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IT is impossible to describe the delicious feelings of relief which we experienced on suddenly exchanging the burning heat and the barren wastes of the Nyika for the leafy labyrinths and bosky bowers of the little African Arcadia of Taveta on that eventful evening of the 31st of March. It was as if we had passed from a purgatory to a paradise, and our recent ordeal had prepared us to appreciate our happiness to the utmost. We made our way through an outer barrier of dense, impenetrable forest and undergrowth of bush, by a narrow winding tunnel, squeezed ourselves through the small gateway, and stood within the charmed circle Here we [55] first gave voice to our guns, the reports of which echoed and re–echoed through the forest, and told the natives in well–understood language that a weary caravan had entered their precincts, and claimed their hospitality. As we moved on through rich banana groves, we presently heard the answering bang. of guns which roared out hearty welcomes, and soon the very trees seem to thunder forth their salaams, as from all sides was kept tip a continuous firing. We found ourselves in the midst of a very network of purling rills and artificial channels, and we slaked our thirst in the clear, cool water with. intense enjoyment. Then natives began to appear, confirming their more fiery welcome with pleasant "Yambo, Yambos." They were followed by more excited and demonstrative Wa–swahili traders, who, as they seized and kissed my hand with their salutation of "Sabalkheir," opened a running fire of question., amazed at the totally unexpected appearance of a white man’s caravan, of which they had heard no news. Thus convoyed amid the renewed thundering of guns, which in the leafy depths of the forest sounded like cannon, we threaded marvellously rich plantations, [56] and finally emerged at a clearing which we found to be the headquarters of the Wa–swahili traders, over which presided one Dugumbi, a noted "mkuginzi," and "mganga!" A number of houses like those familiar at the coast had been built here, and as it had now become dark, we, amidst much confusion, camped for the night. The men, deadbeat by their killing march, were only too glad to throw down their loads anyhow, and, regardless of empty stomachs, stow themselves away out of sight. However, by dint of much yelling and shouting, we got the tents put up provisionally. In these the goods were stowed safely away, and before we finally turned in for the night sufficient food was got together to stay the cravings of hunger.

Next day was devoted to rest. To get clear of the noise and clamour, and the many unlovely sights and smells of the general camp, I removed my tent some distance off, and embowered myself in a charming nook of the forest, leaving Martin to superintend the men.

I now found I had a work of no small magnitude before me, which I had not anticipated. The whole of my beads had to be restrung into the regulation lengths of the Masai country. Unless in this form, they would not be accepted, and there would be absolutely no opportunity for doing them on the march. Before I could leave Taveta, therefore, 60,000 strings had to be made up. But this was not all. Cloth was accepted by the Masai only in the shape of ready–made war–dresses, known as naib�r�. These consisted of about six feet of cotton, down the centre of which a strip of crimson or checked cloth is sewn, the cross threads of the ends being taken out to form a fringe. Of these nailers 300 had to be prepared. Besides all this, a variety of other preliminary arrangements had to be made. It thus became very clear, much to my annoyance, that a detention of some length was before me.

After settling the question of tribute or hongo with the elders and the young men, and making my complimentary presents to Dugumbi and the headman of a caravan which had just reached Taveta from the Masai country after losing 100 men by disease, I set myself seriously on the second day to the pressing work of preparation. Those who were expert with the needle were started on the war–dresses, and the rest set to string beads. Some were sent to bring the leaves of the Mwal� palm (Raphia). Others from the fibre. Prepared strings, and the remainder did the stringing. To have some [57] check upon the men, the beads were measured out to each one, and all the headmen employed as detectives to minimize as far as possible the stealing. Fearful penalties were threatened to backsliders, and rewards promised to the honest and the diligent, and then, after emphasizing both with the properscowl for prospective thieves and encouraging smiles for the better class, I set them to work. In the evening, when the work was finished and brought back for examination, I was thrown into the depths of despair. I had had some faint hopes that their moral regeneration had advanced a step since they left the coast. I was doomed to bitter disappointment. Not a man brought back the amount he received. Out of about four loads distributed, nearly an entire load was wanting. What was I to do under the circumstances I could not thrash the entire caravan, and yet something must be done if I hoped to cheek the stealing. In the end I selected two men from each khambi (mess), and made Brahim give each one several sound strokes with a stick. Their rations also were stopped for the day. After a disgusting rumpus all round, the day’s work ended with loud–voiced protestations of innocence from the men, and threats of desertion. Though externally calm and smiling, I was boiling with rage and mortification. I was determined, moreover, that on no account would I give in, as it would never do to have it an open question as to whether or not my authority was to be respected.

