MR. BAKER'S TRAVELS.* [Finn Nortcx.] Mn. BAKER really discovered, unassisted,
the great lake or mountain reservoir which is one of the two sources of the
• Albert Nyanza. By B. W. Baker, M.A. London: Macmillan.
Nile, and which he calls the Albert Nyanza, and his ac- count of his adventures in search of it will probably be the book of the summer. It is entirely unaffected—except perhaps in a passage or two laudatory of the Prince Consort —charm- ingly written, full, as might be expected, of incident, and free from that wearisome reiteration of useless facts which is the drawback to almost all books of African travel. It will not be the less acceptable because it is penetrated by that strong dislike to the African races which has become a fixed idea with the English upper class, and which is the more remarkable in Mr. Baker, because he has a detestation amounting to a horror of slavery, the curse of the African continent. He has a funny theory, for which there is not one particle of evidence, that the negro race are the relics of a human family older than Adam, and inferior to him, though still human, a theory which we leave him to fight out with orthodox theologians, merely observing that we do not see what difference it makes in the question of the proper status of negroes. If there are races older than Adam, why should not the Adamic race be the inferior instead of the superior? or if negroes are men at all, why are our duties towards them affected by their ancestry? If they are not men at all, but only brutes, who can laugh, and cry, and talk, and learn languages, and become statesmen like Toussaint l'Ouverture, or preachers like Bishop Crowther, or scholars like many a negro student now in England, why, the relation does perhaps change ; but Mr. Baker does not go that length. Indeed he believed in two negroes in his own train, and only disbelieves in the race because he found them mutinous liars, with no idea of gratitude, and no respect except for force, a description given by most Anglo-Indians of Brahmins who have facial angles as good as our own, live in a country geologically new, and cross with other races with great prolificness. He admits, too, from time to time that their bitter hostility to strangers has been amply provoked, they having learned by fatal experience that a stranger signifies a kid- napper, and, savages as they are, objecting to be torn away from their homes to be "civilized" by blows, and abuse, and starvation. The Soudan, for instance, is a slave preserve, hunted at intervals by the Egyptian traders, who ally themselves with some negro tribe. "Quietly surrounding the village while its occupants are still sleeping, they fire the grass huts in all directions, and pour volleys of musketry through the flaming thatch. Panic-stricken, the un- fortunate victims rush from their burning dwellings, and the men are shot down like pheasants in a battue, while the women and children, bewildered in the danger and confusion, are kidnapped and secured. The herds of cattle, still within their kraal or ' zareeba,' are easily disposed of, and are driven off with great rejoicing, as the prize of victory. The women and children are then fastened together, the former secured in an instrument called sheba, made of a forked pole, the neck of the prisoner fitting into the fork, secured by a cross piece lashed behind, while the wrists, brought together in advance of the body, are tied to the pole. The children are then fastened by their necks with a rope attached to the women, and thus form a living chain, in whichorder they are marched to the head-quarters in company with the captured herds." The tragedy generally ends in a quarrel with the "ally," who with his tribe is put to death, the women becoming the property of the traders. No wonder that tribes so harassed abstain from labour, the profit of which they will never reap, and strive to live by fishing, falling when supplies run short to a condition little above that of the digger Indians of Central America. Permanent starvation has affected one tribe, the Kytch, till they "are so emaciated that they have no visible posteriors, and their long thin legs and arms give them a peculiar gnat-like appearance,"—an epithet perfectly borne out by the accompanying sketches. They grind down the bones of dead animals into a kind of porridge, an extremity which suggests misery protracted till it has developed special inventiveness, just as the marshes in the same region develope in the wild ant the power of building hills ten feet high, so that he may live in the upper story when the floods come, and which is the most pitiful statement we ever remember to have seen recorded of human beings. Few of the tribes, however, are reduced to this stage of misery, the people of Gondokoro, for example, being stout, very cleanly in their houses, and with some rudimentary idea of dress,—an idea, be it remarked, which no race with any civilization has ever been found quite without. Many semi-civilized races have not the faintest trace of the European form of modesty, that is, non-exposure, as, for example, the Japanese and Burmese, but no race which has built a brick, stone, or wood city goes, even in the tropics, habitually naked. They were governed, however, by the traders, who bribed away Mr.
Baker's escort, and probably would have prevented his journey, but for the decision of his wife and his own presence of mind.
"How the affair would have ended I cannot say ; but as the scene lay within ten yards of my boat, my wife, who was ill with fever in the cabin, witnessed the whole affray, and seeing me surrounded, she rushed out, and in a few moments she was in the middle of the crowd, who at that time were endeavouring to rescue my prisoner. Her sudden appearance had a carious effect, and calling upon several of the least mutinous to assist, she vent pluckily made her way up to me. Seizing the opportunity of an indecision that was for the moment evinced by the crowd, I shouted to the drummer-boy to beat the drum. In an instant the drum beat, and at the top of my voice I ordered the men to fall in.' It is curious how mechanically an order is obeyed if given at the right moment, even in the midst of mutiny. Two-thirds of the men fell in, and formed in line, while the remainder retreated with the ringleader, Eesur, whom they led away, declaring that he was badly hurt. The affair ended in my insisting upon all forming in line, and upon the ring- leader being brought forward. In this critical moment Mrs. Baker, with great tact, came forward and implored me to forgive him if he kissed my hand and begged for pardon. This compromise completely won the men, who although a few minutes before in open mutiny, now called upon their ringleader Eesur to apologize' and that all would be right. I made them rather a bitter speech, and dismissed them."
