered existence and kindly treatment. There are
probably a good many who experience religious convictions in order to
please, like the followers of any popular preacher at home. But, as
a rule, it is not comfort or gain, it is not persuasive eloquence or
religious conviction that draws the native. It is the two charms of
entire honesty and of inward peace. In a country where the natives
are habitually regarded as fair game for every kind of swindle and
deceit, where bargains with them are not binding, and where penalties
are multiplied over and over again by legal or illegal trickery, we
cannot overestimate the influence of men who do what they say, who
pay what they agree, and who never go back on their word. From end to
end of Africa common honesty is so rare that it gives its possessor a
distinction beyond intellect, and far beyond gold. In Africa any honest
man wins a conspicuous and isolated greatness. In twenty-five years the
natives of Angola have learned that the honesty of the missionaries
is above suspicion. It is a great achievement. It is worth all the
teaching of the alphabet, addition, and Old Testament history, no
matter how successful, and it is hardly necessary to search out any
other cause for the influence which the missionaries possess.

So, as usual, it is the unconscious action that is the best. Being
naturally and unconsciously honest, the missionaries have won the
natives by honesty--have won, that is to say, the almost imperceptible
percentage of natives who happen to live in the three or four villages
near their stations; and it must be remembered that you might go
through Angola from end to end without guessing that missionaries
exist. But, apart from this unconscious influence, there are plenty
of conscious efforts too. There is the kindergarten, where children
puddle in clay and sing to movement and march to the tune of “John
Brown.” There are schools for every stage, and you may see the chief of
a village doing sums among the boys, and proudly declaring that for
his part 3 + 0 + 1 shall equal five.[5] There are carpenters’ shops
and forges and brick-kilns and building classes and sewing classes for
men. There are Bible classes and prayer-meetings and church services
where six hundred people will be jammed into the room for four hundred,
and men sweat, and children reprove one another’s behavior, and babies
yell and splutter and suck, and when service is over the congregation
rush with their hymn-books to smack the mosquitoes on the walls and see
the blood spurt out. There are singing classes where hymns are taught,
and though the natives have nothing of their own that can be called a
tune, there is something horrible in the ease with which they pick up
the commonplace and inevitable English cadences. I once had a set of
carriers containing two or three mission boys, and after the first day
the whole lot “went Fantee” on “Home, Sweet Home,” just a little wrong.
For more than two years I have journeyed over Africa in peace and war,
but I have never suffered anything to compare to that fortnight of
“Home, Sweet Home,” just a little wrong, morning, noon, and night.

All these methods of instruction and guidance are pursued in the
permanent mission stations, to say nothing of the daily medical
service of healing and surgery, which spreads the fame of the missions
from village to village. Many out-stations, conducted by the natives
themselves, have been formed, and they should be quickly increased,
though it is naturally tempting to keep the sheep safe within the
mission fold. If the missionaries were suddenly removed in a body, it
is hard to say how long their teaching or influence would survive. My
own opinion is that every trace of it would be gone in fifty or perhaps
in twenty years. The Catholic forms would probably last longest,
because greater use is made of a beautiful symbolism. But in half a
century rum, slavery, and the oppression of the traders would have
wiped all out, and the natives would sink into a far worse state than
their original savagery. Whether the memory of the missions would last
even fifty years would depend entirely upon the strength and number of
the out-stations.

In practical life, the three great difficulties which the missions have
to face are rum, polygamy, and slavery. From their own stations rum
can be generally excluded, though sometimes a village is persecuted
by a Portuguese trader because it will not buy his spirit. But the
whole country is fast degenerating owing to rum. “You see no fine old
men now,” is a constant saying. Rum kills them off. It is making the
whole people bloated and stupid. Near the coast it is worst, but the
enormous amount carried into the interior or manufactured in Bihé
is telling rapidly, and I see no hope of any change as long as rum
plantations of cane or sweet-potato pay better than any others, and
both traders and government regard the natives only as profitable swine.

As a matter of argument, polygamy is a more difficult question still.
It is universally practiced in Africa, and no native man or woman has
ever had the smallest scruple of conscience or feeling of wrong about
it. Where the natives can observe white men, they see that polygamy is
in reality practiced among them too. If they came to Europe or America,
they would find it practiced, not by every person, but by every nation
under one guise or another. It seems an open question whether the
native custom, with its freedom from concealment and its guarantees
for woman’s protection and support, is not better than the secret and
hypocritical devices of civilization, under which only one of the
women concerned has any protection or guarantee at all, while a man’s
relation to the others is nearly always stealthy, cruel, and casual.
However, the missionaries, after long consideration, have decided to
insist upon the rule of one man one wife for members of their Churches,
and when I was at one station a famous Christian chief, Kanjumdu of
Chiuka--by far the most advanced and intelligent native I have ever
known--chose one wife out of his eight or ten, and married her with
Christian rites, while the greater part of his twenty-four living
children joined in the hymns. It was fine, but my sympathy was with
one of the rejected wives, who would not come to the wedding-feast and
refused to take a grain of meal or a foot of cloth from his hand ever

As to slavery, I have already spoken about the missionaries’ attitude.
They dare not say anything openly against it, because if they published
the truth they would probably be poisoned and certainly be driven out
of the country, leaving their followers exposed to a terrible and
exterminating persecution. So they help in what few special cases
they can, and leave the rest to time and others. It is difficult to
criticize men of such experience, devotion, and singleness of aim.
One must take their judgment. But at the same time one cannot help
remembering that a raging fire is often easier to deal with than a
smouldering refuse-heap, and that in spite of all the blood and sorrow,
the wildest revolution on behalf of justice has never really failed.

But, as I said, it is hard for me to criticize the missionaries
out here. My opinion of them may be misguided by the extraordinary
kindliness which only traders and officials can safely resist, and I
suppose one ought to envy the reasonableness of such people when, after
enjoying the full hospitality of the mission stations, they spend the
rest of their time in sneering at the missionaries. Nothing can surpass
mission hospitality. The stranger’s condition, poverty, or raggedness
does not matter in the least, nor does the mission’s own scarcity or
want. Whatever there is belongs to the strangers, even if nothing is
left but a dish of black beans and a few tea-leaves, used already. In
a long and wandering life I have nowhere found hospitality so complete
and ungrudging and unconscious. Only those who have lived for months
among the dirt and cursing of ox-wagons, or have tramped with savages
far through deserts wet and dry, plunged in slime or burned with
thirst, worn with fever and poisoned with starvation, could appreciate
what it means to come at last into a mission station and see the trim
thatched cottages, like an old English village, and to hear the quiet
and pleasant voices, and feel again the sense of inward peace, which,
I suppose, is the reward of holy living. How often when I have been
getting into bed the night after I have thus arrived, I have thought to
myself, “Here I am, free from hunger and thirst, in a silent room, with
a bed and real sheets, while people at home probably picture me dying
in the depths of a dismal forest where pygmies sharpen their poisoned
arrows and make their saucepans ready, or a lion stands rampant on one
side of me, and, on the other side, a unicorn.”


[4] Since this was written, the arbitration has been published (July,
1905), but by the new frontier I think none of the Chibokwe will be
brought under British influence.

[5] It must be a little difficult to teach arithmetic to a race whose
word for “seven” is “six and two” (_epandu-vali_), or “six over again.”
Or to teach dates where the word for “to-morrow” (_hena_) is the same
as the word for “yesterday.”



After coming out from the interior by passing again through the Hungry
Country from the Zambesi basin to the Cuanza, I determined to continue
following the old slave route down to Benguela and the sea. I have
already spoken of this route as the main road of Central Africa, and
the two hundred and seventy or three hundred miles of it which connect
Bihé with the coast are crowded with trade, especially at the beginning
of the dry season, which was the time of my journey. It is only a
carrier’s track, though the Portuguese, as their habit is, have forced
the natives to construct a few miles of useless road here and there,
at intervals of several days’ march. But along that winding track,
sometimes so steep and difficult that it is like a goat-path in the
Alps, thousands of carriers pass every year, bearing down loads of
rubber and beeswax, and bringing back cotton, salt, tinned foods, and,
above all, rum. It is against the decree of the Brussels Conference of
1890 to introduce rum into Bihé at all, but who cares about decrees
when rum pays and no one takes the trouble to shoot? And down this
winding track the export slaves have been driven century after century.
I suppose the ancestors of half the negroes in the United States
and of nearly all in Cuba and Brazil came down it. And thousands of
export slaves still come down it every year. Laws and conferences have
prohibited the slave-trade for generations past, but who cares about
laws and conferences as long as slavery pays and no one takes the
trouble to shoot?

How the traffic is worked may be seen from some things which I observed
upon my way. Being obliged to wait at various places to arrange
carriers and recover from fevers, I spent about five weeks on the road
from the crossing of the Cuanza to the sea, though it can be done in
three weeks, or even in seventeen days. For the first few days I was
back again in the northern part of the Bihé district, and I early
passed the house of a Portuguese trader of whose reputation I had
heard before. He is still claiming enormous damages for injury to his
property in the war of 1902. The villagers have appealed to the fort at
Belmonte against the amount, but are ordered to pay whatever he asks.
To supply the necessary rubber and oxen they have now pawned their
children into slavery without hope of redemption. Two days before I
passed the house a villager, having pawned the last of his children
and possessing nothing else, had shot himself in the bush close by.
Things like that make no difference to the trader. It is the money he
wants. The damage done to his property three years ago must be paid
for twentyfold. Still, he is not simply the “economic man” of the
old text-books. He has a decadent love of art, distinct from love of
money, and just before I passed his house he had summoned the chiefs
of the village as though for a conference, had locked them up in his
compound, and every night he was making the old men dance for his
pleasure. To the native mind such a thing is as shocking as it would
be to Englishmen if Mr. Beit or Mr. Eckstein kept the Lord Chancellor
and the Archbishop of Canterbury to gambol naked before him on Sunday

[Illustration: ON THE WAY TO THE COAST]

So the matter stands, and the villagers must go on selling more and
more of their wives and children that the white man’s greed may be

A day or two farther on I turned aside from the main track to visit one
of the agents whom the government has specially appointed to conduct
the purchase of slaves for the islands of San Thomé and Principe. There
are two agents officially recognized in the Bihé district. On my way I
met an old native notorious for a prosperous career of slave-trading.
At the moment he was leading along a finely built man by a halter round
his neck, but at sight of me he dropped the end of rope. A man who
was with me charged him at once with having just sold two of his own
slaves--a man and a woman--for San Thomé. He protested with righteous
indignation. He would never think of doing such a thing! Sell for San
Thomé! He would even give a long piece of cloth to rescue a native from
such a fate! Yet, beyond question, he had sold the man and woman to the
Agent that morning. They were at the Agent’s house when I arrived, and
I was told he had only failed to sell the other slave because his price
was too high.

The Agent himself was polite and hospitable. Business was pretty brisk.
I knew he had sent off eight slaves to the coast only three days
before, with orders that they should carry their own shackles and be
carefully pinned together at night. But we talked only of the rumored
division of the Congo, for on the other subject he was naturally a
little shy, and I found out long afterwards that he knew the main
object of my journey.[6] Next day, however, he was alone with the
friend who had accompanied me, and he then attempted to defend his
position as Agent by saying the object of the government was to buy up
slaves through their special agents and “redeem” them from slavery by
converting them into “contract laborers” for San Thomé. The argument
was ingenious. The picture of a pitiful government willing to purchase
the freedom of all slaves without thought of profit, and only driven
to contract them for San Thomé because otherwise the expense would be
unbearable--it is almost pathetic. But the Agent knew, as every one out
here knows, that the people whom the government buys and “redeems” have
been torn from their homes and families on purpose to be “redeemed”;
that but for the purchases by the government agents for San Thomé the
whole slave-traffic would fall to pieces; and that the actual condition
of these “contracted laborers” upon the islands does not differ from
slavery in any point of importance.

