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Title: A naturalist in Madagascar
Author: Sibree, James
Language: English
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The stone is levered into position closing the opening. A deep fosse
or ditch surrounding the village completes its fortification. The
man in front is carrying two packages secured to a pole in the usual
manner of the country]

                             A NATURALIST
                            IN MADAGASCAR

               _A Record of Observation Experiences and
        Impressions made during a period of over Fifty Years’
        Intimate Association with the Natives and Study of the
                Animal & Vegetable Life of the Island_


                        JAMES SIBREE, F.R.G.S.

                   _Membre de l’Academie Malgache_

                            &c., &c., &c.

                    WITH 52 ILLUSTRATIONS & 3 MAPS


                       J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

                  LONDON: SEELEY, SERVICE & CO. LTD.



                        WITH MUCH AFFECTION TO

                             MY DEAR WIFE

                      AND FAITHFUL HELPER IN ALL
                        MY WORK FOR FORTY-FOUR


The title of this book may perhaps be considered by some as too
ambitious, and may provoke comparison with others somewhat similar in
name, but with whose distinguished authors I have no claim at all to

I have no tales to tell of hair-breadth escapes from savage beasts,
no shooting of “big game,” no stalking of elephant or rhinoceros,
of “hippo” or giraffe. We have indeed no big game in Madagascar.
The most dangerous sport in its woods is hunting the wild boar; the
largest carnivore to be met with is the fierce little _fòsa_, and the
crocodile is the most dangerous reptile.

But I ask the courteous reader to wander with me into the wonderful
and mysterious forests, and to observe the gentle lemurs in their
home, as they leap from tree to tree, or take refuge in the thickets
of bamboo; to come out in the dusk and watch the aye-aye as he
stealthily glides along the branches, obtaining his insect food under
the bark of the trees; to listen to the song of numerous birds,
and to note their habits and curious ways; to hear the legends and
folk-tales in which the Malagasy have preserved the wisdom of their
ancestors with regard to the feathered denizens of the woods and
plains, and to admire the luxuriant vegetation of the forests, and
the trees and plants, the ferns and flowers, and even the grasses,
which are to be found in every part of the island.

I invite those who may read these pages to look with me at the little
rodents and insect-eaters which abound in and near the woods; to mark
the changing chameleons which are found here in such variety; to
watch the insects which gambol in the sunshine, or hide in the long
grass, or sport on the streams. If such unexciting pleasures as these
can interest my readers, I can promise that there is in Madagascar
enough and to spare to delight the eye and to charm the imagination.

I confess that I am one of those who take much more delight in
silently watching the birds and their pretty ways in some quiet nook
in the woods, than in shooting them to add a specimen to a museum;
and that I feel somewhat of a pang in catching even a butterfly, and
would much rather observe its lovely colours in life, as it unfolds
them to the sunshine, than study it impaled on a pin in a cabinet. No
doubt collections are necessary, but I have never cared to make them

Nothing is here recorded but facts which have come under my own
observation or as related by friends and others whose authority is
unquestionable. And while my main object is to convey a vivid and
true impression of the animal and vegetable life of Madagascar, I
have also given many sketches of what is curious and interesting in
the habits and customs of the Malagasy people, among whom I have
travelled repeatedly, and with whom I have lived for many years. I
have no pretensions to be a scientific naturalist or botanist, I have
only been a careful observer of the beautiful and wonderful things
that I have seen and I have constantly noted down what many others
have observed, and have here included information which they have
given in the following pages.

I have long wished that someone far more competent than myself would
write a popular book upon the natural history and botany of this
great island; but as I have not yet heard of any such, I venture with
some diffidence to add this book to the large amount of literature
already existing about Madagascar, but none of it exactly filling
this place. For many years I edited, together with my late friend
and colleague, the Rev. R. Baron, the numbers of _The Antanànarìvo
Annual_, a publication which was “a record of information on the
topography and natural productions of Madagascar, and the customs,
traditions, language and religious beliefs of its people,” and for
which I was always on the look-out for facts of all kinds bearing
on the above-mentioned subjects. But as this magazine was not known
to the general public, and was confined to a very limited circle
of readers, I have not hesitated to draw freely on the contents of
its twenty-four numbers, as I am confident that a great deal of the
information there contained is worthy of a much wider circulation
than it had in the pages of the _Annual_.

Finally, as preachers say, although this book is written by a
missionary, it is not “a missionary book”; not, certainly, because
I undervalue missionary work, in which, after nearly fifty years’
acquaintance with it, and taking an active part in it, I believe with
all my heart and soul, but because that aspect of Madagascar has
already been so fully treated. Books written by the Revs. W. Ellis,
Dr Mullens, Mr Prout, Dr Matthews, Mr Houlder, myself and others,
give all that is necessary to understand the wonderful history of
Christianity in this island. Despite what globe-trotting critics may
say, as well as colonists who seem to consider that all coloured
peoples may be exploited for their own benefit, mission work, apart
from its simply obeying the last commands of our Lord, is _the_ great
civilising, educational and benevolent influence in the world, deny
it who can! But in this book I want to show that Madagascar is full
of interest in other directions, and that the wonderful things that
live and grow here are hardly less worthy of study than those events
which have attracted the attention of Christian and benevolent people
for nearly a hundred years past.

The author thanks very sincerely his friends, Mr John Parrett,
Monsieur Henri Noyer, and Razaka, for their freely accorded
permission to reproduce many photographs taken by them and used to
illustrate this book. And his grateful thanks are also due to his old
friend, the Rev. J. Peill, for the care he has taken in going through
the proof sheets, especially in seeing that all Madagascar words are
correctly given.

Two or three chapters of this book cover, to some extent, the same
ground as those treated of in another book on Madagascar by the
author, published some years ago by Mr Fisher Unwin. The author here
acknowledges, with many thanks, Mr Fisher Unwin’s kindness in giving
full permission to produce these, which are, however, rewritten and
largely added to.

      J. S.

  _NOTE._—Throughout this book Malagasy words are accented on the
  syllables which should be emphasised, and if it is borne in mind
  that the vowels _a_, _e_ and _i_ have as nearly as possible the
  same sound as in French or Italian, and that _o_ is exactly like
  our English _o_ in _do_, _to_ and _move_, and that the consonants
  do not differ much in sound from those in English, except that _g_
  is always hard, _s_ always a sibilant and not like _z_, and _j_ is
  like _dj_ there will be no difficulty in pronouncing Malagasy words
  with a fair amount of accuracy.


  INTRODUCTORY                                                      17

  Natural History of the Island—Still Little Known—Roads and
  Railway—We travel by Old-Fashioned Modes—Great Size and
  Extent of Madagascar



  “The Bullocker”—Landing at Tamatave—Meet with New
  Friends—Landing our Luggage—Bullocks and Bullock Ships—Native
  Houses—Strange Articles of Food—A Bed on a Counter—First
  Ride in a _Filanjàna_—At the Fort—The Governor and his
  “Get-Up”—A Rough-and-Ready Canteen


  FROM COAST TO CAPITAL: ALONG THE SEASHORE                         27

  Travelling in Madagascar—Absence of Roads—“General
  Forest and General Fever”—Pleasures and Penalties of Travel—Start
  for the Interior—My Private Carriage—Night at Hivòndrona—Native
  Canoes—Gigantic Arums—Crows and Egrets—Malagasy
  Cattle—Curious Crabs—Shells of the Shore—Coast
  Lagoons—Lovely Scenery—Pandanus and Tangèna Trees—Pumice
  from Krakatoa—Sea and River Fishes—Prawns and
  Sharks—Hospitable Natives—Trees, Fruits and Flowers—“The
  Churchyard of Foreigners”—Unpleasant Style of Cemetery—“The
  Hole of Serpents”—Killing a Boa-constrictor—The
  White-fronted Lemur—Andòvorànto—How the Aye-Aye was
  caught—What he is like—And where he lives—A Damp



  A Canoe Voyage—Crocodiles and their Ways—River Scenery—Traveller’s
  Tree—Which is also “The Builder’s Tree”—Maròmby—Coffee
  Plantation—Orange Grove—We stick in the
  Mud—Difficulties of Road—Rànomafàna and its Hot Springs—Lace-leaf
  Plant—Native Granaries—Endurance of Bearers—Native
  Traders—Appearance of the People—Native Music and
  Instruments—Bamboos—Ampàsimbé—Cloth Weaving—Native
  Looms—_Rofìa_-palms—“A Night with the Rats”—Hard Travelling
  —Béfòrona—The Two Forest Belts—The Highest Mountains—Forest
  of Alamazaotra—Villages on Route—The Blow-Gun



  “Weeping-place of Bullocks”—“Great Princess” Rock—Grandeur
  of the Vegetation—Scarcity of Flowers—Orchids,
  Bamboos, and Pendent Lichens—Apparent Paucity of Animal
  Life—Remarkable Fauna of Madagascar—Geological Theories
  thereon—Lemurs—The Ankay Plain—An Ancient Lake—Mòramànga—River
  Mangòro—Grand Prospect from Ifòdy—The
  Tàkatra and Its Nest—Hova Houses—Insect Life—Angàvo
  Rock—Upper Forest—Treeless Aspect of Imèrina—Granite
  Rocks—Ambàtomànga—And its big House—Grass Burning—First
  View of Capital—Its Size and Situation—Hova Villages—A
  Cloud of Locusts—Reach Antanànarìvo


  LIVING CREATURES OF THE INTERIOR                                  75

  The Seasons in Madagascar—Their Significant Names—Prospect
  from Summit of Antanànarìvo—Great Rice-plain—An
  Inundation of the Same—Springtime: September and October
  —Rice-planting and Rice-fields—Trees and Foliage—Common
  Fruits—“Burning the Downs”—Birds—Hawks and Kestrels—Summer:
  November to February—Thunderstorms and Tropical
  Rains—Lightning and its Freaks—Effects of Rain on Roads—Rainfall
  —Hail—Magnificent Lightning Effects—Malagasy New Year


  SPRING AND SUMMER                                                 90

  Native Calendar—Conspicuous Flowers—Aloes and Agaves—Uniformity
  of Length of Days—Native Words and Phrases for Divisions of
  Time—And for Natural Phenomena—Hova Houses—Wooden and Clay—Their
  Arrangement—And Furniture—“The Sacred Corner”—Solitary Wasps
  —Their Victims—The Cell-builders—The Burrowers—Wild Flowers


  LIVING CREATURES OF THE INTERIOR                                 103

  Autumn: March and April—Rice Harvest—The Cardinal-Bird—The
  Egret and the Crow—Harvest Thanksgiving Services—Rice,
  the Malagasy Staff of Life—Queer “Relishes to Rice”—Fish
  —Water-beetles—A Dangerous Adventure with One—Dragonflies—Useful
  Sedges and Rushes—Mist Effects on Winter Mornings—Spiders’
  Webs—The “Fosse-Crosser” Spider—Silk from it—Silk-worm Moths—And
  Other Moths—The “King” Butterfly—Grasshoppers and Insect Life on
  the Grass—The Dog-Locust—Gigantic Earthworms—Winter: May to
  August—Winter the Dry Season


  AUTUMN AND WINTER                                                116

  Old Towns—Ancient and Modern Tombs—Memorial Stones—Great
  Markets—Imèrina Villages—Their Elaborate Defences—Native
  Houses—Houses of Nobles—Hova Children—Their Dress and
  Games—Village Churches—And Schools—A School Examination—Aspects
  of Nightly Sky Epidemics in Cold Season—Vegetation


  AT THE FOREST SANATORIUM                                         127

  A Holiday at Ankèramadìnika—The Upper Forest Belt—The Flora of
  Madagascar—Troubles and Joys of a Collector—A Silken Bag—Ants
  and their Nests—In Trees and Burrows—Caterpillars and Winter
  Sleep—Butterflies’ Eggs—Snakes, Lizards and Chameleons—An
  Arboreal Lizard—Effects of Terror—Some Extraordinary
  Chameleons—The River-Hog—Sun-birds


  FOREST SCENES                                                    140

  Forest Scenes and Sounds—The Goat-sucker—Owls—Flowers and
  Berries—Palms and other Trees—The Bamboo-palm—Climbing
  Plants—Mosses, Lichens and Fungi—Their Beautiful Colours
  —Honey—The Madagascar Bee—Its Habits and its Enemies—Forest
  People—The Bétròsy Tribe—A Wild-Man-of-the-Woods—A Cyclone
  in the Forest—A Night of Peril


  RAMBLES IN THE UPPER FOREST                                      150

  Forest Parts—Lost in the Woods—Native Proverbs and Dread
  of the Forest—Waterfalls—A Brilliant Frog—Frogs and their
  Croaking—A Nest-building Frog—Protective Resemblances and
  Mimicry—Beetles—Brilliant Bugs—Memorial Mounds—Iron
  Smelting—Feather Bellows—Depths of the Ravines—Forest
  Leeches—Ferns—Dyes, Gums and Resins—Candle-nut Tree—Medicinal
  Trees and Plants—Useful Timber Trees—Superstitions about
  the Forest—Marvellous Creatures—The Ball Insect—Millipedes
  and Centipedes—Scorpions


  FAUNA                                                            162

  The Red-spot Spider—Various and Curious Spiders—Protective
  Resemblances among them—Trap-door Spiders—The Centetidæ
  —Malagasy Hedgehogs—The Lemurs—The Propitheques—The Red
  Lemur—Pensile Weaver-bird—The Bee-eater—The Coua Cuckoos
  —The Glory and Mystery of the Forests—A Night in the Forest


  ROUND ANTSIHÀNAKA                                                173

  Object of the Journey—My Companions—The Antsihànaka
  Province—Origin of the People—Anjozòrobé—“Travellers’
  Bungalow”—A Sunday there—“Our Black Chaplain”—The
  “Stone Gateway”—Ankay Plain—Ants and Serpents—Hair-dressing
  and Ornaments—_Tòaka_ Drinking—Rice Culture—Fragrant
  Grasses—The Glory of the Grass—Their Height—Capital of the
  Province—We interview the Governor—Flowers of Oratory—The
  Market—Fruits and Fertility—A Circuit of the Province—Burial
  Memorials—Herds of Oxen—Horns as Symbols—Malagasy Use of
  Oxen—A Sihànaka House—Mats and Mat-making—Water-fowl—Their
  Immense Numbers—Teal and Ducks—The Fen Country—Physical
  Features of Antsihànaka—The Great Plain—Ampàrafàravòla
  —Hymn-singing—Sihànaka Bearers—“Wild-Hog’s Spear” Grass—Dinner
  with the Lieutenant-Governor—“How is the Gun?”—Volcanic
  Action—Awkward Bridges—Fighting an Ox—Occupations of the
  People—Cattle-tending—Rice Culture—Fishing—Buds


  LAKE SCENERY                                                     193

  The Alaotra Lake—Lake Scenery—A Damp Resting-place—Shortened
  Oratory—We cross the Lake—An Ancient and Immense Lake—The
  Crocodile—Mythical Water-creatures—A Pleasant Meeting
  —“Manypoles” Village—A Sihànaka Funeral—Treatment of
  Widows—A Village in the Swamp—Unlucky Days and Taboos
  —Madagascar Grasses—We turn Homewards


  LAKE ITÀSY                                                       208

  Old Volcanoes—Lake Itàsy—Distant Views of it—Legends as
  to its Formation—Flamingoes—Water-hens—Jacanas—Other
  Birds—Antsìrabé—Hot Springs—Extinct Hippopotami—Gigantic
  Birds—Enormous Eggs


  VOLCANIC DISTRICT                                                215

  Crater Lake of Andraikìba—Crater Lake of Trìtrìva—Colour of
  Water—Remarkable Appearance of Lake—Legends about it—Its
  Depth—View from Crater Walls—Ankàratra Mountain—Lava
  Outflows—An Underground River—Extinct Lemuroid Animals
  —Graveyard of an Ancient Fauna—The Palæontology—And
  Geology of Madagascar—Volcanic Phenomena—The Madagascar
  Volcanic Belt—Earthquakes—A Glimpse of the Past Animal
  Life of the Island



  Why I went South—How to secure your Bearers—The Old Style
  of Travelling—Route to Fianàrantsòa—Scenery—Elaborate Rice
  Culture—Bétsiléo Ornament and Art—Burial Memorials—We leave
  for the Unknown—A Bridal Obligation—Mountains and Rocks
  —Parakeets and Parrots—A Dangerous Bridge—Ant-hills—The
  Malagasy Hades—Brotherhood by Blood—Bétsiléo Houses—“The
  Travelling Foreigners in their Tent”—A Tanàla Forest
  —Waterfalls—A Tanàla House—Female Adornment


  IVÒHITRÒSA                                                       246

  Ivòhitròsa—Native Dress—a Grand Waterfall—Wild Raspberries—The
  Ring-tailed Lemur—The Mouse-Lemur—A Heathen Congregation
  —Unlucky Days—Month Names—The _Zàhitra_ Raft—A Village Belle
  and her “Get-up”—The Cardamom Plant—Beads, Charms and
  Arms—Bamboos and Pandanus—A Forest Altar—Rafts and Canoes
  —Crocodiles—Their Bird Friends—Ordeal by Crocodile—Elegant
  Coiffure—A Curious Congregation—Ambòhipèno Fort—We reach the
  Sea—Gigantic Arums—Sea-shells—Pulpit Decoration—Butterflies
  —Protective Structure in a Certain Species—An Arab Colony—Arabic
  Manuscripts—Frigate-birds and Tropic-birds—Other Sea-birds


  AMONG THE SOUTH-EASTERN PEOPLES                                  257

  Hova Conquest of and Cruelties to the Coast Tribes—The
  Traveller’s Tree and its Fruits—A Hova Fort—Ball Head-dressing
  —Rice-fields—Volcanic Phenomena—Vòavòntaka Fruit—A
  Well-dunged Village—Water from the Traveller’s Tree—We
  are stopped on our Way—A Native Distillery—Taisàka Mat
  Clothing—Bark Cloth—Native Houses and their Arrangement
  —Secondary Rocks—Ankàrana Fort—A Hospitable Reception—A
  Noisy Feast—“A Fine Old _Malagasy_ Gentleman”—A Hearty
  “Set-Off”—Primitive Spoons and Dishes—Burial Memorials


  THE SOUTH-EASTERN PEOPLES                                        270

  A Built Boat—In the Bush—A Canoe Voyage—Canoe Songs—The
  _Angræcum_ Orchids—Pandanus and Atàfa Trees—Coast
  Lagoons—A Native Dance—A Wheeled Vehicle—Lost in the
  Woods—A Fatiguing Sunday—Dolphins and Whales—Forest
  Scenery—A Tanàla Funeral—Silence of the Woods—The Sound
  of the Cicada—Mammalian Life—Hedgehogs and Rats—Why
  are Birds comparatively so few?—Insect Life in the Forest—A
  Stick-Insect—Protective Resemblances—The Curious Broad-bill
  Bird—Minute Animal Life in a River Plant—Ambòhimànga
  in the Forest—A Tanàla Chieftainess—River-fording and Craft—We
  reach the Interior Highland—Bétsiléo Tombs—Return to


  TO SÀKALÀVA LAND AND THE NORTH-WEST                              285

  North-West Route to the Coast—River Embankments—Mission
  Stations—A Lady Bricklayer—In a Fosse with the Cattle—An Airy
  Church on a Stormy Night—A Strange Chameleon—The “Short”
  Mosquitoes—Ant-hills and Serpents—A Sacred Tree—Andrìba Hill
  and Fort—An Evening Bath and a Hasty Breakfast—Parakeets,
  Hoopoes, and Bee-eaters—The Ikòpa Valley—Granite Boulders
  —Mèvatanàna: a Birdcage Town—We form an Exhibition for the
  Natives—Our Canoes—Crocodiles—Shrikes and Fly-catchers
  —Tamarind-trees—Camping Out—The “Agy” Stinging Creeper—River
  Scenery—Fan-palms—Scaly Reptiles and Beautiful Birds
  —Fruit-eating and Other Bats—Secondary Rocks—Sparse
  Population—The Sàkalàva Tribes—A Vile-smelling Tree


  TO THE NORTH-WEST COAST                                          301

  Tortoises—Gigantic Tortoises of Aldabra Island—Park-like
  Scenery—The Fierce Little Fòsa—Small Carnivora—Beautiful
  Woods—“Many Crocodiles” Town—A Curious Pulpit—A Hot
  Night—A Voyage in a Dhow—Close Quarters on its Deck—An
  Arab Dhow and its Rig—Bèmbatòka Bay—Mojangà—An Arab
  and Indian Town—An Ancient Arab Colony—Baobab-trees—Valuable
  Timber Trees—The Fishing Eagle—Turtles and Turtle-catching
  —Herons—The North-West Coast—A Fishing Fish—Oysters and
  Octopus—Nòsibé and Old Volcanoes—Our Last Glimpses of


  Old Village Gateway with Circular Stone            _Frontispiece_
                                                        FACING PAGE

  On the Coast Lagoons                                          28

  A Forest Road                                                 32

  Low-class Girl fetching Water                                 50

  A Sihànaka Woman playing the Vahiha                           50

  Bétsimisàraka Women                                           58

  Hova Women weaving                                            58

  Family Tomb of the late Prime Minister, Antanànarìvo          66

  Royal Tombs, Antanànarìvo                                     66

  Earthenware Pottery                                           76

  Digging up Rice-fields                                        76

  Pounding and winnowing Rice                                   78

  Hova Middle-class Family at a Meal                            78

  Rocks near Ambàtovòry                                         92

  Typical Hova House in the Ancient Style                       96

  On the Coast Lagoons                                         106

  Transplanting Rice                                           112

  Hova Tombs                                                   118

  Friday Market at Antanànarìvo                                120

  Ancient Village Gateway                                      124

  A Forest Village                                             134

  Chameleons                                                   136

  Anàlamazàotra                                                146

  Memorial Carved Posts and Ox Horns                           156

  Blacksmith at Work                                           156

  On the Coast Lagoons                                         166

  Some Curious Madagascar Spiders                              168

  Sihànaka Men                                                 176

  Forest Village                                               176

  A Wayside Market                                             180

  Water-carriers                                               218

  Hide-bearers resting by the Roadside                         230

  Bétsiléo Tombs                                               230

  Memorial Stone                                               234

  Types of Carved Ornamentation in Houses                      236

         ”              ”            ”                         238

  Group of Tanàla Girls in Full Dress                          242

  Tanàla Girls singing and clapping Hands                      242

  Tanàla Spearmen                                              248

  Coiffures                                                    250

  A Forest River                                               252

  Tree Ferns                                                   260

  Traveller’s Trees                                            260

  A Malagasy Orchid                                            272

  Malagasy Men dancing                                         274

  Woman of the Antànkàrana Tribe                               278

  Woman of the Antanòsy Tribe                                  278

  The Fòsa                                                     302

  Malagasy Oxen                                                302


  Physical Sketch Map of Madagascar                             16

  Ethnographical Sketch Maps of Madagascar                      17

  General Map of Madagascar                                    314


_showing lines of Forest, and limits of high land of Interior
exceeding 2500 feet above Sea-level_]





The great African island of Madagascar has become well known to
Europeans during the last half-century, and especially since the year
1895, when it was made a colony of France. During that fifty years
many books—the majority of these in the French language—have been
written about the island and its people; what was formerly an almost
unknown country has been traversed by Europeans in all directions;
its physical geography is now clearly understood; since the French
occupation it has been scientifically surveyed, and a considerable
part of the interior has been laid down with almost as much detail
as an English ordnance map. But although very much information has
been collected with regard to the country, the people, the geology,
and the animal and vegetable productions of Madagascar, there has
hitherto been no attempt, at least in the English language, to
collect these many scattered notices of the Malagasy fauna and flora,
and to present them to the public in a readable form.

In several volumes of a monumental work that has been in progress for
many years past, written and edited by M. Alfred Grandidier,[1] the
natural history and the botany of the island are being exhaustively
described in scientific fashion; but these great quartos are in the
French language, while their costly character renders them unknown
books to the general reader. It is the object of the following pages
to describe, in as familiar and popular a fashion as may be, many of
the most interesting facts connected with the exceptional animal life
of Madagascar, and with its forestal and other vegetable productions.
During nearly fifty years’ connection with this country the writer
has travelled over it in many directions, and while his chief time
and energies have of course been given to missionary effort, he has
always taken a deep interest in the living creatures which inhabit
the island, as well as in its luxuriant flora, and has always been
collecting information about them. The facts thus obtained are
embodied in the following pages.


It is probably well known to most readers of this book that a railway
now connects Tamatave, the chief port of the east coast, with
Antanànarìvo, the capital, which is about a third of the way across
the island. So that the journey from the coast to the interior,
which, up to the year 1899, used to take from eight to ten days, can
now be accomplished in one day. Besides this, good roads now traverse
the country in several directions, so that wheeled vehicles can be
used; and on some of these a service of motor cars keeps up regular
communication with many of the chief towns and the capital.

But we shall not, in these pages, have much to do with these modern
innovations, for a railway in Madagascar is very much like a railway
in Europe. Our journeys will mostly be taken by the old-fashioned
native conveyance, the _filanjàna_ or light palanquin, carried by
four stout and trusty native bearers. We shall thus not be whirled
through the most interesting portion of our route, catching only a
momentary glimpse of many a beautiful scene. We can get down and
walk, whenever we like, to observe bird or beast or insect, to
gather flower or fern or lichen or moss, or to take a rock specimen,
things utterly impracticable either by railway or motor car, and not
very easy to do in any wheeled conveyance. Our object will be, not
to get through the journey as fast as possible, but to observe all
that is worth notice during the journey. We shall therefore, in this
style of travel, not stay in modern hotels, but in native houses,
notwithstanding their drawbacks and discomforts; and thus we shall
see the Malagasy as they are, and as their ancestors have been for
generations gone by, almost untouched by European influence, and so
be able to observe their manners and customs, and learn something of
their ideas, their superstitions, their folk-lore, and the many other
ways in which they differ from ourselves.


Let us, however, first try to get a clear notion about this great
island, and to realise how large a country it is. Take a fair-sized
map of Madagascar, and we see that it rises like some huge
sea-monster from the waters of the Indian Ocean; or, to use another
comparison, how its outline is very like the sole—the left-hand
one—of a human foot. As we usually look at the island in connection
with a map of Africa, it appears as a mere appendage to the great
“Dark Continent”; and it is difficult to believe that it is really a
thousand miles long, and more than three hundred miles broad, with an
area of two hundred and thirty thousand square miles, thus exceeding
that of France, Belgium and Holland all put together.[2] Before the
year 1871 all maps of Madagascar, as regards its interior, were pure
guesswork. A great backbone of mountains was shown, with branches on
either side, like a huge centipede. But it is now clear that, instead
of these fancy pictures, there is an extensive elevated region
occupying about two-thirds of the island to the east and north,
leaving a wide stretch of low country to the west and south; and as
the watershed is much nearer the east than the west of the island,
almost all the chief rivers flow, not into the Indian Ocean, but into
the Mozambique Channel. When we add that a belt of dense forest runs
all along the east side of Madagascar, and is continued, with many
breaks, along the western side, and that scores of extinct volcanoes
are found in several districts of the interior, we shall have said
all that is necessary at present as to the physical geography. Many
more details of this, as well as of the geology, will come under our
notice as we travel through the country in various directions.

[1] _Histoire Physique, Naturelle et Politique de Madagascar_,
publiée par Alfred Grandidier, Paris, à l’Imprimerie Nationale; in
fifty-two volumes, quarto.

[2] I have often been astonished and amused by the notions some
English people have about Madagascar. One gentleman asked me if it
was not somewhere in Russia!—and a very intelligent lady once said to
me: “I suppose it is about as large as the Isle of Wight!”



It was on a bright morning in September, 1863, that I first came in
sight of Madagascar. In those days there was no service of steamers,
either of the “Castle” or the “Messageries Maritimes” lines, touching
at any Madagascar port, and the passage from Mauritius had to be made
in what were termed “bullockers.” These vessels were small brigs or
schooners which had been condemned for ordinary traffic, but were
still considered good enough to convey from two to three hundred oxen
from Tamatave to Port Louis or Réunion. It need hardly be said that
the accommodation on board these ships was of the roughest, and the
food was of the least appetising kind. A diet of cabbage, beans and
pumpkin led one of my friends to describe the menu of the bullocker
as “the green, the brown, and the yellow.” Happily, the voyage to
Madagascar was usually not very long, and in my case we had a quick
and pleasant passage of three days only; but I hardly hoped that
daylight on Wednesday morning would reveal the country on which my
thoughts had been centred for several weeks past; so it was with a
strange feeling of excitement that soon after daybreak I heard the
captain calling to me down the hatchway: “We are in sight of land!”
Not many minutes elapsed before I was on deck and looking with eager
eyes upon the island in which eventually most of my life was to be
spent. We were about five miles from the shore, running under easy
sail to the northward, until the breeze from the sea should set in
and enable us to enter the harbour of Tamatave.


There was no very striking feature in the scene—no towering volcanic
peaks, as at Mauritius and Aden, yet it was not without beauty. A
long line of blue mountains in the distance, covered with clouds; a
comparatively level plain extending from the hills to the sea, green
and fertile with cotton and sugar and rice plantations; while the
shore was fringed with the tall trunks and feathery crowns of the
cocoanut-palms which rose among the low houses of the village of
Tamatave. These, together with the coral reefs forming the harbour,
over which the great waves thundered and foamed—all formed a picture
thoroughly tropical, reminding me of views of islands in the South

The harbour of Tamatave is protected by a coral reef, which has
openings to the sea both north and south, the latter being the
principal entrance; it is somewhat difficult of access, and the ribs
and framework of wrecked vessels are (or perhaps rather _were_) very
frequently seen on the reef. The captain had told me that sometimes
many hours and even days were spent in attempting to enter, and that
it would probably be noon before we should anchor. I therefore went
below to prepare for landing, but in less than an hour was startled
to hear by the thunder of the waves on the reef and the shouts of the
seamen reducing sail that we were already entering the harbour. The
wind had proved unexpectedly favourable, and in a few more minutes
the cable was rattling through the hawsehole, the anchor was dropped,
and we swung round at our moorings.

There were several vessels in the harbour. Close to us was H.M.’s
steamer _Gorgon_, and, farther away, two or three French men-of-war,
among them the _Hermione_ frigate, bearing the flag of Commodore
Dupré, their naval commandant in the Indian Ocean, as well as
plenipotentiary for the French Government in the disputes then
pending concerning the Lambert Treaty. I was relieved to find that
everything seemed peaceful and quiet at Tamatave, and that the
long white flag bearing the name of Queen Ràsohèrina, in scarlet
letters, still floated from the fort at the southern end of the town.
I had been told at Port Louis that things were very unsettled in
Madagascar, and that I should probably find Tamatave being bombarded
by the French; but it is unnecessary to refer further to what is now
ancient history, or to touch upon political matters, which lie quite
outside the main purpose of this book.

Tamatave, as a village, has not a very inviting appearance from the
sea, and man’s handiwork had certainly not added much to the beauty
of the landscape. Had it not been for the luxuriant vegetation of the
pandanus, palms, and other tropical productions, nothing could have
been less interesting than the native town, which possessed at that
time few European residences and no buildings erected for religious
worship.[3] Canoes, formed out of the trunk of a single tree, soon
came off to our ship, but I was glad to dispense with the services
of these unsafe-looking craft, and to accept a seat in the captain’s
boat. Half-an-hour after anchoring we were rowing towards the beach,
and in a few minutes I leaped upon the sand, with a thankful heart
that I had been permitted to tread the shores of Madagascar.

Proceeding up the main street—a sandy road bordered by enclosures
containing the stores of a few European traders—we came to the house
of the British Vice-Consul. Here I found Mr Samuel Procter, who was
subsequently the head for many years of one of the chief trading
houses in the island, and also Mr F. Plant, a gentleman employed by
the authorities of the British Museum to collect specimens of natural
history in the then almost unknown country. From them I learned that
a missionary party which had preceded me from Mauritius had left only
two days previously for the capital, and that Mr Plant had kindly
undertaken to accompany me on the journey for the greater part of
the distance to Antanànarìvo. At first we thought of setting off on
that same evening, so as to overtake our friends, but finding that
this would involve much fatigue, we finally decided to wait for two
or three days and take more time to prepare for the novel experiences
of a Madagascar journey. In a little while I was domiciled at Mr
Procter’s store, where I was hospitably entertained during my stay in

The afternoon of my first day on shore was occupied in seeing after
the landing of my baggage. This was no easy or pleasant task; the
long rolling swell from the ocean made the transfer of large wooden
cases from the vessel to the canoes a matter requiring considerable
dexterity. More than once I expected to be swamped, and that through
the rolling of the ship the packages would be deposited at the bottom
of the harbour. It was therefore with great satisfaction that I saw
all my property landed safely on the beach.


Although Tamatave has always been the chief port on the east coast
of Madagascar, there were, for many years after my arrival there, no
facilities for landing or shipping goods. The bullocks, which formed
the staple export, were swum off to the ships, tied by their horns to
the sides of large canoes, and then slung on board by tackles from
the yard-arm. From the shouting and cries of the native drovers, the
struggles of the oxen, and their starting back from the water, it was
often a very exciting scene. A number of these bullockers were always
passing between the eastern ports of Madagascar and the islands of
Mauritius and Réunion, and kept the markets of these places supplied
with beef at moderate rates. The vessels generally ceased running for
about four months in the early part of the year, when hurricanes are
prevalent in the Indian Ocean; and it may easily be supposed that the
passenger accommodation on board these ships was not of the first
order. However, compared with the discomforts and, often, the danger
and long delays endured by some, I had not much to complain of in my
first voyage to Madagascar. It had, at least, the negative merit of
not lasting long, and I had not then the presence of nearly three
hundred oxen as fellow-passengers for about a fortnight, as on my
voyage homewards, when I had also a severe attack of malarial fever.

The native houses of Tamatave, like those of the other coast
villages, were of very slight construction, being formed of a
framework of wood and bamboo, filled in with leaves of the pandanus
and the traveller’s tree. In a few of these some attempts at neatness
were observable, the walls being lined with coarse cloth made of the
fibre of _rofìa_-palm leaves, and the floor covered with well-made
mats of papyrus. But the general aspect of the native quarter of the
town was filthy and repulsive; heaps of putrefying refuse exhaled
odours which warned one to get away as soon as possible. In almost
every other house a large rum-barrel, ready tapped, showed what an
unrestricted trade was doing to demoralise the people.

I could not help noticing the strange articles of food exposed
for sale in the little market of the Bétsimisàraka quarter. Great
heaps of brown locusts seemed anything but inviting, nor were
the numbers of minute fresh-water shrimps much more tempting in
appearance. With these, however, were plentiful supplies of manioc
root, rice of several kinds, potatoes and many other vegetables, the
brilliant scarlet pods of different spices, and many varieties of
fruit—pine-apples, bananas, melons, peaches, citrons and oranges.
Beef was cheap as well as good, and there was a lean kind of mutton,
but it was much like goat-flesh. Great quantities of poultry are
reared in the interior and are brought down to the coast for sale to
the ships trading at the ports.


The houses of the Malagasy officials and the principal foreign
traders were substantially built of wooden framework, with walls
and floors of planking and thatched with the large leaves of the
traveller’s tree. No stone can be procured near Tamatave, nor can
bricks be made there, as the soil is almost entirely sand; the town
itself is indeed built on a peninsula, a sand-bank thrown up by the
sea, under the shelter of the coral reefs which form the harbour.
The house where I was staying consisted of a single long room, with
the roof open to the ridge; a small sleeping apartment was formed
at one corner by a partition of _rofìa_ cloth. There was no window,
but light and air were admitted by large doors, which were always
open during the day. A few folds of Manchester cottons, to serve as
mattress, and a roll of the same for a pillow, laid on Mr Procter’s
counter, formed a luxurious bed after the discomforts of a bullock
vessel. All around us, in the native houses, singing and rude music,
with drumming and clapping of hands, were kept up far into the night;
and these sounds, as well as the regular beating of the waves all
round the harbour, and the excitement of the new and strange scenes
of the past day, kept me from sleep until the small hours of the

The following day I went to make a visit to the Governor of Tamatave,
as a new arrival in the country. My host accompanied me, as I was
of course quite unable to talk Malagasy. As this was a visit of
ceremony, it was not considered proper to walk, so we went by the
usual conveyance of the country, the _filanjàna_. This word means
anything by which articles or persons are carried on the shoulder,
and is usually translated “palanquin,” but the _filanjàna_ is a very
different thing from the little portable room which is used in India.
In our case it was a large easy-chair, attached to two poles, and
carried by four stout men, or _màromìta_, as they are called. They
carried us at a quick trot; but this novel experience struck me—I
can hardly now understand why—as irresistibly ludicrous, and I could
not restrain my laughter at the comical figure—as it then seemed to
me—that we presented, especially when I thought of the sensation we
should make in the streets of an English town.

The motion was not unpleasant, as the men keep step together. Every
few minutes they change the poles from one shoulder to the other,
lifting them over their heads without any slackening of speed.

[Sidenote: THE GOVERNOR]

A few minutes brought us to the fort, at the southern end of the
town; this was a circular structure of stone, with walls about twenty
feet high, which were pierced with openings for about a dozen cannon.
We had to wait for a few minutes until the Governor was informed
of our arrival, and thus had time to think of the scene this fort
presented not twenty years before that time, when the heads of many
English and French sailors were fixed on poles around the fort. These
ghastly objects were relics of those who were killed in an attack
made upon Tamatave in 1845, by a combined English and French force,
to redress some grievances of the foreign traders. But we need not be
too hard on the Malagasy when we remember that, not a hundred years
before that time, we in England followed the same delectable custom,
and adorned Temple Bar and other places with the heads of traitors.

Presently we were informed that the Governor was ready to receive us.
Passing through the low covered way cut through the wall, we came
into the open interior space of the fort. The Governor’s house, a
long low wooden structure, was opposite to us; while, on the right,
he was seated under the shade of a large tree, with a number of
his officers and attendants squatting around him. They were mostly
dressed in a mixture of European and native costume—viz. a shirt and
trousers, over which were thrown the folds of the native _làmba_, an
oblong piece of calico or print, wrapped round the body, with one end
thrown over the left shoulder. Neat straw hats of native manufacture
completed their costume. The Governor, whose name was Andrìamandròso,
was dressed in English fashion, with black silk “top hat” and
worked-wool slippers. He had a very European-looking face, dark olive
complexion, and was an _andrìana_—that is, one of a clan or tribe
of the native nobility. He did not speak English, but through Mr
Procter we exchanged a few compliments and inquiries. I assured him
of the interest the people of England took in Madagascar, and their
wish to see the country advancing. Presently wine was brought, and
after drinking to the Governor’s health we took our leave. The Hova
government maintained, until the French conquest, a garrison of from
two to three hundred men at Tamatave. These troops had their quarters
close to the fort, in a number of houses placed in rows and enclosed
in a large square or _ròva_, formed of strong wooden palisades, with


The following day was occupied in making preparations for the
journey, purchasing a few of the most necessary articles of crockery,
etc., and unpacking my canteen. This latter was a handsome teak box,
and fitted up most neatly with plates, dishes, knives and forks, etc.
But Mr Plant said that both the box and most of its contents were
far too good to be exposed to the rough usage they would undergo on
the journey; so I took out some of the things and repacked the box
in its wooden case. Subsequent experience showed the wisdom of this
advice, and that it was a mistake to use too expensive articles for
such travelling as that in Madagascar, or to have to spend much time
in getting out and putting in again everything in its proper corner.
Upon reaching the halting-place after a fatiguing journey of several
hours, it is a great convenience to get at one’s belongings with the
least possible amount of exertion; and when starting before sunrise
in the mornings, it is not less pleasant to be able to dispense with
an elaborate fitting of things into a canteen. By my friend’s advice,
I therefore bought a three-legged iron pot for cooking fowls, some
common plates, and a tin coffee-pot, which also served as a teapot
when divested of its percolator. These things were stowed away in a
mat bag, which proved the most convenient form of canteen possible
for such a journey The contents were quickly put in, and as readily
got out when wanted; and, thus provided, we felt prepared to explore
Madagascar from north to south, quite independent of inns and
innkeepers, chambermaids and waiters, had such members of society
existed in this primitive country.

[3] It is perhaps hardly necessary to say that for some years past
Tamatave has been a very different place from what is described
above. Many handsome buildings—offices, banks, shops, hotels and
government offices—have been erected; the town is lighted at night by
electricity; piers have been constructed; and in the suburbs shady
walks and roads are bordered by comfortable villa residences and
their luxuriant gardens.



Travelling in Madagascar fifty years ago, and indeed for many
years after that date, differed considerably from what we have any
experience of in Europe. It was not until the year 1901 that a
railway was commenced from the east coast to the interior, and it
is only a few months ago that direct communication by rail has been
completed between Tamatave and Antanànarìvo. But until the French
occupation, in 1895, a road, in our sense of the word, did not
exist in the island; and all kinds of merchandise brought from the
coast to the interior, or taken between other places, were carried
for great distances on men’s shoulders. There were but three modes
of conveyance—viz. one’s own legs, the _làkana_ or canoe, and the
_filanjàna_ or palanquin. We intended to make use of all these means
of getting over the ground (and water); but by far the greater part
of the journey of two hundred and twenty miles would be performed in
the _filanjàna_, carried on the sinewy shoulders of our bearers or
_màromìta_. This was _the_ conveyance of the country (and it is still
used a good deal); for during the first thirty years and more of my
residence in Madagascar there was not a single wheeled vehicle of
any kind to be seen in the interior, nor did even a wheelbarrow come
under my observation during that time.

This want of our European means of conveyance arose from the fact
that no wheeled vehicles could have been used owing to the condition
of the tracks then leading from one part of the country to another.
The lightest carriage or the strongest waggon would have been equally
impracticable in parts of the forest where the path was almost lost
in the dense undergrowth, and where the trees barely left room for
a palanquin to pass. Nor could any team take a vehicle up and down
some of the tremendous gorges, by tracks which sometimes wind like
a corkscrew amidst rocks and twisted roots of trees, sometimes
climb broad surfaces of slippery basalt, where a false step would
send bearers and palanquin together into steep ravines far below,
and again are lost in sloughs of adhesive clay, in which the bearers
at times sink to the waist, and when the traveller has to leap
from the back of one man to another to reach firm standing-ground.
Shaky bridges of primitive construction, often consisting of but a
single tree trunk, were frequently the only means of crossing the
streams; while more often they had to be forded, one of the men going
cautiously in advance to test the depth of the water. It occasionally
happened that this pioneer suddenly disappeared, affording us and
his companions a good deal of merriment at his expense. At times I
have had to cross rivers when the water came up to the necks of the
bearers, the shorter men having to jump up to get breath, while they
had to hold the palanquin high up at arm’s-length to keep me out of
the water.


It was often asked: Why do not the native government improve the
roads? The neglect to do so was intentional on their part, for it
was evident to everyone who travelled along the route from Tamatave
to the capital that the track might have been very much improved at
a comparatively small expense. The Malagasy shrewdly considered that
the difficulty of the route to the interior would be a formidable
obstacle to an invasion by a European power, and so they deliberately
allowed the path to remain as rugged as it is by nature. The first
Radàma is reported to have said, when told of the military genius of
foreign soldiers, that he had two officers in his service, “General
Hàzo,” and “General Tàzo” (that is, “Forest and Fever”), whom he
would match against any European commander. Subsequent events so
far justified his opinion that the French invasion of the interior
in 1895 did not follow the east forest road, but the far easier
route from the north-west coast. The old road through the double
belt of forests would have presented formidable obstacles to the
passage of disciplined troops, and at many points it might have
been successfully contested by a small body of good marksmen, well
acquainted with the localities.


Large dug-out canoes, propelled by paddles on each side, one man to
each paddle]


It may be gathered from what has been already said that travelling
in Madagascar in the old times had not a little of adventure
and novelty connected with it. Provided the weather was moderately
fine, there was enough of freshness and often of amusing incident to
render the journey not unenjoyable, especially if travelling in a
party; and even to a solitary traveller there is such a variety of
scenery, and so many and beautiful forms of vegetation, to arrest
the attention, that it was by no means monotonous. Of course there
must be a capacity for “roughing it,” and for turning the very
discomforts into sources of amusement. We must not be too much
disturbed at a superabundance of fleas or mosquitoes in the houses,
nor be frightened out of sleep by the scampering of rats around
and occasionally even upon us. It sometimes happens, too, that a
centipede or a scorpion has to be dislodged from under the mats upon
which we are about to lay our mattresses, but, after all, a moderate
amount of caution will prevent us taking much harm.

It must be confessed, however, that if the weather prove unfavourable
the discomforts are great, and it requires a resolute effort to look
at the bright side of things. To travel for several hours in the
rain, with the bearers slipping about in the stiff adhesive clay—now
sinking to the knees in a slough in the hollows, and then painfully
toiling up the rugged ascents—with a chance of being benighted in the
middle of the forest, were not enjoyable incidents in the journey.
Added to this, occasionally the bearers of baggage and bedding and
food would be far behind, and sometimes would not turn up at all,
leaving us to go supperless, not to bed, but to do as well as we
could on a dirty mat. But, after all said and done, I can look back
on many journeys with great pleasure; and my wife and I have even
said to each other at the end, “It has been like a prolonged picnic.”
And by travelling at the proper time of the year—for we never used,
if possible, to take long journeys in the rainy season—and with
ordinary care in arranging the different stages, there was often no
more discomfort than that inseparable from the unavoidable fatigue.

Soon after breakfast on the morning of the 3rd October the yard of
Mr Procter’s house was filled with the bearers waiting to take their
packages, and, as more came than were actually required, there was
a good deal of noise and confusion until all the loads had been
apportioned. Most of my _màromìta_ were strong and active young
men, spare and lithe of limb, and proved to possess great powers of
endurance. The loads they carried were not very heavy, but it was
astonishing to see with what steady patience they bore them hour
after hour under a burning sun, and up and down paths in the forest,
where their progress was often but a scrambling from one foothold
to another. Two men would take a load of between eighty and ninety
pounds, slung on a bamboo, between them; and this was the most
economical way of taking goods, for, on account of the difficulty of
the paths, four men found it more fatiguing to carry in one package a
weight which, divided into two, could easily be borne by two sets of

[Sidenote: MY PALANQUIN]

Eight of the strongest and most active young men, accustomed to
work together, were selected to carry my palanquin, and took it in
two sets of four each, carrying alternately. Most of the articles
of my baggage were carried by two men; but my two large flat wooden
cases, containing drawing boards, paper and instruments, required
four men each. All baggage was carried by the same men throughout
the journey, without any relay or change, except shifting the pole
from one shoulder to the other; but my palanquin, as already said,
had a double set. The personal bearers, therefore, naturally travel
quicker than those carrying the baggage, and we generally arrived at
the halting-places an hour or more before the others came up. The
hollow of the bamboos to which boxes and cases were slung served
for carrying salt, spoons, and various little properties of the
bearers, and sometimes small articles of European make for selling
at the capital. The men were, and still are, very expert in packing
and securing goods committed to their charge. Prints, calicoes and
similar materials were often covered with pandanus leaves and so made
impervious to the wet; and even sugar and salt were carried in the
same way without damage.

As the conveyance of myself and my baggage required more than thirty
men, and Mr Plant took a dozen in addition, it was some time before
everything was arranged, and there was a good deal of contention as
to getting the lightest and most convenient packages to carry. We had
hoped to start early in the forenoon, but it was after one o’clock
when we sent off the last cases and I stepped into my _filanjàna_
to commence the novel experience of a journey in Madagascar. We
formed quite a large party as we set off from Tamatave and turned
southwards into the open country. The rear was brought up by a bearer
of some intelligence and experience, who only carried a spear, and
was to act as captain over the rest and look out accommodation for
us in the villages, etc. He had also to see after the whole of the
luggage, and take care that everyone had his proper load and came up
to time.


My _filanjàna_ was a different kind of thing from the chair in which
I had gone to visit the Governor. It was of the same description as
that commonly used by Malagasy ladies—made of an oblong framework
of light wood, filled in with a plaited material formed of strips
of sheepskin, and carried on poles, which were the midrib of the
enormous leaves of the _rofìa_-palm. In this I sat, legs stretched
out at full length, a piece of board fixed as a rest for the back,
and the whole made fairly comfortable by means of cushions and
rugs. There was plenty of space for extra wraps, waterproof coat,
telescope, books, etc. When ladies travel any distance in this
kind of _filanjàna_ a hood of _rofìa_ cloth is fixed so as to draw
over the head and to protect them from the sun and rain. In my
case, a stout umbrella served instead, and a piece of waterproof
cloth protected me fairly well from the little rain that fell on
the journey. (I may add here that this was the first, and the
last, journey I ever took in this kind of _filanjàna_.) The late
Dr Mullens, who also travelled up in a similar way in 1873, said
it reminded him of a picture in _Punch_, of a heavy swell driving
himself in a very small basket carriage, and being remarked on by
a street arab to his companion thus: “Hallo, Bill, here’s a cove
a-driving hisself home from the wash.” My companion’s _filanjàna_ was
a much simpler contrivance than mine, and consisted merely of two
light poles held together by iron bars, and with a piece of untanned
hide nailed to them for a seat. It was much more conveniently
carried in the forest than my larger and more cumbrous conveyance.
It may be added that certainly one was sometimes danced about “like
a pea in a frying-pan” in this rude machine; and it was not long
before a much more comfortable style of _filanjàna_ was adopted,
with leather-covered back and arms, padded as well as the seat, and
with foot-rest, and leather or cloth bags strapped to the side for
carrying books and other small articles.

It was a fine warm day when we set off, the temperature not being
higher than that of ordinary summer weather in England. Our course
lay due south, at no great distance from the sea, the roar of whose
waves we could hear distinctly all through the first stage of the
journey. In proceeding from Tamatave to Antanànarìvo the road did not
(and still does not, by railway) lead immediately into the interior,
but follows the coast for about fifty miles southward. Upon reaching
Andòvorànto, we had to leave the sea and strike westward into the
heart of the island, ascending the river Ihàroka for nearly twenty
miles before climbing the line of mountains which form the edge of
the interior highland, and crossing the great forest.


We soon left Tamatave behind us and got out into the open country, a
portion of the plain which extends for about thirty miles between the
foothills and the sea. Our men took us this first day’s journey of
nine or ten miles at a quick walk or trot for the whole way, without
any apparent fatigue. The road—which was a mere footpath, or rather
several footpaths, over a grassy undulating plain—was bounded on one
side by trees, and on the other by low bushes and shrubs. Besides
the cocoanut-palms and the broad-leaved bananas, which were not here
very numerous, the most striking trees to a foreigner were the agave,
with long spear-shaped prickly leaves, on a high trunk, and another
very similar in form, but without any stem, both of which might be
counted by thousands. Nearer the sea was an almost unbroken line of
pandanus, which is one of the most characteristic features of the
coast vegetation. I also noticed numbers of orchids on the trees, of
two or three species of _Angræcum_, but just past the flowering; a
smaller orchid, also with pure white flowers, was very abundant.

[Illustration: A FOREST ROAD

Two bearers carrying an empty palanquin, and one with luggage. There
is the usual forest vegetation]

[Sidenote: A NATIVE HOME]

I had enough to engage my attention with these new forms of
vegetation, as well as in noticing the birds, and the many
butterflies and other insects which crossed our path every moment,
until we arrived at Hivòndrona, a large straggling village on
a broad river of the same name, which here unites with other
streams and flows into the sea. Among the many birds to be seen
were flocks of small green and white paroquets, green pigeons,
scarlet cardinal-birds, and occasionally beautiful little sun-birds
(_Nectarinidæ_) with metallic colours of green, brown and yellow.
We had intended to go farther, but finding that, owing to our late
starting, we should not reach another village before dark, we
decided to stay of Hivòndrona for the night. A house at most of the
villages on the road to the capital was provided for travellers,
who took possession at once, without paying anything for its use.
The house here, which was somewhat better than at most of the other
places, consisted, like all the dwellings in this part of the
country, of a framework of poles, thatched with the leaves of the
traveller’s tree, and the walls filled in with a kind of lathing
made of the stalks of the same leaves. The walls and floor were
both covered with matting, made from the fibre of leaves of the
_rofìa_ palm. In one corner was the fireplace, merely a yard and a
half square of sand and earth, with half-a-dozen large stones for
supporting the cooking utensils. As in most native houses, the smoke
made its way out through the thatch.

Our men soon came up with the baggage and proceeded to get out
kitchen apparatus, make a fire, and put on pots and pans; and in a
short time beef, fowls and soup were being prepared. Meanwhile Mr
Plant and I walked down to the seashore and then into the village, to
call upon a creole trader, who was the only European resident in the
place. We brought him back with us, and found dinner all ready on our
return to the house. My largest case of drawing boards formed, when
turned upside down and laid on other boxes, an excellent table; we
sat round on other packages, and found that one of our bearers, who
officiated as cook, was capable of preparing a very fair meal; and
although the surroundings were decidedly primitive, we enjoyed it all
the more from its novelty. After our visitor had left us we prepared
to sleep; three or four boxes, with a rug and my clothes-bag, formed
a comfortable bed for myself, while Mr Plant lay on the floor, but
found certain minute occupants of the house so very active that his
sleep was considerably disturbed.


Next morning we were up long before daybreak, and after a cup of
coffee started a little before six o’clock. We walked down to the
river, which had to be crossed and descended for some distance, and
embarked with our baggage in seven canoes. These canoes, like those
at Tamatave, are somewhat rude contrivances, and are hollowed out of
a single tree. They are of various lengths, from ten to thirty or
forty feet, the largest being about four feet in breadth and depth.
There is no keel, so that they are rather apt to capsize unless
carefully handled and loaded. At each end is a kind of projecting
beak, pierced with a hole for attaching a mooring-rope. From the
smoothness of the sides, and the great length compared with the beam,
they can be propelled at considerable speed with far less exertion
than is required to move a boat of European build. Instead of oars,
paddles shaped like a wooden shovel are employed, and these are dug
into the water, the rower squatting in the canoe and facing the
bows; the paddle is held vertically, a reverse motion being given to
the handle. We went a couple of miles down the stream, which here
unites with others, so that several islands are formed, all the banks
being covered with luxuriant vegetation. Conspicuous amongst this,
and growing in the shallow water close to the banks, were great
numbers of a gigantic arum endemic in Madagascar (_Typhonodorum
lindleyanum_), and growing to the height sometimes of twelve or
fifteen feet, and possessing a large white spathe of more than a foot
in length, enclosing a golden-yellow pistil, or what looks like one.
The leaves are most handsome and are about a yard long. After about
twenty minutes’ paddling we landed, and, when all our little fleet
had arrived, mounted our palanquins, and set off through a narrow
path in the woods. The morning air, even on this tropical coast, was
quite keen, making an overcoat necessary before the sun got up.

Our road for some miles lay along cleared forest, with stumps of
trees and charred trunks, white and black, in every direction. It is
believed that the white ants are responsible for this destruction
of the trees. We saw numbers of a large crow (_Corvus scapulatus_),
not entirely black, like our English species, but with a broad white
ring round the neck and a pure white breast, giving them quite a
clerical air. This bird, called _goàika_ by the Malagasy—evidently
an imitation of his harsh croak—is larger than a magpie, and his
dark plumage is glossy bluish-black. He is very common everywhere
in the island, being often seen in large numbers, especially near
the markets, where he picks up a living from the refuse and the
scattered rice. He is a bold and rather impudent bird, and will often
attack the smaller hawks. There were also numbers of the white egret
(_Ardea bubulcus_) or _vòrom-pòtsy_ (_i.e._ “white bird”), also
called _vòron-tìan-òmby_ (_i.e._ “bird liked by cattle”), from their
following the herds to feed upon the ticks which torment them. One
may often see these egrets perched on the back of the oxen and thus
clearing them from their enemies. Wherever the animals were feeding,
these birds might be seen in numbers proportionate to those of the
cattle. This egret has the purest white plumage, with a pale yellow
plume or crest, and is a most elegant and graceful bird.

The oxen of Madagascar have very long horns, and a large hump between
the shoulders. In other respects their appearance does not differ
from the European kinds, and the quality and flavour of the flesh
is not much inferior to English beef. The hump, which consists of a
marrow-like fat, is considered a great delicacy by the Malagasy, and
when salted and eaten cold is a very acceptable dish. When the animal
is in poor condition the hump is much diminished in size, being, like
that of the camel in similar circumstances, apparently absorbed into
the system. It then droops partly over the shoulders. These Malagasy
oxen have doubtless been brought at a rather remote period from
Africa; their native name, _òmby_, is practically the same as the
Swahili _ngombe_.


We reached Trànomàro (“many houses”) at half-past nine, and
there breakfasted. My bearers proved to be a set of most merry,
good-tempered, willing fellows. As soon as they got near the
halting-places they would set off at a quick run, and with shouts
and cries carry me into the village in grand style, making quite
a commotion in the place. Leaving again at noon, in a few minutes
we came down to the sea, the path being close to the waves which
were rolling in from the broad expanse of the Indian Ocean. I was
amused by the hundreds of little red crabs, about three inches long,
taking their morning bath or watching at the mouth of their holes,
down which they dived instantaneously at our approach. One or more
species of the Madagascar crabs has one of its pincers enormously
enlarged, so that it is about the same size as the carapace, while
the other claw is quite rudimentary. This great arm the little
creature carries held up in a ludicrous, threatening manner, as if
defying all enemies. I was disappointed in not seeing shells of any
size or beauty on the sands. The only ones I then observed which
differed from those found on our own shores were a small bivalve
of a bluish-purple hue, and an almost transparent whorled shell,
resembling the volute of an Ionic capital, but so fragile that it
was difficult to find a perfect specimen.

[Sidenote: SEA SHELLS]

But although that portion of the shore did not yield much of
conchological interest, there are many parts of the coasts of
Madagascar which produce some of the most beautifully marked species
of the genus _Conus_ (_Conus tessellatus_ and _C. nobilis_, if I am
not mistaken, are Madagascar species), while large handsome species
of the _Triton_ (_T. variegatum_) are also found. These latter are
often employed instead of church bells to call the congregations
together, as well as to summon the people to hear Government orders.
A hole is pierced on the side of the shell, and it requires some
dexterity to blow it; but the sound is deep and sonorous and can
be heard at a considerable distance. The circular tops of the cone
shells are ground down to a thin plate and extensively used by
the Sàkalàva and other tribes as a face ornament, being fixed by
a cord on the forehead or the temples. They are called _félana_.
I have also picked up specimens, farther south, of _Cypræa_ (_C.
madagascariensis_), a well-known handsome shell, as well as of
_Oliva_, _Mitra_, _Cassis_, and others (_C. madagascariensis_). The
finest examples are, however, I believe, only to be got by dredging
near the shore.

After some time we left the shore and proceeded through the woods,
skirting one of those lagoons which run parallel with the coast
nearly all the way from Tamatave to Andòvorànto. A good recent map
of Madagascar will show that on this coast, for about three hundred
miles south of Hivòndrona, there is a nearly continuous line of
lakes and lagoons. They vary in distance from the sea from a hundred
yards to a couple of miles; and in many places they look like a
very straight river or a broad canal, while frequently they extend
inland, spreading out into extensive sheets of water, two or three
miles across. This peculiar formation is probably owing, in part at
least, to slight changes of level in the land, so that the inner
banks of the lagoons were possibly an old shore-line. But this chain
of lagoons and lakes is no doubt chiefly due to east coast rivers
being continually blocked up at their outlets by bars of sand,
driven up by the prevailing south-east trade-wind and the southerly
currents. So that the river waters are forced back into the lagoons
until the pressure is so great that a breach is made, and the fresh
water rushes through into the sea. On account of these sand-bars,
hardly any east coast river can be entered by ships. The rivers, in
fact, flow for the most of the time, not into the sea, but into the
lagoons. These are not perfectly continuous, although out of that
three hundred miles there are only about thirty miles where there are
breaks in their continuity and where canoes have to be hauled for a
few hundred yards, or for a mile or two, on the dry land separating

It will at once occur to anyone travelling along this coast, as we
did, that an uninterrupted waterway might be formed by cutting a few
short canals to connect the separate lagoons, and so bring the coast
towns into communication with Tamatave. That enlightened monarch,
Radàma I. (1810-1828), did see this, and several thousand men were
at one time employed in connecting the lagoons nearest Tamatave;
but this work was interrupted by his death and never resumed by his
successors. But soon after the French conquest the work was again
taken in hand; canals were excavated, connecting all the lakes and
lagoons between Tamatave and Andòvorànto; and for about twelve
years a service of small steamers took passengers and goods between
Hivòndrona and Brickaville, where, until quite recently, the railway
commenced. Since the line of rails has now been completed direct to
Tamatave, this waterway will not be of the same use, at least for
passenger traffic.


The scenery of this coast is of a very varied and beautiful nature,
and the combinations of wood and water present a series of pictures
which constantly recalled some of the loveliest landscapes that
English river and lake scenery can present. Our route ran for most of
the way between the lagoons and the sea, among the woods. On the one
hand we had frequent glimpses through the trees of sheets of smooth
water fringed by tropical vegetation, and on the other hand were the
tumbling and foaming waves of the ever-restless sea. In many places
islands studded the surface of the lakes, and I noticed thousands of
a species of pandanus, with large aerial roots, spreading out as if
to anchor it firmly against floods and violent currents. In the woods
were the gum-copal tree and many kinds of palms with slender graceful
stems and crowns of feathery leaves. The climbing plants were
abundant, forming ropes of various thicknesses, crossing from tree to
tree and binding all together in inextricable confusion, creeping on
the ground, mounting to the tree-tops and sometimes hanging in coils
like huge serpents. Great masses of hart’s-tongue fern occurred in
the forks of the branches, and wherever a tree trunk crossed over our
path it was covered with orchids.

[Sidenote: A POISON TREE]

Among other trees I recognised the celebrated tangèna, from which
was obtained the poison used in Madagascar from a remote period as
an ordeal. The tangèna is about the size of an ordinary apple-tree,
and, could it be naturalised in England, would make a beautiful
addition to our ornamental plantations. The leaves are peculiarly
grouped together in clusters and are somewhat like those of the
horse-chestnut. The poison was procured from the kernel of the fruit,
and until the reign of Radàma II. (1861) was used with fatal effect
for the trial of accused persons, and caused the death of thousands
of people, mostly innocent, every year during the reign of the cruel
Rànavàlona I.

We arrived at Andrànokòditra, a small village with a dozen houses,
early in the afternoon. From our house there was a lovely view of the
broad lake with its woods and islands, while the sea was only two
or three hundred yards’ distance in the rear. Wild ducks and geese
of several kinds were here very plentiful, but my friend was not
very successful with his gun, as a canoe was necessary to reach the
islands where they chiefly make their haunts. After our evening meal
Mr Plant slung his hammock to the framework of our hut, and happily
did not come to grief, as occasionally happened. I was somewhat
disturbed by the cockroaches, which persisted in dropping from the
roof upon and around me. There was no remedy, however, except to
forget the annoyance in sleep.

I may here notice that when travelling along this coast a few years
later (in August 1883) the sands were everywhere almost covered with
pieces of pumice, varying from lumps as big as one’s head to pieces
as small as a walnut. They were rounded by the action of the waves,
and on some of the larger pieces oysters, serpulæ and corals had
begun to form. This pumice had no doubt been brought by the ocean
currents, as well as by the winds, both setting to the west, from
the Straits of Sunda, where they were ejected by the tremendous
eruption of Krakatoa, off the west coast of Java, during the previous
May. This fact supplies not only an interesting illustration of
the distances to which volcanic products may be carried by ocean
currents, but also throws light upon the way in which the ancestors
of the Malagasy came across the three thousand miles of sea which
separate Madagascar from Malaysia. It is easy to understand how, in
prehistoric times, single _prahus_, or even a small fleet of them,
were occasionally driven westward by a hurricane, and that the
westerly current aided in this, until at length these vessels were
stranded or gained shelter on the coast of Madagascar, stretching
north and south, as it does, for a thousand miles. From what I have
been told, the pumice was found, if not everywhere on the east coast,
at any rate over a considerable extent of it.


We were up soon after four o’clock on the following morning, and
started while it was still twilight. After going a short distance
through the woods we came again to the seashore, and proceeded
for some miles close to the waves, which broke repeatedly over
our bearers’ feet as they tramped on the firm wet sand. For a
considerable distance there was only a low bank of sand between
the salt water of the ocean and the fresh water of the lake. In
many places the opposite shore showed good sections of the strata,
apparently a red sandstone, with a good deal of quartz rock. We left
the sea again and went on through the woods, a sharp shower coming on
as we entered them. We did not notice any fish in the lagoons, but
I was afterwards informed by a correspondent, Mr J. G. Connorton,
who lived for several years at Mànanjàra, and paid much attention to
natural history, that there is a great variety of fish, crustaceans
and mulluscs in the lagoons and rivers, as well as in the sea. He
kindly sent me a list of about one hundred and twenty of these,
together with many interesting particulars as to their habits and
appearance, etc. From this account I will give a few extracts:

[Sidenote: ZÒMPONA]

“_Ambàtovàzana_, a sea-fish which comes also into the entrance of
the rivers; it has silvery scales and yellow fins. In both upper
and lower jaws are four rows of teeth very like pebbles; these are
for crushing crabs, its usual food. Its name is derived from its
peculiarly shaped teeth (_vàto_, stone; _vàzana_, molar teeth).
_Botàla_, a small sea and river fish; it is covered all over with
rough prickles. These fish inflate their bodies by filling their
stomachs with air as soon as they are taken out of the water; if
replaced in the water suddenly, out goes the air, and they are
off like a flash. It is probably _Tetrodon fàhaka_. _Hìntana_, a
river-fish, with purple colouring and darker purple stripes from
back to belly. It is generally found among weeds, and has four long
spines, one on the dorsal fin, two just behind the gills, and one
close under the tail. These spines are very poisonous, and anyone
pricked by them suffers great pain for several hours, the parts
near the wound swelling enormously. I have not, however, heard of
the wound ever proving fatal. _Horìta_, a small species of octopus
found clinging to the rocks. The Malagasy esteem them highly, but I
found them gluey and sticky in the mouth, as well as rank in flavour.
_Tòfoka_, a sea and river fish, probably _Mugil borbonicus_. It has a
habit of jumping out of the water, and if chased by a shark it swims
at the surface with great rapidity, making enormous leaps into the
air every now and then and often doubling upon the enemy. Perhaps the
best of the many edible fish is the _Zòmpona_, a kind of mullet, only
feeding on soft substances such as weeds. It is silvery in colour,
with large scales, and is probably the best-known fish on the east
coast. When fresh from the sea, its tail and fins have a yellowish
tinge, and it is then splendid eating; but if this tinging is lost
it shows that the fish has been for some time in fresh water, and
the flesh has a muddy flavour. It varies in size from nine to thirty
inches long. The coast people are very fond of zòmpona; and when a
person is dying and is so far gone that the case is a hopeless one,
some outsider is almost sure to say, ‘He (or she) won’t get zòmpona

I can confirm my correspondent’s statements as to the excellence of
the last-named fish, having frequently eaten it when on the coast.
He also mentions several kinds of prawns and shrimps; some of these
are large and make an excellent curry. One species of prawn, called
_Oronkosìa_, is long and slender, with immense antennæ, often a
foot in length. One species of shrimp has one large claw, like the
crab already mentioned, the other being hardly at all developed.
Several species of shark are seen off this coast, among them that
extraordinary-looking fish, the hammer-headed shark (_Zygæna
malleus_), which I have never seen in Madagascar waters, but have
noticed with great interest in South African harbours. “The saw-fish
(_Pristis sp._), called by the natives _Vavàno_, sometimes comes
into the rivers in search of food. One was caught in the river
Mànanjàra which measured fourteen feet from tip of saw to end of
tail; the saw alone was three feet six inches in length, seven inches
broad at base, and four inches at tip. The flesh is coarse eating,
but the liver is very palatable.”

I may remark here that we seldom stopped, either at midday or in
the evening, at any village without a visit from the headman of the
place and his family, who always carried some present. Fowls, rice,
potatoes, eggs and honey were constantly brought to us, preceded by
a speech in which the names and honours of the Queen were recited,
and compliments to us on our visiting their village. The Malagasy are
a most hospitable people, always courteous and polite to strangers;
and my first experience of them on this journey was confirmed in
numberless instances in travelling in other parts of the country.


Leaving Vavòny, where we had our morning repast, between eleven and
twelve o’clock, we went on again through the woods along the shores
of the lake, which here spreads out into broad sheets of water, two
or three miles wide. The scenery was delightful, both shores being
thickly wooded, reminding me in some places of the Wye, in others of
the lake at Longleat, and in narrow parts of Studley Park. Our road
for miles resembled a footpath through a nobleman’s park in England:
clumps of trees, shrubberies, and short smooth turf, all united to
complete the resemblance. These all seemed more like the work of some
expert landscape gardener than merely the natural growth. In some
parts, where the more distinctly tropical vegetation—pandanus, cacti
and palms—were not seen, the illusion was complete. In many places we
saw many sago palms (_Cycas thouarsii_), a tree much less in height
than the majority of the palms and not exceeding twelve or fourteen
feet, but with the same long pinnate leaves characteristic of so many
of the Palmaceæ.

One of the most conspicuous trees on this coast, especially as seen
from the sea, is the _Filào_ (_Casuarina equisetifolia_), a tall
larch or fir-like tree, often called, from the colour of its wood,
“the beefwood tree.” Like the firs, its leaves are fine filaments,
and the wind passing through these produces a peculiar gentle sighing
noise. Very plentiful, too, is a much smaller tree bearing a
perfectly globular-shaped fruit as large as a good-sized orange, but
having a hard shell which requires a smart blow to crack. It contains
a greyish pulp, and a number of large black seeds; and although by no
means equal to an orange in taste, its acid flavour was refreshing
enough where one was thirsty and heated with the midday sun. A friend
of mine remarks: “As they are rather more difficult to eat in a
cleanly and dainty fashion than ripe mangoes, we smeared ourselves
pretty considerably in the process.” While the pulp is edible, the
seeds are poisonous, and we need not wonder at that when we find that
the tree is closely allied to the _Strychnos nux-vomica_. Its native
name is _Vòavòntaka_ (_Brehmia spinosa_); _vòa_ is the general word
for “fruit,” and enters into the composition of more than two hundred
Malagasy names of trees, plants and fruits. A species of _Hibiscus_
is widely spread along the coast, and yields a valuable fibre. The
natives say that its flowers are yellow in the morning and red in
the evening. Other noticeable flowering shrubs here are a species
of _Stephanotis_, with lovely large white flowers, and an _Ipomæa_,
which straggles far and wide on the sand of the seashore. Along the
sides of the lagoons and marshes in scattered places may be found
the curious pitcher-plant (_Nepenthes madagascariensis_); this is
a shrub about four feet high, whose jug-shaped pitchers, four to
five inches in length, contain abundant water and numerous insects.
Gum-copal is obtained from a tree (_Trachylobium verrucosa_) growing
on this coast; and india-rubber from several plants (_Landolphia
madagascariensis_ and _L. gummifera_), creepers as well as trees.

[Sidenote: MOSQUITOES]

Notwithstanding the beauty of this part of the country, it is
very unhealthy for foreigners. The rivers, as we have seen, all
communicate with the lagoons, and during the rainy season great
quantities of decaying matter are brought down from the forests. The
large extent of marsh and stagnant water in the lakes breed millions
of mosquitoes, and so give rise to the dreaded malarial fever. The
earlier accounts of the French and Portuguese settlements on the
coast of Madagascar represent this as a frightful scourge, sweeping
off a large proportion of the soldiers and settlers at their forts.
From this, the Isle Ste Marie was called the “Grave of the French,”
and “the Churchyard” and “Dead Island” of the Dutch. But the use of
quinine and modern precautions against mosquito bites have done much
to mitigate the attacks of fever, and since the draining of the
marshes near Tamatave the town is said to be fairly healthy.

The Bétsimisàraka inhabitants of this coast are accustomed to place
their dead in rude coffins hollowed out of the trunk of a tree and
covered with a roof-shaped lid. But these are not buried, but are
placed on the ground in little groups, in a sheltered grove of
trees. In the case of wealthy people, the coffins are put on a kind
of trestle, and sometimes are protected from the rain by having a
shed fixed over them. This custom, it may be imagined, is not, for
the living, a pleasant mode of disposing of the departed, and the
presence of these little cemeteries may often be deduced from the
effluvium, even if they are not seen. During the dry season one
constantly meets with groups of people carrying up the remains of
their relatives, Hova who have died on the coast, in order that they
may be buried in their ancestral tombs. Sometimes we have had our
midday meal, or have stopped for the night, in houses against whose
outer walls these wrapped-up corpses, fastened to long poles for
carriage, have been leaning. At one place where we stayed the people
were making cakes for the funeral feast, and in pounding the rice for
these the women made a special rhythmical beat of their pestles on
the top of the rice mortar, as well as on the meal in the hollow of
the mortar.

[Sidenote: SNAKES]

But to return to our journey. At about two o’clock we had to cross
the lake, but as there was only one small canoe, it took more
than two hours to get all our baggage and men over. We therefore
strolled into the woods, finding plenty to interest us in examining
the orchids, ferns, and other plants, most of them new to me. We
captured a new and splendid spider, new to my companion, who had
made entomology his special study. We were amused by the little
land-crabs, with their curious stalked eyes, folding down into a
case, when not raised to look about them. There were also many
beautifully marked lizards, as well as other interesting living
creatures in these tropical woods. The ferry was close to a village
bearing the name of Andàvaka-mènaràna—that is, “hole of serpents.”
Notwithstanding this ominous appellation, we were not startled from
our path by even a solitary reptile, although a cave not far distant
is said to be a lurking-place for numbers of these creatures. But on
a subsequent journey along this coast I saw a large and handsome
brown serpent on the grass close to the path. I got down, not to kill
it, but to examine its beautiful markings and graceful movements;
but on getting near it, which was not easy to do, as its movements
were so rapid, it turned and faced me in a menacing fashion. Happily,
although there are many species of serpents in Madagascar, not one is
a venomous kind—that is, their bite is not fatal. At the same time
there are some kinds which will bite severely if attacked. Later on,
I saw another much smaller snake, of a bright green colour, on the
trunk of a tree; doubtless its tints were protective. The larger one
I saw is called _Màndotra_, and was from three to four feet long;
another species found on the coast is called _Màntangòra_, and is a
foot or more longer.