Mutiny recurred once or twice, but Mr. Baker's ability pre- vailed, and before he returned he could have done anything with his escort, who believed him possessed of supernatural power, a fact which might have suggested to him the effect decent govern- ment might ultimately have in these regions. The people might at all events rise to the mental level of the donkeys, which our traveller believes to be exceedingly high, and of which he gives most amusing evidence :— "The donkey is ;much more calculating animal than the camel, the latter being an excessively stupid beast, while the former is remarkably clever—at least I can answer for the ability of the Egyptian species. The expression what an ass P is in Europe supposed to be slightly insulting, but a comparison with the Egyptian variety would be a com- pliment. Accordingly my train of donkeys, being calculating and reasoning creatures, had from this night's experience come to the con- clusion that the journey was long; that the road was full of ravines ; that the camels who led the way would assuredly tumble into these ravines unless unloaded ; and that as the reloading at each ravine would occupy at least half an hour, it would be wise for them (the donkeys) to employ that time in going to sleep—therefore, as it was just as cheap to lie down as to stand, they preferred a recumbent posture, and a refresh- ing roll upon the sandy ground. Accordingly, whenever the word • halt ' was given, the clever donkeys thoroughly understood their advantage, and the act of unloading a camel on arriving at a ravine was a signal sufficient to induce each of twenty-one donkeys to lie down. It was in vain that the men beat and swore at them to keep them on their legs; the donkeys were determined, and lie down they would. This obstinacy on their part was serious to the march—every time that they lay down they shifted their loads ; some of the most wilful persisted in rolling, and of course upset their packs. There were only seventeen men, and these were engaged in assisting the camels ; thus the twenty-one donkeys had it all their own way ; and what added to the confusion was the sadden cry of hyenas in close proximity, which so frightened the donkeys that they immediately sprang to their feet, with their packs lying discomfited, entangled among their legs. Thus, no sooner were the camels re-loaded on the other side of the ravine, than all the donkeys had to undergo the same operation ;—during which time the camels, however stupid, having observed the donkeys' 'dodge,' took the opportunity of lying down also, and necessarily shifted their loads."
The natives on the march were by turns either frightened or conciliated with gifts of copper bracelets and beads, but one chief asked for spirits, and Mr. Baker, giving him a bottle of spirits of wine, was amazed to see him drink the whole off neat in one draught, with no more perceptible effect than if it had been water. During the first part of his journey Mr. Baker liked the Latookas the best of the tribes, they being fine men, averaging 5 feet 111 inches in height, with neat stockaded villages, and wearing a helmet absolutely unique, a helmet grown upon the head.
"European ladies would be startled at the fact that to perfect the coiffure of a man requires a period of from eight to ten years ! How- ever tedious the operation, the result is extraordinary. The Latookas wear most exquisite helmets, all of which are formed of their own hair, and are of course fixtures. At first sight it appears incredible, but a minute examination shows the wonderful perseverance of years in pro- ducing what must be highly inconvenient. The thick, crisp wool is woven with fine twine, formed from the bark of a tree, until it presents a thick net-work of felt. As the hair grows through this matted sub- stance it is subjected to the same process, until, in the course of years, a compact substance is formed like a strong felt, about an inch and a half thick, that has been trained into the shape of a helmet. A strong rim, of about two inches deep, is formed by sewing it together with thread ; and the front part of the helmet is protected by a piece of polished copper ; while a piece of the same metal, shaped like the half of a bishop's mitre, and about a foot in length, forms the crest. The frame- work of the helmet being at length completed, it must be perfected by an arrangement of beads, should the owner of the head be sufficiently rich to indulge in the coveted distinction. The beads most in fashion are the red and the blue porcelain, about the size of small peas. These 'are sewn on the surface of the felt, and so beautifully arranged in sec- tions of blue and red that the entire helmet appears to be formed of beads ; and the handsome crest of polished copper, surmounted by ostrich plumes, gives a most dignified and martial appearance to this elaborate head-dress. No helmet is supposed to be complete without a row of cowrie shells stitched around the rim so as to form a solid edge."
Some corn had been taken out of a sack for the horses, and a few grains lying scattered on the ground, I tried the beautiful metaphor of St. Paul as an example of a future state. Making a small hole with my finger in the ground, I placed a grain within it ; That,' I said, repro- Dents you when you die.' Covering it with earth, I continued, That grain will decay, but from it will rise the plant that will produce a re- appearance of the original form.'—Commoro: 'Exactly so ; that I understand. But the original grain does not rise again; it rots like the dead man, and is ended ; the fruit produced is not the same grain that we buried, but the production of that grain ; so it is with man,—I die, and decay, and am ended ; but my children grow up like the fruit of the grain. Some men have no children, and some grains perish without fruit ; then all are ended."