That same evening I took possession of the men’s guns, and placed a strong guard, with the usual bloodthirsty orders. With much ostentation, I loaded my heavy express rifle, and, in the hearing of some of the men, arranged with Martin to divide the night in keeping a look–out.

Next day matters were very much improved, and I saw that I had become master of the situation, though I may mention that out of about thirty loads of beads, two were stolen in the process of stringing, in spite of every precaution.

Life at Taveta, however, was not all worry and toil. Indeed, it was in many respects quite the reverse. Agreeable strolls in the cool of the evening were pleasingly varied by native levees, and by seances, in which, in the character of the "Wizard of the North," I aroused profound admiration by my galvanic battery evoking cries of consternation, or producing fits of laughter, according as the people were being operated on, or only spectators of the tortures of others. As [58] for food, fish, fowl, eggs, mutton or goat, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, manioc or cassava, green maize, sugar–cane, golden bananas, and vegetables of various kinds supplied our table with an agreeable diversity and a rich profusion such as I have nowhere else experienced in Africa. Our life here might have been described as perfection–for Africa –but for the troubles with the men, which certainly were a considerable alloy to our pleasure.

Having thus become well acquainted with our surroundings, and got the work of preparation fairly set a–going, with some idea of discipline and a higher moral tone persuasively instilled into the men, we may relax the fixed scowl with which we have made the delinquents quail, and, putting on our holiday look, proceed on a circular tour of investigation in the forest and suburbs of Taveta. Let me invite my readers as a select party to accompany me.

It is an April morning, and we are up with the dawn. Before the sun has passed the horizon we have demolished our breakfast with a capital appetite. Our guns are taken in hand; all the necessary array of knives, belts, bags, &c., buckled or slung about our persons, and with the due following of "boys," we are off on our expedition. We pass through the camp, and see that the men have commenced work, and after giving the manager directions for the day, we leave behind us the filth and ugliness of the Swahili village, and plunge into one of those ideal, leafy labyrinths with which the popular imagination inclines to clothe equatorial regions, but which the toil–worn African traveller so seldom sees.

As we hie merrily along the bower–like pathway we are soon lost in admiration of the glorious masses of vegetation which everywhere meet our eye. Nature wantons in the production of magnificent trees, which in many instances spring up branchless eighty to one hundred feet before spreading out in a splendid umbrageous canopy. The branches interlace with those of the surrounding trees till only a faint checkered light passes through to dance and quiver below in the manner of innumerable will–o’–the–wisps. Though the trees are unbranched to those heights, yet you will perceive that we are not wandering in a forest of stems only, like the masts in some crowded harbour. Far otherwise; from every point of vantage pliant creepers, loaded with foliage, swing from tree to tree or hang in graceful dark green masses down the sturdy trunk. Beautiful palms,–the [59] raphia, and the hyphene, or wild date–flowering shrubs, a profusion of ferns, and here and there a flowering plant, fill up the interspaces till the eye becomes bewildered by the crowding and the rank profusion. Monkeys give animation to the scene, and by their lively movements and incessant barking attract attention. Flocks of hornbills fly from tree to tree, jarring the ear with their unmusical calls. Squirrels, now hiding behind a tree–trunk or climbing with wonderful celerity, anon pausing with wondering gaze, according as alarm or curiosity has the ascendency, are noted among other sights. Numerous foot–prints tell of the hyaena hidden away in the dense bush till the shades of night allow it to commence its ghoul–like rounds. From the forest we hear the pleasing ripple of water over a stony bed, and pushing forward, we emerge at last, to find ourselves on the banks of the snow–fed Lumi, which rising at the base of the Kimawenzi peak of Kilimanjaro, after a subterranean passage from the shattered cloud–sucking pinnacle, finds its way south to Lake Jip�, and, spreading under ground, nourishes the glorious Tavetan forest and ensures fertility throughout the year. Its banks, bedecked with maiden–hair ferns and creepers, and its noble arboreal arch invite us to pause and refresh ourselves. Its gentle murmuring finds an echo in our souls, and under its soothing charm we become lotus–eaters, and rise above this prosaic world of ours to visit in our imagination some restful, idyllic dreamland, and sip the essence of the golden year.