Leaving on the right the volcanic district of North Bihé, with its
boiling springs and great deposits of magnesia, the path to the coast
continues to run westward and a point or two south through country
typical of Africa’s central plateau. There are the usual wind-swept
spaces of bog and yellow grass, the usual rolling lines of scrubby
forest, and the shallow valleys with narrow channels of water running
through morass. The path skirts the northern edge of the high, wet
plain of Bouru-Bouru, and on the same day, after passing this, I saw
far away in the west a little blue point of mountain, hanging like an
island upon the horizon. A few hours afterwards bare rock began to
appear through the bog-earth and sand of the forest, and next morning
new mountains came into sight from hour to hour as I advanced, till
there was quite a cluster of little blue islands above the dark edges
of the trees.

The day after, when I had been walking for about two hours through
the monotonous woods, the upland suddenly broke. It was quick and
unexpected as the snapping of a bowstring, and far below me was
revealed a great expanse of country--broad valleys leading far away to
the west and north, isolated groups of many-colored mountains, bare and
shapely hills of granite and sandstone, and one big, jagged tooth or
pike of purple rock, rising sheer from a white plain thinly sprinkled
with trees and marked with watercourses. The whole scene, bare and
glowing under the cloudless sky of an African winter, was like those
delicate landscapes in nature’s most friendly wilderness which the
Umbrians used to paint as backgrounds to the Baptist or St. Jerome or
a Mother and Child. To one who has spent many months among the black
forest, the marshes and sand-hills of Bihé and the Hungry Country, it
gleams with a radiance of jewels, and is full of the inward stir and
longing that the sudden vision of mountains always brings.[7]

At the top of the hill was a large sweet-potato plantation for rum. A
gang of twenty-three slaves--chiefly women--was clearing a new patch
from the bush for an extension of the fields. Over them, as usual,
stood a Portuguese ganger, who encouraged their efforts with blows from
a long black chicote, or hippo whip, which he rapidly tried to conceal
down his trousers leg at sight of me.

At the foot of the hill, where a copious stream of water ran, a similar
rum-factory had just been constructed. The hideous main building--gaunt
as a Yorkshire mill--the whitewashed rows of slave-huts, the newly
broken fields, the barrels just beginning to send out a loathsome
stench of new spirit--all were as fresh and vile as civilization could
make them. As we passed, the slaves were just enjoying a holiday for
the burial of one of their number who had died that morning. They were
gathered in a large crowd round the grave on the edge of the bush.
Presently six of them brought out the body, wrapped in an old blanket,
rolled it sideways into the shallow trench, and covered it up with
earth and stones. As we climbed the next hill, my carriers, who were
much interested, kept saying to one another: “Slaves! Poor slaves!”
Then we heard a bell ring. The people began to crawl back to their
work. The slaves’ holiday was over.

We had now passed from Bihé into the district of Bailundu, and the
mountains stood around us as we descended, their summits rising little
higher than the level of the Bihéan plateau--say five to six thousand
feet above the sea. A detached hill in front of us was conspicuous
for its fortified look. From the distance it was like one of the
castellated rocks of southern France. It was the old Umbala, or king’s
fortress, of Bailundu, and here the native kings used to live in savage
magnificence before the curse of the white men fell. On the summit you
still may see the king’s throne of three great rocks, the heading-stone
where his enemies suffered, the stone of refuge to which a runaway
might cling and gain mercy by declaring himself the king’s slave, the
royal tombs with patterned walls hidden in a depth of trees, and the
great flat rock where the women used to dance in welcome to their
warriors returning from victory. One day I scrambled up and saw it
all in company with a man who remembered the place in its high estate
and had often sat beside the king in judgment. But all the glory is
departed now. The palace was destroyed and burned in 1896. The rock of
refuge and the royal throne are grown over with tall grasses. Leopards
and snakes possess them merely, and it is difficult even to fight one’s
way up the royal ascent through the tangle of the creepers and bush.[8]

At the foot of the hill, within a square of ditch and rampart, stands
the Portuguese fort, the scene of the so-called “Bailundu war” of 1902.
It was here that the native rising began, owing to a characteristic
piece of Portuguese treachery, the Commandant having seized a party
of native chiefs who were visiting him, at his own invitation, under
promise of peace and safe-conduct. The whole affair was paltry and
wretched. The natives displayed their usual inability to combine;
the Portuguese displayed their usual cowardice. But, as I have shown
before, the effect of the outbreak was undoubtedly to reduce the
horrors of the slave-trade for a time. The overwhelming terror of the
slave-traders and other Portuguese, who crept into hiding to shelter
their precious lives, showed them they had gone too far. The atrocious
history of Portuguese cruelty and official greed which reached Lisbon
at last did certainly have some effect upon the national conscience. As
I have mentioned in earlier letters, Captain Amorim of the artillery
was sent out to mitigate the abominations of the trade, and for a
time, at all events, he succeeded. Owing to terror, the export of
slaves to San Thomé ceased altogether for about six months after
the rising. It has gone back to its old proportions now--the numbers
averaging about four thousand head a year (not including babies), and
gradually rising.[9] But since then the traders have not dared to
practise the same open cruelties as before, and the new regulations
for slave-traffic--known as the Decree of January 29, 1903--do, at all
events, aim at tempering the worst abuses, though their most important
provisions are invariably evaded.

Only a mile or two from the fort, and quite visible from the rocks of
the old Umbala, stands the American mission village of Bailundu--I
believe the oldest mission in Angola except the early Jesuits’. It was
founded in 1881, and for more than twenty years has been carried on by
Mr. Stover and Mr. Fay, who are still conducting it. The Portuguese
instigated the natives to drive them out once, and have wildly accused
them of stirring up war, protecting the natives, and other crimes. But
the mission has prospered in spite of all, and its village is now, I
think, the prettiest in Angola. How long it may remain in its present
beautiful situation one cannot say. Twenty years ago it was surrounded
only by natives, but now the Portuguese have crept up to it with their
rum and plantations and slavery, and where the Portuguese come neither
natives nor missions can hope to stay long. It may be that in a year or
two the village will be deserted, as the American mission village of
Saccanjimba, a few days farther east, has lately been deserted, and the
houses will be occupied by Portuguese convicts with a license to trade,
while the church becomes a rum-store. In that case the missionaries
will be wise to choose a place outside the fifty-kilometre radius from
a fort, beyond which limit no Portuguese trader may settle. So true it
is that in modern Africa an honest man has only the whites to fear. But
unhappily new forts are now being constructed at two or three points
along this very road.

Soon after leaving Bailundu the track divides, and one branch of it
runs northwest, past the foot of that toothed mountain, or pike,[10]
and so at length reaches the coast at Novo Redondo--a small place
with a few sugar-cane plantations for rum and a government agency
for slaves. I am told that on this road the slaves are worse treated
and more frequently shackled than upon the path I followed, and
certainly Novo Redondo is more secret and freer from the interference
of foreigners than Benguela. But I think there cannot really be much
difference. The majority of slaves are still brought down the old
Benguela route, and scattered along it at intervals I have found quite
new shackles, still used for pinning the slaves together, chiefly at
night, though it is true the shackles near the coast are not nearly so
numerous as in the interior.

I was myself determined to follow the old track and come down to the
sea by that white path where I had seen the carriers ascending and
descending the mountains above Katumbella many months before. Within
two days from Bailundu I entered a notorious lion country. Lions are
increasing rapidly all along the belt of mountains here, and they do
not hesitate to eat mankind, making no prejudiced distinction between
white and black. Their general method is to spring into a rest-hut
at night and drag off a carrier, or sometimes two, while the camp is
asleep. All the rest-camps in this district are strongly stockaded with
logs, twelve or fourteen feet high, but carriers are frequently killed
in spite of all the stockade. There is one old lion who has made quite
a reputation as a man-hunter, and if he had an ancestral hall he could
decorate it with the “trophies” of about fifty human heads. He has
chosen for his hunting-lodge some cave near the next fort westward from
Bailundu, and there at eve he may sometimes be seen at play upon the
green. Two officers are stationed in the fort, but they do not care
to interfere with the creature’s habits and pursuits. They do not even
train their little toy gun on him. Perhaps they are humanitarians. So
he devours mankind at leisure.

[Illustration: CARRIERS’ REST-HUTS]

When we camped near that fort, my boys insisted I should sleep in
a hut inside the stockade instead of half a mile away from them as
usual. The huts are made of dry branches covered with dry leaves and
grass. Inside that stockade I counted over forty huts, and each hut was
crammed with carriers--men, women, and children--for the dry-season
trade was beginning. There must have been five or six hundred natives
in that camp at night. The stockade rose fourteen feet or more and was
impenetrable. The one gate was sealed and barred with enormous logs
to keep out the lion. I was myself given a hut in the very centre of
the camp as an honor. And in every single hut around me a brilliant
fire was lighted for cooking and to keep the carriers warm all night.
One spark gone wrong would have burned up the whole five hundred of us
without a chance of escape. So when we came to the stockaded camp of
the next night I pitched my tent far outside it as usual, and listened
to the deep sighing and purring of the lions with great indifference,
while the boys marvelled at a rashness which was nothing to their own.

As one goes westward farther into the mountains, the path drops two
or three times by sudden, steep descents, like flights of steps down
terraces, and at each descent the air becomes closer and the plants
and beasts more tropical, till one reaches the deep valleys of the
palm, the metallic butterfly, and thousands of yellow monkeys. Beside
the route great masses of granite rise, weathered into smooth and
unclimbable surface, like the Matopo hills. The carriers from the
high interior suffer a good deal at each descent. “We have lost our
proper breathing,” they say, and they pine till they return to the
clearer air. It is here that many of the slaves try to escape. If they
got away, there would not be much chance for them among the shy and
apelike natives of the mountain belt, who remain entirely savage and
are reputed to be cannibal still. But the slaves try to escape, and are
generally brought back to a fate worse than being killed and eaten. On
May 17th, five days above Katumbella, I met one of them who had been
caught. He was a big Luvale man, naked, his skin torn and bleeding from
his wild rush through thorns and rocks. In front and behind him marched
one of his owner’s slaves with drawn knives or matchets, two feet long,
ready to cut him down if he tried to run again. I asked my boys what
would happen to him, and they said he would be flogged to death before
the others. I cannot say. I should have thought he was too valuable to
kill. He must have been worth over £20 as he stood, and £30 when landed
at San Thomé. But, of course, the trader may have thought it would
pay better to flog him to death as an example. True, it is not always
safe to kill a slave. Last April a man in Benguela flogged a slave to
death with a hippo whip, and, no doubt to his great astonishment, he
found himself arrested and banished for a time to Mozambique--“the
other coast,” as it is called--a far from salubrious home. But five
days’ inland along the caravan route the murderer of a slave would be
absolutely secure, if he did not mind the loss of the money.

Two days later I met another of those vast caravans of natives, one
of which I had seen just the other side of the Cuanza. This caravan
numbered nearly seven hundred people, and, under the protection of an
enormous Portuguese banner, they were marching up into the interior
with bales and stores, wives and children, intending to be absent
at least two years for trade. These large bodies of men are a great
source of supply to the government slave-agents; for when they find two
tribes at war, they hire themselves out to fight for one on condition
of selling the captives from the other, and so they secure an immense
profit for themselves, while pleasing their allies and bringing an
abundance of slaves for the Portuguese government to “redeem” by
sending them to labor at San Thomé till their lives end.

The next day’s march brought us to a straight piece of valley, where
such a number of rest-huts have been gradually built that the place
looks like a large native village. All the little paths from the
interior meet here, because it stands at the mouth of a long and very
deep valley, sometimes called the cañon, by which alone the next belt
of dry and mountainous country can be crossed. The water is dirty and
full of sulphur, but it has to be carried in gourds for the next day’s
march, because for twenty-five miles there is no water at all.

Natives here come down from the nearest villages and sell
sweet-potatoes and maize to the carriers in exchange for salt and chips
of tobacco or sips of rum, so that at this season, when the carriers
every night number a thousand or more, there is something like a fair.
Mixed up with the carriers are the small gangs of slaves, who are
collected here in larger parties before being sent on to the coast.