[Sidenote: A BOA]

While on the subject of serpents, I will add here some particulars
my friend, Mr Houlder, gives of yet another of these reptiles seen
on this east coast, but farther north. This kind is called _Akòma_
(_Pelophilus madagascariensis_), and appears to be a species of
boa, killing fowls, rats and other creatures first by crushing
them, and then covering them with saliva before swallowing. At a
village he stayed in, my friend found the people much excited about
a large serpent seen in their neighbourhood. Sending out his men
to find it, “at last the creature was seen. Yes, there he was, a
villainous-looking monster, apparently asleep, coiled up among the
bushes with his great flat head in the middle of the circle. The gun
was loaded with several pistol bullets. Luckily it was, perhaps,
for the duck-shot sent into him at the next discharge only just
penetrated his thick scaly skin. Advancing to within a couple of
yards or so, I raised the gun. Bang! Away went the onlookers for
their lives. Peering through the smoke which was slowly moving away,
I could just see the head coming towards me. Enough, I bolted too.
This caused a second stampede. But it was a groundless alarm. I
looked back, and saw that the poor creature was incapable of doing
serious injury. His back was hopelessly broken. No other shot was
necessary.” Mr Houlder did not get the serpent to his house without
difficulty, owing to the terror of the bearers even when it was dead.
“It was a medium-sized specimen, about nine feet long and as thick
round the middle as the calf of a man’s leg. On each side of its body
was a long yellow, black, and reddish chain-like marking on a brown
ground; and near the extremity of its tail were two abortive claws.
Muscular motion did not cease until long after it was dead.”

[Sidenote: LEMURS]

Although we did not see any lemurs in the coast woods, one species
at least is, or, at least, was, sometimes met with—viz. the
white-fronted lemur (_Lemur mongos_, _var. albifrons_). Several
specimens of this kind have been brought to England from time to
time, and have been kept in the Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens from
as long ago as 1830; so that their appearance and habits are as well
known to English people as to the Malagasy themselves. Their habits
are simple enough. They often exhibit great vivacity, and are much
given to leaping from one object to another, in which they are aided
by the pad-like structure of the soles of their four hands. They are
very good-natured and tame and full of fun while still young, but
become cross and vicious when old. We shall, however, see and hear
more of the lemurs when we come into the denser forests.

A little before dusk we arrived at Andòvorànto, a large village
situated at the mouth of the river Ihàroka, and formerly the capital
of the Bétsimisàraka tribe, before they were reduced to subjection
by the Hova. This place would be the natural port of the capital,
but for the bar of sand at the entrance of the river. Were it not
for this obstruction, ships and steamers could come up into the
interior for many miles. The house in which we stayed here was quite
a large one, divided into three rooms, the walls covered with _rofìa_
matting, and actually possessing _windows_ (but, of course, without
glass) and doors. All the places where we had stayed previously had
no windows, and a mat hung over the entrance supplied the place of a

While our dinner was being prepared we walked down to the sea and
along the river banks, hoping to find some natural history specimens.
During our walk Mr Plant related to me his success in obtaining a
specimen of that remarkable creature, the aye-aye, an animal peculiar
to Madagascar, and of which, at that time, only one or two specimens
had reached Europe. The example he secured was sent to England in
spirits, and from it, I believe, Sir Richard Owen prepared his
monograph, giving full details and drawings, life size, showing its
remarkable structure. The animal, although apparently not scarce, is
difficult to obtain, as it comes out from its retreat only at night;
besides which, the forest people have a superstitious fear of it,
so that even a large reward is often insufficient to induce them to
attempt its capture.

[Sidenote: THE AYE-AYE]

The aye-aye is included among the four-handed animals, but it is
very unlike the monkeys, having a smaller brain and much less
intelligence; and from its powerful teeth it was at first thought
to be a link between them and the rodentia, or gnawing animals.
Its structure presents some of the most interesting illustrations
of typical forms, being modified to serve special ends that any
animal organisation can exemplify. The food of the aye-aye consists
of a wood-boring larvæ, which tunnels into the wood of certain
trees. To obtain these, the animal is furnished with most powerful
chisel-shaped incisor teeth, with which it cuts away the outer bark.
As, however, the grub retreats to the end of its hole, one of the
fingers of the aye-aye’s hands is slightly lengthened, but much
diminished in thickness, and is finished with a hook-like claw. Thus
provided, the finger is used as a probe, inserted in the tunnel, and
the dainty morsel drawn forth from its hiding-place. There are also
other modifications, all tending to the more perfect accomplishment
of the purposes of its creation: the eyes being very large to see in
the night, the ears widely expanded to catch the faint sound of the
grub at work, and the thumbs of the feet largely developed so as to
enable the animal to take a firm hold of the tree while using its

Since then, living specimens of the aye-aye have been sent to Europe,
and careful observations were made for several months on the habits
of one in the Regent’s Park Gardens; and other information has
been obtained as to the animal as observed in its native forests
by intelligent natives. The creature somewhat resembles a large
cat in size, being about three feet in total length, of which its
large bushy tail forms quite half. Its colour is dark brown, the
throat being yellowish-grey; a somewhat silvery look is given to the
fur in certain lights by many whitish hairs on the back. The probe
finger is used as a scoop when the aye-aye drinks; it is carried
so rapidly from the water to the mouth that the liquid seems to
pass in a continual stream. A remarkable fact has been pointed out
in the structure of the lower jaw—namely, that the two sides are
only joined together by a strong ligament, and do not, as in other
animals, form one connected circle of bone. This accounts for the
prodigious power of gnawing that the aye-aye possesses. It was seen
to cut through a strip of tin-plate nailed to the door of its cage.

The aye-aye constructs true nests, about two and a half feet in
diameter, which are found on trees in the dense parts of the
forest. Near the coast these are composed of rolled-up leaves of
the traveller’s tree, and are lined with twigs and dry leaves. The
opening of the nest is at the side, and a small white insect called
_andaitra_, probably the larva of some beetle, forms the animal’s
chief food. It is said to be very savage, and strikes rapidly with
its hands. The coast people believe it to be an embodiment of their
forefathers, and so will not touch it, much less do it an injury; and
if they attempted to entrap it, they think they would surely die in
consequence; and their superstition extends even to its nest.

The aye-aye is one of the many instances which the animal life of
Madagascar presents of isolation from other forms. It remains the
only species of its genus, and, like many of the peculiar birds of
the island, is one of the many proofs that Madagascar has for long
ages been separated from Africa; so that while allied forms have
become extinct on the continent, here, protected from the competition
of stronger animals, many birds, mammals and insects have been
preserved, and so this island is a kind of museum of ancient and
elsewhere unknown forms of life.



It rained heavily during the night of Tuesday and nearly until
daybreak, so it was half-past six o’clock before we were able to
leave Andòvorànto. Hitherto we had followed the seashore southwards;
now we were to start westwards into the interior. After an immense
deal of shouting and some quarrelling on the part of our bearers, who
seemed to think it necessary for everyone to give his opinion at the
same moment, we pushed off in six large canoes and paddled away up
the river Ihàroka. For several miles the stream is upwards of a mile
in width. It was a fine calm morning after a stormy night, and as we
glided rapidly over the broad smooth expanse of water, and turned our
canoe’s prow towards the interior mountains, I began really to feel
that I was on my way to the capital.

After half-an-hour we came to a point where the river is a junction
of three streams, the one we took being about half the width of the
main current. We passed many canoes and overtook others; some of
these were filled with rice and other produce, and had but a single
rower; he sat generally at the stern and gave a few strokes with the
paddle on each side of the canoe alternately, so as to keep the craft
in a fairly straight course through the water. Other canoes were
filled with what was evidently a family party, going together to some
market held in one of the neighbouring villages. Our men seemed to
enjoy the exercise of paddling, which was a change from bearing our
palanquins and baggage on their shoulders, and they took us up the
stream at a great speed. More than once, indeed, I wished they had
been less vigorous, for they commenced racing with the other crews,
making me not a little apprehensive of being upset. It would not
have mattered much to them, as they swam fearlessly and had nothing
to lose; but it would have been unpleasant and dangerous for us,
even apart from the risk of crocodiles, which abound in most of the
rivers of Madagascar.

[Sidenote: CROCODILES]

These reptiles are so numerous in many parts as to be a great pest;
they often carry off sheep and cattle, and not unfrequently women
and children who incautiously go into or even near the water. The
Malagasy, however, have a superstitious dread of these monsters,
which prevents them from attempting to kill them. They rather try
to propitiate the creature by prayers and offerings thrown into the
water, and by acknowledging its supremacy in its own element. At
Itàsy, a lake fifty miles west of the capital, the people believe
that if a crocodile be killed a human life will, within a very short
time, be exacted by the animal’s brother reptiles, as an atonement
for his death. Two or three French travellers once shot a crocodile
in this lake, and such was the people’s consternation and dread of
the consequences that their visitors found it expedient to quit the
neighbourhood as quickly as possible. The eggs of the crocodile
are collected and sold for food in the markets, and are said to be
perfectly good, but I confess I never brought myself to test their

We kept near the banks of the river, and so were able to examine
and admire the luxuriant vegetation with which they were covered.
In many places the bamboo is conspicuous, with its long-jointed,
tapering stem, and its whorls of minute leaves, of a light delicate
green; but it is small here compared with what we afterwards saw in
the main forest. Plantations of sugar-cane and manioc were mingled
with banana-trees, palms, pandanus and other trees, many not unlike
English forms. Numbers of great water-lilies with blue flowers were
growing in the shallow water, and convolvuli, as well as numerous
other flowers of new kinds and colours, everywhere met the eye. The
shores were flat at first, but became more hilly, and the scenery
more varied, as we proceeded.


As we sailed up the river the traveller’s tree (_Ravenala
madagascariensis_) became very plentiful, and soon gave quite a
peculiar character to the landscape. This remarkable and beautiful
tree belongs to the order which includes the plantains and bananas,
although in some points its structure resembles the palm rather than
the plantain. It is immediately recognised by its graceful crown of
broad green leaves, which grow at the top of its trunk in the form
of an immense fan. The leaves are from twenty to thirty in number,
and are from eight to ten feet long by a foot and a half broad.
They very closely resemble those of the banana, and when unbroken
by the wind have a very striking and beautiful appearance. The name
of “traveller’s tree” is given on account of its affording at all
times a supply of cool pure water upon piercing the base of the
leaf-stalk with a spear or pointed stick. This supply is owing to
the broad surface of the leaves, which condenses the moisture of the
atmosphere, and from which the water trickles down into the hollow,
where the leaf-stalks join the stem. Each of these forms a little
reservoir, in which water may always be found. The leaves, as are
also those of the banana, are used to beat the thatched roofs in case
of fire, on account of the amount of water which they contain.

The name of “builder’s tree” might be given to it with equal or
greater propriety, for it is as useful to the coast people as the
cocoanut-palm is to the South Sea islanders. The leaves are used
for thatching, and the long leaf-stems fastened together form the
filling-in of the framework for the walls and partitions; the bark
is beaten out flat and forms the flooring; while the trunk supplies
timber for the framing. Quantities of the fresh leaves are used every
day and take the place of plates and dishes; and at the New Year’s
festival the _jàka_, or meat eaten at that time, was always served
up, together with rice, upon pieces of the leaves of this tree or of
the banana; and a kind of spoon or ladle was, and is still, formed,
made by twisting up part of a leaf and tying it with the tendrils of
some climbing plant. The tree ranges from the sea-coast to the height
of about fifteen hundred feet, after which it begins rapidly to
disappear. At an elevation of about a thousand feet it is extremely
abundant, much more so, in fact, than any other tree, and is the one
striking and peculiar feature in the vegetation. It is not found so
much in the forests as on the hillsides in the open country; it has
some half-dozen or more different names among the various tribes on
the eastern side of the island.


On her head is the _sìny_, in her hand the _zìnga_]


The strings are cut out of the bamboo, with calabash bridges]

Our canoe voyage was nearly twenty miles in length, the last two or
three up a narrow creek not above twenty or thirty feet in width.
In one of the narrowest parts of the stream we were stopped by a
tree which had fallen across the creek, just above the surface of the
water. With some trouble and difficulty the canoes were each hoisted
over the obstruction, the luggage being shifted from one to another.
Some friends who came up about five months afterwards told me that
the tree was still there. Probably it had caused a stoppage hundreds
of times, yet no one dreamed of taking the little extra trouble
necessary to remove it altogether from the passage. It was just the
same in the forest: when a tree fell across the path, there it lay
for months until it rotted away. Palanquins had to be hoisted over
it, or with difficulty pushed beneath it, but it was never removed
until nature helped in the work. It was no one’s business to cut it
up, or to take it out of the way; there were no “turnpike trusts,”
and the native government never gave themselves any concern about the


We were glad to land at Maròmby at ten o’clock, for rain came on, and
before we were well housed it poured down heavily for some time. Here
we got as dessert, after breakfast, a quantity of wild raspberries,
which, while not equal in flavour to the English kind, are very sweet
and refreshing. Close to the house where we stayed for our meal was
a coffee plantation; the shrubs grow to a height of seven or eight
feet, and have dark glossy leaves, with a handsome white flower. The
small scarlet fruit, in which the seed—what we term the “berry”—is
enclosed, contains a sweetish juice. The coffee plant thrives in
most parts of the island, and its produce probably will become an
important part of its exports.

Near the house were also a number of orange-trees, and here I had
the gratification of seeing an orange grove with the trees laden
with thousands of the golden-hued fruit. We were allowed to take as
many as we liked, and as the day was hot and sultry we were not slow
to avail ourselves of the permission. Perhaps there are few more
beautiful sights than an orange grove when the fruit is ripe on the
trees. The “golden apples” of the Hesperides must surely have been
the produce of an orange plantation.

The rain ceased after a time, but we did not get off until past two
o’clock, for our men became rather obstinate, and evidently wanted
to stay at Maròmby for the rest of the day. This we were not at all
disposed to allow. At last we started, and in a few minutes had
a specimen of the adventures that were in store for us in passing
through the forest. In attempting to ford a stream, one of my men
suddenly sank nearly to his waist in a thick yellow mud. It was by
the barest chance that I was not turned over into the water; however,
after some scrambling from one man’s shoulder to another, I managed
to reach dry land. There was a shaky, rickety bridge a little higher
up the stream, and by this I contrived to get across.


We now struck right into the hills, up and down, down and up, for
nearly four hours. The road was a mere footpath, and sometimes not
even that, but the bed of a torrent made by the heavy rains. It
wound sometimes round the hills and sometimes straight up them,
and then down into the valleys at inclinations difficult enough to
get along without anything to carry but oneself, but, with heavy
loads, requiring immense exertion. My palanquin described all
kinds of angles; sometimes I was resting nearly on my head, and
presently almost on my feet. When winding round the hills we were
continually in places where a false step of my bearers might have
sent us tumbling down sixty or seventy, and sometimes a hundred, feet
into the valley below. A dozen times or so we had to cross streams
foaming over rocks and stones, to scramble down to which, and out
again, were feats requiring no ordinary dexterity. Again and again
I expected to be tumbled over into the water or down the rocks, the
path being often steeper than the roof of a house. Several times I
got out and walked up and down the hills in order to relieve the men;
but I afterwards found that I need not have troubled myself, as they
easily carried me up much steeper ascents. Some of these scenes were
exceedingly beautiful and, with the rushing, foaming waters, overhung
with palms, ferns, plantains and bamboos, made scores of scenes in
which a landscape artist would have delighted.

In passing along I was struck with the peculiar outline of the hills;
they are mostly rounded cones or _mamelle_-shaped, not connected
together in chains, but detached, so it appeared that road-making
would be very difficult and would have to be very circuitous. In
almost every sheltered hollow were clumps of the traveller’s tree,
together with palms and bamboos. The hills increased in height as
we advanced, while beyond them all in the far distance we could see
the line of the mountains forming the edge of the central highland,
and covered with dense forest in every part. The scene, but for the
tropical trees, resembled the Lancashire and West Riding scenery,
along the Todmorden valley. As far as I could make out, the hills
appeared to be mostly of bright clay, interspersed with quartz. Great
black masses of gneiss rock crop out on the sides of many of them in
most curious, fantastic shapes.

[Sidenote: HOT STREAMS]

On the east coast and for some way westward there is no distinct
rainy season, as in the interior of Madagascar; it rains more or less
all through the year. The temperature did not exceed that of warm
summer days in England, with cool mornings and evenings. We reached
Rànomafàna as it was getting dusk, my lads bringing me in, as usual,
at a smart trot, after doing fifteen or sixteen miles in less than
four hours. The name of this village means “hot waters,” and is
derived from some hot springs which bubble up in a small stream not
far from the houses. The water close to this spot is too hot to touch
with the hand or foot; but as it mingles with the cold river water it
soon becomes tepid, and I found that in wading in the stream I could
have any degree of heat or cold as I chose. Many people come to bathe
in these hot waters, and find benefit in certain complaints.

At this place I procured specimens of that remarkable vegetable
production, the lace-leaf plant, or water yam (_Ouvirandra
fenestralis_). The existence of this plant had long been known to
botanists, but it was introduced into Europe by the Rev. W. Ellis
after his first visit to Madagascar (1853-1854); and from plants
brought by him to England it was propagated, and specimens were
sent to many of the chief botanical collections, as well as to
Kew, Chiswick and the Crystal Palace. I knew of this plant being
abundant in some of the streams on the east side of the island, and
I therefore described it as well as I could to one of my bearers.
A little time after our arrival at the village he brought me three
or four plants, together with the roots, and in one case with the
flower also attached. The leaves were from six to eight inches long
and an inch and a half wide; but I afterwards found at Mauritius
that they grew to more than double this size in the Royal Gardens at

[Sidenote: THE LACE PLANT]

As the name implies, the leaf is like a piece of lace-work, or,
more strictly speaking, like a skeleton leaf, the spaces between
the veining being open. The veining is something like that of a
lily leaf, the longitudinal fibre running through the whole length,
and crossed at very regular intervals by the transverse veins,
which are of thread-like fineness. The specific name, _fenestralis_
(“windowed”), conveys this idea of a regular arrangement of
structure. The leaf-stalk varies in length with the depth of the
water, always keeping a little below the surface. Each plant has ten
or a dozen leaves branching from the root, which in the specimens
brought to me resembled a small potato. It can be eaten, as its taste
is like the farinaceous yam, common to most tropical countries; and
from this likeness the generic name, _ouvirandra_, is derived—_ouvy_
or _òvy_ being the native word for yam. The plant grows in running
water and thrives best in warm situations. The flower grows on a long
stalk and rises a little above the surface of the water; it is of a
pinkish colour, dividing into two curved hairy tufts. Few objects
can be imagined more beautiful or interesting for cultivating in an
aquarium than this lace-leaf plant, which Sir W. J. Hooker termed
“one of the most curious of nature’s vegetable productions.” It is
an endogenous plant, included in the order _Juncaginaceæ_, to which
the arrow-grasses and the rushes belong; it is found not only in the
eastern region, but occurs in streams near the upper belt of forest
in the interior. It is said to be very tenacious of life, retaining
its vitality even if the stream where it grows is dried up; the
leaves in their various stages of growth pass through a gradation of
colour, from a pale yellow to a dark olive-green. When full grown,
its dark green leaves form the limit of a circle two or three feet in

Taking a walk round the village before it was dark, I noticed several
houses raised on posts five or six feet above the ground. At the top
of each post, just under the floor, was a projecting circle of wood a
foot or more in diameter and polished very smooth. I found that these
buildings were granaries, and were raised in this way to protect the
rice from rats, which are a great annoyance in most parts of the
country. The smooth ring of wood effectually prevented them from
getting any farther than the top of the upright posts. The ladder for
getting up to these granaries is a very primitive contrivance; it
consists merely of a round pole with notches cut in the upper side to
prevent the foot from slipping. On a subsequent visit to Madagascar
my wife and I had to use one of these _tràno àmbo_ (“raised houses”),
as they are called, as a bedroom, and very clean and comfortable we
found it, free from all insect plagues; the floor was of plaited
bamboo, springy to walk on, although the getting up to it or down
from it was a somewhat difficult feat.

[Sidenote: OUR BEARERS]

We were astir early on the Wednesday morning and left our quarters at
six o’clock. It was a beautiful morning as we commenced our journey
and began to mount hills and descend valleys and cross streams
as before—with this difference, that the hills became higher and
steeper, and the paths more difficult. How our men managed to carry
themselves up and down, to say nothing of the heavy loads on their
shoulders, puzzled me, but they did their work apparently without
much fatigue. I noticed that many of those who carried heavy loads
had the flesh and muscles on the shoulders thickened into a sort of
pad, caused, I suppose, from the constant weight and friction of
their burdens. When carrying they wore but little clothing, merely
the _salàka_ or loin-cloth, and sometimes a sleeveless jacket of
hempen cloth or other coarse material. In the cool mornings they
generally wore over the shoulders the _làmba_[4] of _rofìa_, or of
hemp cloth; but during the rest of the day this was bound tightly
round the waist, or thrown upon the palanquin. The two sets of four
bearers used to take the work in “spells” of a quarter of an hour
or twenty minutes at a time; when the others relieved them they did
not stop, but those taking the poles of the palanquin would stoop
under and take it on their shoulders with hardly any jerk, even when
running at full speed. Occasionally one set would take the duty for
an hour or more, while if going fast, or on very difficult ground,
they relieved each other very frequently. Every three or four minutes
they changed the load from one shoulder to another, the leaders
lifting the pole over their heads.

In proceeding on our journey we met great numbers of men bringing
poultry, manioc, potatoes, rice, and other produce from the interior
to the coast. These articles are mostly brought to Tamatave and
other ports, so that the ships trading to these places are supplied
with abundance of provisions at a very moderate rate. The poultry
were enclosed in large open panniers or baskets made of strips of
bamboo plaited together and slung at each end of a bamboo or a pole
of light wood. We also overtook many men taking European goods up to
the capital—quantities of cheap and gaudily painted crockery, iron
cooking-pots, and a variety of other articles. Many also carried
salt, and others the same open wicker baskets in which fowls are
brought down, but now containing quantities of the fibre of the
_rofìa_ palm. This is taken up into the interior to be manufactured
into cloth. Sometimes these men were met singly, or two or three
together, but more often they travelled in companies of ten, twenty
or thirty. Occasionally we met a Hova officer in a palanquin borne by
his slaves, and often with his wife and other members of his family,
also in palanquins, with female slaves attending them and running at
a good pace to keep up with the men.

In one day we often saw a great variety of face and colour, and met
representatives of several of the different tribes which people
the island; and these differ considerably in colour and features.
Among the faces we saw, although there were few that could be called
handsome, judging by a European standard, there was yet a large
proportion of good heads, with high, well-formed foreheads, and a
general look of quickness and intelligence. The impression given
was certainly not that of a race low in mental organisation or

[Sidenote: NATIVE MUSIC]

At Ambàtoharànana, where we breakfasted, we were favoured with a
little native music while our meal was being prepared. The instrument
consisted of a piece of bamboo about four feet long, with parts
of the strong outer fibre detached and strained over small pieces
of pumpkin shell like the bridge of a violin. With this simple
contrivance the performer produced a soft plaintive kind of music,
not unlike the tones of a guitar. This instrument is called a
_valìha_, and is played by the fingers. A simpler and ruder musical
effect is obtained by a kind of bow of wood, with two or three
strings, and to which, at one end, the half of a large gourd is fixed
to give resonance; this is called _lokàngam-bòatàvo_ (_vòatàvo_,
pumpkin), but its sound is poor and monotonous.

Although the paths we traversed were most difficult, the scenery
was singularly delightful. There are few more beautiful forms
in tropical vegetation than the bamboo, which unites the most
perfect symmetry and bright colour, and in some places a particular
species[5] gave quite a special character to the scenery. The long
elastic stems, thirty or forty feet in length, three inches or more
in diameter at the base, and tapering to a fine point, were curving
over the path in every direction, and with their feathery whorls of
leaves, yellowish-green in colour, growing from every joint, were a
constant delight to the eye. Sometimes a whole valley seemed filled
with bamboos; while in others the _rofìa_ palm and the tree-ferns
were the prevailing forms.


Our midday journey this day was a continual ascent, until we were
evidently at a considerable elevation above the sea. From one ridge
we had a most extensive prospect and could see the Indian Ocean fifty
or sixty miles behind us, while before us was a yet higher chain of
hills, dark with dense woods of the main line of forest. As we rode
along, I could not but observe the capabilities of the country and
its vast powers of production, were it brought extensively under
cultivation. The country is rich also in mineral wealth—iron, gold,
copper, and other metals, as well as graphite and probably also

We came this day into a belt of tree-ferns, some of large size,
with their great graceful fronds arranged horizontally in a circle
round the top of the trunk. There were also numbers of pine-apples
growing wild, with the magnificent scarlet flowers just developing
into fruit. We descended to, crossed, and for some time went along a
beautiful river, resembling in many parts the Dove at Dovedale, and
in others the Wharfe at Bolton. The view from the top of an immense
hill of the river winding far below was most charming. The paths by
which we ascended and descended would have astonished us in England,
but by this time a moderately level and smooth path had become an
object of surprise. In some places there was only a narrow passage
between rocks overhung with vegetation, most picturesque, but most
difficult to travel by.

[Sidenote: WEAVING]

We got in early in the afternoon to Ampàsimbé, a rather large
village. While waiting for dinner we watched the women at the
opposite house preparing the material from which they make the
_rofìa_ cloths, called _rabannas_ in Mauritius. It is the inner fibre
of the long glass-like leaves of the _rofìa_-palm.[6] The cuticle
on each side is peeled off, leaving a thin straw-coloured fibrous
substance, which is divided by a sort of comb into different widths,
according to the fineness or otherwise of the material to be made.
The fibre is very strong and is the common substitute for string in
Madagascar. In other villages we saw the women weaving the cloth with
most rude and primitive looms, consisting merely of four pieces of
wood fixed in the mud floor of the house, and a framework of two or
three pieces of bamboo. The material they make, however, is a good,
strong-looking article, with stripes of various colours and patterns
woven into the stuff, and is extensively used by the poorer classes.
With the same simple loom the Hova women make many kinds of woven
stuffs; of hemp, cotton, _rofìa_ fibre, and of this last, mingled
with silk or cotton, very pretty and useful cloth of a straw colour,
being made in this way. Of the strong native silk they also weave
very handsome _làmbas_ of bright and varied colours and patterns,
such as used to be worn on all festive occasions by the higher
classes, as well as the more sombre dark red _làmbas_ which are used
by all classes for wrapping the dead.


They are standing on a native mat outside a wooden house]


The article is a silk làmba on a native loom]

We had now reached a part of the country where the _rofìa_ palm
was the most prominent object in the vegetation, not on the hills,
however, like the traveller’s tree, but chiefly in the valleys, where
there is plenty of moisture. This palm grows very abundantly and
can easily be distinguished from the other trees of its order. The
trunk has a rough and rugged surface, and this reaches the height of
twenty to thirty feet; but the leaves are its most striking feature;
they are magnificent plumes, of enormous length, quite as long as
the trunk itself. The midrib of these leaves has a very strong but
light structure, some four to five inches wide at the base, and on
this account it is largely used for ladders, for palanquin poles,
for roofing, and indeed for anything needing lightness as well as
strength. On these midribs are set a great number of grass-like
pinnate fronds, from which, as already noticed, string and fibre are
prepared for weaving. Great clusters of seeds (or fruits?), which are
enclosed in a shiny brown skin, hang down from the top of the trunk.
These are used for boxes to enclose small articles, as jewellery,
etc. At one part of our journey the only road was through an
extensive sheet of water, through which rose hundreds of _rofìas_,
like the interior of some great temple, a most peculiar and beautiful
sight, the great fronds above us quite shutting out the sunshine and
making a green twilight below them.

[Sidenote: A PLAGUE OF RATS]

If we had been disposed to copy the titles of some popular evening
entertainments, the nights preceding this Wednesday’s one might
have been termed: “A Night with the Fleas,” and “A Night with the
Mosquitoes,” but this was emphatically “A Night with the Rats.” We
saw and heard them racing round the eaves of the house before we lay
down, but as soon as the light was put out they descended and began
to rattle about our pots and pans in search of food. We got up and
fired a pistol among them, and this appeared for a time to scare them
away; but later on their attentions became so personal that we were
obliged to light a candle and keep it burning on the floor all night.
After this we had comparative quiet, but before lighting the candle
they had been scampering over my companion in his hammock and over
myself as I lay on the floor.

Thursday’s journey, although shorter than that of most days, was
perhaps the most difficult of all, especially the morning division of
it—hills steeper than ever, and, if possible, rougher footpaths, so
that we were often obliged to get down and walk, making the journey
very fatiguing. For nearly three hours we were passing through dense
forest, and in some places the path was really frightful. I do not
wonder that a small company of soldiers brought up in the early years
of the century by Captain Le Sage laid themselves down in despair at
the difficulties of the roads they had to traverse. I found along the
roadside several varieties of those beautiful-leaved plants, veined
with scarlet and buff, which were so much cultivated in England about
that time. Ferns of all kinds were very abundant, from the minutest
species to the great tree-fern.

Our afternoon’s journey took us for some distance along a beautiful
river which foamed and roared over the rocks in its course, and
which we forded repeatedly. The path was most picturesque, but very
fatiguing; in many places the track could hardly be distinguished at
all from the dense rank growth of plants and long grass. We arrived
at Béfòrona at one o’clock and fully intended to have proceeded
another stage, as it was so early in the afternoon, but we found our
men so exhausted that we were obliged to stay there for the rest of
the day.


Here it may be noted that we had now entered some way into the
lower and wider of the two belts of dense forest which extend for
several hundred miles along the eastern side of Madagascar, and
cover the mountains which form the great ramparts of the highland of
the interior. There is continuous forest from nearly the north of
the island to almost the southern extremity; its greatest width is
about fifty miles, north of Antongil Bay; but to the south of the
Antsihànaka province it divides into two. Of these two belts, the
upper one, which clothes the edge of the highland, is the narrowest,
being not much above ten or twelve miles across, but the lower belt
is from twice to three times that breadth. On the western side of
Madagascar there is no such continuous line of forest; there are,
it is true, many extensive portions covered with wood, but in many
places the vegetation consists more of scattered clumps of trees;
while in the south-west, which is the driest part of the island,
the prevailing trees and shrubs are euphorbia, and are spiny in
character. Mr Baron reckoned that an area of nearly thirty thousand
square miles of the whole surface is forest-covered country. We
shall have other opportunities of examining these extensive forest
regions, so all we need say further at present about them is, that
no one with any eye for the beautiful and wonderful can pass through
them without astonishment and delight. The variety and luxuriance of
the foliage, the great height of many of the trees, the countless
creeping and climbing plants that cover their trunks and branches,
the multitude of lianas that bind everything together in a maze of
cordage and ropes, the flowers which sometimes cover whole trees with
a mass of colour, crimson, or golden, or purple—all these make a
journey through these Madagascar forests a new pleasure and lead one
to exclaim: “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works!”

We were now also ascending towards the central highland of the
interior, which lies at an elevation of from five to six thousand
feet above the sea-level. Above this general elevation, which,
however, is broken up by lesser hills and mountains in all
directions, so that there is no level country except what have been
the beds of ancient lakes, now dried up, the highest mountains do not
rise to great altitudes. The _massif_ of Ankàratra, which forms the
south-western boundary of Imèrina, the home of the Hova tribe, does
not quite reach nine thousand feet in height above the sea. Until
quite recently the summits of Ankàratra were always supposed to be
the highest points of the island, but it has lately been discovered
that there is a mountain called Ambòro, about eighty miles from
the northernmost point, which is still higher, being nine thousand
four hundred feet above sea-level. On my return to the coast in
1867 I found how much less difficult the journey from Antanànarìvo
to Andòvorànto was than that in the opposite direction, owing, of
course, to our descending nearly five thousand feet instead of
ascending the same.

[Sidenote: BÉFÒRONA]

Béfòrona is situated in an almost circular valley, with a river
running through it and surrounded by forest-covered hills. The
village, like most in this part of the country, has the houses
arranged in a square. Their floors are generally raised a foot or
two above the surface of the ground, and are formed of bark, beaten
out flat and laid on bamboos. The framing and roof are made of poles
or bamboo, filled in with the stalks of the traveller’s tree, and
thatched with leaves of the same tree. In the centre of these village
squares was a flagstaff, and in others a pole with the skulls and
horns of bullocks fixed to it. These are mostly memorials of the
festivities connected with the last observance of the circumcision
ceremonies, which are very important events with all the Malagasy
tribes. We had a visit from the wife of the chief of the village, who
brought us a present of fowls and rice.

[Sidenote: A BLOW-GUN]

After resting a while we strolled along one of the streams with our
guns, to try to obtain specimens of some of the birds peculiar to
the neighbourhood. On our way back we observed some boys using an
instrument called _tsìrika_, with which they were able to kill small
birds. It consists of a long and straight palm stem, taken from a
small and beautiful palm with a stem resembling a bamboo. A small
arrow, tipped with an iron point, is inserted and is discharged by
blowing at the larger end. About three inches of the end has wool
to fill up the aperture and prevent any windage. They use this
blow-gun with great precision and can strike a mark at a considerable
distance. A very similar weapon, but with poisoned arrows, is used
by the Indians of South America in the countries bordering the Amazon
and its tributaries.

[4] _Làmba_ is the Malagasy word for cloth generally, but it has also
a specific use as applied to the chief article of native dress.

[5] _Raphia ruffia._

[6] This _rofìa_ fibre has of late years been largely used in England
for tying up plants; but dealers in it persist in calling it “_rofìa_
grass,” which is certainly not a correct name.

[Illustration: Lace Plant]



On the Friday morning we left Béfòrona soon after five o’clock and
for nearly four hours were passing through the forest, here known as
that of Alamazaotra, over the highest hills and the most difficult
paths we had yet seen. Certainly this day’s journey was the most
fatiguing of any on the whole route, so that when we reached our
halting-place I was thoroughly exhausted and glad to throw myself
on the floor and sleep for an hour or more. At one part of the
road there is a long slope of clay, known as “Fitomanìanòmby,” or
“weeping-place of the bullocks,” so called from the labour and
difficulty with which the poor animals mount the steep ascent on
their way down to the coast. In coming down this and similar places
the utmost care was necessary on the part of the bearers; but they
were very surefooted and patient and took every precaution to carry
their burden safely. In ascending we often required the help of all
eight men to drag the palanquin up to the top. The villages in the
heart of these vast woods are few and far between. Our halting-place
for breakfast consisted merely of three or four woodcutters’ huts in
a few square yards of cleared ground.

Our afternoon’s work was much the same as that of the morning. In
many places the rain had made a perfect slough of thick mud, and our
men had hard work to get through. I could not cease to wonder how my
heavy luggage was brought along. For a considerable distance our way
lay along a most romantic-looking stream, whose course was broken
by great masses and shelves of rock, reminding me of Welsh river
scenery. Often in the higher parts of the road, where the rivers down
in the gorges were hidden by the dense masses of wood, we could hear
the roar of waters in the otherwise profound stillness of the forest.
At the chief pass in this chain of hills we passed a tremendous cliff
of rock, which rises sheer out of the valley to a height (so it has
been ascertained) of nearly two thousand feet, certainly one of the
grandest natural objects I had ever seen. This stupendous mass is
called Andrìambàvibé, “Great Princess”; the large trees on the summit
looked like mere bushes seen from below.


Notwithstanding the fatigue of the journey, it was impossible not
to be struck with admiration and delight at the grandeur of the
vegetation. The profusion and luxuriance of vegetable life were very
extraordinary. There appeared to be few trees of great girth of
trunk, but their height was considerable, especially in the valleys.
High over all the other trees shot up the tall trunks of many
varieties of palms, with their graceful crowns of feathery leaves.
A dense undergrowth of shrubs, tree-ferns, and dwarf palms made in
many places quite a green twilight; while overhead the branches were
interlaced and bound together by countless creeping and climbing
plants, whose rope-like tendrils crossed in all directions and made
a labyrinth which it was impossible to pass through. Occasionally we
came across large trees in flower, giving a glorious mass of colour.
With these exceptions, however, flowers were comparatively few; and
during subsequent journeys I have found that it is true in Madagascar
what Dr Alfred R. Wallace has pointed out as characteristic of all
tropical countries—viz. that in the tropics are not to be found great
masses of floral colour. For these one must go to the temperate
zones; foliage, overpowering in its luxuriance and endless variety,
is indeed to be found in the tropics, but not the large extent of
colour given by heather, buttercups, primroses, or a field of poppies
in England.

The orchids, however, were very abundant. Wherever a fallen tree hung
across the path, there they found a lodging-place, and beautified
the decaying trunks with their exquisite waxy flowers of pink and
white. Although what has just been said of wild flowers is true
on the whole, there were a considerable number to be seen, if
carefully looked for. My bearers soon perceived how interested I
was in observing their novel and curious forms, and brought to me
all the different varieties they could find, so that in the evening
my palanquin contained a collection of flowers and plants gathered
during the day. I managed to dry a few, but the greater part had to
be thrown away, as I had no means of preserving them to take up to
the capital.

In some parts of the woods the different species of bamboo give quite
a distinct character to the vistas. Some of them shoot up in one long
slender jointed stem, with fringes of delicate leaves, and hang over
the paths like enormous whips. Another kind, a climbing species, with
stems no thicker than a quill, clothes the lower trees with a dense
mantle of pale green drapery. As we got into the higher and cooler
parts of the forest, numbers of the trees had long pendent masses
of feathery grey lichen, a species of _Usnea_, giving them quite
a venerable appearance, and reminding me of the opening lines of
Longfellow’s “Evangeline”:

  “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
  Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
  Stand like Druids of old, with voices sad and prophetic,
  Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.”


Although the vegetation was most luxuriant, I was surprised and
somewhat disappointed by the stillness of the forest, and the few
signs of animal life and the rarity of the song of birds. It is true
that at certain seasons the notes of many songsters may be heard,
and that in certain places the cries of different species of lemur
resound through the woods. Still, on the whole, I had imagined that a
tropical forest would be much more visibly full of life. Subsequent
experience and research showed me that there _is_ a considerable
variety and number of living creatures in these forests, but they
have to be looked for, and when found they are full of interest, as
we shall see. It may be noticed, too, that both bird and insect life
are more evident in the outskirts of the woods and in the occasional
openings among the trees than in the densest forest, all living
things delighting in sunlight.

From what has been already said it will be seen that the flora
of Madagascar presents many new and striking forms of vegetable
life; but its fauna is still more noteworthy, for it presents one
of the strangest anomalies in the geographical distribution of
animals. This zoological peculiarity consists as much, or more, in
what is wanting, as in what is present. Separated from Africa by a
channel not three hundred miles broad at one point, we should have
supposed that Madagascar would partake to a great extent of the
same characteristics, as regards animal life, as the neighbouring
continent. But it is really remarkably different. There is a strange
absence of the larger species of mammalia, and this statement applies
not only to the forests but to all parts of the island, the bare
highlands of the interior and the extensive lower plains of the west
and the south.


First of all, the large carnivora are all wanting; there are no
lions, leopards, tigers, panthers, or hyenas. The large thick-skinned
animals, so plentiful in the rivers and forests of Africa, have no
representatives in Madagascar; no elephant browses in the woods, no
rhinoceros or hippopotamus lazily gambols in the streams, although
there was a small species of the last-named pachyderm which was
living during the latest quaternary epoch. The numerous species of
fleet-footed animals—antelope, gazelle, deer, and giraffe, zebra
and quagga—which scour the African plains are entirely absent; and
the ox, the sheep, the goat, the horse and the ass have all been
introduced, the three former from Africa and the others from Europe.
The order of mammalia most developed here is the quadrumana, but
this, again, is represented by but a single division, the lemurs
and their allies, which are the most characteristic animals of the
island. There are no true monkeys, baboons, or apes, nor do the
gorilla or chimpanzee put in an appearance. The lemurs are very
distinct from all these and are pretty creatures, bearing little
resemblance to the half-human, grotesque appearance of many of the
quadrumanous animals, or to the savage character of the larger apes
and baboons. They vary in size from that of a large monkey to species
not larger than a rat. They are mostly gentle in disposition, and
some kinds are tame enough to be kept about the house as pets.


The tomb is under the upper open arcade]


On the right is that of Radàma I, on the left that of Ràsohèriva]


It is probable that the mammalia of Madagascar are now fairly well
known, although a few of the smallest species may still await
discovery; and the following summary may be here given of their
divisions and numbers—excluding the bats, of which there are
seventeen species, ninety species of terrestrial mammals have been
classified and described, and of the following orders:—Lemuroida,
thirty-nine species; Carnivora, almost all being civets and quite
small animals, ten species; Insectivora, including shrews and small
creatures resembling hedgehogs, twenty-four species; Rodentia, rats
and mice, sixteen species; and Ungulata, one or two species of
river-hog. It will be seen that about two-fifths of the mammalian
fauna belong to the lemurs, and that with very few exceptions, all
the others are small and inconspicuous animals; many, however, are
of exceptional interest, as we shall see. From a consideration of
the facts regarding the mammals, as well as those of the other forms
of animal life found here—birds, reptiles and insects—the following
conclusions may be drawn: First, Madagascar was anciently joined to
Africa, receiving its fauna from the continent, whose animal life was
then much like that of Madagascar at the present time; but it had
also certain connections at an early geological epoch with Asia and
even with South America, as there are undoubted affinities between
its fauna and those of these distant regions. Secondly, this African
connection of Madagascar existed before the abundant animal life
of the continent entered it from the north, and when Africa was a
great continental island—that is, its central and southern portions,
and separated from Europe and Asia by a shallow sea, now the Sahara
Desert. The upheaval of that sea-bottom was probably to some extent
contemporaneous with the subsidence of the land which is now the
Mozambique Channel. Thirdly, Madagascar must have remained for a long
period separated from every other part of the globe; and while the
western and southern portions have been repeatedly submerged, the
highland interior, of palæozoic rocks, is very ancient land, and much
of its fauna is also antique in its character.

But to leave this zoological dissertation and return to our journey.
I have not mentioned that more than once we saw small companies of
lemurs high over our heads, leaping with wonderful agility from
branch to branch, and uttering their peculiar cry. These cries could
often be heard when the animals were not seen, and sounded almost
like the cry of children; and to myself there was always something
pleasant in it, as that of living creatures rejoicing in their
freedom in these boundless forests.


On Saturday morning I wished Mr Plant good-bye and set off, leaving
him at the village, which he was to make his head-quarters for some
time while collecting natural history specimens in the forest. The
road was not nearly so difficult as on the previous day, so that I
had no need to alight from the palanquin all the way to Ampàsimpòtsy,
where I stayed to breakfast. The hills were much more moderate in
height, with a good deal of open clearing, although the forest still
continued on either hand, but not in those dense masses of wood
through which we had passed the last three or four days. Leaving our
halting-place at noon, we gradually got clear of the woods, and early
in the afternoon ascended a very high hill, from which we could see a
great distance both westward and eastward. Behind us were the hills
and valleys covered with forest through which we had travelled, while
in front stretched a great undulating plain, bare and almost without
a tree, except in a few places, where there were large circular
patches of wood. This was the plain of Ankay, which separates the
two belts of forest, and is the home of the Bezànozàno tribe. Beyond
this again, ten or twelve miles away, was the upper forest, clothing
the slopes and summits of the edge of the interior highland. Careful
examination of this region has shown that it was formerly the bed
of a great lake, from two to three hundred miles long, extending
from the present Lake Alaotra, farther north, and is its gradually
diminishing remnant. Subsequent action of water has, however, so cut
up its former level that it now presents a very uneven surface.

It was dull travelling alone after the pleasant companionship of a
fellow-traveller; and in making arrangements for meals, etc., I felt
how perfectly helpless a man is when he cannot speak so as to be
understood. I was a barbarian to my men, and they were barbarians to
me; for my stock of Malagasy words was very limited, and probably
almost unintelligible as to pronunciation, so that I was at a
complete standstill for nearly everything I wanted to say. We reached
Mòramànga, a rather large village, at the commencement of the plain,
soon after three in the afternoon and there halted for the rest of
the day. This place was a military post of the Hova government, and
on passing through passports were examined by the officer in charge.

Next morning we were stirring early and left Mòramànga while it was
yet dusk. There was a thick mist, and my men were shivering with the
cold, for we were now two thousand nine hundred feet above the sea,
and their scanty clothing was but a poor protection. For an hour or
two we saw little except for a few yards around us; but as the sun
rose the fog rolled up like a vast curtain, revealing the line of the
Ifòdy and Angàvo hills straight before us; the slopes were partly
covered with trees, but a good deal of their surface was brown and
bare. In the deepest of the many valleys which cut the surface of the
Ankay plain runs a beautiful and rapid river, the Mangòro, about one
hundred and fifty feet wide where we crossed it in canoes. This is
the longest river of the east coast, and would make a fine means of
access to the interior, were its course not interrupted by rapids and
cataracts at many points.

Soon after crossing the river we commenced the ascent of Ifòdy, a
very steep and difficult path, for an hour or more; but as we mounted
higher and higher a glorious prospect gradually revealed itself.
Looking back after we had reached the summit, there was the Mòramànga
plain, bounded by the distant forest stretching away north and south,
until lost in the dim distance, while below us the Mangòro could be
seen in a wavy blue line in the Ankay plain. Before us, to the left,
was a lovely valley, fertile and green with rice-fields, watered by
the Valàla river and shut in by the Angàvo range of mountains, while
on the right was a confused mass of hills, looking like a mighty sea
which had suddenly been hardened and fixed in its tossings.


There was much more evidence of cultivation as we proceeded, the
valleys being occupied by rice-fields, which were kept covered with a
few inches of water by careful irrigation. Among the bird population
of Madagascar there are some eighteen species of herons and storks
which are seen in the marshes and rice-fields. One of the most
noticeable of these is the _Tàkatra_ or tufted umber, a long-legged
stork with a large plume or crest. It builds an extraordinarily large
nest, which is visible at a considerable distance and might be taken
at first sight for half-a-load of hay. It is usually placed on the
fork of a large tree, and is composed of sticks and grass, plastered
inside with a thick lining of mud. It is from four and a half to
six feet in diameter, dome-shaped, with a lateral entrance, and is
divided into three chambers, in one of which its two large eggs are
laid. The entrance is by a narrow tunnel and is always placed so
as to be difficult of access, though the nest itself may be quite
easy to approach. From this conspicuous nest, and the sedate way in
which the tàkatra marches about seeking for its food, many native
superstitions have gathered about the bird, one of which is that
those who destroy its nest will become lepers. If the sovereign’s
path was crossed by a tàkatra, it was considered unlucky to proceed,
and the royal procession had to retrace its steps. Many native
proverbs also refer to this bird. There are also two other species
of stork, one of which is always found together with other shore
birds; it lives in companies of from six to twelve individuals at
river-mouths, feeding on crustacea and mulluscs, from which habit
comes its name of _Famàkiakòra_ or “shell-breaker.”

[Sidenote: THE HOVAS]

We were now nearing the country of the Hovas, and could see an
evident difference in the appearance of the inhabitants. They were
lighter in colour and had longer and straighter hair than the coast
tribes. But owing to the fashion, at that time, of both sexes wearing
their hair done up in a number of knots, and from the apparent
absence of whisker or beard, I was sometimes puzzled to know at first
sight whether the people we passed were men or women; and there was
little difference in dress, the _làmba_ being worn by both. Not only
were the people different in appearance to those we had mostly seen,
but the dwellings also had a much more civilised look. Several of the
houses at Ambòdinangàvo were of the true Hova type, with high-pitched
roofs, made of strong timber framing and filled in, for the walls,
with thick upright planking, instead of the slight bamboos and leaves
of the coast and forest houses. Some had boarded floors and had a
room in the roof; and the crossed rafters at the gables were carried
up for two or three feet above the ridge. The house in which I stayed
had a much more comfortable appearance than any I had been in before,
having two rooms on the ground floor, the walls covered with matting,
and there were actually chairs! a luxury I had not experienced since
leaving Tamatave. I felt that I was getting near civilisation again.

While dinner was preparing I strolled out into a ravine near the
house and was struck with the beauty and variety of the insects,
as indeed I had been in many parts of the journey. There were
butterflies of gorgeous hues, dragonflies, crimson, blue and dull
gold in colour, grasshoppers with scarlet wings, and the very spiders
with gold and silver markings. Some species of these latter were of
great size; we saw hundreds of them in their large geometric webs
stretching over the paths as we came along.


On Monday morning, 12th October, we left the village before sunrise
and immediately began the ascent of Angàvo, which rises from fifteen
hundred to sixteen hundred feet above the valley. It is an enormous
mass of granite, capped with clay, the summit being scarped and
fortified with earthworks; it is, however, not a detached mountain
rising from a plain on every side, but rather a vast natural bastion
or outwork of a higher level of country. There was a gorgeous
sunrise, which covered the greater part of the sky with a crimson
light, unlike anything I had ever seen before. Then for another hour
or two we were passing through the upper belt of forest, here very
narrow, being only ten or twelve miles across, but as dense and as
beautiful as the lower and wider belt. And it was just as difficult
to travel through as the other forest, descending into the gorge of
the Mandràka river and then scaling the steep ascents. One place
especially, where we crossed the stream, was a perfect combination
of beauty—rushing waters, luxuriant foliage of fern and palm and
bamboo—and hundreds of large blue and black papilio butterflies
hovering over the river.

At eight o’clock we reached Ankèramadìnika, a village close to the
last ascent of the forest, and waited for a few minutes while my
bearers bought manioc root at the little market. The people crowded
round me, bringing various articles of food for sale—sweet potatoes,
honeycomb, and wild raspberries. We had now left behind us the forest
region and were on the bare open uplands of Imèrina, the air being
clear and keen. The hills were less steep and more rounded, reminding
me of some parts of the English chalk downs, and there was hardly
a tree to be seen. In several places the granite or gneiss takes
a dome-like form; and in others the same rock formed the highest
points. For many miles I could see them rising high over every other
hill; one of these, on the southern side of a huge mountain called
Angàvokèly, was like a titanic castle; another, which is divided into
three and called Tèlomiràhavàvy (“Three Sisters”), was like a vast


There were signs of approaching the capital in the number of villages
which came in sight. The country also was much more cultivated,
chiefly, however, in the valleys, where the bright green patches of
the newly sown rice gave a refreshing contrast to the bare and brown
appearance of the hills and downs, now parched and dry after five or
six months without rain. In many places great black patches showed
where the dry grass had been set on fire. This is done shortly before
the rains come on, and the rank hay-like grass is succeeded by a crop
of fine short herbage suitable for pasture. About noon we caught
sight of the large village of Ambàtomànga, then two or three miles
distant. This place had an important and picturesque appearance,
being considerably larger than any town on the road. Over a number of
smaller dwellings one large house rose conspicuous, with its lofty
high-pitched roof and double verandah. Close to the village is a
lofty mass of blue gneiss rock, about a couple of hundred feet in
height, and crowned by a stone tomb and other buildings, giving it
the air of a fortification. Passing through a large weekly market,
where hundreds of people were buying and selling, we at length
entered the last station on the road to Antanànarìvo.

Ambàtomànga had quite the appearance of a fortified town, having
walls of clay surrounding it, and deep fosses outside them. I stopped
at the large house which I had noticed at first, and found it a
well-finished timber structure, with venetian shutters and framed
doors, quite a contrast to the mere sheds in which I had slept for
ten nights past. It was divided into three rooms on the ground floor,
with walls, floor and ceiling all well planed and finished. The
owner, a fine-looking man and a native noble, gave me a welcome in
a little broken English; but his knowledge of European tongues was
apparently confined to half-a-dozen short phrases, for he repeatedly
said, “Thank you, sir,” giving me a hearty shake of the hand at
the same time, as if he thought that was the proper formula to be
observed. A little before dusk I walked out with him to the fort-like
tomb on the top of the rock. In the light of the setting sun the red
clay hills gave back the warm rays with an intensity of colour that
was remarkable. The tomb at the top is a large stone structure, well
worked, with an open balustrade and bold mouldings. Walking round
the house after dusk, I saw a lurid glare in the sky on all sides,
and then found it was produced by the grass burning on the hills and
downs, which showed in lines of fire for many miles in all directions.


Early on Tuesday morning, with a glad heart I took my seat in my
palanquin, rejoiced to think that this was the last stage in my long
journey. About three-quarters of an hour after leaving Ambàtomànga
we caught our first sight of the capital, still twelve or fourteen
miles distant, and I could not but be struck by its size and fine
situation, a much larger city than I had expected, built on the
summit and slopes of a lofty rocky hill some two miles long from
north to south, which was covered with dark-looking houses. In the
centre stood conspicuous the great bulk of the chief palace and
its smaller neighbour, their arched verandahs and steep roofs, all
painted white, and shining in the morning sun, towering over every
other object. It was a memorable moment to me, as I thought of what
had happened in Antanànarìvo within the last quarter-century, and
that my work was to raise lasting memorials to the brave Malagasy who
had suffered and died for their faith.

On we went over the long rolling moor-like hills, losing sight of the
city every now and then, and presently coming in view of it again
as we mounted the ridges; and every half-hour brought out more of
the details of the place and revealed its masses of dark houses,
clustered on the slopes of the rocky hill. Several streams we crossed
by means of stone arched bridges, and I was struck by the number of
villages to be seen in every direction, many of them enclosed in
high walls made of red clay, laid with care in regular courses and
apparently hard and durable. The houses were all built of the same
material, and many of them were enclosed in circular and others in
square courtyards with gateways. Many of the villages were surrounded
with deep fosses, sometimes two and even three yards deep, now
generally filled with bananas, peach and other fruit trees, and some
with walls and stone gateways, giving one the impression that there
must have formerly been much internal warfare to need such elaborate
defences. This indeed was the case before Imèrina was governed by one
sovereign, about a hundred years ago.

[Sidenote: LOCUSTS]

Within a mile or two of the city we passed for a quarter of an
hour through a perfect cloud of locusts, which covered the ground
and filled the air. At a distance these insects appeared like a
low-lying cloud of dust; and when near to one, and seen in certain
directions, the sun shining on their wings gave them almost the
appearance of a snow shower. I began to realise one of the plagues
of Egypt. Many varieties of locust are common in Madagascar, and
occasionally they do great damage to the crops. The Malagasy,
however, make use of them for food, and when a cloud of them appears,
men, women and children are all out catching them; and for a few days
afterwards great brown heaps of them are to be seen at all the little
wayside shops. They are said to taste something like shrimps, without
any insides; but I must confess I never brought myself to taste them,
for they are anything but inviting in appearance.

At length I was carried into a compound near the foot of the city
hill, and after some delay was met by one of the L.M.S. missionaries
and conducted by a most difficult and breakneck path up into the
triangular central space called Andohàlo. At the north-eastern corner
of this space was the dispensary and dwelling of our good medical
missionary, Dr Davidson, from whom and Mrs Davidson I received
a hearty welcome, and in a short time also from the rest of the
missionary brethren. With a glad and thankful heart I found myself in
the capital of Madagascar, with cheerful anticipations of being able
to do something in the service of Him who had protected me thus far,
and of helping in various ways the Malagasy people.



My object in these chapters is to describe, as vividly as I am able,
the varied aspects of the different months throughout the year
in this central province of Imèrina, as they present themselves
to anyone who lives in the capital city of Antanànarìvo, and is
frequently travelling in the country around it. I want to show the
variety of nature during the changing seasons, as the result of the
heat or cold, and of the moisture or drought of the climate. And it
must be remembered that although this central province of Madagascar
is by several degrees well within the tropics, our climate for some
months of the year is by no means the “tropical” one supposed in our
ordinary English use of that word. On these interior highlands, from
three to five thousand feet above the sea-level, the south-easterly
winds blow from June to August with a keenness and force which it
needs thick clothing to withstand, and makes a wood fire during the
long evenings a very pleasant addition to the comforts of home life.

The seasons in the central regions of the island are practically
only two: the hot and rainy period, from the beginning of November
to the end of April; and the cool and dry period, during the other
months, from May to October. The Malagasy are, however, accustomed
to speak of four seasons of their year—viz. the _Lòhataona_—_i.e._
“head of the year”—during September and October, when the planting
of the early rice is going on, and a few showers give promise of the
coming rains; the _Fàhavàratra_—_i.e._ “thunder-time”—when severe
storms of thunder and lightning are frequent, with heavy downpours
of rain, from the early part of November to the end of February or
into March; the _Fàraràno_—_i.e._ “last rains”—from the beginning of
March and through April; and lastly, the _Rinìnina_—_i.e._ “time
of bareness”—when the grass becomes dry and withered, from June to

Taking therefore the seasons in order, from the beginning, not of
January, which gives no natural division of the year, but from the
early part of September, when the blossoms of the trees speak of
the “good time coming” of renewed verdure, I shall note down, in
their succession, the varying aspects of the country, in climate,
vegetation, and culture of the soil, as well as the animal life,
throughout the changing year.


Before, however, proceeding to do this, it may give greater
distinctness to the mental picture I want to draw for those who have
never been in Madagascar, if I try to describe in a few words the
appearance of this central province of the island, especially of that
portion of it which is in the neighbourhood of the capital. From the
usually pure and clear air of this elevated region, which is not
defiled by the smoke of chimneys, nor often thickened by the mists of
the lowlands, one can see for extraordinary distances, and hills and
rocks twenty or thirty miles away stand out more sharp and distinct
than they would usually do in England at only four or five miles’

Let us go up to the highest point of the long rocky ridge on
and around which Antanànarìvo is built, from which we can “view
the landscape o’er,” and try and gain a clear notion of this
“heart of Imèrina,” as it is often called by the Malagasy. The
city hill reaches the greatest elevation at a point called
Ambòhimitsímbina—_i.e._ “Hill of regarding”—which is seven hundred
feet above the general level of the rice-plains around it. From this
“coign of vantage” there is of course a very extensive view in every
direction, and we see at once that the surrounding country is very
mountainous. East and south there is little but hills of all shapes
and sizes to be seen, except along the valleys of the river Ikòpa
and its tributaries, which come from the edge of the upper forest,
thirty miles or so away to the east. To the north the country is
more undulating, but at ten or twelve miles away high hills and
moors close in the view, some of the hills rising into mountains.
The country is everywhere in these directions, except in the river
valleys, covered with red soil of various shades of colour, through
which the granite and gneiss foundations protrude at almost every
elevated point in huge boulder-like rocks, and form the summits of
every hill and mountain, often in dome-shaped or boss-like masses,
and in some like titanic castles and towers.


Making cooking utensils and pitchers (_Sìny_)]


Notice the long-handled and long-bladed native spade, the handle
serving as a lever to turn over the clods]

There is little foliage to be seen except on the top of some of the
hills where the ancient towns and villages are built, and in such
places a circle of old _àviàvy_ trees and an occasional _amòntana_
tree give a pleasant relief to the prevailing red and ochre tints of
the soil, and, in the cold and dry season, to the russet and grey
hues of the dry grass on the bare hills and downs. The largest mass
of green is at the old capital, Ambòhimànga, eleven miles away to
the north, where the steep sides of the hill are still covered with
a remnant of the original forest, which formerly was doubtless much
more extensive in this part of the central province. In the deep
fosses which surround old villages there is also often a considerable
amount of foliage, as well as in the hollows and along the streams.
But it must be confessed that a large extent of Imèrina, in common
with the rest of the interior, consists of bare rounded down-like
hills, very uninteresting in character; although towards sunset, in
the slanting rays, these hills have a softness of outline in their
curves which has a decided element of beauty not to be ignored.


To the west, from north to south, the prospect is very extensive.
To the south-west there rises by very gradual slopes, at some
thirty-five miles’ distance, the mass of Ankàratra, its three or four
highest peaks reaching an elevation of nearly nine thousand feet
above the sea, and about half that height above the general level of
the country. But even at such a distance the summits usually stand
out sharp and clear against the sky. Due west and north-west is a
considerable extent of comparatively level country, beyond which
mountains fifty miles away are distinctly seen on the horizon. In
the foreground, stretching away many miles, is the great rice-plain
of Bétsimitàtatra, from which numbers of low red hills, most of them
with villages, rise like islands out of a green sea where the rice
is growing. Along the plain the river Ikòpa can be seen, winding its
way northwards to join the Bétsibòka; the united streams, with many
tributaries, flowing into the sea through the Bay of Bèmbatòka. This
great plain, “the granary of Antanànarìvo,” was formerly an immense
marsh, and earlier still an extensive lake with numerous bays among
the surrounding hills; but since the embanking of the river by some
of the early kings of Imèrina, it has become the finest rice-plain of
the island and, with its connected valleys, furnishes the bulk of the
food of the people of the central province.


The embankments require, of course, constant attention during the
rainy season, when the river is swollen by the heavy rains; and
during the time of the native regime, an unusually wet season would
cause them to give way, so that the rice-fields were flooded. At such
times the whole population would be called out to help in stopping
the breaches, and I remember one occasion, a Sunday, when we had no
afternoon service, and with others of my brother missionaries I spent
several hours in carrying sods and stones, together with our people.
Another such calamity occurred in January 1893; for on the night of
Saturday, the 28th, and the following day, there was an unusually
heavy storm, doing immense damage, destroying hundreds of houses and
village churches, and breaking the river banks, so that in a day
or two hundreds of thousands of acres of the great rice-plain were
under water, three or four feet deep. In some parts it was difficult
to trace the river banks; it was “water, water everywhere,” and
scores of low hills were again turned into islands, cut off from
all communication, except by canoe, with the world around them. If
one could have forgotten the terrible loss to the people of their
crops of rice just ready to be cut, it was a most beautiful scene,
and reminded one that in ancient times this great plain was always
a lake, when many now extinct animals, reptiles and gigantic birds
found a home in it and on its shores. For centuries the heavy
rains—probably far heavier then than now, from the greater extent
of forest—went on filling up the valleys with the rich black and
blue loam; gradually the lake became less and less deep; slowly the
river cut out its bed; and then man came on the scene, and the old
native kings aided nature by embanking the river; the marshes became
rice-fields and supplied with food the present large population which
lives all around it.

From this elevated point at least a hundred small towns and villages
can be recognised, many of them marked by the tiled roof, and often
the tower, of the village church, which shines out distinctly amid
the brown thatched roofs of most of the houses. This view from
the summit of the capital is certainly an unrivalled one, in
Madagascar at least, for its variety and extent, as well as for
the human interest of its different parts, as shown by the large
population, the great area of cultivated land, the embanked rivers,
and the streams and water-channels for irrigation seen in every


A palanquin bearer is in the doorway]


Rice is the staple food, with a meat or vegetable relish]

SPRINGTIME: SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER.—With the early days of September
we may usually say that springtime in Imèrina fairly sets in, and
that the year in its natural aspects properly commences. By a true
instinct, arising doubtless from long observation of the change of
the seasons, the Malagasy call this time _Lòhataona_—_i.e._ “the
head, or beginning, of the year”—when nature seems to awake from the
comparative deadness of the cold and dry winter months, during which
the country has looked bare and uninviting, but now begins again
to give promise of fertility and verdure. The keen cold winds and
drizzly showers of the past few weeks give place to warmer air and
clearer skies, and although usually there is but little rain during
September, the deciduous trees begin to put forth their leaves, and
flower-buds appear as heralds of the fuller display of vegetable life
which will be seen after the rains have fallen.

[Sidenote: RICE-FIELDS]

The great rice-plain to the west of Antanànarìvo still looks, during
the early days of the _Lòhataona_, bare and brown; but, if we examine
the prospect more closely, we shall see that in various places, where
the plain borders the low rising grounds on which the villages are
built, there are bright patches of vivid green. These are the _kètsa_
grounds or smaller rice-fields, where the rice is first sown thick
and broadcast, and where it grows for a month or two before being
planted out in the larger fields, which are divided from each other
by a low bank of earth, a few inches broad and only a foot or two in

As the season advances, the people everywhere begin to be busy
digging up their rice-fields, both large and small, the clods being
piled up in heaps and rows in order to give the soil the benefit of
exposure to the sun and air. All this work is done by the native
long-handled and long and narrow bladed spade, driven into the
ground by the weight of the handle, as the Malagasy wear no shoes
and so could not drive down the spade by the foot, in European
fashion, while the plough is still an unknown implement to them. The
water-courses, by which water is brought to every rice-plot, are
now being repaired in all directions. The chief supply of water is
from the springs found at the head of almost every valley, which is
carefully led by channels cut and embanked round the curves of the
hillsides, being often taken thus for a considerable distance from
its source. Eventually this little canal resolves itself into a small
stream traversing the valley, from which smaller channels convey the
water to every field, so as to moisten the clods after they have been
dug over.


The water-supply for the great Bétsimitàtatra plain is derived
from the Ikòpa river and its many tributaries. Canals tap these
rivers at various points, in order to irrigate the fields at lower
levels farther down their course. A large quantity of water is thus
diverted from the rivers during September and October, so that the
smaller streams are almost dry, and even the Ikòpa and its affluents,
good-sized rivers at other times of the year, then become shallow and
easily fordable.

Before the end of October a large extent of the great plain,
especially to the north and north-west, is completely planted with
rice; and a green level, looking like one vast lawn, stretches away
for many miles in this direction, without any break or visible
divisions. This green is the _vàry alòha_, or “former rice,” the
first crop, which will become ripe in the month of January, or
early in February. Smaller expanses of bright green appear in other
directions also, especially along the courses of the rivers, but a
considerable extent of the plain directly to the west of the capital
is still russet-brown in colour, and will not be planted until a
month or two later. From this will come the later rice-crop, the
(_vàry_) _vàky ambiàty_, which is planted in November or December and
becomes fit for cutting about April. This latter crop is so called
because the flowering of the _ambiàty_ (_Vernonia appendiculata_)
shrub, about November, gives notice to the people that planting-time
has come. This shrub is very conspicuous about this time of the year
from its masses of white—slightly tinged with purple—flowers.

The _kètsa_ grounds are covered before sowing with a layer of wood
and straw ashes, so that they have quite a black appearance. Before
this, however, the clods have been broken up and worked by the spade
into a soft mud, with an inch or two of water over all, and on this
the grain is sown broadcast, springing up in two or three weeks’
time and looking like a brilliant emerald carpet.

There are usually a few heavy showers about the end of September
or the early part of October, which are called _rànonòrana
màmpisàra-taona_—_i.e._ “rain dividing the year”; but occasionally
no rain falls until the rainy season regularly commences, so it
is dry and dusty everywhere, the ground cracks, and everything
seems thirsting for moisture. The heat increases as the sun gets
more vertical, although the nights are pleasantly cool. Yet
notwithstanding the dry soil the trees begin to blossom. Most
conspicuous among them is the Cape lilac (_Melia azederach_), a tree
introduced from South Africa about eighty or ninety years ago by the
first L.M.S. missionaries, and now thoroughly naturalised in the
interior of Madagascar. It grows to be a good-sized tree, and many
hundreds of them are to be seen in and around Antanànarìvo, making
the place gay with their profusion of pale greyish-lilac flowers, and
fragrant with their strong perfume.

[Sidenote: ORCHARDS]

There are many large orchards in Imèrina, planted chiefly with
mango-trees and presenting a refreshing mass of evergreen all the
year round. But at this time, when looking from a little distance,
the green of the leaves is largely mingled with a tinting of
reddish-brown, caused by masses of flowers, in spikes, chiefly in
the upper part of the trees. Later on the purplish tint of the new
leaves gives another shade of colour. The produce of these trees is
an excellent fruit; and there are three or four varieties of it,
one kind, “the stone mango,” being more globular in shape; another,
“the satin-mango,” being smaller, like a large plum, with a delicate
flavour and scent. Another most widely grown fruit is the peach,
which is more used cooked than eaten raw; and others are the _bìbàsy_
or loquat, the quince, the rose-apple, the orange, and the _ròtra_, a
good-sized tree with a profusion of small black pear-shaped fruits,
somewhat astringent when eaten raw, but excellent for cooking and
for preserves. The vine also is largely cultivated, chiefly a black
variety; while bananas and plantains and pine-apples are to be had
all the year through.

The low banks of earth which form the boundary walls of plantations
are largely planted with a species of _Euphorbia_, of which there are
two varieties, one with brilliant scarlet bracts and the other of
pale yellow tint, the leaves appearing on the prickly stems later on.

As the season advances the people burn the grass over the hillsides
and open moors, as we saw at Ambàtomànga when coming up the country.
There can be no doubt that to this practice is largely attributable
the bare and treeless appearance of the central provinces. The young
trees which would spring up, especially in the hollows and sheltered
places, have no chance against the yearly fires which sweep over
the country, and the little vegetation which has held its own is
constantly liable to be lessened as time goes on. Sometimes a dozen
fires, long curving lines of flame, may be seen at once in different
directions, and these give a strangely picturesque appearance to the
nights of springtime in Imèrina.

[Sidenote: BIRDS]

The weather often becomes very hot and sultry before the rains come
on, and the usually bright clear skies and pure atmosphere of other
months are exchanged for thick oppressive days, when the distant
hills disappear altogether, and the nearer ones seem quite distant
in the dense haze. This is probably due, to a great extent, to the
grass-burning just described, and also to the frequent burning of
the forest away to the east. As the weather gets warmer a few birds
come up from the wooded regions of the country, and wherever there
is a small patch of wood the oft-repeated cry of the _Kankàfotra_,
the Madagascar cuckoo, may be heard, much resembling the syllables
“_kow-kow, kow-kow-koo_.”

And here we must notice more fully the birds to be seen in Imèrina.
They are few compared with those in the warmer and forest regions,
and are mostly of powerful flight, principally birds of prey,
swifts, swallows and water-birds. The two coast regions—east and
west—are, on the contrary, well peopled with birds of all sorts, and
while the greater part of these inhabit indifferently one or the
other region, there are a certain number which have their habitat
almost exclusively in one region only, and give it its special
characteristics. There are also some which keep to a still more
limited area, not going beyond a very restricted range. As far as
is at present known, two hundred and ten species of birds have been
found in Madagascar; and the very special character of its avi-fauna
may be seen from the fact that it includes forty-one genera and a
hundred and twenty-four species, which are all peculiar to the island.


The rapacious birds of the country comprise twenty-two species, the
majority being hawks, kites and buzzards, with several owls and
two eagles. The most common bird of this order is the _Papàngo_ or
Egyptian kite, a large hawk found all over the island. It may be seen
every day flying gracefully along in search of lizards and snakes,
and the mice, rats and small birds which form its chief food, and
continually swooping down upon its prey. When the long dry grass
is being burned on the downs the papàngo may be noticed sweeping
backwards and forwards close to the edge of the blazing grass, so
as to pick up the smaller creatures escaping the advancing flames,
or those which have been overtaken by them and killed. I have
occasionally observed hundreds of these birds in the neighbourhood
of Ambòhimànga, describing great circles, at an immense height, and
have wondered how such large numbers could obtain food. This kite
is the dread of the country-dwelling Malagasy, for it swoops down
on their chickens and is only scared away by their loud cries and
execrations. From these habits comes one of its provincial names,
_Tsimalàho_—_i.e._ “the one who does not ask,” but takes without
saying “by your leave.” It is constantly seen in company with
the white-necked crows, and, like them, feeds near the villages,
especially near where the oxen are killed.

Another very widely spread rapacious bird is the little lively and
noisy _Hìtsikìtsika_ or kestrel, which is found in or about every
village, often perched on the gable “horns” of the houses, or even
on the extreme point of the lightning conductors. It is by no means
shy, and one can sometimes approach it quite closely and see its
bright fearless eyes, before it darts away. It is fond of the same
resting-place and, after a noisy chatter with its mate, takes a
sweeping flight for a few hundred yards and returns to its former
condition. Several native proverbs refer to the kestrel’s quick
restless flight and its frequent habit of hovering aloft, poised
almost motionless, or with an occasional quivering of the wings,
which, in Malagasy idiom, is called “dancing,” for the native dances
consist as much in a graceful motion of the hands as in that of the
feet. Among some tribes, or families, the kestrel is a tabooed bird
and it is crime to kill it.

[Sidenote: HAWKS]

Another hawk worth noticing, although much less common than the
two previously mentioned ones, is the lesser falcon, a small but
very courageous bird, which has long attracted the attention of
the Malagasy for its swiftness. The native name, _Vòromahèry_, or
“Powerful bird,” is also that of the tribe of Hova Malagasy who
inhabit the capital and its near neighbourhood, and this falcon also
was adopted as a crest or emblem by the native government, and its
figure was engraved on their official seals. Its flight is extremely
rapid, more like that of an arrow than that of a bird.

Many of the Malagasy hawks are beautiful birds, with horizontal bars
of alternate light and dark colour on breast and tail; but perhaps
the most handsome of them all is the Rayed Gymnogene, which is of
a pearly-grey colour, barred with black, while on the tail and
quill feathers are broad bands of pure white and intensely glossy
black. This bird stands high, having very long legs, with a crest of
feathers on the crown and neck.

As the end of October draws near the people are busily at work, not
only in the rice-fields, but also repairing their houses, mending
their grass or rush roofs, and hurrying on their sun-dried brick or
clay building before the heavy rains fall. The majority of native
houses are of those materials, and everything must be finished, or
at least well protected from the weather, before the rainy season
comes on. The water-courses, too, need attention, and the river banks
must be repaired, lest a succession of heavy rains should swell the
streams, break through the embankments and flood the rice-plains.

Madagascar is not only the hot season, but it is also the rainy
season, very little rain falling at any other time of the year.
It is accordingly called by the Malagasy _Fàhavàratra_—_i.e._
“thunder-time”—since almost all heavy rain is accompanied by a
thunderstorm; and taking the average of a good many years, this
season may be said to commence at the beginning of November.


As the sun gets every day more nearly vertical at noon, on his
passage towards the southern tropic, the heat increases, and the
electric tension of the air becomes more oppressive. For a week or
more previous to the actual commencement of the rains, the clouds
gather towards evening, and the heavens are lighted up at night by
constant flashes of lightning. But at length, after a few days of
this sultry weather, towards midday the huge cumuli gather thickly
over the sky and gradually unite into a dense mass, purple-black in
colour, and soon the thunder is heard. It rapidly approaches nearer
and nearer, the clouds touching the lower hills, then down darts the
forked lightning, followed by the roar of the thunder, and presently
a wild rush of wind, as if it came from all quarters at once, tells
us that the storm is upon us, and then comes the rain, in big heavy
drops for a few seconds and soon in torrents, as if the sluice-gates
of the clouds were opened. The lightning is almost incessant; now and
then, in one of the nearer crashes, it is as if the whole artillery
of heaven were playing upon the doomed earth; and for half-an-hour
or so there is often hardly any interval between the crashing and
reverberations of the thunder peals, the hills around the capital
echoing back the roar from the clouds. Certainly a heavy thunderstorm
in Madagascar is an awfully grand and glorious spectacle and is not
without a considerable element of danger too, especially for anyone
caught in the storm in the open, or in a house unprotected by a
lightning-conductor. Every house of any pretensions in the central
provinces has this safeguard, for every year many people are killed
by lightning, some while walking on the road, and others in houses
unprotected by a conductor. One often hears of strange freaks, so
to speak, played by the lightning; for instance, one of our college
students, travelling with wife and children to the Bétsiléo, was
killed instantaneously, as well as a slave near him, when sitting in
a native house, while a child he was nursing at the time escaped with
a few burns only. A missionary of the Norwegian Society was struck by
lightning, which melted the watch in his pocket, drove the nails out
of his shoes, and yet he escaped with no other harm than some burns,
which eventually healed.