Tempted by the delicious coolness and the crystalline purity of its waters, we resolve to try its liquid depths and are soon revelling in a glorious bath. Resuming our perambulations, we find fresh and ever–varied scenes to attract our attention. Here a zigzag pathway leads us to a native compound hidden in extraordinary masses of verdure, perfectly impenetrable except by a very narrow pathway, and a still more narrow, strongly built gateway. Behind this the natives can bid defiance to the Masai, who have on one or two occasions contrived to penetrate inside the forest, though few have ever got out alive again to tell the tale. We find the compound to consist of two or three huts of bee–hive shape, and thatched with banana leaves. As we peep inside our nostrils are suddenly assailed by a powerful odour. Pushing in, we find the cause of it to be two cows stalled within. They are beautiful fat animals, and are never allowed outside, their food being cut and brought to them Behind the cows [60] are a few poles over which is stretched a dressed bullock’s–hide. This forms the bed of the lady of the house and of her lord, when he takes a fancy to sleep there–for he, having several other huts and wives, each with her own cows, has no fixed residence, though lie naturally pays more attention to some favourite wife.

There is little inside worth description beyond the customary collection of cooking utensils, water and beer pots, calabashes for milk small, hollowed–out cylinders of wood for honey, and baskets for the various kinds of grain. In odd nooks, beads, cloth, &c., are stowed away. The cooking is performed outside, where also may be observed a number of gambolling kids and goats, mixed with the more sedate sheep. Cocks establish themselves on the housetops, while the less venturesome lien clucks with her chirping brood on lower levels.

After some pleasant chat with the inhabitants, we bow ourselves out to continue our exploration. Scarcely have we resumed our walk when our attention is attracted to a strange object. Pushing forward, we find an illustration of a curious burial custom of the natives of Taveta. After death the body is buried in a sitting posture, the left arm resting on the knee and the head supported by the hand, the contrary arm and hand being used by the women. When they have remained sufficiently long to be reduced to skeletons, the skulls of the man and his chief wife are taken out, and placed in deep, oval–shaped pots. These are laid on their sides at the base of dracoena–trees in the centre of his plantation, where, in the shape of good spirits, they keep watch and ward over the welfare of the crops. A more queer and ghastly thing cannot be imagined than the sight of these skulls grinning inside the dark pots. Why dracoena–trees should be selected I do not know, except that they take root easily and grow quickly, besides always remaining green, and not taking up too much room or growing too large.

From this strange sight our attention is now diverted by the sounds of tinkling bells, and a jingling sound as of loose iron bangles striking against each other. Looking around to see the cause, we observe an elderly female with an austere and severe aspect slowly emerging from the banana grove, with measured tread, and carrying a wand fitted to inspire respect in. the bosoms of mischievous urchins. Behind this ancient dame, (in whom the striking absence of charms is not compensated by a profusion of either clothe,, or ornaments) [61] marches, with ambling step, a plump female, tender and twenty. Round her head is a band of leather, ornamented with cowrie shells. From this hangs a perfect veil of iron chain, which almost completely hides the face, and falls over the bosom. Round her neck and waist are disposed heaps of beads and iron chains, almost rivalling the Teita ladies in amount. A dressed skin forms her clothing, while arms and legs are loaded with iron and brass wire of the thickness of telegraph wire. About her person are disposed a number of bells, and round the ankles are numerous iron bangles, which herald her approach for some distance ahead. We greet with due respect the grim duenna, smile more knowingly at her charge, and let them pass, slowly picking each step as if they were among thorns. You ask "What is the meaning of this display?" "Has Spain transferred its system of female espionage to Africa?" By no means. The secret of the mystery is simply this. The young lady has been lately married, and is now in–I blush to mention it–an interesting condition. Proudly she struts forth in all the pride proper to such a situation–delighted doubtless to announce to the world at large, or at least to some hated rival, by the music of the bells, her pleasing expectations. She is at this period fattened and pampered like a fowl for the market. She is not allowed to exert herself in the least, and if she must go out to receive the congratulations of her friends, she must be accompanied by a staid chaperon, who, marching in front, watches over her welfare, and prevents her being startled or otherwise inconvenienced. On these occasions she is always loaded with all the ornaments that can be got, more especially the iron veil and the bells, which are the distinctive marks. The appearance of a second child is not heralded in the same manner; little notice, indeed, is taken of the event.