With the help of one of my boys I had some conversation that evening
with a woman who was kept waiting for other gangs, just as I was kept
waiting because fever made me too weak to move. She was a beautiful
woman of about twenty or little more, with a deep-brown skin and a face
of much intelligence, full of sorrow. She had come from a very long way
off, she said--far beyond the Hungry Country. She thought four moons
had gone since they started. She had a husband and three children at
home, but was seized by the men of another tribe and sold to a white
man for twenty cartridges. She did not know what kind of cartridges
they were--they were “things for a gun.” Her last baby was very young,
very young. She was still suckling him when they took her away. She
did not know where she was going. She supposed it was to Okalunga--a
name which the natives use equally for hell or the abyss of death,
the abyss of the sea and for San Thomé. She was perfectly right. She
was one of the slaves who had been purchased, probably on the Congo
frontier, on purpose for the Portuguese government’s agent to “redeem”
and send to the plantations. It is a lucrative business to supply
such philanthropists with slaves. And it is equally lucrative for the
philanthropists to redeem them.

The long, dry cañon, where the carriers have to climb like goats
from rock to rock along the steep mountain-side, with fifty or sixty
pounds on their heads, brought us at last to a brimming reach of the
Katumbella River. It is dangerous both from hippos and crocodiles;
though the largest crocodiles I have ever seen were lower down the
river, on the sand-banks close to its mouth, where they devour women
and cattle, and lie basking all their length of twenty to thirty feet,
just like the dragons of old. From the river the path mounts again for
the final day’s march through an utterly desert and waterless region of
mountain ridges and stones and sand, sprinkled with cactus and aloes
and a few gray thorns. But, like all this mountain region, the desert
gives ample shelter to eland, koodoo, and other deer. Buffaloes live
there, too, and in very dry seasons they come down at night to drink at
the river pools close to the sea.

The sea itself is hidden from the path by successive ridges of mountain
till the very last edge is reached. On the morning of my last day’s
trek a heavy, wet mist lay over all the valleys, and it was only
when we climbed that we could see the mountain-tops, rising clear
above it in the sunshine. But before mid-day the mist had gone, and,
looking back from a high pass, I had my last view over the road we had
travelled, and far away towards the interior of the strange continent
I was leaving. Then we went on westward, and climbed the steep and
rocky track over the final range, till at last a great space of varied
prospect lay stretched out below us--the little houses of Katumbella
at our feet, the fertile plain beside its river green with trees and
plantations; on our right the white ring of Lobito Bay, Angola’s
future port; on our left a line of yellow beach like a road leading
to the little white church and the houses of Benguela, fifteen miles
away; and beyond them again to the desert promontory, with grotesque
rocks. And there, far away in front, like a vast gulf of dim and misty
blue, merging in the sky without a trace of horizon, stretched the sea
itself; and to an Englishman the sea is always the way home.

So, as I had hoped, I came down at last from the mountains into
Katumbella by that white path which has been consecrated by so much
misery. And as I walked through the dimly lighted streets and beside
the great court-yards of the town that night, I heard again the blows
of the palmatoria and chicote and the cries of men and women who were
being “tamed.”

“I do not trouble to beat my slaves much--I mean my contracted
laborers,” said the trader who was with me. “If they try to run away or
anything, I just give them one good flogging, and then sell them to the
Agent for San Thomé. One can always get £16 per head from him.”

A few days afterwards, on the Benguela road, I passed a procession of
forty-three men and women, marching in file like carriers, but with no
loads on their heads. Four natives in white coats and armed with guns
accompanied them, ready to shoot down any runaway. The forty-three were
a certain company’s detachment of “voluntary laborers” on their way to
the head “Emigration Agent” at Benguela and to the ship for San Thomé.
Third among them marched that woman who had been taken from her husband
and three children and sold for twenty cartridges.

Thus it is that the islands of San Thomé and Principe have been
rendered about the most profitable bits of the earth’s surface, and
England and America can get their chocolate and cocoa cheap.


[6] I am not quite sure how this was discovered--whether an indiscreet
friend “gave me away,” or whether an indiscreet letter was opened in
the post, or the traders were simply guided by conjecture and a guilty
conscience. At all events, one of the principal slave-dealers in Bihé
discovered it, and took the pains to publish reports against me, that
reached as far as Mossamedes. The English and American missions were
actually warned to have nothing to do with me because I was a Jesuit
in disguise, and had come to destroy their work! Further on I may have
to refer to the plots to assassinate me on the coast during the voyage
home, but I mention these little personal matters only to show that the
slave-traders had been put on their guard and would naturally try to
conceal as much as they could of their traffic’s horror, and that is
the chief reason why I met no gangs of slaves in chains.

[7] See Commander Cameron’s description of the same view in 1876:
_Across Africa_, p. 459.

[8] Cameron visited King Congo there in 1876: _Across Africa_, p. 460.

[9] The official numbers of slaves exported to San Thomé for the first
four months of 1905 are: January, 369; February, 349; March, 366;
April, 302--a rate which would give a total of 4158 for the year. In
June I travelled by a ship which took 273 slaves to San Thomé and
Principe, and there are two slave-ships a month.

[10] Cameron called it “The Devil’s Finger”: _Across Africa_, p. 464.



When I was up in the interior, I had always intended to wait a while
on the coast, if ever I should reach it again, in order to watch
the process of the conversion of slaves into “contracted laborers”
according to law. So it was fortunate that, owing to the delays of
fevers and carriers, I succeeded in just missing a steamer bound for
San Thomé and home. Fortunate, because the temptation to go straight on
board would have been very strong, since I was worn with sickness, and
within two days of reaching Katumbella I learned that special dangers
surrounded me, owing to the discovery of my purpose by the Portuguese
traders. As a matter of fact, I might have caught the ship by pushing
my carriers on without a pause, but the promptings of conscience,
supported by a prospect of the best crocodile-shooting that man can
enjoy, induced me to run the risk of assassination and stay.

So I stayed on the coast for nearly three weeks, seeing what I could,
hunting crocodiles, and devising schemes for getting my papers home
even if I should never reach home myself. One of the first things
I saw was a procession of slaves who had just been “redeemed” into
“contracted laborers,” and were being marched off in the early morning
sunlight from Katumbella to Lobito Bay, there to be embarked for San
Thomé on the ship which I had missed.[11] It so happened that this
ship put in at Lobito Bay, which lies only some eight miles north from
Katumbella down a waterless spit of sand, as I have before described,
and there can be no doubt that this practice will become more and more
common as the railway from the new port progresses. Katumbella, united
with the bay, will become the main depot for the exportation of slaves
and other merchandise, while Benguela, having no natural harbor, will
gradually fall to ruin. At present, I suppose, the government Agent for
slaves at Benguela, together with the Curador, whose act converts them
into contract laborers, comes over for the occasion whenever the slaves
are to be shipped from Lobito Bay, just as in England a bishop travels
from place to place for Confirmations as required.

Bemused with a parting dole of rum, bedecked in brilliantly striped
jerseys, grotesque caps, and flashy loin-cloths to give them a moment’s
pleasure, the unhappy throng were escorted to their doom, the tin
tickets with their numbers and the tin cylinders with their form of
contract glittering round their necks or at their sides. Men and
women were about equal in number, and some of the women carried babes
lashed to their backs; but there were no older children. The causes
which had brought these men and women to their fate were probably as
different as the lands from which they came. Some had broken native
customs or Portuguese laws, some had been charged with witchcraft by
the medicine-man because a relative died, some could not pay a fine,
some were wiping out an ancestral debt, some had been sold by uncles in
poverty, some were the indemnity for village wars; some had been raided
on the frontier, others had been exchanged for a gun; some had been
trapped by Portuguese, others by Bihéan thieves; some were but changing
masters, because they were “only good for San Thomé,” just as we in
London send an old cab-horse to Antwerp. I cannot give their history. I
only know that about two hundred of them, muddled with rum and bedecked
like clowns, passed along that May morning to a land of doom from
which there was no return.

It was June 1st when, as I described in my last letter, I met that
other procession of slaves on their way from Katumbella to Benguela,
in readiness for embarkation in the next ship, which did not happen to
stop at Lobito Bay. It was a smaller gang--only forty-three men and
women--for it was the result of only one Agent’s activity, though, to
be sure, he was the leading and most successful Agent in Angola. They
marched under escort, but without loads and without chains, though the
old custom of chaining them together along that piece of road is still
commonly practised--I suppose because the fifteen miles of country
through which the road leads, when once the small slave-plantations
round Katumbella have been passed, is a thorny desert where a runaway
might easily hide, hoping to escape by sea or find cover in the towns.
I have myself seen the black soldiers or police searching the bush
there for fugitives, and once I found a Portuguese dying of fever
among the thorns, to which he had fled from what is roughly called

By the time I saw that second procession I was myself living in
Benguela, and was able to follow the slave’s progress almost point
by point, in spite of the uncomfortable suspicion with which I was
naturally regarded. Writing of the town before, I mentioned the large
court-yards with which nearly every house is surrounded--memorials of
the old days when this was the central depot for the slave-trade with
Brazil. In most cases these court-yards are now used as resting-places
for the free carriers who have brought products from the interior and
are waiting till the loads of cloth and rum are ready for the return
journey. But the trading-houses that go in for business in “serviçaes”
still put the court-yards to their old purpose, and confine the slaves
there till it is time to get them on board.

A day or two before the steamer is due to depart a kind of ripple
seems to pass over the stagnant town. Officials stir, clerks begin
to crawl about with pens, the long, low building called the Tribunal
opens a door or two, a window or two, and looks quite busy. Then,
early one morning, the Curador arrives and takes his seat in the long,
low room as representing the beneficent government of Portugal. Into
his presence the slaves are herded in gangs by the official Agent.
They are ranged up, and in accordance with the Decree of January 29,
1903, they are asked whether they go willingly as laborers to San
Thomé. No attention of any kind is paid to their answer. In most
cases no answer is given. Not the slightest notice would be taken of
a refusal. The legal contract for five years’ labor on the island
of San Thomé or Principe is then drawn out, and, also in accordance
with the Decree, each slave receives a tin disk with his number, the
initials of the Agent who secured him, and in some cases, though not
usually at Benguela, the name of the island to which he is destined.
He also receives in a tin cylinder a copy of his register, containing
the year of contract, his number and name, his birthplace, his chief’s
name, the Agent’s name, and “observations,” of which last I have never
seen any. Exactly the same ritual is observed for the women as for the
men. The disks are hung round their necks, the cylinders are slung at
their sides, and the natives, believing them to be some kind of fetich
or “white man’s Ju-ju,” are rather pleased. All are then ranged up and
marched out again, either to the compounds, where they are shut in, or
straight to the pier where the lighters, which are to take them to the
ship, lie tossing upon the waves.

The climax of the farce has now been reached. The deed of pitiless
hypocrisy has been consummated. The requirements of legalized slavery
have been satisfied. The government has “redeemed” the slaves which
its own Agents have so diligently and so profitably collected. They
went into the Tribunal as slaves, they have come out as “contracted
laborers.” No one in heaven or on earth can see the smallest
difference, but by the change of name Portugal stifles the enfeebled
protests of nations like the English, and by the excuse of law she
smooths her conscience and whitens over one of the blackest crimes
which even Africa can show.

Before I follow the slaves on board, I must raise one uncertain
point about the Agents. I am not quite sure on what principle they
are paid. According to the Decree of 1903, they are appointed by the
local committee in San Thomé, consisting of four officials and three
planters, chosen by the central government Committee of Emigration in
Lisbon. The local committee has to fix the payment due to each Agent,
and of course the payment is ultimately made by the planters, who
requisition the local committee for as many slaves as they require,
and pay in proportion to the number they receive. Now a planter in San
Thomé gives from £26 to £30 for a slave delivered on his plantation in
good condition. The Agent at Benguela will give £16 for any healthy
man or woman brought to him, but he rarely goes up to £20. From this
considerable profit balance of £10 to £14 per head there are, it is
true, certain deductions to be made. By the Decree, each Agent has to
pay the government £100 deposit before he sets up in the slave-dealing
business, and most probably he recoups himself out of the profits. For
his license he has to pay the government two shillings a slave (with
a minimum payment of £10 a year). Also to the government he pays £1
per slave in stamp duty, and six shillings on the completion of each
contract. He has further to pay a tax of six shillings per slave to the
port of landing, and from the balance of profit we must also deduct
the slave’s fare on the steamer from Benguela to San Thomé. This, I
believe, is £2--a sum which goes to enrich the happy shareholders in
the “Empreza Nacional,” who last year (1904) received twenty-two per
cent. on their money as profit from the slave-ships. Then the captain
of the steamer gets four shillings and the doctor two shillings for
every slave landed alive, and, on an average, only four slaves per
hundred die on the voyage, which takes about eight days. There are
probably other deductions to be made. The Curador will get something
for his important functions. There are stories that the commandants of
certain forts still demand blackmail from the processions of slaves as
they go by. I was definitely told that the commandant of a fort very
near to Benguela always receives ten shillings a head, but I cannot say
if that is true.