A large quantity of rain sometimes falls during such storms in a
very short time. On one occasion three and a quarter inches fell in
less than half-an-hour; and as the streets and paths through the
capital were formerly all very steep, and there was no underground
drainage, it may be imagined what a roar of water there was all over
the city after such a storm. The three or four chief thoroughfares
were transformed into the beds of rushing torrents and a series of
cascades; from every compound spouted out a jet of water to join the
main stream, and it used to be no easy matter to get about at all in
the rush and the roar. It was no wonder that most of the highways of
the capital got deeper and deeper every year. Even where there was
an attempt at a rough paving, a single storm would often tear it up
and pile the stones together in a big hole, with no more order than
obtains in the bed of a cataract. After the rains were over, the
red soil was dug away from the sides to fill up the channel cut by
the torrent, and so the road gradually sank below the walls of the
compounds on either side of it.[7]

[Sidenote: RAINFALL]

The annual rainfall of Antanànarìvo is about fifty inches, December
and January being the wettest months, with an average fall of ten to
twelve inches each. It is very unusual for thunderstorms to occur
in the morning, they mostly come on in the afternoon; and after the
first heavy downpour a steady rain will often continue for three or
four hours, and occasionally far into the night. It is generally
bright and fine in the early morning; all vegetation is refreshed by
the plentiful moisture; and the people are busy in their plantations
on the sloping hillsides, digging up the softened earth for planting
manioc, sweet potatoes, the edible arum, and many other vegetables.

Hail also very frequently falls during these thunderstorms; and
should it be late in the season, when the rice is in ear, great
damage is often done to the growing crop. A large extent of
rice-field will sometimes be stripped of every grain, the stalks
standing up like bare sticks. Charms against hail had therefore in
the old heathen times a prominent place in the popular beliefs and,
there can be little doubt, are still trusted in and used by many
of the more ignorant people. Occasionally the hailstones are of
very large size and kill sheep and small animals, if they are left
unsheltered. I remember a storm of this kind, when the hailstones
were as large as good-sized nuts, while some were cushion-shaped
and hexagonal, with a hollow in the centre, and nearly one and a
half inches in diameter. In other cases they have been seen as
jagged lumps of ice; and it may be easily imagined that it is very
unpleasant and somewhat dangerous to be exposed to such a fusillade.

[Sidenote: LIGHTNING]

Besides the thunderstorms like those just described, which come so
close and are often so awful in their results, there is another kind
of storm we frequently see in the rainy season which is an unmixed
source of delight. This is when, for two or three hours together in
the evening, a large portion of the sky is lighted up by an almost
incessant shimmer of lightning, now revealing glimpses of a glory as
if heaven itself were opening, and anon showing many different tiers
and strata of clouds lying one behind the other, and alternately
lighted up, making clear the outlines of the nearer masses of cumulus
upon the brilliant background. How wonderful are the different
colours of this lightning! intense white, like glowing metal, now
red, and now violet; and not less wonderful are its forms! now it is
a zigzag, which plunges downwards, now it branches out horizontally,
and again it darts upwards into the clouds; and then, for a few
moments, there is nothing but an incessant quiver and shimmer, which
lights up first one quarter of the heavens, and then another, and
then the whole. All the time no thunder is heard from this celestial
display, but it is most fascinating to watch the infinitely varied
effects of light and darkness, till we sometimes feel as if a “door
was opened in heaven,” and we could catch a glimpse of “the excellent
glory” within.


Something may be said here about the native division of time.
Although the European months and year have become generally known and
used, the old style of months are still recognised to some extent
by the Malagasy. Their months were lunar ones, and therefore their
year was eleven days shorter than ours, their New Year’s Day coming
consequently at different times, from the first to the twelfth month,
until the cycle was complete after thirty-three years. When I first
came to Madagascar the Malagasy New Year began in the month of March;
and this style of reckoning time was kept up until the accession
of the last native sovereign, Queen Rànavàlona III., in 1883. The
Malagasy appear never to have made any attempt, by the insertion of
intercalary days or any other contrivance, to fill up their shorter
year to the true time occupied in the earth’s annual revolution
round the sun; for of course they must have noticed that their New
Year came at quite different periods after a few years. The names of
the Malagasy months are all Arabic in origin, as indeed are also
the days of the week (Alahàdy (Sunday), Alàtsinainy (Monday), Talàta
(Tuesday), Alarobìa (Wednesday), etc.); but it is curious that the
month names are not the Arabic names of the months, but are those of
the constellations of the Zodiac. Thus, Alàhamàdy is the Ram, Adaoro
is the Bull (_daoro_ = _taurus_), Adizaoza is the Twins, and so on.
This appears to have arisen from the connection between astrology and
the divination (_sikìdy_) introduced by the Arabs several centuries

The New Year was _the_ great festival of the Malagasy and was
observed on the first day of the first month, Alàhamàdy. It was
called the _Fandròana_ or “Bathing,” and was kept up until the French
conquest in 1895, but since then has been superseded by the Fête of
the French Republic on 14th July every year. The ancient customs
were, however, very interesting, and were chiefly the following:—(1)
The lighting of little bundles of dried grass at dusk on the evenings
of the last day of the old year and the first of the new one.
These fires, possibly a relic of the old fire-worship, were called
_harèndrina_, and formed one of the most pleasing features of the
festival in the gathering darkness of the evening. (2) The ceremonial
Royal Bathing at the great palace, when all the principal people
of the kingdom were present, as well as representative foreigners,
was the most prominent of all the ceremonies, giving, as it did,
the name to the whole festival. At a fixed time in the evening the
queen retired behind curtains fixed at the north-east (the sacred
corner) of the great hall and bathed in a silver bath; after which
she emerged, robed and crowned, and, carrying a horn of water in her
hands, went down the assembly to the door, sprinkling the people as
she passed. (She would playfully give some of us an extra splash as
she went along.) (3) On the following day came the killing of oxen,
doubtless the most important of all the observances in the estimation
of the people generally, at any rate of the poorer classes, who
then got, for once a year at least, a plentiful supply of beef.
Presents of the newly killed meat were sent about in all directions
to relatives and friends, and feasting and merry-making prevailed
for several days among all classes. (4) For some time previous to
the actual festival it was customary for the Malagasy to visit their
elders and superiors in rank, bringing presents of money, fowls,
fruit, etc., using certain complimentary formulæ and expressions of
good wishes.

[Sidenote: WILD FLOWERS]

The rains which usually fall in November soon make the hills and
downs, which have got so brown and dry during the cold season, become
green again. Especially does the fresh grass brighten those portions
of the hillsides where the withered grass and fern had been burnt
two or three months before; and although, as already noticed, wild
flowers are not so plentiful or prominent in Madagascar as they are
in European countries, there are several kinds which now make their
appearance and give some beauty to the scene. Among these are the
_vònènina_ (_Vinca rosea_), with large pink flowers; the _avòko_
(_Vigna angivensis_), bright crimson; the _nìfinakànga_ (_Commelyna
madagascarica_), deep blue; several small vetch-like plants with
yellow flowers; many others with minute yellow compound flowers, and
some few other kinds. A beautiful scarlet gladiolus is seen sparingly
on the downs, as well as a conspicuous and handsome white flower,
with a long tubular calyx, very like a petunia.

[7] It will be understood that all this refers to Antanànarìvo
under native rule. Since the French occupation the city has been
wonderfully improved; well paved and drained streets have been
engineered all over the place, with electric lighting and abundant



Besides flowers growing on the ground, there are many shrubs and
small trees now in blossom, although some are by no means confined
in floral display to the warm and rainy season. Along the hedges in
some localities is a small bush, with clusters of purple leguminous
flowers, called _famàmo_ (_Mundulea suberosa_); branches of these
shrubs are sometimes placed in a pool or stream, so as to stupefy,
and thus easily obtain, any fish present in the water. Very
conspicuous are the bright yellow flowers of the _tainakòho_ (_Cassia
lævigata_), and the _tsiàfakòmby_ (_Cæsalpinia sepiaria_), and the
orange-yellow spikes of the _sèva_ (_Buddleia madagascariensis_).
More showy and handsome still perhaps are the abundant large yellow
flowers of the prickly pear, which is so largely used for hedges
and for the defences of the old towns and villages. The strong and
sharp spines, from an inch to an inch and a half long, are the usual
native substitute for pins. A species of _Hibiscus_ (_Hibiscus
diversifolius_) is not uncommon, with yellow flowers, which have deep
red in the centre; yellow seems indeed the most common colour in the
flora of Imèrina. At this time of the year also three or four species
of aloe come into flower. The larger of these, called _vàhona_
(_Aloe macroclada_) by the Malagasy, is much used for planting as a
hedge, from its fleshy leaves being armed with sharp prickles; its
tall flower spike shoots up very rapidly to a height of four or six
feet. Another and smaller one, called _sahòndra_ (_Aloe capitata_),
has its flowers branching at the top of the stalk something like a
candelabra. The numerous flowers attract, as they expand, swarms of
bees. Another plant, like an aloe in appearance, called _tarètra_
(_Fourcroya gigantea_) by the natives, has long leaves, with a sharp
spine at the ends only; and its flower-stalk shoots up like a small
mast to a height of twenty feet, with widely spreading branchlets
and an immense number of light coloured flowers. Strong fibre used
as thread is obtained from the leaves, the name of the plant being
indeed that used for “thread.” The tall flower-stalks of these aloes
and agaves form quite a noticeable feature in the Imèrina landscape
in the early summer. In the orchards, soon after the mango has
finished flowering, we may see the curious whitish flowers of the
rose-apple, a sort of ball of long stamens, showing conspicuously
among the foliage.


It is well known by those who live in Madagascar that there are,
at certain seasons of the year, a number of insects found on trees
which produce a constant dropping of water. Happening one day to
be standing under a peach-tree in our garden from which water was
dropping, I found that there were clusters of insects on some of
the smaller branches. In each cluster there were about twenty to
thirty insects, and these were partly covered with froth, from which
the water came. The insects producing this appeared at first sight
to be small beetles, about half-an-inch long, black in colour,
with golden-yellow markings on the head and thorax, while on the
wing-cases there was a chequer of minute spots of yellow on the
black ground. After observing a single insect for a few seconds, I
noticed that the tail was quite flexible and moved sideways, and was
constantly protruded and then withdrawn a little, and it was evident
that these little creatures were the larval form of a species of
beetle. The sap of the tree is extracted in such quantities as to
maintain their bodies in a state of saturated humidity. The activity
of the larvæ seems to increase as the heat of the day progresses,
and to diminish again towards evening. But the object of this
abstraction of fluid from the tree, and the purpose it serves, is
still a subject needing investigation. I have observed these insects
on other trees—mangoes, acacia, _zàhana_, and others; they appear
indeed to be very common, and the ground underneath the branches
where they cluster is covered with small patches soaked with water.
A French naturalist, M. Goudot, described an insect apparently of
the same kind as that found in Imèrina as the larva of a species of
_Cercopis_, and nearly related to the cicada of Europe. The quantity
of water produced from a tree at Tamatave seems to have been much
greater than that observed in the interior, and resembling a small
rain-shower; probably this was due to the greater heat of the coast.
M. Goudot says that the perfect insect attains a length of an inch
and a half, and that these also emit small drops of clear and limpid

Towards the beginning of December the earlier crop of rice comes
into ear; and should the rains fall as usual during November, the
remaining portions of the great rice-plain will be all planted out
with the later crop, the whole of the level and its branching valleys
presenting an unbroken expanse of green. Of this, the early rice
shows distinctly as a darker shade of colour, although it will soon
begin to turn yellow, as the grain ripens under the steady heat and
the plentiful rainfall. Perhaps this is the time when Bétsimitàtatra
is seen in its most attractive and beautiful aspect, for every part
of it is covered with rice in some stage or other of growth and


To anyone coming for the first time into a tropical country from
England, the comparative uniformity in the length of the days and
nights throughout the year seems very strange. In Imèrina there
is only about two hours’ difference in the length of the longest
day, about Christmas, and the shortest day, early in July. It is
dark at about seven o’clock on the first of January, and at about
six o’clock on the first of July. Thus we have no long evenings,
which are such a delight in the summer months in England; but, on
the other hand, we escape the long nights and the short gloomy
days of the English winter. We lose also the long twilights of the
temperate zone, although I have never seen the almost instantaneous
darkness following sunset which one sometimes reads about. There is
a twilight of from fifteen to twenty minutes’ duration in this part
of Madagascar. While, therefore, we miss the much greater variety of
the seasons in England, we have many compensations, especially in the
very much larger proportion of bright sunny days, the clear skies,
and the pure atmosphere of our Imèrina climate. Very seldom have
we a wet morning in any part of the year; and the heat is not more
oppressive than it is in hot summers in England, while in the cold
season the sharp keen air is bracing and health-giving. We never see
snow in Madagascar, but a thin film of ice is very occasionally seen
on the slopes of the Ankàratra mountains in July and August.


This shows the remains of the original forest. Cattle are grazing
with a boy in charge]

[Sidenote: THE HOURS]

It may be interesting to notice at this point the numerous words used
by the Malagasy to indicate the different times of the day, from
morning to evening. Clocks and watches are comparatively a recent
introduction into Madagascar, nor do the people ever seem to have
contrived any kind of sun-dial, although, as will be seen, they did
use something else as a kind of substitute for such a time-keeper.
It should be remembered that the hours given (counting in European
fashion) as equivalents for these native divisions of the night and
the day are only approximations, and must be taken as the _mean_ of
the year, or, in other words, at about the time of equal day and
night, towards the end of March or of September. They are as follows:—

  {_Mamaton’ alina_,       Centre of night  }
  {     or                       or         }    About 12.0 midnight
  {_Misasaka alina_,       Halving of night }
   _Maenno sahona_,        Frog croaking,                About 2.0 A.M.
   _Maneno akaho_,         Cock-crowing,                   ”   3.0  ”
   _Maraina alina koa_,    Morning also night,             ”   4.0  ”
   _Maneno goaika_,        Crow croaking,                  ”   5.0  ”
  {_Manga vodilanitra_,    Bright horizon   }
  {_Mangoan’ atsinanana_,  Reddish east     }              ”   5.15 ”
  {_Mangiran-dratsy_,      Glimmer of day   }
   _Ahitan-tsoratr’ omby_, Colours of cattle can be seen,  ”   5.30 ”
   _Mazava ratsy_,         Dusk,                           ”    ”   ”
   _Mifoha lo-maozoto_,    Diligent people awake,          ”    ”   ”
   _Maraina koa_,          Early morning,                  ”    ”   ”
  {_Vaky masoandro_,       Sunrise    }
  {_Vaky andro_,           Daybreak   }                    ”   6.0  ”
  {_Piakandro_,               ”       }
   _Antoandro be nanahary_, Broad daylight   }             ”    ”   ”
   _Efa bana ny andro_,        ”      ”      }             ”    ”   ”
   _Mihintsana ando_,      Dew-falls,                      ”   6.15 ”
   _Mivoaka omby_,         Cattle go out (to pasture),     ”    ”   ”
   _Maim-bohon-dravina_,   Leaves are dry (from dew),      ”   6.30 ”
   _Afa-dranom-panala_,    Hoar-frost disappears    }*     ”   6.45 ”
   _Manara vava nya ndro_, The day chills the mouth }      ”    ”   ”
   _Misandratra andro_,    Advance of the day,             ”   8.0  ”
   _Mitatao haratra_,      Over (at a right angle with)
                             the purlin,                   ”   9.0  ”
   _Mitatao vovonana_,     Over the ridge of the roof,     ”  12.0 noon
   _Mandray tokonana ny    Day taking hold of the
         andro_,             threshold,                    ”  12.30 P.M.
  {_Mitsidika andro_,      Peeping-in of the day       }
  {_Latsaka iray dia ny                                }
  {   andro_,              Day less one step (= hour?) }   ”   1.0 P.M.
  {_Solafak’ andro_,       Slipping of the day         }   ”   1.30 ”

  {_Tafalatsaka ny andro_, Decline of the day = }               to
  {_Mihilana ny andro_,      afternoon          }          ”   2.0  ”

  _Am-pitotoam-bary_,      At the rice-pounding place,     ”    ”   ”

  {_Mby amin’ ny andry ny
  { andro_,                At the house post,              ”    ”   ”
  {_Am-pamatoran-janak’    At the place of tying the
     omby,_                  calf,                         ”   3.0  ”

  _Mby am-pisoko ny andro_, At the sheep or poultry
                              pen,                         ”   4.0  ”

  _Mody omby tera-bao,_    The cow newly calved comes
                             home,                         ”   4.30 ”

  _Tafapaka ny andro_,     Sun  touching (_i.e._ the
                             eastern wall),                ”   5.0  ”

  _Mody omby,_             Cattle come home,               ”   5.30 ”

  _Mena masoandro,_        Sunset flush,                   ”   5.45 ”

  _Maty masoandro,_        Sunset (_lit._ “Sun dead”),     ”   6.0  ”

  _Miditra akoho,_         Fowls come in,                  ”   6.15 ”

  _Somambisamby,_          Dusk, twilight,                 ”   6.30 ”

  _Maizim-bava-vilany,_    Edge of rice-cooking pan
                             obscure,                      ”   6.45 ”

  _Manokom-bary olona,_    People begin to cook rice,      ”   7.0  ”

  _Homan-bary olona,_      People eat rice,                ”   8.0  ”

  _Tapi-mihinana,_         Finished eating,                ”   8.30 ”

  _Mandry olona,_          People go to sleep,             ”   9.0  ”

  _Tapi-mandry olona,_     Everyone in bed,                ”   9.30 ”

  _Mipoa-tafondro,_        Gun-fire,                       ”  10.0  ”

  _Mamaton’ alina,_        Midnight,                       ”  12.0  ”

      * These refer only to the two or three winter months.

This list is, I think, a very interesting one, and shows the
primitive pastoral and agricultural habits of the Hova Malagasy
before they were influenced by European civilisation. Previous to
their knowledge of clocks and watches (which are still unknown to the
majority of people away from the capital), the native houses thus
served as a rude kind of dial. As, until recent times, these were
always built with their length running north and south, and with
the single door and window facing the west, the sunlight coming in
after midday at the open door gave, by its gradual progress along the
floor, a fairly accurate measure of time to people amongst whom time
was not of very much account. In the forenoon, the position of the
sun, nearly square with the eastern purlin of the roof, marked about
nine o’clock; and as noon approached, its vertical position, about
the ridge-pole, or at least its reaching the meridian, clearly showed
twelve o’clock. Then, as the sunlight gradually passed westward and
began to peer in at the door, at about one o’clock, it announced “the
peeping-in of the day” (_mitsìdika àndro_); and then, as successive
points on the floor were reached by the advancing rays, several of
the hours of the afternoon were sufficiently clearly marked off:
“the place of rice-pounding” (_am-pitotòam-bàry_), as the light fell
on the rice mortar, further into the house; “the calf-fastening
place” (_am-pamatòran-jànak òmby_), as the rays reached one of the
three central posts supporting the ridge, and where the calf was
fastened for the night; and then, “touching” (_tàfapàka_), when the
declining sunshine reached the eastern wall, at about half-past four
in the afternoon. Other words and notes of time, it will be seen,
are derived from various natural phenomena. Some other words for the
division of time used by the Malagasy may be here noted. Thus “a
rice-cooking” (_indray màhamàsa-bàry_) is frequently used to denote
about half-an-hour; while “the frying of a locust” (_indray mitòna
valàla_) is a phrase employed to describe a moment.

Many words exist in the Malagasy language to denote different
appearances of nature which are somewhat poetical and seem to
show some imaginative power. Thus the light fleecy clouds in
the upper regions of the atmosphere are called “sky gossamer”
(_faròran-dànitra_); the sun is the “day’s-eye” (_masoandro_); the
galaxy is the “dividing of the year” (_èfi-taona_); the rainbow is
“God’s great knife” (_àntsibèn’ Andrìamànitra_); and a waterspout is
the “tail of the sky” (_ràmbon-dànitra_).

We saw just now that in Imèrina the native houses, with the sun
touching different parts of them, form a kind of primitive sun-dial;
so it may be well here to say something about the structure and
arrangement of a native house in this part of Madagascar.

[Sidenote: THE HOVA HOUSE]

A Hova house of the old style is always built with its length running
north and south; it is an oblong, the length being about half as
much again as the breadth, and the door and window always on the
west side, so as to be sheltered from the prevailing south-east
winds; for, as there is no glass, there would be much inconvenience
in facing the windward side. There is frequently another window at
the north end of the house, and often one also in the north gable.
The material used always to be the hard red clay found all over the
central provinces; and this is still largely used, although sun-dried
bricks are supplanting the old style of building. This clay, after
being mixed with water, is kneaded by being trampled over thoroughly,
and is then laid in courses of about a foot to eighteen inches in
height, and about the same in thickness. Each layer is allowed to
become hard and firm before the next one is set, and it is well
beaten on both sides as it dries. If properly laid and of good
material, the cracks are not very large when the clay is dry, and
are filled up; and it makes a very substantial and durable walling,
quite as much, and more so, as the majority of cheap brick houses in
England. The boundary walls of the compounds are also made of the
same hard clay; and it is remarkable how many years such material
will last without much damage, although exposed almost daily, for
four or five months every year, to the heavy rains of the wet season.
(I know walls which had been built for several years before I saw
them first forty-three years ago, and yet they seem little altered
since that time.)

The houses of the upper classes and richer people used to be built
of timber framework, the walls being of thick upright planks, which
are grooved at the edge, a tenon of the tough _anìvona_ palm bark
being inserted so as to hold them together. Two or three lengths
of the same fibrous substance were also passed through each plank
longitudinally at different heights from the ground, so as to bind
them all firmly together round the house. The accompanying drawing
will show more clearly than any verbal description the details of
the structure of a Hova _tràno-kòtona_, as this style of wooden
house is called (no such houses are built nowadays; and very few of
them remain; the use of brick, sun-dried and burnt, has entirely
superseded them). The roof in both clay and timber houses does not
depend for its stability on the walls only, but is mainly supported
by three tall posts, which are let into the ground for some depth and
carry the ridge-piece. One of these posts is in the centre, and one
is at each end, close to the walls inside the house. This is a wise
provision, as the roofs are generally of high pitch, and in violent
winds would need much more support than could be given by the
walls. The gables were always thatched with the same materials as the
roof, either of long grass or the _hèrana_ sedge. At each gable the
outer timbers cross the apex, and project upwards for about a foot or
two, the extremities being notched, and often having a small wooden
figure of a bird. In the houses of people of rank, the _tàndro-tràno_
or “house-horns” were three or four feet long, while in some of the
royal houses they projected ten or twelve feet, the length being
apparently some indication of the rank of the owner. In some tribes
these gable ornaments, which have become only conventional horns
among the Hovas, are carved in exact resemblance of those adorning
the head of a bullock.

[Illustration: A MALAGASY HOUSE.

Showing elevation, plan, internal arrangement, and month names.

_See page 96_]

[Sidenote: THE INTERIOR]

The interior arrangements of a Hova house are very simple and are (or
perhaps it would be more correct to say _were_) almost always the

Let us, following Malagasy politeness, call out before we enter,
“_Haody, haody?_” equivalent to, “May we come in?” And while we
wait a minute or two, during which the mistress of the house is
reaching down a clean mat for us to sit down on, we notice that
the threshold is raised a foot or more above the ground on either
side, sometimes more, so that a stone is placed as a step inside
and out. Entering the house in response to the hospitable welcome,
“_Màndrosòa, Tòmpoko é_,” “Walk forward, sir” (or madam), we step
over the raised threshold. In some parts of Imèrina a kind of closet,
looking more like a large oven than anything else, is made of clay
at the south-east corner, opposite the door, and here, as in an
Irish cabin, the pig finds a place at night, and above it the fowls
roost. Near the door the large wooden mortar or _laona_ for pounding
rice generally stands, and near it are the _fanòto_ or pestle, a
long round piece of wood, and the _sahàfa_ or large shallow wooden
dish in which the rice is winnowed from husk removed by pounding. At
about the middle of the eastern side of the house are placed two or
three globular _sìny_ or water-pots, the mouths covered with a small
basket to keep out the dust. Farther on, but near the west side, is
the _fàtana_ or hearth, a small enclosure about three feet square.
In this are fixed five stones, on which the rice-cooking pots are
arranged over the fire. And over this is sometimes fixed a light
framework upon which the cooking-pots are placed when not in use.
There is no chimney, the smoke finding its way out through windows
or door or slowly through the rush or grass thatch, and so the house
is generally black and sooty above, long strings of cobweb and soot
hanging down from the roof. Such appendages were considered as marks
of long residence and honour, and so the phrase, _mainty molàly_,
_lit._ “black from soot,” is a very honourable appellation, and is
applied to things ancient, such as the first Christian hymns; and
missionaries who have been a long time resident in the island are
given this name as a mark of respect.

The north-east corner of the house is the sacred portion of it, and
is called _zòro firaràzana_—_i.e._ the corner where the _ràry_ or
war-chant was sung and where any religious act connected with the
former idolatry was performed, and in which the _sàmpy_ or household
charm was kept in a basket suspended from the wall. In this corner
also is the fixed bedstead, which, especially in royal houses, was
often raised up some height above the ground and reached by a notched
post serving as a ladder, and sometimes screened with mats or coarse
cloth. West of this, close to the north roof-post, is the place of
honour, _avàra-pàtana_, “north of the hearth,” where guests are
invited to sit down, a clean mat being spread as a seat, just as a
chair is handed in European houses.

[Sidenote: FURNITURE]

There is little furniture in a purely native house; a few rolls of
mats, half-a-dozen spoons in a small but long basket fixed to the
wall, some large round baskets with covers, and perhaps a tin box
containing _làmbas_ for Sunday and special occasions; a few common
dishes of native pottery, and perhaps two or three of European make;
a horn or a tin _zìnga_, for drinking water; a spade or two—these
with the rice mortar and pounder and winnower already mentioned—the
water-pots, and the implements for spinning and weaving, constitute
about the whole household goods in the dwellings of the poorer
classes. The earthen floor is covered with coarse mats, and sometimes
the walls are lined with finer mats; in the roof an attic is often
formed for a part of or the whole length of the house and is reached
by a rude ladder. The floor of this upper chamber is frequently
covered over with a layer of earth and is used as a cooking-place,
with much advantage to the lower part of the house, which is thus
kept comparatively free from smoke and soot.

It must be understood the foregoing description applies to the
original style of native house, as unaffected by modern innovations.
In the capital and the more important places, as well as in many
villages, numbers of brick houses, with upper storeys and three or
four or more rooms, have been built of late years; and hundreds of
six-roomed houses, with verandahs carried on brick pillars, have also
been erected, following a model introduced about the year 1870 by the
late Rev. J. Pearse. This struck the fancy of the well-to-do people,
and similar ones have been built all over the central provinces.


Few people who have lived in Madagascar can have failed to notice a
small longish lump of light coloured clay stuck under the eaves of
the house, or on the side of a window, or, in fact, in any sheltered
place; and if we take the trouble to break off a piece, we find
that this lump of clay contains a number of cells, all filled with
caterpillars or spiders in a numbed and semi-lifeless condition. The
maker of these cells is a black wasp about an inch long, with russet
wings, and as one sits in the verandah of one’s house one may often
hear a shrill buzz somewhere up in the rafters, and there the little
worker is busy bringing in pellets of clay with which she builds up
the walls of the cell. (When I lived at Ambòhimànga, one of these
wasps made a nest with several cells in my study, as the window was
generally open to the air.) Presently she is off again for another
load to the banks of a little stream where she has her brick-field.
Kneading the red earth with her mandibles, she quickly forms it into
a pellet of clay, about the size of a pea, which she dexterously
picks up and flies away back to the verandah. This pellet is placed
on the layer already laid, carefully smoothed and “bonded in” with
the previous structure, until a cell is completed. Observations
made by a careful student of animal and insect life show that about
twenty-six journeys finish one cell, and that on a fine day it takes
about forty-five minutes to complete it. This is only one out of many
cells, however, placed on the top of each other.

With regard to the storing of these cells with food for the grubs of
the wasp, Mr Cory[8] found that the number of spiders enclosed in
eleven cells varied from eight to nineteen. These are caught by the
wasp, stung so as to be insensible, but not killed, and then the
egg is laid in their bodies, so that on being hatched the grub finds
itself in the midst of food.


Another species of these solitary wasps is a much larger insect,
about two inches in length, and she makes nests, which are extremely
hard, and are like half-buried native water-pots, with the mouths
facing the observer, and arranged regularly one above the other. When
finished they are plastered over with rough gravel. Unlike the wasp
previously mentioned, this one does not fetch the clay for building
purposes from the banks of a stream, but carries the water to the
dry earth, which it then damps and kneads into balls. The cells are
stocked with caterpillars, which are stung and numbed in the same way
as the spiders are treated by the first-named wasp. There are usually
three caterpillars placed in each cell.

Another wasp, also very common, does not build cells, but digs a
burrow in the ground, even in pretty hard places, like a well-trodden
road. Some of these use caterpillars for stocking their burrows, some
large spiders, and some crickets, but all drag or carry their prey
on foot, even the largest of them. One small wasp, when carrying a
spider, first amputates all its legs and then slings the body beneath
her. The burrows of the larger wasp are deep in comparison with the
size of the insect, being frequently a foot or more in depth. Mr Cory
gives a graphic description of a battle between one of these wasps
and a large spider, in which, however, the former managed to sting
its prey and capture it.

There is one very small wasp that makes no cell or burrow, but
chooses a long hole in a piece of wood, or a small bamboo, etc., for
the rearing of its larvæ. “Each kind of wasp seems to have its own
peculiar way of hunting; some run down on foot by scent for long
distances; some dash down violently into the web of a spider, and
catch him as he drops from out of it; while others again seize their
prey upon the wing, especially the social wasps. The males of all are
lazy and do no work.”[9]

January is usually the wettest month of the year in Imèrina; and in
some years there occurs what the Hova call the _hafitòana_, or “seven
days”—that is, of almost continuous rain, although it more usually
lasts only three or four days. Such a time is most disastrous for
houses, compounds and boundary walls, for the continuous rain soaks
into them and brings them down in every direction. From the steep
situation of the capital, almost every house compound is built up on
one side with a retaining wall, and on the other is cut away so as to
form a level space.


The prolonged moisture, combined with the heat of this time of the
year, naturally makes everything grow luxuriantly. The hillsides
again become green and pleasant to the eye; our gardens are gay with
flowers, and in many places the open downs display a considerable
amount of floral beauty. I have never seen elsewhere such a profusion
of wild flowers as that which met our view when travelling from the
south-west to Antanànarìvo in December 1887. Leaving Antsìrabé and
proceeding northwards, the level country was gay with flowers, which
literally covered the downs, and in many places gave a distinct and
bright colour to the surface of the ground. Among these the most
prominent was a pale pink flower on stems from a foot to eighteen
inches high, called by the people _kòtosày_ (_Sopubia triphylla_),
and also the lovely deep blue flower called _nìfinakànga_, which
latter covered the paths and also occurred very abundantly among
the grass. In many places, especially near villages, whether
deserted or still inhabited, a plant with small pale blue flowers
(various species of _Cynoglossum_), almost exactly like our English
“forget-me-not,” grew in dense masses, showing a blue-tinted surface
even at a considerable distance. The _vonènina_, with a pale pink
flower, was very frequent, as well as several species of bright
yellow flowers, one with a head of minute florets, looking like
a small yellow brush; others were star-shaped, the whole forming
in many places a brilliant mass of gold. Three or four species of
white-flowered plants, one of them a clematis (_Clematis bojeri_),
were very frequent; and a few late examples of terrestrial orchids
were seen. Five or six weeks previously these were among the most
abundant flowers met with, and their clusters of waxy-white flowers
were very conspicuous. Other species of orchid, of rich crimson and
also of purple, were even more beautiful.

We reckoned that there were from twenty to thirty different species
of wild flowers then in bloom on these downs of Vàkinankàratra,
gladdening our eyes by their varied beauty and abundance on that
glorious morning. The flowers, however, grew much scarcer as we
travelled over higher ground; but six weeks previously these upper
_tanèty_ had also been gay with great masses of the brilliant crimson
flowers of a leguminous plant, which grew in clusters of many scores
of spikes growing close together. Our ride that day obliged us to
modify the opinions previously held as to the poverty of Madagascar
in wild flowers.

[8] The Rev. C. P. Cory, B.A., formerly of the Anglican Mission in

[9] I am indebted for the information here given about wasps to an
interesting paper contributed by Mr Cory to the fourteenth number of
_The Antanànarìvo Annual_ for 1890.



AUTUMN: MARCH AND APRIL.—It will be understood from what has been
previously stated as to the divisions of the seasons in the Imèrina
province that, as with the seasons in England, there is some variety
in different years in the times when they commence and finish.
Generally, both crops of rice—the earlier and the later—are all cut
by the end of April, although in the northern parts of the province
it is usually five or six weeks after that date. But if the rains are
late, and should happen to be scanty in February and March, harvest
work is still going on at the end of May. In fact, owing to there
being these two crops of rice, with no very exactly marked division
between the two, autumn, in the sense of rice harvest, is going on
for about four months, and sometimes longer, as just mentioned, and
extends over the later months of summer as well as the two months of
autumn or _Fàraràno_ (March and April). In January those portions
of the great rice-plain which lie north-west of the capital, as
well as many of the lesser plains and valleys, become golden-yellow
in hue, very much indeed like the colour of an English wheat-field
in harvest-time; and after a few days patches of water-covered
field may be noticed in different places, showing where the crop
has been cut, and the few inches of water in which it was growing
show conspicuously in the prospect. As the weeks advance, this
water-covered area extends over larger portions of the rice-plain,
until the whole of the early crop has been gathered in, so that in
many directions there appear to be extensive sheets of water. I
well remember, when once at Ambòhimanàrina, a large village to the
north-west of Antanànarìvo, how strange it appeared to see people
setting out to cross what seemed a considerable lake. But of course
there was no danger, as the water was only a few inches deep.

[Sidenote: THE RICE CROP]

As there are channels to conduct water to every rice-field, small
canoes are largely used to bring the rice, both before and after it
has been threshed, to the margin of the higher grounds and nearer
to the roads. At the village just mentioned, which is like a large
island surrounded by a sea of rice-plain, there is one point where
a number of these channels meet and form quite a port; and a very
animated scene it presents at harvest-time, as canoe after canoe,
piled up with heaps of rice in the husk, or with sheaves of it still
unthreshed, comes up to the landing-place to discharge its cargo.

In a very few weeks’ time the watery covering of the plain is
hidden by another green crop, but not of so bright and vivid a tint
as the fresh-planted and growing rice. This is the _kòlikòly_, or
after-crop, which sprouts from the roots of the old plants. This is
much shorter in stalk and smaller in ear than the first crop, and is
often worth very little; but if the rains are late, so that there is
plenty of moisture, it sometimes yields a fair quantity, but it is
said to be rather bitter in taste.

In cutting the rice the Malagasy use a straight-bladed knife; and, as
the work proceeds, the stalks are laid in long curving narrow lines
along the field, the heads of one sheaf being covered over by the cut
ends of the stalks of the next sheaf. This is done to prevent the
ears drying too quickly and the grain falling out before it reaches
the threshing-floor. This last-named accessory to rice-culture is
simply a square or circle of the hard red earth, kept clear from
grass and weeds, sometimes plastered with mud, and generally on the
sloping side of the rising ground close to the rice-field. Here the
sheaves are piled round the threshing-floor like a low breastwork.
(Occasionally the rice is threshed in a space in the centre of the
rice-field, mats being spread over the stubble to prevent loss of the
grain.) No flail is used, but handfuls of the rice-stalks are beaten
on a stone fixed in the ground, until all the grain is separated
from the straw. The unhusked rice is then carried in baskets to the
owner’s compound and is usually stored in large round pits with a
circular opening dug in the hard red soil. These are lined with
straw, and the mouth is covered with a flat stone, which is again
covered over with earth; and in these receptacles it is generally
kept dry and uninjured for a considerable time.


In most years the end of April and the beginning of May are very
busy times with the Malagasy; almost all other work must give way to
the getting in of the harvest; the fields are everywhere dotted over
with people reaping; most of the poorer people we meet are carrying
loads of freshly cut grain on their heads, or baskets filled with
the unhusked rice, and large quantities are spilt along the roads
and paths. Some of the chief embankments swarm with rats and mice,
which must pick up a very good living at this time of the year. Other
creatures also take toll from the harvest, especially the _Fòdy_, or
cardinal-bird, the bright scarlet plumage of the cock-bird making a
very noticeable feature of the avi-fauna during the warmer months.
This colour is not seen on the wings, which are sober brown, but
is brilliant on head, breast and back; it fades away in the winter
months, returning again as the breeding-time comes round. The white
egret, which we saw on the coast, is equally in evidence in Imèrina,
and sometimes flocks of two or three hundred of them may be seen in
the rice-fields and marshes. When living at Ambòhimànga we used to
notice that in the winter months a large number of the _Vòrompòtsy_
were accustomed to assemble on the open down towards sunset; and on
a signal apparently given by one of them the whole flock rose and
flew slowly away to roost in the large trees to the north-west of the
town. The white-necked crow is also plentiful, and is perhaps the
most commonly seen bird in Imèrina. On one occasion when walking with
a friend near Ambòhimànga, he had his gun and shot one of a small
flock of crows near us. For a few seconds there was a dead silence,
and then all the others filled the air with hoarse cries and came
dashing round us so closely that I feared they would injure our eyes,
so angry did they seem with those who had killed their companion.
One of the most beautiful birds to be seen is the _Vintsy_, or
kingfisher, of lovely purplish-blue, with yellow and buff breast and
belly. With short blunt tail and long beak, it may be seen perched on
the rushes or other aquatic plants, or darting over the streams and
marshes, flying in a curious jerking manner, like a flash of purple
light, pursuing the insects which form its food.

From what has been already said about rice-culture it may be easily
understood that it occupies a large amount of the time and attention
of the Malagasy. The digging and preparation of the ground; the
sowing in the _kètsa_ plots; the uprooting of the young plants;
the planting, by the women, of these again in the soft mud of the
rice-fields; the bringing of water, often from a long distance, to
the fields, and the repairing of the water-courses; the weeding
of the rice-fields; and, finally, the cutting, the threshing, the
bringing home, and the drying and storing of the rice—all this bulks
largely in their daily life through a good deal of the year. Rice
is the staff of life to the Malagasy, and they cannot understand
how Europeans can make a proper meal without it. _Mihìnam-bàry_,
“to eat rice,” is the native equivalent for the Eastern phrase, “to
eat bread”; they eat other things of course—manioc root, a little
meat or fish, and various vegetables, but these are only _laoka_ or
accompaniments to the staple food.

The Malagasy have a saying, when speaking of things which are
inseparable, that they are “like rice and water.” And when we
remember that rice is sown on water, that it is transplanted in
water, that it grows still in water, that it is reaped in water,
that it is usually carried by water, in canoes, that it is boiled in
water, and that water is generally the only beverage with which it is
eaten, it will be seen that there is much force in the comparison.


Besides the above-mentioned additions to rice, the people eat as
a relish with it other things, many of them very repulsive to our
European notions—for instance, snails, locusts, certain kinds of
caterpillars, moths, and even, so it is said, some species of
spiders! But I never realised so distinctly what queer things
they will eat as when taking a ride one afternoon to the north of
Ambòhimànga. Passing along one of the long rice-valleys, we saw some
girls dredging for fish in the shallow water; and thinking we might
perhaps buy some to take home, we called to them to bring the basket
for us to see. They immediately complied, but, on inspecting the
contents, we found no fish, but a heap of brown, crawling, wriggling,
slimy creatures, really very disgusting in appearance, considered
as possible articles of food. This mass of creeping animal life
consisted of shrimps, water-beetles, tadpoles, and the larvæ of many
kind of insects. It is needless to say that we did _not_ make a
purchase of these tempting delicacies; but I believe they would all
go into the pot in some Malagasy house that evening and give a relish
to the rice of some of our native friends.


Fish traps. The way is blocked for fish with occasional openings for

The rivers of the interior are singularly deficient in fish of any
size; but in the shallow water of the rice-fields numbers of minute
shrimps are caught, as well as small fish of the kinds called _Tòho_
and _Tròndro_, but they are very bony and poor in flavour: somewhat
larger kinds, called _Màrakèly_ and _Tòhovòkoka_, are, however, very
good eating, but are not plentiful. Very large and fine eels are
caught in the rivers, as well as crayfish, of a kind peculiar to
Madagascar. On the water of the streams many kinds of water-beetles
and water-boatmen may be seen darting about in mazy circles; one of
these, called _Tsingàla_, causes death if swallowed by cattle or
human beings, oxen dying in less than twenty-four hours, unless a
remedy is promptly given. The Rev. H. T. Johnson wrote thus about
this insect:

[Sidenote: THE TSINGÀLA]

  “I was travelling one day to Ambòhimandròso; the day had been
  very hot, and passing by a dirty pool, one of my bearers stooped
  down and drank with his hands and then hastily followed to carry
  the palanquin. I saw the man drink and presently, hearing sounds
  behind, I turned and discovered that the very man, who only a few
  minutes before had drunk the water, was now in agonies of pain.
  He stood stretching out both his arms and throwing back his head
  in a frantic manner, at the same time shrieking most hideously.
  My first thoughts were speedily seconded by the words of his
  companions, who said, ‘He has swallowed a _tsingàla_.’ Of course, I
  immediately got down and went back to the poor fellow. He was now
  lying on the ground and writhing in agony, and I felt that unless
  something could be done, and that speedily, the man must die. My
  other bearers, seeing the extreme urgency of the case, called to
  the passers-by, but none could render any assistance. Presently
  a Bétsiléo was appealed to, and he said that he knew what would
  cure him, but wanted to know how much money we would give. I said
  immediately that it was no time for bargaining, but that I would
  give him sixpence if he relieved the poor man from his sufferings.
  Off he ran to procure some leaves, with which he returned in about
  ten minutes; he soaked them in water from a stream close by, and
  then gave the sufferer the infusion to drink. With almost the
  quickness of a flash of lightning the poor fellow showed signs of
  relief, and after drinking this infusion several times more he
  said that he was free from pain, but felt very weak and faint. It
  was some weeks before the man got thoroughly strong again.”

No one can pass along the little narrow banks and paths which
divide the rice-fields without noticing the large dragonflies
which dart over the water. Their colours are very various. A rich
crimson, steely-blue and old gold are some of these. They are
voracious creatures, as their name implies, and I saw one, one day,
deliberately, and audibly, crunching up a smaller one. At another
time, however, I noticed a fair-sized one being devoured by a spider,
which was barred with lines like a zebra.

[Sidenote: MARSHES]

The marshes in Imèrina are not useless to the people, for a variety
of useful plants grow there and are also planted in them. Among
these are the _Hèrana_, a sedge which grows to three or four feet in
height, and is extensively used for thatching native houses. If the
roof is a proper pitch this sedge is very durable, and when cut and
trimmed has a very neat appearance. Then there is the _Zozòro_, a
much taller sedge, closely allied to the papyrus, with a triangular
stem, and a feathery head of flowers. The strong tough peel is used
to make the excellent mats employed for flooring, and also all
sorts and sizes of baskets; the pith is used for stuffing pillows
and mattresses; and the stems firmly fixed together are used for
temporary doors and window shutters, and for beds. A rush, called
_Hàzondràno_, is employed for making baskets and mats.

As the colder weather advances, the mornings are often foggy, at
least a thick white mist covers the plains and valleys soon after the
sun rises and remains for an hour or two until his increasing power
disperses it. Seen from the higher grounds and from the most elevated
parts of the capital, this mist often presents a very beautiful
appearance; a billowy sea of vapour is brilliantly lit up by the
sunlight, and out of this sea the hill-tops rise up like islands. But
these misty mornings also reveal many things which cannot be seen,
or can only be seen by very close observation, in clear sunshine,
especially the webs of various species of spider. There they are all
the time, but we are not aware of their presence except on a misty
autumn or winter morning, when a very delicate thread and filmy net
is marked out by minute drops of moisture which reveal all their
wonderful beauty of structure. Many kinds of bush are seen to be
almost covered by geometrical webs: one species seems to choose
the extremities of the branches of the _sòngosòngo Euphorbia_, but
the most common is a web averaging five or six inches in diameter
which is spread horizontally on tufts of grass, and may be seen
by thousands, half-a-dozen or so in a square yard. This web has a
funnel-shaped hole near the centre, with a little shaft leading down
to the ground. Near this, the maker and tenant of the structure—a
little greyish-brown spider about half-an-inch long—may often be
found, if carefully searched for. As the sun gains power, these
numerous webs become almost invisible, but before the moisture is all
dried from them, they present a beautiful appearance in the sunshine,
for they are exactly like the most delicate gauze, studded with
numberless small diamonds, flashing with all the prismatic colours as
we pass by and catch the light at varying angles.

[Sidenote: SPIDERS]

The most conspicuous of the many species of spider seen in Madagascar
is a large _Nephila_, a creature about an inch and a half long, with
a spread of legs six or seven inches in diameter. It is handsomely
marked with red and yellow, and may be noticed by scores in the
centre of its geometric web stretching across the branches of
trees. From the considerable distances spanned by the main guys and
supports of its great net, this spider is called by the Malagasy
_Mampìta-hàdy_, or “fosse-crosser”; and these main lines are strong
enough to entangle small birds, for at the mission station at
Ambàtoharànana a cardinal-bird and a kingfisher were both caught in
these nets. The male spider is only about a quarter the size of the
female as just described, and, sad to say, he frequently is caught
and devoured by his affectionate spouse, after mating. Attempts have
been made, and with some success, to employ the silk made by this
spider in the manufacture of a woven fabric; but it is very doubtful
whether such silk could be procured in such quantities as to be of
commercial value.


Silk from the silkworm moth is produced to a considerable extent,
and, as we have seen in speaking of native weaving, is employed in
manufacturing a variety of handsome _làmbas_. The moth is a large
and beautiful insect, with shades of buff and brown and yellow, and
with a large eye-like spot on the hind wings. The caterpillars are
fed on the leaves of the mulberry-trees and also on those of the
_tapia_ (_Chrysopia sp._) shrub. Another moth, somewhat like the
silk-producing one in colouring, has an extraordinary development of
the hind wings, which have long delicate tail-like appendages; these
have extremely narrow shafts and are enlarged at the ends. Their
points have two spiral twists or folds, very graceful in appearance.
There are four distinct eye-like spots near the centre of each
wing, which are light buff in colour, with lemon-yellow. The insect
measures eight and a half inches from shoulder to point of tail, and
eight inches across the upper wings. It is allied to _Tropæa leto_.
Some species of moth, very dark brown in colour, and yet beautifully
marked, often fly into our houses at night, the female being much
larger than the male. The Malagasy are afraid of seeing these almost
black-looking insects, which they call _lòlom-pàty_ (“death-moths”),
in their houses, as they think them presages of evil and death.
Another moth, with death’s-head marking on its thorax, is also often
seen. But the most beautiful of the Malagasy lepidoptera is a diurnal
moth, which one would always call a butterfly—viz. the _Urania
riphæa_, a large and lovely insect, with golden-green, crimson and
black markings, and edged all round its wings and tails with delicate
pure white. It is a curious fact that the nearest ally to this
Madagascar species is a native of Hayti and Cuba (_U. sloana_), a
remarkable instance of discontinuity of habitat. This fact, however,
has a parallel in the family of small insectivorous animals called
Centetidæ, which are also confined to Madagascar and some of the West
India islands. During 1899 this butterfly was unusually abundant,
while in some seasons it is seldom seen. At Isoàvina I noticed a
great many flying around the tall blue-gum trees in the dusk of the
evening. Great numbers also were seen at Ambòhimànga in the garden
there. They appeared to be intoxicated with the strong flavour of
the nectar from the loquat-trees, then in flower, so that almost
any quantity of them could have been captured in the early morning,
while still under the influence of the flowers, which have a powerful
scent of prussic acid. The Malagasy call it _Andrìandòlo_—_i.e._

In these bare upper highlands of Madagascar butterflies are not found
in as great variety as in the warmer regions of the island. Still
there are a few species which are common enough, the most plentiful
being one which is satiny-blue above and spotted with brown and
grey underneath. This is to be seen all the year round, especially
hovering over the euphorbia hedges which divide plantations from
the roads. Another, also tolerably common, is a large reddish-brown
butterfly, the wings edged with black and white. More rare is an
insect with four large round white spots on dark chocolate-brown
wings; and another, dark brown in colour, with eye-like spots of
blue and red. Several small species, yellow, white, or brown, or
silvery-grey and blue, are found hovering over, or settling on, damp
places; and there are two or three white species, with black spots
or lines on the edges of the wings. In the warmer season a handsome
large _Papilio_ is rather common in our gardens, with dark green and
sulphur-yellow spots and markings. The eggs of some of these are
beautiful objects in the microscope, being fluted and sculptured
like a Greek vase. My friend, M. Ch. Matthey, who has made large
collections of Madagascar insects, tells me that there are a few
cases of mimicry and dimorphism, especially the latter, among the
butterflies of the interior.


On the open downs, and when the sun is shining, the air is filled
with the hum of chirping insect life from the many species of
grasshoppers, crickets and small locusts which cover the ground.
Every step among the long dry grass disturbs a score of these
insects, which leap in all directions from one’s path as we proceed,
sometimes dashing on one’s face with a smart blow. The majority of
these are of various shades of brown and green, and some of the
larger species of grasshopper are remarkable for their protective
colouring. Here is one whose legs and wings are exactly like dry
grass; the body is like a broad blade of some green plant, the
antennæ are two little tufts, like yellow grass, and the eyes
are just like two small brown seeds. But, curiously enough, when
it flies, a pair of bright scarlet wings make its flight very
conspicuous. You pursue it, to catch such a brightly coloured
insect, when it settles, and lo! it has vanished, only something
resembling green or dry grass remains, which it requires sharp eyes
to distinguish from the surrounding herbage. Other grasshoppers
are entirely like green grass blades and stalks, and others again
resemble, equally closely, dried grass; and unless the insects
move under one’s eyes it is almost impossible to detect them. One
is puzzled to guess where the vital organs can be placed in such
dry-looking little sticks. There is one species of mantis also,
which, in the shape and colour of its wings, legs, antennæ and
body, presents as close a resemblance to its environment as do the
grasshoppers. Their curious heads, however, which turn round and look
at one in quite an uncanny manner, and their formidably serrated fore
legs or arms, put up in mock pious fashion, give them a distinctly
different appearance from the other insects. In the dry and cooler
season on almost every square foot of ground is a large brown
caterpillar, often many of them close together, feeding on the young
blades of grass.


But the most handsome insect one sees on the downs is the
_Valàlanambòa_ or dog-locust. This is large and is gorgeously
coloured, the body being barred with stripes of yellow and black,
while the head and thorax are green and blue and gold, with shades of
crimson, and the wings are bright scarlet. It seems a most desirable
insect for a cabinet, but it is impossible to keep one, for it has
a most abominable smell, and this appears to be its protection, as
well as its probable possession of a nauseous taste, so that no
bird or other creature feeds upon it. This insect seems therefore
a good example of “warning colours”; it has no need of “protective
resemblance” lest it should be devoured by enemies; it can flaunt
its gay livery without fear, indeed this seems exaggerated in order
to say to outsiders, “Hands off!” “_Nemo me impune lacessit._” The
Malagasy have a proverb which runs thus: “_Valàlanambòa: ny tompony
aza tsy tia azy_”—_i.e._ “The dog-locust, even its owner dislikes it.”

On the Imèrina downs, and on the outskirts of the forest, there are
occasionally seen some enormous earthworms. These are about four
times the size, both in length and thickness, of those we see in
England; and when I first saw a small group of them they seemed more
like small serpents than worms. Darwin’s researches on the part
played by earthworms in the renewal of the soil have shown us what
a valuable work these humble creatures do for our benefit; and on a
morning after a little rain has fallen the grass here in Imèrina is
sometimes almost covered by the innumerable little mounds of fresh
earth brought up by worms, thus confirming what he has told us about


The women always do this. The men, on the left, are digging up and
working the clods into soft mud with long-handled spades]

The aspect of vegetation, except in the rice-fields, can hardly be
said to change much during the autumn months. A plant with pale
yellow flowers may be noticed by thousands in marshy grounds, giving
quite a mass of colour in many places. A significant name given to
autumn is _Ménàhitra_—_i.e._ “the grass is red”—that is, turning

WINTER: MAY, JUNE, JULY AND AUGUST.—As already mentioned in the
introductory sentences of the previous chapter, winter in central
Madagascar is very different from winter in England. We have no snow,
nor is there any native word for it, for even the highest peaks of
Ankàratra are too low for snow to fall on them; we never see ice
(although adventurous foreigners have once or twice seen a thin film
of it on pools on the highest hillsides); hoar-frost, however, is not
uncommon, and occasionally the leaves of some species of vegetables,
as well as those of the banana, turn black with the keen night air.
And since there is no rain during our Imèrina winter, the paths are
dry, and it is the best time for making long journeys, especially
as there is little to be feared from fever when going about at this
season of the year. Winter is therefore a pleasant time; the skies
are generally clear, the air is fresh and invigorating, and to the
cool and bracing temperature of the winter months is doubtless
largely due the health and strength which many Europeans enjoy for
years together in the central provinces of Madagascar.

The long period without rain at this season naturally dries up
the grass, and the hills and downs become parched and brown.
_Maìntàny_—_i.e._ “the earth is dry”—is one of the native names for
this season, and it is very appropriate to the condition of things
in general. The rice-fields lie fallow, affording a scanty supply of
grass for the cattle; and many short cuts can be made across them in
various directions, for the beaten track over embankments, great and
small, may be safely left for the dry and level plain.


In travelling about Imèrina, and indeed in the southern central
provinces as well, one cannot help noticing the evidences of ancient
towns and villages on the summits of a large number of the high
hills. These are not picturesque ruins, or remains of buildings, but
are the deep fosses cut in the hard red soil, often three or four,
one within the other, by which these old villages were defended.
These show very conspicuously from a great distance, and are from ten
to twenty feet deep; and as they are often of considerable extent
they must have required an immense amount of labour to excavate.
These elaborate fortifications are memorials of the “feudal period”
in central Madagascar, when almost every village had its petty chief
or _mpanjàka_, and when guns and gunpowder were still unknown. These
old places are now mostly abandoned for more convenient positions in
the plains or on the low rising grounds; and the fosses or _hàdy_ are
often capital hunting-grounds for ferns and other wild plants.

[Sidenote: HOVA TOMBS]

Perhaps more noticeable even than the old towns are the old tombs, as
well as more modern ones, which meet one’s eye in the neighbourhood
of every village. The Hova tombs are mostly constructed of rough
stonework, undressed and laid without mortar; they are square in
shape, from ten to twenty feet or more each way, and generally of
two or three stages of three to four feet high, diminishing in
size from the lowest. This superstructure surrounds and surmounts
a chamber formed of massive slabs of bluish-grey granitic rock,
partly sunk in the ground, and partly above it. In this chamber
are stone shelves, on which the corpses, wrapped in a number of
silk cloths or _làmba_, are laid. The tombs of wealthy people, as
well as those of high rank, are often costly structures of dressed
stonework, with cornices and carving; some are surmounted with an
open arcade, and have stone shafts to carry lightning conductors.
Within the last few years some large tombs have been made of burnt
brick (externally), although no change is made in the ancient style
of interior construction, with single stones for walls, roof, door
and shelves. Near some villages are a large number of these great
family tombs; and at one place, on the highroad from the present to
the old capital, a long row of such tombs, from thirty to forty in
all, may be seen. In many places a shapeless heap of stones, often
overshadowed by a _Fàno_ tree, resembling an acacia, marks a grave
of the Vazìmba, the earlier inhabitants of the country. These are
still regarded with superstitious dread and veneration by the people,
and offerings of rice, sugar-cane and other food are often placed on
them. The winter months are a favourite time for the native custom
of _famadìhana_—that is, of wrapping the corpses of their deceased
relatives in fresh silk cloths, as well as removing some of them
to a new tomb as soon as this is finished. These are quite holiday
occasions and times of feasting and, not infrequently, of much that
is evil in the way of drinking and licentiousness.



Other noticeable objects when travelling about the central provinces
are tall stones of rough undressed granite, from eight to twelve
feet high, called _Vàtolàhy_ (_i.e._ “Male stones”), which have been
erected in memory of some bygone worthy, or of some notable event,
now forgotten, and which often crown the top of prominent hills. They
are also sometimes memorials of those who went away to the wars of
olden times, and who never returned to their homes. In these cases a
square of small stones—at least three sides of one—is formed as part
of the memorial, as a kind of pseudo-tomb. These little enclosures
are from eight to ten feet square. A wonderful variety of lichens
is often to be seen on these tall stones—red, yellow, grey of many
shades, black, and pure white embroidering the rough stone. Some have
supposed, from the name of these memorials, that we have here a relic
of phallic worship.

[Sidenote: MARKETS]

A very prominent feature of the social life of the Malagasy is
the system of holding large open-air markets all over the central
province on the various days of the week. The largest of these
is naturally that held in the capital every Friday (Zomà), at
which probably from twenty thousand to thirty thousand people are
densely crowded together, and where almost everything grown or
manufactured in the province can be purchased. But two or three of
the other markets held within five or six miles of Antanànarìvo do
not fall far short of the Zomà market in size, especially those at
Asabòtsy (Saturday) to the north, and at Alàtsinainy (Monday) to the
north-east. To a stranger these great markets present a very novel
and interesting scene, and a good idea may be obtained as to what
can be purchased here by taking a stroll through them and noticing
their different sections. In one part are oxen and sheep, many of
which are killed in the morning, while the meat is cut up and sold
during the day; here are turkeys, geese, ducks and fowls by the
hundred; here are great heaps of rice, both in the husk, and either
partially cleaned, as “red rice,” or perfectly so, as “white rice”;
here are piles of brown locusts, heaps of minute red shrimps, and
baskets of snails, all used as “relishes” for the rice; here is
_màngahàzo_, or manioc root, both cooked and raw, as well as sweet
potatoes, earth-nuts, arum roots (_saonjo_) and many kinds of green
vegetables, and also capsicums, chillies and ginger. In another
quarter are the stalls for cottons and prints, sheetings and calicoes
from Europe, as well as native-made cloths of hemp, _rofìa_ fibre,
cotton and silk; and not far away are basketfuls and piles of snowy
or golden-coloured cocoons of native silk for weaving. Here is the
ironmongery section, where good native-made nails, rough hinges, and
locks and bolts, knives and scissors can be bought; and formerly
were the sellers of the neat little scales of brass or iron, with
their weights for weighing the “cut money,” which formed the small
change of the Malagasy before foreign occupation. (The five-franc
pieces were cut up in pieces of all shapes and sizes, so that buying
and selling were very tedious matters.) Then we come to the vendors
of the strong and cheap mats and baskets, made from the tough peel
of the _zozòro_ papyrus, and from various kinds of grass, often
with graceful interwoven patterns. Yonder a small forest of upright
pieces of wood points out the timber market, where beams and rafters,
joists and boarding can be purchased, as well as bedsteads, chairs
and doors. Not far distant from this is the place where large bundles
of _hèrana_ sedge, arranged in sheets or “leaves,” as the Malagasy
call them, for roofing, can be bought; and near these again are the
globular water-pots or _sìny_ for fetching and for storing water.
But it would occupy too much space to enumerate all the articles for
sale in an Imèrina market. Before the French occupation it was not
uncommon to see slaves exposed for sale, but happily that and slavery
are now things of the past.


In the old times of Malagasy independence there were few more
interesting scenes than that presented by a great national assembly
or _Kabàry_. These were summoned when new laws were made, or a new
government policy was announced, and also when war was imminent
with France, both in 1882 and again in 1895. On such occasions the
large triangular central space near the summit of the capital,
called Andohàlo, was filled with many thousands of people from early
morning. Lines of native troops kept open lanes for the advance of
the queen’s representative, generally the Prime Minister, who was
always attended by a number of officers in a variety of gorgeous
uniforms. At the eastern or highest portion of Andohàlo a place was
kept open for the royal messengers, whose approach was announced by
the firing of cannon. Taking his stand so as to be seen by the vast
assembly, the Prime Minister would draw his sword and commence the
proceedings by turning towards the palace and giving the word of
command for a royal salute, all the troops presenting arms, and all
the cannon round the upper portion of the city being fired. The next
officer in rank then took the word, and the troops all saluted the
Prime Minister, who stood bareheaded, acknowledging the respect due
to his high position. He then proceeded to give the royal message,
or read the new laws, often with a great deal of eloquence, for
the Malagasy are ready and clever speakers. At passages where the
national pride or patriotism was touched, much enthusiastic response
was often aroused, especially as each paragraph of the speech was
followed by a question: “_Fa tsy izày, va, ry ambànilànitra?_”
(“For is it not so, ye ‘under-the-heaven’?”) These questions
were replied to with shouts of “_Izày!_” (“It is so!”) from the
assembled multitude. But the greatest pitch of loyal enthusiasm was
generally evoked by the chiefs of the different tribes, as they, one
after another, replied to the queen’s message and gave assurances
of obedience and loyalty. Surrounded by a small group of their
fellow-clansmen, they would wind their _làmba_ round their waists,
brandish a spear, and at the conclusion of each part of their speech
they also demanded: “_Fa tsy izày va?_” And sometimes the whole
of the people would leap to their feet, the officers waving their
swords, the soldiers tossing up their rifles, and the people dancing
about in a perfect frenzy of excitement.


The bare, rocky hills are characteristic of the interior of


We noticed just now the signs of the ancient villages and towns in
the central province; but something may be added here as to the
existing villages we see as we travel through it. The ancient towns
were, as we have seen, all built for safety on the top of hills, and
many of those now inhabited by the people are still so situated,
although in several districts the French authorities have obliged
them to leave the old sites and build their houses, with plenty of
space round each, on the sides of the newly made roads. But a good
number of the old style of village still remain, and it is these I
want to describe. They mostly have deep fosses, cut in the hard red
soil, surrounding them, about twenty to thirty feet across, and as
many feet deep, sometimes still deeper; and before guns and cannons
were brought into the country they must have formed very effective
defences against an enemy, especially as there is often a double or
even treble series of them. The gateways, sometimes three deep, are
formed of stone, often in large slabs, and instead of a gate a great
circular stone, eight or ten feet in diameter, was rolled across the
opening and was fitted into rough grooves on either side, and wedged
up with other stones inside the gate. I have slept in villages where
it was necessary to call several men before one could leave in the
morning, until they had answered our inquiry: “Who shall roll us
away the stone?” In these fosses, which are of course always damp,
with good soil, ferns and wild plants grow luxuriantly; and the
bottom forms a plantation in which peach, banana, guava and other
fruit trees are cultivated, as well as coffee, arums and a variety
of vegetables. Tall trees often grow there, so that these _hàdy_ or
fosses are often the prettiest feature of the village. It must be
added that the paths between and leading to the gateways are often
winding, and formed by a thick mass of prickly plants.

In some parts of the central provinces the villages have no deep
trenches round them, but they are protected by a dense and wide
plantation of prickly pear. The thick, fleshy, twisted stems, the
gaily tinted flowers, and even the fruits, are all armed with spines
and stinging hairs; and it is no easy matter to get rid of the minute
little needles, if they once get into one’s skin. So one sees that
a thick hedge of prickly pear was a very effectual defence against
enemies, especially since the people wore no shoes or any protection
for legs and feet. In many places, instead of prickly pear, the fence
round the village is made of _tsiàfakòmby_ (“impassable by cattle”),
a shrub with bright yellow flowers and full of hook-like prickles. In
some cases, instead of a door at the gateway, a number of short poles
are hung from a cross-piece at the top, which passes through a hole
in each of them; and one has to hold up two or three poles in order
to pass through.

Here, however, we are at last inside the village, and we see at once
that it is a very different place from an English village, with the
turnpike road passing through it, its trim houses and cottages, with
neat gardens and flower-beds, its grey old church, and its churchyard
with elms and yews overshadowing the graves.


There is nothing at all like this in our Malagasy village. There are
no streets intersecting it, and the houses are built without much
order, except in one point—namely, that they are almost all built
north and south, and that they have their single door and window
always on the west side, so as to be protected from the cold and
keen south-east winds which blow over Imèrina during a great part
of the year. The houses are mostly made of the hard red earth, laid
in courses of a foot or so high. They are chiefly of one storey and
of one room, but they generally have a floor in the roof, which is
used for cooking; and, if of good size, they are sometimes divided
into two rooms by rush and mat partitions. On the east of Imèrina,
near the forest, the houses are made of rough wooden framing, filled
up with bamboo or rush, and often plastered with cow-dung. In the
neighbourhood of the capital, and indeed in most places, the houses
are now often made of sun-dried bricks, in two storeys, with several
rooms, and often with tiled roofs.


This was before the French Conquest. Note the different types of
houses, tiled and thatched]

Here and there throughout the province one comes across a village
which was formerly the capital of a petty kingdom, where we find
several strong and well-built timber houses. Such a place was
Ambòhitritankàdy (I say “was,” because it now no longer exists),
one of the villages in my mission district. It was on a high hill,
and in the centre of the village were ten large houses of massive
timber framing and with very high-pitched roofs, with long “horns”
at the gables, and these were arranged five on each side of a long
oblong space sunk a couple of feet below the ground. Here, in former
times, bull-fights took place, and various games and amusements were
carried on. One of the houses, where the chief himself resided, was
much larger than the rest, and the corner posts, as well as the
great central posts supporting the ridge, were very massive pieces
of timber. It was all in one great room, without any partitions, the
whole being well floored with wood, and the walls covered with
fine mats. Similar houses might be seen at most of the chief towns
of Imèrina; but the house I have just described was the largest and
finest of any, not excepting those in the capital and at Ambòhimànga.
Sad to say, except at these two places, where two ancient timber
houses at the first one, and one at the other, are still preserved
as a kind of curiosity, almost all these fine structures have been
demolished in order to get well-seasoned timber for furniture and
buildings. They have been superseded by much less picturesque, but
perhaps more comfortable as well as cheaper, houses of sun-dried or
burnt brick.

There is no privacy or retirement about the houses in the village,
no back-yard or outbuildings, although occasionally low walls make
a kind of enclosure around some of them. Here and there among the
houses are square pits, four or five feet deep, and eight or ten feet
square, called fàhitra. These are pens for the oxen, which are kept
in them to be fattened, formerly especially for the national festival
of the New Year. As may be supposed, these are very dirty places,
and in the wet season are often just pools of black mud; indeed the
village, as a whole, is anything but neat and clean. All sorts of
rubbish and filth accumulate; there are no sanitary arrangements;
frequently the cattle used to be penned for the night in a part of
the village, and the cow-dung made it very muddy in wet weather,
and raised clouds of stifling dust when it was dry. Frequently the
cow-dung is collected and made into circular cakes of six or eight
inches diameter, which are then stuck on the walls of the houses to
dry. This is used as fuel for burning; and splitting off large slabs
of gneiss rock, which are employed by the people in making their

In the centre of the village may often be seen the large family tomb
of the chief man of the place, the owner of much of the land and many
of the neighbouring rice-fields. If he is an andrìana, or of noble
birth, the stonework is surmounted by a small wooden house, with
thatched or shingled roof, and a door, but no window. This is called
_tràno màsina_, “sacred house,” or _tràno manàra_, “cold house,”
because it has no hearth or fire.

Seen from a distance, these Malagasy villages often look very pretty
and picturesque, for “distance lends enchantment to the view.” Round
some of them tall trees, called _àviàvy_, a species of _ficus_, grow,
which are something like an English elm in appearance. In others one
or two great _amòntana_ trees may be seen; these are also a species
of fig-tree, and have large and glossy leaves. The _amòntana_ is
evergreen, while the _àviàvy_ is deciduous. A beautiful tree, called
_zàhana_, is also common, with hundreds of pink flowers and sweetish
fruit like a pea-pod. In the fosses is often seen the _amìana_, a
tall tree-nettle, with large deeply cut and velvety leaves with
stinging hairs. Many kinds of shrubs often make the place gay with
flowers, especially in the hot season.


But what are the Hova children like? How are they dressed? And what
do they play at? They are brown-skinned, some very light olive in
colour, and some much darker. As a rule they have little clothing;
perhaps some of the boys may have a straw hat, but no shoes or
stockings, and they are often dirty and little cared for. On Sundays
and on special occasions the girls are often dressed in print frocks,
and the boys in jackets of similar material, and with a clean white
calico _làmba_ overall; but on weekdays a small _làmba_ of soiled
and coarse hemp cloth often forms almost their only clothing. Of
course the children of well-to-do people are sometimes very nicely
dressed, although they too often go about in a rather dirty fashion.
I am here, however, speaking of the majority of the children one
sees, those of the poorer children of a village.[10] One day some of
us went for a ride to a village about two miles from Ambòhimànga.
A number of children followed us about as we collected ferns in a
_hàdy_, and, as a group of seven or eight of them sat near us, we
calculated that the value of all they had on would not amount to one

Poor children! they have little advantages compared with English boys
and girls, and they have few amusements. They sometimes play at a
game which is very like our “fox and geese”; the boys spin peg-tops
and play at marbles; the little children make figures of oxen and
birds, etc., out of clay; the boys are fond of a game resembling
the lassoing of wild oxen, by trying to catch their companions
by throwing a noose over them; and the big boys have a rough and
violent game called _mamèly dìa mànga_, in which they try to throw
an opponent down by kicking backward at each other, with the sole of
the foot, which is darted out almost as high as their heads. Ribs
are sometimes broken by a violent kick. Perhaps the most favourite
amusement of Malagasy children is to sit in parties out of doors on
fine moonlight nights and sing away for hours some of the monotonous
native chants, accompanying them with regular clapping of hands.

In about a fourth of these villages, where there are churches, a
mission day school is still carried on, and here may be seen, if we
look in, a number of bright-looking children repeating their _a_,
_b_, _d_ (not _c_), reading and writing, doing sums, learning a
little grammar and geography, and being taught their catechism, and
something about the chief facts and truths of the Bible. And perhaps
there is no more pleasant sight in Madagascar than one of the larger
chapels on the annual examination day, filled with children from the
neighbouring villages, all dressed in their best, eager to show their
knowledge, and pleased to get the Bible or Testament or hymn-book or
other prize given to those who have done well.


A few words may be said here about the aspect of the heavens in
Imèrina, especially at evening and night. We are highly favoured
in having sunsets of wonderful beauty; the western sky burns with
molten gold, orange and crimson; and as the sun nears the horizon,
the ruddy landscape to the east is lighted up more and more intensely
every moment with glowing colour, the natural hue of the soil being
heightened by the horizontal rays; the distant lines of hill, range
after range, are bathed in every shade of purple light, and the long
lines of red clay walls glow like vermilion in the setting sunshine.
How often have we watched this glorious display of light and colour,
and thanked God for this beautiful world!

But the nights, especially near the time of full moon, are also very
enjoyable. The moon appears more brilliant and her light more intense
than in England; it is a delight to be out of doors and to walk in
the fresh bracing air, and to have the rough paths illuminated for us
by the silvery radiance, which gives a picturesque beauty to the most
commonplace objects and scenes.

Perhaps the starlit skies of the evenings of the summer months are
the most beautiful of all the year. At this season some of the
finest of the northern constellations are seen at the same time as
several of the southerly ones. The Great Bear stretches over the
northern sky; higher up is the Northern Crown; the Pleiades,[11] and
Orion with his many brilliant neighbours, are overhead; the Southern
Cross, with its conspicuous “pointers” in the Centaur, is high in the
southern heavens; and the Magellan Clouds are clearly seen nearer
the horizon; and all across the firmament is the Galaxy, or, as the
Malagasy call it, the _èfi-taona_, “the division,” or “separation
of the year.” And then, as the circling year revolves, the great
serpentine curve of Scorpio appears, and Sirius, Capella, Canopus,
and many another glorious lamp of heaven light up the midnight sky
with their flashing radiance.


The month of August, the closing one in this review of the year,
is often the coldest month of all, cold, that is, for a country
within the tropics. All through August the keen south-eastern trades
generally blow strong, and although in sheltered places the afternoon
sun may be quite warm, the mornings and evenings are very cold, and
during the night the mercury will often descend to very near the
freezing-point. The mornings are frequently misty; on some days
there are constant showers of _èrika_ or drizzly rain, alternating
with bright sunny days and clear skies; these latter seem the very
perfection of weather, bracing and health-giving. But this cold
weather often brings disease to the Malagasy, especially a kind of
malarial fever, which sometimes attacks great numbers of them, and
also brings affections of the throat and chest, to which many fall
victims. At such times their thin cotton clothing seems ill adapted
for protection against the climate. This circumstance has often
struck me as showing how difficult it is to change the habits of a
people; for centuries past the Hova have lived in this cool highland
region, yet, until very lately, few comparatively have made much
change in their dress, which was well enough adapted for the purely
tropical region from which they originally came, but very unfitted
for the cool air of the winter months of a country about five
thousand feet above sea-level.


A tall palanquin bearer is in front, showing by comparison the height
of the gateway. A native wooden house with high-pitched _hèrana_
thatched roof is shown, and a group of natives]

The great rice-plain to the west of the capital and all the broader
valleys still lie fallow, although in various places extensive sheets
of water show that irrigation is commencing. In the lesser valleys
and at the edge of the larger rice-plains the landscape is enlivened
by the bright green of the _kètsa_ grounds, where, as already
described, the rice is sown broadcast before transplanting into the
larger fields.