I may here mention that marriage among the Wa–taveta is a matter of so many bullocks. When a young man takes a fancy to a girl he arranges the matter with the father, and agrees to give so many head of cattle. If he is able to give the requisite number at once, then the marriage is consummated without delay. This, however, seldom happens. On the actual presentation of the first bullock, the girl is henceforth "sealed" to him. She is not allowed to go outside the house till after dark, and may on no account see a man, not even her betrothed. If the man is poor, the engagement frequently extends over a term of years, till the last bullock is paid up. After marriage the most astounding [62] laxity prevails. Conjugal fidelity is unknown, and certainly not expected on either side; they might almost be described as a colony of free lovers.

Continuing our walk, we hurry on through charming glades, and rich plantations irrigated by artificial canals, and as we look around on the more open prospect, we cannot but conclude that though it may be ridiculous excess for man to paint the lily, yet he may assist nature in letting the lily be seen to advantage–and so indirectly improve its beauty. Here we see single trees rising in stately grandeur, and showing off their fine proportions; there, a pleasing group set on green soft grass, Offers grateful shade without discomfort. Rich crops of golden maize or grey millet wave to the passing. breeze, while great bunches of splendid bananas bend down the soft and cellular stems. The whole place seems to be kaleidoscopic in its infinite variety of changing scene, in its wonderful combination of the grand and the graceful, of form and colour. It wants but a few more brilliant hues, a greater abundance of flitting, iridescent butterflies and dragon–flies, some more gorgeously coloured birds, and a few monstrosities in beetles to make the picture ideally perfect.

But now, lest these scenes get too great a hold upon my imagination, and lay me open to a charge of eastern extravagance of thought, or of "exuberant verbosity" allied to the rank profusion we have just left, let me ask my readers to gather round me under the shade of the palaver–tree of the natives, while I try to convey some further general ideas about Taveta and its inhabitants.

Lend your imagination as well as your ears, while I ask you to climb up to some neighbouring peak or point of vantage, to take in a bird’s–eye view of your surroundings. You perceive, that Taveta–the invulnerable and impenetrable –is a slight depression near the south–east corner of the great snow–clad mountain of Kilimanjaro, and lying, as our barometric observations show, at a height of 2400 feet. This depression is covered with the dense forest which we have just described, and covers no greater an area than a mile broad, and seven miles long from north to south. It may, however, be better described as delta–shaped the apex being towards the north, and the base subtended by Lake Jip�. The line of demarcation between the most remarkable tropical luxuriance and utter barrenness and sterility, is one of astonishing abruptness. There is no gradual alteration, [63] but with a couple of steps you change the entire scene. This is not difficult to explain. The forest covers an almost level strip of rich, alluvial soil, brought down from the mountain by the perennial Lumi, which runs through the centre to the lake on the south, and probably has thus silted up a former creek–like extension. The Lumi, however, is not entirely confined to the limits of its banks. On the contrary, it spreads away underground by many subterranean channels, and thus ever keeps the ground moist– so much so that at almost any point water can be reached at from one to two feet in depth; hence the remarkable fertility. Where the ground begins to rise the water, of course, does not come near the surface, and, as but little rain falls throughout the year, only plants which thrive in the most and soil can there contrive to exist. The Lumi also marks the line of contact between two very different geological formations, namely, the volcanic lavas from Kilimanjaro, and the schists and gneisses of the metamorphic area.

The people are a mixed race, a blending of the Bantu races of Central and South Africa with the Hamitic tribes of the Nile and North Africa, the Bantu. races being represented by the Wa–taveta, who are closely related to the Wa–chaga and the Wa–teita; the Hamitic tribes by that clan of the great Masai nation (known to the Wa–swahili as Wa–kwafi), who, after a series of disasters, were driven from their original homes in the plains around Teita, Jip� and U–sambara, and scattered over the country. In the sequel I shall take occasion to enter more particularly into the history of this clan. I need but say at present that a few Masai (Wa–kwafi) having lost all their cattle, and being threatened with starvation, laid aside their deep–rooted prejudices against the menial task of cultivating the soil, as well as various cherished customs and traditions, and threw in their lot with the Wa–taveta. And now, so thoroughly amalgamated are they in ideas, customs, &c., that it has become difficult to distinguish the two different races.