In any case, at the very lowest, there is £4 to be deducted for fare,
taxes, etc., from the apparent balance of £10 to £14 per slave. But
even then the profit on each man or woman sold is considerable, and the
point that I am uncertain about is whether the Agent at Benguela and
his deputies in Novo Redondo and Bihé pocket all the profit they can
possibly make, or are paid a fixed proportion of the average profits
by the local committee at San Thomé. The latter would be in accordance
with the Decree; the other way more in accordance with Portuguese

Unhappily I was not able to witness the embarkation of the slaves
myself, as I had been poisoned the night before and was suffering all
day from violent pain and frequent collapse, accompanied by extreme
cold in the limbs.[13] So that when, late in the evening, I crawled on
board at last, I found the slaves already in their place on the ship.
We were taking only one hundred and fifty of them from Benguela, but we
gathered up other batches as we went along, so that finally we reached
a lucrative cargo of two hundred and seventy-two (not counting babies),
and as only two of them died in the week, we landed two hundred and
seventy safely on the islands. This was perhaps rather a larger number
than usual, for the steamers, which play the part of mail-boats and
slave-ships both, go twice a month, and the number of slaves exported
by them yearly has lately averaged a little under four thousand, though
the numbers are increasing, as I showed in my last letter.

The slaves are, of course, kept in the fore part of the ship. All day
long they lie about the lower deck, among the horses, mules, cattle,
sheep, monkeys, and other live-stock; or they climb up to the fo’c’s’le
deck in hopes of getting a little breeze, and it is there that the
mothers chiefly lie beside their tiny babies. There is nothing to do.
Hardly any one speaks, and over the faces of nearly all broods the look
of dumb bewilderment that one sees in cattle crowded into trucks for
the slaughter-market. Twice a day rations of mealy pap or brown beans
are issued in big pots. Each pot is supplied with ten wooden spoons and
holds the food for ten slaves, who have to get as much of it as each
can manage. The first-class passengers, leaning against the rail of the
upper deck, look down upon the scene with interest and amusement. To
them those slaves represent the secret of Portugal’s greatness--such
greatness as Portugal has.


At sunset they are herded into a hold, the majority going down the
hatchway stairs on their hands and knees. There they spread their
sleeping-mats, and the hatch is shut down upon them till the following
morning. By the virtuous Decree of 1903, which regulates the transport,
“the emigrants [i.e., the slaves] shall be separated according to sex
into completely isolated compartments, and may not sleep on deck, nor
resume conjugal relations before leaving the ship.” Certainly the
slaves do not sleep on deck, but as to the other clauses I have seen
no attempt to carry out the regulations, except such measures as the
slaves take themselves by dividing the hold between men and women.
It may seem strange, but all my observation has shown me that, in
spite of nakedness and the absence of shame in most natural affairs
of existence, the natives are far more particular about the really
important matters of sex than civilized people are; just as most
animals are far more particular, and for the same reasons. I mean that
for them the difference of sex is mainly a matter of livelihood and
child-getting, not of casual debauchery.

Even a coast trader said to me one evening, as we were looking down
into the hold where the slaves were arranging their mats, “What a
different thing if they were white people!”

The day after leaving Benguela we stopped off Novo Redondo to take on
more cargo. The slaves came off in two batches--fifty in the morning
and thirty more towards sunset. There was a bit of a sea on that day,
and the tossing of the lighter had made most of the slaves very sick.
Things became worse when the lighter lay rising and falling with the
waves at the foot of the gangway, and the slaves had to be dragged up
to the platform one by one like sacks, and set to climb the ladder as
best they could. I remember especially one poor woman who held in her
arms a baby only two or three days old. Quickly as native women recover
from childbirth, she had hardly recovered, and was very sea-sick
besides. In trying to reach the platform, she kept on missing the rise
of the wave, and was flung violently back again into the lighter. At
last the men managed to haul her up and set her on the foot of the
ladder, striking her sharply to make her mount. Tightening the cloth
that held the baby to her back, and gathering up her dripping blanket
over one arm, she began the ascent on all-fours. Almost at once her
knees caught in the blanket and she fell flat against the sloping
stairs. In that position she wriggled up them like a snake, clutching
at each stair with her arms above her head. At last she reached the
top, bruised and bleeding, soaked with water, her blanket lost, most
of her gaudy clothing torn off or hanging in strips. On her back the
little baby, still crumpled and almost pink from the womb, squeaked
feebly like a blind kitten. But swinging it round to her breast, the
woman walked modestly and without complaint to her place in the row
with the others.

I have heard many terrible sounds, but never anything so hellish as the
outbursts of laughter with which the ladies and gentlemen of the first
class watched that slave woman’s struggle up to the deck.

When all the slaves were on board at last, a steward or one of the
ship’s officers mustered them in a row, and the ship’s doctor went
down the line to perform the medical examination, in accordance with
Chapter VI. of the Decree, enacting that no diseased or infectious
person shall be accepted. It is entirely to the doctor’s interest to
foster the health of the slaves, for, as I have already mentioned,
every death loses him two shillings. As a rule, as I have said, he
loses four per cent. of his cargo, or two dollars out of every possible
fifty. On this particular voyage, however, he was more fortunate, for
only two slaves out of the whole number died during the week, and were
thrown overboard during the first-class breakfast-hour, so that the
feelings of the passengers might not be harrowed.

Next day after leaving Novo Redondo we reached Loanda and increased our
cargo by forty-two men and women, all tricked out in the most amazing
tartan plaids--the tartans of Israel in the Highlands. This made up
our total number of two hundred and seventy-two, not reckoning babies,
which, unhappily, I did not count. Probably there were about fifty. I
think neither the captain nor the doctor receives any percentage for
landing babies alive, but, of course, if they live to grow up on the
plantations, which is very seldom, they become even more valuable than
the imported adults, and the planter gets them gratis.

Early next morning, when we were anchored off Ambriz, a commotion
suddenly arose on board, and the rumor ran that one of the slaves had
jumped into the sea from the bow. Soon we could see his black head
as he swam clear of the ship and struck out southwards, apparently
trusting to the current to bear him towards the coast. For he was a
native of a village near Ambriz and knew what he was about. It was
yearning at the sight of his own land that made him run the risk. The
sea was full of sharks, and I could only hope that they might devour
him before man could seize him again. Already a boat had been hastily
dropped into the water and was in pursuit, manned by two black men and
a white. They rowed fast over the oily water, and the swimmer struggled
on in vain. The chase lasted barely ten minutes and they were upon
him. Leaning over the side of the boat, they battered him with oars
and sticks till he was quiet. Then they dragged him into the boat,
laid him along the bottom, and stretched a piece of old sail over his
nakedness, that the ladies might not be shocked. He was brought to the
gangway and dragged, dripping and trembling, up the stairs. The doctor
and the government Agent, who accompanies each ship-load of slaves,
took him down into the hold, and there he was chained up to a post or
staple so that he might cause no trouble again. “Flog him! Flog him!
A good flogging!” cried the passengers. “Boa chicote!” I have not the
slightest doubt he was flogged without mercy, but if so, it was kept
secret--an unnecessary waste of pleasure, for the passengers would
thoroughly have enjoyed both the sight and sound of the lashing. The
comfortable and educated classes in all nations appear not to have
altered in the least since the days when the comfortable and educated
classes of Paris used to arrange promenades to see the Communards shot
in batches against a wall. They may whine and blubber over imaginary
sufferings in novels and plays, but touch their comfort, touch their
property--they are rattlesnakes then!

We stopped at Cabinda in the Portuguese territory north of the Congo,
and at one or two other trading-places on the coast, and then we put
out northwest for the islands. On the eighth day after leaving Benguela
we came in sight of San Thomé. Over it the sky was a broken gray of
drifting rain-clouds. Only now and again we could see the high peaks
of the mountains, which run up to seven thousand feet. The valleys at
their base were shrouded in the pale and drizzling mists which hang
about them almost continually. Here and there a rounded hill, indigo
with forest, rose from the mists and showed us the white house of some
plantation and the little cluster of out-buildings and huts where the
slaves were to find their new home. Then, as on an enchanted island,
the ghostly fog stole over it again, and in another quarter some fresh
hill, indigo with forest, stood revealed.


The whole place smoked and steamed like a gigantic hot-house. In
fact, it is a gigantic hot-house. As nearly as possible, it stands upon
the equator, the actual line passing through the volcanic rocks of its
southern extremity. And even in the dry season from April to October
it is perpetually soaked with moisture. The wet mist hardly ceases to
hang among the hills and forest trees. The thick growth of the tropics
covers the mountains almost to their summits, and every leaf of verdure
drips with warm dew.

The slaves on deck regarded the scene with almost complete apathy.
Some of the men leaned against the bulwark and silently watched the
points of the island as we passed. The women hardly stirred from their
places. They were occupied with their babies as usual, or lay about in
the unbroken wretchedness of despair. Two girls of about fifteen or
sixteen, evidently sisters, whom I had before noticed for a certain
pathetic beauty, now sat huddled together hand-in-hand, quietly crying.
They were just the kind of girls that the planters select for their
concubines, and I have little doubt they are the concubines of planters
now. But they cried because they feared they would be separated when
they came to land.

In the confusion of casting anchor I stood by them unobserved, and in
a low voice asked them a few questions in Umbundu, which I had crammed
up for the purpose. The answers were brief, in sobbing whispers;
sometimes by gestures only. The conversation ran like this:

 “Why are you here?”

 “We were sold to the white men.”

 “Did you come of your own free will?”

 “Of course not.”

 “Where did you come from?”

 “From Bihé.”

 “Are you slaves or not?”

 “Of course we are slaves!”

 “Would you like to go back?”

The delicate little brown hands were stretched out, palms downward, and
the crying began afresh.

That night the slaves were left on board, but next morning (June 17th)
when I went down to the pier about nine o’clock, I found them being
landed in two great lighters. One by one the men and women were dragged
up on to the pier by their arms and loin-cloths and dumped down like
bales of goods. There they sat in four lines till all were ready, and
then, carrying their mats and babies, they were marched off in file
to the Curador’s house in the town beside the bay. Here they were
driven through large iron gates into a court-yard and divided up into
gangs according to the names of the planters who had requisitioned for
them. When the parties were complete, they were put under the charge
of gangers belonging to various plantations, and so they set out on
foot upon the last stage of their journey. When they reached their
plantation (which would usually be on the same day or the next, for the
island is only thirty-five miles long by fifteen broad) they would be
given a day or two for rest, and then the daily round of labor would
begin. For them there are no more journeyings, till that last short
passage when their dead bodies are lashed to poles and carried out to
be flung away in the forest.


