« AnteriorContinuar »
I was a spirit who had just come down out of the sky. As for me, my first thought, when I took in the situation, was, --Suppose thèse people grew desperate with fear, then I may have a poisoned arrow launched at me...... I smiled, and tried to look pleasant, in order to re-assure them a little; but this only made matters worse. They looked as though on the point of sinking to the ground. Then I heard the voices of my men coming up, and presently I was safe ; and the Fan people were relieved of their terror. Miengai smiled to see it, and told the man he need not regard me as a spirit; for I was his father's white man come from the sea-shore on purpose to visit the Fan. Then I gave the women some strings of white beads, which did more than anything else to ease their fears.'
A description of the Fans follows upon this unexpected rencontre.
These fellows, who now for the first time saw a white man with straight hair, were to me an equal surprise ; for they are real, unmistakeable cannibals. And they were, by long odds, the most remarkable people I had thus far seen in Africa. They were much lighter in shade than any of the coast tribes, strong, tall, well made, and evidently active; and they seemed to me to have a more intelligent look than is usual to an African unacquainted with white men.
* The men were almost naked. They had no cloth about the middle, but used instead the soft inside bark of a tree; over which, in front, was suspended the skin of some wild cat or tiger. They had their teeth filed, which gives the face a ghastly and ferocious look, and some bad their teeth blackened besides. Their hair or
66 wool" was drawn out into long thin plaits. On the end of each stiff plait were strung some white beads, or copper or iron rings. Some wore feather caps ; but others wore long queues made of their own wool and a kind, of tow, dyed black, and mixed with it, and giving the wearer a most grotesque appearance. Over their shoulders were suspended the huge country knife, and in their hands were spears and the great shield of elephant hide ; and about the necks and bodies of all were hung a variety of fetiches and greegrees, which rattled as they walked.
* The Fan shield is made of the hide of an old elephant, and only of that part which lies across the back. This, when dried and smoked, is hard and impenetrable as iron. The shield is about three feet long by two and a half wide. The women, who were even less dressed than the men, were much smaller than they; and, with the exception of the inhabitants of Fernando Po, who are called Boobies, I never saw such ugly women as these. These, too, had their teeth filed, and most had their bodies painted red, by means of a dye obtained from the bar-wood. They carried their babies on their backs, in a sling or rest, made of some kind of tree bark, and fastened to the neck of the mother.'
The traveller had ocular evidence of their cannibalism,' as he thus states :
The next morning we moved off for the Fan village ; and now I had the opportunity to satisfy myself as to a matter I had cherished some doubt on before, namely, the cannibal practices of these people. I was satisfied but too soon. As we entered the town, I perceived some bloody remains, which looked to me to be human, but I passed on, still incredulous. Presently we found a woman who solved all doubt. She bore with her a piece of the thigh of a human body, just as we should go to market and carry thence a roast or steak.
* The whole village was much excited, and the women and the children greatly scared by my presence. All fled into the houses as we passed through what appeared to be the main street-a long lanein which I saw here and there human bones lying about. At last we arrived at the great palaver house. Here we were left alone for a while, although we heard great shoutings going on at a distance. I was told by one of them afterwards, that they had been busy dividing the body of a dead man, and that there was not enough for all. The head, I am told, is a royalty, being saved for the king.
M. Du Chaillu was well received, and had a house prepared for him by one of the queens of the Fan king. After visiting the house assigned to him, the author continues,
'I was taken through the town, where I saw more dreadful signs of cannibalism in piles of human bones, mixed up with other offal, thrown at the sides of several houses. I find that the men, though viewing me with great curiosity, are not any longer afraid of me, and even the women stand while I approach them.'
This is not the most horrible kind of cannibalism ; that which is so we give in the author's own words :
* Until to-day I never could believe two stories--both well authenticated, but seeming quite impossible to any one unacquainted with this people—which are told of them on the Gaboon. A party of Fans who came down to the sea-shore, once actually stole a freshlyburied body from the cemetery, and cooked it, and ate it among them ; and at another time a party conveyed a body into the woods, cut it up, and smoked the flesh, which they carried away with them. This circumstance made a great fuss among the Mpongwe, and even the missionaries heard of it; for it happened at a village not far from the missionary grounds; but I never credited the stories till now, though the facts were well authenticated by witnesses. They do not, how. ever, eat every body who dies, since they do not sell the bodies of their chiefs, or kings, or great men.'
So shocking a proof of the natural degradation of the lowest type of human beings has its uses apart from the creation of a mere feeling of detestation. It clearly proves how baseless are the dreams of those who have associated innocence and
VOL. XVII. NO, XXXIII.
purity with the savage state of man; and it shows incontestably that man is by nature in a condition of depravity, the degree of which varies in different couutries, and the extreme of which is visible in such an instance as that now cited. Were there no remedial system in operation in the corrupt mass of mankind, one might shudder at the possession of the same nature with these disgusting cannibals. But we know that the same pure and benign Gospel which has reclaimed others, will one day reclaim many a benighted and degraded African whom we should now dread to meet, men who at present do indeed dwell in those dark places of the earth' which are full of the habitations of cruelty.'