The Wa–kwafi, are characterized by a finer physique (which indeed is sometimes well worthy of the admiration of the sculptor), a superior physiognomy, more prominent cheek–bones, and a tendency to a Mongolian upward slant of the eyes. The young men dress in the manner of their ancestors, though the older men have to some extent approximated to coast notions. The peculiar manner of circumcision proper to the Masai has also been retained. In [64] most other respects, however, they have altered their ideas to harmonize with the pure–bred Wa–taveta. Perhaps one of the most remarkable changes is in the matter of honesty. From being the most notorious and audacious thieves in all Africa they have become distinctly the reverse, while without loss of their original bravery they have laid aside their bloodthirsty ideas and fondness for war. Though a mere handful of men, yet, secure in their arboreal fortress, they have bid defiance to great hordes of Masai, and even snapped their fingers at the more crafty Mandara, the warrior–chief of Chaga, who has long dreamt of seizing their stronghold, and thus getting command of the caravan route. I can safely say that nowhere have I met such pleasing and manly natives over the whole extent of country I have yet traversed in Africa. We struck up a very great friendship, which remained unbroken by a single incident and forms one of my most agreeable recollections.

I have spoken of Taveta as an Arcadia in respect of its charming scenes. I may now say that the natives hardly detract from the poetical picture. True Arcadians they are in their peaceable habits, their great hospitality, their manly, pleasant manners, and surprising honesty.

To the traders from the coast, Taveta has always been a place of great importance. Situated at the very threshold of the Masai country, offering perfect security to whosoever would enter, and further recommended by its abundance of food and the character of its natives, it has most naturally been made a resting and recruiting station for caravans proceeding to or coming from the Masai country. No caravan can pass without a stay, on one pretext or another, of from a fortnight to a couple of months, and as all such visitors are fed almost entirely at the expense of their numerous native friends, it is an agreeable and cheap way of spending the time where time where time is no object.

Such, then, gentle, readers, are the, main facts regarding your surroundings, and the denizens thereof. And now, if you have finished eating those delicious bananas, and chewed sugar–cane till the sweet juice has palled upon you, we may resume our tramp down the few remaining miles which separate us from Lake Jip�, which we so recently saw glimmering., in the distance.

As we emerge from the shady grove. we stand entranced by a lovely sight which unexpectedly breaks on our view. For many days we have been at the base of Kilimanjaro, and yet [65] not a glimpse has rewarded our frequent attempts to view its cloud–piercing heights. We have begun almost to ask ourselves if we are, after all, to be doomed to the mere "mental recognition" ascribed to Rebman. Happily such is not to be our fate. The "Mount Olympus" of these parts stands forth revealed in all its glory fitly framed by the neighbouring trees. There is the grand dome or crater of Kibo, with its snow cap glancing and scintillating like burnished silver in the rays of the afternoon sun, and there, on its eastern flank, as a striking contrast, rise the jagged outlines of the craggy peak of Kimawenzi. What words can adequately describe this glimpse of majestic grandeur and godlike repose I We can only stand speechless with feelings of awe. But our opportunity is brief. The veil has merely been temporarily lifted, and. now huge, fleecy–white cumulus clouds roll and tumble along the sides of the great mountain till only the black pinnacle and the glittering dome are seen projected against the pure azure, and hanging apparently in mid–heaven more impressive than ever. At last a veil of stratus mysteriously spreads itself out. In a few seconds the whole scene has vanished, "like the baseless fabric of a vision, "and we find ourselves blankly staring at a monotonous expanse of grey.