 NOTE.--I have no direct evidence that the poison was given me
 intentionally, but the “cumulative” evidence is rather strong. While
 still in the interior I had been warned that the big slave-dealers had
 somehow got to know of my purpose and were plotting against me. On the
 coast the warnings increased, till my life became almost as ludicrous
 as a melodrama, and I was obliged to “live each day as ’twere my
 last”--an unpleasant and unprofitable mode of living. One man would
 drop hints, another would give instances of Portuguese treachery. I
 was often told the fate of a poor Portuguese trader named De Silva,
 who objected to slavery and was going to Lisbon to expose the system,
 but after his first meal on board was found dead in his cabin. People
 in the street whispered of my fate. A restaurant-keeper at Benguela
 told an English fellow-passenger on my ship that he had better not be
 seen with me, for I was in great danger. My boy, who had followed me
 right through from the Gold Coast with the fidelity of a homeless dog,
 kept bringing me rumors of murder that he heard among the natives.
 Two nights before the ship sailed I was at a dinner given by the
 engineers of the new railway, and into my overcoat-pocket some one,
 whom I wish publicly to thank, tucked a scrap of paper with the words,
 “You are in great peril,” written in French. If there was a plot to
 set upon me in the empty streets that night, it was prevented by an
 Englishman who volunteered to go back with me, though I had not told
 him of any danger. Next night I was poisoned. Owing to the frequent
 warnings, I was ready with antidotes, but I think I should not have
 reached the ship alive next day without the courageous and devoted
 help of a South-African prospector who had been shut up with me in
 Ladysmith. The Dutch trader with whom I was staying was himself far
 above suspicion, but I shall not forget his indignant excitement when
 he saw what had happened. Evidently it was what he had feared, though
 I only told him I must have eaten something unwholesome. The tiresome
 sense of apprehension lasted during my voyage to the islands, and I
 was obliged to keep a dyspeptic watch upon the food. But I do not wish
 to make much of these little personal matters. To American and English
 people in their security they naturally seem absurd, and as a proof
 how common the art of poisoning still is in Portuguese possessions I
 will only mention that I have met a Portuguese trader in San Thomé who
 carries about in his waistcoat a little packet of pounded glass which
 he detected one evening in his soup, and that on the Portuguese ship
 which finally took me from San Thomé to Lisbon a Portuguese official
 died the day we started, from an illness due to his belief that he was
 being poisoned, and that during the voyage a poor Belgian from the
 interior gradually faded away under the same belief, and was carried
 out at Lisbon in a dying condition. Of course both may have been mad,
 but even madness does not take that form without something to suggest


[11] I find that the latest published Consular Report on San Thomé and
Principe (1902) actually repeats the hypocritical fiction about the
redemption of slaves. After speaking of the “enormous mortality” on the
two islands, the Report continues: “So large a death-rate calls for
constant fresh supplies of laborers from Angola, the principal ports
from which they are obtained being Benguela, Novo Redondo, and Loanda,
where they are ransomed from the black traders who bring them from the
far interior.” Mr. Consul Nightingale, who wrote the Report, was, of
course, perfectly aware of the truth, and no doubt he wrote in irony.
But English people do not understand irony--least of all in an official

[12] There is a well-known carriers’ song with the refrain, “She has
crossed Ondumba ya Maria,” that being the name of a dry brook on this
road from Katumbella to Benguela. It means, “She has gone into slavery
to be sold for San Thomé”--“Gone to the devil,” or, “Gone to glory,” as
we say, almost indifferently.

[13] See note on page 185.



They stand in the Gulf of Guinea--those two islands of San Thomé and
Principe where the slaves die--about one hundred and fifty miles from
the nearest coast at the Gaboon River in French Congo. San Thomé
lies just above the equator, Principe some eighty miles north and a
little east of San Thomé, and a hundred and twenty miles southwest
of Fernando Po. San Thomé is about eight times as large as Principe,
and the population, which may now be reckoned considerably over forty
thousand, is also about eight times as large. It is difficult to say
what proportion of these populations are slaves. The official returns
of 1900 put the population of San Thomé at 37,776, including 19,211
serviçaes, or slaves, with an import of 4572 serviçaes in 1901. And the
population of Principe was given as 4327, including 3175 serviçaes. But
the prosperity of the islands is increasing with such rapidity that
these numbers have now been probably far surpassed.[14]

It is cocoa that has created the prosperity. In old days the islands
were famous for their coffee, and it is still perhaps the best in
Africa. But the trade in coffee sank to less than a half in the ten
years, 1891 to 1901, while in that time the cocoa trade increased
fourfold--from 3597 tons to 14,914--and since 1901 the increase has
been still more rapid. The islands possess exactly the kind of climate
that kills men and makes the cocoa-tree flourish. It is, as I have
described, a hot-house climate--burning heat and torrents of rain in
the wet season, from October to April; stifling heat and clouds of
dripping mist in the season that is called dry. In such an air and upon
the fine volcanic soil the cocoa-plant thrives wherever it is set,
and continues to produce all the year round. Nearly one-third of the
islands is now under cultivation, and the wild forest is constantly
being cleared away. In consequence, the value of land has gone up
beyond the dreams of a land-grabber’s avarice. Little plots that could
be had for the asking ten years ago now fetch their hundreds. There
is a story, perhaps mythical, that one of the greatest owners--once a
clerk or carrier in San Thomé--has lately refused £2,000,000 for his
plantations there. In 1901 the export trade from San Thomé alone was
valued at £764,830, having more than doubled in five years, and by
this time it is certainly over £1,000,000. There are probably about
two hundred and thirty plantations or “roças” on San Thomé now,
some employing as many as one thousand slaves. And on Principe there
are over fifty roças, with from three hundred to five hundred slaves
working upon the largest. All these evidences of increasing prosperity
must be very satisfactory to the private proprietors and to the
shareholders in the companies which own a large proportion of the land.
For the most part they live in Lisbon, enjoying themselves upon the
product of the cocoa-tree and the lives of men and women.

One early morning at San Thomé I went out to visit a plantation
which is rightly regarded as a kind of model--a show-place for the
intelligent foreigner or for the Portuguese shareholder who feels
qualms as he banks his dividends. There were four hundred slaves on
the estate, not counting children, and I was shown their neat brick
huts in rows, quite recently finished. I saw them clearing the forest
for further plantation, clearing the ground under the cocoa-trees,
gathering the great yellow pods, sorting the brown kernels, which
already smelled like a chocolate-box, heaping them up to ferment,
raking them out in vast pans to dry, working in the carpenters’
sheds, superintending the new machines, and gathering in groups for
the mid-day meal. I was shown the turbine engine, the electric light,
the beautiful wood-work in the manager’s house, the clean and roomy
hospital with its copious supply of drugs and anatomical curiosities
in bottles, the isolated house for infectious cases. To an outward
seeming, the Decree of 1903 for the regulation of the slave labor had
been carried out in every possible respect. All looked as perfect and
legal as an English industrial school. Then we sat down to an exquisite
Parisian _déjeuner_ under the bower of a drooping tree, and while I was
meditating on the hardships of African travel, a saying of another of
the guests kept coming back to my mind: “The Portuguese are certainly
doing a marvellous work for Angola and these islands. Call it slavery
if you like. Names and systems don’t matter. The sum of human happiness
is being infinitely increased.”

The doctor had come up to pay his official visit to the plantation that
day. “The death-rate on this roça,” he remarked, casually, during the
meal, “is twelve or fourteen per cent. a year among the serviçaes.”
“And what is the chief cause?” I asked. “Anæmia,” he said. “That is a
vague sort of thing,” I answered; “what brings on anæmia?” “Unhappiness
[tristeza],” he said, frankly.

He went on to explain that if they could keep a slave alive for three
or four years from the date of landing, he generally lived some time
longer, but it was very difficult to induce them to live through the
misery and homesickness of the first few years.

This cause, however, does not account for the high mortality among the
children. On one of the largest and best-managed plantations of San
Thomé the superintendent admits a children’s death-rate of twenty-five
per cent., or one-quarter of all the children, every year. Our latest
consular reports do not give a complete return of the death-rate for
San Thomé, but on Principe 867 slaves died during 1901 (491 males and
376 females), which gives a total death-rate of 20.67 per cent. per
annum. In other words, you may calculate that among the slaves on
Principe one in every five will be dead by the end of the year.[15]

No wonder that the price of slaves is high, and that it is almost
impossible for the supply from Angola to keep pace with the demand,
though the government calls on its Agents to drive the trade as hard as
they can, and the Agents do their very utmost to encourage the natives
to raid, kidnap, accuse of witchcraft, press for debts, soak in rum,
and sell. A manager in Principe, who employs one hundred and fifty
slaves on his roça, told me that it is impossible for him fully to
develop the land without two hundred more, but he simply cannot afford
the £6000 needed for the purchase of that number.

The common saying that if you have seen one plantation you have seen
all is not exactly true. I found the plantations differed a good deal
according to the wealth of the proprietor and the superintendent’s
disposition. Still there is a general similarity in external things
from which one can easily build up a type. Let us take, for instance, a
roça which I visited one Sunday after driving some six or seven miles
into the interior from the port of San Thomé. The road led through
groves of the cocoa-tree, the gigantic “cotton-tree,” breadfruit,
palms, and many hard and useful woods which I did not know. For a
great part of the distance the wild and untouched forest stood thick
on both sides, and as we climbed into the mountains we looked down
into unpenetrated glades, where parrots, monkeys, and civet-cats are
the chief inhabitants. The sides of the road were thickly covered with
moss and fern, and the high rocks and tree-tops were from time to time
concealed by the soaking white mist which the people for some strange
reason call “flying-fish milk.” High up in the hills we came to a
filthy village, where a few slaves were drearily lying about, full of
the deadly rum that hardly even cheers. A few hundred yards farther
up was the roça which owns the village and runs the rum-shop there
for the benefit of the slaves and its own pocket. The buildings are
arranged in a great quadrangle, with high walls all round and big gates
that are locked at night. On one side stands the planter’s house,
and attached to it are the dwellings of the overseers, or gangers,
together with the quarters of such slaves as are employed for domestic
purposes, whether as concubines or servants. On the other side stand
the quarters of the ordinary slaves who labor on the plantation. They
are built in long sheds, and in a few cases these are two stories
high, but in most plantations only one. Some of the sheds are arranged
like the dormitories in our barracks; sometimes the homes are almost
or entirely isolated; sometimes, as in this roça, they are divided by
partitions, like the stalls in a stable. At one end of the quadrangle,
besides the magazines for the working and storage of the cocoa, there
is a huge barn, which the slaves use as a kitchen, each family making
its own little fire on the ground and cooking its rations separately,
as the unconquerable habit of all natives is. At the other end of the
quadrangle, sunk below the level of the fall of the hill, stands the
hospital, with its male and female wards duly divided according to law.


The centre of the quadrangle is occupied by great flat pans, paved with
cement or stones, for the drying of the cocoa-beans. Within the largest
of these enclosures the slaves are gathered two or three times a week
to receive their rations of meal and dried fish. At six o’clock on the
afternoon of my visit they all assembled to the clanging of the bell,
the grown-up slaves bringing large bundles of grass, which they had
gathered as part of their daily task, for the mules and cattle. They
stood round the edges of the square in perfect silence. In the centre
of the square at regular intervals stood the whity-brown gangers,
leaning on their long sticks or flicking their boots with whips. Beside
them lay the large and savage dogs which prowl round the buildings at
night to prevent the slaves escaping in the darkness. As it was Sunday
afternoon, the slaves were called upon to enjoy the Sunday treat. First
came the children one by one, and to each of them was given a little
sup of wine from a pitcher. Then the square began slowly to move round
in single file. Slabs of dried fish were given out as rations, and
for the special Sunday treat each man or woman received two leaves of
raw tobacco from one of the superintendent’s mistresses, or, if they
preferred it, one leaf of tobacco and a sup of wine in a mug. Nearly
all chose the two leaves of tobacco as the more lasting joy. When they
had received their dole, they passed round the square again in single
file, till all had made the circuit. From first to last not a single
word was spoken. It was more like a military execution than a festival.

About once a month the slaves receive their wages in a similar manner.
By the Decree of 1903, the minimum wage for a man is fixed at 2500 reis
(something under ten shillings) a month, and for a woman at 1800
reis. But, as a matter of fact, the planters tell me that the average
wage is 1200 reis a month, or about one and twopence a week. In some
cases the wages are higher, and one or two slaves were pointed out to
me whose wages came to fifteen shillings a month. I am told that in
the islands, unlike the custom on the mainland, these wages are really
paid in cash and not by tokens, but the planters always add that as the
money can only be spent in the plantation store, nearly all of it comes
back to them in the form of profit on rum or cloth or food.