M. Du Chaillu dwelt some short time amongst the Fans, and found that they exhibited considerable ingenuity in manufacturing iron; iron ore being found in considerable quantities throughout the Fan country, cropping out at the surface. To make their best knives and arrow heads, they will not use American or European iron, but prefer their own. Many of their knives and swords are very finely made, and, for a rude race, beautifully ornamented by scroll-work on the blades. As blacksmiths, they very far surpass all the tribes of the same region who have not come into contact with the whites; but time being of no value to them, a careful Fan blacksmith will often spend many days and even weeks and months in turning out a finished war-knife, spear or brain hatchet. (How ominous this name!) The small, graceful, and often intricate lines with which the surfaces of their best weapons are beautifully ornamented, are made by the hand, and a chisel-like instrument which is struck with a hammer.
The meat of the elephant is their chief subsistence, and probably human flesh is to them what venison is to us,-an article of luxury. Their agricultural operations are very rude, and differ but little from those of the surrounding tribes. Their staple food is the manioc, a very useful plant, which yields a large return, and is more substantial than the plantain. They have, however, the plantain also, two or three kinds of yams, and splendid sugar-cane. Enormous quantities of squashes are raised, chiefly from the seeds; with which, when the fruit is ripe, their villages appear to be covered, as everybody spreads them out to dry.
The Osheba country lies some short distance further and our traveller took occasion to visit one of the towns. Like the Fans, the Osheba look warlike, and are tall. Their women, however, are smaller, hideously ugly, and tatooed all over their bodies. What horrible meaning is conveyed in the author's
simple sentence respecting their dealings with the neighbouring cannibals !— A large part of their intercourse with the Fan village consists in the interchange of dead bodies, and I saw as many human bones lying about the Osheba village as among the Fans. Add, also, in another observation about the Fans, pointing in the same direction: The Fans are a very superstitious people. Witchcraft seems to be a very common thing to be accused of among them, and the death-penalty is sternly executed. They set little value on life; and, as the dead body has a commercial value, this consideration, too, probably has its weight in passing sentence of death."
Sickening as these details are, they should not be withheld, since they prove incontestably that Satan still has his seat, and holds uuresisted sway, in districts never before made known to white men. What will the advocates of virtuous and moral heathendom say to these facts? If other proofs were needed of what depraved humanity is, and ever will be, without any ameliorating influences from Christianity and civilization, we have them in these testimonies of an eye-witness. That even this extreme of human degradation does not, however, extinguish hope concerning this people, the following paragraph shows :
'Notwithstanding their repulsive habits, the Fans have left an impression upon me, of being the most promising people in all Western Africa. They treated me with unvarying hospitality and kindness; and they seem to have more of that kind of stamina which enables á rude people to receive a strange civilization than any other tribe I know of in Africa. Energetic, fierce, warlike, decidedly possessing both courage and ingenuity, they are disagreeable enemies; and I think it most probable that the great family or nation of which they are but a small offshoot, and who should inhabit the mountainous range which subsequent explorations convince me extends nearly, if not quite, across the continent—that these mountaineers have stayed in its course the great sweep of Mohammedan conquest in this part of Africa."
Thus it would appear that the Fans are distinguished by the greatest descent in moral degradation, and the greatest promise of future amelioration. Such being our traveller's testimony, we have dwelt more particularly on this tribe (known on the coast as the Paouen). The Osheba town was M. Du Chaillu's ultima Thule in this direction; but the country to the east of the Osheba is said to be inhabited by many cannibal tribes. Their southern limit is marked as close upon the Equator. The traveller wished to proceed further, but prudential considerations withheld him :
'I had a great desire to go on, but confess that these stories and some other considerations cooled my ardour. I was completely at the mercy of the Fans, and should be still more so if I advanced; for Mbene's men would not go further. And I could not forget that the Fans, though apparently well disposed towards me, had a great penchant for human flesh, and might-by one of those curious freaks which our tastes play us—be seized by a passionate desire to taste me. To fall sick among them would be to tempt them severely and unjustifiably. Then I had not goods enough to carry me among a strange people, and also bring me back.'
We have put together what relates to the people already described, without diverging to incidents by the way. All such journeys are, of course, attended with numerous risks; and, before arriving at his present position, the author had escaped not a few dangers besides cannibalism. Standing, at one time, at an hour's distance from the head waters of the Ntambou.. nay, on an elevation of 5,000 feet above the ocean's level, he enjoyed an unobstructed and magnificent view. On all sides stretched the immense virgin forests, with here and there the shining gleam of a watercourse. Far away in the east loomed the blue tops of the farthest range of the Sierra del Crystal, the goal of his desires. The murmur of the rapids below filled his ears; and as he strained his eyes to those distant mountains which he hoped to reach, he began to think how this wilderness would look, if only the light of Christian civilization could once be fairly introduced among the black children of Africa. While he dreamed on this subject, and conjured up vision upon vision of plantations, churches, schools, and farms, he happened to raise his eyes heavenwards, and beheld pendent from the branch of a tree, beneath which he was sitting, an immense serpent, evidently preparing to make an end of this intruder on his domains. The dreamer's visions vanished in a moment. Luckily his gun lay at hand. Rushing away, so as to stand well from under his serpentine foe, he took good aim at it, and shot the serpent through the head. Down it fell; and, after dancing about on the ground for a moment or two, lay dead before its destroyer, who found it to measure full thirteen feet in length, and to have venomous fangs. The men cut off the serpent's head, and, dividing the body into proper lengths, roasted them and ate them on the spot, while the hungry white man stood by, longing for food, yet unable to join his black servants at theirs. The tastes and prejudices of civilized life on this occasion, and on several others, left the white man empty and hungry, while his inferiors enjoyed themselves at a full meal. They could both eat and be eaten, while he himself could not endure the thought of either,