Turning with a sigh, we hurry rapidly towards Jip� as if, after such a scene, nothing else was worthy of special notice. We cross some beautiful park–like country, crush our way through the outer barrier, and find ourselves in the grass jungle to the north of the lake. Here we come upon Iota of game, and soon bag for the pot two pallah and one waterbuck, and leaving men to cut them up, we speedily reach the object of our tramp. Jip� we find to be a shallow expanse of water lying at the base of the Ugono mountains, which rise precipitously into a picturesque range of much grandeur, though the outlines are simple, and the top flat, The height of these mountains is little over 7000 feet, and the numerous columns of curling smoke tell of inhabitants similar to the Wa–teita. The lake lies at *an altitude of 2350 feet. It is about ten miles from north to south, and only some three miles broad. It is comparatively shallow, and may indeed be described as a backwater of the Lumi formed by the subsidence of the ground, due doubtless, as is so often the case in similar positions, to withdrawal of the matter ejected by Kilimanjaro in its days of activity as a volcano.. It contains several schools of hippos, a few crocodiles, and a great number of capital fish, which also find their way up the [66] Lumi. At the point where this stream enters the lake, another flowing west gives exit to the surplus water, and conveys it to the Rufu or Pangani river.

The lengthening shadows, however, tell us that the day is rapidly coming to a close, and if we do not want to be belated in the forest midst howling hyenas and roaring lions, we must stop out in no lackadaisical manner. In an hour we are once more back to the native plantations. We get another glimpse of Kilimanjaro, and have several charming peeps at the winding Lumi.

But now listen! What is the meaning of that full–voiced, sonorous song which wells forth from the depths of the forest, and echoes through the trees in ever–increasing volume? That is the music, to which the natives, following the Masai customs, tread a measure. No thundering drum or yelling native clarionet, as elsewhere, supplies the rhythmic sounds and accentuates the varying movement. A less spirited though decidedly more musical, "Ho–oh! Oh–ho!" monotonously reiterated fills the woodland with its rolling resonance. Ah! there they are! A group of young men and maidens in that pretty nook. See what splendidly proportioned athletes, with hair rolled into strings which hang like a mop over, their heads, small kidskin garments flung over their shoulders or hanging by their sides, and a glorious layer of grease and clay plastered on lavishly from head to foot. The girls, with only an under girdle round the loins, and loaded with beads, clay, and grease, make a piquant element in the scene. They stop for a moment as we approach; but soon they resume the dance with fresh vigour and unabated enthusiasm. You stand with astonishment to view the extraordinary and laborious manner in which the natives enjoy themselves. A young man advances, holding a wand in his hand. His arms hang straight down. At first he hops forward like a bird, till, reaching the centre, he commences a series of leaps straight into the air, without bending his legs or moving his arms. Ever and anon he gives his head a hitch forward, bringing his long back hair over his face. After springing in this manner about a dozen times, he steps aside, and another takes his place, till all have gone through their paces. Then with wilder movement they trot round in a variety of evolutions, and so the dance ends, to be resumed again in precisely the same manner. Try to do exactly what you have seen, and you will find it is no light task to dance in the manner of the Wa–taveta. [67]

Hurrying on, we reach camp just as the sun disappears behind the horizon. In retiring to my own corner, I find a number of venerable elders sitting stoically awaiting my return. Calling for my chair and a cup of refreshing tea, I make myself comfortable, and signify that I am all attention. After a little preliminary talk among themselves, one of the chief elders gets up, and, baton in hand, explains their errand. The season has just commenced in which the Masai go upon their usual raids to the coast regions for cattle. Their routes lie on both sides of the forest, where their continually passing to and fro has formed several large pathways, as can be easily seen. These war–parties give great annoyance to the Wa–taveta, by their repeated attempts to storm their arboreal fortress, though the defenders have as yet had the best of it in every encounter. Now I have arrived, and it is not difficult to see that I am a great mganga or medicine. man. I have shown them wonders and performed feats which could only be done by one with supernatural powers, and consequently they have come to me for charms or medicines which will prevent the Masai entering the forest. Listening to the old gentleman’s harangue with much gravity while I sip my tea, I make a suitable reply. I try my best to explain that I have no more power than themselves to ward off Masai attacks; but finding that this is only received with incredulity and is leaving a bad impression, I tell them I will do my best, but cannot think of accepting the goat which they have brought. To refuse is simply to make them believe that I do not want to assist them. For their own personal safety, therefore, I brew some Eno’s fruit salt, which with fear and trembling they taste as it fizzes away. Finally they retire quite satisfied, but refusing to take back the goat. Next day I shall clench the matter by going out and with much ceremony and firing of g~ photographing the various gates.