[Sidenote: TREES]

There are not many deciduous trees in Imèrina, so the numerous
orchards, chiefly of mango-trees, look fresh and green throughout the
year. But the Cape lilac, which does cast its leaves, is beginning
to put out its bright green fronds; the peach-trees are a mass of
pink blossom, unrelieved as yet by any leaves, and the _sòngosòngo_
(_Euphorbia splendens_), in the hedges is just beginning to show
its brilliant scarlet or pale yellow bracts. Wild flowers are still
scarce, but the lilac flowers of the _sèvabé_ (_Solanum auriculatum_)
bloom all through the year. The golden-orange panicles of the _sèva_
(_Buddleia madagascariensis_), which has a sweetish scent, now
appear. Nature is arousing from the inaction of the cold season, and
the few trees now flowering give promise of the coming spring. And
so, from year to year, every month brings some fresh interest in tree
and flower, in bird and insect, in the employments of the people, and
in the changing aspects of the sky by day and in the starry heavens
by night.

NOTE.—I may add here that of late years, through foreign influence
preceding and following the French occupation, many new trees have
been introduced into Madagascar, which have materially altered the
look of the country in some provinces, especially in the Bétsiléo
district. Millions of trees, chiefly species of eucalyptus, have been
planted, especially along the roadsides, as well as mimosa, blackwood
and _filào_. The beautiful purple bracts of the bougainvillea, and
the large brilliant scarlet ones of the poinsettia, now give a much
brighter appearance to gardens and public places, since they have
been extensively planted in the capital and other large towns, as
well as zinnias, crotons and cannas.

[10] Of late years, since numbers of children attend Government
schools as well as those of the various missions, a considerable
improvement has taken place in children’s clothing. Knickerbockers
and jackets are now the dress of hundreds of boys; but the native
_làmba_ is still largely used, and is almost always part of girls’

[Sidenote: STARS]

[11] Curiously enough, the Malagasy appear to have given names
only to these two prominent clusters of stars. The Pleiades they
call “_Kòtokèli-miàdi-laona_”—_i.e._ “Little boys fighting over
the rice mortar”; while the three stars of Orion’s belt they call
“_Tèlo-no-ho-réfy_”—_i.e._ “Three make a fathom.” They have no name
for the first-magnitude stars, or for the planets, except for Venus,
as a morning star—viz. “_Fitàrikàndro_”—_i.e._ “Leader of the day.”



By the kind concern of two of the missionary societies working in
Madagascar for the comfort and health of their representatives,
who live in Imèrina, two sanatoriums have been provided for them
away from the capital. One of these is at Ambàtovòry, about fifteen
miles distant to the east, and close to a patch of old forest still
left among the surrounding somewhat bare country; the other is at
Ankèramadìnika, at about double that distance, and is built close to
the edge of the upper belt of forest, that long line of woods which,
as already mentioned, stretches for several hundred miles along the
eastern side of Madagascar. Here, after a year’s strenuous work in
college, or school, or church, or in literary labour, or in something
of them all, it is a pleasant and healthful change to come for two
or three weeks to the quiet and restful influences of the beautiful
woods, with their wealth of vegetable life, and with much to interest
in the animal life of bird and insect.

I ask my readers to accompany me then in a visit to Ankèramadìnika,
and to wander with me in the forest and observe the many curious
and interesting things which we shall find in our walks. The forest
is here about seven or eight miles across, and from the verandah we
can see over the woods to the lower plain of Ankay, and beyond this
to the long line of blue mountains covered by the lower and broader
forest belt. A wonderful sight this plain presents on a winter
morning, when it is filled with a white sea of mist, out of which the
forest and the hills rise like islands, and the feathery masses of
cloud against their sides have exactly the effect of waves breaking
against a shore.

It will be fitting here to say a few words about the flora of
Madagascar, and here I may quote what my late friend, the Rev.
R. Baron, remarked in a paper read before the Linnæan Society in
1888.[12] He says:

  “It may now be said that the vegetable productions of the island
  have been very extensively explored, and that the majority of the
  plants inhabiting it are known to science. The country has been
  traversed by botanists in many different directions, its highest
  mountains have been ascended, its lakes and marshes crossed, its
  forests penetrated, and large collections of plants have been made.
  About four thousand one hundred species of plants have now been
  named and described, and I think it may be said with certainty
  that the great bulk of Madagascarian plants have already been
  gathered, so that we have now sufficient data to enable us to draw
  a few general conclusions as to the character and distribution of
  this very interesting and remarkable flora. Of the four thousand
  one hundred indigenous plants at present known in Madagascar,
  about three thousand (or three-fourths of the total flora) are,
  remarkable to say, only found here. Even of the grasses and rushes,
  about two-fifths of each order are peculiar to the island. There
  is one natural order confined to Madagascar, the Chlænaceæ; of
  ferns more than a third are endemic, and of orchids as much as
  five-sixths, facts which are sufficient to give a very marked
  individuality to the character of the flora.”

Mr Baron gives the following graphic account of his experiences as a
collector of plants:—


  “Botanising in Madagascar, as those who have travelled in wild
  and uncivilised regions in other parts of the world will easily
  believe, is a totally different experience from botanising in
  England. Your collecting materials are carried by a native, who
  may be honest, or not, in which latter case the drying paper will
  begin gradually and mysteriously to disappear, and the leather
  straps with which the presses are tightened will, one by one, be
  quietly appropriated. For a Malagasy bearer has a special weakness
  for leather straps, they being largely used for belts, so that
  both for the sake of your own comfort and the honesty of the men,
  the sooner you dispense with them the better. As for the dried
  plants themselves, they are secure from all pilfering; for of
  what possible use or value they can be, it puzzles the natives to
  conceive. You might leave your collection in a village for a whole
  month, and you would find on your return it was still intact.
  If, after a day’s journey, you sit down in a hut to change the
  sheets of paper containing the specimens, the villagers will be
  sure to come and, standing round in a circle, gaze at you in mute
  astonishment turning over the plants so well known to them. After a
  few minutes’ silent gaze, there will perhaps be a sudden outburst
  of amused laughter, or it may be a little whispering, which, if it
  were audible, would be something to this effect: ‘Whatever in the
  world is the man doing?’ or, ‘What strange creatures these white
  men are!’

  “Some of the people doubtless think that you are a kind of
  sorcerer. For these dried plants—whatever can you do with them?
  You cannot eat them. You cannot make them into broth. You cannot
  plant them, for they are dead. You cannot form them in bouquets
  or wreaths, for they are brown and withered. Is it surprising,
  then, if some of the natives think that you are dabbling in the
  black art, and that your plants, in the shape of some strange
  and mysterious decoction, are to supply, it may be, a potent
  rain-medicine, or a love-philtre, or a disease-preventing physic?
  For among the natives themselves there are many herbal quacks,
  who, for a consideration, are able, not only to prescribe for the
  cure, and even prevention, of disease, but also to furnish charms
  against fire and tempest, locusts or lightning, leprosy or lunacy,
  ghosts, crocodiles, or witches. The explanation which I have most
  frequently heard given, however, by the more intelligent of the
  natives as to the use of the dried plants is that the leaves are
  intended to be employed for patterns in weaving.

  “It is not, then, the natives that you have to fear in regard to
  your collections of plants; it is the weather, it is those heavy
  showers that, unless protected with extreme care by waterproof
  coverings, succeed in soaking your specimens and your drying paper,
  so that you have occasionally to spend half the night in some dirty
  hovel in doing what you can, by the aid of a large fire, to save
  your collection from destruction. Still all the difficulties and
  discomforts are far more than outweighed by the pleasure you gain
  in the exercise, a pleasure which is enhanced by the consciousness
  that you are probably the first that has ever plucked the flowers
  from Nature’s bosom in that particular locality, and that a large
  number of the specimens will probably prove to be new to science.”


Although to anyone merely travelling through it, this upper forest
seems, especially in the cold season, to be singularly deficient in
animal life, yet to those who will carefully observe, as they ramble
through these woods, there are numerous small living creatures well
worth careful study. One cannot pass many yards along a forest path
without noticing here and there a long white bag hanging on the trees
and bushes. These vary in length from about six inches to a foot,
or even eighteen inches, and are a long oval in shape; the upper
part shines with a silky lustre, and the whole would do so, but for
its being filled at the lower part with a mass of dark brown earthy
substance, which soils its purity. On cutting open the upper portion
of the bag, which is tough and strong, it is found to be filled with
a mass of brown caterpillars, about an inch and a half long, all
wriggling about when thus disturbed in their comfortable home. The
dark substance is evidently the droppings of these caterpillars; and
the opening at the lower end, sometimes small holes around it, give
exit and entrance, for generally two or three of the insects are seen
crawling on the outside. It would appear, therefore, that this silken
bag is the nest or home spun by the caterpillars, a common habitation
in which they undergo the next change before becoming perfect
insects. One always sees that the branches near that on which the bag
is suspended are stripped of the leaves, no doubt by its inmates. I
noticed that, a day or two after I had cut open one of these bags,
a thin film of web had been spun over the opening, so as to close
up the entrance I had unceremoniously made into the privacy of the
little community.

[Sidenote: ANTS]

No one can pass through the upper or lower forests without noticing
the much more prominent nests made in the trees by another insect,
a small species of black ant. These nests are often as large as
a football, and are apparently made of cow-dung, or earthy and
vegetable matter, forming a coarse papery substance; they are peopled
by large numbers of ants, and are dark brown in colour. If one is
procured—not an easy matter, for the little inhabitants rush out and
attack the intruder, and dig their jaws into one’s flesh in a way to
make one jump—it will be seen, on cutting open the nest vertically,
that there is a series of thin floors about half-an-inch apart and
supported by pillars. The ants run about frantically, their chief
care being to carry the white eggs and pupæ to a place of safety.
But it will be observed that in the nest there are to be seen a
number of very small but handsome beetles, perhaps in the proportion
of one to a hundred of the ants. What purpose do these entirely
different insects serve in the economy of ant life? It appears that
this is a fact observed in the nests of many other kinds of ants, for
the Rev. J. G. Wood, in his charming book, “Homes without Hands,”
says that above thirty species of beetle are known as inhabiting
ants’ nests. But he can throw no light upon the purpose served by
the presence of the beetles. Besides these large and conspicuous
nests, containing probably thousands of ants, other nests, of all
sizes, from about that of a nut to an orange and upwards, may be
seen: the hamlets, villages, and small towns of the ant world, while
the large nests are the great cities of their commonwealth. The ants
inhabiting these dwellings appear to be all of one species, and
about three-sixteenths of an inch in length. What can these little
creatures live upon?—for they can hardly descend for it to the
ground, from heights of twenty, thirty, and even fifty or sixty, feet.

A very different kind of ants’ nest is seen in the more open and
sunny forest paths (and also in the bare interior country). These
have the form of a low circular mound, from eighteen inches or
more in diameter, and perhaps eight to ten inches high, and have a
large opening at the top—a miniature “crater.” This mound consists
of the fine grains of earth and sand brought up and thrown out by
the little workers in excavating their subterraneous dwelling.
These ants are larger insects than the arboreal species; they are
about three-eighths of an inch long, and seem to exist in great
numbers in their homes, the entrance being like a crowded street,
with passengers going to and fro. They may be met with all round
their nests, often at a considerable distance from them, frequently
tugging along pieces of chewed sugar-cane, or portions of dead
insects, enormous in size compared with themselves. The ants are the
scavengers of the country; no beetle, or worm, or grub, or animal
matter of any kind, can be many minutes on the ground before it is
detected by some ant, which communicates the fact forthwith to its
fellows, and they immediately fall on the spoil, cut it in pieces and
convey it to their stronghold. It is astonishing to see the heavy
loads that two or three ants will stagger along with for the common
weal. Truly, although they are a small folk, they are “exceeding

Another species of ant, which does not appear to construct a nest,
but inhabits the crevices and under the bark of trees, is rather
conspicuous from a large tuft or cushion of pale brown velvet-like
hairs on the upper side of the abdomen, and a smaller one on the
thorax. Its eggs and pupæ are carefully hidden away under pieces of
the bark which have become partly detached.

On the top of the Ambàtovòry rock I found another and smaller species
of ant, about an eighth of an inch long. This ant inhabits the dried
flower-stalk of the _vàhona_, a small aloe growing plentifully on
the shallow soil close to rocks. On breaking in two one of these
stalks, the ants and a number of pupæ fell out, long white cases, in
which the dark body of the immature insect could be seen. The little
creatures seemed greatly relieved to be able to gather up these
precious pupæ, and they soon collected them all, and brought them
again into their home. On examining the stalk I could see no entrance
except a minute hole, like a pinprick, at the top, just below where
the head of flowers had blossomed. It seems probable that the ants
find food in the pithy interior of these leaf-stalks.

In passing through the bush or the secondary forest, one frequently
sees the leaves of certain bushes withered and folded up together.
On opening one of such nests, it proves to be the home of a species
of beetle, a very handsome insect, about an inch long, with a long
slender thorax, and of a beautiful metallic-purple colour. Enclosed
in portions of the leaf are small green caterpillars, and in others
are chrysalides. A much smaller beetle is also found in many of
these nests. The edges of the leaves appear as if sewn together at
different places with fine silk.

Although butterflies are scarce in these woods in the cold season,
caterpillars are numerous. Those making a large silken bag have
already been noticed; but there are others which appear to be
just now (in August) in a state of torpor. Here, for instance, is
a cluster of a dozen or so of brown caterpillars, all clinging
closely together around one another on the top of a small twig.
They seem perfectly motionless. Are they hibernating? Here again
is a collection of beautiful little caterpillars, about an inch
long, of lovely pale green and bluish-green colour, with markings of
orange dots along the sides, and four tufts of yellow hairs on head
and tail. These are lying side by side, half-a-dozen together on a
leaf, and also appear perfectly torpid, for they do not move for
several days together. Here again, on a leaf, are about thirty small
caterpillars, about five-eighths of an inch long. These are seen to
be striped with dark lines, like black velvet, with delicate markings
and spots of bright yellow. These insects, like those just mentioned,
are motionless and crowded together, as if for warmth.


Walking slowly along, one notices a peculiar marking on a twig; this
on close inspection is seen to be an assemblage of the eggs of some
butterfly or moth, about a hundred of them, arranged in four or five
regular rows, pretty minute globes, light greyish-brown in colour,
with a minute black spot on the top, and hardly one-sixteenth of
an inch in diameter. In bushes and small trees, somewhat unsightly
little bundles of leaves are sometimes very conspicuous. These are
bound together with an irregular mass of web; and cutting one of
them open, it is found to be full of the elytra of small beetles and
the chitinous portions of other insects, as well as leaves, forming
a closely compacted ball. This appears to be the work of a small
spider, which is generally found in some portion of the nest.

There are many pleasant walks in different directions through the
woods, some of them merely woodcutters’ paths, and others broader,
where a palanquin can be taken. One cannot go far, however, without
having to go down steep descents and again having a stiff climb; but
the variety of leafage, the frequent occurrence of some beautiful
flower or bright-coloured berry or fruit, or gay insect makes a walk
full of interest; and when we reach a high point there are extensive
views over the undulating masses of green foliage of very varied
tints around one, and the bare Ankay plain, with the distant lower
forest, twenty or thirty miles away, and fading into the distance
north and south.

Reptiles are not very conspicuous in these woods; one seldom sees
a snake, although probably the dense undergrowth affords them
sufficient concealment. In the outskirts of the forest, however,
and indeed all over Imèrina, a pretty snake, from eighteen inches
to two feet long, is frequently seen, dark brown in colour, with
fine white lines along its slender length. The under side is white.
Notwithstanding the innocuous character of these little snakes, it
is amusing to see the dread the people have of them; our bearers,
for instance, will leap away from them as if they were treading on
the sharpest thorns. Some superstitious notions may partly account
for this fear, as one of the former chief idols of the Hova, called
Ramàhavàly (“the Avenger”), was supposed to be the patron and lord of
serpents. One sometimes sees a water-snake swimming over the surface
of a pond in a most graceful fashion.

[Sidenote: LIZARDS]

Lizards are now and then seen; one is a large unpleasant-looking
creature, nearly two feet long, of which the tail is about one foot.
But a much smaller and prettier one is not uncommon, with delicate
markings. Other species, in the south-west region, vary in length
from six to nine inches. And here, on the fleshy leaves of an aloe,
we may see, basking in the hot sunshine, a beautiful little bright
green lizard, or darting over the surface with such a rapid movement
that it is difficult to observe it closely. Its colour is so exactly
like its habitat that it is doubtless a “protective resemblance.”
While staying at the sanatorium in November 1899 a very curious
arboreal lizard was brought to us by some boys. This creature was
clinging to a stick, and at first sight, and until closely examined,
I could not distinguish it from the branch to which it clung. It was
about six inches long, the body was somewhat flattened, as well as
the head, and the eyes were large and bright. The feet were somewhat
webbed, the toes ending in small disks like those of the geckoes.
The tail was broad and flat, lying close to the branch, and shaped
something like that of a beaver. But the most interesting point about
this lizard was the wonderful resemblance of its colouring to that of
the bark of a tree. The minute scales of the skin were mottled with
brown, grey, green and white, so as exactly to resemble tree bark,
with the usual clothing of lichens precisely the same in colour,
together with small irregularities of surface; so that until examined
minutely, one could hardly believe that the small patches of colour
on the animal’s skin were not also due to vegetable growths. It
was difficult at a few inches’ distance to see where the lizard
began and the wood ended; and in the forest it would be impossible
to distinguish it from the branch to which it clings. It proved, on
being sent to England, to form a new genus.

[Illustration: A FOREST VILLAGE

A native lady being carried in her palanquin. Notice the thatched
huts and small verandahs. The village is built in a clearing of the
forest on the route from the coast to the interior]

[Sidenote: CHAMELEONS]

Chameleons are very frequently met with, not only in the woods but
also in the open country of Imèrina; and in our gardens at the
capital we often see them on the bushes or the paths, from the
little baby one of an inch long to the full-grown one of six to
eight inches. In the paths near the sanatorium one may see them
digging holes and depositing their eggs, which are about the size
of a small bean. Their colouring is often very beautiful, with its
shades of green and yellow and black, brown and red markings, and
there are certainly very rapid changes of colour according to the
different surroundings. The bright tints they exhibit in sunshine and
on leaves become dull dark brown in the shade, or on dark coloured
resting-places. Sometimes they lose all colour, for I one day saw,
on the path near the woods, a chameleon in the coils of a small
snake, which had wound itself three times round the body and was
apparently preparing to swallow it, beginning at the head, although
it seemed almost impossible that the bulky body of the chameleon
could pass through so small an opening. And this was a curious fact:
the chameleon was perfectly _white_. From a sentimental pity for the
little creature, I unwound the snake from it and placed it on a bush.
It was apparently uninjured and soon began to resume its ordinary
colouring, of which its terror had temporarily deprived it.

It is a noteworthy fact that Madagascar is one of the head-quarters
of the Chameleonidæ, for out of fifty known species twenty-one at
least are found in this island; and of the twenty-five kinds which
have been enumerated as having horns and other remarkable processes
on the head, no less than seventeen are peculiar to this country.
One species has a nose dilated and toothed on each side; another has
the top of the head conically produced; while four species have two
flat diverging nasal prominences covered with large scutes; and in
yet another species, the single long conical appendage to the nose is
flexible. The largest Madagascar chameleon known is about a foot long
and is called Ramìlahèloka, which may perhaps be (freely) translated,
“Naughty old boy,” probably from its uncanny appearance and earthy
colour; it is apparently always found on the ground. Of this creature
the natives assert that anyone stepping on it, accidentally or
otherwise, or seizing it, becomes ill. From the slow, deliberate
pace of the chameleon, the Malagasy proverb advises foresight and
retrospect: “_Ataovy toy ny dìan-tàna_: _jerèo ny alòha, todìho ny
aorìana_”—_i.e._ “Act like the stepping of a chameleon: look where
you are going, look back the way you have come.” Naughty little
native boys are fond of making the male chameleons fight together,
and it is curious to see how widely the red mouth is opened at such

[Sidenote: LAND-SHELLS]

While staying near the forest I occasionally saw and had brought to
me specimens of some of the land-shells which are often found in damp
places in the woods. Many years ago more than two hundred of these
were known, and this number has probably been considerably added
to since, and will still be increased as the country becomes more
perfectly explored. Of non-operculate species about eighty were then
described, of operculate species about fifty, and about fifty forms
had been recorded from the lakes and rivers. The largest of these
shells is a species of _Helix_ (_bicingulata_), warm brown in colour,
with diaper-like markings, flattish in shape, and three inches in
its longest diameter. There are several other smaller _helices_;
also examples of _Cyclostoma_, the opening of which, as the name
implies, is almost a perfect circle; species of _Ampullaria_, which
have a very large opening; _Stenogyra_, a long oval and spiral shell;
dark green _Melanatria_, a large spiral shell like _Turritella_,
three inches long, which I have gathered in forest streams; while
the most delicately marked shells are species of _Neritina_, with
black lines, like fine etchings, on a pale yellow ground. Species
of _Bultimus_, also a beautifully marked shell, and of _Limnea_,
_Physa_, _Phanorbis_, and many others are among the fluviatile and
terrestrial mollusca of Madagascar.

[Illustration: CHAMELEON MINOR.

Madagascar is one of the head-quarters of the Chameleonidæ, for out
of fifty known species twenty-one at least are found in this island.]

In walking through the woods one constantly comes across traces
of the wild boar, or, more properly, the river-hog (_Potamochærus
larvatus_), although the animal itself is rarely seen. It is a
somewhat ugly creature, with high withers, long back and little hair.
It has an enormous tubercle, supported by a bony protuberance in the
jaw, which renders the face of the animal extremely disagreeable. It
must exist in large numbers, for it digs up the ground in search
of roots and often does much damage to plantations. The hunting of
the wild boar is a favourite sport with the Malagasy of certain
districts, and Europeans who have joined in the hunt have found it
an exciting sport, with a distinct element of danger, for the beast,
when infuriated, is a formidable animal from its long and powerful
tusks. Some naturalists are of opinion that there are two distinct
species of this river-hog, one found in the upper forest, and the
other on the coast and the lower forest region; of these, the latter
is the larger animal.

[Sidenote: SUN-BIRDS]

Turning now from boars to birds. Many of the Madagascar birds are
by no means deficient in the power of producing sweet sounds of a
very pleasing character and in considerable variety of note; and
there are some few whose song has even been considered to resemble
that of our European nightingale. Although in the cold season there
are comparatively few birds seen or heard, yet it is not so in the
warmer months, or in the lower forest all through the year. Staying
near the upper forest in the month of December 1884, we sat down on
the margin of a stream, enjoying greatly the beauty of the woods and
especially the singing of the birds. Never before had I heard in a
Madagascar forest so many different notes, or so constant a sound
of bird life. Besides this, there was the low undertone of water
over the rapids some little distance away and the hum of insects.
It was a great enjoyment just to sit and listen, and see the birds
as they flew around us. Among these were the _Sòikèly_, a species
of sun-bird, a very little fellow, who sat on the topmost point
of a bare branch. There are three species of Nectarinidæ found in
the island, one of which, the glittering sickle-billed sun-bird
(_Neodrepanis coruscans_) belongs to a genus peculiar to Madagascar.
Many of the birds of this family rival, in the Old World, the
gem-like and metallic tints of the hummingbirds of the New World, and
this is true of those found here. M. Pollen observes of them that
they live in flocks, and all day long one sees them darting about the
flowering shrubs, sucking with their long tongue the nectar which
forms their principal food. Their song is long, very agreeable, but
little varied, and they have the habit of suspending themselves by
their claws from the small branches. The male bird of one species has
metallic tints of purple, green, red and yellow. The other species
is black underneath, with green and purple metallic reflections on
head, back and wings.

[Sidenote: ROLLERS]

Among the most beautiful birds in Madagascar are several species of
the rollers (_Coraciadæ_), so called from their peculiar habit of
flight. The five species found here live mostly on the ground and
come out chiefly at dusk. The _Vòrondrèo_, or Kiròmbo roller, plays
a great part in the chants and religious recitations and folk-tales
of the Malagasy. These birds live chiefly on grasshoppers, but they
also devour chameleons and lizards. When they cry they puff out the
throat, so that this portion of the body has the appearance of a
pendent bag. The colouring of this species is perhaps the “quietest”
of the five, having a good deal of slaty-grey on head and breast. But
both it and its companions have shades of “shot” colour, purple and
green, or red and green, as looked at in different lights. The others
exhibit larger masses of bright colour; the violet roller having, as
its name denotes, a good deal of violet or purple tinting. Four of
them are rather large birds, but the scaly ground roller is small,
with a curious collar of black and white feathers, reminding one of
the strange neck and throat appendages of some of the paradise birds.

Other birds we saw and heard that day were the _Railòvy_, a species
of shrike, with long forked tail; the _Bolòky_, or grey parrot, with
a long repeated whistle, as if going up the gamut; the _Vòrondrèo_,
one of the rollers, with its prolonged whistle ending in a sudden
drop; the _Parètika_, one of the warblers, with a creaky little short
note, something like a child’s rattle; together with these sounds was
the _kow-kow_ of the _Kankàfotra_ cuckoo, the varied mellow notes of
the _Tolòho_ cuckoo, the cooing sound of the _Fòny_, or wood-pigeon,
and also the call of one of the hawks.

[Sidenote: MR BARON]

[12] Mr Baron was for thirty-five years a missionary of the L.M.S. A
good writer, an eloquent speaker, and an earnest missionary, he was
also a very able botanist and an accomplished geologist, and at the
time of his lamented death, in 1907, he probably knew more about both
these sciences, as regards Madagascar, than any other European. On
account of his researches, and the large collections he made, he was
elected a Fellow of both the Linnæan and the Geological Societies,
honours never conferred except for substantial scientific work. He
also received a specially fitted microscope from the Royal Society
for petrological study, in which he became very proficient. During
his residence in Madagascar he sent home many hundreds of plants,
a great proportion of which were new to science, and also a large
number of rock sections for microscopical and polariscope study.
Twice he was offered valuable positions under the French Government
in this island, but he was too true a missionary to give up Christian

[Illustration: Chamæleons


_Heads, from above_




Anyone who has stayed near the upper forest during December or
January, and has quietly watched for a short time among the trees,
will not complain of scarcity of bird life to admire and study. The
beautiful creatures will come and alight all around us, if we only
remain perfectly still, seeking their food as they hop on the ground,
or flutter from branch to branch. We may watch their nests and see
their eggs, and then the newly fledged birds, noting from day to day
how they develop; until one morning the nest is empty, for its little
inmates have found out their power of wing, and have left it to set
up for themselves and add another little company to the tenants
of the forests. It may be truly said that the note of one bird or
another is never silent at this time of the year all day long, while
some are heard also at night. I remember especially watching one of
the two species of goat-sucker, which are found here: for although it
is called _Matòriàndro_, or “day-sleeper,” from its nocturnal habits,
it may be seen in shady places at midday; its beautifully mottled
shades of brown and grey giving it, no doubt, protection, from their
resemblance to its surroundings. They have the habit of rising from
a slight elevation straight into the air; then they let themselves
suddenly fall, to resume their ordinary mode of flight. It will also
fly along the paths, permitting one to approach it again and again,
and when flying it reveals the black and white colouring under the
wings. They feed exclusively on nocturnal insects, chiefly moths and

[Sidenote: OWLS]

While speaking of the birds of the interior, one must not forget the
owls, of which six or seven species are known in Madagascar; two
of these, the scops owl and the barn owl, are tolerably plentiful.
The last-mentioned appears to be exactly identical with the almost
world-wide and well-known bird of that name. As among most other
peoples, the owl is regarded by the Malagasy as a bird of ill-omen;
they call it _Vòrondòlo_—_i.e._ “spirit-bird”—thinking it an
embodiment of the spirits of the wicked; and when its startling
screeching cry is heard in the night they believe it to be a presage
of misfortune. There are numerous fables and stories about the owl,
illustrating the popular dread of the bird. But like the owls in all
other parts of the world, the Madagascar species are really public
benefactors, by keeping down the number of rats and mice and other
vermin; and yet their nocturnal habits, their large staring eyes, the
“uncanny” ear-like feathers of some, and especially their unearthly
screech, have all combined to make them objects of dread. One species
of owl is really a beautifully coloured bird, its plumage being pale
brown, spotted with silvery markings.

The bush and woods of small trees which are found surrounding the
upper belt of forest do not show many flowers during the cold
season of the year. Yet even during these cooler months—May to
August—innumerable objects of interest present themselves to those
who will use their eyes as they walk along the woodland paths.
Among the few flowers that are to be seen, besides the ever-present
orange spikes of the _Sèva_ (_Buddleia madagascariensis_), and the
purple flowers of the _Sèvabé_ (_Solanum auriculatum_) are the
bell-like reddish flowers of a species of _Kitchingia_, which are
rather plentiful; and towards the end of August a number of small
trees and bushes are showing clusters of handsome crimson flowers;
while a purple trumpet-shaped flower is to be seen here and there.
Not uncommon is a shrub with small red flowers, like honeysuckle,
growing at the axils of the leaves and all along the stems. More rare
is a good-sized bush, with large light green and glossy leaves, and
with clusters of yellow fruits, much like large white currants. This
shrub would be a handsome addition to a garden. Berries of various
hues—black, red, orange and yellow—are fairly plentiful; and in many
bushes and trees the lack of flowers is almost made up for by the
brilliant scarlet, or crimson, or orange colours of the new leaves,
and in others again by the bright orange or red of the fading leaves.

[Sidenote: PALMS]

There are few trees of any size left in the woods in the immediate
vicinity of the sanatorium, or near the paths through them; they
have all been cut down for the timber market in the capital, or for
house-building in the nearer villages. But in the deep valleys
not a mile distant there is still much virgin forest, and many
trees of considerable height; and on the roadside in the Mandràka
valley, along which the automobile road and then the railway have
been constructed within the last ten or twelve years, both cut
through dense forest, there are many lofty and isolated trees still
left standing, as well as numbers of them in the adjoining woods.
Like most tropical trees, these show the generally vertical habit
of the branches; in the crowd of competitors there is no room for
lateral expansion by wide-spreading branches; every tree presses
upwards to get the light and heat of the sun. In many parts of the
forest, the small palm, commonly called the “bamboo-palm” (_Mal.
Fàri-hàzo_—_i.e._ “woody sugar-cane”), is very plentiful, giving a
thoroughly tropical appearance to the vegetation. Few trees are more
beautiful than this palm, with its ringed stem, three to four inches
in diameter, and its graceful crown of light green pinnate leaves,
through which the sunlight shines. Its usual height is twelve or
fourteen feet, but it occasionally attains double that height, or
more, in certain situations. A much larger, but far less common, palm
is the _anìvona_, but this is because of its being cut down for the
sake of its tough wiry bark, of which the people make the flooring of
their houses, and also use in the construction of the old-fashioned
timber-framed Hova dwellings. The bamboo-palm seems of much less
practical use, and is therefore much more plentiful. Here and there a
still smaller species of palm may be found, with a stem not exceeding
an inch in diameter.

[Sidenote: CLIMBERS]

A very noticeable feature of these woods, as indeed of all tropical
forests, is the profusion of climbing plants. Even the smaller
trees and bushes have their twining and creeping parasites, tightly
wound round their stems. And from the tallest trees there hang and
intertwine all manner of lianas, some as big as a ship’s cable, and
others of all intermediate sizes—ropes of every dimension, down to
the finest cord, and often forming an almost impassable barrier, an
inextricable tangle of dense vegetation. Frequently these climbing
plants seem to strangle and squeeze out the life of their unfortunate
hosts; and it is often difficult to distinguish the foliage of
the original tree, and that of the parvenu, which has used its
more robust neighbour to climb up to the light and heat above the
surrounding mass of leafage. Some of these climbers have prominent
and beautiful flowers, which mark their presence very distinctly;
one of these, first sent home by a lady, proved to be a new species.
This liana is about as thick as a one-inch rope, and its spikes of
creamy-yellow flowers are set from one to two feet apart on the
main stem. These spikes are from ten to sixteen inches in length,
each containing from forty to sixty large flowers growing closely
together, so that they are very conspicuous in the forest, forming
immense festoons of flowers, mounting to the tops of lofty trees,
crossing from one tree to another, and shining almost golden in
colour in the brilliant sunshine. These lianas are very plentiful and
may be recognised at a considerable distance, so that they form in
November one of the noticeable features of the upper line of forest.
In the cold season, during which many of these observations were
made, of course this liana is indistinguishable from the tangled mass
of vegetation.

Although during the winter months flowers, as already mentioned, are
scarce in the upper forest, there is very much to interest one in the
cryptogamic vegetation which is so abundant everywhere around us. The
mosses are seen in great profusion, and of many species. Frequently
they occur in dense masses, carpeting the ground and the bases of the
trees with a thick cushion-like covering. And of what beautiful and
varied colours are these humble plants! light green and all shades of
darker green, star-like mosses of pale pink, browns and greys, some
bright crimson in colour, and some with waxy-looking fructification
stalks; and of all kinds of growth; hair-like filaments, delicate
branching forms, some thick like grass, others like seaweeds, others
silvery-white on one side and chocolate-brown on the other; but words
fail to give any adequate idea of their variety and beauty. During a
short ramble a score of well-marked species may soon be gathered.

And the lichens are hardly less numerous or beautiful than the
mosses: indeed it is sometimes difficult to tell to which order of
plants some of these organisms belong. In many drier places the
ground is covered with masses of a pale grey species, delicately
branched. And almost everywhere the bushes and trees are festooned
with the hanging filaments of another pale greyish-white lichen
(_Usnea sp._), which give them quite a venerable appearance. Another
common species is a branching coral-like one, pale green above, with
beautiful shades of brown underneath. The rocks seen all over Imèrina
are sometimes perfectly white with minute forms of lichen, but more
frequently present a mosaic of differently coloured species: black,
white, orange, russet and red.

[Sidenote: FUNGI]

And the fungi again are quite as noticeable as the other cryptogams,
and their colours make them even more conspicuous. On decaying
timber, their circular and collar-like forms and bright tints
constantly strike one’s attention. From one inch to three or four
inches in diameter these plants present a great variety of colour;
pure white, pale buff edged with brown, brilliant scarlet, orange,
yellow, dark brown, etc.; all these are very common. Some fungi are
hard and woody in substance; others are leathery and flexible, others
soft and gelatinous; and occasionally one sees specimens a foot in
diameter, with delicate shades of browns and greys on their upper

It may be easily imagined that with this wealth and variety of
cryptogamic forms many of the tree trunks are a perfect flora of
the humbler kinds of vegetable growths; for we have not mentioned
the delicate hymenophyllum ferns which also cover them in damp
situations; or the great hart’s-tongue ferns, which often occupy the
forks of the branches; or the innumerable small bulbs of the orchids,
which cling, by their long aerial roots, to the trunks and boughs of
the trees.

In walking through the woods one sometimes becomes conscious of a
sickly sweet smell somewhere near us. This proceeds from a hive
of bees not very far away, generally in the hollow of a tree. The
honey, which is usually excellent, is generally brought for sale to
us in the comb by some of the woodmen. Occasionally, however, it is
somewhat bitter, through being obtained from the flowers of certain
trees or plants. The Madagascar bee, known to entomologists as _Apis
unicolor_, differs but little in appearance from the English species,
although it is somewhat smaller, darker, and less hardy. It chooses,
if left to nature, the same kind of situation for its hive, and
multiplies in the same way. The drones also are idle and are killed
off at certain seasons. The Madagascar insect is much more gentle
when handled than the English one, but there is great difficulty
in hiving the swarms. These bees continue to store honey during the
winter months, although that is the dry season, with few flowers; and
they work in all weathers, even during a heavy thunderstorm.


The enemies of the Madagascar bee are, in the first place, rats,
then ants and the wax-moth; but the greatest enemy of all is the
death’s-head moth (_Sphinxatropos_), which is very common. He enters
the hive fearlessly, for although the bees crowd round him they
have no power to stop him, as their stings cannot pierce that downy
body, with its tough skin, but merely slip along it harmlessly. As
soon as he is within he keeps his wings vibrating with a low humming
noise and leisurely sucks his fill—a very long fill. The damage he
does is immense, and hives have been known to be sucked dry, and not
a drop of honey to be found in them, so that the bees quite give
up resisting. Other enemies of the bee are a parasitical solitary
wasp, which lays its eggs in the hive; and another wasp which seizes
the bees when returning to the hive for the sake of their laden
honey-bag, and it also kills them with wonderful celerity.

The Malagasy have a good general idea of the economy of the hive,
and of the habits of the bees. They usually find the wild nests by
watching the flight of the laden bees, and then by listening during
the hot part of the day, when the bees are “playing.” At most places
the people know of a number of wild nests, over which they keep
supervision. In many villages they make large quantities of mead,
more especially when the rite of circumcision is being observed. For
bees’-wax there is always a ready sale.[13]

Madagascar, like most tropical countries, is not without a fair
share of spiny and prickly plants. Perhaps most in evidence in the
interior is the prickly pear (_Opuntia ferox_), which was universally
used in old times as a thick hedge for the defence of the ancient
towns and villages. With its large needle-like spines, an inch to an
inch and a half long, studding its broad fleshy leaves, and capable
of inflicting a wound difficult to heal, and with smaller spines
covering the flowers and the fruit, it is easy to see that to a
barefooted and lightly clothed people such a hedge presented a very
formidable, not to say impassable, barrier. The flowers are large and
handsome, yellow and red in colour, and growing at the edge of the
leaves—if indeed they can be called such; the fruit, which is about
as large as a pear, turns yellow when ripe and is not unpalatable,
being something like an unripe gooseberry; but it is exceedingly
difficult to get it peeled without being hurt by its hair-like
needles. The large spines are the ordinary Malagasy pins, and are
very useful for this purpose.

Another very noticeable plant is the _Sòngosòngo_, a species of
_Euphorbia_, with spiny stems and brilliant scarlet flowers. This is
planted on the top of the low earthen banks which form the boundaries
between private properties and the roads; but it is not nearly such a
formidable defence as the prickly pear. A very common variety of this
plant has pale yellow flowers.

Another prickly plant is the Mysore thorn, or _Tsiàfakòmby_ (_lit._
“impassable by cattle”), which is largely used for fences and
stockades. From its numerous hook-like thorns, it also is not a plant
which can be easily passed through, when growing thickly. It has a
large spike of yellow flowers.


Another plant or shrub, which grows to the size of a tree, is not
prickly, but stinging. This is the _Amìana_ (_Urera radula_). The
large velvety leaves sting like those of a nettle; they are, however,
of beautiful and complicated outline, and I have pressed specimens
taken from young plants which are as much as two feet across, and
which would be admirable patterns for ornamentation. The wood is
very soft and, when on fire, smoulders for a long time. The trunk,
which is tall and straight, in some specimens is nearly two feet in
diameter. Some five different species have been described.

Another stinging plant, the _Agy_, with fine needle-like hairs, which
fall in showers and produce fearful irritation, is described in a
subsequent chapter. Many trees in the forest are armed with blunt
prickles, which injure the hand if they are touched when making one’s
way through the dense vegetation. In the extreme south of the island
there are trees or shrubs called _Fàntsi-òlotra_ (“nail-edged”?),
probably a species of _Didierea_, whose thorny stems, always turned
towards the south, are said to resemble a barricade of elephants’
trunks; the stem, which is as big as a man’s thigh, is entirely
covered with large thorns, between which grow the small round leaves.
On one of these thorny trees, however, M. Lemaire found a white lemur
(_Propithecus verrauxii_) clinging, which, when dislodged, went
leaping across the country on its hind legs, after the fashion of a


Cattle pens and characteristic forest trees are shown]


Someone may perhaps ask: Where are the people of these woods? In the
upper belt of forest there are few inhabitants except woodcutters,
and in small hamlets on the side of the main tracks passing through
it; but farther south, where the two lines unite, we shall find, as
we travel past the Bétsiléo province and east of it, a considerable
number of people, who are loosely called “Tanàla,” which simply means
“forest-dwellers,” and of these there are many subdivisions. There
are vague and uncertain accounts given by the Malagasy of a tribe of
people whom they call Béhòsy, and who are said to live in a wooded
country in the west of the island. Their food is honey, eels and
lemurs, which latter are caught in traps and fattened. They are very
dark in colour and are much like the Sàkalàva in appearance, and
are said to jump from tree to tree like monkeys, and cannot easily
be followed, as the country is rocky. They make network of cords,
hence their name (_hòsy_, string, twine). They are extremely timid,
and, if captured, die of fright. These Béhòsy seem to resemble in
some of their habits the “monkey-men” of Dourga Strait, New Guinea;
but it is much to be wished that more definite information could be
obtained about them, for, if what we hear of them is correct, they
are probably of a different stock to the rest of the inhabitants of

An apparently well-authenticated account was given by a Mauritius
trader of a wild man of the woods having been caught by some Malagasy
in the year 1879. He was asleep on the branch of a tree, and when
taken resisted violently, biting his captors severely; after a
few days’ confinement, however, he ceased to be aggressive. He
was described as a powerfully built man, his face and body being
thickly covered with long black hair. His mode of walking was very
peculiar, as he travelled very fast, occasionally going on all-fours,
his eyes being invariably fixed on the ground. When caught he was
perfectly nude, but wore clothes when provided with them. He could
never be induced to eat flesh, but lived entirely on manioc and
other roots; nor would he sleep in a recumbent position. After some
months he learned a few words, and by means of these and signs it
was understood that he had a father and two brothers in the forest.
These were found, and surrounded by a search-party one night, but
easily eluded their pursuers, jumping from tree to tree and running
on all-fours. The captured man died five months after being taken
(see _Proc. Roy. Geogr. Soc._, May 1889).

[Sidenote: CYCLONES]

The central part of the Indian Ocean is well known as the region of
cyclones, and these dreaded storms often include in their revolving
course the islands of Mauritius and Réunion, and occasionally touch
the eastern shores of Madagascar. A notable example of this was the
cyclone of November 1912, which stranded the S.S. _Salazie_, and
wrecked Diego-Suarez and many villages in the north of the island.
It is very seldom, however, that these storms reach the interior;
but in the month of February 1876 a cyclone did ascend to the upper
region of the island and did considerable damage. With my wife and
children I was staying for a holiday at that time at Andràngalòaka, a
small village on the edge of the upper forest, but five or six miles
south of Ankèramadìnika, where our good friend, Dr A. Davidson, had
a country house, which he often placed at the disposal of ourselves
and other friends; and never shall we forget the experiences of that
night of peril.

It was a Sunday evening and the sun set with a radiance which covered
the whole sky with a crimson glow, in a very remarkable manner. We
settled down after our evening meal for a little reading aloud, but
the wind rose rapidly, and after a time the roar was so great that
we could not go on. We found that its violence increased, and at
length we perceived that it was slowly changing in its direction. We
went to bed, but not to sleep, for the rain poured in from the roof,
and the howl of the wind made sleep impossible. We lay trembling on
our beds, fearing every now and then, as a more violent burst shook
the house, that it would be blown down over us, and we buried in its
ruins. Such would have been the case, I believe, had not the gables
been built of burnt brick and strengthened by the chimney-stacks.
During the night the metal roofing of the verandah was torn off with
a fearful clatter, and soon after dawn—and how long that dawn seemed
in coming!—the outer roof of the house, which was of grass, fixed
over the tiled roof, was bodily seized by the wind and carried off
altogether with its timbers, with a great crash, and then we thought
the house itself was all going. But towards nine A.M. the wind
gradually subsided, after having blown from about three-quarters of
the circle of the compass.

Scores of country chapels as well as houses were unroofed and greatly
damaged by this storm. A day or two after it we tried to take one
of our usual walks through the woods, but the paths were almost
obliterated by fallen trees and branches. In the valleys scores
of great trees had been torn up by the roots, with masses of soil
clinging to them; in other places they had been broken off short,
snapped as if they had been mere twigs; and in the prostrate branches
were numbers of arboreal creatures—chameleons, lizards, serpents and
tree-frogs—dashed down from their homes. It was all striking evidence
of the force with which the fierce wind had roared, especially up the
valleys, and had laid low everything in its path.

[13] For most of the information here given about the Madagascar bee,
I am again indebted to the Rev. C. P. Cory, formerly of the Anglican
Mission in Madagascar.



There are a number of paths in the forest which may be followed
from the sanatorium, north, east and south, and with a considerable
variety of scene. But it is easy to get lost in them, for I remember
one day when a party of us set out for a morning’s walk, but could
not find our way back, although we often caught sight of the house;
and it was late in the afternoon before we at length got home, very
tired and very hungry. Two of our friends, who were well acquainted
with the neighbourhood, were lost in paths not very far from the
sanatorium, and had to spend the night in the woods, making as
comfortable a resting-place as they could with leaves and bracken,
but getting no sleep from the multitude of mosquitoes. And a curious
circumstance was, that the Malagasy from the house, who came out
to seek for them, were afraid either to shout out loud to them, or
to show the lights they carried, for fear of offending the _lòlo_,
or spirits, which they think haunt the woods. Had they done either
of these things, our friends would probably have escaped being
benighted. Happily, the time of this adventure was in the dry season,
or it might have had serious consequences.

From what has been said in Chapters IV. and V. about the difficult
paths through the chief forest, it is not strange that the Malagasy
have considerable dread of it and do not share in our admiration of
its beauties. So one of their proverbs says: “_Roa lahy miditra ala:
ka izy tokiko, ary izaho tokiny_”—that is, “Two men entering the
forest: it’s ‘He’s my confidence, and I am his’”; the fact is that
both are afraid. It is to them the “dark forest,” full of mystery
and fear, and it may easily be imagined that before any practicable
roads were made through it, it had much to inspire dread. One of the
native hymns, often sung when the natives have friends going away to
a distance, prays for protection for them in the forest and also in
crossing the rivers, on account of the many things in both which may
injure the traveller.[14]


It would probably be a very serious matter for a European to be lost
for long in a Madagascar forest, for he would be entirely at a loss
for food, and would most likely be unable to produce fire to cook
anything he could find. To a Malagasy, however, especially one living
in the neighbourhood of the woods, it would not matter so much, as
there are several species of yam, which he would easily find. These
_Ovinàla_ are climbing plants common in the forest, belonging to the
genus _Dioscorea_, and have very large edible tubers, which are much
sought after by the people; their taste is similar to other yams
which are so largely used as food in other parts of the world. In
Drury’s “Adventures,” he speaks frequently of procuring these yams in
the south-western forests; for, living many years, as he did, like a
native in that part of the island, he became well versed in woodcraft
and could live as the people lived.

A European would be equally puzzled as to obtaining fire to cook his
yams, were he so fortunate as to find any; but a forest-dwelling
Malagasy could easily produce fire by friction. Choosing two pieces
of a particular kind of wood, he would cut one to the shape of a
round stick with a pointed end; the other he would make into a
flatter piece, in which a slight groove is cut. Taking hold of
the pointed stick, the operator twirls it first one way and then
another, until the friction produces smoke and then fire, which is
communicated to a little tinder placed close to the point. Gently
blowing upon the spark which is produced, the tinder bursts into
flame, the whole operation occupying only a few minutes. There are
special words for this mode of obtaining fire: _mamòsitra_, which is
also used for the boring of a hole by an insect, or a chameleon, to
deposit its eggs; and _miraingy_, the pieces of wood being called
_raingy_. But it may be feared that the universal use of Swedish
matches will soon render this means of producing fire one of the lost

To tend a fire is, in Malagasy, to _misòrona àfo_; and since
_misòrona_ also means “to exercise a priestly function,” it looks as
if this word or phrase was a relic of ancient reverence for fire as a
sacred thing, a feeling which is found in the customs and speech of
many peoples.

[Sidenote: WATERFALLS]

In several directions there are beautiful waterfalls, to which
a pleasant picnic excursion may be made. One of these is called
“Tsi-màharé-rìtsoka,” which means, “Where a whisper cannot be heard,”
for indeed, when near it, you must bawl as loud as you can to be
heard at all; this fall is a succession of cascades, coming down
from a considerable height. At another place a large body of water
pours at one sweep over a great ledge of rock, perhaps thirty feet
deep. And along the automobile road, only a few yards from it up a
little valley leading into the main valley of the river Mandràka,
we were fortunate one day to discover a most lovely waterfall of
considerable height in the midst of dense wood, with a large pool of
water at its foot, where a delightful bathe might be taken; an ideal
place for a summer day. But the largest and grandest waterfall, and
within a little over an hour’s walk from the sanatorium, is really an
artificial one; for in making the automobile road to Tamatave along
the Mandràka valley, the river was diverted from a circuitous course
over a number of rapids, and brought by a short-cutting over a nearly
sheer fall of about a hundred and fifty feet, where it pours down a
magnificent body of water, with a roar and clouds of spray that wet
everything for a long way round. The sides of the cutting are being
rapidly covered with vegetation from the constant moisture, so that
in a short time it will have all the effect of a natural fall. The
noise is tremendous, and the fall can be seen from several points on
the main road.

[Sidenote: FROGS]

At the foot of the second of the waterfalls just mentioned I was
fortunate enough to see a rather rare frog, which is peculiar to
Madagascar. This little creature is only an inch long, as regards
the body, but on that and its long hind legs there are semicircular
patches of bright red on a black ground, so that it is very
conspicuous (_Mantella baroni_) (see illustration). There is also
a much larger frog, three inches in length, with hind legs quite
six inches long (_Rhacophoras albilabris_); this species appears to
be, in part at least, arboreal as well as aquatic, as its toes are
furnished with little disks instead of claws (see illustration). He
is, however, a giant compared with the majority of the frogs found in
the island, which are not very different in colouring or size from
the common English species. These creatures are very plentiful in the
rice-fields, and as one walks along the _vàlamparìa_, or little banks
separating the fields, the frogs jump off and “plop” into the water
at every step one takes. In the early morning, after a rainy night,
the noise of their croaking is very loud, almost deafening, as they
apparently find the increased depth of water much to their liking.

From some small structural peculiarities, many of the Madagascar
frogs have been arranged in a distinct genus, called _Mantidactylus_,
and of this genus at least sixteen species have been described. Of
the widely distributed genus _Rana_, one species, _R. fasciata_,
is said by a careful observer to build a kind of nest. These frogs
construct regular passages under the grass during the dry season;
their paths are made as regularly as those of a mole, by the little
creatures pressing down the short grass near the earth, and drawing
together the longer blades, thus rendering them invisible. The
nests are from eight to ten inches in diameter by four in height,
and made ingeniously by weaving the layers of grass together. When
frightened, these frogs throw out a limpid stream of water, which has
been stored up in time of need, as in very dry weather, and which is
distributed over the body, so as to keep the whole of it moist. The
tree-frogs are very pretty little creatures, their light green colour
exactly matching that of the leaves on which they live, so that it
is difficult to detect their presence, except by close inspection.
Their toes end in small disks, so as to adhere closely to the smooth
surface of the leaves.

We have already seen that many of the living creatures of Madagascar
gain great protection from enemies from the assimilation of their
colour to that of their surroundings. This is the case also with
many species of grasshopper and of mantis. You see an insect with
bright scarlet wings flit by you and settle on a bush; wanting to
observe it more closely, you try to find it, but it has disappeared,
and not a vestige of bright colour is to be seen. Still, if you are
patient and search carefully, you may presently see a mantis moving
its head about in an uncanny fashion, and its fore legs held up in a
mock devotional attitude, from which its specific name of _Religiosa_
has been given it. But the scarlet wings are folded under its green
wing-cases so as to be perfectly unseen, and these coverings are just
like a leaf, the rest of its body being exactly the colour of its
resting-place. In some of the grasshoppers, this mimicry of vegetable
forms is still more wonderful. Here is one which resembles _green_
grass, and its body, legs, wing-sheaths and antennæ are all as like
grass as they can possibly be. But here again is another kind, whose
body is equally imitative of _dry_ grass, and so all parts of it are
just like the stalks or the blades of yellowish-brown grass, dried
up during the cold season. Even the eyes are imitative, and exactly
resemble a small brown seed, such as many grasses bear.

[Sidenote: BEETLES]

There are many species of beetles to be seen, although none of them
are very handsome or conspicuous. The most common kind is a broad
flat insect, about an inch long and dull dark brown in colour, which
crosses one’s path at every step. Another is seen chiefly on the
bushes, a smaller insect, but bright shining jet-black. Another,
which appears as if it mimicked a wasp in its habit of flight, is
shot with brown and green, with very long legs, and is constantly
taking short flights or running rapidly. Another one, but much more
rare, has golden-green and metallic tints on its wing-cases. But the
insect which has puzzled us most is one that I have seen on a large
bush of _Ròimémy_, a plant with acacia-like leaves, with prickles
along the leaf-stalks. This beetle is about five-eighths of an inch
long, and almost hemispherical in shape. It is warm reddish-brown in
colour, with a line of black and then of yellow next the head, and is
perfectly flat below. These insects cluster closely, as thick as they
can lie, in groups of from a dozen to more than a hundred together,
all round the thicker stems, so that they look at a little distance
like strings of large brown beads; and in some of the topmost
branches they form a continuous mass for two or three feet. Amongst
these shining brown insects are a few others of quite a different
colour and shape, perfectly flat, like a minute tortoise, and of a
uniform grey, exactly resembling the lichen on the bark of the tree,
and the edges of the carapace scalloped. These grey insects are in
the proportion of about one to forty or fifty of the darker coloured
ones. There are also a few individuals of the same shape as the brown
one, but yellowish-green in colour. What these grey insects can be,
and what relation they bear to the much more numerous brown ones, I
cannot make out.

Other insects, at first sight resembling beetles, are gaudily
coloured. Yonder is a bush which is conspicuous from some little
distance, from the quantity of insects clustered on it; they are
about half-an-inch long, but are most brilliant with scarlet, blue
and green. Be careful, however, how you handle them, for their scent
is anything but agreeable; and, notwithstanding their gay colours,
they are, after all, a species of bug. A beetle which I have often
noticed in the woods is an insect an inch and a half long, but with a
very long slender proboscis, with which it appears to pierce the bark
of the stems on which it rests; I think it feeds on the juices of the
bush or tree, and is probably a species of weevil (_Eupholus sp?_).

[Sidenote: MIMICRY]

Mimicry, however, is not confined to Madagascar animals, but also
occurs among plants. Mr Baron says: “In some marshy ground on the
top of Ankàratra mountain, I found a small whitish orchid, a few
specimens of which I gathered. After getting about half-a-dozen, I
discovered, to my great surprise, that some of them were labiate
plants. I was utterly deceived, thinking it was the same plant I was
gathering all the time, so exactly alike were the two species in
almost all outward appearances. I felt at once convinced that this
was a case of mimicry. At the east foot of the mountain I discovered
a similar phenomenon, in a large labiate plant (_Salvia_), strikingly
similar to another orchid. No doubt the labiate in each case mimics
the orchid, not vice versa, in order to ensure fertilisation.”

In one of our rambles near the large patch of old forest which
still remains near the L.M.S. sanatorium at Ambàtovòry I came one
day across a cluster of very large earthworms; at first sight these
looked more like a number of small snakes than worms, as they were
at least three times the size of any English worms, having about as
large a diameter as a good-sized man’s finger. They are not, however,
very common, as I have only seen them on that one occasion; so they
probably do not play the same important part in the renewal of the
soil here as Mr Darwin has shown is done by earthworms in Europe.

Anyone who walks through the forest will notice at points where the
paths branch off a pile of bracken, branches of trees, moss, etc.
These heaps, as well as those of stones in similar positions in the
open country, are known as _fànataovana_. These have been formed
by passers-by throwing a stick or stone on the heap, for luck,
expressing the hope that, if on a journey, they may have a safe
return, as well as success in their undertakings. A similar custom
prevails in the eastern parts of Africa, and also in Sumatra and
Timor, and probably in other countries as well.


A walk along the upper edge of the forest, although at some distance
from Ankèramadìnika, will bring us to one of the native smelting
and forging stations, where iron is obtained and made into pigs for
the use of blacksmiths, as well as into various implements. Iron
is very abundant in the interior of Madagascar, indeed the whole
soil over an immense extent of it is reddened by iron oxide, and in
some places there is so much magnetite that a compass is seriously
deflected and is quite unreliable. At such a foundry one may see in
use the “feather-bellows,” which the Malagasy brought with them from
their far-off Malayan home, and which I believe is nowhere to be
found but in Madagascar and Malaysia. This consists of two cylinders,
about five feet long and six inches to eight inches wide, made
from the trunks of trees hollowed out. These are made air-tight at
the lower end and fixed in the earth in a vertical position, about
eighteen inches to two feet apart. In each cylinder a hole is made
a few inches from the ground, and in these a bamboo cane or an old
musket-barrel is inserted, the other end being fixed into the stone
or clay wall of the furnace. A piston with feather valves is fitted
into each cylinder, and the shafts or piston-rods are worked up
and down alternately by a boy or man seated on a board uniting the
cylinders. In this way a continuous blast is produced in the furnace.
(Such bellows are also used by blacksmiths.)

These foundries are always situated near a running stream of water,
so that the ore may be washed and cleared as much as possible from
earth and sand. The furnace itself is a hole about six feet in
diameter and one or two feet deep; its walls are of rough stonework,
built up three or four feet, and thickly plastered outside with
clay. Charcoal is used in smelting and, notwithstanding these rude
appliances and methods, the iron produced has been pronounced by
competent judges to be of excellent quality. Spade-blades, knives,
nails, bolts and many other articles are produced by the native
smiths; and in the construction of the Memorial Churches, more than
forty years ago, I had ornamental hinges, railings, finial crosses,
and other requisite ironwork all excellently made and finished by
Malagasy blacksmiths.


Generally the horns are of oxen killed at the funeral]


Note the feather-piston bellows, and the man playing a
single-stringed gourd guitar]

Several of the paths in the forest lead down into ravines of
considerable depth and also of great beauty; the combinations of
luxuriant foliage, rushing water and lichen-embroidered rocks,
ferns and mosses are very varied, and one valley especially reminds
one of the celebrated “Fairy Glen” in North Wales. But there are
occasionally certain drawbacks even in this natural loveliness,
for if you are not very careful you may find yourself attacked by
the small leeches which lie in wait on the grass and bushes, and
transfer themselves to you as you brush by them. Before you feel
any annoyance, you may find yourself streaming with blood from the
punctures made by these little pests, which have got under your
clothing and are feeding at your expense. Happily, they do not
cause any pain worth speaking of, nor are there any unpleasant
after-effects, the only discomfort is the blood you lose and having
it outside instead of inside your skin.

[Sidenote: CRAYFISH]

While staying near the upper forest we had frequently brought to us
for sale a basketful of crayfish, which seems fairly plentiful in
the streams. This species (_Astacoides madagascariensis_), with its
genus, is endemic in Madagascar, and in the interior is of small
size, averaging about three inches in length; the flavour, however,
is excellent, and it makes a very good curry. In the south-east
provinces, and probably in other coast districts as well, it attains
larger dimensions than the above, being about six inches long. It is
a curious fact that crustaceans are entirely absent in the African
continent, and that the Madagascar species is much like the kind
found in Australia, except that the latter is about twice the size of

There is a great variety of ferns to be found in every damp place in
the valleys, from the minute hymenophyllums on the tree trunks to the
larger species of Asplenium, Osmunda, Nephrodium and many others, up
to the tree-ferns, of which there are about twenty different kinds,
and which give a special charm to the vegetation in many places. On
the eastern side of Madagascar the ferns occupy a prominent place
in the flora, there being above two hundred species already known,
and comprising no less than above thirteen per cent. of the whole
flora of that region. Among the Filici are the beautiful gold ferns
and silver ferns, the seed-vessels on the under side of the fronds
having quite the effect of the two precious metals. The young leaves
of a tree found in the forest (_Eleocarpus sericeus_), when dried and
pressed, form the beautiful objects known as “gold leaves.”


A large number of the forest trees yield substances of commercial
value. Two species of climbing plants afford india-rubber, one of
the most valuable exports of the island. A tree called Nàto supplies
a bark which is largely employed by the natives in dyeing the deep
red used for their silk _làmbas_, especially those used to wrap
the bodies of the dead. Other trees yield various gums and resins,
one of these being the valuable gum-copal, of which quantities are
exported. From several other trees tough fibres are obtained for
the manufacture of cord and rope; while from a palm called Vònitra
the “bass fibre” or piassava is taken, which is used for making
brooms, brushes, etc. A shrub, a species of castor-oil plant,
supplies seeds which are so full of oil or fat that they are strung
on a reed like beads and are used to give light, so that it is
called “the candle-nut tree.” When one end is lit, the seeds burn
steadily, giving a light about equal to that of two good candles
and leaving no ash. A very considerable number of trees and plants
are employed in various ways by the Malagasy as medicine, both for
internal and external use; and although the virtue of some of these
may be imaginative only, there can be little doubt that in numbers
of instances these native remedies are of value. Probably a careful
examination of them would give some valuable additions to the

Among the forest trees is a considerable number which yield valuable
timber, most of them hard and beautifully grained woods, which are
employed for cabinet-work as well as in house carpentry. In the
great palace at Antanànarìvo, the three central columns supporting
the ridge of the roof are said to be each formed of the trunk of a
single tree; the roof is a hundred and twenty feet high, and these
pillars are sunk some way in the earth. One of these timber trees,
called _Vòambòana_, is extensively used for making furniture—tables,
sideboards, wardrobes, writing-desks, bookshelves, etc.—and resembles
mahogany. Another tree called _Hàrahàra_ has extremely hard wood,
and is employed for the long spade handles, and formerly for spear
shafts. One species of pine known as _Hètatra_, the only example
of that order in the island, gives a hard white wood used for
flooring; while ebony is procured from one or two endemic species
of _Diospyros_; sandalwood is also reported to be found in certain


It will easily be believed that the mysteriousness of the forest has
produced many superstitious notions among the Malagasy, and they have
curious stories of marvellous creatures and monsters inhabiting these
dense woods. One of these is called _Kinòly_, and is said to be human
in origin, for although it has no intestines or stomach, yet in all
its other parts it is like a living person. Its eyes are red, and its
nails long; and, with others of its kind, it is said to be constantly
thieving, so that when anyone leaves out cooked rice or other food,
it takes it. It is difficult, however, to reconcile such accounts
with that of their bowelless condition; it is thought to be a great
misfortune to meet a kinòly. Another strange creature is called
_Tòkan-tòngotra_, or “Single foot,” because it is said to have only
one fore and one hind leg! It is so exceedingly swift that no other
creature has a chance of escaping it; it eats men and goes about at
night. Still another strange beast is called _Siòna_, which has also,
like the kinòly, something human about it. It is said to live away
from men, and when anyone goes through the woods and leaves his rice,
or his axe, these are taken by the siòna and conveyed to its abode.
When the woodmen go to sleep and leave a fire still burning (for
their custom is to leave a big log on the hearth, so that they may be
kept warm), then this creature comes and warms itself. Possibly the
habits of some of the larger lemurs have given rise to such stories,
aided by a good deal of imagination; and the tòkan-tòngotra story
probably comes from the herons or flamingoes, which have the habit of
standing on one leg when asleep.

In passing along the forest paths we frequently come across examples
of the curious ball-insect (_Spherotherium sp._), of which there are
several species, at least six, in Madagascar. These insects, which
are wingless and many-footed, and are called, not very elegantly, by
the Malagasy _Tainkìntana_, or “Star-droppings,” have the power of
instantaneously rolling themselves into an almost perfect sphere,
which form they retain as long as any danger threatens them, and
no force short of pulling them to pieces can make them unroll. The
animal is formed of nine or ten segments, each with a pair of legs
and covered with a plate of armour; while the head and tail are
defended by larger plates, each of which fits into the other and
makes a more perfectly fitting suit of armour than was ever worn
by medieval knight. There are several species of these pretty and
curious creatures. The most common kind here is one which forms a
ball barely an inch in diameter and shining black in colour. Another,
more rarely seen in the interior open country, but common enough in
the upper belt of forest, is of a beautiful brown colour like russia
leather, and is quite double the size of the first-mentioned one. In
passing through the main forest in 1892, we came suddenly one day
to a part of the road which was so thickly covered by such a great
number of these creatures that our bearers could not avoid trampling
on them. These were of a bronze-green tint and belong to a third
species, and were quite three inches in length. Other species of
these Sphærotheria are found in Africa, Asia, Australia and some of
the neighbouring islands.

Another many-footed and wingless creature is common enough in the
upper forest, for we often found it on the upper verandah of the
house at Andràngalòaka; this is a shining black millipede, about a
foot in length, and half to three-quarters of an inch in thickness.
It is called by the natives _Kòdikòdy_, and its numerous reddish
legs, not far short of a thousand in number, have a curious effect
of successive waves as it moves along. Although not very inviting in
appearance, it is quite harmless and is a vegetable feeder. There is
another species, which is marked longitudinally with black and red

[Sidenote: CENTIPEDES]

[Sidenote: SCORPIONS]

More unpleasant by far is another many-legged creature, the
centipede, whose sting is said to be exceedingly painful, resembling
the puncture of a hot iron, and which is not uncommon in the interior
as well as in the forest. The mere touch of its minute claws, if it
happens to crawl over one, is said to produce pain and inflammation.
I have turned small centipedes out of the hole in a window-sill where
the bolt would fall; and I remember one morning, before getting out
of bed, seeing a pretty large one marching across our bedroom floor.
Happily these, which are among the few noxious creatures we have in
Madagascar, are not very common. Another unpleasant visitor is the
scorpion, which is rather apt to get into a house which has much
stonework in the basement; we frequently killed small ones about an
inch long at Antanànarìvo. Examples twice that size are found in the
Vàvavàto district; while on the shores of Bèmbatòka Bay (N.W.Co.)
scorpions five inches long occur, and Captain Owen says that they may
be found, one or more, under almost every stone. He states a curious
fact, if indeed it is one—viz. that the most destructive enemy to the
scorpion is the common mouse.[15]


      “_Ao ny àndro mamanala,
      Sakambino ao an-àla;
      Raha mandeha mita rano,
      Mba hazòny sy tantano_”;

      “There are the chilly days,
      Sustain them in the forest;
      When they ford the rivers,
      O uphold and guide them,”

_Ala_, at the end of the first two lines, is the native word for
“forest,” and the native word translated here “chilly” is from the
damp and cold woods.

[15] Here I may notice that, in addition to the above-named
unpleasant inhabitants of Madagascar, we have had, within the last
eighteen years, a most unwelcome accession to the insect pests, by
the introduction of the chigoe, or “jigger,” which was brought by
the Senegalese black troops employed in the French conquest of 1895.
This minute flea does not jump, but runs over one’s body, and burrows
under the skin, chiefly in the feet, but also sometimes in the hands,
where it causes intolerable itching, and, if not speedily removed
with a needle, becomes in four or five days full of eggs, and causes
sores and inflammation. It is a great pest to the Malagasy, the great
majority of whom go barefoot. But those who have boots and shoes on
get no exemption from the attacks of the jiggers.



While on the subject of noxious creatures, we remember that one, if
not more, of the spiders of Madagascar must be included in the list.
This is a small arachnid, about the size and shape of a marble,
shining glossy black in colour, except for a small red spot on the
fundament. It is greatly dreaded by the natives, who believe its
bite to be fatal, and it is probably so if cauterisation and other
remedies are not immediately applied. Dr Vinson, a French naturalist,
ascertained that this spider, called _Mènavòdy_ by the people, is
closely allied to the malignant _Latrodectus_ of Elba and Corsica,
whose bite is believed to be fatal, and also to another spider found
in Martinique, which is equally dangerous. People bitten by this
Madagascar spider scream out with pain at intervals of a minute
or two, as if it came on in paroxysms. I remember that one of our
servants when bringing one of these spiders to look at took care to
hold it at a very respectful distance from himself, at the end of a
long stick.

[Sidenote: SPIDERS]

As we push through the bushes we break through many spiders’ webs,
and are struck by the extraordinary shape of some of those whose
snares we unwittingly destroy by our passing along. Here is one,
small and reddish in colour, but much broader than it is long, each
side projecting into a long sharp spike—indeed it is spiky in several
directions, and is utterly unlike any other spider we know of.
This is, I believe, a species of _Cærostris_ (_C. stygiana?_), and
belongs to a genus of which several species have names denoting their
demoniacal shape and colouring—_e.g._ _avernalis_, _stygiana_, etc.

As we stop to observe his geometric web, and his bizarre shape, we
see on the tree to which several of his main “guys” are fixed a very
different spider’s house and a very different spider from our angular
friend just mentioned. This creature is a much larger species than
the other, with jet-black legs and satiny dark grey abdomen as large
as a good-sized nut. He apparently hunts his prey, for he has no net,
but hides himself in an inverted cup-shaped house of strong web. As I
tap the top of this retreat he shams dead and tumbles down into the
grass, from which he will presently ascend as soon as the enemy is
clear off the ground.

Close by this hunting spider’s home we see the large web of a third
species, quite different from the other two. At first sight this
appears to be the same insect as the large _Nephila_, which is so
plentiful in Imèrina, in orchards and outside houses. A closer
inspection, however, shows that it is a different species from that
common large spider, for this one has a long filbert-shaped abdomen,
striped with brown lines, very different from the golden and silvery
markings of the more abundant species. It appears to be strictly a
forest spider and seems rather rare.

In rambling along the edge of one of the pretty rice-valleys north
of Ambòhimànga, I came across a species I had not met with before.
This was of medium size, but was striped in transverse lines of
white and black across the abdomen, so as to give it a zebra-like
appearance. The under side was almost white; altogether it is a
handsome species, and is probably still undescribed scientifically.
It makes a geometrical web, and, like several other Madagascar
spiders, puts the web into rapid vibration if it is disturbed. Some
species draw up their legs close to the body when lying in wait in
the centre of their web, so that they too resemble a small lump of
earth or a stone. Is not this also done as a disguise? It seems to me
highly probable. Other species have the habit of stretching out their
legs in couples, so as to seem almost as if they had only four or six
legs instead of eight, and thus appear to mimic insects. Is this also
intended to hide their predaceous character?

A traveller through the Tanòsy country, south-east coast, speaks of
the uncanny aspect of one of the villages in which he stayed; and
he says that what increased his impression of it, as like a town of
wicked enchanters, was that all the houses were festooned and closely
linked together overhead by tangled masses of gigantic spiders’
webs, amongst which lay in wait monstrous black spiders. Some of the
coast villages, he says, were almost completely roofed in by these
great webs. Spaces of quite thirty feet have been observed spanned
by the lines of the nephila mentioned in a former chapter; and I
have noticed that the angles and outer spaces of its great web are
frequently filled up by the minute geometric webs of smaller species.
These lesser fry appear to be tolerated, if not encouraged, by their
giant neighbour, as they probably catch what would be insignificant
to her, and very likely clear her web of what she rejects; and so
they all live together in harmony in a small colony.


Looking about in the undergrowth for wild flowers and fruit, and
happening to rub against the stem of one of the bushes, a small
rough roundish ball falls off on to the ground; this appears exactly
like a bit of round wrinkled bark, but on watching for a minute or
two, it develops four pairs of legs, and runs nimbly away under
cover, revealing itself as a spider, with a marvellous protective
resemblance to its surroundings. Unless the creature actually moves,
it is impossible to detect it, it is so exactly like a knobby bit of
the brown bark.

Protective resemblance in quite a different style appears in a small
spider, perfectly white in colour—thorax, legs and abdomen—which
scuttles out of the coralla of certain white flowers when these are
examined or shaken. This also, unless it moves, is all but invisible;
and there can be no doubt that it is thus enabled to catch the many
small flies which are attracted by the honey and fragrance of the
flowers. A larger and green spider, a handsome species, with a long
oval abdomen striped with red, probably also a hunter, thanks to its
close resemblance to green leaves and the pale reddish veining seen
on many leaves, by which it is thus protected from observation until
it can pounce upon its prey. This is one species of the many spiders
which are caught by some of the solitary wasps, as described in
Chapter VII.

As we notice these curious disguises in spiders, as well as in
numbers of other living creatures, we are reminded of the old nursery
tales and fables of the gift of invisibility supposed to be conferred
by certain plants, or by certain charms or ceremonies. With these
spiders, as well as in many other creatures, some lower, and others
much higher, than them in organisation, this power of becoming at
will unseen, even under the closest observation, is no fable, but
a veritable fact. There is a curious habit which I have observed in
several species of Malagasy spiders which is apparently also used for
protection. If they are disturbed, or if their web is shaken, they
immediately throw themselves into a state of violent vibration, so
that the eye cannot follow them; and this rapid motion is continued
for two or three minutes, until the supposed danger has passed away.
It would seem as if this must be done to confuse a possible enemy
intending to attack them.


Besides the red-spot spider, there is another kind called by the
natives _Fòka_; this is rather common in gardens and is extremely
like a small crab, with a lozenge-shaped abdomen; it is covered with
tubercles, and its legs are roughened, like those of a crustacean.
Its bite is followed by swelling, which spreads from the wounded
part through the whole body. This dangerous spider’s bite is said
to be often fatal. There is another spider, apparently a species of
_Mygale_, called by the people _Tàrabìby_, found fifty to sixty miles
west of the capital, whose bite is also said to be dangerous, if not
actually fatal. It appears to be a trap-door species. Besides this
one, another species of trap-door spider is also said to be found in
Imèrina, but I have not seen a specimen myself; it is said to leave
the door of its dwelling open.

The illustration given herewith will give a better idea than any mere
description can of the strange shapes of many Madagascar spiders.
The largest figure shows an _Epeira_ of extraordinary shape; it
will be seen that the abdomen is like a set of three cones, fixed
into one another and terminated by a sharpish point. A still more
bizarre figure is presented by _Epeira mitralis_, as it crouches,
fixed close to a branch or twig; whether viewed from the back or
front or side, it is equally “uncanny” in its appearance. Then,
again, the two _Gastera-canthæ_, with their bodies much broader than
they are long, are very unlike our ordinary idea of a spider, while
the formidable spikes with which they are armed would appear a very
efficient protection from any insect-eating bird or beast. The rather
diabolical-looking _Thomisus foka_, with its crab-like pincers, is
much dreaded by the Malagasy, as giving a fatal bite, if speedy
remedies are not applied. Happily, it is not very common.


There is a considerable variety in the webs of Malagasy spiders.
Here is one which may be seen by hundreds, filling up the space
between the sharp-pointed leaves of the aloes. At first sight it
appears only a tangled mass of web, but on closer examination we see
that the groundwork is a geometrical web in the centre, but as it is
stretched horizontally, and not vertically, it is cup-shaped. But
from it, above and below, stretches a labyrinth of lines, like the
crossing and recrossing of the lianas in the forest. In the centre of
this maze of lines the owner of the structure lies in wait, a small
spider, handsomely marked with black and white. Not far off a grey
silken bag is hung, which contains the eggs, from which a swarm of
little spiders will eventually proceed, not bigger than small ants.

