PIONEERING ON THE CONGO.* Tiers book is a history of
the good work done by emissaries of the Baptist Missionary Society on the Congo River during the last twenty years of the nineteenth century. Mr. Bentley and his fellow-labourers first came to the Congo River in 1879. But his history does not begin at this point. He carries us back to the discovery of the West Coast of Africa in the fifteenth century by Prince Hemy the Navigator. There was a native King of Congo in those days, as there is now, and as there was when the Baptist missionaries arrived in 1879. The fifteenth-century King was converted to Christianity by the Portuguese, and he and his wife were baptised together, taking the names of John and Leonora after the Sovereigns of Portugal. Their son Alfonso—for Portuguese names were
• Pioneering on the Corgo. Br the Rer. W. Holman Bentley, Chevalier de l'Ordre Royal du LIol,. WILL a -Map and 206 Illustrations. 8 vols. London : Elss4 carried on—is remembered in Congo tradition as a sort of Alfred the Great, a heroic warrior and champion of the Christian faith. Between his time and Mr. Bentley's many missionaries came to the West Coast and many Sings reigned at San Salvador. Some were good Christians and some lapsed into heathenism. But on the whole Christianity held its ground until at the close of the eighteenth century a Portuguese Governor expelled all religious orders. And,io- cut a long story short, when the Baptist missionaries eamen 1879, Congo" was to all intents and purposes a heathen land." There remained, however, some interesting and curious relics of
the Christianity that had once been in the land : some ruined walls and a chancel arch of a Cathedral, and, in the King's compound, a large crucifix and some images of saints, kept as fetishes and carried about when rain was wanted. Some- thing, too, of the sentiment of Christian faith and morals, and some memory of men who preached about Christ, lingered here and there. When the newcomers began to teach, one or two old natives met them with tales of relatives who long ago had told them of other men who taught the same things. And one kind of fetish that was common among hunters and believed to bring luck in sport was a flat wooden cross, called a Santa and understood to lose its power if the owner lost his purity of life. The standard of morals was not high at San Salvador, but it was higher than that of the people of-the Upper River, to whom the missionaries came afterwards. Pedro V., the King—or according to native style the Ntotela —of Congo in 1879, kept his Court at San Salvador, and showed himself well disposed towards the white men. The account of the first audience he gave the missionaries is amusing, especially when one has realised his personal appear- ance by studying his portrait. He sat in state, and presents were laid before him. First, cloths of diverse colours, beads, cotton velvets. All these he regarded with unmoved counten- ance, though his servants standing round shouted for joy. Then came mechanical toys,—a negro playing the violin, and a clockwork mouse. At these his gravity relaxed to a stately smile, while the uproar of merriment among the
attendants so stirred the curiosity of the Royal family-behind the curtain that wives and children forgot etiquette and came
through. But the climax came with a dancing nigger worked by steam :—
" At first the wheel went round slowly, and the nigger jigged slowly. This created a roar of applause from the lookers on, and the King could maintain his dignity no longer; the smile became broader and broader, until he burst out, first into a laugh and then a roar. As the steam got up and the wheel flew round, causing the agile nigger to cut wondrous capers, the Ring's laughter knew no bounds; his mirth was too large for his mouth, and found expression in tear-drops, which trickled down his cheeks; he clapped his hands, and rolled about in his chair, in a regular convulsion of laughter, and all dignity was com- pletely forgotten. When the old gentleman came to again, he expressed his gratitude not only in thanks, and a good shake of the hand when we left, but in a still more practical manner by telling us he should have much pleasure in having one of his bullocks killed for us. He also gave us a site upon which to build our house."
It is pleasant to read that the good-natured old King appreciated other things in the white men besides their toys.
Mr. Bentley rescued and tended a poor little slave-boy who had been cast out to starve in famine-time by a brutal master.
Everything was done that could be done to save the child's life. But after seven weeks of care and kindness, he died, and his deliverer buried him in Christian fashion, not neglecting, however, to pay to the poor little corpse the peculiar honour most valued in Congo, envelopment in quan- tities of cloth. All this came to the ears of the King, and he made a touching speech about it, in which he deolared that this kindness to the slave-child " for whom no one cared to do anything" had impressed him. more than all the talk of the white men. "He nursed him, and helped him, but the boy died; then he buried him, as if Tembe were his uncle, in a lot of cloth. I heard of it all, and knew how he buried him, and fenced his grave. It is wonderful, I cannot understand it."
Unfortunately as time went on the good understanding between King Pedro and the Baptist missionaries was dis- turbed by the rival influence of Roman Catholic Fathers. He, very naturally, could not judge of the differences between the two ways of being Christian, and fell into doubtful 'rela- tions with both sects. But he appears to have remained to the end well disposed and humane; and one is glad to know that when he died in 1886 his successor—who, by the way, was not a convert—did not grudge him the honour of "lots
of cloth." This is the description of his wrappings three days after death:—" The body of the king is partially wrapped up, and at present it is hard work for ten men to lift it. All the uniforms and expensive clothes given by the King of Portugal, with the exception of a scarlet gold-braided coat, were put on the body, to say nothing of cloths and a dozenfrock -coats." All the cloth the missionaries had given him in early days,
and all old cloth and clothes of old style and fashion, belong- ing to days before he was King, were brought out and used to complete the shroud. There is much in the books about other funeral rites more objectionable than this of using much cloth. A Congo native of importance cannot go into the world of spirits unattended, and so when he dies ten of his
slaves are caught and held in a cruel captivity—tied up with their heads fixed in wooden forks—until the burying day, when their heads are cut off and they are thrown into the
grave. Four wives are selected also for sacrifice, and these are flung in, only half-dead, to smother in the pit. In parts of
the -Upper Congo country three hundred is the number of victims at a Royal funeral, and report tells even of a thousand.