According to the law, only two-fifths of the wages are to be paid every
month, the remaining three-fifths going to a “Repatriation Fund” in
San Thomé. In the case of the slaves from Angola this is never done,
and it is much to the credit of the Portuguese that, as there is no
repatriation, they have dropped the institution of a Repatriation Fund.
They might easily have pocketed three-fifths of the slaves’ wages under
that excuse, but this advantage they have renounced. They never send
the slaves home, and they do not deduct the money for doing it. Neither
do they deduct a proportion of the wages which, according to the law,
might be sent to the mainland for the support of a man’s family till
the termination of his contract. They know a contract terminates only
at death, and from this easy method of swindling they also abstain. It
is, as I said, to their credit, the more because it is so unlike their

For some reason which I do not quite understand--perhaps because they
come under French government--the Cape Verde serviçaes receive a higher
wage (three thousand reis for a man and twenty-five hundred for a
woman); about a third is deducted every month for repatriation, and
in many cases, at all events, the people are actually sent back. So
the planters told me, though I have not seen them on a returning ship

According to the law, the wages of all slaves must be raised ten per
cent. if they agree to renew their contract for a second term of five
years. With the best will in the world, it would be almost impossible
to carry out this provision, for no slave ever does agree to renew his
contract. His wishes in the matter are no more consulted than a blind
horse’s in a coal-pit. The owner or Agent of the plantation waits till
the five years of about fifty of his slaves have expired. Then he sends
for the Curador from San Thomé, and lines up the fifty in front of him.
In the presence of two witnesses and his secretary the Curador solemnly
announces to the slaves that the term of their contract is up and the
contract is renewed for five years more. The slaves are then dismissed
and another scene in the cruel farce of contracted labor is over. One
of the planters told me that he thought some of his slaves counted the
years for the first five, but never afterwards.

Some planters do not even go through the form of bringing the Curador
and the time-expired slaves face to face. They simply send down the
papers for signature, and do not mention the matter to the slaves at
all. At the end of June, 1905, a planter told me he had sent down the
papers in April and had not yet received them back. He was getting a
little anxious. “Of course,” he said, “it makes no difference whatever
to the slaves. They know nothing about it. But I like to comply with
the law.”

In one respect, however, that well-intentioned citizen did not comply
with the law at all. The law lays it down that every owner of fifty
slaves must set up a hospital with separate wards for the sexes. This
man employed nearly two hundred slaves and had no hospital at all. The
official doctor came up and visited the sick in their crowded huts
twice a month.

The law lays it down that a crèche shall be kept on each plantation
for children under seven, and certainly I have seen the little black
infants herding about in the dust together among the empty huts while
their parents were at work. Children are not allowed to be driven to
work before they are eleven, and up to fourteen they may be compelled
to do only certain kinds of labor. From fourteen to sixteen two kinds
of labor are excluded--cutting timber and trenching the coffee. After
sixteen they become full-grown slaves, and may be forced to do any kind
of work. These provisions are only legal, but, as I noticed before,
the children born on a plantation, if only they can be kept alive
to maturity, ought to make the most valuable kind of slaves. Their
keep has cost very little, and otherwise they come to the planter for
nothing, like all good gifts of God. This is what makes me doubt the
truth of a story one often hears about San Thomé, that a woman who
is found to be with child after landing is flogged to death in the
presence of the others. It is not the cruelty that makes me question
it. Give a lonely white man absolute authority over blacks, and there
is no length to which his cruelty may not go. But the loss in cash
would be too considerable. At landing, a woman has cost the planter as
much as two cows, and no good business man would flog a cow to death
because she was in calf.

The same considerations tend, of course, to prevent all violent acts
of cruelty such as might bring death. The cost of slaves is so large,
the demand is so much greater than the supply, and the death-rate is
so terrible in any case that a good planter’s first thought is to do
all he can to keep his stock of slaves alive. It is true that in most
men passion easily overcomes interest, and for an outsider it is
impossible to judge of such things. When a stranger is coming, the word
goes round that everything must be made to look as smooth and pleasant
as possible. No one can realize the inner truth of the slave’s life
unless he has lived many years on the plantations. But I am inclined
to think that for business reasons the violent forms of cruelty are
unlikely and uncommon. Flogging, however, is common if not universal,
and so are certain forms of vice. The prettiest girls are chosen by
the Agents and gangers as their concubines--that is natural. But it
was worse when a planter pointed me out a little boy and girl of about
seven or eight, and boasted that like most of the children they were
already instructed in acts of bestiality, the contemplation of which
seemed to give him a pleasing amusement amid the brutalizing tedium of
a planter’s life.

In spite of all precautions and the boasted comfort of their lot, some
of the slaves succeed in escaping. On San Thomé they generally take to
highway robbery, and white men always go armed in consequence. The law
decrees that a recaptured runaway is to be restored to his owner, and
after the customary flogging he is then set to work again. Sometimes
the runaways are hunted and shot down. On one of the mountains of San
Thomé, I am told, you may still see a heap of bones where a party of
runaway slaves were shot, but I have not seen them myself. For some
reason, perhaps because of the greater wildness of the island, there
are many more runaways on Principe, small as it is. The place is like a
magic land, the dream of some wild painter. Points of cliff run sheer
up from the sea, and between them lie secret little bays where a boat
may be pushed off quietly over the sand. In one such bay, where the
dense forest comes right down to the beach, a long canoe was gradually
scooped out in January (1905) and filled with provisions for a voyage.
When all was ready, eighteen escaped slaves launched it by night and
paddled away into the darkness of the sea. For many days and nights
they toiled, ignorant of all direction. They only knew that somewhere
across the sea was their home. But before their provisions were quite
spent, the current and the powers of evil that watch over slaves bore
them to the coast of Fernando Po. Thinking they had reached freedom at
last, they crept out of the boat on to the welcome shore, and there
the authorities seized upon them, and, to the endless shame of Spain,
packed them all on a steamer and sent them back in a single day to the
place from which they came.

That is one of the things that make us anarchists. Probably there was
hardly any one on Fernando Po, though it is a slave island itself, who
would not willingly have saved those men if he had been left to his own
instincts. But directly the state authority came in, their cause was
hopeless. So it is that wherever you touch government you seem to touch
the devil.

The eighteen were taken back to Principe, flogged almost to death in
the jail, returned to their owners, and any of them who survive are
still at work on the plantations, with but the memory of that brief
happiness and overwhelming defeat to think upon.

When escaping slaves have reached the Cameroons, the Germans resolutely
refuse to give them back, and by that refusal they have done much to
cover the errors and harshness of their own colonial system. What would
happen now to slaves who reached Nigeria or the Gold Coast, one hardly
dares to think. There was a time when we used to hear fine stories of
slaves falling on the beach when they touched British territory and
kissing the soil of freedom. But that was long ago, and since then
England has grown rich and fallen from her high estate. Her hands are
no longer clean, and when people think of Johannesburg and Queensland
and western Australia, all she may say of freedom becomes an empty
sound, impressing no one.

Last April (1905) another of the planters discovered a party of eight
of his own slaves just launching a canoe in hopes of escaping with
better success. They had crammed the canoe with provisions--slaughtered
pigs, meal, and water-casks--so many things that the planter told me
it would certainly have sunk and drowned them all. To prevent this
lamentable catastrophe he took them to the jail, had them flogged
almost to death by the jailer there, and brought them back to the huts
which they had so rashly attempted to leave in spite of their legal
contract and their supposed willingness to work on the plantations.

In the interior, the island of Principe rises into great peaks, not so
high as the mountains of San Thomé, but very much more precipitous.
There is one peak especially where the rock falls so sheer that I think
it would be inaccessible to the best climber on that side. I have not
discovered the exact height of the mountains, but I should estimate
them as something between four and five thousand feet, and they, like
the whole island, are covered with forest and tropical growth, except
where the rock is too steep and smooth to give any hold for roots.
But, as a rule, one sees the mountains only by glimpses, for when I
have passed the island or landed there they have always been wrapped
in slowly moving mist, and I believe they are seldom clear of it. The
mist falls in a soaking drizzle, and it seems to rain heavily, besides,
almost every day, even in the dry season. Perhaps the moisture is
almost too great, for I noticed more rot upon the cocoa-pods here than
at San Thomé.

Into these dripping forests and almost inaccessible mountains the
slaves are constantly trying to escape. A planter told me that many
of them do not realize what an island is. They hope to be able to make
their way home on foot. When they discover that the terrible sea foams
all round them, they turn into the forest and build little huts, from
which they are continually moving away. Here and there they plant
little patches of maize or other food with seed which they steal from
the plantations or which is secretly conveyed to them by the other
slaves. Some kind of communication is evidently kept up, for it is
thought the plantation slaves always know where the runaways are, and
sometimes betray them. I saw one man who had been living with them in
the forest himself and had come back with his hand cut off and his head
split open, probably for treachery. We asked him the reason; we asked
him to tell us something of the life out there; but at once he assumed
the native’s impenetrable look and would not speak another word.

Women as well as men escape from time to time and join these fine
vindicators of freedom in the woods, but, chiefly owing to the deadly
climate and the extreme hardship of their life, the people do not
increase in numbers. About a thousand was the highest figure I heard
given for them; about two hundred the lowest. The number most generally
quoted was six hundred, but, in fact, it is quite impossible to count
them at all, for they are always changing their camps and are rarely
seen. The cotton cloths in which they escape go to pieces very soon,
and they all live in entire nakedness, except when the women take the
trouble to string together a few plantain leaves as aprons. Among them,
however, they have some clever craftsmen. They make good bows and
arrows for hunting the civet-cats and other animals that form their
chief food, and I have seen a two-handled saw made out of a common
knife or matchet--a very ingenious piece of work. It was found in the
hands of one of them who had been shot.

For the most part they live a wandering and hard, but I hope not an
entirely unhappy, existence in the dense forest around the base of
that precipitous mountain of which I spoke. Every now and again the
Portuguese organize man-hunts to recapture or kill them off. Forming
a kind of cordon, they sweep over parts of the island, tying up or
shooting all they may find. But the Portuguese are so cowardly and
incapable in their undertakings that they are no match for alert
natives filled with the recklessness of despair, and the massacre has
never yet been complete. In fact, the hunting-parties are often broken
up by dissensions among rival strategists, and sometimes they appear to
degenerate into convivial meetings, at which drink is the object and
murder the excuse.

Recently, however, there was a very successful shoot. The sportsmen
had been led by guides to a place where the escaped slaves were known
to be rather thick in the forest. They came upon huts evidently just
abandoned. Beside them, hidden in the grass, they found an old man.
“We took him,” said the planter who told me the story, with all a
sportsman’s relish, “and we forced him to tell us where the others
were. At first we could not squeeze a word or sign out of him. After
a long time, without saying anything, he lifted a hand towards the
highest trees, and there we saw the slaves, men and women, clinging
like bats to the under side of the branches. It was not long, I can
tell you, before we brought them crashing down through the leaves on to
the ground. My word, we had grand sport that day!”

I can imagine no more noble existence than has fallen to those poor
and naked blacks, who have dared all for freedom, and, scorning the
stall-fed life of slavery, have chosen rather to throw themselves upon
such mercy as nature has, to wander together in nakedness and hunger
from forest to forest and hut to hut, to live in daily apprehension of
murder, to lurk like apes under the high branches, and at last to fall
to the bullets of the Christians, dead, but of no further service to
the commercial gentlemen who bought them and lose £30 by every death.

Even to the slaves who remain on the plantations, not having the
courage or good-fortune to escape and die like wild beasts, death, as
a rule, is not much longer delayed in coming. Probably within the first
two or three years the slave’s strength begins to ebb away. With every
day his work becomes feebler, so that at last even the ganger’s whip
or pointed stick cannot urge him on. Then he is taken to the hospital
and laid upon the boarded floor till he dies. An hour or so afterwards
you may meet two of his fellow-slaves going into the forest. There is
perhaps a sudden smell of carbolic or other disinfectant upon the air,
and you take another look at the long pole the slaves are carrying
between them on their shoulders. Under the pole a body is lashed,
tightly wrapped up in the cotton cloth that was its dress while it
lived. The head is covered with another piece of cloth which passes
round the neck and is also fastened tightly to the pole. The feet and
legs are sometimes covered, sometimes left to dangle naked. In silence
the two slaves pass into some untrodden part of the forest, and the man
or woman who started on life’s journey in a far-off native village with
the average hope and delight of childhood, travels over the last brief
stage and is no more seen.