A word or two may be added about a very common house spider which
is abundant in Imèrina. This is a rather large species, light brown
in colour, but its peculiarity is that it is extremely thin and
flat—a case almost of extension without thickness, as it is hardly
thicker than a piece of stout paper; and so it is enabled to wait
for its prey hidden in narrow and almost imperceptible cracks. It is
emphatically a hunting spider and makes apparently no nest or web,
and it is amusing to see the adroit way in which it will cautiously
approach the edge of a crack in a board and sweep off an unwary fly.

One more curious spider may be noticed here; this has a very small
body, hardly larger than a big pin’s head, but it has extraordinarily
long thread-like legs, covering a very wide area when compared with
its minute body.

There must be still a large number of these Arachnidæ yet unknown to
science, for they are very numerous in species in some localities. I
remember spending an afternoon, many years ago, on a hill a few miles
south of the capital, together with two or three friends, hunting
spiders. We caught at least thirty different species among the bushes
on the hill-top and slopes. Doubtless some of these are described
and figured in one of the volumes of M. Grandidier’s great work on
Madagascar, still in progress. But there are probably a much larger
number of these creatures still awaiting the careful observations of
anyone who will note their interesting habits and homes, and their
very varied appearance and structure.


Pandanus (hòfa) trees]

I fancy my readers will now say, you have told us a good deal about
the insects, and something about the reptiles and birds of the
forest, but are there no four-footed animals in the Madagascar woods
except the wild boar? Yes, there certainly are many such, for there
are at least fifty species of quadrupeds already known in addition
to the lemurs; but as they are, most of them, small—sixteen are
species of rats and mice, and twenty-three are a kind of hedgehog,
and therefore are burrowing animals—they are not at all conspicuous
and must be sought for if we want to observe their habits; and the
ten species of carnivora are also mostly small in size. Leaving for
the present the carnivora and the rodentia, let me say here what
can be said of interest about a group of small animals which are
in habit and appearance much like the European hedgehogs, being of
the same order (the insect-eaters), but belonging to a distinct
family, the Centetidæ, which, except for one genus, are peculiar to
Madagascar. Some of these animals have a covering of strong spines,
while in other species this consists rather of firm prickly hairs,
which, however, do not cover the whole of the body. The larger kinds,
called _Tràndraka_ by the Malagasy, are used by them for food, and
have very much the taste of pork. (I have eaten them once or twice,
but they are rather rich and greasy.) They are found in the woods,
but especially in the scattered brushwood in the vicinity of the
forests; and we occasionally met with two or three varieties of these
harmless creatures while rambling in the outskirts of the woods. Our
dog often chased and attempted to worry them, but she usually came
back with her mouth and nose stuck full of prickles and looking like
a pincushion, and apparently very uncomfortable.


The tail-less tenrec (_Centetes ecaudatus_) is the largest and
best known of its family. Its manner of life is remarkable, for
it passes half the year, the cold season, in a profound sleep, in
a burrow which it excavates about May or June. The female is very
prolific, bringing forth from twelve to twenty-two young ones,
which are bravely defended by the mother against every enemy. Their
food consists chiefly of earthworms, and also of roots, fruits and
insects. They sleep almost constantly during the day, while they are
very active during the night; and what has been here said of the
_Tràndraka_ as to habits, food, etc., may be taken as representing
what might be said of most of the Centetidæ. The striped tenrec is
about the size of a mole, and is streaked with black and yellow, as
are indeed the young of other species. The spiny tenrec is much like
our European hedgehog, as it is covered with strong spines, and can
roll itself up into a ball when attacked. Another species, called
_Sòra_ by the natives, is about five inches long. A female of this
kind was one day brought to us for sale, together with eight or nine
tiny young ones only a few days old. These were prettily banded with
yellow and brown stripes, their hair being still soft. They were
about the size of a large egg, and a most curious little family of
creatures they looked. The rice tenrec inhabits the plains between
the two lines of forest, and does immense injury to the rice crops
by burrowing into the earth and rooting up the young plants. Another
species (and genus) is strikingly modified for aquatic life, having
webbed toes, and a thick and powerful tail. The smallest species
known is only two inches long, with a tail of three inches. Small as
the animals of this family are, they are remarkable from the fact
that in no equally confined area are they represented by so many
peculiar types as in Madagascar. But it is still more remarkable that
the only other known genus of Centetidæ is found in the West India
Islands; two portions of the same family being separated from each
other by an extensive continent as well as by a deep ocean.


Epeira Coquerelii

Gasteracantha madagas^{sis}

Epeira mitralis _back_ _side_ _front_

Gasteracantha formosa

Thomisus foka]

[Sidenote: LEMURS]

These sketches of the forest would be very incomplete without
saying something about what are the most characteristic animals of
Madagascar—viz. the lemurs; for though there are a few allied forms
found in Africa on the one side, and in Southern Asia on the other,
this island is _the_ home of Lemuroid animals. It was indeed proposed
to call a supposed former continent in the Indian Ocean by the name
of “Lemuria.” It must be said, however, that there are few of them to
be seen in the neighbourhood of the sanatorium, although the cries of
some may be heard, a strange long-drawn-out wailing sound, as if of
people in distress, or children crying. Yet it was always a pleasant
sound to me, as a sign of life, and probably of enjoyment, in these
active and harmless denizens of the woods. There are no fewer than
thirty-nine different species of these animals living in Madagascar,
of which twenty-nine are the true lemurs, while the other ten are
closely allied to them and are lemur-like (Lemuroida). The eastern
and north-eastern forests contain about a third of the larger
number; and M. Grandidier has pointed out that while some species
have a wide range, others have a very distinctly defined habitat,
which is frequently limited by two rivers, one to the north and the
other to the south of their district.

Three species of the Propitheques (Lemuroida) are known by the
Malagasy under the common name of _Sìmpona_. They live in companies
of from six to eight, and are diurnal animals; one may see them
morning and evening, when the heat is not too great, leaping in
the woods from tree to tree in search of food. Often they may be
surprised at sunrise, says M. Grandidier, squatting on the fork of
a tree, their long legs bent under them, touching the chin, their
hands resting on their knees, stretching out their arms and legs
so as not to lose a single ray of the newly risen sun. The food of
these animals is entirely vegetable; and they are formed for purely
arboreal life, for there is a membrane along the arms and legs which
acts, to a certain extent, as a parachute, so that they make leaps
of from twenty-five to thirty feet without apparent effort, and they
seem to fly through the air. On the rare occasions when they leave
the woods they advance by leaps, as if their feet were tied together,
and have a most comical appearance as they go across a bit of open
ground. One of these sìmpona is silvery-grey in colour, with black
head and neck; another is entirely white, except for its dark brown
face; and a third species is black or dark brown in colour. Of the
true lemurs, I had the good fortune once to see a pair of the kind
called red lemur (_Lemur varius_, var. _ruber_) cross a path near
the house; these were large and handsome animals, warm reddish-brown
in colour, and took astonishing leaps in a most graceful manner; but
they were out of sight in an instant, and I can easily believe what
is said by collectors, that it is easier to shoot a flying bird than
a lemur in motion.

In the small streams which occur at the bottom of many of the
ravines, we may often come across the curious nests of the pensile
weaver-bird (_Ploceus pensilis_), which are beautifully and
ingeniously constructed, shaped like an inverted chemical retort,
and are suspended from the extremities of the branches of the trees
and usually over running water. These nests are about a foot or
fourteen inches long, the bulb giving ample room for the eggs or
nestlings, and the tube, forming the entrance from below, being
three to four inches in diameter. The native name for this species,
_Fòdifètsy_—_i.e._ the “Crafty Fòdy”—recognises this skill of the
bird in protecting its young. The nests of another species are large
and simply globular in shape, and, from thirty to forty in number,
may be seen hanging from a single tree. The Madagascar bee-eater is
one of the most beautiful birds to be seen in the forest, both from
its elegance of form and its bright colouring of various shades of
green (_Merops superciliosus_). It has a very long curved beak, and
an extremely long tail, with two long feathers extending beyond the
others. Its nests are excavated about a foot deep on a sand-bank
bordering streams.

[Sidenote: COUAS]

Another group of birds, also conspicuous from their size and
colouring, must be noticed here—viz. the couas, a genus of cuckoos
peculiar to Madagascar, and of which twelve species are known. They
are large and handsomely coloured, and are, says M. Grandidier,
strictly local in their habitat, most of them being confined to one
district, out of which they are never found. Five species of coua
inhabit the forests or wooded regions, while the other seven live
on the plains. The blue coua (_Coua cerulea_), the only species I
have seen in the upper forest, is fairly common, and is conspicuous
from its colouring; while the crested coua is found all over
the wooded regions. One of the twelve species goes from rock to
rock, seeking the large land-shells which form its principal food
(_Coua delalandei_). These molluscs it breaks by striking their
shells against a stone, from which habit comes its native name of
_Famàki-sìfotra_, or “snail-breaker.”

But several chapters would be required to say all that might be said
of interest about the birds inhabiting the upper belt of woods, and
I will not weary my readers by further descriptions, in this place
at least. I will conclude this chapter by quoting a few sentences
written about the wonder and mystery of the Madagascar forests by
my late friend, Mr Baron; for no one knew better than he did how to
explore and how to describe them.

After speaking of the fatigue of travelling in the forest, Mr Baron

  “But the true lover of Nature almost loses any sense of fatigue
  in the excitement and pleasure afforded by the infinitely varied
  and beautiful forms of vegetable and animal life that are around
  him. The tall trees of innumerable species, in fierce competition
  with their neighbours, rearing their great trunks heavenwards that
  they may spread out their foliage, and open their blossoms in the
  light above, the fantastic foldings and twistings of the snake-like
  lianas, the countless shapes and tints of the leaves, the bright
  colours of some brilliant beetle, the delicately traced wing design
  of some happy butterfly, the merry chirping of some gaily adorned
  bird, the hurried steps of the busy little ants, the languid
  movements of a chameleon, with its strange skin and stranger eyes,
  the patient watching for prey of a red three-cornered spider, the
  tiny mosses and delicate ferns nestling snugly among their big
  brothers under the rocks—all these and a thousand other objects of
  interest and beauty help one to forget the exertion and the toil
  caused by the difficulties of the road, and make one feel that
  it is with a lavish and artistic hand that their great Maker has
  formed and bedecked them all. Moreover, there is in travelling in
  the forest a strange and fascinating illusion, a vague feeling of
  expectancy, which persistently recurs, in spite of disappointment,
  that somewhere on in front something of exceptional interest will
  be found.”


I have of course, during many journeys in Madagascar, spent many a
night in small villages surrounded by forest, but I have not had
quite the experiences described by Mr Baron in another passage which
I shall venture to quote. Mr Baron says:


  “To spend a night in the forest is an experience worth having.
  Bivouacked in some open glade, through which a small stream
  creeps lazily along, with a warm cheering fire to keep off the
  dew and chill of the night, one gains a quite different knowledge
  of the forest from that which one gets in the daytime, for all
  nature is not asleep even in the midnight hour. Just as darkness
  is setting in the fireflies with their tiny lanterns flit about
  among the bushes; and the cicada, of various species, perched on
  the trunks of trees, commence their strange song. They are small
  in size, but certainly they make a big din. Well may the Malagasy
  proverb say: ‘Don’t be like the cicada, whose voice fills the
  whole valley, though the creature itself is but a mouthful.’ The
  sound it makes is not a buzz-z exactly, and it is not a hum-m-m.
  It is a deafening, unceasing, rasping, irritating monotone. As
  the darkness increases, various nocturnal creatures come forth
  from their hiding-places, and every now and then pounce on their
  unconscious prey. Keep awake a while and listen to the strange and,
  for the most part, mysterious sounds. Suddenly there is a terrific
  scream. Some bird or beastie finds itself all at once in the jaws
  of death. And what is that ceaseless creaking throughout the night?
  Fancy or fear pictures some strange hobgoblin; it is, however,
  nothing but the leaves of a screw-pine twisted and strained by the
  breeze. And what is that remarkable string of sounds for all the
  world like water bubbling out a bottle? It is the _Tolòho_, a kind
  of cuckoo, disturbed in its night’s repose. And then, at regular
  intervals, ‘_kow-kow-koo, kow-kow-koo_’; what is that? Another
  cuckoo, the _Kankàfotra_, which never seems to go to sleep. From
  the stream or marsh close by there rises the unmusical croak of
  the frogs. After an interval of silence, you first of all hear a
  single croak, then another, and another, until gradually there
  arises a perfect chorus, which is kept up throughout the night. The
  tree-frogs also, perched on the leaves, not a whit behind their
  cousins in the marsh, pass the night in croaking. Numerous other
  strange and weird noises are to be heard during the night in the
  forest, but from what throats they proceed it is beyond me to say.”

[Illustration: Epeira Madagascariensis]



Some years ago I was asked to accompany two gentlemen on a journey to
one of the then least-known provinces of Madagascar, that occupied
by the Sihànaka or lake-dwellers. Two of our party took surveying
instruments with them, and we were thus able to prepare the first
accurate map of the Antsihànaka province.

My companions on this journey were the late Rev. Dr Mullens, then
Foreign Secretary of the London Missionary Society, and the late Rev.
John Pillans, one of the directors of the same society, and most
pleasant and genial companions they were. Dr Mullens was very fond
of a joke and enjoyed recalling humorous passages from Dickens or
from _Punch_; he was also a born geographer and had a wonderful eye
for the beautiful and the picturesque in scenery. Mr Pillans was a
graver man, but one of solid worth and good judgment; and in the tent
which we carried with us we three had many a happy evening together.
Like all journeys made in those days, this one was performed in the
_filanjàna_ or light palanquin; and not only did Dr Mullens, with
an azimuth compass, take angles and bearings for the map, but he
also took a number of photographs all along our route. I had with me
a good theodolite, so that we were able to compare and check each
other’s observations.

A few words may be said here about the position of the Antsihànaka
province. Repeated reference has been already made in this book to
the double belt of forest which runs for several hundred miles along
the eastern side of Madagascar. A glance at a physical map of the
island will show that, at about the seventeenth parallel of south
latitude, this double line unites into one broader belt, becoming
very wide west of Antongil Bay. It is the open country south of the
junction of the two forests that forms the home of the Sihànaka
tribe. This valley or plain, for it is enclosed on each side by
forest-covered ranges of hills, is about thirty miles across; it is
perfectly level, and the greater portion of it is marsh; and at the
north-eastern corner of the marsh is a fine lake called Alaotra,
which communicates with the sea by the river Màningòry. It seems
probable that the people came up from the coast by the valley of
this river, and then settled on the edges of the plain, as their
villages are most numerous around the north-eastern bay of the lake;
while there is a large tract of fertile country to the south of
them which is almost entirely without inhabitants. The name of the
people is no doubt derived from the character of the country they
inhabit, for the verb _mihànaka_ means to spread out as a liquid,
as ink on blotting-paper, for instance. _Hànaka_ is also used as
a synonym for the words meaning lake, pool, etc. Until about the
commencement of the past century the Sihànaka were independent of any
external authority, but at that period they were conquered by the
Hova, although not without a severe struggle. After that they quietly
submitted to the central government, and until the French conquest
(1895) their two chief towns were garrisoned by Hova officers and
soldiers, as at the time of our visit. No European missionary had
then lived in Antsihànaka, and the congregations and schools we saw,
wherever we went, were largely the result of the work of a Hova
evangelist, who lived among the people for two or three years.[16]

[Sidenote: THE SIHÀNAKA]

After two days’ journey over high moory country, and then over a
range of mountains called Ambòhitsitàkatra, from which we took a
number of compass bearings, we arrived on a Friday afternoon at the
village of Anjozòrobé (“At much papyrus”), a place containing about
seventy houses pretty closely packed together within a circular
fence of prickly pear and other spiny shrubs. It was built on rising
ground overlooking a level plain to the north-west, evidently a
former lake-bottom, through which the river Mànanàra flows in a very
serpentine course to join the Bétsibòka. We crossed the river, here
about thirty yards wide, with a strong body of water, by a bridge
of two massive balks of timber supported by a rough pier of stones
in the centre, and then ascended by a very steep path to the neat
chapel, which stood in a compound a little way from the village. We
took up our quarters in this clean whitewashed building; and here I
may remark that in former times the rude village chapels generally
formed the missionary’s “Travellers’ Bungalow.” They were usually
not encumbered with pews or seats, or, indeed, much furniture or
fittings of any kind; they were more roomy than the native houses and
generally much cleaner, at least they had no soot hanging in festoons
from the roof; so that they formed very convenient resting-places for
a missionary traveller, and a favourable place for meeting the people
and prescribing for their ailments.

We had intended to proceed northwards on the following day, but as we
had to pass through the inner belt of forest and enter on entirely
unknown ground, as to which we could get no definite information
with regard to villages or congregations, we eventually determined
to stay at Anjozòrobé over the Sunday. Saturday morning was occupied
in ascending a mountain, four or five miles distant to the north
(Ambòhimiàrimbé—_i.e._ “The High Uplifting One”), to take bearings,
etc., and the afternoon in taking photographs of the village and
river valley.


On Monday morning we resumed our journey northward, and towards
midday entered the belt of forest which covers that western line of
hills of which I have already spoken. We had been approaching it
obliquely in a north-north-east direction for the last two days.
An ascent of about five hundred feet brought us to the summit,
for the road passes along the narrow knife-edge-like ridge of the
very highest point, a hill called Ambàravàrambàto (“At the Stone
Gateway”), having two heads of almost equal height, with a depression
between them. These points, from their peculiar outline, gave us a
useful landmark to connect our journey northwards with the ground we
had already traversed. Soon after noon we stopped for a few minutes
at the top, and had an extensive view all around us. North and south,
the line of forest-covered hills dividing Imèrina from the lower
plateau of Ankay stretched away on either hand into the far distance.
Behind us were the bare hills and downs of Imèrina, before us the
Ankay plain, many of the low hills covered, and almost every valley
filled, with bright green woods. Beyond this were lines of hills
increasing in height until they met the mountains of Béfòrona and
Anàlamazàotra, clothed with the broader of the two belts of forest
which run down the eastern side of Madagascar. Far to the north
in the dim distance we could just see the southern portion of the
Antsihànaka plain. A very steep descent, first down an exceedingly
rugged kind of stone staircase, and then through dense wood, hardly
allowing passage for the palanquin in several places, brought us down
to a charming valley between two great spurs of the hills. After
about an hour more we came to a little village, where we were glad
to get some rest and food after six or seven hours’ hard travelling.
The aneroid informed us that we had descended more than one thousand
two hundred feet from the summit of the hill, and about seven hundred
feet from the upper plateau of Imèrina. We had to pitch the tent in
the open plain that night, for a village of which we had heard, and
had expected to be a good-sized place, proved to be only a collection
of eight or nine miserable huts, scattered about in twos and threes.

[Sidenote: ANT-HILLS]

The following day our journey northward was over a pleasant
undulating country, but almost entirely uninhabited; here and there
were solitary houses far apart from each other, but no villages.
On the bare downs we frequently came across ant-hills, about two
feet high and formed of the greyish soil. It is said by the people
all over the island that a serpent called _Rènivìtsika_ (_i.e._
“mother of ants”) is enticed by these ants into its nest, and is
then fattened, killed and eaten by them. The Hova in the centre of
the island, the Bétsiléo in the south, the Sàkalàva in the west, and
Sihànaka in the north-east, all affirm that this is a fact; and it
seems difficult to doubt their united testimony. After a long ride of
six hours we at last came to a group of six or seven houses called
Andrànokòbaka, where we rested for a time and had tiffin. This place
appeared to be the first of the Sihànaka villages from the south.
There was an evident difference in the appearance of the people; the
women reminded me of the Bétsimisàraka on the east coast, and both
men and women had their hair plaited in a great number of little
ropes ending in a knot, and hanging loosely all round the head. The
women and children, even those who had no kind of clothing, all had
some kind of ornament: necklaces of red beads or silver chains, and
armlets of silver, a striking contrast to the lower class of Hovas,
who only put on ornaments on extraordinary occasions. The village
smelt strongly of _tòaka_, the native rum, and the quantities of
chopped sugar-cane, from which the spirit is made, lying about the
place, all told of the liking of the people for strong drink.


Note how the làmba is worn]

[Illustration: A FOREST VILLAGE

Note the baskets for carrying fowls against the doorway of the house]

[Sidenote: THE DRINK EVIL]

This indeed is one of the flagrant evils common among the Sihànaka,
as it is also of many of the outlying tribes. My friend, Mr
Stribling, who lived among these people for several years, gives the
following incident illustrating the power which rum has over them:—

  “Calling at a village one day for shelter from a sudden storm, we
  were most graciously received by a native, who was decidedly ‘the
  worse’ for drink. Wishing to be sociable, however, I said to my
  host, ‘Well, my friend, how many horns of rum can you drink before
  becoming drunk?’ (The Sihànaka use the horns of oxen instead of
  glasses, for drinking.) In a most friendly manner the man replied,
  ‘Well, I can drink three hornfuls at least’ (about one and a half
  quarts). ‘How much water would you mix with it?’ ‘Water! why,
  we never put water into the rum, that would make it insipid.’
  Thereupon, turning to a little girl about six years old, the man
  said, ‘This is my daughter, a scholar in your mission school at
  Ambàndrika.’ ‘And does she also drink rum?’ ‘Of course, why not?’
  He then told me that the baby, a year old, who was also present,
  was a son of his. ‘And does he also drink rum?’ ‘O dear, no! he is
  still only a fool.’ ‘Then he will drink it when he becomes wise?’
  ‘Of course he will; we all drink it when we come to understand what
  is good.’”

We encamped again in the open grassy plain, near two or three houses
and a cattle-fold; and the following morning proceeded on our journey
to the north-north-east. An hour and a half’s ride brought us to two
considerable villages near an extensive rice-valley. Here we were
surprised to see the fields dotted over with round stacks of rice
with conical heads, much like those in an English farmyard. And we
also found that here and all through Antsihànaka the rice is not
transplanted, as in Imèrina, but after the ground has been trampled
over by oxen the seed is sown broadcast, and the rice grows there
until it is fit for cutting. After leaving these villages we began to
mount a line of hills which forms the eastern boundary of the more
level portion of the Ankay valley; and on reaching its summit we saw
before us the vast green plain of Antsihànaka stretching away to the
northward, level as a lake, with long lines of promontory jutting out
into it from the north-west and south-east, and a few low rounded
hills rising out of it like islands from a sea. In the far north-east
the waters of the lake Alaotra gleamed in the sunshine. To the south
and east of the plain we could see several large villages, but the
chief town, Ambàtondrazàka, was hidden from view by an intervening
line of hill. We crossed ridge after ridge and valley after valley,
hoping each would prove the last. The path over one of these valleys,
a mile and a half wide, was especially difficult; a narrow winding
track amongst swamp, prickly bamboo, enormous papyrus and rushes,
with here and there deep running streams, whose only bridge was a
slippery round pole partly under water; so that we afterwards spoke
of it as “the great dismal swamp!” But we met with others equally
bad, if not worse, on our subsequent journeys round the plain, and
the passage seemed not nearly so formidable on our return.

[Sidenote: GRASSES]

I was struck here, as well as in many other parts of the district, by
the remarkable and varied fragrance of the wild plants growing among
the grass. The scents appeared to me as equally a convincing proof
as the sights and sounds that one was really in a tropical country.
And here, as we have been travelling for several days over country
that is chiefly bare moor (except the narrow belt of forest at the
“Stone Gateway”), I may appropriately say something about the grasses
of Madagascar, which must attract the attention of every observant
traveller. They are of great variety and beauty, and prominent among
them are different species of _Véro_. Of these the one called simply
_Véro_ rises to a height of eight or ten feet, and has a head of
flowers somewhat like oats, but much longer. This tall grass presents
a varied appearance at different stages of its growth. When in full
flower, the heads contain a large number of oat-like seeds with
long awns, but later on the seeds fall off, and at the head of each
little branchlet there appears a minute tuft of feathery plumes, like
little stars, giving the grass quite a different aspect from its
first one. Another species, called _Vérontsànjy_, has a still more
beautiful floral crown, and is as tall as the first-named one, but
not so common. These two grasses, when seen in a mass, give a warm
brown tint to the spots where they grow. In some parts, however, a
much shorter grass, of a pale buff colour, is the prevailing growth.
In other places, another very tall grass called _Famòa_ flourishes;
this is a light graceful grass, with fine branchlets from its head,
and the seeds showing prominently; and the whole is of a delicate
pea-green colour. Then there are other grasses, which are richly
marked with shades of dark red or purple, displaying masses of these
tints when seen from a little distance. The shorter grasses are not
less beautiful than the taller species just mentioned; but without
coloured drawings it is impossible to give any adequate idea of their
charm and variety.

[Sidenote: THEIR HEIGHT]

There is one thing especially which strikes a European newly come
into the country with regard to the Madagascar grasses, and that is,
the height to which they grow, if left undisturbed. In sheltered
valleys and other places not reached by the fires which sweep over
the downs in the dry season, the grass grows considerably above
one’s head, so that I have felt how soon one might be lost in
certain conditions. After the year of rebellion against French rule
in 1896, I found the véro and other grasses grown as high as I was
when sitting in my palanquin—about eight feet above the ground.
For several months large tracts of country had been desolate and
left uncultivated, and were returning to a state of nature. And in
many places, at every few yards, we disturbed coveys of partridges
or quails or other wild birds, which had greatly multiplied in the
depopulated country.

Soon after four o’clock we mounted the last low ridge, and
Ambàtondrazàka lay before us, about a mile and a half distant. The
town, which consisted of about four hundred houses, is situated on a
low peninsula projecting from the hills on the southern side of the
plain. It had a pleasant, civilised appearance after the wretched
huts we had seen for the last two or three days. A broad road running
down from the hill seemed to divide the town into two pretty nearly
equal parts. West of this road a large substantial chapel showed out
conspicuously, and on the opposite side was the square palisaded
enclosure called the _ròva_, filled with the houses of the Hova
officers and soldiers who formed the garrison of the place. At the
north-east corner of the enclosure the _làpa_, or government house,
a two-storeyed building surrounded by verandahs, stood out prominent
above the rows of smaller houses. We soon established ourselves
inside the chapel, which was well built of clay walls with brick
gables, ninety feet long by thirty-six broad, with good doors and
windows, all well finished. The walls were smoothly plastered and
whitened, and the floor was covered with fine mats, all sewn together.


Sending in our letters of introduction to the Governor, we were in
a few minutes invited to go over and see him. Passing through the
double lines of palisading and the rows of Hova houses, we came to
the _làpa_, inside an inner enclosure of its own. Entering the large
room on the ground floor, we found the Governor waiting to receive
us. His chief officers and the civil authorities were seated round
two sides of the room, and a number of the lower class squatted on
the floor on the third side, while on the fourth side three chairs
were placed for us. As soon as we were seated, the Governor, a tall
elderly man, receiving us most cordially, addressed us with a formal
speech, after the custom of the Malagasy officials to anyone who
came from the capital; and as this may serve as an example of the
way in which we were received in all the principal places, I will
give it pretty fully; it was in the following form:—“Since you,
gentlemen, have come from the capital, we ask of you, How is Queen
Rànavàlona, sovereign of the land? How is Rainibaiàrivòny, Prime
Minister, protector of the kingdom? How is our father, Rainingòry
(the oldest officer in the army, nearly a hundred years old)? How is
Rainimàharàvo, Chief Secretary of State, chief of the officers of the
palace? How is Rabé (son of the preceding)? How is the kingdom of
Ambòhimànga and Antanànarìvo (the ancient and modern capitals)? How
are ‘the-under-the-heaven’ (the people, the subjects)? How are you,
our friends? And how is your fatigue after your journey?” etc. To
these inquiries I, as interpreter to the expedition, gravely replied
_seriatim_, saying that her Majesty was well, that the Prime Minister
was well, etc., etc., and then inquired how the Governor and his
officers, and the people of the town and neighbourhood were. We then
had more general and less formal conversation, in which I explained
the objects of our visit to Antsihànaka, and our proposed route round
the district.

[Illustration: A WAYSIDE MARKET

The umbrellas are to protect the vendors and goods from the sun.
Beef, soap, candles, cooked rice, manioc, etc., are exposed for sale]

The Governor then courteously led us by the hand back to the chapel,
where he joined us in our dinner; and as soon as that was finished
asked us to come outside. Here we found a quantity of provisions
brought for us and our bearers; baskets of rice, geese, fowls, yams,
and a large fat pig (a most unwilling offering _he_ was, and loudly
protested against the whole business). In a formal speech, as soon
as silence could be obtained, the Governor offered these things to
us, saying that the provisions presented were not theirs, but the
Queen’s, the Prime Minister’s, etc., etc., while _they_ only took
charge of it all (a polite and loyal fiction, by the way, meaning
nothing). We found a comfortable (if somewhat airy) bedroom in the
spacious chapel, which formed a pleasant contrast to the confinement
of our little tent of eleven feet square.

[Sidenote: MARKET DAY]

The next day, Thursday, was market day, and a number of people
from the country were collected together buying and selling on an
open piece of rising ground to the south of the town. The morning
we devoted to inspecting the place, ascertaining the number of
houses, and taking bearings, observations and photographs from a
point half-a-mile to the east of the market. Our proceedings caused
intense interest, as the camera, theodolite, etc., were carried past;
business came to a standstill for some time, and a glance at the
crowd through the field-glass showed rows of dark faces all turned
in our direction, intently watching our mysterious proceedings. We
afterwards walked through the market, hoping to find some articles of
food or manufacture new to us; but there was not much that differed
from what may be seen every day in Imèrina. In fruit I fancied I
had found something new—viz. what appeared like a kind of small
banana with black skin; but more minute inspection showed that the
supposed fruits were small fish from the lake, smoke-dried, strung
on a strong reed. Some large wooden spoons with tin ornaments on the
handles reminded me of those made by the Bétsiléo. Bananas, very
large and fine, seemed the most plentiful fruit; sugar-cane grows to
a great size, ten to twelve feet high; and from what we saw all round
Antsihànaka it appeared a most fertile district, with rich alluvial
soil; were the whole marsh drained and brought under cultivation,
as the marshy plain to the west and north-west of the capital has
been, it would support a population many times greater than that
which inhabits Imèrina. All round Ambàtondrazàka many hundred acres
of the level are occupied by rice-fields, and it is the same in the
neighbourhood of all the villages bordering the plain; although a
large proportion of the area is still covered with marsh, reeds,
rushes and papyrus. From the rising ground we could count numerous
herds of fine cattle, generally from seventy to eighty in each herd,
and wherever we went we found cattle in great abundance feeding on
the rich pasture. Large numbers of these cattle belonged to rich
people in Imèrina. One noble was said to have nearly ten thousand;
others had five thousand; many people had a thousand, and the
majority of the Sihànaka had at least a hundred each.

[Sidenote: PAPYRUS]

After our usual employments of school examination, conversation
with the pastor and others, and renewed presents of food, on Friday
morning we set off on our circuit round the plain to visit as many of
the congregations, and see as much of the country and the position of
the Sihànaka villages, as was possible in six days, as our time was
limited to that period. Proceeding first westward, and skirting the
edge of the level ground, we passed for some distance through swamp,
with dense thickets of _hèrana_ and _zozòro_, the first being, as
already seen in Imèrina, a strong sedge extensively used for roofing,
and the other, a species of papyrus, employed for a variety of
purposes. This latter grows here to a great size, some ten or twelve
feet high, with a triangular and exceedingly tough stem, about two
and a half inches each way, nearly double the size it attains in the
cooler Imèrina province.

We had to cross numerous little streams by rickety bridges of plank.
From the level of the rice-fields the plain stretched northward like
an immense green lake; the rotundity of the earth was as clearly seen
from the perfect level as it is from the surface of the sea, for
the distant low hills appeared like detached islands with nothing
to connect their bases. Our course lay west by north-west, cutting
diagonally across several of those promontories formed by the
parallel lines of hills which run down each side of the Ankay valley.
Every village of the Sihànaka has near its entrance a group of two or
three tall straight trunks of trees fixed in the ground, varying from
thirty to fifty feet in height; the top of these has the appearance
of an enormous pair of horns, for the fork of a tree is fixed to the
pole, and each branch is sharpened to a fine point. Besides these,
there are generally half-a-dozen lower poles, on which are fixed a
number of the skulls and horns of bullocks killed at the funeral of
the people of whom these poles are the memorial. One thing struck
us as curious: several of the higher poles had small tin trunks,
generally painted oak colour, impaled on one point of the fork; and
in several instances baskets and mats were also placed on a railing
of wood close to the poles supporting the bullock horns. These
various articles were the property of the deceased, and put near his
grave with the hope of their being of some benefit to his spirit;
or perhaps from the idea, common to most of the Malagasy tribes, of
there being pollution attached to anything connected with the dead.
In several cases, on the very highest point of the lofty poles,
there was a small tin fixed, having a strong resemblance to those
we import containing jam or preserved provisions.[17] As among many
Eastern peoples, so in Madagascar, the horn is a symbol of power and
protection; the native army was termed _tàndroky ny fanjakàna_—“horns
of the kingdom.”

[Sidenote: CATTLE]

Some of the cattle we saw were magnificent animals, and it is not
strange that the bull was used frequently in public speeches, as an
emblem of strength, as it is the largest of all the animals known
to the Malagasy. It frequently occurs in this sense in the formulæ
and the songs connected with the circumcision ceremonial; for the
observance of this native custom was a time of very great importance
in the old native regime. Bull-fighting was a favourite amusement
with the Malagasy sovereigns; and in digging the foundations for a
new gateway to the palace yard at Antanànarìvo, the remains of a bull
were discovered, wrapped up in a red silk _làmba_, the same style of
burial as that employed for rich people. This was the honour paid
to a famous fighting bull belonging to Queen Rànavàlona I. It seems
pretty certain that anciently the killing of an ox was regarded as
a semi-religious or sacrificial observance, and only the chief of
a tribe was allowed to do this, as priest of his people. Robert
Drury, an English lad who, with others, was wrecked on the south-west
coast of Madagascar in 1702, and remained in the country as a slave
for fifteen years, gives many particulars about this custom of the
southern Sàkalàva people.

[Sidenote: THE OX]

An old Malagasy saying thus describes the various uses of the
different portions of an ox when killed: “The ox is the chief of the
animals kept by the people, and they are very beautiful in this
country. Our forefathers here knew well how it should be used, and
they said thus, when they invoked a blessing (at the circumcision):
The ox’s horns go to the spoon-maker; its molar teeth to the
mat-maker (for smoothing out the _zozòro_ peel); its ears are for
making medicine for nettle-rash; its hump for making ointment; its
rump to the sovereign; its feet to the oil-maker; its spleen to the
old man; its liver to the old woman; its lungs to the son-in-law;
its intestines to those who brought the ropes; its neck to him who
brought the axe; its haunch to the crier; its tail to the weaver;
its suet to the soap-maker; its skin to the drummer; its head to
the speech-maker; its eyes to be made into beads (used in the
divination), and its hoofs to the gun-maker.”

Our next morning’s ride brought us to Ambòhidèhilàhy, a large village
of a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty houses, occupying the
northern end of one of the promontories.

For the first time since we had left Ambòhimànga we had a meal in
an ordinary house, and could notice the arrangement of a Sihànaka
dwelling. I immediately observed that instead of there being _one_
post at each end and at the centre of the house to support the ridge,
as in the Imèrina houses, this had _three_ at each gable, just as
the Bétsimisàraka have; another confirmation, by the way, of my
belief, that the Sihànaka are connected with the coast tribes, and
have come up from the sea and settled on the margin of the fertile
plain. Instead of the one door and window on the west side, as in
the Hova houses, the Sihànaka make two doors on that side, with high
thresholds, dividing it into three equal parts, and a low door on the
eastern side, coming where the fixed bedstead is placed in Imèrina.
Here the bedstead was at the south-east instead of the north-east
corner; and the hearth, with its framework above for supporting
property of various kinds, at the south-east instead of the mid-west
side of the house.

After dinner we set off over level ground for Manàkambahìny, a
village nearly south from us, which we could see on a low hill
forming the extremity of the high ridge bounding the Mangòro valley
to the west. We found that the small rivers between the parallel
ranges of hills spread out into many shallow streams over a wide
surface, forming a swamp with luxuriant rushes and vegetation. The
wild birds seemed plentiful here. In several places was a kind
of snare for taking them on the wing, consisting of several stout
bamboos fixed in the ground a few feet apart, with cords stretched
between them, and loops of string suspended from these cords. We
were only able to stay a short time at the village, and then pushed
on, crossing the level ground at the southern extremity of the
Antsihànaka plain and coming at sunset to Ambòdinònoka, a good-sized
village on its western edge. Here we had reached our farthest south
in our journey round the province.


We have just seen the interior of a Sihànaka house, and we ought to
have noticed the fine and strong mats with which they are furnished.
From the immense extent of marsh, the material for making these is
very abundant, and all women can make them; so no Sihànaka _buys_ a
mat, for they think that a disgrace. Of the _zozòro_ outer peel, or
skin, the very long mats called the Queen’s are made, which are from
eighteen feet to twenty-four feet long. The houses of many people
here are clean and neat from the abundance of such mats. The largest
kind of _zozòro_, called _tèry_, is as strong as wood, and the firm
triangular stems are used for the walls of the houses.

We were off early on Saturday morning, for, as we wished to get to
the second town in size, Ampàrafàravòla, for Sunday, we had a long
day’s journey northward of nine or ten hours before us. We were now
skirting the western edge of the great level, now and then crossing
patches of swamp, and then following the windings of a small river,
which we had at last to cross by canoes. The whole country appeared
to abound with wild birds of different kinds—herons, black and white
storks, wild geese, wild ducks, partridges and many others. The
fen country of the eastern midland counties of England, before the
great drainage works were carried out and the waters led off to the
sea, must have been very much like this Antsihànaka plain, which is
certainly a paradise for sportsmen. There are said to be no fewer
than thirty-four species of aquatic birds found on the Alaotra lake
and in the surrounding marshy country. In the little museum at the
L.M.S. College at Antanànarìvo we have, among other Malagasy birds’
eggs, a number from Antsihànaka, chiefly of water-fowl; most of these
are white, showing probably that they are well protected and so have
no need of imitative colouring.

[Sidenote: WATER-BIRDS]

Of these numerous ducks and geese, perhaps the whistling teal is the
most common, not only in this province, but also in other marshy
regions. In the western part of Imèrina the _Tsirìry_, as it is
called, may be seen in flocks of five hundred together, so that a
certain district probably gets its name of “Bé (many) tsiriry” from
their numbers. At evening this bird and a tree duck (_Tahìa_) settle
down in such numbers along the shore of the lake that one cannot walk
by the waterside, for the ground is black with them. The tsiriry
builds its nest on hillocks among the grass, and the young birds are
taken to the water as soon as hatched. Another bird, the humped duck
(_Aròsy_), lays its eggs in the crevices of rocks. Many of the native
names of these wild fowl are imitative of their screaming cry; others
are descriptive, as “white-wings,” “handsome-bird,” “white-eyes,”
“many-shields,” etc. Besides the above-mentioned birds, there are
also coots, water-hens, herons, ibises, grebes, snipes and curlews in
the lake and the marshes. Of the white-backed duck (_Tafiòtra_) the
natives say that the female bird experiences some difficulty in the
laying of her eggs, which are very large in proportion to the size of
her body; this is said to make her faint and become unconscious, so
that she may be taken off her nest with the hand. On account this of
peculiarity, the duck is _fàdy_, or tabooed, by the native women, who
think that they would experience a similar difficulty in child-birth
were they to eat the bird.

From the abundance of water-birds in this province, the keeping of
ducks and geese is an important occupation of the Sihànaka. Geese
are greatly esteemed, and alive or killed are always presented as a
mark of respect to strangers. On account of their abundance, goose
quills for pens, as well as chillies and fine long mats, formed the
tribute formerly paid by the people to the queen at Antanànarìvo.
Guinea-fowls are also plentiful and are found in flocks of from
twenty to thirty together, but chiefly in unfrequented places.


After about two hours and a half’s journey we arrived at
Ambòhitròmby, a large village of nearly a hundred houses, situated
on a rounded hill which rose like an island from the plain. We were
formally received by an old man in a red _làmba_, the chief of the
village, in the presence of a large number of people, and the
accustomed speech-making had to be gone through. We then went into
the chapel, a long, narrow and low rush building, where the scholars
and most of the women were assembled. On going out of the chapel we
were asked to meet the chief people again to receive beef, rice, etc.
This was done with a formality and respect exceeding that shown on
any previous occasion. A mat was spread on an open space, on this
three chairs were placed for us, and in front of this, on another
mat, were arranged the provisions. Speech-making, compliments and
replies then followed as usual.

After tiffin, and taking some compass observations, we left
Ambòhitròmby soon after twelve o’clock, keeping still along the
western shore of the plain, and several times crossing bays which run
westward between the hills. Here we had much floundering about in the
bog, and crossing of cranky wooden bridges of the primitive single
round-pole construction. We passed Mòraràno and Moraféno, good-sized
villages, but were unable to stop at either place, as they were both
a little way out of the direct road, and we were pressed for time.
The population appeared considerable about this part of the plain,
for there were many other villages at no great distance, and a very
large extent of its margin was cultivated, the stacks of rice dotting
over the level surface for two or three miles to the eastward, and
for a long way north and south. After three or four hours’ walking
and riding we turned to the north-east, crossing a great bay formed
by one of the long promontories which stretch into the level from the
north-west as well as from the south-east shores of the plain. These
have evidently in an earlier (geological) period formed continuous
lines of hills, for they do not run in the same direction as the
main valley or depression of the country, but cut it at an angle of
about forty-five degrees—that is to say, while the general direction
of the Antsihànaka valley is north-north-east and south-south-west,
the lines of hills on either side have a bearing of north-north-west
and south-south-east. This is seen very distinctly in the map of the
district made on my return home: for many of the ridges seem to be
broken off more or less abruptly by the level ground, and then to
be continued on the other side of the plain. It seemed impossible
to avoid the conclusion that by some great convulsion in long-past
geologic ages a vast rent and depression had been made across the
lines of hills in a diagonal direction; while the water-worn and
wasted remains of some few of these towards the south, forming a line
of low detached hills, suggested that probably the action of water,
either as an arm of the sea running up the Ankay valley, or a great
river, had completed what was commenced by more violent agencies. The
unmistakable evidence of former volcanic action, in the presence of
extinct craters and lava streams to the west, north and north-east of
the plain, seems to show what was the agency which caused this great
depression of the surface.


Half-an-hour brought us to the end of the promontory, which was
like an enormous dyke or sea-wall, one face having a steep slope,
and the other a long gentle rise. It was a pleasant and smooth
level road along the top of this great natural embankment to the
north-west. From it we had a delightful view, for the great flat
surface of the plain looked like an immense green lake, from which
the distant eastern line of hills seemed to rise like shores out of
a green expanse of water. The high mountains beyond these were lit
up by afternoon sunlight, and the western side or a still larger and
higher promontory to the east of us, broken up by lateral buttresses,
produced charming effects of light and shadow, and variety of colour.
At the head of the bay formed by these two long points we could see
the high rounded hill which rises above Ampàrafàravòla, and after a
time the little town itself began to show above the plain.

At a little before five o’clock we came to a hollow at the end of
the promontory, with a long piece of water dividing it from a steep
abrupt hill, on which the large village of Ambòhipèno is situated.
This place had a clay wall surrounding it, and contained about ninety
houses. The “road” to it is the water just mentioned, about four feet
wide, where the papyrus had been cut away; this being past, the path
was up a steep clay slope. As we got near the village, we could see
a number of people assembled to meet us, and on arriving at the top
had a most pleasing reception. As we cleared the water and began to
ascend, the singers struck up a hymn; they were all seated on one
side of the road, the school-children on the other, while a little
farther on were a crowd of people headed by the elderly men of the
place. One of these, the judge of the district, a pleasant old man,
then received us with the usual speeches, to which I had of course
to reply. After a few minutes’ delay, and promising to come and
preach to them on the following afternoon, we pushed on, for it was
near sunset, and we had still three or four miles to traverse before
reaching our destination.


It was about an hour after sundown before we reached Ampàrafàravòla,
but a bright moon near the full prevented any difficulty in
travelling. The town itself was almost entirely Hova, and consisted
of about ninety houses in a square stockade of palisading, a double
line of which ran all around it; but there were as many more Sihànaka
houses within half-a-mile of the _ròva_, and two or three small
villages at no great distance. On the west side of the town was a
large, well-built, clay chapel, not then finished. Our first look
at it, without any doors or windows, made us doubtful whether we
could use it as a lodging, especially as the evening breeze blew
sharply through the numerous openings; however, as we found there
were temporary doors and shutters of _zozòro_, which filled them
up to some extent, we decided that we had better stay in it. A few
minutes after our arrival, the lieutenant-governor of the district
and his attendants came out of the _ròva_ to meet us; and then, of
course, came loyal inquiries and polite speeches and, after a little
time, beef, rice and poultry, etc. We were glad at last to get some
tea, but we found the chapel very windy and letting in far too many
mosquitoes to be pleasant, so we pitched the tent at the far end of
the building as a sleeping apartment, and by dexterous management Mr
Pillans and I stole a march on our bloodthirsty little tormentors,
and managed to get a good night’s rest; while the doctor secured the
same under the protection of his mosquito net.

On Sunday morning the people assembled early (rather too early for
us) outside the chapel; and as soon as we had breakfasted, stowed
away our packages, beds, etc., at the farther end, and covered
them over with our tent to make things tidy, we let the people in.
Mr Pillans’ gorgeous rug again did duty as covering for the rough
little table which served as a reading-desk, while the doctor’s
photographic chemical box made it a convenient height. The chapel
was soon well filled with people, about four hundred and fifty in
number; they came in following the governor and his officers, who
took their seats first. Then came the commander’s wife, a very stout,
pleasant-looking lady, who, with two or three others, were dressed
in European style, as also were the chief men of the congregation.
The ladies, however, did not patronise chairs, but had cushions laid
on the floor. About half the congregation seemed to be Sihànaka, the
rest were Hovas. As soon as service was over, the singers begged
that I would teach them a new tune; so, as at other places, the
large paper copy of one, which was then new and very popular at
the capital, was brought out, and we practised it until we had to
ask them to let our lunch be got ready. They then removed into the
schoolhouse and sang away until it was almost time for the afternoon
service; and then again in the evening until late at night. They also
learned another new tune and hymn; and not only on Sunday night, but
early next morning, they were still at these two tunes, and the last
thing heard as we left the place was, “There is a happy land,” etc.,
over and over again.


In the afternoon Mr Pillans and I set off to preach to the people
at Ambòhipèno, who had received us so pleasantly on the preceding
evening. We wanted to give our own men a perfect rest, and so
got some Sihànaka bearers. They jolted us not a little; carrying
logs of timber was much more in their line than carrying English
missionaries. However, we got there quickly and found the little
chapel filled with people waiting for us. On our way to and fro we
noticed a peculiar appearance in the grass, as if small handfuls of
it were tied together in a bundle, while still growing. On examining
a tuft of this, we found the unusual appearance was caused by a
small mass of fibres growing around, and the long awns intertwining,
involving the neighbouring grasses in their clasp; the end of each
is armed with a sharp and barbed point, fine and strong enough to
pierce the skin. This grass (_Andropogon contortus_) the natives
call _Léfon-dàmbo_ (“wild-hog’s spear”). In walking among this
grass the awns cling to one’s trousers by hundreds, and gradually
make their way through to the skin, causing a pricking like so many
pins. Almost as annoying, although not so painful, is a plant called
_Anantsinàhy_, which is found all over the central province, and of
which the small dry seeds, called _Tsipòlotra_, are furnished with
fine prickles, which make the seeds stick to your clothes by scores,
as you pass through any piece of waste ground.


On getting back to Ampàrafàravòla, we found that the Governor wished
us to dine with him and his officers in a small house which then
served as the _làpa_. In the courtyard was a little shed, much out
of repair, in which was a small cannon mounted on a very large
carriage, one of those made by M. Laborde for the old queen. At
some of the places we subsequently visited, after the usual loyal
inquiries for the queen, great officers, and for the governor and
lieutenant-governor of the Sihànaka, inquiry was also made as to the
welfare of this little two-pounder gun! We _might_ have replied, but
did not, that a cleaning now and then, and a little more thatch on
the roof of its shed, would probably tend to prolong its existence
and conduce to its general well-being. Our dinner was served in
thoroughly native style, being cooked in the same place where we ate
it, and with about a score of people helping to serve us guests,
three in number. They gave us rice and some excellently cooked beef
and turkey, and milk to drink. The chief cook would not allow us
to make any permanent impression on the heaped-up piles of rice on
our plates, for every few minutes they were replenished by fresh
supplies of rice and gravy, so we were obliged at last to relinquish
the unequal contest. Before dinner they came to ask us if the band
should play during the entertainment (as is customary when the great
people in Imèrina give feasts); but as I felt doubtful as to the
character of the tunes that the bandmaster might have available for
the occasion, I said that, being Sunday, it might be well to omit the
compliment; but I very readily agreed to their suggestion that the
singers should sing a hymn tune instead, which they did outside the
house. After doing justice to the fare, we returned to our chapel
lodgings, greatly pleased with much we had seen during the day.

[16] Subsequently, my friends, the late Rev. J. Pearse and his wife,
lived and did a great work, both medical and religious, among the
Sihànaka for several years; and after them, the late Rev. E. H.
Stribling and other missionaries continued that work until 1895. For
some years past Christian teaching has been carried on by Malagasy
sent by the native missionary society.

[Sidenote: OLD TINS]

[17] It may be remarked here how ubiquitous are the disused tins in
which various provisions made by English manufacturers are packed.
We were amused during our tour by the evidence of this in different
parts of Antsihànaka. It is usual in the Malagasy congregations for
a small tin box to be fixed near the door of the church to receive
money contributions and “the weekly offering.” We found that in some
villages old jam tins were employed for this purpose; in others again
sardine boxes were the favourite receptacle for the gifts of the
congregation; while in yet other districts a military feeling was
apparently the prominent one, for old powder flasks were suspended
from the wall for the Sunday contributions.



We were up early on Monday morning, the doctor to prepare paper for
photographs, Mr Pillans and I to survey. He and I walked up a rounded
scarped hill, about a mile to the north-east of the town. This was
the only place we had seen in the neighbourhood which showed this
rude kind of fortress, so common on the hills of Imèrina and the
Bétsiléo country. It was a dull cloudy morning, and we could not
get any distant points, but took the bearings of a few neighbouring
villages. But we were greatly interested to find that the hill had
certainly been the centre of volcanic action, was, in fact, an
extinct crater, for large masses of lava were scattered all over
the hill, from the base to the summit. We afterwards found, as we
proceeded on our journey round its north-western slopes, that the
crater was on that side, and that from it a stream of molten rock
had poured down, spreading over a considerable surface of ground.
After bidding our good friends farewell, although they much wished
to keep us longer, we left at nine o’clock, still going northward.
We crossed over the head of the large bay of the plain formed by the
long promontory, passed a little cluster of villages called Mòraràno,
and then ascended the ridge of hills, coming out on some very high
ground which forms the western boundary or shore of this part of the
plain. From it we had an extensive view over the great level surface,
and could see the whole length of the Alaotra lake from north to
south. There was a fine variety of outline in the eastern line of
hills and mountains, and towards the north end of the plain there was
a great opening between the hills, showing the valley through which
the Màningòry river runs from the lake to the sea. We soon left the
high ground and came down to the plain, skirting its edge, generally
on low hills, and occasionally crossing great arms of it running
westward. Several of these were very boggy and difficult to cross,
with the most complicated and impracticable bridges we had yet
seen, even in Antsihànaka; some of them were in three stages, one a
steepish ascent, the middle span on the level, and another going down
again into _water_, not on to dry land, and none boasting more than a
slippery round pole as roadway.


Our journey of six hours and three-quarters to-day was only broken
by half-an-hour’s halt on a low hill to take observations; indeed
there was no village, nor even a house, where we could have stayed,
for we were travelling over a perfectly uninhabited country. After
we left Mòraràno, about an hour north of Ampàrafàravòla, we saw not
a single human habitation nor trace of cultivation, although there
were numerous fertile and spacious valleys, until we arrived at
Ambòhijànahàry. The only object we saw that gave any sign of man’s
presence was a large herd of fine cattle. I was afterwards told of
a curious custom formerly practised by the Sihànaka at the time of
the circumcision. They used to choose one of the largest oxen to be
found and sharpened his horns to a fine point; after two or three
days’ continuous drinking, when they had got perfectly maddened
with spirits and were ready for any foolhardy adventure, a party
would rush out to attack this ox, but without any weapons. As the
animal became infuriated, he of course defended himself by goring
his enemies, many of whom he generally seriously hurt, and some
occasionally killed outright, while the man who escaped without
injury was considered as born under a lucky star, and was resorted to
by numbers of people to give them charms to protect them from various
kinds of calamity.

Soon after four o’clock we reached Ambòhijànahàry, a large village of
about a hundred houses, on rising ground, and approached by a long
narrow passage between dense thickets of prickly pear. It is a poor
dirty place, and the chapel the smallest one we had yet seen in the
district, being only twenty-two feet by sixteen wide. However, it was
clean and neatly matted, and after stopping up a door and a window on
the windward side we put up the tent as a canopy for sleeping under,
as the gables were exceedingly well ventilated. Then came speeches,
beef, etc., etc., and replies as usual, _my_ oratorical efforts
becoming very brief; my companions remarked that the flowery parts
of my speeches in reply were gradually curtailed as we proceeded
farther on our journey. To the north of the village is a lofty point,
called Ankìtsika; it has a double cone-shaped outline—that is, a
small cone upon a large truncated one—and is doubtless of volcanic
origin. The word Ankìtsika means “at a cave,” and there is said to
be a cave at the top, where, in former times, the people took refuge
when their enemies, the Sàkalàva, made a raid upon them.

The village which we had now come to was “our farthest north,”
for from here we began to turn our faces homewards; and as we had
now seen the largest villages in the province, I may as well say
something here about the Sihànaka, and their occupations and means of

Their occupations are, chiefly, tending cattle, growing rice,
fishing, and making _tòaka_ (rum). Almost every family keeps cattle,
save the very poorest, and there is nothing the people like better
than to follow their herds and camp out in the pastures with their
wives and children. The day of cutting the ears of the young animals
(so as to distinguish them from those of the queen) was always kept
as a day of rejoicing, killing oxen, and feasting. Yet very few milk
their cattle, for they prefer the broth made from fish to milk.

[Sidenote: STORING RICE]

As we went round the outside edge of the plain, we saw a large extent
of rice ground under cultivation; but the people do not dig the soil,
or transplant the rice, as is the custom in Imèrina, but cultivate
their fields in the following way. First of all they make a number
of low earthen banks, which are intended to hold the water. That
being done, oxen are driven over the ground to be planted, where the
water is a few inches deep, and when the soil has been well turned
over, then the rice is sown; and there it is left until it is reaped,
without transplanting or weeding. When the rice has been reaped, it
is heaped together in round stacks, which are of a considerable size.
When quite dry, the grain is threshed out with a stick, two men or
more striking in regular turn. The rice is not stored in pits, as
in Imèrina, but in an enormous kind of basket or round enclosure,
made of papyrus plaited together, and about eight feet high and from
twenty to thirty feet in diameter. These are in the fields, and are
roofed over; and rice being so cheap and plentiful with them, the
people do not measure the rice itself, but they reckon it by the
number of these _vòlovàry_, of which the richer Sihànaka have seven
or eight or more.


Catching fish in the lake and in the numerous streams and pieces of
water is the business of both men and women. The men angle for eels,
the women dredge for small fish in the shallow water (using a kind of
basket like a large sieve), and the little children fish with bait.
All the children have a tiny canoe, in which they go fishing in the
early morning from six to nine o’clock, when they return home, for
their small canoes would be upset by the wind and waves as the day
advances. The women catch, by dredging, small fish called _tòho_ and
also shrimps. These they dry in the sun, sew up in baskets, and take
for sale to the markets, many people becoming wealthy by their sale.
Until a few years ago all sales were done by barter, for little money
was employed. And it is the custom for the men not to bring home what
they have caught, but to leave it by the waterside for the women to

There is abundance of _tòaka_ (rum) made in Antsihànaka, and its
manufacture is the work of poor old men and women and (formerly) of
slaves. In every house it is to be found, for they think it shows a
want of respect to visitors if they have not plenty of _tòaka_ to
give them. Whatever be the business in hand, whether funerals or
rejoicings, nothing can be done without drinking _tòaka_ (see an
earlier paragraph).

We left Ambòhijànahàry on Tuesday morning and turned eastward. Our
road lay through low swampy ground, often wading through water and
floundering through bog. But there was also a large extent of land
covered with rice-fields, and we passed several villages. We left the
lines of hills, which come down and terminate abruptly at the edge of
the plain. Rain fell during the last half of the journey and a thick
mist shut out everything from view; there was water above and around,
and water and bog below, so it was the most uncomfortable of all our
journeys. The only objects to interest were the clouds of birds,
which flew over our heads in immense numbers in every direction. Soon
after ten o’clock we got to a village of seventy or eighty houses,
called very inappropriately, Ambòhitsàra (“good town”), for it was
quite in the swamp, raised only a few inches above the level, and
surrounded by water, most of it stagnant. Here the people of the
village, in their speech to us, spoke of our staying there that
night, and crossing the lake the following morning; but as it was
still early in the day, and the water was not an hour distant, we
felt most unwilling to stop, especially as we feared risk of fever by
staying the night in such a low and damp situation. We therefore told
them that we must, if possible, get across the lake that day, and
requested them to lose no time in getting sufficient canoes to take
us over. After tiffin, we determined to go and see for ourselves, and
with much difficulty got our men off. The path was better than in the
morning, a large extent of land here being fine pasture and covered
with cattle.


Three-quarters of an hour brought us to the lake, a beautiful expanse
of water, but only one small canoe was visible, and a stiff breeze
from the east had raised waves of a size quite formidable to such
cranky craft as Malagasy canoes are. The shore opposite to us seemed
from three to four miles distant; to the northward the water extended
for several miles, with bays running up among the hills, and a large
arm turning eastward in the direction of the valley through which the
river draining the lake flows into the sea. Many of the villages on
the rising ground across the water were seen quite distinctly (for
it had turned out a lovely afternoon) and seemed large places. A
considerable portion of the population is indeed massed round this
north-east corner of the lake, and we regretted being obliged to
leave so many large villages unvisited, but our time would not allow
us to go round the head of the Alaotra. The picture was a pleasant
one from the shore; the expanse of blue water, with the waves dancing
and sparkling in the sunlight; the villages on the green hills across
the lake; and behind them grand masses of mountain, with a good deal
of dark forest capping them. To the north of the Màningòry valley was
distinctly visible an extinct volcanic crater, with a large portion
of one of its sides broken down and revealing the immense cup-shaped
hollow within. The aneroid showed that the surface of the lake was
twenty-six hundred feet above the sea, about nineteen hundred feet
below the height of the capital.

We waited and waited on the shore, sweeping the opposite banks with
our telescopes for signs of approaching canoes, but looked in vain;
nothing like a canoe was to be seen, and the waves got higher and
higher; evidently it would not have been safe to cross so late
in the day, when the sea breeze, as is the case also on the coast
lagoons, makes a considerable swell, and crossing is practicable
only for the largest canoes. And while we are waiting, we may remark
that this Lake Alaotra is the largest one in Madagascar, and is
about twenty-five miles long, by four or five in average breadth.
But as the level marshy land to the west and south is only a few
inches above its surface, the lake is of much greater extent in the
wet season. It receives the drainage of the northern portion of the
Ankay plain, so that a considerable body of water must issue from its
north-eastern arm and flow towards the sea. According to the Rev. L.
Dahle, the name “Alaotra” is probably the Arabic _Al-lutat_, “the
dashing of the waves,” the sea. The Arabs of the Comoro Islands and
East Africa are known among the Malagasy as the “Taloatra”—_i.e._
“those from beyond the ocean.”[18]


The afternoon wore on; the doctor took photographs of the opposite
shore; Mr Pillans and I took bearings for the map, and collected
shells; and at last, after waiting two hours, we reluctantly came
to the conclusion that we must go back to the village in the swamp,
which we accordingly did. However, we were not so uncomfortable as we
had feared, nor did we take any harm from the damp conditions. The
head people came to present beef, etc., but I fear I answered them
rather curtly, for we saw plainly it was never intended to let us get
over the lake until the following day; but, with the usual native
unwillingness to speak out plainly, they would not say so to begin
with. In the book which Dr Mullens wrote on his return to England he
says of this afternoon’s experiences: “I am afraid that the general
depression seriously interfered with the reply of our friend, Mr
Sibree. The dignity and fulness with which he usually dwelt upon the
affairs of the kingdom and the health of the authorities, and the
flowery eloquence with which he would describe the purpose of our
visit, entirely failed him here. His reply was brief and guarded, and
the two-pounder gun he passed over in total silence.”

[Sidenote: A DEEP LAKE]

On Wednesday morning we left Ambòhitsàra at half-past six, so as to
cross the lake as soon after sunrise as possible, as this is always
the calmest time of the day in Madagascar waters. We found about a
dozen large canoes waiting for us; several of these were from thirty
to forty feet long, and three to four feet beam, hollowed out of
a single tree. We all embarked and got off soon after half-past
seven, but the wind had already risen somewhat, and there was quite
a swell on the water. But the sail across was most delightful. As
we proceeded, the northern shores opened up, showing two deep bays
stretching far away between the hills, and an island, where the
Sihànaka made their last stand in resisting Hova domination. From
that time it has not been allowed to be inhabited, but is only used
for planting vegetables. We had only two paddlers, one at the head,
and the other at the stern of the canoe, and so were an hour and
ten minutes in crossing. We made an attempt to ascertain the depth
of the lake with an old knife as a sinker, and a piece of string
as a line, while the doctor, in true scientific fashion, “hove the
lead.” I regret to say that no accurate information was obtained,
for the sounding line was again and again thrown with the report,
“no bottom.” But our short line was no doubt the reason of our
ill-success. The lake is probably deep at its northern end, and it
is certainly shallow at its southern extremity, gradually changing
into marsh. Some of my missionary friends, who subsequently lived in
Antsihànaka, have described voyages across the southern end of the
Alaotra, where, amongst the dense growth of papyrus, rush, and tall
grasses, the only practicable paths for a canoe are dark passages,
almost tunnel-like, among the rank vegetation; and where a stranger
might easily be lost in the watery and reedy wastes around him.

There can be no doubt that the present lake is but a small remnant of
a much larger one; for, at a not very distant period, the water must
have covered the whole plain of Antsihànaka, thus forming a lake five
or six times the size of the present Alaotra. But at a yet earlier
period still, this lake extended for a hundred miles farther south,
down the Ankay plain, and for at least two hundred miles farther
north, forming an immense extent of water, not much unlike the
Tànganyika in Central Africa in size and outline, and of considerable
depth; for Mr Baron found numerous indications of old shore-lines at
elevations of eleven to twelve hundred feet above the present level.
Doubtless, the gradual lowering of the valleys of the Mangòro to the
south, and of the Màningòry to the north-east, drained off this great
lake, leaving only the present comparatively small sheet of water as
its representative.

[Sidenote: BIRD LIFE]

To an ordinary observer the Alaotra lake presents a good deal of
bird life, as well as the large reptiles which bask in the sun on
its shores. But to those who will examine more closely and will
use a good microscope, there are minute forms of life, both animal
and vegetable, which are wonderful for their beauty and their
variety. Among the latter are the Algæ, of which my late friend, Mr
Baron, made a collection, mostly from the neighbourhood of Alaotra,
including a hundred and eighty species, of which seventy proved to be
new to science. In a quarto pamphlet of fifty pages, with plates of
two hundred different figures, these fresh-water algæ were minutely
described, as belonging to thirteen different orders and thirty-one
genera.[19] Many new and interesting species were thus revealed,
and considerable additional knowledge of the distribution of known
forms attained. Without actual inspection of the plates it is
difficult to give any clear notion of the various remarkable, often
strange, and frequently beautiful forms of these lowly organised
plants as revealed by the microscope. The bi-lobed outlines of the
_Cosmaria_ are especially noticeable, and hardly less so are the
stellate, triangular and multangular forms of other species. It is
difficult to believe that some of these remarkable organisms are
plants at all; in many cases they are more like some beautiful shell,
delicately and elaborately sculptured; while in others they take the
form of a simple cell—round, oval or triangular—often as if about
to increase by fissure; while others again have curious processes,
more like those of some grotesque polyp than anything belonging to
the vegetable kingdom. These plants are additional illustrations of
the wonders that lie hidden from ordinary observation in the mud of
almost every pond and in the slime that gathers round almost every

It is a rather interesting fact that the crocodile found in the
Alaotra is a different species to that inhabiting all the rivers of
Madagascar; but it is identical with the crocodile found fossil,
together with the remains of the extinct hippopotamus and the
gigantic birds and lemurs which inhabited the island probably until
the appearance of man upon the scene. These reptiles are very
numerous in the lake, for in the afternoons, on the small rocky
islets which rise only a little above the water, the crocodiles are
seen snapping at each other to get space to bask in the sun. In the
small streams flowing into Alaotra they are numerous at all times
of the day, so that if there are only a few canoes, people dare not
cross for fear of being upset. Tortoises are also plentiful on the
shores and islets of the lake. Two species of water-lily are found in
the water, one being identical with the lotus of the Nile; besides
these there are numerous other water-plants, one being a twining
plant, called _Tsihìtafòtotra_ (“the root not seen”), which twines
about other plants in all possible directions, clinging to them by
numerous little disks; and there are also two species of convolvulus
(_Ipomæa_), with large red flowers. Besides the masses of papyrus
(_zozòro_) and _hèrana_ sedge, growing in the marshes and shallow
parts of the lake, a gigantic and handsome grass, called _Bàraràta_,
growing from twelve to fifteen feet high, is very abundant. It would
be taken by ordinary people for a species of bamboo, for its size and
the thickness of its jointed stem; its sharp prickly leaf sheaths
near the root make it very unpleasant for the unshod feet of the
natives. In and about the marshes occur the _Jaboàdy_, a species of
wild cat, and also a kind of muskrat, both of strong scent.


There are certain mythical creatures firmly believed by the
Sihànaka to exist in Lake Alaotra. One of these is a monster having
seven heads and known as _Fanànim-pìto-lòha_. It is said to be a
sort of serpent, and when it lifts itself out of the water, as
it does occasionally, its head touches the sky! There are also
_Andrìambàviràno_ (_lit._ “water-princesses”). These creatures,
though residing beneath the water, never get wet, as they live in
water-tight palaces. They are said to have hair reaching down to the
waist. Veritable water-nymphs these!


But to return to our journey, we landed at the foot of the hill
on which Ambòhitsòa, a village of about eighty houses, is built,
and mounted to the top by a steep pathway. Here a most extensive
and lovely view presented itself, I think _the_ most beautiful of
its kind I had ever seen in Madagascar. The lake lay before us,
stretching far away to the southward in a great rounded curve, and
with its indented bays and island fastness to the northward. The
changing shades of purple and blue of the water; the green of the
plain beyond; and the varied outline of hills and mountains in the
far background to west and north—all lit up by bright sunshine—made
as charming a picture as an artist could desire to transfer to
canvas. But we had little time to spare, and so after hastily taking
bearings we went to Màrosalàzana, the next village to the south,
which we could see on a high hill at three or four miles’ distance.
On entering the village, a place with about sixty houses, we found
a crowd of about four hundred people waiting to receive us. These
were not all inhabitants of the place, for many of them had come from
Ambòhitsòa to meet us. After a formal reception by the authorities
we found the school-children assembled on an open raised space in
the centre of the village, a group of nearly a hundred altogether,
dressed in their best. Many of the girls had a peculiar kind of
collar to their dress, consisting of seven or eight massive silver
chains of different patterns; they also wore armlets of silver. Many
of these children and young people had most intelligent and pleasant
faces. We heard them read, and then I was delighted to find they knew
the smaller catechism well. I talked to them a little about it, and
then addressed a few words to the numbers of people crowded round the
children, speaking to them of the great love of God in sending His
Son. It was an interesting scene, and one we did not soon forget:
the bright intelligent group of children in the centre; the crowd
of wondering Sihànaka on each side; the little knots of women in
their dark blue dresses and silver ornaments; and the lovely scene
around us—all made a picture attractive in its outward aspects, but
still more interesting when one thought of these people as seemingly
prepared to welcome a fuller teaching than they had yet received.

The pleasant scene at this village, as well as what we had witnessed
at others, gave a cheering promise of what might be expected were
the people more thoroughly instructed. In a short report supplied
by Rabé, the native evangelist, he says that when he first went to
Antsihànaka, “only a person could be found here and there who washed
their clothes, for everyone’s dress was smeared with castor-oil, and
they thought it would spoil their clothes to wash them, as they would
soon be worn out; so that the clothing of the people was offensive to
the last degree. For that reason the dark blue cotton was generally
worn, as it was nearly black to begin with. But now there is hardly
anyone who does not wash his clothes, and has not white dress. Not
long ago, when it was evening, the young men in the villages used to
form into two parties, and had violent boxing-matches all through
the village, the women also often joining in the fray. But now no
one practises this rough sport. Not long ago rum was what the people
chiefly delighted in; and if any strangers who visited them were not
made thoroughly drunk, the owner of the house was looked upon as
inhospitable, although he gave them the best of everything to eat.”


We left Màrosalàzana at one o’clock, and found outside the village
something which gives the explanation of its name, “many poles”—viz.
a group of more than twenty poles stuck in the ground close together,
and holding ox skulls and horns. This was the largest group we had
yet seen, and there also were many more lying mouldering on the
ground. Besides these, there were several very high poles with
forked tops, such as we had already seen at almost all the Sihànaka
villages. These lofty poles are called _jìro_, a word which in Hova
Malagasy signifies a “lamp.” We had already seen these on our journey
northwards, but here was a larger number than we had hitherto met
with. These _jìro_ are only raised in memory of a _male_ Sihànaka;
to eulogise a woman, the rush mats and baskets which she made and
possessed while living are arranged on poles by the wayside to meet
the public gaze. These people spend a large amount of money and
property on the funerals of their relatives. Mr Pearse gives the
following account of what was expended at that of a man dying at
a village called Màngalàza:—Thirty silk _làmbas_, to wrap up the
corpse, value two hundred and sixty-nine dollars; a hundred oxen,
value three hundred dollars; drink and food, principally the former,
thirty-nine dollars’ worth; showing an expenditure of more than six
hundred dollars on this particular funeral. (At that time a dollar
was worth as much or more to the Malagasy as a pound would be to us.)

[Sidenote: A WIDOW]

After returning home from Antsihànaka, I heard many other particulars
about the people and their habits, and among them the following
curious, and cruel, custom with regard to widows; and as this is
so utterly different from anything practised by any other Malagasy
tribe, as far as I am aware, it is well to put it on record. It
is much more like a Hindu custom than a Malagasy one, and is as
follows:—When the corpse of the deceased husband is about to be
buried, the widow is decorated profusely with all the ornaments she
possesses, wearing a scarlet _làmba_, with beads and silver chains
on her neck and wrists and ankles, long ear-rings depending from her
ears to her shoulders, and silver ornaments on her head. Then she
is placed in the house, so that it may be seen by everyone how her
husband adorned her while he was yet living; and when the people go
away to the funeral, she remains still in the house, and does not go
to the grave. When the relatives and friends have returned home and
seen the widow sitting in her grand clothing and ornaments, they rush
upon her, tearing her dress and violently pulling off her ornaments,
so as to hurt her, and say at the same time: “This is the cause of
our losing our relative”; for they believe that the _vìntana_—_i.e._
fate or luck of the wife—is stronger than that of her husband and so
has caused his death. Then they give her a coarse _làmba_, a spoon
with a broken handle, and a round dish with the stand broken off; her
hair is dishevelled, and she is covered up with a coarse mat; and
under it she remains all day long, and can only leave it at night;
and whoever goes into the house, the widow may not speak to them.
She is not allowed to wash her face or her hands, but only the tips
of her fingers. She endures all this sometimes for a year, or at
least for eight months; and even then, her time of mourning is not
ended, but endures for a considerable time afterwards. And she is not
allowed to go home to her own relatives until she has been divorced
first by the husband’s family.

The house in which people die is left by the survivors, and no
one occupies it again; they do not pull it down, but let it fall
to pieces of itself, but they do not leave the village as do the
Sàkalàva in similar circumstances. Such houses are called _tràno
fòlaka_ (“broken houses”); but I am informed that this last custom is
falling into disuse; and happily, the influence of Christian teaching
has caused the treatment of widows to be greatly altered, so that it
is now becoming a thing of the past.

After leaving the “village of many poles,” our afternoon journey was
southward, first crossing several spurs of the higher hills with
their intermediate valleys; and then down a long level tract of
country between the lake and a bold wall-like line of hills, which
here forms the eastern boundary of the plain. We passed several large
villages, and stopped for the night at a place of forty or fifty
houses, called Ambòhimànga.

[Sidenote: UNLUCKY DAYS]

In one of the villages situated in the dense papyrus thickets which
cover the marshes to the south of the lake, a place called Ànoròro,
lives a strange tribe of people who seem quite isolated, not only
in their dwelling-place, but also in their barbarous habits, from
the other Sihànaka, and who speak a distinctly different dialect. In
the rainy season, when the water rises, it enters into the houses of
these people, and they then put together several layers of _zozòro_
to form a kind of raft, so that as the water rises, this raft rises
with it. Upon these _zozòro_ they make their hearths and their beds;
and there they live, rising and falling with the water, until the
rainy season is over and they can live on the ground again. There
are some curious stories about the simplicity of these people and
their fathers, for they have no intercourse with anyone outside
their village except on a certain day, when they go out to sell the
fish they have caught. These people appear to have no fewer than
eight unlucky days in each month, so that during more than a quarter
of their time their superstition prevents them from going about or
engaging in any work.

While speaking of unlucky days, it must be here noticed that all
over Antsihànaka, Thursday is considered as _fàdy_ (tabooed), and no
one will work their rice-fields on that day. To build brick or clay
houses is not permitted, death being the supposed penalty in case of
transgression. To use hemp also, either in the form of cloth, or for
smoking, is also universally tabooed. And besides the _fàdy_ common
to all Sihànaka, each family or clan has inherited a set of _fàdy_ of
its own, so that in addition to the universal abstinence from work on
Thursday, there will be another day of the week on which nothing may
be taken out of the house, the mats may not be swept, etc. Various
foods and actions, too numerous to particularise, are _fàdy_ to
certain villages; while considered quite harmless in some places,
they would bring all manner of evil in others.