Commoro, we fear, was an aristocratic sceptic ; but if capable of the last answer he scarcely deserved the epithet of "wild naked savage" which his questioner in the next line applies to him. He could think, and though Mr. Baker doubts the progress of the negro, Commoro was a great advance upon the Makkarikas. This is a tribe living about 200 miles west of Gondokoro, de- scribed to Mr. Baker by a black named Ibrahimawa, who had been in Paris and London, and had an almost intuitive knowledge of geography. He had visited them with a trading, party and found them cannibals of the worst sort :—
"They described these cannibals as remarkably good people, but pos- sessing a peculiar taste for dogs and human flesh. They accompanied the trading party in their razzias, and invariably ate the bodies of the slain. The traders complained that they were bad associates, as they insisted upon killing and eating the children which the party wished to secure as slaves : their custom was to catch a child by its ankles and dash its head against the ground ; thus killed, they opened the abdomen, extracted the stomach and intestines, and tying the two ankles to the neck, they carried the body by slinging it over the shoulder, and time returned to camp, where they divided it by quartering, and boiled it in a large pot. Another man in my own ser- vice had been a witness to a horrible act of cannibalism at Gondokoro. The traders had arrived with their ivory from the West, together with a great number of slaves ; the porters who carried the ivory being Makkarikas. One of the slave girls attempted to escape, and her pro- prietor immediately fired at her with his musket, and she fell wounded ; the ball had struck her in the side. The girl was remarkably fat, and from the wound a large lump of yellow fat exuded. No sooner had she fallen, than the Makkarikas rushed upon her in a crowd, and seizing the fat they tore it from the wound in handfuls, the girl being still alive, while the crowd were quarrelling for the disgusting prize. Others killed her with a lance, and at once divided her by cutting off the head, and splitting the body with their lances, used as knives, cut- ting longitudinally from between the legs along the spine to the neck. Many slave women and their children who witnessed this scene, rushed panic-stricken from the spot and took refuge in the trees. The Mak- karikas seeing them in flight, were excited to give chase, and palling the children from their refuge among the branches they killed several, and in a short time a great feast was prepared for the whole party."
We own to a lingering distrust of that paragraph, but the statements were made to Mr. Baker by lbrahimawa, by several men in the employ of a friendly Turkish trader, and by one of his own men, and are evidently believed by the narrator, by no means one of the most credulous of mankind. The Obbos also whom he passed after leaving Latooka are a pleasant tribe, good-humoured, well made, with arched noses, and no greed for presents. Their King, Katchiba, was a curiosity. He ruled by virtue of a supernatural power as rain maker, and through a multitude of sons, to one of whom each village was entrusted. His financial system was simple, but efficacious. He waited till there was a great want of rain, and then calmly informed the people that he had sent a drought to punish them for not send- ing up their tribute of goats, &c., which would then be sent immediately. He then blessed the people's whistles, and a vast tootle-tooing sooner or later brought rain, and a great access of influence to the chief. One day he came to Mr. Baker rather in a quandary, his power had failed of late, and he wanted advice, though too proud to say so. Mr. Baker, who, if we may With a chief of this tribe, Commoro, Mr. Baker had a con- versation which, if he has reported it exactly, is curiously interest- ing. The Englishman had noticed that the dead were always exhumed, and suspected the existence of some inchoate idea of the resurrection. Commoro, however, declared that he held man to be a weak sort of beast, much weaker than an ox, and often less sensible, the ox getting food without sowing, and gave the follow- ing sketch of his system of ethics, and his idea of the resurrec- tion :-
"'Do you see no difference in good and bad actions ?'—Commoro : 'Yes, there are good and bad in men and beasts.'
"'Do you think that a good man and a bad must share the same fate, and alike die, and end ?'—Commoro: 'Yes; what else can they do ? How can they help dying? Good and bad all die.'
" • Their bodies perish, but their spirits remain; the good in happiness, the bad in misery. If you have no belief in a fixture state, why should a snan be good? Why should he not be bad, if he can prosper by wicked- ness ?'—Commoro : Most people are bad ; if they are strong they take from the weak. The good people are all weak ; they are good because they are not strong enough to be bad.'
judge from his book and his portrait, has a keen sense of humour, seeing fleecy clouds gathering up, put his fingers in his mouth and whistled twice like a steam engine, thereby completely establishing his power over his sorcerer friend, who showed himself, we may remark, a very decent fellow, with a singular penchant for beer, which he manufactured in thirty-gallon jars, for dancing, and for tinging wild plaintive songs, presumably of his own composition, to the accompaniment of a guitar. He was the best man Mr_ Baker met in Africa,—that is, we gather, the man whom he most thoroughly understood.