Laws and treaties do not count for much. A law is never of much effect
unless the mind of a people has passed beyond the need of it, and
treaties are binding only on those who wish to be bound. But still
there are certain laws and treaties that we may for a moment recall:
in 1830 England paid £300,000 to the Portuguese provided they forbade
all slave-trade--which they did and pocketed the money; in 1842 England
and the United States agreed under the Ashburton Treaty to maintain
joint squadrons on the west coast of Africa for the suppression of the
slave-trade; in 1858 Portugal enacted a law that every slave belonging
to a Portuguese subject should be free in twenty years; in 1885, by
the Berlin General Act, England, the United States, and thirteen other
powers, including Portugal and Belgium, pledged themselves to suppress
every kind of slave-trade, especially in the Congo and the interior
of Africa; in 1890, by the Brussels General Act, England, the United
States, and fifteen other powers, including Portugal and Belgium,
pledged themselves to suppress every kind of slave-trade, especially
in the Congo and the interior of Africa, to erect cities of refuge for
escaped slaves, to hold out protection to every fugitive slave, to stop
all convoys of slaves on the march, and to exercise strict supervision
at all ports so as to prevent the sale or shipment of slaves across the

If any one wanted a theme for satire, what more deadly theme could he

To which of the powers can appeal now be made? Appeal to England is no
longer possible. Since the rejection of Ireland’s home-rule bill, the
abandonment of the Armenians to massacre, and the extinction of the
South-African republics, she can no longer be regarded as the champion
of liberty or of justice among mankind. She has flung away her only
noble heritage. She has closed her heart of compassion, and for ten
years past the oppressed have called to her in vain. A single British
cruiser, posted off the coast of Angola, with orders to arrest every
mail-boat or other ship having serviçaes on board, would so paralyze
the system that probably it would never recover. But one might as soon
expect Russia or Germany to do it as England in her recent mood. She
will make representations, perhaps; she will remind Portugal of “the
old alliance” and the friendship between the royal families; but she
will do no more. What she says can have no effect; her tongue, which
was the tongue of men, has become like sounding brass; and if she spoke
of freedom, the nations would listen with a polished smile.

From her we can turn only to America. There the sense of freedom still
seems to linger, and the people are still capable of greater actions
than can ever be prompted by commercial interests and the search for
a market. America’s record is still clean compared to England’s, and
her impulses to compassion and justice will not be checked by family
affection for the royalties of one out of the two most degraded,
materialized, and unintellectual little states of Europe. America may
still take the part that once was England’s by right of inheritance.
She may stand as the bulwark of freedom against tyranny, and of justice
and mercy--those almost extinct qualities--against the restless greed
and blood-thirsty pleasure-seeking of the world. Let America declare
that her will is set against slavery, and at her voice the abominable
trade in human beings between Angola and the islands will collapse as
the slave-trade to Brazil collapsed at the voice of England in the days
of her greatness.

I am aware that, as I said in my first letter, the whole question of
slavery is still before us. It has reappeared under the more pleasing
names of “indentured labor,” “contract labor,” or the “compulsory
labor” which Mr. Chamberlain has advocated in obedience to the
Johannesburg mine-owners. The whole thing will have to be faced
anew, for the solutions of our great-grandfathers no longer satisfy.
While slavery is lucrative, as it is on the islands of San Thomé and
Principe, it will be defended by those who identify greatness with
wealth, and if their own wealth is involved, their arguments will gain
considerably in vigor. They will point to the necessity of developing
rich islands where no one would work without compulsion. They will
point to what they call the comfort and good treatment of the slaves.
They will protect themselves behind legal terms. But they forget that
legal terms make no difference to the truth of things. They forget that
slavery is not a matter of discomfort or ill treatment, but of loss
of liberty. They forget that it might be better for mankind that the
islands should go back to wilderness than that a single slave should
toil there. I know the contest is still before us. It is but part of
the great contest with capitalism, and in Africa it will be as long and
difficult as it was a hundred years ago in other regions of the world.
I have but tried to reveal one small glimpse in a greater battle-field,
and to utter the cause of a few thousands out of the millions of men
and women whose silence is heard only by God. And perhaps if the crying
of their silence is not heard even by God, it will yet be heard in the
souls of the just and the compassionate.


[14] An English resident at San Thomé estimates the serviçaes alone at
forty thousand.

[15] London’s death-rate in 1903 was 15.7 per 1000 against Principe’s
206.7 per 1000. Liverpool had the highest death-rate of English cities.
It was 20.5 per 1000, or almost exactly one-tenth of the death-rate
among the serviçaes in Principe. The total death-rate for England and
Wales in 1902 was 16.2 per 1000.


  Abeokuta, walled city of, 3;
    population of, 3.

  Accra, town of, 3.

  _A Defeza de Angola_, Loanda newspaper, 27.

  “Afoola,” native name for missionary, 142.

  “Agent,” the, 9, 29, 151-153, 163, 167, 169, 171-175, 181, 191, 196,

  Ambriz, 180, 181.

  American mission, Congregationalist, 140;
    Wesleyan Episcopalian, 141.

  Amorim, Captain, 45, 119, 157.

  Angola, 26, 35, 37, 43, 51, 55, 67, 75, 83, 158.

  Antelopes, 72, 74, 77, 110.

  Ants, 6, 73, 112, 116.

  “Apeka” (slaves), 121.

  Arnot, F. S., missionary explorer, 51, 109, 141.

  Ashanti, town of, 1.

  Ashburton Treaty, 207.

  Atundwa plant, the, 109.

  Aureoles, 76.

  Axim, settlement of, 2.

  Bailundu, district of, 45, 156;
    mission village of, 158.

  Bailundu war of 1902, 45, 82, 115, 118, 141, 150, 157.

  Bananas, plantation of, 32.

  Barotzeland, 68.

  Barracoons, remains of, 13.

  Batatele cannibals, 52.

  Bees, 76, 107, 108.

  Beeswax, 42, 86, 149.

  Beit, Mr., 151.

  Belmonte, fort at, 84, 150.

  Benguela, town of, 43, 44, 46, 51, 69, 149, 169, 171, 173, 176, 178,
    Boers at, 43.

  Berlin General Act, 207.

  Bihé, district of, 43, 45, 69, 77, 80, 83, 86, 104, 149-151, 152 _n_,
  153, 156, 175.

  Bihéans, the, born traders, 85, 86;
    language of, 86;
    villages of, 87;
    public club (onjango) of, 88;
    games of, 91;
    proverbs of, 92;
    folk-lore of, 94;
    dancing of, 95;
    musical instruments of, 96, 97;
    witchcraft of, 99;
    slavery among, 100, 115;
    objections to burying slaves, 114;
    eat those meeting with sudden death, 128;
    thieves, 170.

  Birds, 7, 76, 110, 192.

  Black-headed crane, 76, 110.

  Bluebock, 77.

  Boer transport-riders, 43, 64, 82.

  Boers, long trek of, 67;
    knowledge of oxen, 68;
    trade in slaves, 68.

  Bogs, 65, 80, 81, 153, 154.

  Boiling springs, 153.

  Bourru-Bourru bog, 81, 154.

  “Boys,” native, 9, 16, 79.

  Brussels Conference of 1890, 149.

  Brussels General Act, 207.

  Buffaloes, 72, 74, 166.

  Burchell’s zebra (quagga), 74.

  Burial of slaves, 36, 114, 155, 206.

  Bush paths, 31, 85, 86, 115, 118.

  Bustard, great, 76.

  Cabinda, in Portuguese territory, 182.

  Caconda, fort at, 68;
    turning-point of journey, 77, 80.

  Caiala, town of, 84.

  Calabar, missionaries at, 14.

  Calei River, 81.

  Cameron’s, Commander, _Across Africa_, 110 _n_, 155 _n_, 157 _n_, 159

  Camps, rest, 160.

  Candombo, deserted village of, 82.

  Cannibals, 52, 86, 162.

  Cape Coast Castle settlement, 2.

  Caravans, slave, 86, 117, 120, 121, 126, 163, 167.

  Cassava, native food, 31.

  Catholic mission, 56, 78, 79, 140.

  Cats, civet, 192, 204.

  “Central Committee of Labor and Emigration,” 46, 102.

  Chain-gangs, 44, 119, 153 _n_, 171, 172.

  Chibokwe tribe, the, 83, 107-110, 126;
    kill their slaves, 126;
    file their teeth, 127;
    eat those meeting with sudden death, 128;
    trade in rubber, 128;
    artistic, 129;
    dancing of, 129;
    religious rites of, 130;
    witchcraft of, 131;
    missionaries among, 132-148.

  Chicotes (hide whips), 120, 155.

  Children pawned into slavery, 29, 51, 150, 151.

  Chinjamba, pioneers at, 140.

  Chocolate from San Thomé and Principe islands, 167.

  Civet-cats, 192, 204.

  Cocoa, 26, 27, 32, 44, 46, 167, 188, 189, 192, 193.

  Coffee, 26, 32, 188, 198;
    plantation, working a, 33.

  Coillard, M., missionary, 142.

  Coinage, real, in Central Africa, 42, 84, 85, 107.

  Commercial Company of Angola, 84.

  Committee of Emigration, 174.

  Concubines, slaves as, 53.

  Contract, form of, serviçaes, 28.

  Contract labor, 23, 26, 34-38, 48, 57, 116, 153, 167, 169, 173, 196,
    form of contract, 28;
    pay of, 38, 194-196, 208.

  Contrahidos or serviçaes, 27, 44, 46-48, 58, 172, 187, 190, 196, 208.

  Copper-mines, ancient, of Matanga, 86.

  Cotton cloth, 9, 33, 35, 42, 84-86.

  Cotton, trade in, 10.

  Crane, black-headed, 76, 110;
    dancing, 76.

  Crocodiles, 6, 41, 165, 168.

  Cuando River, 75, 80.

  Cuanza River, 75, 83, 104-106, 111, 112, 126.

  Cunene River, 80.

  Cunughamba River, 82.

  Cunyama, the, 78.

  Cunyami natives, 68.

  Currency, recognized, in Central Africa, 42, 84, 85, 107.

  Currie, Mr., missionary, 142.

  Dancing cranes, 76.

  Debtor, a, body left to jackals, 115.

  Decree of January 29, 1903, 158, 172-174, 176, 177, 180, 190, 194.

  Deer, 77, 110, 166.

  Deposits of magnesia, 153.

  Desert, Kalahari, 67.

  De Silva, fate of, 185.

  Ditch-canals, 32.

  Domestic slavery, 14, 17, 40-58, 100, 193.

  Doves, 76.

  Dried fish, “stinkfish,” 35, 37, 193, 194.

  Drum, native musical instrument, 96-99.

  Duiker, antelope, 77, 110.

  Eagles, 76.

  Eckstein, Mr., 151.

  Elands, 72, 166.

  Elephants, 74, 75.

  “Empreza Nacional,” profits of, 175.

  English mission, Plymouth Brethren, 140.

  Eucalyptus-trees of Benguela, 43.

  Exportation of slaves, 23, 157, 158, 168-185.

  Factories, 8-10, 12, 155.

  Fay, Mr., missionary, 142, 158.

  Fernando Po, island, 200.

  Ferries over the Cuanza, 111.

  Feudalism, 16.

  Fevers, 8, 105, 117, 150, 164, 168, 171.

  Flag-grasses, 31, 107.

  Flamingoes, 76.

  Fly, tsetse, 24.

  Form of contract, serviçaes, 28.

  Forts, 20, 21, 68, 70, 78, 84, 105, 111, 119, 124, 141, 150, 155,

  Francolins, 76.

  Fruits, trade in, 10.

  Fugitive slaves, 171, 179, 194, 199-201, 203, 205, 207.

  Gangers, 34, 35, 155, 184, 193, 194, 199, 201, 206.