On Thursday morning we set off again, and after two hours’ journey
along the east edge of the plain, left it and made a straight
course over the rice-fields for Ambàtondrazàka, leaving the great
semicircular bay to the east of the town on our left. We got in at
ten o’clock, all very wet with the heavy drizzle, but we were soon
comfortably settled in the chapel, and got our things dried in the
sun. We were again most kindly received by the officers and the
congregation there, but we were obliged to leave soon, so as to get
back to Antanànarìvo for some important engagements. On consultation
with our bearers, we found that they were willing to make a long
journey for a day or two (encouraged also thereto by promises of an
extra day’s pay), so that we might get quickly over the uninhabited
country, and reach Anjozòrobé by Saturday afternoon. So we left
Ambàtondrazàka at midday and arrived at Màngantàny by sunset.


Again were we charmed with the varied scenery of the route, and
especially by the grasses, about which I have already spoken in this
chapter, and which Dr Mullens graphically describes in a passage
which may well conclude this account of our Antsihànaka journey. He

  “I received the impression, afterwards repeatedly confirmed, that
  one of the most beautiful things to be found in Madagascar is its
  grass. It is beautiful in the sheltered valleys, where the tender
  blades, enriched by the dew and the rain, are refreshing to the
  eye, and yield like velvet to the foot. But here the grass is
  in its glory on the great hills. Burnt year after year by long
  sweeping fires, it springs up again with a profusion which clasps
  huge rocks within its soft embrace. Here it is short but strong;
  there it rises in vast tufts, each of which contains many thousand
  blades and covers many feet of ground; and yet again it spreads
  over vast patches of country in thick, tall masses, which tower
  above men’s heads, open their tinted blades to the warm sun, and
  wave their myriads of golden feathers in the summer winds. And
  it is when we contemplate this rich but simple provision of the
  divine bounty, when we watch these masses of slender blades,
  each tuft a forest in itself, clothing with beauty what man has
  neglected, laying up store for man and beast, opening their golden
  hair to the dews by night and the warm winds by day, and joyously
  revelling in the life given them from above, that then we can,
  with Mr Ruskin, appreciate and share the admiration and the praise
  given by the Psalmist to Him ‘Who maketh the grass to grow upon the

[Sidenote: “NO MAN’S LAND”]

The following day we had a long journey over “no man’s land,” taking
provisions with us and stopping to dine by a stream half-way, and
reached Mandànivàtsy before nightfall. Saturday morning we crossed
the high ridge in the forest, entering Imèrina again, and got to
Anjozòrobé in good time in the afternoon. After the fatigues of the
week we had another pleasant Sabbath, the first of the month, with
the good people there. Monday evening brought us to Ambòhitrérana,
and a couple of hours’ ride on Tuesday morning took us home to
Ambòhimànga in time for breakfast; thus completing in little more
than nineteen days our very interesting journey and exploration.

[18] Among the Sàkalàva, _Alaotra_ means “ocean” or “sea,” so that
it is the sea-like sheet of water. _Cf._ the use of _Bahr_ among the
Arabs, in _Bahr-Tabariyeh_, Sea of Tiberias, and _Bahr-Lut_, Sea of
Lot—Dead Sea.

[19] _Trans. Linn. Soc._, vol. v., pt. 2 (_Botany, 2nd Ser._).

[20] It is a significant fact that the Malagasy word for “glory,”
“honour,” is _vòninàhitra_, which, literally translated, is “flower
of the grass.” Did this expression arise from the native admiration
of some of these beautiful grasses, similar to that which so excited
Dr Mullens’ delight when travelling in this country.



Madagascar is not at present one of those regions of the earth where
volcanic disturbances occur; but there is ample evidence, from the
numerous extinct craters found in various parts of the island, that
at a very recent period, geologically considered—possibly even within
the occupation of the country by its present inhabitants—it was the
theatre of very extensive outbursts of subterranean energy. The
whole island has not yet been examined with sufficient minuteness
to determine the exact extent of these old volcanoes, but they have
been observed from near the south-east coast in South Latitude 28°,
and in various parts of the centre of the island up to the north-west
and extreme north, a distance of six hundred and eighty miles; and
probably a more complete survey would reveal other links connecting
more closely what is, as at present known, only a series of isolated
groups of extinct craters. In the central provinces of Madagascar
there are two large clusters of old volcanic cones and vents: one of
them in about the same latitude as the capital (19° South), but from
fifty to seventy miles away to the west of it, in the neighbourhood
of Lake Itàsy; the other in the district called Vàkinankàratra,
situated about eighty miles to the south-south-west of Antanànarìvo,
and south-west of the great central mountain mass of Ankàratra.

This second volcanic region stretches from twenty to thirty miles
from Antsìrabé away west to Bétàfo and beyond it, and contains
numerous and prominent extinct craters, some of which have been
described by the graphic pen of the late Dr Mullens in his “Twelve
Months in Madagascar” (pp. 214-219). The doctor says that he counted
in this southern group about sixty cones and craters.


The Itàsy just referred to is a lake situated about fifty-five miles
west of Antanànarìvo, and is about five miles long from east to west,
and three miles from north to south. It is irregularly square in
outline, several small headlands breaking up its shores into little
bays; while to the north, where the river Lilìa takes its overflow
to the sea, is a long extension or arm of the lake, curving round a
mountain, which proves to be an old volcano. Seen from the east, as
I approached it from the capital, it appeared as if in a depression
of the general surface, and its waters were of a lovely blue. A still
finer view of it is obtained from a mountain called Ambòhimiangàra,
which is about three miles distant from it to the north-east. This
is by far the highest point for a long distance around the lake;
and as we proceeded towards it during our two days’ journey from
Antanànarìvo, its great rounded mass gradually rose and dominated the
whole landscape.

A late friend of mine, who resided long in the district, wrote of
Ambòhimiangàra as “a kingly hill, higher by head and shoulders than
any other near it, its crown of white stones rising some eighteen
hundred feet above the lake lying blue at its feet. The view from
the summit was magnificent, the centre of the whole being the lovely
Itàsy embosomed in its bright green hills, a pearl encircled with
emeralds, with mountains upon mountains in every direction as far as
eye could reach. Fierce thunderstorms were being marshalled hither
and thither, and could be counted by the half-dozen wherever the
eye turned. The whole mountain is a mass of quartz; where the rocks
protrude it is toned down to silver-grey by lichens, but where the
rain has washed it away, it appears as coarse sand and pebbles of
the purest white, with an occasional speck of pink.... We had a good
ride, after our descent, along the north-western arm of the lake.
This end of Itàsy, forming, as it were, a little lake by itself, and
reflecting the deep blue and white of the sky above it, lay calm in
the bright sunshine, encircled by the green hills, while clusters of
houses, embowered in peach and other trees, grouped themselves around
its shores. Here and there a canoe’s dark line among the sedges
showed where the fisher was at work with hook and line; and across
the meadow to the right, a herd of cattle was slowly wending its way
to fresh pastures. Altogether, it formed a most inviting subject for
a picture.”

Some way down the river flowing from the north-western arm of the
lake is a very beautiful waterfall. The river, broken into three
streams, falls in foaming white masses over a ledge of black lava,
some fifty feet deep. The whole bed of the river for a mile above
is of the same black character, the lava broken into innumerable
blocks and setting off the vivid colour of the verdure on the river
banks. The people say that Itàsy was once only a huge swamp, and
its becoming a clear lake is within the memory, or perhaps the
traditions, of the inhabitants. Other legends relate that the lake
was formed by a Vazìmba chieftain, named Rapèto, damming up the river
flowing from the swamp; and so the rice-fields of a neighbouring
chief, with whom he was at variance, were flooded and have ever
since remained under water. There is doubtless an element of truth
in this latter account; but the chieftain, also supposed to be a
giant, was not a human being, but a volcano, which broke out at the
north-western corner and dammed up the river for a long period, as
shown by the lava in its bed, as just described. The river has now
cut its way several feet through the barrier which was thus thrown
across its course.

[Sidenote: FLAMINGOES]

I spent several hours one day in a canoe on the lake with a friend,
shooting wild duck (my first and my last exploit in this line). We
found birds very abundant on the water, and in the swamps and rank
vegetation along the shores. Flamingoes, with their white plumage and
pink tinge pervading the whole under part of the wings, are fairly
common here, and are said to be extremely good eating. The native
name for this bird, _Sàmaka_, is appropriate and descriptive, as it
means “disjointed,” “split,” referring to its immensely long legs.
It is also called _Amjòmbona_, from its trumpeting cry, this being
also the native name for a large species of triton shell used as a
trumpet. An adult male bird stands more than four feet high; and
when on the defensive these birds make quite a loud noise by sharply
opening and closing their beaks, which are long and powerful. When on
the wing, they fly exceedingly high.

[Sidenote: RAIL]

Among the many birds frequenting this lake and the neighbourhood
are the purple water-hens, of which three species are found in
Madagascar. They are of a rich bluish-purple colour, and have a very
powerful beak, with which they easily root up the Hèrana sedge, when
growing on the edge of the lake in shallow water. They do this for
the sake of the tender rootlets, and perhaps also for insects. Of the
jacanas, two species are found here; with their extremely long toes
they walk easily upon the large leaves of aquatic plants, seeking for
the water-insects which form their food. They dive with great ease
and are therefore very difficult to shoot. Six or seven species of
rail have been observed in the island; the most common one (_Rallus
gularis_) is regarded with great respect, as it is believed to bring
rain in dry weather. Its loud whistling and tremulous cry is heard
chiefly towards evening. These birds are said to be so careful of
their eggs and young that they may easily be taken by the hand from
the nest. M. Pollen says: “I once saw a hen-bird who would not quit
the space near her nest, but kept walking around it, ruffling her
feathers, and dragging her wings on the ground, in the same way as
our domestic hen does when defending her young. Other birds common to
the marshy districts are crested coots, curlews, snipe and plovers.
Two species of birds peculiar to Madagascar, for whom a special
family had to be formed, can only be spoken of by their scientific
name of _Mesites_; they are very curious and specialised birds,
taking their place between the rails and the herons.” According to
the native accounts, when the nests of these mesites, which are
mostly placed on a low situation, are flooded, the parent birds drag
them to where they will be free from injury by the water. If anyone
takes their young, they follow them into the village; and on account
of this love for their offspring they are considered sacred (_fàdy_),
because, say the natives, they are in this like human beings.


Not very far to the east of the second group of old volcanoes
mentioned above is the large village of Antsìrabé (“much salt”),
which is about seventy-five miles south-west of Antanànarìvo, and is
now on the automobile road to the Bétsiléo province. At this place
one of the chief springs is largely charged with lime, which has
formed an extensive deposit all over a small level valley sunk some
twenty feet below the general level of the plain around the village.
For a long time this place furnished almost all the lime used for
building in the capital and in the central province of Imèrina.
Besides the deposit over the floor of the valley, there was also a
compact ridge-shaped mass of lime accretion, seventy feet long by
eighteen to twenty feet wide, and about fifteen or sixteen feet high.
This had all been deposited by the spring, which kept open a passage
through the lime to the top. Some years ago, however, the spring was
tapped by a shaft, of no great depth, a few yards to the north, over
which a large and commodious bath-house was erected by the Norwegian
Lutheran Mission; and here many visitors came to bathe in the hot
mineral water, which has been found very beneficial in rheumatic and
other complaints.[21] A little distance to the south-west is another
spring, not, however, hot, but only milk-warm, the water of which is
drunk by those who bathe in the other spring. This water has been
shown to be, in chemical constituents, almost identical with the
famous Vichy water of France. All over the valley the water oozes up
in various places; and about half-a-mile farther north are several
other springs, somewhat hotter than that just described, to which the
natives largely resort for curative bathing.


During the excavations for the foundations of the bath-house, the
skeletons of several examples of an extinct species of hippopotamus
were discovered, the crania and tusks being in very perfect
preservation. Some of these are now in the museum at Berlin;
the finest specimen was sent to the museum of the University of
Christiania in Norway. This Madagascar hippopotamus was a smaller
species than that now living in Africa, and is probably nearly allied
to, if not identical with, another hippopotamus (_H. Lemerlei_), of
which remains were found in 1868 by M. Grandidier, in the plains of
the south-west coast. I was informed by the people that, wherever
in these valleys the black mud is dug into for a depth of three or
four feet, bones are sure to be met with. From the internal structure
of the teeth and bones of the hippopotami discovered at Antsìrabé,
traces of the gelatine being still visible, it is evident that the
animals had been living at a comparatively recent period. There have
been occasional vague reports of the existence of some large animal
in the southern parts of the island; and perhaps the half-mythical
stories of the _Sòngòmby_, _Tòkandìa_, _Làlomèna_, and other strange
creatures current among the Malagasy, are traditions of the period
when these pachyderms were still to be seen in the lakes and streams
and marshes of Madagascar.

Besides the remains of hippopotami, Mr Rosaas, for many years a
missionary of the Norwegian Society, and stationed at Antsìrabé,
obtained considerable quantities of the bones of extinct gigantic
birds. It is about eighty years ago (_circa_ 1834 and 1835) since
it became known to naturalists, through the discovery of portions
of massive leg-bones and fragments of enormous eggs, that there
was evidence of the former existence in Madagascar of large birds.
For a quarter-century after that date, the dislike of the heathen
queen to all foreign influence prevented fuller investigations of a
scientific character. But since the year 1861 further researches,
and excavations made in widely separated localities, have shown that
several species of these great birds existed until a comparatively
recent period in many parts of the island. It was evident that they
were flightless, and were allied to the ostrich, and still more
closely to the recently extinct _Dinornis_ of New Zealand. The
generic name of _Æpyornis_ was given to these birds, of which several
species were discovered, ranging in size from that of a bustard
to a bird exceeding an ostrich in height and also in the massive
character of the skeleton. The largest species was accordingly named
_Æpyornis maximus_. Subsequently, the remains of still larger birds
were discovered and these were called _Æ. titan_ and _Æ. ingens_, the
largest of them being about ten feet in height. More recent and exact
examination has shown that the _twelve_ species which had been formed
must be reduced to a smaller number, as some of the lesser kinds have
been proved to be young and immature forms of the larger species.
From the collection of hundreds of bones, and, in a very few cases,
complete skeletons, it is now clear that several species of these
great birds once roamed over the marshes and valleys of Madagascar,
as the ostrich does still in Africa, and the cassowary in Australia
and some East Indian islands.


The egg of one of the species, probably of the largest one, is the
largest of all known eggs, its longer axis being twelve and a quarter
inches, and the shorter one nine and three-eighths inches; it thus
had a capacity equal to six ostrich eggs, and to one hundred and
forty-eight of those of the domestic fowl.[22] From the marks of
cutting with a sharp instrument seen on some of the bones, it seems
highly probable that these great birds, as well as the hippopotamus,
gigantic tortoises, and other animals, were living when the first
human inhabitants of the island appeared upon the scene; and
doubtless this was also the reason of the disappearance of both birds
and beasts, as they were hunted and used for food.

[21] Since the French occupation this bath-house has been removed,
and the mass of lime accretion has been broken up for use.

[22] The following appeared in _Punch_, 22nd July 1893:—

“_Good Egg-sample!_—One egg was sold the other day for £160, 18s.,
_vide_ _Times_ of Wednesday last. The egg was a perfect specimen
of that _rara avis in terris_, the gigantic _Æpyornis maximus_ of
Madagascar. What did Mr Stevens do with it? Did he have it made into
several omelettes for a breakfast party of a dozen? Of course it was
a perfectly fresh egg, and the only thing at all high about it was
the price.”



Within a few miles of Antsìrabé are two crater lakes. The nearer
and larger of these is called Andraikìba, which lies distant about
four miles due west. This is a beautiful sheet of water, blue as the
heavens in colour, in shape an irregular square, but curving round
to the north-west, where it shallows into a marsh, which is finally
absorbed in rice-fields. The lake is said to be of profound depth,
but the hills surrounding it are not very lofty, rising only about
two hundred feet above the surface of the water, from which they
ascend steeply. Fish and water-fowl, and crocodiles also, are very
abundant in and on its waters.

But the most interesting natural curiosity to be seen in the
neighbourhood of Antsìrabé is the crater-lake of Trìtrìva. This is
situated about ten miles to the south-west, a pleasant ride of two
hours by palanquin. Travelling at first in a westerly direction, the
road then turns more to the south-west, and skirts the southern foot
of the old volcano of Vòhitra. Passing about a mile or two south of
the high ground round the southern shores of the Andraikìba lake,
the road gradually ascends to a higher level of country, so that
in about an hour and a half’s time we are nearly as high as the
top of Vòhitra—probably about five hundred feet. Reaching a ridge
between two prominent hills, we catch our first sight of Trìtrìva,
now from two to three miles distant in front of us. From this point
it shows very distinctly as an oval-shaped hill, its longest axis
lying north and south, and with a great depression in its centre, the
north-eastern edge of the crater wall being the lowest part of it,
from which point it rises gradually southwards and westwards, the
western edge being at the centre from two to three times the height
of the eastern side. To the north are two much smaller cup-like
hills, looking as if the volcanic forces, after the main crater had
been formed, had become weaker and so been unable to discharge any
longer by the old vent, and had therefore formed two newer outlets at
a lower level.

[Sidenote: AN OLD VOLCANO]

Descending a little from the ridge just mentioned, we cross a valley
with a good many scattered hamlets, and in less than half-an-hour
reach the foot of the hill. A few minutes’ pull up a tolerably easy
slope, perhaps two hundred feet in height, brings up to the top, at
the lowest part of the crater edge; and on reaching the ridge the
crater of the old volcano and its lake is before us, or, rather,
below us. It is certainly an extraordinary scene. The inner sides of
the crater dip down very steeply on all sides to a deep gulf, and
here, sharply defined by perpendicular cliffs all round it, except
just at the southern point, is a rather weird-looking dark green
lake far below us, the water surface being probably from two hundred
to three hundred feet lower than the point we are standing upon,
and consequently below the level of the surrounding country. The
lake, exactly shut in by the cliffs of the crater surrounding it,
is not blue in colour, like Andraikìba, although under a bright and
cloudless sky, but a deep and somewhat blackish-green. It must look,
one would suppose, like ink under a stormy sky or in the shadows of

We sit down to rest and try to take in all the details of this novel
picture. It is undoubtedly an old volcano we are now looking down
into; the spot on which we rest is only a few feet in breadth, and we
can see that this narrow knife-edge is the same all round the crater.
Outside of it the slope is pretty easy, but inside it descends
steeply, here and there precipitously, to the edge of the cliffs
which so sharply define the actual vent and, as distinctly, the lake
which they enclose. Looking southwards, the crater edge gradually
ascends, winding round the southern side, and still ascending as the
eye follows it to the western, the opposite side, where the crater
wall towers steeply up from two hundred to three hundred feet higher
than it does on the east, where we are standing. The lake we judge to
be about eight hundred to nine hundred feet long and two hundred to
two hundred and fifty feet wide, forming a long oval, with pointed
ends. The cliffs which enclose it appear to be from forty to fifty
feet in height, whitish in colour, but with black streaks, where the
rain, charged with carbonic acid, has poured more plentifully down
their faces. These cliffs are vertical and in some places overhang
the water, and from their apparently horizontal stratification are
no doubt of gneiss rock. In coming up the hill I noticed a few small
lumps of gneiss among the basaltic lava pebbles. The strongest
feature of Trìtrìva is the sharply defined vertical opening of the
vent, looking as if the rocks had been cut _clean through_ with an
enormous chisel, and as if they must dip down—as is the case—to
profound depths below the dusky green waters. At the northern end
of the lake is a deep gorge or cleft, partly filled with bushes and
other vegetation. Southward of this, on the eastern side, the cliffs
are still lofty and overhang the water, but at about a third of the
lake’s length they gradually decrease in height, and at the southern
point they dip down to the level of the lake, so that at that part
only can the water be approached. On the western side the cliffs keep
a pretty uniform height all along the whole length.

[Sidenote: THE CRATER]

So steep is the inward slope of the crater walls that we all
experienced a somewhat “eerie” feeling in walking along the footpath
at its edge; for at a very few feet from this a false step would
set one rolling downwards, with nothing to break the descent to the
edge of the cliffs, and then to the dark waters below. Yet there was
a strange fascination in the scene, and the variety and contrast
and depth of the colours would make the Trìtrìva lake and slopes a
striking subject for a painting from many different points along its
crater wall. When we arrived, the sun, yet wanting an hour and a half
of noon, was still lighting up the grey-white stone of the western
cliffs, but the shadows were every minute growing more intense as
the sun became more nearly vertical. Far below us was the deep green
oval lake; above it, the stratified gneiss cliffs with their black
streaks, diversified here and there by patches of bright green bush.
Then again from their edges sweep steeply upwards the grey-green
sides of the crater, culminating in the lofty western ridge opposite
to us. And over all was the blue sky flecked with cirrus clouds;
altogether a scene such as I have seen nowhere else in Madagascar, or
indeed in any other country.

[Sidenote: A ROMANCE]

After fixing in our minds the view from the north-east, we proceeded
southwards along the crater edge to the higher part at the
south-east, where the view is equally striking, and the depth of
the great chasm seems still more profound. Here we waited some time,
while most of our men went down to one of the hamlets in the plain
to the east to get their meal, in which quest, however, they had
only poor success. On expressing a wish to taste the Trìtrìva water,
one of our bearers took a glass, and descending by a breakneck path,
went to fetch some water from the lake. He was so long away that we
were beginning to feel uneasy, but after a quarter of an hour he
reappeared with the water, which tasted perfectly sweet and good. He
also entertained us with some of the legends which were certain to
have grown up about so weird-looking a place as Trìtrìva. Pointing to
two or three small trees or bushes growing on the face of the cliffs
near the northern point of the lake, he told us these were really a
young lad and lass who had become attached to each other; but the
hard-hearted parents of the girl disapproving of the match, the youth
took his loin-cloth, and binding it round his sweetheart and his
own body, precipitated her with himself into the dark waters. They
became, so it is said, two trees growing side by side, and they now
have offspring, for a young tree is growing near them; and in proof
of the truth of this story, he said that if you pinch or break the
branches of these trees, it is not sap which exudes, but blood. He
appeared to believe firmly in the truth of this story.

He also told us that the people of a clan called Zànatsàra, who live
in the neighbourhood, claim some special rights in the Trìtrìva lake;
and when any one of their number is ill they send to see if the
usually clear dark green of the water is becoming brown and turbid.
If this is the case they believe it to be a presage of death to the
sick person.

Another legend makes the lake the former home of one of the
mythical monsters of Malagasy folk-lore, the _Fanànim-pìto-lòha_ or
“seven-headed serpent.” But for some reason or other he grew tired
of his residence, and shifted his quarters to the more spacious and
brighter lodgings for seven-headed creatures afforded by the other
volcanic lake of Andraikìba.

[Illustration: WATER-CARRIERS

The woman with a baby on her back has a full pitcher simply balanced
on her head]

This same bearer assured us that in the rainy season—contrary to
what one would have supposed—the water of the lake diminishes, but
increases again in the dry season. He told us that there is an outlet
to the water, which forms a spring to the north of the mountain. I
noticed a white line a foot or two above the surface of the water all
round the foot of the cliffs, showing a probably higher level than at
the time of our visit. It was popularly supposed to be unfathomable,
but some years after my visit the Rev. Johannes Johnson, of the
Norwegian Mission, sounded the lake in three places. The deepest
portion was found to be at the northern end, where it proved to be
four hundred and seventy-four feet in depth.


Walking round to the southern end of the crater edge, the lake, here
foreshortened, has a somewhat close resemblance in outline to that
of the lake of Galilee, as seen on maps; but I must confess that the
first sight of it in its deep chasm made me think much more of the
other lake of Palestine, the Dead Sea, in its profound gorge between
the Judean hills and the highlands of Moab. After making a slight
pencil sketch or two, I proceeded up the far higher saddle-back ridge
on the western side. Here the lake seems much diminished in size and
lying far down at an awful depth. But a magnificent and extensive
view is gained of the surrounding country: the long flat-topped
lines of hill to the east running many miles north and south, and
surmounted directly east by the two perfect cones of old volcanoes;
the peaked and jagged range of Vòlombòrona to the south-east; the
enormous mass of Ibity to the south, and then west, a flat region
broken by abrupt hills. To the north-west are the thickly populated
valleys towards Bétàfo, with many a cup-shaped hill and mountain
marking old volcanic vents; and beyond this a high mass of country
with serrated outline against the sky, showing the district of
Vàvavàto; and finally, coming to due north, is the varied grouping
of the hills, which form the southern termination of the central
mountain mass of Ankàratra. Between us and these again is the
extensive plain of Antsìrabé, with the white walls and gables of
the church and the mission buildings plainly visible in the bright
sunhsine, although ten or twelve miles distant—altogether, a panorama
long to be remembered. From this point also the significance and
appropriateness of the name given to the old volcano is clearly seen;
for Trìtrìva is apparently a combination of the words _trìtry_, a
word used to describe the ridge on the back of a chameleon or a fish,
and _ìva_, low, deep; so that the name very happily describes the
long steep western ridge or crater wall, and the deep chasm sweeping
down from it.


It may just be said further, that the slopes of the crater both
inside and out are covered with turf, which grows on a dark brown
volcanic soil, mingled with rounded pebbles of greenish or purple
lava, very compact and close in structure, and containing minute
crystals scattered sparingly through it. Occasional blocks of this
are found round the edge of the crater wall, and the same rock crops
out at many places on the steep inner slopes. I did not notice any
vesicular lava or scoria; and at a little homestead not far from the
north-eastern foot of Trìtrìva, I was surprised to find the _hàdy_
or fosse dug to twelve or fourteen feet deep almost entirely through
the red clay or earth found all through the central regions of the
island. The dark brown volcanic soil, here seen in section, appeared
to be only eighteen inches deep, with layers of small pebbles. So
that the discharge of the volcanic dust and ash appears to have
extended only a short distance from the mountain; at least it does
not appear to have been very deep, unless, indeed, there has been
much denudation. It must be remembered, however, that this point
is to the windward side of the hill; probably the volcanic soil is
deeper to the west of it. The much greater height of the western
wall of the crater is no doubt due to the prevailing easterly winds
carrying the bulk of the ejected matter to the west, and piling it up
to two or three times the height of the eastern side. After seeing
the amount of gneiss rock which must have been blown out of the
vent, I expected to have found much greater quantities of it, and in
larger blocks, than the very few and small fragments actually seen on
the outer slopes. The greater portion, however, is probably covered
up under the quantities of volcanic dust and _lapilli_ which were
subsequently ejected.

Trìtrìva, it will be evident from this slight sketch, will greatly
interest those who have a taste for geology and physical geography;
while its peculiar and somewhat awe-striking beauty makes it equally
worthy of a visit from the artist and the lover of the picturesque.
Certainly it became photographed upon our memory with a distinctness
which rendered it a vivid mental picture for many a day afterwards.


Returning northward from Antsìrabé towards the neighbourhood of
Itàsy, we have to pass to the westward of the great _massif_ of
Ankàratra; and the summits of this mountain mass being the highest
points in the centre of the island, a short space must be devoted
to a brief description of it. From the capital, Ankàratra is the
most prominent object in the landscape to the south-west, rising by
easy gradients to about twice the elevation of the general level of
Imèrina, and three or four points showing distinctly against the sky,
although they are from forty to forty-five miles distant. The highest
point is called Tsiàfajàvona (“that which the mists cannot climb”),
and is eighty-six hundred and thirty-five feet above sea-level. There
is no doubt that the whole mountain is an ancient volcano, for the
rock which has been poured out as lava from it is a black olivine
basalt. One peak, to the east, consists of mica-trachyte; and at
its northern foot there is an exposure of augite-andesite rock.
“Seen from Antanànarìvo, the mountain of Ankàratra seems to be one
almost uniform mass, but when actually there, it resolves itself
into deep ravines, enormous spurs, conspicuous peaks, and isolated
or continuous mountain masses. The spurs, which run out like so many
fingers in all directions, and to great lengths from the main body
of the mountain, do not represent so many lava flows, but have been
formed by the numerous streams which have excavated the deep and wide
valleys between them.”

The amount of lava that has issued from Ankàratra, says Mr Baron, is
truly astounding, reaching in places to a depth of twelve hundred
to fourteen hundred feet, and occasionally to as much as two
thousand feet. Occasionally the basalt assumes a columnar form; but
everywhere the surface of the lava is decomposed into soil. This,
and the apparent absence of all craters on and around the mountain,
seems to point to a long period having elapsed since the volcano was
active, probably several centuries. When on the highest point of the
mountain, there appear to be two ranges of summits; which lie in the
form of a cross, the intersection being marked by a small cone. On
the south-western slopes are considerable remains of forest, which
probably in former times covered a large proportion of the present
bare highland of the interior of Madagascar. It is by no means easy
to get natives to go with one to these lofty points. They are afraid
of the vengeance of the spirits of the mountains, who will punish all
who dare invade their territories.

In one of the valleys to the west of the Ankàratra _massif_ there is
a river called Antsèsika, which is quite lost to sight and sound for
about a mile and a quarter. It disappears under a mass of enormous
gneiss boulders, which have filled up the valley of the river, so
that the stream runs for a considerable distance at an immense depth
below the general level. In the upper part of its course, this river
passes over a series of grand falls before diving deep into the
earth, as just described. Its name of Antsèsika is very appropriate,
as it means “that which is thrust in.”


Some members of the extinct fauna of Madagascar (Æpyornis,
hippopotamus and crocodile) have been already noticed, but we must
here mention other discoveries made within the last few years. About
twenty years ago a skull, in a sub-fossil condition, was discovered
on the south-west of the island, and proved to be that of a gigantic
form of lemuroid animal. This skull is very much larger and longer
than those of any existing lemurs (which are fairly globular in
shape), and belonged to a creature more like a gorilla in size
and strength. More recently, at a place called Ampàsambazìmba,
which is five miles north of Itàsy, the remains of a number of
species (fourteen or fifteen) of extinct lemuroid animals have been
discovered; in fact this spot seems like the burial-ground of a whole
fauna now entirely passed away, and probably quite recently; for Dr
Standing, who conducted the excavations, thinks that not more than
five centuries have elapsed since some at least of these animals
were living. Several new species of apparently quite distinct genera
have been disinterred; they are mostly larger than any existing
lemuroid; and some of them form links between the true monkeys and
the lemurs—families of primates now very distinct from each other.
Some of these newly discovered creatures seem, from the position of
the nostrils, eyes and ears (like those of the hippopotamus), to have
been adapted to a partially aquatic life. There is abundant evidence
of the former existence of extensive lakes in the surrounding
country, where now there is only marsh or dry land. Others of these
extinct animals were arboreal; and from the remains of leaves and
branches, together with bones, not to mention other evidence, there
is no doubt that much of what is now open down and bare hill was
formerly covered with forest. There was therefore appropriate habitat
for them all; and their needs, whether in water or on the trees,
would be met by the former conditions of the country. It seems highly
probable that the physical changes of the interior have been the
chief cause of the extinction of so many living creatures, although
the advent of man upon the scene may have hastened the process.[23]


As this chapter necessarily touches less on popular and more on
scientific matters than the rest of this book, a few more words may
be added on the palæontology and geology of Madagascar. Besides those
extinct creatures already spoken of, remains of gigantic tortoises
have been discovered; also species of swine and river-hog; an ox
differing from the existing cattle of the country, and a large rail
and a goose exceeding in size any living species. All these belonged
to the Quaternary and Recent geological epochs. But far back in
the period of the Secondary rocks a species of sloth lived in the
forests, old forms of crocodile lived in the rivers; and there were
three at least of those gigantic lizards which were the largest
of all known land animals, and were the master existences of the
Jurassic period.

To sum up in a sentence or two the salient features of Madagascar
geology, it may be said that the whole eastern part of the island
from north to south, comprising probably about three-fifths of the
entire area, is composed of crystalline rocks—gneiss, granite,
mica-schist, etc. But the western two-fifths of its surface consists
chiefly of Secondary strata, including chalk and sandstones and
limestones of the Jurassic and Cretaceous, periods, as well as a
smaller area of rocks of the Eocene and Oligocene eras. A fringe of
Quaternary deposits is also found along a great part of the west
coast. It is evident, therefore, that the western side of the island
has been repeatedly under the sea during the geological periods
just mentioned, leaving the upper highland of ancient rocks as an
island not half the extent of the present Madagascar. It has quite
recently been found that a narrow edging of chalk rock extends for
about one hundred and twenty miles on the central part of the east
coast.[24] Plutonic rocks are found in several places in both the
great geological divisions of the island, and also many outflows of
volcanic rocks, of a much more recent date.

We have already spoken of the two principal groups of extinct
craters which exist in the central portion of Madagascar. In the
more southerly of these groups, Dr Mullens speaks of an ascent of
Ivòko, one of the finest old volcanoes, which is eleven hundred and
thirty feet high. This, he says, “was a vast crater, a quarter of a
mile across; the encircling wall was complete except at the south,
where the opening was fifty feet wide. Beneath us, half-a-mile to the
east, was another crater, Iatsìfitra, second only to Ivòko, with its
opening to the north. On the north-west shoulder of Ivòko were two
other large craters, overhanging the village of Bétàfo, two more were
close by to the north-east, and others were conspicuous ten miles
to the north. On the south again were several others, the horseshoe
shape being very marked in them all. Descending to the crater of
Iatsìfitra, we observed that the lava rocks which had issued from it
were black, sharp and fresh, as if they had been broken yesterday.
On the plain I counted thirty greater piles of lava, like ruined
fortresses, and numberless smaller ones. It was clear that like
the Phlegræan fields in Italy, the entire plain had at some time
been on fire; and that a hundred jets of flame and molten lava had
spurted from its surface, hurling their blazing rockets into the sky.
Altogether, in our journey to the west and south-west of the capital,
we counted a hundred extinct craters, extending over an arc of ninety


Madagascar appears, therefore, to be the extinct central portion of
a volcanic belt which extends from Great Comoro to the north-west,
through the other islands of the group, Nòsibé and northern and
central Madagascar, to Réunion to the east, a distance of thirteen
hundred and sixty miles. And it is noteworthy that at each extremity
of this belt there is a still active volcano—viz. Piton de Fournaise,
in Réunion, and one eighty-five hundred feet high in Great Comoro.


As a country showing numerous traces of volcanic disturbance,
Madagascar is almost every year visited by shocks of earthquake.
Happily these are not of a severe character, and little damage is
usually done; although often a strange subterranean roar accompanies
them and a tremor of several seconds’ duration. The Malagasy still
remember a rather severe earthquake which happened many years ago and
detached a large mass of rock from the cliffs on the precipitous west
side of the ridge on which Antanànarìvo is built. In September 1879 a
severe shock, felt most in the Vònizòngo district, was experienced,
and lasted for at least thirty seconds; this was accompanied by a
loud rumbling sound, as of violent thunder, and in places the ground
was split up by the shaking. In the year 1897, again, slight shocks
were very numerous, and on some days and nights the earth appeared
to have been in a constant state of tremor. These earth movements
were felt more especially in the region of old volcanic disturbance
about Lake Itàsy, where hundreds of slight shocks were experienced
during seven or eight months. On the night of 2nd November four or
five sharp movements occurred, one of which was more violent than
anything remembered by the Malagasy, and wakened the whole population
of the capital and around it in alarm. Chimney-stacks were thrown
down, walls were cracked and ceilings damaged. This earthquake
appears to have been felt over a very wide extent of country, from
Tamatave and the east coast to Mèvatanàna away north-west, and as far
as the Bétsiléo province in the south. It had the effect of stopping
temporarily the mineral spring at Antsìrabé, which is so exactly
like Vichy water; although, curiously enough, the hot-water springs,
within a few yards of the other, were not affected. In the Ifànja
marsh, a few miles from Itàsy, a small mud geyser is said to have

I will conclude this chapter, in which much has been said of extinct
forms of existence, by a glimpse at the ancient animal life of the
island. Let us try to sum up these in a few sentences.


It seems probable that Madagascar, when the first representatives
of mankind occupied it, was a country much more fully covered by
lakes and marshes, and also by forest, than it is at present. In
these waters, amid vast cane-brakes and swamps of papyrus and sedge,
wallowed and snorted herds of hippopotami; huge tortoises crawled
over the low lands on their margins; tall ostrich-like birds, some
over ten feet high, and others no larger than bustards, stalked
over the marshy valleys; great rails hooted and croaked among the
reeds, and clouds of large geese and other water-fowl flew screaming
over the lakes; on the sand-banks crocodiles lay by scores basking
in the sun; great ape-like lemurs climbed the trees and caught the
birds; troops of river-hogs swam the streams and dug up roots among
the woods; and herds of slender-legged zebu-oxen grazed on the open
downs. These were the animals which the first wild men hunted with
their palm-bark spears, and shot with their arrows tipped with burnt
clay or stone.[25]

And as we look further back through long-past geological ages,
when the clays and sandstones of the oolite, and the white masses
of the chalk were being deposited in the coral-studded tropic seas
and archipelagoes of Europe and other parts of the world, and when
Madagascar was probably no island, but a peninsula of Eastern Africa,
the mist opens for a moment, and we see vast reptile forms dimly
through the haze; great slender-snouted gavials in the streams and
lakes, sloths moving slowly along the branches of the trees, and
huge dinosaurs, sixty to eighty feet long, crawling over the wooded
plains, and tearing down whole trees with their powerful arms.

Such are some glimpses of the Madagascar of the past which the study
of its rocks and fossils already opens to the mental eye. We may
confidently look for further light upon the dim and distant bygone
ages as we learn more of the geology of the country. The thick
curtain which at present shrouds the old-world times will be yet more
fully lifted, and we shall probably, ere many more years have passed,
be able to draw many more mental pictures of the extinct animal life
of the great African island.

[23] See “Recherches sur les Lémuriens disparus et en particulier
sur ceux qui vivaient à Madagascar.” Par G. Grandidier. _Nouv.
Arch. du Muséum_, 4e série, tome vii., 144 pp. 1905. Also “On
Recently Discovered Subfossil Primates from Madagascar.” By Herbert
F. Standing, D.Sc. _Trans. Zool. Soc._, vol. xviii., pt. ii., pp.
59-217. May 1908.

These extinct lemuroids have been classed in the following
genera:—_Megaladapis_ (3 sp.), _Lemur_ (2 sp.), _Palæopropithecus_ (4
sp.), _Archæolemur_ (2 sp.), _Poradylemur_ (1 sp.), _Hadropithecus_
(1 sp.), _Mesopropithecus_ (1 sp.), and _Archæoindris_ (1 sp.).

[24] No rocks of the Primary formations have been discovered in
Madagascar, nor does it seem probable that any exist.

[Sidenote: THE VAZÌMBA]

[25] The Vazìmba, the supposed earliest inhabitants of the interior,
are said to have not known the use of iron, but to have had spears
made of the hard, wiry bark of the Anìvona palm, and to have employed
arrow-heads made of burnt clay. No flint weapons have yet been
discovered in Madagascar.



A few years ago I was invited by the Friends’ Foreign Missionary
Association to accompany one of their missionaries, Mr Louis Street,
on a journey to some of the southern portions of Madagascar. The
object of this journey was twofold: firstly, to visit the scattered
Christian congregations connected with the London Missionary Society,
and to preach to and teach the people; and secondly, to gain some
more accurate information as to the geography and physical features
of the south-eastern provinces, and the dialects and customs of the
different tribes inhabiting those parts of the great island. At that
period (in the seventies) Madagascar was still unmapped and only
very partially explored. A very large proportion of the country was
still a _terra incognita_; so that missionary journeys away from
the neighbourhood of the capital had all the charm of novelty and
exploration. Its physical geography, its geology, and its botany and
natural history were all practically unknown; so I looked forward
with intense interest to seeing new provinces and new people; nor was
I disappointed in this expectation.

Like all journeys in Madagascar until about twelve years ago, this
one was made by the native conveyance, the _filanjàna_ or light
palanquin (see Chapters II. and III.), and also, as will be seen,
by frequent voyages in canoes. And although _filanjàna_ travelling,
like all sublunary things, had its drawbacks, I always enjoyed that
mode of getting over the ground. But in setting off on a journey
which was to last for several weeks, it was not always easy to get
started. You might engage your men for two or three weeks beforehand;
you might advance money to keep a hold on them; you might even induce
them to deposit a small sum with you as security; but one was never
quite sure that every man had arrived, and was going along with
you, until one had got clear away at least half-a-day’s journey.
All sorts of excuses would be made, or no reason at all be given,
especially if the journey was to be through a part of the island not
often traversed. The bearers were easily hired, but not so easily
_secured_. One man not turning up, another would go to seek for him,
and he, in turn, would have to be hunted for by his companions.


Travelling in Madagascar, at least by the main lines of road, is fast
losing its former characteristics. Along the easy gradients, the
bridged streams, and the embankment-crossed swamps traversed now by
good highroads, one is apt to forget how our bearers used to climb up
steep and rugged ascents, ford rivers, sometimes up to their necks in
rushing waters, and flounder through morasses. In fact, the bearers
are becoming somewhat demoralised by these easy and smooth roads, and
we now need to take a ride “across country” to realise what our early
experiences here were.[26] Mr Street and I, however, managed to get a
number of men, about fifty in all, to start with us; and as we were
not at all sure of finding native huts to stay in all through our
route, we took a tent with us, as well as provisions and clothes, and
books to give away to the people who could read them. Towards the end
of May we left the capital for our southern journey.

One more word of preface to this chapter. Like the tour around the
Antsihànaka province, already described, this journey was, first
of all, a missionary one; and although I shall not trouble my
readers with details of this kind, it must be understood that my
companions and I took every opportunity we had of speaking, not only
to congregations, but also to any small gathering of people we came
across, of the great and glad truths of the Gospel, of which we were
the messengers.

I shall not describe here the route between Antanànarìvo and
Fianàrantsòa: the elevated tract of bare table-land, more than six
thousand feet above the sea; the cultivated valleys of the three
or four chief rivers; the green pleasant basins of Ambòsitra and
Ambòhinàmboàrina; the enormous rocks of Angàvo, and the belt of
grey-lichened forest above Nàndihìzana. There were, however, three
points which struck me in the Bétsiléo province as being very
different from what we see in Imèrina. First, was the much bolder
and grander scenery; the mountains are higher in the south, and the
gneiss and granite rocks rise up in stupendous masses of stone, such
as we do not often see in the northern province.

Then there was the elaborate system of rice cultivation, far
surpassing anything that can be seen in Imèrina. This was noticeable
after four days’ journey, but it appeared to be carried to the
highest point of perfection in the wide valley south of Ambòsitra.
Not only are the valleys and hollows terraced, as in Imèrina—the
_concave_ portions of the low hills and lower slopes of the
high hills—but the _convex_ portions also are stepped up like a
gigantic staircase for a great height. It was a pleasant sight
to see, speaking of industry and skill and practical knowledge
of hydrostatics; for how water could be brought to some of the
lower elevations surrounded by lower ground was more than we could
discover. Many of these were terraced up to their highest point, the
narrow lines of rice-plot running round them in concentric circles,
so that there was not a square yard of ground left unproductive.


The third particular in which the Bétsiléo country differs—although
the _past_ tense would be now more appropriate—from Imèrina is in the
variety and ornamental character of the tombs and other memorials of
the dead. Leaving out of consideration the modern stone tombs erected
in the vicinity of the capital, it is a remarkable fact that there is
no native Hova style of carving or ornamentation. Neither in their
dwellings nor their tombs, neither in their household utensils nor
their weapons, does there ever seem to have existed among the natives
of Imèrina anything like indigenous art. But in Bétsiléo there is
carving both in the houses and the tombs; the central posts of the
former are elaborately ornamented, and also portions of the exterior
woodwork; and the curious massive timber posts, with framework for
holding the skulls and horns of bullocks killed at funerals, have a
variety of decoration which is well worthy of study.


Ambàtovòry rock and wood are in the distance]


The first thing that attracted my attention in travelling south,
after four or five days’ journey, was that the upright stones placed
near graves were not the rough undressed slabs common in Imèrina, but
were finely dressed and squared and ornamented with carving. Coming
after that to Ambòsitra, I first met with one of the memorial posts
just mentioned. This was a piece of timber, seven or eight inches
square and about ten feet high, with pieces of wood projecting from
a little below the top, so as to form a kind of stage. Each face
of the post was elaborately carved with different patterns arranged
in squares. Some of these were concentric circles, a large one in the
centre, with smaller ones filling up the angles; others had a circle
with a number of little bosses on them; others had a kind of leaf
ornament, and in others parallel lines were arranged in different
directions. The narrow spaces dividing these squares from each other
had in some cases an ornament like the Norman cheiron, and in others,
something similar to the Greek wave-like scroll. The whole erection
with its ornamentation bore a strong resemblance to the old runic
stones, or the manorial crosses of Ireland and the Scottish highlands.

A day or two’s journey farther south brought us to a tract of country
where there was a profusion of carved memorials scattered along
the roadside, and in all directions visible on either hand. And on
reaching a rounded green hill west of the road, the old and deserted
village of Ikangàra, we saw that there was a large number of tombs
and memorial posts close together, so we went to inspect them more
minutely. Within a short distance were some forty or fifty tombs, and
on further examination there appeared to be at least half-a-dozen
different kinds:

(1) The largest tombs—there were two of them—were of small flat
stones, built in a square of some twenty to twenty-five feet, and
about five feet high. But all around them was a railing of posts and
rails, all elaborately carved with the patterns just described.

(2) Another kind of tomb was formed by a square stone structure,
about twelve feet each way and four or five feet high, but on the top
was an enclosure of carved posts and lintels about eight feet high,
with a single carved post in the centre.

(3) A third kind of monument was a massive block of granite about
ten feet high, with carved posts at the corners and touching them,
and connected by cross-pieces; on these the skulls and horns of the
bullocks killed at the funeral of the person commemorated were fixed.

(4) Another kind of memorial was a massive square post of wood, about
twenty feet high and fifteen inches square, carved on all four sides
from top to bottom. There were four or five of these enormous posts
here; and in one case there was a pair of them, as if to form a kind
of gateway.

(5) Still another kind was a great block of dressed granite, with
iron hooping round the top, in which were fixed a dozen or more pairs
of slender _iron_ horns.


All the way along the road to Ambòhinàmboàrina we came across
different combinations of memorial posts, and of dressed fine white
granite in upright blocks, in many cases arranged in couples, so
that they were very conspicuous all over the surrounding country.
Before leaving the subject of ornamentation among the Bétsiléo, I may
notice that the window shutters of their houses, the wooden fixed
bedstead—looking more like a cupboard than a sleeping-place—and other
portions of the interior, are (or were) elaborately carved with the
patterns already mentioned and other designs.[27]

In the early part of June we left the Bétsiléo capital for the
south, intending if possible to make our way through the forest
to the south-east coast, and thence travel to Fort Dauphine, the
southernmost Hova military station. The route south from Fianàrantsòa
is for many miles through a valley between lofty hills; and there one
gradually ascends to a point where the valley ends, and at a place
called Ivàtoàvo (“high rock”) one gets a most extensive prospect,
of a comparatively level plain stretching away for many miles, and
dotted all over with the green ring-shaped _vàla_ or homesteads of
the Bétsiléo. This plain is surrounded with the grandest and boldest
mountains, many of them rising sheer from the level in many hundred
feet of bare gneiss rock, and in the most picturesque outlines. To
the north-west one lofty spire of rock has a flat-topped head, much
resembling the Pieter Botha mountain in Mauritius. I was afterwards
told that it was formerly obligatory on a young man wishing to marry
a girl from the district that he should carry his bride on his back
to the summit of this rock, and bring her down again. It appeared
as if one might almost as well attempt to scale a church spire; but
probably there are crevices and hollows which would make such a feat
not altogether impossible.

Our Sunday at a village on the plain was employed in our usual way,
preaching there, and visiting other places. After speaking at a short
service myself, I left my companion at midday to go to Iàritsèna,
a village about five hundred feet above the level; but it really
looked insignificant compared with the towering rocks beyond it.
The grand and varied forms of the mountains all around this plain
filled me with an exultant kind of delight. To the south were a
crowd of mountain-tops, peak beyond peak, with the greatest variety
of outline: one had the appearance of a colossal truncated spire;
another had a jagged saw-like ridge, another was like a pyramid with
huge steps, and another was like an enormous dome; but the varieties
were endless, and, as I passed along, the combinations of the giant
masses of bare rock changed every minute. Their summits were never
long free from clouds, and the changing effects of sunlight and cloud
shadow could only have been caught by the rapid use of a camera. The
summits of many of the peaks must be at least three thousand feet
above the plain. These “everlasting hills,” these “strong foundations
of the earth,” recalled passages in the Psalms and the Prophets,
speaking of Him whose “righteousness is like the great mountains.”

At my little village congregation this afternoon, many of the girls
and women wore a circular ornament suspended from their necks; this
was formed of the end of a _conus_ shell ground down and generally
with a red bead in the centre. This kind of decoration, called
_félana_, is also worn by men among the Sàkalàva, but on the side of
their temples, and by the Bàra people on the crown of their heads.

[Sidenote: PARAKEETS]

Until taking this journey I had not seen in any number the pretty
little parakeet of which Madagascar possesses a peculiar species
(_Psittacula madagascariensis_). But we noticed a large flock of
these birds one day; and their light green plumage, with whitish
breasts and greyish-white heads, render them rather conspicuous.
They go in large flocks, often as many as a hundred together, and
sometimes do considerable damage to the rice crops. The two sexes of
this parakeet show great affection for each other, the pair sitting
close together on their perch, from which habit they are often called

Two species of parrot are among the denizens of the Malagasy woods
almost all over the country. These parrots are both of sober plumage,
one being dark grey in colour, and the other slaty-black. But they
are both intelligent birds, and can easily be taught to speak a few
words and to whistle a tune. Their long whistling cry, as if going up
the gamut, may be frequently heard in the outskirts of the woods.
The grey species (_Coracopsis obscura_), which is the larger of the
two, is _fàdy_ or sacred with the chiefs of the Vèzo Sàkalàva, as
they say that one of their ancestors was saved from death by hearing
the shrill piercing cries of a flock of these birds. The black
species (_Coracopsis nigra_) is about a third less in size. Both
kinds are more terrestrial and less arboreal in their habits than
most parrots, nor do they make much use of their claws to convey food
to the mouth.


The following day, passing over a river close by Ambòhimandròso, we
had a most awkward bridge to cross. The native engineer had made it
in two spans, not, however, in a straight line, but forming almost a
right angle with each other. There were two or three massive balks of
timber; but as these were not on a level, and some had slipped down
three or four feet, the passage over was neither easy nor pleasant.
Many of our bearers hesitated a good deal, as the bridge was sixteen
to eighteen feet above the water, which roared like a mill-race
between the rough pier and the river banks.

All about this neighbourhood we noticed great numbers of ant-hills,
of a much larger size than any we had seen elsewhere. They are
conical mounds of a yard or so high, and are made by a white or
yellowish ant, the one spoken of in a well-known Malagasy nursery
tale. Breaking off a piece of one of the mounds, the ants could
be seen in a state of great excitement, running in and out of the
circular galleries which traverse their city. There are vast numbers
of these ants in one ant-hill; they have a queen, who is nearly an
inch long, while her subjects are not half that size. A serpent is
said to live in many of these ant-nests, and the people maintain that
it is eventually eaten by the inhabitants.

Between the point we had now reached and the sea is a great wooded
and rounded mountain which we could see about twenty miles away, and
which we found was the celebrated Ambòndrombé, the Malagasy Hades,
in which they believed that the souls of their ancestors had their
abode. There are said to be large caves in the mountain, and it is
regarded with much superstitious fear by the people. The mountain
looked dark and gloomy, and has a very regularly curved outline from
north to south, looking like the segment of an immense circle.


The iron horns at the top are in place of bullocks’ horns usually
placed on such memorials]

[Sidenote: “BOUND BY BLOOD”]

About twenty miles to the east of our route, although perfectly
hidden by the intervening rugged country and lines of forest-covered
hills, is a very strongly defended Tanàla town called Ikòngo, a
place which maintained its independence of Hova domination until
the French conquest. With considerable difficulty and some personal
risk, my friend, Mr G. A. Shaw, managed to gain permission to visit
this stronghold and introduce Christian teaching. The native chief,
who became very friendly, wished to become closely allied to him by
the custom of _fàto-drà_, or _fàti-drà_. This is a curious ceremony,
in use among many Malagasy peoples, by which persons of different
tribes or nationalities become bound to one another in the closest
possible fashion. The name for it of _fàto-drà_—_i.e._ “bound by
blood”—denotes that its object is to make those entering into the
covenant to become as brothers, devoted to each other’s welfare, and
ready to make any sacrifice for the other, since they thus become of
one blood.

The ceremony consists in taking a small quantity of blood from the
breast or side of each contracting party; this is mixed with other
ingredients, stirred up with a spear-point, and then a little of
the strange mixture is swallowed by each of them. Imprecations are
uttered against those who shall be guilty of violating the solemn
engagement thus entered into. A few Europeans, who have overcome
their natural disgust to the ceremonial, and to whom it has been a
matter of great importance to keep on good terms with some powerful
chief, have occasionally consented to make this covenant. Thus
the celebrated French scientist, M. Alfred Grandidier, became a
brother by blood with Zomèna, a chief of the south-western Tanòsy,
in order to gain his good will and help in proceeding farther into
the interior. But in his case the blood was not taken from the
contracting parties, but from an ox sacrificed for the purpose; the
ceremony is then called _famaké_. In this case, a pinch of salt, a
little soot, a leaden ball, and a gold bead were put into the blood,
which was mixed with water. Sometimes pulverised flint, earth and
gunpowder are added to the mixture. In the case of Count Benyowski,
who in 1770 was made king of a large tribe on the eastern coast, he
and the principal chiefs sucked a little blood from each others’
breasts. The Hova formerly followed a similar custom, but with some
variations; and so lately as 1897 a high French official made a
somewhat similar covenant, with a principal chief in the extreme
south of the island. The _fàto-drà_ has doubtless been observed by
the various tribes in all parts of Madagascar, but there appears to
have been a good deal of difference in the details of the ceremonial
attending it.


We spent a day at Imàhazòny, the last Hova military post in this
direction, before plunging into the unknown route across the forest
to the coast. The people from the little _vàla_ (homesteads) came
running out to see us as we went by, most of them having never seen
a white face before. We noticed how different the Bétsiléo dialect
is from the Hova form of Malagasy; the _n_ in the latter is always
nasal (_ng_) in the former; while numerous words are shorter than
their equivalents as spoken in Imèrina; and the consonantal changes
are numerous. Besides this, the vocabulary is very different for many
things and actions. About two hours’ ride on the following morning
brought us to the large village of Ivàlokiànja. We went into a house,
the best in the village, for our lunch; it was the largest there, but
was not so large as our tent (eleven feet square), and the walls were
not six feet high. The door was a small square aperture, one foot
ten inches wide by two feet four inches high, and its threshold two
feet nine inches from the ground; so that getting into most Bétsiléo
houses is quite a gymnastic feat, and it is difficult to understand
how people could put themselves to so much needless inconvenience.
Close to it, at the end of the house, was another door, or window
(it was difficult to say which, as they are all pretty much the same
size!), and opposite were two small openings about a foot and a half
square. The hearth was opposite the door, and the fixed bedstead
was in what is the window corner (north-west) in Hova houses. In
this house was the first example I had seen of decorative carving in
Malagasy houses; the external faces of the main posts being carved
with a simple but effective ornament of squares and diagonals. There
was also other ornamentation, much resembling the English Union Jack.
The gables were filled in with a neat plaited work of split bamboo.
The majority of the houses in this and most of the Bétsiléo villages
are only about ten or twelve feet long by eight or nine feet wide,
and the walls from three to five feet high. Hereabouts, the doors
seem generally to face the north or north-west, and the house runs
nearly east and west. Hova houses of the old style, on the contrary,
are always placed with their length running north and south, and
their single door and window facing the west—that is, on the lee-side
of the house.




As Ambinàny, the Tanàla[28] chief, whose village we were bound for,
did not make his appearance, we went off in the afternoon to another
village, Iòlomàka, about three or four miles away to the south-east.
It was a cold unpleasant ride in the drizzling rain. We reached the
village, which is situated on a bare hill, in an hour and a quarter,
and with some difficulty found a tolerably level place on which to
pitch the tent, but everything was wet. The rain came down faster
than ever, and began to come through the canvas in some places.
During the afternoon we in our tent formed for the villagers a free,
and evidently popular, exhibition, which might have been entitled,
“The Travelling Foreigners in their Tent.” We and our belongings,
and our most trivial actions, were the subject of intensest interest
to the people. They came peeping in and, uninvited, took their seats
to gaze. I suspect they thought we travelled in a style of Oriental
magnificence, for my companion’s gorgeous striped rug evidently
struck them as being the _ne plus ultra_ of earthly grandeur. But
_we_ did not look upon ourselves this evening quite in that light;
for the slightly higher ground on two sides of the tent led the water
_into_ the structure, and there was soon a respectable-sized pool on
my friend’s side of the tent, above which the boxes had to be raised
by stones and tent-hammers; while the drip upon our beds raised the
probability that we might be able to take our baths in the morning
before getting up. It was our dampest experience hitherto of tent

The following evening found us at Ivòhitròsa, after one of the most
difficult and fatiguing journeys we had ever taken in Madagascar. It
was quite dark when we arrived here, wet, weary, muddy and hungry,
having eaten no food since the morning.


But to begin at the beginning. Bed was so much the most comfortable
place, with a wet tent, a small pond at one end of it, and a mass
of mud at the other, that we did not turn out so early or so
willingly as usual, especially as there was a thick mist and heavy
drizzle, as there had been all night. The general public outside,
however, evidently thought it high time the exhibition opened for a
morning performance; and so, without our intending it, there _was_
a performance, which, if there had been a daily paper at Iòlomàka,
might have been described as consisting of five acts or scenes, as
follows:—_Scene first_: Distinguished foreigners are seen lying in
bed, so comfortably tucked up that they feel most unwilling to get
out on to the wet and muddy floor. Curtains only half drawn (by
an eager public) during this act. _Scene second_: Somewhat of a
misnomer, as D. F. were, by the exercise of some ingenuity, _not_
seen during the operations of bathing and washing. _Scene third_: D.
F. seen by admiring public—who again admitted themselves—in the act
of brushing their hair and performing their toilet. _Scene fourth_:
D. F. seen at their breakfast; the variety of their food, dishes,
plates, etc., a subject of mute amazement. _Scene fifth and last_: D.
F. seen rapidly packing up all their property for their approaching
departure. _N.B._—Probably their last appearance on this stage. We
packed up in the heavy drizzle, and fortunately, just as we were
about to start, three or four Tanàla came up and agreed to be our
guides. We had to wait until they had their rice, but at last we got
away, soon after ten o’clock, rather too late as it turned out.

Our way for more than two hours was through the outskirts of the
forest: a succession of low hills partially covered with wood, and
divided from each other by swampy valleys. In these we had two or
three times to cross deepish streams by bridges of a single round
pole, a foot or two _under_ water, a ticklish proceeding, which all
our luggage bearers did not accomplish successfully. After crossing a
stream by the primitive bridge of a tree which had fallen half over
the water, we entered the real forest, our general direction being to
the south-east.

And now for an hour and a half we had to pass through dense forest
by a narrow footpath, where no _filanjàna_ (palanquin) could be
carried (at least with its owner seated on it). Up and down, down
and up, stooping under fallen trees, or climbing over them, soon
getting wet through with the dripping leaves on either hand, and
the mud and water underfoot—we had little time to observe anything
around us, lest a tree root or a slippery place should trip us up. At
two-fifteen we came to an open clearing, and thought our difficulties
were over, but presently we plunged into denser forest than ever,
and up and down rougher paths. Notwithstanding the danger of looking
about, it was impossible to avoid admiring the luxuriance of the
vegetation. Many of the trees were enormously high, and so buttressed
round their trunks that they were of great girth at the ground. The
tree-ferns seemed especially large, with an unusual number of fronds;
and the creeper bamboo festooned the large trees with its delicate
pinnate leaves.

[Sidenote: A DEEP GORGE]

It soon became evident that we were descending, and that pretty
rapidly. For a considerable distance we had a stream on our left
hand, which roared and foamed over a succession of rapids, going to
the south-east; and every now and then we caught glimpses of the
opening in the woods made by the stream, presenting lovely bits of
forest scenery in real tropical luxuriance. The sun shone out for a
few minutes, but presently it clouded over, and heavy rain came on.
The increasing roar of waters told of an unusually large fall, and in
a few minutes we came down an opening where we could see the greater
part of it, a large body of water rushing down a smooth slope of rock
about a hundred feet deep, and at an angle of forty-five degrees.
Three or four times we had to cross the stream, on rocks in and out
of the water, with a powerful current sweeping around and over them.
We found after a while that we had come down to the side of a deep
gorge in the hills which rose hundreds of feet on each side of it,
and down which the stream descended rapidly by a series of grand
cascades to the lower and more open country which we could see at
intervals through openings in the woods.

At half-past four we emerged from the forest and came down by a steep
slippery path through bush and jungle. And now there opened before
us one of the grandest scenes that can be imagined. The valley, down
which we had come, opened out into a tremendous hollow or bay, three
or four miles across, and more than twice as long, running into the
higher level of the country from which we had descended. The hills,
or, rather, edges of the upper plateau, rise steeply all round this
great bay, covered with wood to their summits, which are from two
thousand to three thousand feet above the lower country. Between
these bold headlands we could count four or five waterfalls, two
of them falling in a long riband of foam several hundred feet down
perpendicular faces of rock. Between the opening points of this great
valley, three or four miles apart, could be seen a comparatively
level undulating country, with patches of wood and the windings of
the river Màtitànana. On a green hill to the north side of the valley
was a group of houses, which we were glad to hear was Ivòhitròsa,
our destination. This hill we found was seven hundred feet above the
stream at its foot, but it looked small compared with the towering
heights around it. At last we reached the bottom of the valley,
crossed the stream, and presently commenced the steep ascent to the
village. It was quite dark before we reached it, muddy, wet and tired
out; we had been eight hours on the way, and five and a half on foot
over extremely rough and fatiguing paths. The native chief and his
people had overtaken us in the forest and went on first to prepare a
house for us.


We found that the best dwelling in the village was ready, and a
bright fire blazing on the hearth. It was with some difficulty that
we got all our baggage arranged inside, for, although the largest
house available, it was rather smaller than our tent, and nearly a
quarter of it was occupied by the hearth and the space around it. At
one side of the fire were sitting four young women, the daughters of
the chief. A glance at these young ladies showed us that we had come
into the territory of a tribe different from any we had yet seen.
They were lightly clothed in a fine mat wrapped round their waists,
but were highly ornamented on their heads, necks, and arms. A fillet
of small white beads, an inch or so wide, was round their heads,
fastened by a circular metal plate on their foreheads. From their
necks hung several necklaces of long oval white beads and smaller
red ones. On their wrists they had silver rings, and a sort of broad
bracelet of small black, white, and red beads; and on every finger
and on each thumb were rings of brass wire. In the glancing firelight
they certainly made a striking picture of barbaric ornamentations;
and notwithstanding their dark skins and numerous odd little tails
of hair, some of them were comely enough. We had soon to ask them to
retire in order to stow away our packages and get some tea ready.
The house was raised a foot or so from the ground, the inside lined
with mats, and so was a pleasant change from our damp lodgings of the
previous evening.

[Sidenote: RICE-HOUSES]

Next morning, on opening our window, we had before us, two or three
miles across the great basin or valley, three waterfalls, one
descending in a long white line and almost lost in spray before it
reaches the bottom. The sunlight revealed all the beauties of the
scene around us, and made us long for the power to transfer to canvas
or paper its chief outlines. Were such a neighbourhood as this in
an accessible part of any European country, it would rapidly become
famous for its scenery. We found the village of Ivòhitròsa to consist
of twelve houses only, enclosed within a _ròva_ of pointed stakes;
but besides these are several rice-houses or _tràno àmbo_ (“high
houses”) mounted on posts five or six feet above the ground, each
post having a circular wooden ring just under the flooring rafters,
and projecting eight or nine inches, so as to prevent the rats
ascending and helping themselves to rice. I sincerely wished last
night that the dwelling-houses had a similar arrangement, for the
rats had a most jovial night of it in our lodgings, being doubtless
astonished at the number and variety of the packages just arrived.
The house we are in, as well as others in the village, has carved
horns at the gables, not the crossed straight timbers so called in
Hova houses, but curved like bullocks’ horns. The people appear to
have no slaves here, for the daughters of the chief, in all their
ornaments, are pounding rice, four at one mortar.

At this part of the island the high interior plateau seems to descend
by _one_ great step to the coast plains, and not by _two_, as it does
farther north; for our aneroid told us that we came down twenty-five
hundred feet yesterday, and that the stream at the foot of this hill
is only five hundred or six hundred feet above sea-level. And the two
lines of forest one crosses farther on are here united into one.

The men and many of the women wear a rather high round skull-cap made
of fine plait; the women wear little except a mat sewn together at
the ends, so as to form a kind of sack, and fastened by a cord round
the waist, and only occasionally pulled up high enough to cover the
bosom. Those who are nursing infants have also a small figured mat
about eighteen inches square on their backs and suspended by a cord
from the neck; this is called _lòndo_, and is used to protect the
child from the sun or rain, as it lies in a fold of the mat above the
girdle. Some of the men wear a mat as a _làmba_, and only a few have
_làmbas_ of coarse _rofìa_ or hemp cloth. The people here blacken
their teeth with a root, which gives them an unpleasant appearance
as they open their mouths; not all the teeth, however, are thus
disfigured, but chiefly those at the back, leaving the front ones
white; in some cases the lower teeth are alternately black and white.

The morning of one of our four days at Ivòhitròsa was employed in
trying to get a good view of the largest of the waterfalls which pour
down into the large valley already mentioned. Mounting a spur of the
main hills, we had a good view of this chief fall up a deep gorge to
the south, and so opening into the main valley as not to be visible
from the village. This is certainly a most magnificent fall of water.
The valley ends in a semicircular wall of rock crowned by forest, and
over this pours at one leap the river Màtitànana. Knowing the heights
of some of the neighbouring hills, we judged that the fall could not
be less than from five hundred to six hundred feet in depth, and from
the foot rises a continual cloud of spray, like smoke, with a roar
which reverberates up the rocky sides of the valley; even from two or
three miles’ distance, which was as near as we could get, it was a
very grand sight.


While on this little excursion we had a feast of another kind. On
our way home we came across a large cluster of bushes full of wild
raspberries. This fruit is common on the borders of the forest, but
we never before saw it in such quantities, or of so large a size, or
of so sweet a taste. The Malagasy raspberry is a beautiful scarlet
fruit, larger than the European kind; and while perhaps not quite
equal in flavour to those grown in England, is by no means to be
despised; and we were able on that day to enjoy it to our heart’s



During our stay at Ivòhitròsa we were surprised and delighted with
the brightness and intelligence of many of the native boys. Although
the dialectic differences of the Tanàla speech are many as compared
with the Hova form of Malagasy, we obtained a large vocabulary from
them as well as names of the forest birds and animals, and also those
of trees and fruits. And as these forests and their vicinity are
the home of several of the lemurs which have not yet been noticed
in these pages, I will here give some particulars of four or five

The ring-tailed lemur (_Lemur catta_) is perhaps the best known
of all the lemuridæ, from its handsomely marked tail, which is
ringed with black and white bands, thus clearly distinguishing
it from all the other species of the sub-order. And while almost
every other lemur is arboreal, this species lives among the rocks,
over which they can easily travel, but can be only followed with
great difficulty. The palms of their hands are long, smooth and
leather-like, and so enable these animals to find a firm footing on
the slippery wet rocks. The thumbs on the hinder hands are very much
smaller than those of the forest-inhabiting lemurs, as they do not
need them for grasping the branches of trees. Their winter food is
chiefly the fruit of the prickly pear; while in summer they subsist
chiefly on wild figs and bananas. This species bears a sea voyage
fairly well, so that they are often seen in Mauritius and Réunion,
and even more distant places.

Another species of lemur, which inhabits the south-eastern forests,
is the broad-nosed gentle lemur (_Hapalemur simus_). This animal
is found among the bamboos, and it appears to subsist in a great
measure on the young shoots of that plant. For biting and mincing up
the stalks its teeth seem admirably adapted, as they are nearly all
serrated cutting teeth, and are arranged so as mutually to intersect.
It eats almost all the day long, and has a curious dislike of fruit.
It is furnished with a remarkably broad pad on each of the hinder
thumbs, so that it is able to grasp firmly even the smallest surfaces.

[Sidenote: MOUSE-LEMURS]

Perhaps the most beautiful and interesting—as well as the
smallest—lemuriæ animals inhabiting Madagascar belong to the group
called Cheirogale, or mouse-lemurs, of which there are seven species.
As their name implies, they are very small, the dwarf species
(_Cheirogaleus minor_) being only four inches long, with a tail of
six inches. This pretty little animal is remarkable also for its
large and very resplendent eyes, for the eye admits so much light
at dusk that quite an unusual brilliancy is produced. The brown
mouse-lemur (_Cheirogaleus major_) is larger than the last-named
species, being seven or eight inches long. Most, if not all, of the
species live in the highest trees, and make a globular nest of twigs
and leaves; they all appear to be nocturnal animals, as one might
suppose from the structure of their eyes. The smallest, or dwarf,
species, is said to be very shy and wild, very quarrelsome and fights
very fiercely. Some of these little animals, if not all of them, have
a time of summer sleep; and the tail, which is grossly fat at the
beginning of that period, becomes excessively thin at its close, its
fat being slowly absorbed to maintain vitality. The two (or three)
species of mouse-lemur here noticed inhabit the south-eastern forest
region; others appear to be confined to the north-western woods.

[26] A writer in a defunct newspaper, _The Madagascar Times_, of 10th
August 1889, describes in so true and graphic a fashion the old style
of Malagasy _filanjàna_ bearers, in the following rhymes, that I
think they are well worth preserving in these pages:—

    Bearing their burdens cheerily, laughing the livelong day,
    Pacing o’er dale and mountain, wending their toilsome way;
        Puffing and panting, up hills steeply slanting,
        Skilfully bearing the _filanjàna_ canting,
    Grumbling not at the sun’s scorching ray.
        Wading through swamp and brooklet, splashing their course along,
        Bounding through plain and forest, thinking the track not long.
    Chattering and pattering, with tongue ever clattering,
    Joyous if of it the Vazàha has a smattering;
        Growling not at the rain’s stinging thong.
    Pacing with even footsteps, never losing time,
    Changing places racing, like the measured beat of rhyme.
        Lifting and shifting, but never desisting,
        Always each other with pleasure assisting;
    Happy through all the toiling daytime.
        Tramping with wondrous vigour, moving with easy grace,
        Pausing not in their journey, dashing as in a race;
    Smiling and wiling, for a present beguiling,
    Ever joke-cracking, if the Vazàha is not riling—
        Such is the life of our native _mpilànja_,
        This is the marvellous way that they keep up the pace!

_Note._—“Vazàha” is the native word for Europeans; _mpilànja_ means a
_filanjàna_ bearer.


[27] My friend, Mr G. A. Shaw, who was connected for several
years with the Bétsiléo Mission, made a number of “rubbings” of
this peculiar ornamentation. On exhibiting many of these at the
Folk-lore Society, when I read a paper on this subject, one of the
members expressed a strong opinion that these patterns must have had
originally some religious signification; and another member remarked
that the patterns closely resembled those on articles from the
Nicobar Islands.

[28] The word “Tanàla,” which simply means “forest dwellers” (_àla_
= forest), is a name loosely given to a number of tribes of the
south-east, who inhabit the wooded regions and the adjacent country.
All, however, have their proper tribal names and divisions.



Our Sunday at Ivòhitròsa was such a novel and interesting one that
I shall depart for once from my rule of omitting in these chapters
mention of our religious work. It was a wet morning, so that it was
after eleven o’clock before the rain ceased and we could call the
people together. A good many had come up from the country round
on the previous day to see us, and we collected them on a long
and pretty level piece of rock which forms one side of the little
square around which the houses are built. When all had assembled,
there must have been nearly three hundred present, including our own
men, who grouped themselves near us. It was certainly the strangest
congregation we had ever addressed, for the men had their weapons,
while the women looked very heathenish. Some few had put some slight
covering over the upper part of their bodies, but most were just as
they ordinarily appeared, some with hair and necks dripping with
castor oil, and with their conspicuous bead ornaments on head, neck,
and arms. One could not but feel deeply moved to see these poor
ignorant folks, the great majority of them joining for the first
time in Christian worship, and hearing for the first time the news
of salvation. And remembering our own ignorance of much of their
language, the utter strangeness of the message we brought, and the
darkness of their minds, we could not but feel how little we could
in one brief service do to quicken their apprehension of things
spiritual and eternal. We had some of our most hearty lively hymns
and tunes, our men assisting us well in the singing; after Mr Street
had spoken to the people from a part of the Sermon on the Mount, I
also addressed them, trying in as simple a manner as was possible to
tell them what we had come for, what that “glad tidings” was which we
taught them. On account of the rain, work in the afternoon had to be
confined to what could be done in our tent, which was crammed full,
and in our house.[29]

That there was great need for enlightenment may be seen from what we
heard from the people themselves—viz. that there are (or were) eight
unlucky days in every month, and that children born on those days
were killed by their being held with their faces immersed in water
in the winnowing-fan. So that on an average, more than a quarter of
the children born were destroyed! The Tanàla names for the months
are all different from those used in Imèrina; they have no names for
the weekdays, and indeed no division of time by sevens, but the days
throughout each month (lunar) are known by twelve names, some applied
to two days and others to three days consecutively, and these day
names are nearly all identical with the Hova names for the months.
Each of the days throughout the month has its _fàdy_, or food which
must not be eaten when travelling on that day.

After our four days’ stay at Ivòhitròsa, we managed to get on our
way towards the coast, not, however, without having considerable
difficulty with our bearers, who were afraid of any new and hitherto
untried route, for we were the first Europeans to travel in this
direction. By tact and firmness we managed to secure our point; and
on the Thursday afternoon we came down to the river Màtitànana, which
is at this point a very fine broad stream, with a rapid and deep
current. It flows here through a nearly straight valley for four or
five miles in a southerly direction, with low bamboo-covered hills on
either side, and its channel much broken by rocky islands. To cross
this stream, about a hundred yards wide at this place, no canoes were
available, but there was a bamboo raft called a _zàhitra_.