Thus ends our tour through the Tavetan forest, and now, as the deepening shadows and pleasing charms of the gloamin’ gather round us, let George Eliot epitomize for us the sights of the day in these graphic lines:

Thus generations in glad idlesse throve,
Nor hunted prey nor with each other strove.
For clearest springs were plenteous in the land.
And gourds for cups; the ripe fruit sought the hand,
Bending the laden’d boughs with fragrant gold;
And for their roofs and garments, wealth untold
Lay everywhere in grasses and broad leaves.
They labour’d gently as a maid who weaves
Her hair in mimic mats, and pauses oft
And strokes across her palm the tresses soft.

The work of the day is now over. The short twilight, like a glimpse of Eden with all its rich hues and exquisite softness, is past and gone. The beds of grass and leaves have been made up, and after a hard day’s toil each one seeks oblivion and needed rest, leaving the fires to sink and die; and soon nothing indicates the presence of man but the silent, ghost–like sentinel keeping watch and ward over the whiterobed figures lying around. We ourselves have retired to our bosky corner, and, taking up a book of poetry, try to forget the scenes around us in the beautiful thoughts of a favourite author. But no oblivion of that sort will come to us to–night. We are soon made aware of "sounds which give delight but hurt not," and, like Caliban in the enchanted isle, we give ourselves up to the sweet influences of the hour. Through the open door we see the canopy of heaven lighted up with its thousand constellations, shining with surprising brilliancy in the clear ambient atmosphere. The winds sigh through the forest and wake the weird spirits of the night. But these are only subordinate voices in the sweet chorus of more wonderful sounds which soon breaks forth with astonishing volume and harmony. A flood of fairy notes from myriad cicadae pervades the air, as if Titania and her lively crew held high revel around us, the whole blending so sweetly with the muttered music of the leaves and the murmuring of the Lumi, that it seems as if an angelic conductor led some celestial band. In the intervals of the swelling music we cannot fail to note in the darker recesses of the forest, myriads of fireflies acting as fairy lamps, and flashing meteor–like incessantly from bush to bush, contrasting with the numerous tiny glow–worms steadily emitting their rich, soft glow. But now, hark to the horrid laughter of the hyenas as they discover some filthy carrion and ghoul–like gorge their fill! And there–grand and awe–inspiring rises with resonant thunder the roar of the lion, a nightly visitor to our neighbourhood. With a cold shiver and a creeping of the very flesh, we find the charm of the night gone. Closing the tent door we are soon in bed, cool and comfortable through the agency of a refreshing breeze from the icy heights of Kilimanjaro, which not only sends sound sleep, but drives off the troublesome mosquitoes. [69] Next day we rise to the prosaic labours of our ordinary life.

To proceed with my narrative. My conversation with Dugumbi and other traders, some of whom had just returned with a large caravan from the Masai country (with a loss of 100 men from disease) gave me a juster view than I had hitherto formed of the difficulties before me. They enabled me to realize for the first time that the conditions of travel in this region were very widely different from those of the country farther north, and they confirmed my previous belief that my caravan was much too small. I was assured that these traders never dreamed of entering the Masai country with less than 300 men, and that they always took more if circumstances would at all permit. I learned also that as there were no recognized footpaths, and as watering–places were few and far between and the population migratory, it would be simply courting defeat to go with only one guide, however honest or trustworthy. Then I was told that the Masai were tremendous talkers as well as fighters, and that the transaction of the necessary business would require several interpreters with nothing else to do. In short, I acquired sufficient ominous information to make any one not possessed of a particularly sanguine temperament despair of ever passing the threshold, or at most of getting many days beyond it. It almost seemed as if it could only be by a series of lucky accidents that I could have hope of over getting through, or, if once through, of ever getting back. I was not cast down, however, for though I saw good reason for being anxious in a situation so full of hazard, I had great faith in my lucky star, and determined to mould fate to my own ends.