  Gnu, 77.

  Gold, 10.

  Grasses, 31, 107, 108, 153.

  Guinea-fowl, 76.

  Gums, trade in, 10.

  Hartebeest, 77.

  Hawks, 7, 76.

  Hide whips (chicotes or sjamboks), 120.

  Hippopotamus, 83, 111, 165.

  Honey-guide, 76.

  Hornbill, 76.

  Hugo, Victor, quoted, 17, 18.

  “Hungry country,” the, 47, 105, 107, 110-112, 115, 116, 118, 122, 124,
  149, 164.

  Hunting slaves, 204, 205.

  Hyena, 76.

  Il Principe Island, 48, 151, 167, 173, 187-202.

  India-rubber plant, 33.

  Islands, Il Principe, 48, 151, 167, 173, 187-202;
    San Thomé, 26, 27, 44, 48, 51, 54, 116, 151-153, 157, 162, 163, 167,
    170, 172-174, 176, 182, 187-202;
    Fernando Po, 200.

  Ivory, trade in, 10.

  Jackals, debtors left to, 115.

  Johannesburg, 201.

  Ju-ju house, 13, 18, 173.

  Kalahari Desert, 67.

  Kamundongo, mission at, 141.

  Kandundu, the, worship of, 99.

  Kanjumdu of Chiuka, Christian chief, 146.

  Kasai, tributary of the Congo, 106.

  Katanga, ancient copper-mines of, 40;
    district, 86.

  Katumbella, river, 165;
    town of, 41-43, 160, 169, 171.

  Kernels, trade in, 10.

  Kola, trade in, 10.

  Koodoo, 76, 166.

  Kraal, native chief’s, 81, 82.

  “Krooboys,” 15.

  Kukema River, 61, 80.

  Ladysmith, 186.

  Lagoons of Lagos, 11.

  Lagos, town of, 2, 3, 13;
    lagoons of, 11.

  Lake Ngami, 80.

  Lechwe, antelope, 77, 110.

  Legalized slavery, 27-29, 173.

  Leopards, 72, 76, 83, 87, 110, 156.

  “Letters of freedom,” 46.

  Life of slaves, the, 33-36, 187-210.

  Lions, 71-74, 76, 77, 83, 148, 160, 161.

  Livingstone, David, 32, 42, 51, 80.

  Loanda, St. Paul de, 19-23, 27, 40;
    slaves shipped from, 180.

  Lobito Bay, possible future of, 40, 166, 169-171.

  Luchazi tribe, 104.

  Luena, tributary of the Zambesi, 106.

  Lungwebungu, tributary of the Zambesi, 106.

  Luimbi tribe, 104.

  Magnesia, deposits of, 153.

  Mahogany, trade in, 10.

  Mangrove swamps, 5-7, 78.

  Mashiko, fort at, 105, 124.

  Matchets, 5, 34, 162, 204.

  Matota, fort at, 124.

  Mediums of exchange, 42, 84, 85, 107.

  Metallic starling, 76.

  Millet, trade in, 10.

  Mines, Transvaal, 16.

  Missionaries, 3, 14, 45, 79, 101, 109, 132-148.

  Missions, 56, 78, 79, 133, 138-141, 152 _n_, 158, 159.

  Monkeys, 7, 177, 192;
    yellow, 162.

  Moolecky, poisonous herb, 64.

  Mortality among slaves, 25, 190, 198.

  Mosquitoes, 81.

  Mossamedes, 67, 152 _n_.

  “Mountain of Money,” the, ancient city of, 81.

  Mozambique, 16, 163.

  Mud-fish, 6.

  Mushi-Moshi (the Simoï), 118, 128.

  Nanakandundu, district, 120;
    villages of, 85.

  Native “boys,” 9, 16, 79;
    instruments, 96, 97.

  New slavery, 17, 30.

  Newspapers, 4, 27.

  Niger, the, 5, 11.

  Nigeria, 7, 13, 14, 201.

  Nile, the, 1.

  Novo Redondo, 159, 175, 178, 180.

  Nurses, white women, on the Coast, 3.

  Ochisanji, native musical instrument, 96, 97.

  Okavango River, the, 80.

  Onjango, public club of Bihéans, 88.

  Orange orchards, 84.

  Order of the Holy Spirit, 138, 140.

  Oribi, the, 77.

  Our Lady of Salvation, church of, 19, 20, 23.

  Ovampos, cattle-breeding tribe, 87.

  Overseers, plantation, 34.

  Ovimbundu, the, 85.

  Oxen, characteristics of, 62-65;
    riding, 66;
    language of, 67;
    Boers’ knowledge of, 68, 87;
    love of salt, 62, 107;
    children pawned for, 150.

  Ox-wagon, mode of conveyance, 43, 59-62, 148.

  Palm-oil, 4, 8, 10, 13.

  Parrots, 7, 76, 110, 192.

  Peho, Mona, chief, 110 _n_;
    town of, 109.

  Plantations, 31, 188, 189, 190, 197;
    banana, 32;
    coffee, working a, 33;
    overseers, 34, 35, 39;
    slavery, 13, 17, 19-39, 49; 58, 100, 193, 203;
    sugar-cane, 159;
    sweet-potato, 84, 155, 159.

  Polygamy, 89, 145, 146.

  Porcupines, 110.

  Profits on slaves, 174, 175.

  Python, 76.

  Quagga (Burchell’s zebra), 74.

  Queensland, 201.

  Railways, 31, 40, 41, 169, 185.

  “Redeemed” slaves, 153, 165, 169, 173.

  Redondo, Novo, 159, 175, 178, 180.

  Red peppers, trade in, 10.

  Reedbuck, 77.

  “Repatriation Fund,” 48, 195.

  Rest camps, 160, 161, 163.

  Riding-ox, 66.

  Rivers, 1, 5, 11, 31, 61, 80-83, 104-106, 111, 118, 124, 128, 165.

  “Robert Williams Concession,” 40, 45.

  Rubber, India, 26, 33, 42, 85, 86, 122, 128, 149, 150.

  Rum, 4, 26, 29, 32, 35, 42, 145, 146, 149, 150, 155, 159, 164, 170,
  172, 191, 192, 195.

  Saccanjimba, mission village of, 159.

  Salt, 9, 42, 62, 63, 86, 107-109, 128, 149, 164.

  San Thomé, island of, 26, 27, 44, 48, 51, 54, 116, 151, 152, 153, 157,
  162, 163, 167, 170, 172-174, 176, 182, 187-202.

  Sanders, Mr., missionary, 142.

  Scottish missionaries, 14.

  Sekundi, settlement of, 2.

  Serviçaes, 27, 44, 46-48, 58, 172, 187, 190, 196, 208;
    form of contract, 28.

  Settlements, 2, 159, 175, 178, 180, 141, 152.

  Shackles, slave, 42, 46, 111-113, 117, 119, 152, 159, 160.

  Sharks, 181.

  Ships, slave, 169, 172, 175, 176.

  Sierra Leone, 1.

  Silva Porto, slave-trader, 84.

  Sjamboks (hide whips), 55, 120.

  Slave, caravan, 86, 117, 120, 121, 126, 163, 167;
    hunting, 204, 205;
    market, 46, 83, 84;
    shackles, 111-113, 117, 119, 152, 159, 160;
    ships, 169, 172, 176;
    trade, 13, 30, 43, 45, 58, 80, 84-86, 113, 150, 151, 157, 172, 174,
    207, 209;
    traders, 13, 46, 51, 52, 79, 84, 103, 115, 118, 152 _n_, 168;
    traffic, 124, 153, 158.

  Slavery, 12, 14, 37, 48, 49, 51, 55, 57, 58, 100, 102, 145, 147, 150,
    domestic, 14, 17, 40-58, 100, 193;
    legalized, 27, 29, 173;
    new, 17, 30;
    plantation, 13, 17, 19-39, 49, 58, 100, 193, 203;
    tribal, 14, 16.

  Slaves, 13, 37, 42-44, 46, 48, 50, 55, 85, 86, 102, 111, 113, 114,
  118, 119, 122, 126, 139, 150, 152, 153, 155, 157, 162, 158 _n_, 168,
  172, 174, 177, 179, 184, 189;
    as concubines, 53;
    burial of, 36, 114, 155, 206;
    chain-gangs, 44, 119, 153 _n_, 171, 172;
    exportation of, 23, 157, 158, 168-185;
    fugitives, 38, 171, 179, 194, 199-201, 203, 205, 207;
    life of, 33-36, 187-210;
    mortality among, 25, 190, 198;
    profits on, 174, 175;
    “redeemed,” 155, 163, 165, 169, 173;
    stamp duty on, 175;
    treatment of, 54-56, 112-115,
  117, 122, 151, 155, 162, 163, 167, 178, 179, 181, 198, 199;
    value of, 29, 50-53, 85, 102, 114, 162, 167, 174;
    wages of, 38, 194-196.

  Sleeping-sickness, the, 24-26;
    symptoms of, 24;
    duration of, 25;
    mortality of, 25;
    its effects upon the labor supply, 26.

  Small-pox, 24.

  Snakes, 76, 157.

  Springs, boiling, 153.

  Stamp duty on slaves, 175.

  Standard of value in Central Africa, 42, 84, 85, 107.

  Starling, metallic, 76.

  “Stinkfish,” dried fish, 35, 37.

  Stinking water-buck, 77.

  Stover, Mr., missionary, 142, 158.

  Sugar-cane, 26, 32, 159.

  Swamps, mangrove, 5-8, 78.

  Sweet-potato, 164;
    plantations, 84, 155.

  “Tanganyika Concession,” 40, 85.

  Tax on slaves, 175.

  “The Rivers,” 5, 7.

  Tobacco, 88, 164, 194.

  Towns, 2, 3, 13, 14, 19-23, 27, 40, 41-44, 46, 51, 69, 82, 84, 109,
  110, 149, 152, 159, 169, 171, 173, 175, 176, 178, 180, 182, 186.

  Trade in slaves, 13, 30, 43, 45, 58, 80, 85, 86, 113, 150, 151, 157,
  172, 174, 207, 209.

  Traders, slave, 13, 46, 51, 52, 79, 84, 103, 118, 152 _n_, 168.

  Traffic in slaves, 124, 153, 158.

  Transvaal mines, labor forced to, 16.

  Treatment of slaves, 54-56, 112, 113, 115, 117, 122, 151, 155, 162,
  163, 167, 178, 179, 181, 198, 199.

  Treaty, Ashburton, 207.

  Trek, distance reckoned by, 69;
    long, of Boers, 67;
    ox, 60-67.

  Tribal slavery, 14, 16.

  Tribes, native, 68, 78, 86, 87, 104, 107, 126.

  Tsetse-fly, 24.

  Umbala, or King’s fortress, 156, 158.

  Umbundu, language of Bihéans, 86.

  Upeka (slave), 121 _n_.

  Value, of slaves, 29, 50-53, 85, 102, 114, 162, 167, 174;
    standard of, in Central Africa, 42, 84, 85, 107.

  Vultures, 76.

  Wages of slaves, 38, 194, 195.

  Wagon, ox, mode of conveyance, 43, 59-62, 148.

  Walled city of Abeokuta, 3;
    population of, 3.

  Wart-hogs, 110.

  Water-buck, stinking, 77.

  Wesleyan Episcopalian order, 141.

  Wild animals, 7, 71-77, 83, 87, 110, 111, 115, 156, 160-162, 165, 166,
  177, 192, 204.

  Wildebeest, 77.

  Witchcraft, 99, 131, 170, 191.

  Women, white, on the coast, 3, 4;
    nurses, 3.

  Yams, trade in, 10.

  Zambesi, awarded to Great Britain, rumor of, 110;
    river, 106, 124.

  Zebras, 72, 74.


Transcriber’s Notes

In a few cases, obvious errors or omissions in punctuation were

Page 21: “Portuguese War Depatment” changed to “Portuguese War

Page 24: “hitherto suppoed to” changed to “hitherto supposed to”

Page 38: “been bought themelves” changed to “been bought themselves”

Page 47: “Under similiar circumstances” changed to “Under similar

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