[Sidenote: THE ZÀHITRA]

Of all the rude, primitive and ramshackle contrivances ever invented
for water carriage, commend me to a _zàhitra_. This one consisted
of about thirty or forty pieces of bamboo, from ten to twelve feet
long, lashed together by bands of some tough creeper or _vàhy_, which
said bamboos were constantly slipping out of their places and needed
trimming at every trip, and the fastenings had to be refixed. The
_zàhitra_ would take only two boxes and one man at a trip, besides
the captain of the raft, and when loaded was from a third to a half
of it under water. The civilisation of the people about here seemed
to have not yet produced a paddle; a split bamboo supplied (very
imperfectly) the place of one. Owing to the strong current and the
feeble navigating appliances available, not more than about four
trips over and back again could be made in an hour. And so there on
the bank we sat from a little after two o’clock until nearly six,
watching the ferrying over of our baggage, and then of our bearers.
At sunset a good number of our men were still on the wrong side of
the water, and so, as there was no possibility of getting them all
over that day, and neither Mr S. nor I relished the prospect of a
voyage on a _zàhitra_ in the dark, we crossed at a little after
sunset. We made a safe passage, but got considerably wet during its
progress; Mr S. took an involuntary foot-bath, and I a sitz-bath. The
rest of our men returned to a village overlooking the river, while
we went a little way up the woods and, finding a level spot, pitched
the tent there, our bearers who had crossed occupying two or three
woodcutters’ huts which were fortunately close at hand.


During the three or four hours’ waiting on the river bank we had a
good opportunity of observing the people from the village just above,
who came down to watch our passage over the water. Amongst them
was a girl whose appearance was so striking that I must attempt a
description of her. She was a comely lassie, although a dark-skinned
one, and was so ornamented as to be conspicuous among her companions
even at some distance. Round her head she had the same fillet of
white beads with a metal plate in the front which we had observed at
Ivòhitròsa, but from it depended a row of small beads like drops.
On each side of her temples hung a long ornament of hair and beads
reaching below her chin, several beads hung from her ears, and a
number of white and oblong beads were worked into her hair at the
back. Round her neck she had six strings of large beads, and another
passing over one shoulder and under the arm. On each wrist were
three or four silver bracelets, while on every finger and thumb
were several coils of brass wire. Her clothing was a piece of bark
cloth fastened just above the hips, over a skirt of fine mat, and
on each toe was a brass ring. Thus “from top to toe” she was got up
regardless of expense; she was probably the daughter of the chief;
anyhow, she was evidently the village belle, and seemed well aware of
the fact.

[Illustration: TANÀLA SPEARMEN

Note the wooden shields covered with bullock’s hide, and the charm on
a man’s breast. They are very expert spearmen]

Our route towards the sea was now over a comparatively level country,
but not without many steep ascents and descents, and generally
following the valley of the Màtitànana. As I took with me a good
theodolite, I was able to make a running survey of a large portion of
our journey, and to map, for the first time, that river valley. The
path was often hidden by long grass which was much higher than our
heads, the bearers’ feet being frequently hurt by the sharp prickly
grass called _tsèvoka_. We had beautiful views of the river, and the
foliage became most luxuriant; the valleys were full of the elegant
traveller’s tree, while in front of us whole hills were covered with
the lovely light green of the bamboo, with its graceful curving head
and fine pinnate leaves at every joint.

A very prominent feature in the vegetation of many places we passed
through was the _longòzy_, a plant which seemed frequently to
prevent anything else from growing (_Amomum angustifolium_). It has
a rod-like stem, rising sometimes from twelve to fourteen feet high,
with leaves a foot or more long, growing alternately on each side
the stem. At the base grow the fruits in a bright, smooth, scarlet
husk, two or three inches long, enclosing a white silky-looking
pulp containing a number of purplish-black seeds, the cardamom of
commerce. The pulp has a pleasant acid taste, but if one of the seeds
is broken a pungent burning sensation is experienced at the back of
the mouth.


The better kind of houses in these Tanàla villages have the walls
made of bamboo flattened and plaited together, while the poorer ones
are of the leaves of the traveller’s tree. Every house is roofed
with the latter material; in many of them the gable projects at
the ridge twice as much as at the eaves, so as to make a kind of
pent at each end. The gable timbers are frequently cut into a very
exact resemblance to ox horns. In most of the villages money seems
of little use to the people; they value beads or calico much more.
Every woman and girl, and many of the men and boys, are decorated
with beads, and these seem an important part of their property. Their
religion seems to consist chiefly of charms; charms against guns,
fever, crocodiles, etc. We purchased for a little cloth a charm
against gun-shot; this consisted of three hollow tin receptacles
resembling crocodiles’ teeth, joined together and filled with what
looks like coarsely cut tobacco. The former owner tells us that this
charm has such virtue that a musket ball is turned aside from the
fortunate wearer. Many of the people carry shields, which are made
of a circular piece of tough wood, about eighteen inches in diameter
and covered with undressed bullocks’ hide. A handle is cut out of the
solid wood at the back. The women in this Màtitànana valley carry
a broad knife or chopper stuck in their girdles, and resembling in
shape a butcher’s cleaver, with a short round handle; this is used
for cutting up manioc and other roots.


At one point on our route we passed through a dense jungle of bamboo,
requiring a bright look-out on the part of the bearers—and the borne
as well—to avoid damage from the sharp-edged stumps underfoot, and
the stems and tendrils overhead. But the effect of the numberless
thickly set, smooth, jointed stems, like slender columns below, and
the feathery canopy of delicate green above, was both curious and
beautiful. At one little stream we passed some fine specimens of
the _hòfa_, a screw-pine or pandanus, with the aerial roots in a
cone-shaped mass, rising five or six feet above the ground. A very
common tree about here is one with clusters of large leaves like
those of a horse-chestnut, and with a hard mottled green fruit as big
as a lemon, from which gum is made.

In a small open space among the trees we passed by almost the only
sign we had yet seen of anything like religious observances in the
Tanàla country. This was an upright stake in the ground with a
number of bamboos arranged round it, forming a cone-shaped erection;
in front of this several stones were fixed. At this rude altar the
heads of cattle, fowls, etc., are thrown as expiatory offerings; and
here also the people come to pray for blessings which they desire,
especially for children. We also passed on another day a long flat
stone supported by several smaller ones, forming a sort of altar, and
used for the same kind of offerings as those just described.

Following in the main the course of the river Màtitànana, we had
frequently to cross its tributaries, and found we were advancing in
civilisation as we proceeded. First, we had a single _zàhitra_ to
ferry us over; then two _zàhitra_ and a small canoe; then we got
good-sized canoes. A little after leaving the ferry we passed through
a large clump of immense banana-trees. They were at least forty
feet high, and with their smooth green stems—almost trunks—and grand
broad leaves, and great clusters of fruit, presented a magnificent
appearance. The fruit is called _òntsy_; these are about a foot long
and a couple of inches thick, and so a single one makes a fair meal.

[Sidenote: CROCODILES]

For several miles the river makes a great bend to the north, and
on following its banks again we saw crocodiles for the first time
on this journey. These were basking in the sunshine, perfectly
motionless, on a group of rocks just showing above the water. At
the distance we were I should not have noticed them but for my men
pointing them out; but with the glass every scale could be seen, and
very unpleasant-looking creatures they are in their slimy length,
with serrated back and tail, and rather small heads. Near them were
several large wading-birds, some white and others dark brown, and
called _àrondòvy_ (_i.e._ “protector of the enemy”). These birds
are constant attendants on the crocodiles, performing some service
for them; and where the birds are seen, the reptiles are never far
distant. We afterwards noticed that near all the villages on the
river banks a small space in the water was enclosed with stakes, so
that the women and children coming to draw water could do so without
fear of being seized by a crocodile, or swept off into the stream by
his tail.

From a remote period the Malagasy have been accustomed to resort to
ordeals for the detection of crime, and the ordeal by the _tangèna_
poison has already been referred to in these pages (see Chapter
III.). But among the Tanàla tribes an ordeal of another kind was
commonly employed to find out a guilty person; for anyone suspected
of wrong-doing was taken to the bank of the Màtitànana, or one of its
tributaries, where crocodiles abound. The people having assembled, a
man stood near the accused, and striking the water thrice, addressed
a long speech to the reptiles, adjuring them to punish the guilty,
but to spare the innocent. The accused was then made to swim across
the river and back again; and if he successfully accomplished this,
and was not hurt by the crocodiles, he was considered innocent, and
his accuser was fined four oxen. If, on the contrary, he was seized
and killed, he was supposed to have justly merited his fate. This
ordeal was termed _tangèm-voày_ (_voày_ = crocodile).

[Illustration: COIFFURES

Various styles of hairdressing among the Hova Malagasy women. The
upper figure on the right is in mourning with her hair dishevelled]


As we proceeded nearer the coast, we found by the style of
hairdressing among the women that we had come into the territory
of a different tribe to that amongst whom we had been travelling.
Many of the young women had a singular but somewhat elegant style of
coiffure. It was done thus: the hair was plaited in very fine braids,
and then twisted into thin flat circular coils of from two to two
and a half inches in diameter; these were symmetrically arranged,
one overlapping the other, in two rows, the upper one completely
encircling the head from the forehead to the back of the neck, and
the other ending below the ears. These young girls really looked
well, for they had the appearance of being well dressed. The women
here were more fully clothed than those of the Tanàla; the skirt of
fine mat is worn here, but there is more of it, and hemp cloth seems
in more common use.

The country became flatter, undulating, but with no prominent rising
grounds. The vegetation also was quite different from what we had
become accustomed to during the last four days. There were no more
bamboos, hardly any traveller’s trees, but large numbers of single
trees or small clumps of them. These were chiefly the _adàbo_, a
species of _Ficus_, a tree with massive smooth trunk and light brown
bark; they have a much more rounded and shapely outline than the
forest trees, and give the scenery quite an English appearance. But
the presence of an occasional fan-palm or cocoanut-palm lifting their
tall plumes aloft soon dispelled the illusion. The villages, too,
became numerous, and many of them are built five or six together—that
is, in lines of as many, only a short distance between them.

[Illustration: A FOREST RIVER

Immense arums (vìha) are in the foreground, and reflections of
Travellers’ trees are seen in the water]

We had a curious congregation on the Sunday at one of the two
villages where we spoke to the people, of whom a good many collected
together. But as heavy showers came on, most of our auditors were
standing under the elevated rice-houses (_tràno àmbo_), as we also
were. Still we were able to speak a few earnest words to them. Almost
in the midst of our speaking, the old chief of the village came up to
give us—a bottle of rum! and a fowl. The former of these presents,
as well as others of the same kind, were, as soon as darkness set
in, carried outside, and poured on the ground as the best way of
disposing of their contents. We were glad to find that the Taimòro,
among whom we had now come, did not, like the Tanàla, kill children
born on unlucky days, but by some ceremonies and offerings avert
the evils supposed to be connected with them.

[Sidenote: GREAT ARUMS]

A week’s journey from Ivòhitròsa brought us to a Hova military post
again—viz. to the town of Ambòhipèno, which is only a few miles
from the mouth of the Màtitànana river, and is the central one of
a line of three villages. Here we had a hospitable reception from
the governor and his officers, as well as from the congregation
and its pastor. Although the sea was still some miles distant, we
could distinctly hear the roar of the surf some time before reaching
Ambòhipèno. On a voyage to the seaside, which we made the day after
our arrival, we had a fine large canoe which had more sharply pointed
stem and stern than in those seen in Imèrina. We were struck by the
great arums (_vìha_) growing in thick masses along the banks in the
water. These were from twelve to fifteen feet high, with thick fleshy
stems and leaf-stalks, lily-like leaves, between two and three feet
long, and magnificent white flowers, with a scarlet pistil. The fruit
is occasionally used by the natives as an article of food. We picked
up some good shells (_Turritellæ_, _Cypræa_, etc.) on the seashore,
as well as corals, seaweed and sponges. Like almost every river on
the east coast, the mouth is closed by a sand bar, until the rains
of the wet season fill the river so full that the bar is broken for
a few weeks, and then the south-east winds and currents close it up

The greater part of two days were spent at Ambòhipèno in services and
school examinations, which latter were especially interesting and
satisfactory. We were amused by the decoration of the pulpit in the
native church, which was rather extraordinary. It was a high box-like
affair, part of the front being occupied by a picture of a European
ship, the other part by a church with a tall tower and spire; while
over these was a text (in Malagasy), “Says the owner of this house,
Fear”; although it would be difficult to find the passage in this
exact form. These objects, together with birds perched on trees, made
a curious mixture of subjects for pulpit decoration.


In the narrow lanes near the village we passed great numbers and many
varieties of butterflies in a few minutes’ ride. Judging from what
we saw, an entomologist would find a rich harvest in the Taimòro
country. Dr Vinson, a French naturalist who came up to the capital
in 1862, says: “The habits of the lepidoptera are much affected in
Madagascar by atmospheric changes. In the misty mornings everything
sleeps or hides itself under the damp foliage, but as soon as the sun
shines out, the forest, the footpath, the beds of the torrents, are
peopled with bright-coloured and light-flying butterflies. They give
themselves up to all kinds of frolic with a wanton joy; they court,
they pursue, they fly, interlacing and eddying in their flight in
the air like the brilliant flakes of a coloured snow.” In travelling
up through this eastern forest a few years later, but in the hotter
season of the year, I was struck by the number and variety of the
butterflies which crossed our path. There was the rather common one
of greyish-green with dark markings, the blackish-brown one with
two large blue spots, the widely distributed warm brown one with
black-edged wings, the pure white one, the white with orange edges,
the white with black edges, the white with small black spots near the
edge of the wings, the small yellow species, the small buff one, the
white with crimped edges, the minute brown and blue, and many others.
In damp places, a cloud of the smaller yellow and buff kinds may be
often seen sipping the moisture.

While staying near the forest I was several times struck by the
curious formation of the wings of one of the smaller species
of butterfly. The insect in question is of plain inconspicuous
colouring, chiefly shades of brown, and when at rest sits with the
wings erect. The noticeable point is that there are several strongly
marked and dark-tinted processes from the hinder part of the wings,
which resemble the head, eyes and antennæ of a butterfly, so that
when at rest it is very difficult to say which is the head and which
is the tail of the insect. The tail markings and points are so much
more strongly emphasised than the actual head and antennæ, that it
is only when the wings slightly open that one is undeceived. Mimicry
of one insect by another, and mimicry of leaves, grass, etc., by
insects, are of course well-known facts, but I do not remember to
have seen any similar instances noticed of resemblance between the
different parts of the same insect; but may not the reason of this
mimicry of the head by the tail be of some service in directing the
attention of birds and other enemies to the less vital part of the
butterfly’s structure? It is evident that the hinder portion of the
wings might be snapped at and broken off, and yet no serious injury
be done to the vital parts of the insect. However this may be, the
point appears to me to be worth noting down as a curious fact.


Talking with the people in the evening, we found we were in one of
the districts where the Arab influence must have been very strong in
former times. They are called Zafin Ibrahim (descendants of Abraham),
and told us they were connected with the Jews. There is no doubt,
however, that the Arabs had anciently an important settlement here,
and to some extent taught the use of Arabic letters and literature;
but being isolated from their fellow-countrymen and co-religionists,
they gradually became absorbed in the native population. It is
probable that many of the chiefs of the south-east tribes are of
Arab descent, and so are often lighter in colour than the mass of
the people. An intelligent young man gave me a paper containing
all the Arabic characters and many of the syllabic sounds, with
their equivalents in Malagasy. He had, about six years previously,
copied out for M. A. Grandidier, who was then exploring the coasts
of Madagascar, a number of extracts from native Arabic books of
prayers, genealogies, and sorcery. This young man’s father, then
dead, was one of the _ombiàsy_ or diviners, and his books of charms
and incantations, being supposed to be connected with idolatry,
were destroyed at the time of the burning of the idols in 1869. A
few years after our journey, two of the Bétsiléo missionaries, when
making an evangelistic tour among the south-east tribes, obtained
some pages of manuscript from this neighbourhood. These were
apparently written in Arabic; and on being submitted to an expert
in that language, were pronounced to be extracts from the Koran,
evidently copied by someone who did not know Arabic, and so were
full of errors; these quotations were no doubt used as charms and
invocations. (I may here notice that, very recently, copies of the
Malagasy scriptures have been boiled by the native diviners, and the
water sold as a very powerful charm!)

[Sidenote: SEA-BIRDS]

Being near the sea, we had opportunities of seeing many birds which
are oceanic in their distribution, among which are the frigate-birds
(one species), and the tropic-birds (two species). The former are
true pirates, living almost in dependence upon other fishing birds,
whom they force, when these are weaker than themselves, to give
up the fish they have taken. But they do also fish for themselves,
darting down upon the surface of the water. The white tropic-bird
is also an expert fisher, plunging sometimes to a great depth after
its prey. They remain all night on their nest, leaving it at sunrise
to fish in the open sea. After heavy storms the frigate-bird is
occasionally seen quite in the interior, being apparently driven
inwards by the violence of the wind.

Of the sea-birds proper, there are about a score kinds frequenting
the coasts of Madagascar, including those widely spread and
powerful-winged species belonging to the terns, the noddies, the
gulls, and the petrels. Very little, however, has been noted here as
to their habits, and they probably differ little, if anything, from
their fellows which are found all over the world. One of the terns
comes up into the interior, and has been shot in Imèrina, and so
also has one of the gulls; another is common on the Alaotra lake in

[29] I am glad to say that our visit was a means of calling attention
to the needs of the forest tribes; and that evangelists have been
stationed for many years past among these people, who are becoming
enlightened and Christianised.



From the Hova military post at Ambòhipèno, my companion and I made
our way southwards, or rather first to the south-west, intending to
visit the congregations at the three or four other important places
in this district, as well as some of those in their vicinity. This
part of Madagascar is a comparatively level or undulating country,
extending for many miles between the forest-covered mountains and
highlands to the west, and the ocean to the east, and only about
three hundred to four hundred feet above sea-level. The native
inhabitants were conquered—often with much cruelty and treachery—by
the Hova, about fifty years previous to the date of our visit, but
the cruelties of the wars carried on by the armies of Radàma I. and
Rànavàlona I. were not forgotten. Over large districts, all the male
population whose heads were above the armpits of the soldiers were
ruthlessly shot down or speared, and the women and children taken as
slaves, so that a large proportion of the slave population of Imèrina
were descended from the tribes in these south-eastern districts.
Since then, the people quietly submitted to the superior power; but
these military posts were still maintained with governors, officers,
and a small force of soldiers; and at most of them there was a
considerable display of military authority, the gates being guarded,
and the drum beaten at regular times every morning and evening. With
one notable exception, we were everywhere received with the greatest
kindness and respect. Abundant presents of food for us and our men
were brought wherever we stopped; every facility was given us to
speak to the people, and we were helped in every way to prosecute our

The country between Ambòhipèno and Màhamànina was varied by low
hills in all directions, and patches of wood, the traveller’s tree
appearing in great numbers. The fruit of this beautiful tree was seen
very conspicuously, forming three or four clusters of sheaths, about
a dozen in each, much resembling the horns of a short-horned ox.
These project from between the leaf-stalks, two in full bloom, and
the other two generally dying off, or shedding the seeds, or rather
the seed-pods. These are oval in shape, about two inches long, and
yellow in colour, something like very large dates. These, when ripe,
open and show each pod dividing into three parts, each of which is
double, thus containing six rows of seeds about the size of a small
bean. But what seems very curious is, that each seed is wrapped in
a covering exactly like a small piece of blue silk with scalloped
edges. I could not get these, however, without some difficulty from
the ants, which swarmed all over trunk, leaf-stalks, and leaves, and
resented vigorously any intrusion into their domains.


At Màhamànina we found old friends in the governor and his wife. The
_làpa_ or government house was the largest and finest house I had
ever seen in Madagascar, except the chief palace in the capital.
It was three storeys high, entirely of timber, with stout verandah
posts and very high-pitched roof; and everything here, gateways,
guard-houses and stockades, was of the most substantial character,
and made of fine massive timbers. After two days’ stay we proceeded
farther south, and at the village where we encamped for the night we
noticed a new style of coiffure among the women. Some of them had
their hair done in two rows of little balls, while behind the head
there was a piece of hollow wood ornamented with brass-headed nails
and fastened into the hair. In this they kept their needles and other
small property. Beads also were a good deal worn, and they had the
_lòndo_ or square mat on the back. At one village the young women
wear round the breast a broad band of neatly woven straw, ornamented
with a variety of patterns in different colours. It was rather
difficult to understand the talk of the people; the nasal _n_, the
peculiar intonation, and the pronouns and adverbs being all different
from the Hova forms, made their conversation a puzzle to us. Some, if
not all the people here, are a Sàkalàva colony from the west of the


We came the next day to a very boggy and difficult rice-valley.
Hereabouts the people make their _vàlam-parìhy_, or low earthen banks
between the rice-fields, with a foundation of small stakes stuck in
the ground, apparently to hold the earth together, as it seems less
tenacious and binding than that in Imèrina. When a good deal of the
earth has been washed away, it may easily be imagined that it is not
a pleasant thing walking along these banks. During the afternoon we
passed for some time over a slightly hollow tract thickly covered
with rounded lumps of dark brown rock resembling slag or scoria, and
full of holes like those produced by air-bubbles when the mass was in
a state of fusion. These were of all sizes, from a yard or two to an
inch in diameter, while the ground was covered with rounded pebbles
of the same material, of the size of small beans. This must surely
have been the bed of some ancient stream, long since diverted into
other channels by subsequent elevation of the surface. But whence was
this volcanic substance derived? For many miles westward there seems
no broken or rugged surface, nor anything to indicate subterranean
disturbance. Probably the great isolated mountain of Ivòhibé, which
we have seen for several days far away to the west, is an extinct
volcano, like so many hills farther north; and the ancient stream
has at some remote period cut through a dyke of lava and brought the
rolled and rounded fragments down its bed.

Walking about in the brilliant moonlight after our evening meal,
in a short time there was quite a crowd gathered together to watch
the extraordinary spectacle of two foreigners walking backwards and
forwards for no discoverable earthly purpose. After a little while we
stopped and began to talk to them, telling them of the old, but to
them perfectly new, story of the glad tidings, and of that “faithful
saying” which was worthy of their, and of all men’s, “acceptation.”

Travelling again towards the shore, we passed for some time through
country which was like a beautiful shrubbery, with low trees,
amongst which the _vòavòntaka_, with its perfectly globular green
or yellow fruit, the size of a large orange, was very plentiful and
conspicuous. There was also a tree, the _karàbo_, having enormous
pods with seeds like beans, but from two to three inches in diameter.
We passed fresh evidence of volcanic action in ancient streams of
lava, with sand and dust from some long extinct crater. Stopping at
sunset at a village called Màhavèlona, we found it, notwithstanding
its promising name (“causing to live”), the filthiest spot we had
seen in all our journey, quite worthy of the name given by a friend
to a place he stopped at, of “the well-dunged village.” We could
find no space where the tent could be pitched, and so began to look
for a house. There was one in the centre of the village that looked
of fair size, but the difficulty was, how to get to it, for it
was surrounded for a considerable distance by a slough of mud and
cow-dung that took our men nearly up to their knees. Happily there
were a few stout planks lying near, and with these we made a causeway
over the bog.


The following day, while waiting in the belt of wood bordering the
shore, we had an opportunity of testing the accuracy of accounts
given of the water procurable from the traveller’s tree, about which,
although backed by the authority of Mr Ellis, and an illustration in
his “Three Visits to Madagascar,” I had always felt rather sceptical,
as somewhat of “a traveller’s tale.” In fact I had never before seen
the tree where plenty of good water was not to be had; but here
there was none for several miles except the stagnant, brackish and
offensive water of the lagoon. (Even my friend, Baron, says that the
tree is always found where good water is procurable.) But we found
that on piercing with a spear or a pointed stick the lower part of
one of the leaf-stalks, where they all clasp one over the other, a
small stream of water spurted out, from which one could drink to the
full of good, cool, and sweet water. If one of the outer leaf-stalks
was forcibly pulled down, a quantity of water gushed out, so that we
afterwards filled a vessel with as much as we needed. On examining a
section of one of the stalks, a hollow channel about half-an-inch in
diameter is seen running all down the inner side of the stalk from
the base of the leaf. The large cool surface of the leaves appears
to collect the water condensed from the atmosphere, and this is
conducted by the little channel downward to the base. The leaf-stalks
are all full of cells and of water, like those of the banana. After
three hours’ walking along the shore in the heavy sand, with a
hot sun overhead, we were grateful to be able to draw from these
numberless vegetable springs, and we thanked God for the traveller’s
tree; we felt that its name was no misnomer. We afterwards found in
a village not far away that small water-pots were placed in a hollow
cut at the base of the leaves, so as to collect water for drinking
and household use.


[Illustration: TRAVELLERS’ TREES

In some places they are quite a feature of the landscape]


After five days’ journey from Màhamànina we reached a village
near Vangàindràno, another of the large Hova posts, and about three
hours’ ride from the sea. But here we met with a new and unexpected
experience, for we were prevented by the governor from going farther,
and in fact, all our men made prisoners and detained in the fort
for a couple of days, until we had agreed that we would not attempt
to travel farther southwards. He alleged that he was acting under
orders from the native government to allow no travelling south of the
Mànanàra river. Whether this was the truth or not, we never clearly
ascertained, nor any reason for such prohibition; but his whole
action was in such striking contrast to the courtesy with which we
were received everywhere else that it was difficult to believe he was
not exceeding his instructions, certainly in the harsh way in which
they were carried out. We had been repeatedly assured that there were
no difficulties in travelling along the coast and that the country
was perfectly tranquil, and that we could easily reach Fort Dauphine
in a week. However, there was no help for it; we had to abandon our
hope of seeing the congregations and people, as well as the country,
to the south, and on 11th July we turned northwards, “homeward
bound.” On one of the nights when we were thus stopped on our way,
we saw what is not at all a common sight—namely, a very well-defined
and distinct lunar rainbow. It looked pale and watery, however, quite
a ghost of the rainbow produced by sunlight. During many years’
residence in Madagascar, I have only seen one on two other occasions.

On the sides of the lagoons and marshes may be found the curious
pitcher-plant (_Nepenthes_). It is a shrub, about four feet high,
and its jug-shaped pitchers, four or five inches in length, contain
abundant water and numerous insects. The pitcher with its cover are
most remarkable modifications of the petiole or leaf-stalk; and this
plant, with a number of others, reverses the usual order of nature,
and instead of forming food for animals, secures animal life, in
the shape of insects, for its own nourishment. A French writer has,
not inaptly, compared the pitcher of _Nepenthes_ to the bowl of a
German meerschaum pipe; and Mr Scott Elliott says: “I found the
pitchers to be usually from a third to half full of the decomposing
remains of insects. In almost every pitcher there were live worms,
apparently living on the remains. Among the insects I found thirteen
species of beetle, ten species of butterfly or moth, seven species of
hemiptera (aphides, water-beetles, etc.); four species of hymenoptera
(bees, wasps, ants, etc.), of which one was a sand-wasp, nearly an
inch long; twelve species of diptera (mosquitoes, flies, etc.), two
grasshoppers, two dragonflies, and one spider.” The water contained
in the pitchers apparently contains some acid or other solvent, by
which the insects are slowly digested by the plant; and from the
above account it will be seen what a great variety of insect life is
entrapped, including even the largest and strongest insects.


On one of the afternoons when we were detained near Vangàindràno,
hearing a sugar-cane press at work at one end of the village, we went
to look at it in operation. Like many others we saw on this coast,
it consisted of a long hollowed-out trough, one end being left solid
for a foot or two, thus forming a slightly convex surface, with a
channel cut on either side for the expressed juice to run into the
trough. Over this and across it was a rounded tree trunk, seven or
eight feet long, with three short handles fixed into it; this is
turned backwards and forwards over small pieces of cane placed on
the convex surface, the juice being expressed by the mere weight of
the round trunk. The freshly expressed juice makes a pleasant drink;
after a day or two it begins to ferment, and is then much like fresh
cider; but it rapidly becomes too heady and intoxicating. A good deal
of _tòaka_ (rum) is made, and is a cause of much evil among the coast
tribes; but the people here appear not to understand the manufacture
of sugar. Their still is as rude a contrivance as their press; an
earthen pot to boil the juice, and a piece of iron piping fixed
through a vessel of cold water so as to condense the steam which
forms the spirit.

The people in this part of the country, who are called Taisàka, all
wear mats, as do the Tanàla and the Taimòro. To fasten the mat sack
about their waists, they use a girdle of bark cloth. Some of this
cloth (called _fànto_) is made by stripping off the bark of certain
trees, so that the whole comes off in one piece, forming a kind of
long bag, but open at each end. Another kind is made in a sheet of
about six feet long by four wide. It is prepared by being hammered
for a considerable time with a wooden mallet, the face of which is
cut in cross lines. This is chiefly women’s work. Very few of the
people had any garment made of woven cloth, indeed they seem to have
little, if any, knowledge of spinning or weaving. On the other hand,
they are clever in straw-work and in manufacturing mats and baskets.


Their houses are very small, made of a slight framework and filled in
with the midrib of the leaves of the traveller’s tree in the same way
that the _zozòro_ (papyrus) is used in Imèrina, and looking almost
exactly like _zozòro_. These leaf-stalks, which are called _falàfa_,
are fixed together on long fine twigs so as to make a kind of stiff
mat, the triangular stems easily fitting in alternately. These mats
are the ordinary mattress, and are used in various other ways. One
of them forms the door on either side of the house, being shifted to
one side or another as required, and is kept from falling by sliding
within a pole hung from the framework. The flooring, which is always
raised above the ground, is made of the bark of the traveller’s tree,
pressed flat so as to form a rough kind of boarding; while the thatch
of every house is the leaves of the same tree, which forms a neat and
fairly durable covering. Here also, as among the other coast tribes
which we have seen, the traveller’s tree might be called with equal
or greater propriety, “the builder’s tree.” The hearth is at one end
of the house, in the centre, with a strong square framework above it,
having two or three rows of shelves. The _tràno àmbo_, or elevated
house for storing rice, seems common to every tribe we have visited
since leaving the Bétsiléo province. The villages here are arranged
in groups of from two to half-a-dozen in a line, and with only a
small space between each group.

The rice-fields in this flat swampy district have a very different
appearance to those in Imèrina or Bétsiléo; they are like immense
pits, in some places dug out to some depth in the sides of the low
elevations. The people do not transplant their rice, as do those
of the central provinces, but reap it where it has been sown. We
continually came across traces of volcanic action; ancient streams of
lava, conical-shaped hills and, on the coast, reefs of basalt rock,
gradually being broken up by the action of the waves. All this showed
that the great groups of extinct volcanoes in the central provinces
had their counterpart in these southern regions of the island.
Another interesting fact was, that we found unmistakable signs also
of Secondary rocks here on the coast, in stratified sandstone tilted
up at a very high angle.


A day and a half’s journey from Vangàindràno brought us to another
Hova military post, a town called Ankàrana, which is situated on
a ridge about four hundred feet above the general level of the
surrounding country, forming a striking feature in the landscape.
Ascending a slippery and steep road in the red clay, I found myself
at one o’clock on the top of the ridge and close to the stockaded
_ròva_, or Hova fort, a much larger place than I had expected to
see, as hardly anything of the town could be seen from below. Mr
Street, being ill with fever, had gone on before, while I brought up
the rear. Coming to the gate of the stockade, my men were about to
take me in at once, but the people near requested me to stop, as the
officers were coming out to escort me in. This I rather unwillingly
did, as a very heavy shower came on just then. Presently the rolling
of drums announced their approach. First came a file of soldiers,
then a number of officers, then the lieutenant-governor in palanquin,
and then the governor in ditto, a little active old man in regimental
red coat and cocked hat. They all came forward and shook hands, and
evidently it was intended that the queen should be saluted and polite
speeches made; but the rain pelted down so furiously just then that
they thought better of it, and we made our way through the double
stockade into the Hova town with its lines of houses, and then into
an inner stockade enclosing the government house and flagstaff and
several large houses. We took shelter under the raised verandah of
one of these, while a dozen unfortunate individuals, soldiers and
petty officers, had to stand out in the pouring rain and “present
arms,” “support arms,” etc., and then, of course, came inquiries
after the queen and the great people at their capital.

The governor then led me into the temporary _làpa_, a large
rough-looking room, where was a table spread with dishes, plates,
etc. He apologised for there being no meal ready for us, as our
coming was unexpected, but wine and biscuits were brought and we
drank the queen’s health, and they drank ours, a flourish of music
and drums following each toast. This extreme politeness, so soon
after the marked discourtesy shown us at Vangàindràno, astonished
and amused me not a little. I was gravely consulted as to whether
the royal flag might not be hauled down, as the day was so wet; I
accordingly graciously signified my approval of their doing so. As
soon as possible, I intimated that I would like to go and see my
friend and companion. The governor leading the way, I was taken to a
house at the far end of the enclosure, where I found Mr Street in bed
and very unwell. But the house was large and dry, a fire was burning
on the hearth, and we were glad to get our wet things dried. Several
of our men were also ill with fever, so I had my hands pretty full
with dispensing medicine and nursing. Besides this, numerous callers
had to be talked with and presents received.

[Sidenote: A NOISY DINNER]

A good part of the following day was occupied in conversation with
the native pastors, examining the school, teaching, singing, etc.
But soon after four o’clock in the afternoon the sound of music and
drumming in the courtyard told us that the time was approaching for
the feast they were going to give us, and presently the governor and
all his people came to fetch us. My companion was unable to go, but
I was led by the hand and had to receive all the honours. In the
open central space all the military force of the town, about five
and twenty soldiers, was drawn up, and the royal flag was flying. On
one side the ladies, the wives and daughters of the officers, were
arranged, dressed in their best; on the other side were row after
row of pots with fires under them, where the feast was being cooked.
There was a terrible din of drumming and music going on. After a
prayer, salutes, speech-making, including a long flourish of our
honour, and presentation of another immense heap of provisions, I
was again taken by the hand, and led into the government house for
the repast. I should add that the governor also gave us ten dollars
for _vàtsy_ (food by the way), counting them into my hand in English

[Sidenote: A LONG MENU]

The dinner was, I think, the longest, and certainly _was_ the
noisiest, entertainment at which I have ever assisted. About a score
of the officers were at the table, and seven of the ladies. After
a long grace from the pastor, dinner was brought in, and consisted
of the following courses:—1st, curry; 2nd, goose; 3rd, roast pork;
4th, pigeons and water-fowls; 5th, chicken cutlets and poached eggs;
6th, beef sausages; 7th, boiled tongue; 8th, sardines; 9th, pigs’
trotters; 10th, fried bananas; 11th, pancakes; 12th, manioc; 13th,
dried bananas; and last, when I thought everything must have been
served, came hunches of roast beef! All this was finished up with
coffee. By taking a constantly diminishing quantity of each dish I
managed to appear to do justice to them all. Claret went about very
freely, and at length some much stronger liquor; and the healths of
the Queen, “Our friends the two Foreigners,” then those of the Prime
Minister, Chief Secretary, and Chief Judge, were all drunk twice
over, the Governor’s coming last; all followed by musical (and drum)
honours. As already remarked, it was the noisiest affair of the kind
at which I have ever been present. There was a big drum just outside
in the verandah, as well as two small ones, besides clarionets and
fiddles, and these were in full play almost all the time. Then the
room was filled by a crowd of servants and aides-de-camp, and the
shouting of everybody to everybody, from the governor downwards, was
deafening. The old gentleman directed everything and everyone, filled
up everybody’s glass, and, in fact, filled up his own more often than
was quite good for him, so that he became a little incoherent in the
last toasts he proposed; so that I was glad when the finishing one
arrived, and I could take my leave after nearly two hours’ sitting.
But I was not to leave quietly; again I was taken by the hand, the
big drum being hammered at in front of us all the way, and, followed
by a posse of officers and ladies, was escorted home by the governor.
My invalid friend could well have dispensed with the big drum;
however, being a little better, he and I managed to say a few earnest
words to them about “the praying”; after which they took their leave.
I had afterwards to pay quite a round of visits to our men who were
poorly, some with fever, others lame, with feet hurt with thorns,
stumbling, etc.


It was fine on the following morning, and as my companion’s fever
had left him, although he was still very weak, we determined to get
off; but first, there were more visits to be paid, and more presents
to be received. Mr Street left first at half-past nine, but I waited
until all the baggage was off, and then went to wish our old friend
the governor good-bye. But I was not to get away so easily; I was
again taken into the chief house, the claret was brought out, and
the Queen’s health and our own drunk with military honours. Then I
turned to say _Velòma_; but no, the vigorous old gentleman was going
to escort me out of town, and his wives were to accompany us. But
some time elapsed in seeking bearers for them, during which I had to
go to the lieutenant-governor’s and drink coffee. On returning to
the courtyard I found the governor putting a couple of bottles of
claret and another of rum into his palanquin, as well as glasses and
cups. Sufficient bearers could not be procured for the ladies, so we
wished them good-bye, and set off in the following order:—Soldiers,
musicians, with drums, clarionet, and violin; “_ny havantsika ny
Vazàha_” (our foreign friend); the lieutenant-governor; the governor;
aides-de-camp, soldiers. And so escorted, with the drums, etc., in
full play, we marched out of the town. I had supposed that as soon as
we were fairly at the foot of the hill the governor would take his
leave, but he went on and on for an hour until we came to a rapid
stream, the Mànantsìmba. Here we halted; the claret was poured out
for more health-drinking, with musical honours; and then the whole of
the governor’s men were ordered to take me safely across the river,
which they did. From the opposite bank I bowed and shouted my last
adieux, and so parted from one of the jolliest old gentlemen I have
ever met with in my travels. It struck me as irresistibly comic that,
as soon as we had fairly started on our way from the river bank, the
musicians struck up a most melancholy strain. As my men said, the
governor appeared to be low-spirited at parting with us.

I must add a word or two more about this “fine old _Malagasy_
gentleman, all of the olden time.” It appeared that he had been
governor at Ankàrana for more than twenty years, and before then was
lieutenant-governor at Mànanjàra. We were somewhat shocked to find
that each of the three buxom ladies who accompanied him about was his
wife, and further, that he had another as well, whom we did not see.
The pastor told us that he had been admonished as to the impropriety
of his conduct in this respect, but he had been unable as yet to make
up his mind which of them to put away, and which to keep, out of the
four. He seemed quite a little king in the district he commanded,
and our servants told us that he was a most courageous old fellow,
delighted to hear of there being any enemies to be met with anywhere,
and going off to fight them with the greatest alacrity. Yesterday,
when the feast was being cooked, he sat in the courtyard, gun in
hand, shooting first a fowl, then a pigeon, and then a pig, all of
which, in addition to what was already preparing, he ordered to be
instantly cooked with the rest. They also say that he is very rich,
owning five hundred cattle and two hundred slaves, and that he is
always most hospitable to all strangers. Certainly we found him to be
so. Besides the abundant kindness he showed us at Ankàrana, he sent
with us an escort and guides, twelve soldiers, two officers, and a
drummer, besides as many baggage bearers as we required to replace
the men who were ill.

We were interested to find that many of our bearers met with
relatives in these coast provinces. The mothers of several of them
were brought up from these parts as slaves, when children, in
Radàma’s cruel wars. The most remarkable circumstance was that our
cook discovered that one of the governor’s wives at Ankàrana was his
mother’s sister. And at the same place another of our men found that
the chief people of the Taisàka village were his mother’s brothers.


Our lodging on the evening of the day we left Ankàrana was in another
sample of the “well-dunged village,” although we procured a tolerably
good house in it. While taking lunch in one of the other villages,
we noticed the primitive dishes and spoons used by the people. The
former consist of the strong tough leaf of the pandanus-tree, which
is doubled over at one end so as to retain rice or liquid. The
spoons are pieces of the leaf of the traveller’s tree, folded up so
as easily to carry food to the mouth. This pandanus has a fruit,
yellow in colour, and something in shape and size like a pineapple
without its tuft of leaves. When dry it is brown in colour, and each
hexagonal division when separated from the rest is like a tough
wooden peg, and utterly uneatable.


Outside a village called Iàboràno I noticed the first appearance of
anything like a funeral memorial we have seen since leaving Bétsiléo.
This consisted of four poles placed in a line, the two outer ones
higher than the others, and the inner ones pointed in a peculiar
fashion. These serve the same purpose as the upright stones called
_tsàngam-bàto_ in Imèrina. All through the Tanàla country and along
this south-eastern coast we have seen no graves or memorials of the
dead. I was told that each village has a large pit in, or on the
borders of, the forest, where the dead are thrown and are not covered
with earth. The corpses are wrapped in coarse matting made of rush.



On the Saturday afternoon we reached Ambàhy, a large village not far
from the sea, with a _ladoàna_ or custom-house. Here a detachment of
military awaited our arrival—viz. _four_ officers and _two_ soldiers,
but outside and inside the stockade rather more than the usual amount
of tedious ceremony was gone through, which was, however, amusing as
well, from the absurd costume of many of the performers.

On the Sunday, as my companion was still unwell, I took the services
entirely. The church was in the village on the other side of the
water, and in going over to service I had a sail for the first time
in a native-made _built boat_. These boats are here called _sàry_,
and are about thirty feet long by eight feet beam, and easily carry
fifty people. I examined with interest the construction of the
craft, for the planks, about eight inches broad, were _tied_, not
nailed together, by twisted cord of _anìvona_ palm fibre, one of the
toughest known vegetable substances, the holes being plugged with
hard wood. The seat boards came right through the sides, so as to
stiffen the whole, for there were no ribs or framework. The seams
were caulked with strips of bamboo, loops of which also formed the
rowlocks for large oars of European shape. The ends of the boat
curved upwards considerably, and from its appearance it seemed likely
to stand a heavy sea with perfect safety. These boats are made for
going out to the shipping, for no dug-out canoe could live in the
great waves constantly rolling along these shores.

From Ambàhy northwards there stretches a coral reef at a mile or
two’s distance from the beach, a white line of surf constantly
breaking over it. Along this part of the coast the vegetation of
pandanus is varied by a number of the tall graceful _filào_-trees
(casuarina), so common south of Tamatave. It was dusk before all
the baggage and our men were ferried over a small river, and as I
was the last I had a most unpleasant hour and a half in the dark,
floundering about in rice-fields and water, for our guides lost their
way, so that I thought we should have to take shelter under some bush
for the night. But at last we reached a good-sized village; two of
our men, however, got hopelessly astray and had to lie out all night
in the open. In the dark we several times thought we saw a lantern
coming to our aid, but it was only the beautiful little fireflies
dancing up and down in the bushes, a “will-o’-the-wisp” which
deceived us again and again. These flies do not give a continuous
light, but one which—like some lighthouses—is quenched every second
or two, the interval of darkness being longer than the time when the
light is visible.[30]

[Sidenote: CANOE CHANTS]

We were delayed on our journey one day by having to return and
search for a man who had been missing for a day or more. Leaving our
stopping-place before six in the morning, I took sixteen men, who
were divided into three parties to go in different directions. We did
not find him, but discovered where he was, and left him in charge
of some Hova officers to be sent on after us. I had two voyages
over the Màtitànana that day; the morning’s sail was delightful,
the water smooth as a mirror, and with a very large canoe and eight
or ten paddles we moved rapidly over the glassy surface. My men
began and sustained for some time several of their musical and
often amusing canoe chants, in which one man keeps up a recitative,
usually an improvised strain, often bringing in circumstances
recently happening, while the rest chime in with a chorus at regular
intervals, a favourite one being, “_E, misy và?_” (“Oh, is there
any?”). This question refers to various good things they hope to get
at the end of the day’s journey, such as plenty of rice, beef, sweet
potatoes, etc., these articles of food being mentioned one after
another by the leader of the song. A little delicate flattery of
their employer, the Englishman they are rowing, is often introduced,
and praises of his hoped-for generosity in providing these luxuries
for them, something in this style:

  E, misy và?                       Oh, is there any?
    E, misy rè!                       Oh yes, there’s some!
  E, ny vorontsiloza, zalàhy, è!    Oh, the turkeys, lads, oh!
    E, misy rè!                       Oh yes, there’s some!
  E, ny gisy matavy, zalàhy, è!     Oh, the plump-looking geese, lads, oh!
    E, misy ré!                       Oh yes, there’s some!
  E, ny akoho manatody, zalàhy, é!  Oh, the egg-laying fowls, lads, oh!
    E, misy ré!                       Oh yes, there’s some!
  E, ny vazaha be vola, zalàhy, é   Oh, the very rich foreigner, lads, oh!
    E, misy ré!                       Oh yes, here he is!

and so on, _ad libitum_.

In another song sung by men on this voyage, the chorus was, _Mandàny
vàtsy, Toamasina malaza é!_—_i.e._ “Consumes provisions for the way,
famous Tamatave O!”—while the recitative brought in all the different
villages on the journey from Tamatave to the capital, ending with
Avàra-dròva, the northern entrance to the palace yard. Our return
voyage was a rough one; there was a considerable swell, for the sea
breeze had set in very strongly, as is generally the case in the
afternoon along the east coast; and had I not had an unusually large
and good canoe, I dared not have ventured across the broad expanse of
water near the mouth of the river.

[Illustration: A MALAGASY ORCHID (Angræcum Superbum)

The blooms are pure white, waxlike flowers]


While waiting for the canoe that afternoon I was delighted to see
the profusion of orchids along the shore. I had, of course, often
admired these on the trunks and branches of trees on the coast; but,
here, the magnificent _Angræcum superbum_ was growing by hundreds
on the ground, on good-sized bushes, which occurred in scores, the
large waxy-white flowers all in full bloom. It was worth a fatiguing
journey to see such a wealth of floral beauty. Here I may notice
that another fine orchid, the _Angræcum sesquipedale_, is also to be
seen in flower in the months of June and July on this eastern coast.
It is not so numerous in blooms as the other species, but its large
pure white flowers shine out like stars against the dark trunks of
the trees on which it grows. As its specific name signifies, its
remarkable spur or nectary is nearly a foot and a half long, pointing
to an insect with a very long sucking tube in order to reach the
honey stored there. There are several other species of _Angræcum_
found in Madagascar, but with smaller flowers than the two just
named. As Mr Baron remarks, “Whatever else may escape the notice of
the traveller, the _A. superbum_ forms far too striking an ornament
to be passed by unheeded.” And I think the same might almost be said
of the _sesquipedale_; of this latter Mr Baron says that it generally
chooses trees which overhang the rivers or lagoons as its habitat.
I have, however, noticed it at some distance from water.

Farther north along this coast there is a large proportion of trees
of considerable size, in addition to the pandanus and more shrubby
vegetation seen farther south. The latter also attain a much greater
height in the struggle to get up to the light amongst the crowd of
other trees. In one spot for some distance there was no undergrowth,
but “a pillared shade” of the slender trunks of the pandanus,
while high overhead their graceful crowns of long saw-edged leaves
made a canopy impervious to the sun. Among the larger trees one
called _atàfa_ (_Terminalia catappa_) is prominent; in these the
branches strike directly at right angles from the trunk and then
spread away horizontally for a considerable distance. The leaves
are spatula-shaped and from eight to ten inches long, and a large
proportion of them are always a ruddy brown or scarlet, giving a
blaze of colour. The tree is called also the “Indian almond,” and the
kernel of the fruit is edible. While waiting for a canoe, we walked
two or three hundred yards towards the outlet of a small river, and
were startled by a crocodile only a few feet in front of us, rousing
himself from his nap in the setting sunshine, and waddling off into
the river.

About seventy miles north of the Màtitànana river we came to an
extensive lagoon stretching northward for several miles. This
appeared to be the first—from the south—of that remarkable series
bordering the shore and extending with but few breaks nearly to
Tamatave, a distance of two hundred and sixty miles (see Chapter
III.). Along the northern side of this lagoon are masses of lava
rock, some of it in enormous blocks.


We found here that we had reached another centre of population, an
important settlement of the Taimòro tribe; the principal chief, a
very fine tall man, came to see us, and was extremely polite and
kind. We were amused to see his daughters, two nice little girls,
attended by all the other children of the village, who were going
through the peculiar monotonous native singing with clapping of
hands; while these two girls moved together slowly backwards and
forwards, and with a slow movement of their feet, and a graceful
movement of the hands, performed a native dance. They were strikingly
different from the other children in their dress, having scarlet
caps, with a long veil behind of coloured print, jackets of figured
stuff and a skirt of scarlet or a broad girdle of the same colour.
Afterwards they were mounted on the shoulders of two stout girls, who
went through the same performance with their feet, while the little
girls moved their hands and arms.

At a village where we stayed it was the custom that no bird or animal
could be killed for food except by someone belonging to the family of
the native king. This agrees with what is stated by Drury and other
early writers on Madagascar as to the customs of many tribes in the
south-west of the island.


On 22nd and 23rd July, Saturday and Sunday, we had two long and very
fatiguing journeys, the more so as our maps were of the vaguest
description, and we could get no accurate information as to distances
or villages; rice for our bearers was not at all easy to procure, and
when crossing rivers, a single canoe for fifty men and a quantity of
baggage often delayed us very seriously. On the Saturday morning we
met a wheeled vehicle, the first I had ever seen in Madagascar—viz. a
cart drawn by yoked oxen; this excited much wonder among our men. We
had to cross rivers or wide lagoons five times that day, so that late
in the afternoon we still saw no stopping-place. But as we understood
that there was a small village two or three hours farther on, and
that the road was along the shore, we thought we could not miss it
even if it was late. So we went along the sands; the sun set, and it
grew dark, but there was no sign of any village; then the path turned
inland among the bush, where we went on feeling our way for some
time. But at last we got hopelessly adrift in the dense vegetation
and total darkness. There was no help for it but to retrace our
steps to the shore, which we did, not without great difficulty. It
seemed highly probable that we should have to spend the night under
the trees, without food, fire, or light, as our baggage had gone
on ahead. Continually we mistook the light of the fireflies for a
lantern coming to our assistance; but still going on we saw at last
a light ahead, steadier and redder than that of the fireflies. Then
we lost it, but going on again we at length came up to the embers of
a fire lighted on the sand. Opposite was a path leading up to four
little huts, where most of our men had arrived, and where we got
better accommodation than the woods would have afforded, although
the huts were mere rough sheds of traveller’s tree leaves. It was
fortunate for us that we reached them, for heavy rain came directly
and continued all night. There was no rice to be bought; so our men
had to go supperless to bed, and we had very little to eat ourselves.
Some dozen or more of the men slept with us in our hut, as thick as
they could lie, and the other places were as full.


This consists of graceful movements of hands, body, and feet. Men and
women never dance together]

The following day, Sunday, was a disappointing one, for we quite
thought in the morning that we were only two or three hours’ journey,
at most, from Màsindràno, where we hoped to meet with a good
congregation. But we had to travel for hour after hour, delayed in
crossing the lagoons in a vain search for food, and in other ways, so
that it was sunset before we crossed the Mànanjàra river, and after
dark before we at last reached the town. However, here we met with
the kindest welcome, had good houses put at our disposal, and there
was abundance of food for us all.

[Sidenote: WHALES]

On the following day we left the seashore, along which, first going
southwards and afterwards northwards, we had travelled for so many
days. And here I may remark that dolphins are often seen in the
Madagascar seas, especially the small species called _Delphinus
pas_, which is frequently seen leaping, plunging and swimming with
astonishing swiftness and in large shoals. These animals love to
pursue the flying-fish, and in this chase they display extraordinary
dexterity. Two species of whale also frequent the seas round
Madagascar, but they are chiefly seen on the western side of the
island. The huge form of the cachelot or sperm-whale, with its
remarkably square head, looking as if it had been cut off right
across, especially when it turns to dive, as I have seen it, seems
to have impressed the imagination of the Malagasy, because when an
earthquake occurs they say, _Mivàdika ny tròzona_—_i.e._ “The whales
are turning over.”

After leaving the east coast we sailed up the broad river Mànanjàra,
stopping a night at another Hova military post, a large village
called Itsìatòsika. Here again we had great kindness shown to us by
the most polite and gentlemanly set of Hova officers we had ever
met. For the first day and a half our route lay chiefly up the
valley of the river, over undulating country; but during the next
two and half days we had to travel to the north-west, through the
belt of dense forest covering the lines of mountain which are the
successive steps into the bare interior highland. Through this rugged
country, travelling was very difficult, and the steep ascents very
fatiguing. As we got up a thousand feet, there was line after line
of hill and mountain, all covered with forest, as far as the eye
could reach, to the north and south and west. Besides the ordinary
forest trees, there were great numbers of the graceful palm called
_Anìvona_, which, in the struggle for light and heat, here grows to a
great height. As we have seen in speaking of the old style of timber
houses, this palm was made much use of in their construction. There
were magnificent and extensive views from the higher ground; and
conspicuous for a whole day’s journey was a lofty perpendicular cliff
of bright red rock, rising sheer up many hundreds of feet from the
valley below.


A little before reaching the summit of one ridge we heard a good
deal of noise and shouting ahead of us, and supposed that the Tanàla
were dragging an unusually large piece of timber. On getting nearer,
we found fifty or sixty people, men and women, and a number of men
carrying something, which, coming closer to them, we found was a
child’s coffin, made of a piece of the trunk of a tree hollowed out,
and with a rough cover of wood fastened on with bands of a strong
creeper. This was being carried with a barbarous kind of chant,
but without the slightest sign of mourning on the part of anyone.
It was the most heathenish kind of funeral we had ever seen. Among
these forest people funerals are called _fàndrorìtam-pàty_ (_lit._
“stretching out of the corpse”), and it seems that the coffin is
pulled about first in one direction and then in another by the
different parties of those following it; and it is finally thrown
into some hollow in the woods. It was a saddening sight.

We found that we had come again among our old friends, the Tanàla,
for in their mats and undressed appearance, and their use of bark
cloth, the women in the villages were just like those we had seen
from Ivòhitròsa downwards.

Our second day in the forest brought us to a height of fourteen
hundred and fifty feet above the sea; and, notwithstanding our
fatigue from having to walk continually for several hours, we
were charmed again with the luxuriance of the vegetation. The
anìvona-palms shot up their slender columns, banded with lines of
white on dark green to heights of eighty to a hundred feet, and the
traveller’s trees were as lofty, in the fierce competition for life.
The tree-ferns spread out their graceful fronds over the streams; and
the _Vaquois pandanus_ carried its large clusters of serrated leaves
high overhead to get up to the light. In some places the woods were
very dense, and there was a green twilight as we passed along the
narrow path amongst the crowd of tall trunks. We were struck by the
intense silence of the forest; there was no sound of animal life, and
no voice of bird, or beast, or insect broke the oppressive stillness.
For six hours and a half we hardly saw a house except isolated
woodcutters’ huts; and we were glad at last to see the sparkling
waters of the Mànanjàra in front of us, and to find a village of
twenty houses on its banks.

[Sidenote: THE CICADA]

Although in the cold season, which was the time of our journey, the
woods were very silent, they are not so at all times of the year,
and among the sounds of the forest we must not omit one which, once
heard, can never be forgotten—viz. the extremely shrill piercing note
of the _Jorèry_, a cicada, which makes the woods ring again with its
stridulous reverberations. If it should happen that two or three
of these little creatures are giving out their sound together, the
jarring, ringing noise becomes almost painful to the ear; and it is
difficult to believe that such a loud noise can be produced from the
friction of the wing-cases of such a comparatively small insect, for
it does not exceed an inch and a half in length.

On rainy nights a stridulous sound, but far less loud than that
produced by the jorèry, is heard in and near the forest, and is
produced by a large species of earthworm called _Kànkandoròka_. It
somewhat resembles the noise of a rattle, and is far from unpleasant
to the ear.


Yet it would be a mistake to suppose that these comparatively silent
woods are destitute of animal life, and the stillness is largely
attributable to the peculiar character of the Madagascar fauna.
Many of the lemurs are nocturnal animals and are therefore not seen
or heard in the daytime. Then again, the twenty-four species of
centetidæ are burrowing animals, and so do not often appear in the
open. And it is much the same with the sixteen species of rats and
mice, which live in the woods and on their borders. In confirmation
of the above remarks as to the animal life of the forest, it may be
stated that in the latter part of the year 1894, and the beginning of
1895, Dr Forsyth Major, the eminent naturalist and palæontologist,
lived for several months collecting in the woods not very far from
the route we followed about eighteen years previously; and his
specimens of recent mammals amounted to no fewer than sixteen hundred
specimens, which added _twenty species_ to those previously known.
These were chiefly in the tenrecs and the rats, but also included
a new species of lemur. Some of these forms were exceptionally
interesting, one being aquatic and web-footed; and others showed
transitions from a hairy to a spiny condition in closely allied
animals, suggesting that the prickly state had been gradually
attained for purposes of defence. Several of the centetidæ, of the
genus _Oryzorictes_, feed largely on rice, as their generic name
denotes, and do much damage to the crops. This is equally true of
the indigenous rats and mice. We have seen how the forest and coast
Malagasy protect their rice stores by elevated houses, with special
precautions against these little marauders.

It should be added that Dr Major’s unprecedentedly large collections
would probably have been larger still but for the disturbed state
of the country at that time. It was during the early months of the
French invasion and subsequent conquest of Madagascar, when the
feeling against all Europeans was very strong; so that again and
again Dr Major was in considerable danger of his life. Besides adding
so largely to our knowledge of the living fauna of the island, he
made large collections of the sub-fossil fauna, in collections of the
remains of the extinct æpyornis, hippopotami, tortoises, crocodiles,
and other animals, finding bones of several of the smaller mammals
which he afterwards discovered to be still living.


She is in full gala costume]


She is got up in all her finery]


With regard to the silence of the wood just spoken of, and the
apparent dearth of animal life, it must be remembered that, in
addition to the character of the mammalian fauna above-mentioned,
our journey was made in the cold season, when all life is much less
in evidence. As we have seen in the chapters VIII. and IX.,
speaking of the forest, it is by no means destitute of bird life
during the warm months of the year. And yet I have never been able
satisfactorily to account for the _comparative_ fewness of birds in
Madagascar, notwithstanding the number of species. It can hardly
be from want of appropriate food, for the great variety of trees
and shrubs must surely supply sufficient in the way of fruits and
berries and seeds, to say nothing of caterpillars, and insects in
various stages of development. My friend, Mr Cory, an enthusiastic
naturalist and sportsman, wrote to me: “I think the want of bird life
in Madagascar is very marked when compared with England, and I was
much struck with this on my first arrival. I have been in the forest
at all times of the year; and although there _are_ a good many birds
in summer, yet if you try bird’s-nesting here, you will soon find out
how few and far between the nests are.” I have sometimes thought that
these facts may be partly explained by the rather large proportion of
rapacious birds in Madagascar to the general air-fauna—twenty-two,
as compared with two hundred and ten species known to inhabit the
island; for, leaving out the twenty-eight species of oceanic birds,
we have nearly a seventh of the birds belonging to rapacious kinds,
a proportion which would be still greater if we reckon, as we might
well do, several of the eight species of shrikes as rapacious. As we
shall see in the next chapter, there appear to be a far larger number
of birds on the western side of the island than are found in the
eastern forests.

With regard to the paucity of insect life in the forest, I think it
has been clearly shown by eminent naturalists like Dr Wallace and
the late Mr Bates, that _dense_ wood is not favourable to such life;
but that in open spaces in the forest, where sunshine can penetrate,
and where there is also water, there is where you may hope to find
butterflies, moths, and various handsome flies, bees and wasps; while
patches of cleared forest and felled trees are the most favourable
hunting-grounds for the numerous species of beetle and also of ants.
In travelling from the east coast to Imèrina seventeen years later
than this journey, on a route about eighty miles north of that
described in this chapter, we found numerous butterflies, a dozen
species at least, in some localities; and the voice of birds was
heard all along the road, the noisy call of the _Kankàfotra_ cuckoo,
_kow-kow, kow-kow_, constantly repeated; the mellow flute-like call
of another cuckoo, the _Tolòho_, whose notes we heard all the way
from Màhanòro; the chirp and whistle of the _Railòvy_, or king-crow,
as well as the incessant twitter of many smaller birds. Then came
frequently the wailing notes of the lemurs high up among the trees.
This, however, was in November, when the hot season was advancing.


In our walks in the forest from the Ankèramadìnika Sanatorium
(Chapters VIII. and IX.), we saw, it will be remembered, many cases
of protective colouring. As we are again in the eastern forests, the
following instances may also be noted. There is found in these woods
a curious walking-stick mantis, about eight inches long and a quarter
of an inch thick. It is exactly the colour of a dried branchlet or
twig, with joints distinctly articulated like the nodes of many
plants. The tail (if the end of the creature may be thus called) is
rather more than an inch long, and is a hollow, canoe-shaped trough,
somewhat resembling part of the bark torn off a twig. The legs are
alate and spiny. At about two inches from the head are the wings and
wing-sheaths, the latter being somewhat like obovate stipules about
half-an-inch long, and the former marked with black and yellow and
about an inch and a half long. When the wings are closed, it would
take a very keen eye to discover the creature, as the part of the
wing when closed is of the same colour as the rest of the body. The
legs can be brought together lengthwise in front, and so appear to
form a continuous part of the twig, especially as the femurs are
hollowed out to form a socket for the head.

Another singular creature, a kind of springtail, known as
_Tsikòndry_, is found on the branches of certain trees. The tail,
which is about half-an-inch long—a little longer than the body of
the insect—is a remarkable and curious appendage. This tail consists
of a tuft of white threads, somewhat divided and fluffy at the tip,
and which, at the pleasure of the insect, can be raised or lowered
or spread out, the threads radiating in a circle from the root. This
tail is so exactly like a lichen in appearance as thoroughly to
deceive the eye. Unless a branch on which a number of these tsikòndry
are seated is accidentally shaken, causing them to spring off, they
would be passed by as lichens. The leap or spring is effected by a
jerk of the tail.


I have already pointed out somewhere in this book that Madagascar
is a kind of museum of several forms of animal life found nowhere
else in the world; for among mammals there are some of the lemuridæ,
especially the aye-aye; also some of the centetidæ; among the
insects, the uranid butterfly; while there are several birds, which
are isolated, having no near relation, so that new genera, and even
new families, have had to be formed for their classification. Among
these latter, and inhabiting the eastern forests, is Prevost’s
broadbill (_Euryceros prevosti_). The zoological affinities of
this remarkable bird were for long a puzzle to ornithologists; but
it is so different from the wood-swallows, starlings and shrikes,
which groups are nearest to it, that the French naturalists have
formed a special family (_Eurycerotidæ_) for this solitary genus
and species. This bird is remarkable for a beak formed like a very
capacious helmet, strongly compressed and swelled towards the base,
which advances to just as far as the eyes; and its very convex
edge is terminated by a sharp hook. This extraordinary form of the
beak is seen best in the skeleton, in which the beak is seen to
be considerably larger than the skull. The bird is as large as a
starling, velvety black in colour, with a saddle-shaped patch of
light brown on the back. The large beak is steely-blue in colour, and
pearly, like the inside of an oyster shell. Such specialised birds—as
well as the other peculiar forms of life—speak of high antiquity and
of the long isolation of their habitat from continental influences.

Four or five days of hard travelling brought us to Ambòhimànga,
_an-àla_, so called to distinguish it from the old Hova capital of
the same name, north of Antanànarìvo. As on many previous occasions,
we had long delays in crossing rivers, from the fewness and smallness
of the canoes available. We were detained for three hours crossing
the Mànanjàra, which, although so far from the sea, was still a wide
river, with a powerful current and full of rapids and rocks. We had
time to notice and examine carefully a graceful plant which covered
the stones in the water; this looked like a fern—but is not one—from
one to two feet long and with very thick and fleshy stem and fronds.
On examining one of these, I found it to be the home of a variety
of minute animals; some of them caterpillars, which were burrowing
into the stalk; others, small green creatures like caddis-worms, but
with a transparent shell; others, minute leeches; others like the
fresh-water hydra; with several other kinds, all finding house and
provision on one frond in the rushing waters.


This “forest Ambòhimànga” was the home of Ihòvana, the Tanàla
chieftainess of the tribe of the surrounding district, who, with
her husband, was most kind and friendly, and I believe a sincere
Christian. She was a remarkably stout old lady, getting grey, and
a woman of considerable ability and force of character. On special
occasions, when the Malagasy nobles and tributary chiefs were
summoned up to the capital, Ihòvana would appear in the public
assembly, and with _làmba_ girded round her and spear in hand, would
give assurances of loyalty and obedience to Queen Rànavàlona, and say
“she was not a woman, but a man,” and would fight, if need be, at the
head of her people in defence of their sovereign.

The situation of this place is exceedingly pleasant, on a hill about
two hundred feet above the river flowing to the east and north.
Around it are hills covered with bamboo, while to the lines of hill,
the edges of the upper plateau are dark with forest. Here we and our
bearers were glad to rest for a couple of days, including a Sunday,
during which we were glad to find that these northern Tanàla, through
Christian teaching and Ihòvana’s influence, had made wonderful
advances compared with those farther south. There was a congregation
of about three hundred, a school of about as many children, and nine
village congregations connected with the central church here.

On the Monday morning, on leaving Ambòhimànga, we had to cross the
river at the foot of the hill, and this made the _thirtieth_ time
we had to be ferried across a river with all our men and property,
and glad we were that it was the last. A description of our water
conveyances would include bamboo rafts, canoes great and small,
especially the latter, canoes with one end rotted away or broken off,
and stuffed with clay, and craft so small that they seemed rather
fitted for children’s playthings than for business. The forest became
thinner as we travelled to the north-west, and this was due to the
custom of the Tanàla, who cut down the woods and sow the rice in
the ashes of the trees which have been burnt; for the people do not
plant much in one place, but remove their village to another spot
after getting a crop or two. This morning we lost the traveller’s
tree, which does not grow at heights much above two thousand feet
above the sea; and in the afternoon we also lost sight of the
graceful bamboo.

The following morning brought us to steep ascents of nine hundred and
fifty feet, of four hundred and twenty, and then of six hundred feet
successively, the last bringing us to Ivòhitràmbo (lofty town), well
named, for it has a most elevated situation and higher than a good
deal of the interior table-land to the west. I had noticed all the
previous afternoon that on the very summit of the highest ground to
the north was a lofty cone of rock. Perched upon this like an eagle’s
nest was part of the village, the rest of the houses being a hundred
and forty feet lower. The summit was forty-seven hundred and fifty
feet above the sea; we were now on the high land of the interior and
had come up twenty-four hundred and fifty feet since we breakfasted.
As may be supposed, the view was most extensive; the plains of
North Bétsiléo were not far distant, and soon we came to the long
bare rolling downs of the central provinces. Uninteresting as these
generally appear after four or five months without rain, they looked
home-like, and the keen air seemed bracing and invigorating. We
began to see rice-fields again and the scattered round _vàla_ of the
Bétsiléo. We had got into the country of a different tribe of people,
with different houses, speech and customs. At the village where we
stopped for the night was a good timber house, with elaborately
carved central pillars, and we began to see again the carved memorial
posts, which had so much interested us on our journey south.


We noticed again the peculiar tombs of the Bétsiléo; these, which
consist of a large square of stones, are not, as in Imèrina, the real
burial-places; for the actual tomb is often twenty feet below the
ground, a stone chamber, to which access is gained by a long inclined
passage opening out at a distance of eighty or a hundred feet from
the tomb.

And now, as we reached the oft-trodden route between Antanànarìvo and
Fianàrantsòa, this record may come to a close. We arrived safely at
the capital on 5th August, having been away nearly eleven weeks, and
having travelled by palanquin, on foot, and in canoes, more than
nine hundred miles.

[Sidenote: FIREFLIES]

[30] These fireflies are not seen in the interior except in two or
three localities, where portions of the original forest still cover
the mountains on which old towns were built. I have seen them at
Vòhilèna, a hill about fifteen hundred feet high, near the valley of
the Mànanàra river, in North Imèrina.



As the contents of former chapters in this book show, I was able
on various occasions during the first few years of residence in
Madagascar to make journeys in different directions: from the east
coast to the interior; from Imèrina to Antsihànaka; from Imèrina
again to Bétsiléo and from thence to the south-east, visiting the
Tanàla, the Taimòro, and other tribes in that part of the island, not
to mention shorter journeys in the central province itself, to Itàsy
and other places. But the north-west of the country and the districts
occupied by the Sàkalàva people were still unknown to me, so I was
glad when in 1877 there came the opportunity of traversing this
portion of the great island.

For a long time past Tamatave had been—as it still is—the most
frequented port of Madagascar, but the western ports, from their
proximity to South Africa, were sure to increase in importance. Not
very long before the above-mentioned date, the British India Steam
Navigation Company had begun a service of steamers from Aden to
Mozambique, touching at Mojangà, on the north-west coast, both on
the outward and the return journeys. This appeared to give Europeans
living here a good opportunity of reaching England, avoiding the
unpleasant experience of the “bullocker” (see Chapter II.), between
Tamatave and Port Louis, and taking a mail steamer direct from
Madagascar. As we were leaving this country for Europe in September
1877, we determined to take this new route, which, although a little
longer than that by Tamatave, was far less difficult, besides being
partly by canoes, and the last day or two by a dhow, thus giving
a pleasant variety to the journey. Our party consisted of seven,
including my wife and self and three children—Willie, aged six; May,
aged three, and a baby girl of ten months—Frank Briggs, about the
same age as our boy, whom we were taking home (his father joined us a
day or two later), and my former fellow-traveller, Mr Louis Street.
I ought also to include a Mozambique nurse, one of those African
slaves recently set free, in accordance with an agreement made
between the English and the Malagasy governments.

We left Antanànarìvo on Thursday afternoon, 13th September, a large
number of our missionary friends accompanying us for a distance out
of the city, in fact as far as the banks of the Ikòpa, along which
our route lay for several miles. Here one could not but be again
impressed with the importance of these river banks in preserving the
rice-fields from being flooded, and by the good work done by the old
kings of Imèrina in embanking the river and thus turning marsh and
bog into fruitful fields. Stopping at the L.M.S. mission station
of Ambòhidratrìmo for the first night of our journey, we reached
the station of Fihàonana in Vònizòngo on the second day, putting up
at the manse, although the minister (Rev. T. T. Matthews) and his
family were away from home. A short half-day’s ride brought us to a
third mission station, that at Fierènana, where we had a Sunday’s
rest before setting out on the unknown and principal portion of our
journey. We stayed in the house which, a year or two before then,
I had marked out for our friends, and recalled how I had taught
Mrs Stribling to lay bricks, to bond together the corners of the
walls, to manage the chimney breasts, etc., so that she became quite
proficient and was able to teach the native workmen bricklaying,
which was then to them an unknown art.


On Monday morning we fairly started on our journey away from mission
stations and Europeans. Two hours’ ride brought us to a large market
where hundreds of people were assembled. We were set down and, before
we knew what our men were about, were left almost without a bearer,
it being too great a temptation for our fellows not to go into the
thick of a market; and it was some little time before we could get
hold of them to carry us into the village near the place. All this
day’s journey was up a long wide valley enclosed by lines of hills,
which gradually approached as we proceeded; and our evening halt
was in a village covered with a layer of finely powdered cow-dung,
although the village chapel, our usual inn on such journeys, provided
a fairly comfortable resting-place for the night.

Outside this village the following morning we passed a shoe—or
rather sandal—market, with scores of pairs of rough bullock-hide
sandals for sale. I noticed also that everyone we passed carried a
pair fastened to his or her burdens. Although we had to go up and,
of course, down again, a long ascent, the route was less difficult
and fatiguing than are those we often traversed in Imèrina, and far
less so than the roads to the eastern coast through the forest. The
increasing temperature told us that we were getting to a lower level;
indeed all the western side of Madagascar is hotter than the eastern
side, as it is deprived of the cool south-east trade-wind from the
Indian Ocean. At the village where we stopped for the night, all the
dwelling-houses were made of the gigantic bamboo-like grass called
_bàraràta_, although the school church which served us for a lodging
was of clay. The place had a double entrance gateway, one of them
being a low narrow tunnel; and like most of these villages had a
great quantity of cattle brought into it, for security every evening.
In consequence, the whole place was covered with a foot or two of
manure; and it was here that our friend, Mr Grainge, stopping for the
night the previous year, had an experience which I will give in his
own words.


  “On entering,” he says, “we raised a considerable amount of dust
  and general astonishment; for wishing to pitch our tent inside
  the village, we set a few of our men to sweep away the filth from
  the cleanest spot we could select. You may guess the result. I
  first tried to get to the windward of the horrible cloud, but not
  being able to find that desirable quarter, as there happened to
  be no wind at the time, I sent a man to fetch water and then ran
  away until the atmosphere cleared. I had better have stopped, for,
  running through the first hole in the entrenchment of the village,
  I heard a cry of ‘_Omby ó!_’ (‘The cattle!’), and saw the head of
  an ox, closely followed by his tail, coming through the gap. As the
  people evidently expected to see me run, I stood my ground with
  true British pig-headedness and waited in the narrow ditch for the
  big beast to pass; but this one was closely followed by another,
  and that by a third—the whole of the herds were coming in for the
  night, and the fosse was soon as full of oxen as of dust. There was
  no escape; grunting, puffing, blowing, and bellowing, in they came,
  and with nothing but bare hands to smack them, I was hustled and
  jostled, bumped and butted, pushed and driven about, until, after
  three-quarters of an hour, I came out in company with the last
  calf, choked with dust, streaming with perspiration, and inwardly
  vowing that the very next time I heard the cry of ‘_Omby ó!_’ I
  would run for it, however undignified it might appear.”

As we were walking about just before sunset, they brought us a
chameleon, here called _taròndro_ (_Dicranosaura bifurca_), about
nine inches long and as much more in length of tail; it was dark
brownish-grey in colour, with a white line along the sides, and the
head and back serrated like a saw. The nose of the male has two
compressed long horns covered with large scales. As we have already
seen, Madagascar contains a considerable number of these reptiles,
especially of species with remarkable processes on the head.