But for this number Mr. Bentley will not vouch.
In the early chapters dark stories are told of slave-dealers, and some interesting extracts from the records of Roman Catholic missionaries lay to their score the alienation of the Con:o natives from the earlier Christian teaching. But outspoken as Mr. Bentley is about the iniquities of the slave- dealer, he does not hesitate to lay even more cruelty and sacri- fice of life to the charge of the witch-doctor. Everybody in Congo, except the Christian converts, believes in witchcraft as an omnipresent, unremitting, baneful influence. All diseases and all deaths, however simple and natural, are ascribed to the influence of a witch. Even a crocodile will not swallow a man unless a demon or a witch has possessed it. The only protection for health and life is the fetish. And when the fetish fails—that is to say, whenever anybody dies—there is a witch hunt, with inquisition by ordeal and horrible torture and slaughter of innocent persons. Among many stories showing these atrocities in full blast, are one or two of im- posture detected and gleefully shown up by converts who had ceased to believe in witches. Of cannibalism also Mr. Bentley has much to tell. He and his friends began their exploration of the Congo River with a hope that they should find this evil either non-existent or at least very rare. And, in feet, they did not come across it until they reached Baugala, a station about a thousand miles up the river. The account of their earliest experience of this matter is given in an extract from the reports of Mr. Grenfell, who was the first explorer of the Mobangi, an important tributary of the Congo on the northern side. He writes :—
" Since coming first to the Congo, the farther I travelled the further cannibalism seemed to recede ; everybody had it to say that their neighbours on beyond were bad, that they eat men,' till I began to grow sceptical ; but here at Bangala I absolutely caught up with it. and was obliged to allow what I had hoped to be able to maintain as not proven.' I will not sicken you with the details of the prepara- tions, as some of our boys gave them when they came to tell me, in the hope that I should be able to interfere, but before they reached the steamer the big drum's dum-dum announced the final act. The natives could not, or at least appeared not to understand why the white man and his people should take excep- tion to their proceedings. Why,' said they to one of our boys, do you interfere with us P We don't trouble you when you kill your goats. We buy our nyama (meat) and kill it ; it is not your affair: From this point on, the evidences of cannibalism were continually recurring, though the reluctant manner in which at some places the people acknowledged being 'man-eaters' leads us to hope that a sentiment against it already exists?'
All along the Mobangi River the practice of cannibalism was fro/tidy recognised and organised, slaves being bought in immense numbers, and carefully fed up for butchering. When Mr. Grenfell tried to buy ivory of the people of these parts he found it useless to offer in exchange any of the usual commodities of barter. "All that they asked for was slaves—balu, 'people to eat.' They wanted 'meat,' not brass wire, or copper ingots, or beads or cloth, or even satins ; they laughed at such things. There was ivory in abundance, but it was only in exchange for bats." One chief—the brother of a, Mall who worked with the missicui for two years and gave evidence of many
excellent qualities—on being asked if he ever ate human flesh, replied: "I wish I could eat everybody in the world." Mr. Bentley, however, with a frankness and large-mindedness that are constant oharacteristics of his book, allows that the worst kind of savage is not always the cannibal :—
"Cannibalism is a bad habit, but it does not necessarily mark out the natives who observe it as being of a lower type than others who do not. It is a well-known fact that some cannibal peoples of Africa are far in advance of many tribes who would shudder at the very idea. The natives of Manyanga and the Lukangu district of the cataract region were far more degraded, and no less cruel and wicked, than the wild cannibals of the Upper Congo ; but they would scorn the idea of eating human flesh as much as we should."
But though Mr. Bentley's book tells plain and ugly truth about the cruelty of Congo natives, he does justice to many fine qualities in them. His description of the wrestling-match
at Stanley Falls shows powers of self-control, esprit de corps.
and good-humour under defeat which could hardly be sur- passed by English public-school boys on their sports- day. The same men are noted for their splendid management of canoes in the falls.
An excellent map gives a clear idea of the general features. political and geographical, of the nine hundred thousand square miles of the Congo State. Little red crosses variously initialled according to the various denominations show all the mission stations, not only of the Society to which Mr. Bentley belongs, but of the many other religions bodies of one country and another who are endeavouring to evangelise the interior of Africa. A very good chapter explains the government of
the State. Another gives a lucid account of the "genesis and effects of malarial fever." Numerous illustrations give us very clear ideas of the natives and their fetishes. And some very interesting passages about words and grammatical con- structions carry us a little way beyond the threshold of the native languages. For any one who desires thoroughly to "get up the Congo," this book is the right thing. And the diligent general reader will find in it a variety of good matter to reward search ; we only fear that the average general reader will be repelled by the density of the volumes. With
every desire to be only sympathetic, we must say that the book is a little too full.