I could not see my way to add to the numbers of my caravan, as I had been made clearly to understand by the Geographical Society that on no account was the sum to be exceeded, –a rather curious injunction, it must be confessed, seeing that I could not consider myself master of my own movements when once fairly in the country. An attempt to add three more loads of iron wire to my slightly deficient stock of that important commodity did not encourage me to do anything more in that line. I, however, took a very important stop in the engagement of a new guide and interpreter in the person of Sadi. I have already alluded to this personage as the caravan leader and guide of Baron von der Decken and eventually, through his cowardice and [70] treachery, the ruiner of the latter’s hopes of penetrating into the Masai country. He also acted in the same capacity on New’s first visit to Mandara, and on his second co–operated with that notorious chief in plundering the missionary. Since then he had gone from bad to worse. He had been unsuccessful in some small trading trips. Finally, having fallen deep in debt to the Hindus at the coast, and being unable to find credit or get an employer, he had fled to Taveta to escape imprisonment. Here he had ever since lived like a pauper, supported by the hospitable Wa–taveta or any trader who would give him a present of cloth. This, then, was the man I now engaged, after a series of extremely slippery negotiations, at $15 a month. To do him credit, however, it should be stated that he had a commanding and venerable presence, a not unimportant qualification in the Masai country, and that without exception he had the most thorough knowledge of the Masai language of any man on the coast. Even the Masai had to admit they were no match for him in power of talking out a subject. I never knew any one with such a singular "gift of the gab." He would have been a perfectly invaluable acquisition to the Irish irrepressibles in Parliament! How I got on with this formidable gentleman will presently appear.

During our stay at Taveta we for the first time opened up communication with Mandara. A messenger arrived from that powerful chief, bringing a bullock and a goat as a present, along with salaams and compliments, and expressions of a strong desire that I should go and visit him,– declaring that anything he could do for me would be at once performed. As the bullock was small and a male, I refused to accept it. I was certain that Mandara must have sent a different animal, for it is the custom to send the male only as "a feeler" in case of doubt, it being understood that if one accepts such a present, he has warlike intentions. It proved, as I suspected, that this had been the messenger’s own little game, a fine fat cow having really been sent, but exchanged for the other animal, with an M–taveta, for a consideration. The proper cow having arrived, I made up a present of a gun, a government sword–bayonet, a piece of cotton, two coloured cloths, and two flasks of gunpowder, and sent them off with the proper expressions of regret that my numerous engagements would not permit me the pleasure of calling upon him.

On my first arrival at Taveta I heard that, only some two [71] days before, Dr. Fischer, the German, had arrived at Arusha wa chini from Pangani. But for the enforced delay that had befallen me, it is not improbable that I might have preceded him into the Masai country, or at least entered at the same time. However, the information I received both there and at Zanzibar, from his agent and his head–men, led me to believe that my plans would not be interfered with, and that there would be more than elbow–room for both of us. My own intention at that time was to keep straight across country via Ngurum�–ni to Kavirondo, on Victoria Nyanza, while I understood that Fischer would cross my route nearly at right angles, and, keeping away north, try to reach Mount Kenia, and afterwards Lake Baringo.

My position, then, at this period may be briefly summarized in the following manner. I had arrived at the threshold of the Masai country with a caravan of men only about one–third of the proper number, and these, with few exceptions, of the weakest and most villainous type. For the [72] important positions of guides and interpreters I had but two men, neither of whom bore the highest character; while properly I should have had not less than six, experienced in the duties of the office. Then I was considerably short of the proper supply of iron wire (technically known as seneng� by the natives). This came about, not through any forgetfulness of my own, but from the fact that I could not carry more, so many men being occupied carrying the customary impedimenta of a European traveller. Under these various disadvantages I was called upon to attempt one of the most difficult undertakings, and to face a tribe whose very name carried fear to the hearts of all who knew it, and among whom numerous trading caravans had been annihilated, rarely a year passing without some disaster or other.

I may say, however, that never for a moment did I shrink from the task before me. I counted the cost, and saw clearly the difficulties and the dangers attending my project, but it was only to smile at them, and to become more fixed in my resolve to master them. Temporary clouds might envelope me, but as to my ultimate success I never once doubted.

Before closing this chapter it remains but to be said that besides exploring the Tavetan forest, and visiting Lake Jip� I made several excursions to the base of Kilimanjaro, to examine the numerous small parasitic cones and craters which spring up at the base of the parent volcano, besides making an examination of the charming and romantic little crater lake of Chala. These, and other geological observations, I will set aside at present, and in a chapter more immediately devoted to an account of Kilimanjaro give the results.


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