After arranging for the night, we congratulated ourselves on our
comfortable lodgings, but there was a drawback in the number of
openings to the outer air, two doorways and three windows, but all
destitute of doors or shutters. Mats, rugs, waterproof sheeting and
pillows were, however, fixed up; but soon after the wind rose until
it blew quite a gale; it was like being in a ship at sea, and it
blew so violently as to tear away the coverings from the nails. For
an hour or two paterfamilias’ chief occupation was to go round the
place and fix nail after nail, until I think at least a hundred long
tin tacks, as well as a number of two-inch nails, had been driven
in, besides propping up palanquins against the openings. Often it
came in such tremendous gusts that I feared everything would be torn
away, and lay for some time apprehensive of what might happen next.
However, it moderated towards morning, and, happily, there were no

We had not got far on our way the following day before making
acquaintance with the _mòkafòhy_, an insect about half the size of a
housefly, but with wings less divergent. They have a large proboscis
and give a distinct prick, sometimes drawing blood, and with
after-irritating effects like mosquito bites. They are more sluggish
than mosquitoes and so can be more easily killed, and with a small
whisk of leaves it is not very difficult to ward them off. The road
was still along a valley with precipitous hills on our left, and
perpendicular faces of rock. All along were clumps of adàbo-trees,
making the scenery much like an English park. We noticed a large
number of earthen mounds, often two and a half feet high; these were
the nests of a large ant, which, like those we met on the eastern
side of the island, is said to kill a serpent which makes its home in
the lower part of the ant-hill. The native travellers often use these
mounds as a fireplace for cooking their rice, by knocking off the
top, scooping out the centre, and making a hole near the bottom for

The route continued to be very easy travelling, with gentle ascents
and one long one, following generally river valleys; and in the
afternoon along a river bank for some distance, with pretty scenery
of pandanus, adàbo, dracæna and other trees growing in clumps. This
last-named tree, called _hàsina_ by the Malagasy, is believed to be
a favourite with the Vazìmba, the supposed aboriginal inhabitants
of the island, and was consequently planted where their graves are
and where their spirits are thought to dwell in order to secure
their good will. The leaves, which are sword-shaped, grow in large
clusters, so that the tree makes a beautiful variety amongst other

[Sidenote: A DESERT]

We stopped on Wednesday night at a large village called Màngasoàvina,
and the next morning passed along the eastern base of Andrìba, a
lofty and very peculiarly shaped mountain, which had been prominent
before us during the preceding day. It appeared to have a large flat
top, and in outline resembled the stump of an immense tree left in
the earth, its northern face being a stupendous perpendicular mass
of rock. (Here I may remark, in parenthesis, that this Andrìba was
expected, in the French war of 1895, to have presented the most
formidable obstacle to the advance of an invading force and, in the
hands of European troops, would certainly have done so.) In the
afternoon we entered on the part called in Malagasy, _èfitra_, or
desert, but which simply means an uninhabited region, and seemed to
promise to be the most pleasant part of the whole route. A long deep
gorge which we entered was beautiful with luxuriant vegetation, and
in one of the lateral valleys I soon perceived the traveller’s tree,
a sure sign that we were now from two thousand to three thousand feet
lower than Imèrina. Every hollow was filled with trees; the hills
became lower, and the vegetation more distinctly tropical, with
graceful palms and other trees common on the eastern coast; as well
as species of ficus, ròtra (_Eugenia sp._), hibiscus, tamarind and
_rofìa_ palms; and the mango, escaped from cultivation, often attains
the dimensions of a very large tree.


Early on Thursday afternoon we came down to a river, called
Màrokalòy, where our bearers wished us to encamp, but we feared both
mosquitoes and consequent malaria in such a situation, and ascended
a low hill about a hundred and fifty feet above the river. Here we
pitched our tents, and after arranging for the night sat down to
our evening meal round a mat in the bright moonlight. It was a very
picturesque scene: the brilliant moon and the four chief planets
shining resplendently; our group of men near the tents lighted up by
the ruddy glare of the cooking fires; while down below, the greater
body of our men had encamped and had a score or two of fires blazing
under the dark shade of fine large trees. The night was so warm that
there was no inconvenience sitting out of doors, while in the tents
it soon grew so hot that we were glad to keep out of them as long as
possible. But what surprised us most was the almost entire absence of
mosquitoes; for there was no garden in Imèrina where one could sit
for five minutes at such an hour without being soon informed of the
presence of these tiny pests. It must, however, be added that for
an hour or two before sunset, and for a little after it also, the
_mòkafòhy_ were extremely numerous and annoying. They persecuted us
incessantly while encamping, but happily, unlike their namesakes,[31]
they retire at dark. By a merciful dispensation of providence they
do not bite at night. After our _al fresco_ meal, Mr Street and I
descended to the river and enjoyed a delicious bathe.

The following morning we were up early, but the _mòkafòhy_ were up
before us and made it a misery to do anything immediately we emerged
from the tent. Getting breakfast was therefore disposed of in a
very short space of time, for mouth, nostrils, and eyes got full of
these detestable little flies; one could not eat, and we hurried the
children into their palanquins and got off as fast as was possible.
The name of this pretty valley (Màrokalòy = “Many _alòy_”) ought to
have warned us, as _alòy_ is the proper name of the insect, and this
place seems to be their head-quarters. The scenery and the route
continued to be as pleasant and as easy as before; every hollow was
filled with vegetation of a tropical character, and streams of bright
water crossed our path every few hundred yards.


Bird life seems much more abundant on this western side of the
island than on the east. Black parrots exist in great numbers and
may be heard screeching all the day long. But perhaps the birds
which are more numerous still are the small green and white parakeet
(_Sàrivàzo_), which fly about from tree to tree in large flocks,
all ceaselessly chirping during their rapid flight. My friend, Mr
Baron, says: “A flock of them settling on a bare tree gives it the
appearance of being covered with foliage. On one or two occasions
what we thought were the leaves of trees suddenly disappeared,
leaving the branches entirely bare. The ‘leaves’ turned out to be
parakeets.” Guinea-fowl, in flocks of six to a dozen, are also
abundant. The handsome long-tailed green _Tsìkirìoka_ (the Madagascar
bee-eater) is found here, and builds its nest in holes in sand-banks;
some of these run in a horizontal direction for above a yard. A
very pretty hoopoe (_Tàkodàra_) may occasionally be seen, a bird
which is extremely active and graceful in its movements. It gives
forth five or six very weird notes, as it sits on a tree during the
night. A species of sand-grouse, called _Gàdragàdraka_, a bird of a
beautiful fawn-colour, much like a pigeon in general appearance, may
often be heard. Like many other native bird names, this name is very
expressive of its chuckling. Many of the birds found in the central
parts of the island exist also here, while there are also others
peculiar to this western region.

Part of our fifth and the whole of our sixth and last day’s land
journey was taken at no great distance from the Ikòpa river; and I
began to wonder where the western forest-belt was; for, as we have
seen, we had passed through no such masses of dense forest as must
be crossed anywhere on the eastern side of the island when one comes
up to the interior of Madagascar. The fact seems to be that there is
no such continuous wooded region on the western side. There is, in
many places, a considerable amount of country covered with forest,
but these are not connected, and a great deal of the surface has
scattered clumps of trees. In the same way also, there are nothing
like the difficult ascents and deep gorges to be crossed on this
route such as are described in Chapters IV. and V. The descent
to the level western plains is gradual; so that a railway to the
north-west ports, along the valleys of the Ikòpa and Bétsibòka
rivers, would, although longer, present very much less engineering
difficulty than that from Tamatave to the capital.


On Saturday morning we came to the bank of the Ikòpa, which river
is at some points half-a-mile or more wide, but then at its lowest
level, being apparently very shallow, but so interrupted everywhere
with shelves of rock that it would be difficult for even a small
canoe to make its way far. There were numerous islands, covered with
bamboo, bàraràta, _rofìa_-palms and other vegetation. From a low hill
we had a view over an immense expanse of flat country on the western
side of the river. Only here and there was the level broken by a
line of hills of small elevation. After leaving the Ikòpa we found
ourselves in a very different kind of country from any we had yet
passed through, a succession of low hills or mamelons of dry sandy
gravel, with hardly any vegetation, and looking as if no rain had
fallen upon it for years. In the afternoon I noticed that a large
number of granite boulders were strewn over the country, and could
hardly doubt that these, from their rounded forms, but especially
from the absence, as far as I could see, of any such rock _in situ_,
must by some means or other have been transported from the granitic
region of the interior far to the eastward. Must this not have been
glacier or iceberg action? Although it is difficult to understand
such agency in the tropics.

Ten years after making the journey, my friend, Mr Baron, in
travelling across the island towards the north-west coast, but about
a hundred and twenty miles farther north, came across isolated
rocks, which were quite different in composition from anything near
them. Of these he said: “I could think of no agent to account for
their occurrence but that of glacial action. They seemed to me to be
perched blocks, as there was no hill near from which they could have
fallen, nor any rock of the kind _in situ_.” I was interested to find
that an expert in Madagascar geology like Mr Baron had come to the
same conclusion as myself with regard to these granite boulders.

Early in the afternoon we arrived at Mèvatanàna, the most important
place in this part of the country, with about a hundred houses; it
had, however, been quite recently burnt down, but was in process of
rebuilding. The houses seemed rather larger than those in Imèrina,
made of round-pole framework, filled in with _bàraràta_ stems, the
roofs of _rofìa_-palm leaf-stalks and thatched with grass. We secured
a new house, not quite finished; and as this was very like a large
birdcage, besides having no doors in the three doorways, we put up
the tent on one side, piled up our heavy luggage against another of
the doorways, and hung a rug over the third, so as to make ourselves
less of a public spectacle.

We were glad of the Sunday’s rest after our week of continuous
travelling, and that we had _not_ “to shift our moving tent” that
morning, but could let beds and baggage, boxes and bottles, and pots
and pans rest in peace. We had large and attentive congregations in
the native church morning and afternoon, Mr Briggs and I taking the
services. Our dwelling, although perfect as regards ventilation,
was certainly not cool, and we all were suffering somewhat from the
mosquito bites on the journey. We were as much stared at by the
“natives” as if we had been a kind of wild animal, a wondering, if
not admiring, crowd unpleasantly blocking up the one doorway left
open—in fact, we formed an apparently popular exhibition, open,
Sundays not excepted, for a limited period only.

[Sidenote: OUR CANOES]

We were astir very early on the Monday morning, for there was a large
amount of work to be got through before we could start on our canoe
voyage. We got away from the town before seven, and half-an-hour’s
ride brought us down to the river, where we found six large canoes,
four of which were being loaded with our luggage. When everything
had been arranged, we had to pay all our men, only about ten going
through with us to Mojangà; and a few others had to be engaged in
addition to row the canoes and help in various ways. About nine
o’clock we got away and began our four days’ voyage down the Ikòpa.
It was a pleasant change from the jolting of the palanquin to the
smooth gliding of the canoe. These vessels were about forty feet
long; and the one in which we went was three feet six inches beam,
and two feet six inches deep, and had three paddlers, besides one
at the stern to steer; as we were going down with the current, more
men were not necessary. Two of the palanquins with their hoods were
placed in our canoe, for wife, nurse and little girls, while the
little boys, in their palanquin, went in another one with Mr Street
and Mr Briggs.

[Sidenote: CROCODILES]

The shores of the river are exceedingly pretty, although there was
nothing grand or striking. They are flat, but beautifully wooded, the
great _bàraràta_ grass, with its light grey feathery head of flowers,
giving quite a character to the scenery. Islands are numerous, some
being mere sand-banks, but many covered with trees and bush. We soon
made acquaintance with the crocodiles, for there was one basking in
the sunshine on a sand-bank just opposite our starting-place. We saw
a good many of them during the day, although not as many as other
travellers have observed, perhaps from twenty to thirty, and some
of them quite near enough to be seen very distinctly. Most of them
were light grey in colour, but others slaty, and others again spotted
with black; they varied in length from seven or eight to fourteen or
fifteen feet. The head is small, and the back and tail serrated like
a great pit-saw. They were generally lying with the jaws wide open,
and sometimes were near enough to be splashed by the paddles as we
passed them. The heat on the river was much less than when travelling
on the land, or at Mèvatanàna; a delightful breeze blew against us
all day, and we enjoyed the change immensely.

The banks of the river, which was from half to three-quarters of a
mile wide, were only a few feet above the water, and from them flew
numbers of birds. Among these were many with which we were familiar
in the interior—the pure white lesser egret, varieties of heron,
purple kingfishers, wild ducks and wild geese, and many others. The
_Railòvy_ or fork-tailed shrike is one of the most widely distributed
birds of the island, and is very active and an excellent singer.
Perched on a dead branch, it keeps up a constant noise, its strong
voice giving forth several notes, which very much resemble that of an
organ. In the spots frequented by a large number of these shrikes,
each one reserves to itself a hunting-ground, in which according
to M. Pollen, he tolerates the presence of no other birds, even of
his own kind, not excepting those stronger than himself. It is dark
bluish-green in colour, with a long tail, forked at the extremity.
These western woods are fairly full of singing birds, especially in
the hot season, which was coming on at the time of our journey.
Among these are three species of fly-catcher, one of which is
called the “changeable,” from the remarkable changes of colour it
undergoes according to its age and sex. The female bird is entirely
of reddish-brown, except the cap and nape, which are dark green.
The young male has during the first month the same livery as the
female, but its plumage soon changes to a beautiful maroon red; then
very soon the two middle tail feathers become greatly lengthened,
the quills being black with a white fringe; the wing coverts become
partly black and partly white; and the feathers of the head change to
dark green, with brilliant metallic reflections. At the breeding-time
the back and throat take the same tints as the head, and the belly
and breast become white.


We stopped for lunch at a low rising ground, a few feet above the
water, at a grove of _Madìro_ or tamarind-trees, and under one
of these we spread our meal. It was a magnificent tree, shapely
and rounded in outline like a great oak or chestnut, the branches
spreading over a circle of a hundred feet in diameter and touching
the ground. The foliage was then rather thin, the leaves being
minute, like those of a mimosa, and the ground was strewed with them,
as well as with the pods of the fruit. Most of these were dry and
worthless, but we got many fresh enough to eat, and their acid dark
red pulp was very refreshing. Mr Baron believes the tamarind-tree to
be truly indigenous to Madagascar, but only in the western region,
which he thinks forms its original home. The seeds were, and probably
still are, employed in the _sikìdy_, or divination; and a decoction
from the leaves as a medicine.

About an hour after leaving our stopping-place we came to the
junction with the Bétsibòka, the latter being strongly coloured with
red clay from North Imèrina. What impressed us most this afternoon
was the total absence of population on the banks of this large river,
and it appeared strange that immense tracts of such apparently
fertile country should be uninhabited; it was different from the
crowded villages along the Màtitànana and Mànanàra and other rivers
in South-east Madagascar. In the afternoon the beautiful fan-palm
became very plentiful, growing in extensive groves and mingled with
the other trees. Stopping for the night by a sand-bank, we made the
canoe fast to a stake and proceeded to put up the tents. Although
dry and pleasant for a floor, the sand had the disadvantage of giving
bad holding-ground for the tent-pegs, and, had not the fresh breeze
died away at sunset, a very slight gust would have brought down the
whole concern over our heads.

[Sidenote: THE AGY-TREE]

We might congratulate ourselves in not coming across, in short
rambles among the trees, a tree which caused no small discomfort to
some of our missionary friends in this very locality. Mr Montgomery
thus describes his experiences. He says:

  “Walking under some trees and pushing aside the reeds and grass,
  I was startled, in a moment, by a sudden tingling and pricking
  sensation over the back of my hands and fingers, for never had come
  the like to me, in Madagascar or elsewhere. I stopped in sudden
  surprise, for the pain was severe, and I had touched nothing except
  the grass. But in another moment the pain increased, the tingling
  burning sensation seemed extending rapidly up my wrists, and I
  could see nothing to cause it. But as I lowered my head to look,
  pain, scalding pain, shot into my ears and neck, growing worse,
  too, every instant. Dazed and bewildered, I stood a few seconds in
  helplessness, for I could neither see nor guess at the cause of the
  terrible distress. Then I got back to my company with agony writ
  plain enough on every line of my face.

  “The men started up when they saw me, some of them crying out,
  ‘You have been stung by the agy.’ Some of them led me to a seat,
  others rushed for water from the river, and two or three brought
  sand heaped up in their hands. Then they chafed me with the sand
  and water to take out the stinging hairs, which they knew caused
  the mischief. As they rubbed me, I felt the pain abate, and after
  about a quarter of an hour’s continuance of the operation I was
  comparatively free from pain. While the men were rubbing me, I was
  able to discern to some extent the cause of my distress. Countless
  hairs, like tiny arrows, almost transparent, pointed at either end,
  and from a third to a fourth of an inch long, had dropped down
  on me in an invisible shower from the agy-tree, as I passed and
  stood under it. Ere I came away that afternoon, very cautiously I
  ventured to examine the tree at a little distance, and found that
  these tiny hairs grew outside a thickish pod or shell, not quite
  so large as a small banana. These pods were fully ripe (unluckily
  for me) just at that very time, and the light wind was scattering
  their covering.”

Mr Baron says that the agy is _Mucuna axillaris_; it is not, however,
“a tree,” but a climbing plant, and had grown over the tree under
which Mr Montgomery happened to pass. He had himself a similar
experience on his way to Mojangà, and the sensation “reminded him of
the sting of a nettle, but was ten times more virulent.”


Our second day’s canoe voyage brought us into a part of the river,
with many windings among park-like glades of trees. Then the lovely
fan-palms became very numerous; at times we passed closer to the
banks, a tangled mass of _bàraràta_ bending down into the river,
and the tall grey columns of the palms standing up sometimes from
the very edge of the water, with their graceful crown of green fans
sharply defined against the blue of the sky. Everything seemed to be
steeped in light and heat. Surely of all the millions of beautiful
things in this beautiful world, palms are among the most lovely, and
the fan-palm not least among this glorious family of trees. It was
a perpetual delight to the eye to watch them as we swept rapidly by
the banks with the strong current, as one by one they passed by as in
a panorama. But for mosquitoes, certainly parts of the tropics are
earthly Edens. These palms are called _Sàtranabé_, and are much used
by the western peoples in building their huts. A smaller species,
called _Sàtramira_, is also employed in manufacturing mats and
baskets. Both are species of _Hyphæne_.

But beautiful objects were not the only ones prominent in this
journey, and the presence of the scaly reptiles we saw every few
minutes was not altogether in harmony with the graceful palms.
They seemed, indeed, to be somewhat out of place, “survivals,”
as indeed they are, of an earlier age of the world when gigantic
saurians—creeping, walking, swimming and flying—were the ruling
existences, in a world of slime and mud and ooze, and not in accord
with these beautiful trees, which seem as if they should rather be
associated with bright-coloured birds and insects than with these
crawling saw-backed monsters. Beautiful birds were not wanting,
however, in the scene, for we came across a flight of lovely little
sun-birds, with bright metallic plumage, which glittered in the

[Sidenote: FRUIT-BATS]

Birds are not the only flying creatures to be seen in this western
region; although I was not so fortunate as to see them, Mr Grainge,
in travelling down this river in the preceding year speaks of seeing
great numbers of fruit-bats (_Pteropus edwardsii_). Their flight is
slow, and broken at each moment by strokes of the wings; and those
he saw flew so straight and steadily that he took them at first, in
the doubtful evening light, for benighted crows. He also remarks that
they were always flying in a direct line _from_ the setting sun. One
that he shot measured more than four feet across the wings. M. Pollen
says that they may be seen sometimes in broad daylight, flying from
one forest to another, when one might take them for crows. He also
remarks: “I have observed these animals fly like swallows over a
lake, just skimming the surface of the water with their wings. They
choose isolated places, especially the little wooded islands at some
distance from the coast.”

Madagascar is the home of one or two other species of fruit-bat,
two species of the horseshoe-bats (_Rhinolo-phidæ_), seven species
of the _Vespertilionidæ_ or true bats, and three species of the
_Emballonuridæ_ or thick-legged bats; no doubt there are still many
species undescribed, and until much more minute investigation is made
of the fauna of the island, the crepuscular and nocturnal habits of
these animals will always make it difficult to learn much about their

The morning’s voyage brought us in several places along low sections
of stratified sandstone rock, looking like ruined walls, some courses
being deeply honeycombed by the action of the water, while others, of
harder material, were smooth, like newly laid masonry. It was clear
that we had left behind us, in the upper highland, the crystalline
rocks, the granites and gneisses and the like, and were in a region
of Secondary strata, like the oolites of our own country. Subsequent
examination by many observers has confirmed this fact, and shown that
an extensive series of Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks occupies a great
portion of the western low land, from north to south of the island.
These plains must have formerly been a portion of a wider Mozambique
Channel than now exists to separate Madagascar from Africa.

In certain shales which occur among the Secondary strata of the
western plains, Belemnites are so numerous that the Sàkalàva used
them as rifle balls; while many species of ammonites are formed, some
being a foot in diameter.

[Sidenote: THE SÀKALÀVA]

As we proceeded, the country became more hilly and with more
extensive woods; but as for population, not a soul did we see,
except two women at one spot, and again we asked, where are the
people? And here a few words may be said about the inhabitants of
this part of the country. Along about two-thirds of the western side
of Madagascar, the people are loosely called Sàkalàva; but every
district has its people with its own tribal name, for “Sàkalàva” was
originally the name of one particular tribe, which, through European
or Arab admixture and the possession of fire-arms, conquered the
other tribes and founded two kingdoms, Ibòina to the north, and
Mènabé to the south. These Sàkalàva kingdoms were the dominant ones
in the island until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the
Hovas gradually obtained the leadership. Physically, these people
are taller and stronger than the Hovas, are darker in colour, less
civilised, and have an African strain in them, from their proximity
to the continent. Still, they are not of African stock, but are no
doubt, Melanesian in origin. Their language presents a good deal of
difference from the Hova form of Malagasy, both in vocabulary and
in pronunciation, yet the groundwork and the grammar is essentially
the same. They are more nomadic in habit than the Hovas, breaking
up their villages at the death of any of its inhabitants, and not
cultivating rice like most Malagasy tribes, but subsisting largely on
manioc root, bananas, fish and vegetables.


We stopped to lunch under a fine adàbo-tree; all along the main
branches of this tree, the small fig-like fruits were clustered by
hundreds, most of them being ripe and scarlet in colour. During an
afternoon’s voyage the river became narrower, but with a deep and
strong current. We lost the fan-palms, but passed for some miles
along a beautifully wooded portion of country, with fine large trees,
like those in an English park, and growing close to the water’s edge.
One of these beautiful trees, however, has a very vile odour when cut
up for timber, so that although the wood is good for carpentry, when
new it is in the highest degree offensive. It is called _Komàngo_,
and the people say that its smell, as a tree, is so strong that
birds settling on its branches die immediately. A high price is given
for chips or twigs of the tree, to be used as charms, for few are
daring enough to cut it down.

[31] _Mòka_ is the native word for “mosquito”; _Mòkafòhy_ is,
literally, “short mosquito”; but the insect is not a gnat, but a fly,
and its name is, more correctly, _Alòy_.



Crocodiles are not the only reptiles to be seen in the river, for
we also saw many large tortoises. They were chiefly of the genus
_Pyxis_, the Geometric or Box tortoise, having the carapace divided
into large hexagons beautifully marked, and were basking in the sun
on small spits of sand rising just above the surface of the water. A
carapace which I afterwards procured on the coast was about eighteen
inches long. Two other species are also found in Madagascar, named
respectively, _Testudo geometria_ and _Testudo radiata_.

In former times the lakes and marshes of the island were inhabited
by an immense species of tortoise, whose remains have been
found together with those of the gigantic birds (Æpyornis), the
hippopotamus and the great extinct lemurs, all of which were no doubt
contemporaneous, lasting until the arrival of man on the scene. But
although extinct on the mainland of Madagascar, they seem to have
survived on the Mascarene group of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodriguez
until a very recent date, and they are still living in the little
island of Aldabra, which is about two hundred and sixty miles
north-west of Cape Ambro. There are two living examples of these huge
creatures in the Regent’s Park Gardens. The male tortoise, which
is much the larger of the two, is five feet five inches in length,
and five feet nine inches in breadth, broader, in fact, than it is
long. It weighs about eight hundred pounds, and is believed to be
able to carry a ton weight on its back. It is now at least a hundred
and fifty years old, but is still young and is likely to grow to a
much greater size. From the geometric-shaped plates of its carapace,
it seems to be allied to the geometric tortoise, still plentiful
in Madagascar, as we have just seen. Until lately, it was supposed
that these great tortoises were becoming extinct on Aldabra, but by
the most recent accounts of the island, it appears that this is not
likely to be the case, the dense jungle of pandanus giving them
ample protection, as it is at night when they leave this shelter, and
go in search of food.[32]

Although we saw no villages during this day’s voyage, there was
evidence of some population, in people fishing along the river bank,
canoes moored by the shore, and women drawing water, carefully
avoiding going into the stream, and filling their vessels with a
small gourd fastened to a long bamboo. The scenery also was more
varied, there being lines of low hills, partly covered with wood, and
the banks of the river lined with large trees.

Our third day’s voyage took us again along a very beautiful extent
of park-like scenery. All yesterday afternoon we were gradually
approaching a long line of blue hills running north-north-west and
south-south-east, and this morning we got nearer to them. They
appeared to be about a thousand feet high, and almost covered with
dense forest, with patches of rock and red clay showing here and
there. Landing at noon for lunch among magnificent trees, I noticed
that these were swarming with ants, which covered the trunks and
devoured every fruit as soon as it became ripe.

[Illustration: THE FÒSA

It is the largest Madagascar carnivore, and is like a small jaguar]

[Illustration: MALAGASY OXEN

Note their large humps and horns]


During this journey to the north-west, we saw no mammals except herds
of oxen; but as there _are_ a few others, it will be fitting here
to say something about the largest carnivorous animal found in the
island, especially as this district is its special habitat. This
creature is called by the people, _Fòsa_ (_Cryptoprocta ferox_),
and although small is very ferocious, as its specific name denotes.
The fòsa differs from most of the felidæ by the greater elongation
of the body, including the head, and it is plantigrade, like the
bears, and not digitigrade, like the majority of the cats. In its
structure it resembles the jaguar, and in its colouring the puma,
indeed it is very like a small jaguar, as it has thick glossy fur
of a tawny-brown, which becomes somewhat darker under the body. Its
total length is four feet eight inches, but of this the tail occupies
two feet two inches, and it stands about one foot three inches high.
For its size, the animal is powerful, but it is not dangerous to
man, except when it is wounded, or at the breeding season. It is
destructive to poultry and small animals, and it is able to emit a
very fetid odour from an anal pouch, with which fowls are said to
be killed. Examples of the fòsa have been seen in the outskirts
of the upper belt of forest on the east side of the island; and of
somewhat larger size than the dimensions already given. A specimen
I once saw was of a beautiful black colour, but I believe this was
only a variety, and not a distinct species from the brown animal.
The fòsa is much dreaded by the Malagasy, and, from its mode of
attack, appears to be like an immense weasel, attacking large
animals, such as the wild boar and even oxen. Like the aye-aye among
the quadrumana, and many of the native birds, the fòsa has no near
relative, and therefore a new family had to be formed for it, of
which it is the only genus and species.

The other carnivora of Madagascar are all small animals, and are
rarely seen except when trapped. They all belong to the viverridæ
or civets, two to the civets proper, five (or six) being mungooses,
and one, an ichneumon. The mungooses, known to the Malagasy under
the name of _Vontsìra_, somewhat resemble the weasels and ferrets
of Europe, except that they are not exclusively flesh feeders. They
feed upon poultry, rats and mice, and also fruits. The ichneumon, or
_Fanàloka_, is about twenty inches long, with a bushy tail of about
a third that length, and is covered with thick warm brown fur. Its
claws are long and are used to dig up the eggs of the crocodile, on
which it is said to feed.


Although we saw an occasional angler on the banks of the river, we
were not fortunate enough to see any of the fish. According to M.
Pollen, the rivers of the north-west contain a number of fish, many
of which are coloured in a most striking manner; the plates of his
valuable work on the fauna of the island show these as banded and
barred with the most vivid colours—blue, scarlet, black and yellow—in
fact, very much like those strikingly coloured and curiously marked
fishes which inhabit the sea round coral reefs and feed upon the
brightly tinted polyps.

Wednesday afternoon’s voyage was, as regards scenery, the most
beautiful of the whole journey. Instead of the country becoming
flatter as we approach the sea, it increases in boldness and
picturesqueness. Lines of hills covered with wood lie in all
directions, and amongst these the river winds, making sudden turns
almost at right angles, so that we proceeded towards almost every
point of the compass except due south. A few scattered hamlets,
of three to six huts each, began to appear. The crocodiles were
numerous, from the old patriarch to the infant of a foot or so long.
We must have seen a hundred of them that afternoon. We had some
difficulty in landing and pitching our tents, and on account of the
heat and the mosquitoes passed the most uncomfortable night of the
entire journey. Hardly anyone was able to sleep, and I was glad to
get up at four o’clock and dress in the bright moonlight and rouse up
the others.


Our fourth (and last) day of canoe voyaging was begun soon after six
o’clock. Outrigger canoes made their appearance, a style of craft the
Hovas seem never to have invented, nor are such in use on the east
coast. The scenery increased in boldness, with precipitous hillsides
rising from the side of the river, which here was about the size of
the Thames at Kew. About an hour after leaving, we found the current
running up the stream; it was feeling the influence of the tide from
the ocean, still many miles distant. The foliage was most dense and
luxuriant, from the summit of the hills down to the water’s edge,
in some parts the long lianas forming immense festoons and making a
perfect wall of exquisite green, while the ever-present _bàraràta_
shoots up its feathery head. After some time we turned from the main
stream into a branch river, much narrower, but running for many miles
in a straight line. As the day advanced, the intense sunlight made
everything glow with light and heat, lighting up the dense vegetation
most brilliantly. Groups of pandanus were frequent here among the
more European-like trees; these are of two species, one rising into
a lofty cone, almost like a low poplar, and the other one more
spreading and brandishing, with the aerial roots rising high above
the ground. After an hour or two we came again into the main stream,
here more than a mile wide, the banks being still thickly wooded.
It was intensely hot, and we were not sorry to see Màrovoày (“Many
crocodiles”) a few miles ahead of us on a detached hill to the east
of the river.

At one o’clock we stopped when opposite the town, the water approach
to it being by a small tidal stream which flows into the main river
some miles farther down. Our men were just enough to carry the
wife and baby and little girl in their palanquin across the mile
or two, while the native nurse and I walked; the others, who were
some way behind, had to go farther down the river in the canoes,
and consequently had three or four hours’ paddling in the glowing
afternoon sun, which we who took the land journey avoided.

Màrovoày is situated on the north-east bank of a small river, which
we had to cross by a canoe. Nearly a dozen dhows were either anchored
in the stream or aground on mud-banks, giving the place the aspect
of a small fishing town. The lower town, with perhaps two hundred
houses, was chiefly occupied by Arab and Indian traders, their stores
and warehouses lining the main street through which we passed. The
Hova town and government compound (_ròva_) was on a low hill, rising
abruptly from the level to the height of eighty or a hundred feet.
Coming up to the gate of the _ròva_, we stopped to rest and sent word
of our arrival to the governor. While we were waiting, one of our men
thoughtfully got us a coffee-pot full of _rànom-pàry_ (sugar-cane
juice), and never did nectar taste more delicious than that as we
took repeated “pulls” at it after our walk across the rice-fields in
the glowing sunshine.

[Sidenote: A WELCOME REST]

Presently we were invited to enter, the governor coming out to meet
us, and brought us into his house, a rather smartly furnished place
of one large room, but with a wide gallery all round it. Here we
were glad to rest after our hot voyage and walk, and enjoyed an
excellent cup of coffee, which they kindly made for us, as well as
some of Huntley & Palmer’s “best mixed biscuits.” We felt as if we
were getting back into a civilised land again! After a little while
we moved into the chapel, which was also within the _ròva_; this
was a large building, and looked quite gay, from being completely
papered with good wall-paper, but badly laid on, for the native
workman evidently thought that the white edging to each piece was a
part of the pattern, and so had carefully left it visible in every
case! The wooden posts of the roof were all papered too. The pulpit
was a curious example of its kind, being made of lattice-work, gaily
painted, with a number of small looking-glasses let into its front,
and backed by wall-paper. It had a flat canopy or sounding board
and a large door, so it was like a little room of itself. With its
numerous doors and windows there was a beautiful breeze through
the building, and we anticipated a comfortable night, but, alas!
our hopes were not realised, for the heat was intense, and the
mosquitoes persecuted us by hundreds. This town is probably one of
the hottest in the island, and we were told that later on, in the
rainy season, the place is almost unbearable from the clouds of these


Our day at Màrovoày was occupied chiefly in arranging for leaving for
Mojangà the same evening, and in transferring all our baggage to one
of the dhows lying in the river. There is an extensive view from the
upper part of the town, as the country is very flat for many miles
round. In the evening we dined with the governor and his wife in the
_làpa_, and went down to the river at about nine o’clock. With some
difficulty, in the darkness, we transferred ourselves and palanquins,
etc., from shore to canoe, and from canoe to dhow, and at last were
crowded together as thick as we could sit and lie on the little deck.
The ship we embarked in was about thirty-five feet long, by fourteen
or fifteen feet beam; the middle portion open to the keel, but with
a little deck forward and another aft. This small quarter-deck was
about ten to twelve feet square, and when the two large palanquins
for the children to sleep in had been placed on either side, there
was not much space left for five adults to pack together, in fact we
had about as much room as would be found on a good-sized dining-table.

Soon after ten o’clock we got under way, the tide having begun to ebb
for the previous hour or two. There was no wind, so six men rowed
us down the stream, accompanying their work with the most curious
weird-sounding songs, in Arabic, I suppose (or perhaps Suahili), some
of them sounding very comic. We swept down rapidly with the tide, the
trees looking dark and gloomy in the uncertain light, and presently
the moon rose. After an hour or two we got into the main river, and
in a little time had to cast anchor, as the tide had turned. It was a
strange night, and we did not get much sleep, as we had not room to
turn, so we waited impatiently for the dawn. Dawn, however, brought
with it a cloud of mosquitoes from the low swampy ground bordering
the river, which was thick with mangroves and rank vegetation. Just
at twilight they surrounded us by thousands; but as soon as the sun
rose, they disappeared, a gentle breeze sprang up, and we set sail.
The river widened as we proceeded, until it became a large estuary,
and gradually opened into the Bay of Bèmbatòka. The breeze freshened
as the day advanced, and we sailed at a considerable speed.

These dhows are first-rate sailers; they carry one large sail, in
shape like a triangle with one corner cut off. But what struck us as
very curious was that when tacking, they did not run into the wind’s
eye as a European ship does, but they turned the dhow right round
before the wind, while shifting the long boom to the other side of
the mast. But they sail very close to the wind, and seem excellent
sea boats. This form of ship is probably a very ancient one, for
vessels very similar in shape and rig are figured on the Egyptian
monuments, and most likely the “ships of Tarshish” were only rather
large dhows. The largest of these vessels have two masts, the one at
the stern being much smaller than the other, and both have a _rake_
forward, instead of aft, as in European ships.

[Sidenote: MOJANGÀ]

Our spirits rose with the wind, for there had been many prophecies
at Màrovoày that we might be a long time on the way, and, in fact,
some friends who preceded us by a month or two were actually three
nights on the voyage. But we bounded over the waves and soon felt
a considerable swell. Bèmbatòka Bay is so wide for a considerable
distance that the north-western shore is only faintly visible, but it
narrows again towards the mouth, and a line of hills running out to
the western point defines its outline very clearly; opposite Mojangà
it is about five miles across. Towards noon they pointed out to us a
projecting headland, some way ahead to the right, and told us that
after rounding that we should see Mojangà. The wind continued strong,
but as it got more and more ahead, we had to tack repeatedly. At
about half-past three o’clock we reached our destination, casting
anchor a quarter of a mile or so from the beach.

[Sidenote: CAMELS]

Mojangà was a decidedly pretty and picturesque-looking place from the
sea, and a much more civilised-looking town than any I had previously
seen in Madagascar. Instead of rush and bamboo houses, there was a
long line of white flat-topped buildings of two and three storeys,
some having castellated battlements. A score or two of dhows were at
anchor in the roads, but there was no European vessel in the harbour.
Behind the Arab and Indian town the ground rises gently for two
hundred or three hundred feet, and at the top of this higher ground
is the _ròva_ and Hova town. Between the two, and to the north, is
a beautiful park-like expanse, thickly studded with magnificent
trees, chiefly mangoes, which here grow to a great size, as well as
baobabs, and clumps of cocoanut-palms and a few fan-palms. A fort
crowns the crest of the hill to the north; and altogether, we were
agreeably surprised with Mojangà. Just as we had cast anchor, we were
surprised to see several camels brought down to the sea for a bath.
They were imported from Aden some time ago by a French firm, but had
not proved a success, commercially, for Madagascar has too damp a
climate for animals accustomed to the sand and gravel of the Arabian
desert. We had not landed many minutes before our brother missionary,
Mr Pickersgill, then stationed at Mojangà, came down and gave us a
hearty welcome and every assistance with our baggage, etc. Our little
family party found quarters in the verandah of the house of a Madame
Beker, very near the shore, while the others went to stay with Mr
Pickersgill near the _ròva_. This house was of coral rock, plastered,
but was so hot that we preferred the verandah, which was roofed with
fan-palm leaves and surrounded with the same slight materials. We
were glad of the quiet and rest we had there for a week after our two
or three weeks’ travelling by land and river.

The following morning, Sunday, the mail steamer, _Packumba_, came
in about midday, but left again for Mozambique in the afternoon. On
going on board to see the ship we were to sail in, we found that her
main deck was arranged so as to take a great number of passengers,
the iron plating at the sides all turning up on hinges to allow a
free passage of air. I was glad to be able to preach to a large
congregation in the native church during the afternoon.

The week at Mojangà passed away rapidly, for we had plenty to do
in rearranging and labelling luggage, disposing of our palanquins,
bedding, and other no longer needful property, and preparing for our
voyage. At this town we found ourselves in quite a different place
and surroundings from what we had seen everywhere else in Madagascar.
We were in the midst of an Indian and Mohammedan population, the
traders here being mostly Banians and a large proportion of them
British subjects. Hindoo speech, dress, ornament, and customs met us
at every turn, and also those of the Arabs. The houses are chiefly
built of coral rock, plastered with lime, and roofed with fan-palm
leaves. The door and window openings are made with flat-pointed and
zigzagged arches; and when the rooms are wide, a line of piers and
arches runs down its length, giving a cool depth of shade quite
Eastern in its effect. The doorways have elaborately carved lintels
and posts; these are all done at Bombay and brought here ready for
fitting. There is a little stone carving also here and there, and
Arabic sentences are carved over the doors in some cases. The men
are in Indian dress, and the women with nose-jewels, silver armlets
and anklets, and the long muslin robe thrown over the head and wound
round the body.


Arabic dress and customs were not less prominent in Mojangà. Close
to our lodging was a small mosque, and from the flat roof we could
hear the _muezzin_ calling the faithful to prayers five times a day
in a long sonorous musical cry—before sunrise, in the forenoon,
at noon, at three o’clock, and at sunset, and could see his form
silhouetted against the sky, making a number of prostrations when the
call was finished. Our stay here was in the month Ramazan, the great
fasting-time of the Mohammedans, when they eat and drink nothing all
day, at least the strictly orthodox do not. They make up for it,
however, at night; and feasting and jollity seemed to be the general
employment. Our house adjoining the main street, it was extremely
noisy until long after midnight. There is no doubt that the Arabs,
and also the Indians, have been settled at Mojangà, as well as at
other places on the north-west coast, for centuries. As we have seen
in Chapter XII., there was an Arab colony at some remote period on
the south-east coast, but this was gradually absorbed and lost in
the native population and no longer maintains a separate existence.
The north-western colony, however, being in constant communication
with Suahili land and the Arab element there, has maintained its
individuality, and kept its dress, customs, language, and religion
quite distinct from the Malagasy around it.

Amongst the magnificent mango-trees in the park are many specimens of
the baobab-tree (_Adansonia madagascariensis_); one of these must be
from seventy to eighty feet in girth. The trunks of these trees are
of enormous size compared with the small expanse of the branches;
and their glossy dark brown bark, their rapid tapering upwards, and
their bareness of foliage for the greater part of the year, mark them
very distinctly from all others. They are curious in appearance, but
not at all beautiful. The bark is used to make rope, and the sap is
said to be potable and tasteless; the wood, however, is so soft that
it can be pulled away by the fingers.

Many trees affording beautiful and valuable timber are found in
these western woods; among these is one yielding the kind called by
cabinet-makers “zebra-wood,” while ebony is obtained from one or more
of the twenty-two species of _Diospyros_ known in the island. We have
seen the mangrove (_Rhizophora mucronata_) on the shores of Bèmbatòka
Bay, and this tree is found at the mouths of almost all the rivers
and inlets on the north-western coast, where it is the most prominent
feature in the extensive swamps, probably also helping to extend the


We had no opportunity of seeing the largest of the Madagascar birds,
the _Ankoày_, or fishing eagle (_Haliaetus vociferoides_), although
it is found all along the western coast. It is a large and handsome
bird, and is said to keep watch on a tree or cliff at the edge of
the water, swooping down like lightning into the sea after its finny
prey, and being able to arrest instantaneously its downward flight.
M. Grandidier says that a single pair of these eagles is found in
very many of the innumerable small bays of the north-western coast,
and of this they take exclusive possession, allowing no other eagle
to encroach on their own preserves. They feed principally on fish,
catching adroitly those which appear near the surface. The name of
_Ankoày_ applied to this bird appears to be an imitative one derived
from its cry of _hoai, hoai_.

It is doubtful whether there is another eagle really indigenous to
Madagascar, although a harrier-eagle (_Eutriorchis_) was once shot
in the Mangòro valley; if this was not a chance immigrant, it must
be extremely rare. This one example was remarkable for the extreme
shortness of its wings, and immoderate length of tail.

[Sidenote: TURTLES]

One of the most important occupations of the coast Sàkalàva is the
catching of turtles (_fàno_). Some of these creatures are oval in
form and very fat and plump, others are much thinner and flat; of
these latter, some are said to attain a length of eight or nine
feet. In catching them the natives go out to sea in the early
morning, when the turtles come to the surface to enjoy their morning
nap, and at which time the sea is usually very smooth. A kind of
harpoon, about twelve feet long, shod with a piece of barbed iron is
used, and to this a strong rope, a couple of hundred yards in length,
is attached. Great care and caution has to be used in approaching
the sleeping animal, for, if struck, it dives down immediately, and
the fisherman will not leave go of the rope, but dives down with
it, if the water is deep. The natives seem to be able to stop an
extraordinary time under water. As soon as the turtle is secured, the
captors make for the shore, and all the people gather together to
share in the feast. Nobody must bring anything from a house to the
spot, for the animal must be wrenched open and cut in pieces with
knives belonging to the canoe, it must be cooked in sea-water in the
shell of the turtle itself, and served in scoops or other vessels
from the canoe, or in pieces of turtle-shell. None of the flesh is
allowed to be brought into a house to be cooked or eaten there. All
these and several other precautions are ancestral customs and must be
religiously observed, or the turtles would disappear.

A curious account is given by the natives of the north-west coast of
a fish which they call _Hàmby_, whose length is said to be about that
of a man’s arm, and its girth about that of his thigh. Its dorsal
fin, they say, is just like a brush, and it has a liquid about it,
sticky like glue, and when it fastens on to another fish from below,
with this brush on its head, the fish cannot get away, but is held
fast. On account of this peculiarity, the people use the hàmby to
fish with. When they catch one, they confine it in a light cage,
which they fasten in the sea, feeding it daily with cooked rice or
small fish; and when they want to use it, they tie a long cord round
its tail and let it go, following it in a canoe. When it fastens on a
fish they pull it in and secure the spoil. I wonder whether this fish
has any connection with one found on the east coast, which is called
_Làdintavìa_, and is said by Mr Connorton to be covered with a kind
of slime, so that when many of them are together, it looks as if they
are floating in a thick lather of soap.

Two or more kinds of oysters are found on this north-west coast;
one of these is called by the people _Sàja_, which may be seen
covering the rocks in great abundance on the seashore at low water.
It is a small oyster, but excellent in quality. Another kind,
called _Téfaka_, is only found at some depth below water. It is a
much larger oyster than the sàja, with the interior of the shell
beautifully pearly. It is said to be delicious in flavour. Quite
recently an English company was projected to exploit these oyster
beds for pearls and for the pearly shells themselves.

Another sea-living creature in Madagascar waters is a species of
octopus called _Horìta_, which, notwithstanding its repulsive
appearance, is reckoned a delicacy by the coast people, although
Europeans who have tried it pronounce it as tough and gluey and
uneatable, although cooked for a long time.

[Sidenote: HERONS]

The north-west coasts, from the numerous estuaries surrounded with
trees, are particularly favourable for such birds as the herons,
some species of which are regarded as sacred by the natives, and are
consequently less shy than these birds are in Europe, while others
are very wary and most difficult to approach. In habits and feeding
these Madagascar herons are much like the European and African
species, mostly living on fish, molluscs and crustacea, the larger
ones devouring reptiles and small birds and mammals, while the
smaller kinds are insectivorous. They are often found in companies,
including several different species, settled on the trees overhanging
or near water, and remaining perfectly motionless for a long time.
Some of the herons appear to be very common, as the ashy, the
black-necked, the purple, the white-winged, the garzetta, and some
others, and especially the small white egret, which we have noticed
more than once in these chapters. Fifteen species of heron are found
in Madagascar, three storks, a spoonbill, five ibises and a flamingo.


It was a pleasure to us during our week’s stay at Mojangà to meet
with several old acquaintances among the Hova officers stationed
there; anyone coming from their loved Imèrina always received a
warm welcome. On the Saturday of the week after our arrival there,
the _Packumba_ returned from Africa, and on the following morning
we left in her for Aden and Europe. Steaming northwards, we kept in
sight of the mainland of Madagascar during the next day, and this
appeared bold and mountainous, and very different from the greater
portion of the eastern coast of the island. There were many islands
rising precipitously out of the sea, while ahead of us the lofty
mountains of the island of Nòsibé soon appeared. These looked exactly
like portions of the interior of Madagascar set down in the midst
of the sea; the same red clay soil and the same markings of valley
and ravine as seen all through the interior plateaux. Two or three
very regular volcanic cones, truncated and showing the craters,
were very prominent; these are parts of that chain of extinct vents
of which we have seen numerous examples in our travelling through
other parts of the country. Besides the main island of Nòsibé, there
are many outlying portions of it, looking like detached islets
dropped into the sea. Some of these are densely wooded from base to
summit. Altogether, as may be seen from a brief glance at the map,
the north-western side of Madagascar is totally different, with its
numerous deep bays and inlets, from the eastern side, where there is
almost a straight line for many hundreds of miles. The geology of the
two sides is very different, and this has powerfully affected their
physical geography.

We stayed several hours at Nòsibé, discharging and receiving cargo,
and it was nearly sunset when we steamed away to the north-west for
Mayotta. For several hours we could still see the island and the
mainland by the glare of the burning grass on the hillsides; and
these, for more than five years subsequently, were the last glimpses
we had of Madagascar.

[32] See “The South-West Indian Ocean”; by J. C. F. Fryer; _The
Geographical Journal_, September 1910; pp. 249-271.




  Ambòdinangàvo, 70

  Adàbo-tree, 252, 289, 299

  _Æpyornis_, 213

  Agave, the, 32

  _Agy_, a stinging plant, 297

  Alamazaotra, 63

  Alaotra, Lake, 68, 174, 193, 197, 207

  Alàtsinainy, 116

  Algæ, species of, 200

  _Aloe macroclada_, 90

  Aloes and agaves, 91

  Ambàhy, 270

  Ambàtoharànana, 56, 109

  Ambàtomànga, 72

  Ambàtondrazàka, 178, 205

  Ambàtovòry, 127

  Ambinàny, chief, 237

  Ambòdinònoka, 185

  Ambòhidèhilàhy, 184

  Ambòhijànahàry, 194

  Ambòhimanàrina, 103

  Ambòhimànga, 77, 105, 121, 205

  Ambòhimiangàra, 209

  “Ambòhimitsímbina,” 76

  Ambòhinàmboàrina, 229

  Ambòhipèno, 188, 253

  Ambòhitròmby, 187

  Ambòhitritankàdy, 120

  Ambòhitsàra, 196

  Ambòhitsitàkatra Mountains, 174

  Ambòhitsòa, 201

  Ambòndrombé Mountain, 234

  Ambòro Mountain, 61

  Ambòsitra, 230

  _Amìana_, or tree-nettle, 122, 146

  Ampàrafàravòla, 185, 188

  Ampàsimbé, 57

  Ampàsimpòtsy, 68

  Anàlamazàotra Mountains, 175

  Ancient towns and villages, 113

  Andohàlo, 118

  Andòvorànto, 45

  Andraikìba, Lake, 215

  Andrànokòbaka, 176

  Andrànokòditra, 38

  Andrìambàvibé, 64

  _Andrìana_, 25

  Andrìba Mountain, 289

  _Andropogon contortus_, 190

  Angàvo Mountains, 69, 71, 229

  Angàvokèly Mountain, 71

  _Angræcum_, orchid, 32

  Animal life, ancient, 225

  Animal life, peculiarity of, 66

  Anìvona-palm, 276

  Anjozòrobé, 174, 206

  Ankàrana, 264

  Ankàratra Mountain, 61, 77, 208, 219, 221

  Ankay, plain of, 68, 127, 175

  Ankèramadìnika, 71, 127

  Ankìtsika, 195

  Ànoròro, 205

  Antanànarìvo, 73

  Ant-hills, 176, 234

  Ants, destruction by, 34

  Ants’ nests, 130, 289

  Antsèsika river, 222

  Antsihànaka Province, 173

  Antsìrabé, 101, 211

  Antsìrabé plain, 219

  _Apenthes madagascariensis_, 42

  Aquatic fowl, 186

  Arabic influence, 255, 309

  _Ardea bubulcus_, 34

  _Àrondòvy_, the, 251

  Arums, Gigantic, 34, 253

  Asabòtsy, market at, 116

  _Astacoides madagasc._, 157

  _Avara-patana_, or place of honour, 98

  _Aviavy_, a species of _ficus_, 122

  Aye-aye, the, 45

  Ball-insect, 159

  Bamboo, the, 49, 57, 65

  Banana-trees, 49

  Baobab-trees, 309

  Bàra people, the, 233

  Baron, Mr, 60, 127, 138, 200

  Bats, 298

  Bearers, our, 55, 228

  Bee-eater, 170, 291

  “Beefwood tree,” 41

  Bees, the enemies of, 145

  Bees, wild, 144

  Beetles, 132, 154

  Béfòrona, 59, 61, 175

  Béhòsy, the, 147

  Belemnites, 299

  Bèmbatòka, Bay of, 77, 161, 307

  Benyowski, Count, 235

  Bétàfo, 208

  Bétsibòka, River, 77, 174, 295

  Bétsiléo province, 229

  Bétsimitàtatra, 77, 92

  Bétsimisàraka people, the, 43

  Bezànozàno tribe, 6

  Bird life, 63

  Bird life, scant, 279

  Birds, extinct gigantic, 213

  Birds: parakeets, green pigeons, cardinal-birds, sun-birds, 32;
    crows, 34;
    egret, 34;
    ducks and geese, 38;
    storks, herons, 69;
    rapacious, 82;
    egret, 105;
    crow, 105;
    kingfisher, 105;
    song, 137;
    sun-birds, 137;
    rollers, 138;
    shrike, parrot, warbler, cuckoo, wood-pigeon, hawks, 138;
    goat-sucker, 140;
    owls, 140;
    weaver-bird, 169;
    bee-eater, 170;
    birds on Lake Itàsy, 210;
    parrots, 233;
    Prevost’s broadbill, 281;
    black parrots, 291;
    bee-eater, 291;
    fork-tailed shrike, 294;
    fly-catcher, 293

  Blow-pipe, native, 61

  Boa, a, 44

  Botanising in Madagascar, 128

  “Bound-by-blood” ceremony, 235

  _Brehmia spinosa_, 42

  Bridges, 187, 194, 234, 238

  _Buddleia madagasc._, 90

  Buildings, modern, 99

  Bull-baiting, 194

  “Bullockers,” 20

  Burial customs, 43

  Butterflies, 110, 254

  _Cærostris stygiana_, 162

  _Cæsalpinia sepiaria_, 90

  Camels, 308

  Canals, 37

  “Candle-nut-tree,” the, 158

  Canoe chants, 271

  Canoes, native, 33

  Cape Lilac, 81

  Cardinal-birds, 32

  Carnivora, species of, 66, 167, 303

  Carving in Bétsiléo, 230

  _Cassia lævigata_, the, 90

  _Cassis_, 36

  Casuarina, the, 270

  Caterpillars, 132

  Caterpillars, a bag of, 130

  Cattle rearing, 182, 195

  _Centetes ecaudatus_, or tail-less tenrec, 167

  Centetidæ, the, 278

  Centipedes, 160

  _Cercopis_ species, 91

  Chameleons, 135, 288

  Chameleonidæ, species of the, 135

  Charms, 86, 249

  _Cheirogaleus minor_, 243

  Children, Hova, 122

  Cicada, the, 171

  Clay in building, use of, 96

  _Clematis bojeri_, 101

  Climate, 75

  Climbing plants, 37, 142

  Clothing of the Malagasy, 124

  Coast-line, the, 36

  Coffee, 51

  Cold month, the, 124

  Commelyna Madagasc., 89

  Constellations, Malagasy names for, 125

  _Conus_, 36

  Convolvuli, 49

  _Coraciadæ_, 138

  _Coracopsis obscura_, 234

  _Corvus scapulatus_, 34

  Cory, Mr, 99

  _Cosmaria_, 200

  Couas, the, 170

  Crabs, 35

  Crater lakes, 215

  Craters, extinct, 208

  Crayfish, 157

  Crocodiles, 294

  Crocodiles of Lake Alaotra, 200

  Crocodiles, superstitious dread of, 49

  Crocodiles, extinct species of, 223

  Crows, 34

  Cryptogamic vegetation, 143

  Custom, a curious, 194

  Customs at the New Year, 88

  Customs of the Sihànaka, 203

  _Cycas thouarsii_, 41

  Cyclones, 148

  _Cynoglossum_, 101

  _Cypræa_, 36

  Dauphine, Fort, 232

  Davidson, Dr, 74

  Day, divisions of the, 93

  Days, uniformity in the length of the, 92

  “Death-moths,” 110

  Death’s-head moth, 145

  Deciduous trees, 125

  _Delphinus pas_, 275

  Dhows, 307

  Dialects, Hova and Malagasy, 236

  Dinner with the Governor, 191

  Dishes and spoons, primitive, 268

  Dolphins, 275

  Doorways, Bétsiléo, 236

  Dracæna, 289

  Dragonflies, 108

  Dress, children’s, 125

  Dress, Sihànaka, 202

  Drury, Robert, 183

  Dry season, the, 113

  Dye from trees, 158

  Earthquake, 224

  Earthworms, enormous, 112, 155

  Ebony, 159

  Eels, 107

  _Èfitra_, or desert, 289

  Eggs of the _Æpyornis_, 213

  Egret, white, 105

  Egyptian kite, the, 83

  _Eleocarpus sericeus_, leaves of, 158

  Embankments, 78

  Eucalyptus, cultivation of, 125

  Euphorbia, the, 60, 125

  _Euryceros prevosti_, 281

  _Fàhitra_, or pens for oxen, 121

  _Famòa_, 179

  _Fànataovana_, or lucky heaps, 155

  Fauna and flora, 17

  Feather-bellows, 156

  Félana, or decoration, 233

  Ferns, 59, 128, 157

  Fianàrantsòa, 232

  Fibres, for rope, 158

  _Filanjàna_, the, 18, 24

  Fire, method of producing, 151

  Fireflies, 271, 284

  Firing the grass, 82

  Fish, 39;
    octopus, 40;
    mullet, 40;
    prawns and shrimps, 40;
    shark, 40;
    saw-fish, 40;
    dolphins, 275, 303

  Fishing, 196

  Fishing eagle, 310

  “Fitomanìanòmby,” 63

  Flamingoes, 210

  Flora: orchids, 32;
    arums, 34;
    palms, 37;
    climbing plants, 37;
    ferns, 38;
    tangèna, 38;
    sago palms, 41;
    _Filào_, 41;
    _Brehmia spinosa_, 42;
    _Hibiscus_, 42;
    _Stephanotis_, 42;
    _Ipomæa_, 42;
    pitcher-plant, 42;
    gum-copal, 42;
    india-rubber, 42;
    bamboo, sugar-cane, manioc, banana, palms, pandanus, water-lilies,
          palms, convolvuli, traveller’s tree, 49;
    raspberries, 51;
    coffee, 51;
    lace-leaf plant, 53;
    bamboo, 57;
    tree-ferns, 57;
    pine-apples, 57;
    _rofìa_-palm, 58;
    ferns, 59;
    euphorbias, 60;
    orchids, 64;
    bamboo, 65;
    rice, 79;
    Cape lilac, 81;
    vine, 81;
    euphorbia, 81;
    orchids, 101;
    indigenous plants, 127;
    ferns, orchids, 128;
    grasses and ferns, 128;
    palms, 142;
    climbing plants, 142;
    cryptogamic vegetation, 143;
    mosses and lichens, 143;
    fungi, 144;
    spiny plants, 145;
    stinging plants, 146;
    ferns, 157;
    valuable trees, 158;
    Tamarind-trees, 295

  Flowers, comparative scarcity of, 64

  Fly-catchers, 295

  Food, curious articles of, 106

  Food, articles of, 23

  Forest, stillness of the, 60, 65, 277

  Fòsa, the, 302

  Fosses, 119

  Fossils, 212

  Foundry, native, 156

  Fragrance of wild plants, 178

  French invasion, the, 28

  Frigate-birds, 255

  Frogs, 152

  Fruit-bats, 298

  Funeral, a heathenish, 276

  Funeral memorial, a, 268

  Funerals, expensive, 203

  Fungi, 144

  Furniture, 98

  Games, 122

  Gates of stone, 119

  Geese, 186

  “General Hàzo” and “General Tàzo,” 28

  Geological formations, quartz, red sandstone, 39, 53

  Goat-sucker, the, 140

  Goudot, M., 91

  Grainge, Mr, and the cattle, 287

  Granaries, 54

  Grandidier, Alfred, 17, 169, 235

  Grasses and rushes, 128, 178, 191, 201, 206

  Grass, firing the, 72, 73

  “Grave of the French,” 42

  Guinea-fowl, 186

  Gum-copal tree, 37, 42

  Gums and resins, 158

  Hail, 86

  Hair-dressing, 252, 258

  _Hàmby_, the, 311

  _Hapalemur simus_, 243

  Hawks, 84

  _Hàzondràno_, or rush, 108

  Hearth, the, 97

  _Hèrana_, the, 108

  Herons, 69, 312

  _Hibiscus_, 42

  _Hibiscus diversifolius_, 90

  Hills, outline of, 52

  Hippopotamus, extinct, 212

  Hippopotamus Lemerlei, 212

  Hivòndrona, 32

  Hoar-frost, 113

  Hooker, Sir W. J., 54

  Horned memorial poles, 182

  Hospitality of the Malagasy, 41

  Hot springs, 53

  Houlder, Mr, and the boa, 44

  Houses, native, 23, 70, 236

  “House-horns,” 97

  Hovas, 299

  Humped duck, 186

  Iàboràno, 268

  Iàritsèna, 232

  Iatsìfitra volcano, 224

  Ice, 92

  Ifànja marsh, 225

  Ifòdy Hills, 69

  Ihàroka river, 45, 48

  Ihòvana, chieftainess, 282

  Ikòngo, 235

  Ikòpa river, 76, 286, 291

  Imàhazòny, 236

  Imèrina, 71

  India-rubber, 42, 158

  Indigenous plants, 128

  Insect life, 65, 279

  Insectivora, species of, 67

  Insects: ants, 34;
    cockroaches, 38, 43;
    a new spider, 43;
    beauty of, 70;
    spiders, 71;
    water-producing, 91;
    black wasp, 99;
    silkworm moth, 109;
    butterflies, 110;
    grasshoppers, 111;
    mantis, 112;
    dog-locust, 112;
    nests, 130;
    ants, 131;
    beetles, 132;
    caterpillars, 132;
    spiders, 133;
    mantis religiosa, 153;
    grasshoppers, 153;
    beetles, 154;
    ball-insect, 159;
    millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, 160;
    venomous spiders, 162;
    protective resemblance, 164, 280;
    mòkafòhy, 289

  Intelligence of the people, 56

  Inundations, damage by, 78

  Iòlomàka, 237

  Ipomæa, 42, 101

  Iron, 156

  Irrigation, 80

  Isoàvina, 110

  Itàsy, Lake, 208

  Itsìatòsika, 275

  Ivàlokiànja, 236

  Ivàtoàvo, 232

  Ivòhibé Mountain, 259

  Ivòhitràmbo, 283

  Ivòhitròsa, 237, 241

  Ivòko volcano, 224

  Jacanas, 211

  _Jàka_, 50

  Jigger, the, 161

  _Jìro_, or memorial poles, 203

  Johnson, Rev. H. T., 107

  _Jorèry_ or cicada, 277

  _Kabàry_ or National Assembly, 117

  _Kankàfotra_, or cuckoo, 82

  _Kànkandoròka_, a species of worm, 277

  _Karàbo_, the, 259

  Kestrel, the, 83

  _Kètsa_ grounds, 79, 80

  “King-butterfly,” 110

  Kingfisher, 105

  _Kinòly_, the, 159

  Kiròmbo roller, 138

  _Kòlikòly_, or after-crop, 304

  Komàngo-tree, 299

  Lace-leaf plant, 53

  Ladders, primitive, 54

  Lagoons, 36, 273

  Lake-dwellers, 173

  Lakes and marshes, anciently a country of, 22

  _Làmba_, the, 25, 58, 62, 109

  Land-shells, 136

  _Landolphia Madagas._, 42

  _Làpa_, or Government House, 179

  Le Sage, Captain, 59

  Leeches, 157

  _Lemur Catta_, 243

  _Lemur mongos_, 45

  Lemuroid animals, extinct, 222, 226

  Lemuroida, species of, 66

  Lemurs, 45, 66, 67, 168

  Lichens, 116, 143

  Lightning, freaks played by, 85, 87

  Lilìa, river, 209

  Lime deposit, 211

  Lizards, 43, 134

  Lizards, extinct species of, 223

  Locusts, 73

  _Longòzy_ plant, the, 249

  Looms, primitive, 58

  Madagascar, 19;
    its ancient connection with Africa, 67

  Madagascar bee, the, 144

  Màhamànina, 257

  Màhavèlona, 259

  Major, Dr Forsyth, 278

  Malarial fever, 42

  Mammalia, 66

  Mammals, species of, 278

  _Mampìta-hàdy_, or fosse-crosser, 109

  Manàkambahìny, 185

  Mànanàra river, 174, 295

  Mànanjàra river, 275, 281

  Mandànivàtsy, 207

  Mandràka river, 71

  Mandràka Valley, 142

  Màngasoàvina, 289

  Mango-trees, 81

  Mangòro river, 69

  Màningòry river, 174, 193

  Manioc, 49

  _Mantidactylus_ genus of frogs, 153

  Mantis, a curious, 112

  _Mantis religiosa_, 153

  Market day, 181

  Markets, 116

  Màrokalòy, 290

  Maròmby, 51

  _Maromita_, or porters, 24, 30

  Màrosalàzana, 202

  Màrovoày, 304

  Marshes, 108

  Màsindràno, 275

  Màtitànana river, 240, 295

  Matthey, M. C., 111

  Mats, Sihànaka, 185

  Mead, 145

  Medicinal waters, 212

  Medicine from trees, 158

  _Melia azederach_, 81

  Memorial poles, 203, 231

  _Merops superciliosus_, 170

  _Mesites_, 211

  Mèvatanàna, 225, 292

  Millipedes, 160

  Mimicry amongst plants, 155

  Mineral wealth of the country, 57

  _Mitra_, 36

  Mojangà, 285, 307

  _Mòkafòhy_, insect, 288, 300

  Money, 117

  Months, origin of names of, 88

  Moraféno, 187

  Mòramànga, 68

  Mòraràno, 187, 193

  Mortar and pestle, the, 97

  Mosses, 143

  Moths, 109

  Mouse-lemurs, 243

  Mozambique Channel, 67

  _Mugil borbonicus_, 40

  Mullens, Dr, 31, 173

  Mullet, 40

  _Mundulea suberosa_, the, 90

  Mungooses, 303

  Musical instruments, 56

  Mysore thorn, the, 146

  Mythical creatures of Lake Alaotra, 201

  Nàndihìzana, 229

  Native houses, structure of, 95

  _Nectarinidæ_ or sun-birds, 32

  Neodrepanis coruscans, 137

  _Nephila_ spider, 109

  Nest of the aye-aye, 47

  Nests of insects, 130

  Nests of wasps, 99

  New Year, Malagasy, 87

  Nòsibé, 224

  Obstructions in rivers and paths, 51

  Ocean currents, 39

  Octopus, 40, 312

  _Oliva_, 36

  _Opuntia ferox_, 145

  Oranges, 51

  Orchards, 81

  Orchids: angræcum, 32, 38, 64;
    terrestrial, 101, 212

  Ordeals, 251

  Ornamentation, female, 240

  Outrigger canoes, 304

  _Ouvirandra fenestralis_, 53

  Owen, Sir R., 45

  Owls, 140

  Ox, extinct species of, 223

  Oxen, 35, 183

  Oysters, 311

  Paddles, native, 34

  Palms, 142

  Pandanus, the, 32, 37, 49

  _Papàngo_, or Egyptian kite, 83

  Parakeets, 32, 233, 291

  Parrots, 233, 291

  Paths, forest, 150

  Pearse, Rev. J., 191

  _Pelophilus madagasc._, 44

  Pigeons, 32

  Pillans, Rev. J., 173

  Pine-apples, 57

  Pitcher-plant, 42, 261

  Plant, Mr, 22, 67

  _Ploceus pensilis_, 169

  Poison ordeal, the, 38

  Poison tree, a, 38

  Poisonous fish, 40

  Pollen, M., 137

  _Potamochærus larvatus_, 136

  Prawns and shrimps, 40

  Prevost’s broadbill, 281

  Prickly pear, 90, 119

  _Pristis sp._, 40

  Proctor, S., 22

  Protective mimicry, 111, 153, 164, 280

  Psittacula Madagasc., 233

  Pulpit, a decorated, 253

  Pumice from Krakatoa, 38

  Quadrumana, 66

  Quadrupeds, 167

  Radàma I., 37

  Radàma II., 38

  Rail, 211

  _Railòvy_, or fork-tailed shrike, 294

  Railways, 18

  Rain, 81, 85, 100

  _Rallus gularis_, 211

  Rànavàlona I., 38

  Rànavàlona, Queen, 87

  Rànomafàna, 53

  Rapacious birds, 83

  Rapèto, chief, 210

  Raphia ruffia, 62

  _Ràry_, or war-chant, 98

  Raspberries, 51, 242

  Rats, 54, 59

  _Ravenala madagasc._, 49

  Rayed Gymnogene, the, 84

  Religious observances, 250

  Reptiles: snakes, 134;
    lizards, 134;
    chameleons, 135;
    ancient, 226

  Rest-houses, 33

  Rice cultivation, 77, 79, 92, 103, 106, 177, 195, 263

  Rice cultivation in Bétsiléo, 230

  Rice-houses, 241

  Ring-tailed lemur, 243

  River-hog, extinct species of, 223

  Rivers, 36

  Roads and pathways, 27

  Rocks, 223, 233, 292, 298

  _Rofìa_-palm, 31, 56, 58, 62

  _Rofìa_ cloth, 57

  _Ròva_, or square, 26, 179, 305

  Rollers (_Coraciadæ_), 138

  Rose-apple, the, 91

  Rum drinking, 176

  Sago palms, 41

  Ste Marie, Isle, 42

  Sàkalàva, 176, 299

  _Salàka_, or loin-cloth, 55

  _Sàmpy_, or household charm, 98

  Sanatoria, 127

  Sand-bars, 36

  Sand-grouse, 291

  Sandalwood, 159

  Sawfish, 40

  Scenery, 41

  Scenery of the coast, 37

  Scorpions, 160

  Screw-pine, 250

  Sea-birds, 256

  Seasons, the, 75

  Serpents, 43

  Shark, the hammer-headed, 40

  Shaw, Mr G. A., 235

  Shells, 35;
    _Conus_, _Triton_, _Cypræa_, _Oliva_, _Mitra_, _Cassis_, 36

  Shrimps, 107

  Sihànaka, the, 173, 184, 195, 203

  Silk, spiders’, 109

  _Sìmpona_, species of lemur, 169

  _Siòna_, 159

  Sloth, extinct species of, 223

  Smelting stations, 156

  Snakes, 43, 44

  Snare for birds, 185

  Snow, absence of, 113

  _Solanum auriculatum_, 125

  Solitary wasps, 100

  _Sòngosòngo_, the, 146

  _Sopubia triphylla_, 101

  Spade, the native, 79

  Sphærotheria, 160

  Spiders, 43, 71, 133, 162, 165

  Spiny and prickly plants, 145

  Springtime, 79

  Stephanotis, 42

  Stinging plants, 146

  Storks, 69

  Street, Mr Louis, 228

  Stribling, Rev. E. H., 192

  Striped tenrec, 167

  Sugar-cane, 49

  Sugar-cane press, a, 262

  Summer, 84

  Sun-birds, 32, 137

  Sunsets, beautiful, 123

  Swine, extinct species of, 223

  Taimòro tribe, the, 273

  Taisàka, the, 262

  Tàkatra, or stork, 69

  Tamarind-trees, 295

  Tamatave, 21;
    governor of, 24;
    garrison, 26

  Tanàla, the, 147, 245, 249, 250

  Tangèna, the, 38

  Tanòsy country, a village in the, 163

  Tèlomiràhavàvy, 71

  _Terminalia catappa_, or “Indian almond,” 273

  Terraced hills, 230

  Threshing rice, 195

  Thunderstorms, 84

  Timber, valuable, 158

  Time, division of, 87, 93

  Tin cans on memorial poles, 183

  Tins, old jam, 192

  _Tsìrika_ or blow-pipe, 61

  _Tòkan-tòngotra_, 159

  Tombs in Bétsiléo, 231, 283

  Tombs, Hova, 72, 114

  Tortoises, 201, 301

  Tortoises, extinct, 223

  _Trachylobium verrucosa_, 42

  _Tràndraka_ or hedgehog, 167

  Trànomàro, 35

  Trap-door spiders, 165

  Traveller’s tree, 49, 257, 260

  Travelling in Madagascar, 28, 229

  Tree-duck, 186

  Tree-ferns, 57

  Tree-frogs, 153

  Trees, introduction of new, 125

  _Triton_, 36

  Trìtrìva, Lake, 215, 220

  Tropic-birds, 256

  _Tsikòndry_, the, 280

  _Tsingàla_, the, 107

  Twilight, 92

  _Typhonodorum lindleyanum_, 34

  Vàkinankàratra, 208

  Valàla river, 69

  Valàlanambòa, or dog-locust, 112

  _Valìha_, the, 56

  Vangàindràno, 261

  Variety of face and colour, 56

  _Vàtolàhy_, or “male stones,” 116

  Vàvavàto district, the, 161, 219

  Vavòny, 41

  _Vazìmba_, the, 114, 227, 289

  Vegetation, 41, 239

  Vehicles, 27

  _Véro_, 178

  _Vérontsànjy_, 178

  _Vernonia appendiculata_, 80

  Village squares, 61

  Villages, 73

  Villages, old style, 119

  Vine, the, 81

  _Vinca angivensis_, the, 89-90

  _Vinca rosea_, 90

  Vinson, Dr, 162

  Visit of ceremony, a, 24

  Vòhilèna, 284

  Vòhitra volcano, 215

  Volcanic belt, 224

  Volcanoes, extinct, 215

  Vòlombòrona Mountain, 219

  Vòromahèry or hawk, 84

  Ungulata, species of, 67

  Unhealthiness of the coast, 42

  Unlucky days, 205, 247

  Uranid butterfly, 281

  _Usnea_, 65, 143

  Walking-stick mantis, 280

  Wallace, Dr A. R., 64

  Wasp, black, 99

  Water conveyances, 282

  Water-courses, 79

  Waterfalls, 152, 242

  Water-hens, 210

  Water-lilies, 49, 201

  Water-plants, 201, 281

  Water-pots, 97

  Water-producing insects, 91

  Water-snakes, 134

  Water yam or lace-leaf plant, 53

  Weapons, ancient, 227

  Weaver-bird, 169

  Webs, spiders’, 108, 163, 166

  Whales, 275

  Wheeled vehicles, 274

  Whistling teal, 186

  White-backed duck, the, 186

  White lemur, a, 146

  Wild boar or river-hog, 136

  Wild duck on Lake Itàsy, 210

  Wild fowl, 185

  Wild man, a, 147

  Windows, absence of, 45

  Winds, prevailing, 73

  Winter, 113

  Words denoting different appearances of nature, 95

  Yams, wild, 152

  _Zàhitra_, or raft, a, 247

  Zànatsàra clan, 218

  Zomèna, Chief, 235

  _Zozòro_, the, 108

  _Zygæna malleus_, 40



  Obvious typographical, punctuation and accenting errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Some hyphens in words have been silently removed, some added,
  when a predominant preference was found in the original book.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.

  Pg 16 List of Maps: the ‘Physical’ map was moved in front of
          the ‘Ethnographical’ map, with page numbers of 16 and 17
  Pg 38: ‘hartstongue fern’ replaced by ‘hart’s-tongue fern’.
  Pg 53: ‘at Pamplemouses’ replaced by ‘at Pamplemousses’.
  Pg 94: ‘1.3 (P.M.)’ replaced by ‘1.30 (P.M.)’.
  Pg 98: ‘and wearing’ replaced by ‘and weaving’.
  Pg 110: ‘called Centelidæ’ replaced by ‘called Centetidæ’.
  Pg 149 Footnote [13]: ‘indebted to the the’ replaced by
          ‘indebted to the’.
  Pg 191: ‘as the _lòpa_’ replaced by ‘as the _làpa_’.
  Pg 229: ‘of Ambòsita’ replaced by ‘of Ambòsitra’.
  Pg 241: ‘tree miles across’ replaced by ‘three miles across’.
  Pg 243: ‘Cheirgaleus major’ replaced by ‘Cheirogaleus major’.
  Pg 272: ‘Agræcum superbum’ replaced by ‘Angræcum superbum’.
  Pg 274: ‘that that was a’ replaced by ‘that there was a’.

  Index: the spelling of some entries has been changed to match the
  spelling in the main text. Many accents have been added to match
  the accenting in the main text.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A naturalist in Madagascar" ***

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