Charles Livingstone had seen Niagara, and gave Mosi-oa-tunya the palm, though now at the end of a drought, and the river at its very lowest. Many feel a disappointment on first seeing the great American Falls, but Mosi-oa-tunya is so strange, it must ever cause wonder. In the amount of water, Niagara probably excels, though not during the months when the Zambesi is in flood. The vast body of water, separating in the comet-like forms described, necessarily encloses in its descent a large volume of air, which, forced into the cleft, to an unknown depth, rebounds, and rushes up loaded with vapour to form the three or even six columns, as if of steam, visible at the Batoka village Moachemba, twenty-one miles distant. On attaining a height of 200, or at most 300 feet from the level of the river above the cascade, this vapour becomes condensed into a perpetual shower of fine rain. Much of the spray, rising to the west of Garden Island, falls on the grove of evergreen trees opposite; and from their leaves, heavy drops are for ever falling, to form sundry little rills, which, in running down the steep face of rock, are blown off and turned back, or licked off their perpendicular bed, up into the column from which they have just descended.
The morning sun gilds these columns of watery smoke with all the glowing colours of double or treble rainbows. The evening sun, from a hot yellow sky, imparts a sulphureous hue, and gives one the impression that the yawning gulf might resemble the mouth of the bottomless pit. No bird sits and sings on the branches of the grove of perpetual showers, or ever builds its nest there. We saw hornbills and flocks of little black weavers flying across from the mainland to the islands, and from the islands to the points of the promontories and back again, but they uniformly shunned the region of perpetual rain, occupied by the evergreen grove. The sunshine, elsewhere in this land so overpowering, never penetrates the deep gloom of that shade. In the presence of the strange Mosi-oa-tunya, we can sympathize with those who, when the world was young, peopled earth, air, and river, with beings not of mortal form. Sacred to what deity would be this awful chasm and that dark grove, over which hovers an ever-abiding "pillar of cloud"?
The ancient Batoka chieftains used Kazeruka, now Garden Island, and Boaruka, the island further west, also on the lip of the Falls, as sacred spots for worshipping the Deity. It is no wonder that under the cloudy columns, and near the brilliant rainbows, with the ceaseless roar of the cataract, with the perpetual flow, as if pouring forth from the hand of the Almighty, their souls should be filled with reverential awe. It inspired wonder in the native mind throughout the interior. Among the first questions asked by Sebituane of Mr. Oswell and Dr. Livingstone, in 1851, was, "Have you any smoke soundings in your country," and "what causes the smoke to rise for ever so high out of water?" In that year its fame was heard 200 miles off, and it was approached within two days; but it was seen by no European till 1855, when Dr. Livingstone visited it on his way to the East Coast. Being then accompanied as far as this Fall by Sekeletu and 200 followers, his stay was necessarily short; and the two days there were employed in observations for fixing the geographical position of the place, and turning the showers, that at times sweep from the columns of vapour across the island, to account, in teaching the Makololo arboriculture, and making that garden from which the natives named the island; so that he did not visit the opposite sides of the cleft, nor see the wonderful course of the river beyond the Falls. The hippopotami had destroyed the trees which were then planted; and, though a strong stockaded hedge was made again, and living orange-trees, cashew-nuts, and coffee seeds put in afresh, we fear that the perseverance of the hippopotami will overcome the obstacle of the hedge. It would require a resident missionary to rear European fruit-trees. The period at which the peach and apricot come into blossom is about the end of the dry season, and artificial irrigation is necessary. The Batoka, the only arboriculturists in the country, rear native fruit-trees alone--the mosibe, the motsikiri, the boma, and others. When a tribe takes an interest in trees, it becomes more attached to the spot on which they are planted, and they prove one of the civilizing influences.
Where one Englishman goes, others are sure to follow. Mr. Baldwin, a gentleman from Natal, succeeded in reaching the Falls guided by his pocket-compass alone. On meeting the second subject of Her Majesty, who had ever beheld the greatest of African wonders, we found him a sort of prisoner at large. He had called on Mashotlane to ferry him over to the north side of the river, and, when nearly over, he took a bath, by jumping in and swimming ashore. "If," said Mashotlane, "he had been devoured by one of the crocodiles which abound there, the English would have blamed us for his death. He nearly inflicted a great injury upon us, therefore, we said, he must pay a fine." As Mr. Baldwin had nothing with him wherewith to pay, they were taking care of him till he should receive beads from his wagon, two days distant.
Mashotlane's education had been received in the camp of Sebituane, where but little regard was paid to human life. He was not yet in his prime, and his fine open countenance presented to us no indication of the evil influences which unhappily, from infancy, had been at work on his mind. The native eye was more penetrating than ours; for the expression of our men was, "He has drunk the blood of men--you may see it in his eyes." He made no further difficulty about Mr. Baldwin; but the week after we left he inflicted a severe wound on the head of one of his wives with his rhinoceros-horn club. She, being of a good family, left him, and we subsequently met her and another of his wives proceeding up the country.
The ground is strewn with agates for a number of miles above the Falls; but the fires, which burn off the grass yearly, have injured most of those on the surface. Our men were delighted to hear that they do as well as flints for muskets; and this with the new ideas of the value of gold (dalama) and malachite, that they had acquired at Tette, made them conceive that we were not altogether silly in picking up and looking at stones.
Marching up the river, we crossed the Lekone at its confluence, about eight miles above the island Kalai, and went on to a village opposite the Island Chundu. Nambowe, the headman, is one of the Matebele or Zulus, who have had to flee from the anger of Moselekatse, to take refuge with the Makololo.
We spent Sunday, the 12th, at the village of Molele, a tall old Batoka, who was proud of having formerly been a great favourite with Sebituane. In coming hither we passed through patches of forest abounding in all sorts of game. The elephants' tusks, placed over graves, are now allowed to decay, and the skulls, which the former Batoka stuck on poles to ornament their villages, not being renewed, now crumble into dust. Here the famine, of which we had heard, became apparent, Molele's people being employed in digging up the tsitla root out of the marshes, and cutting out the soft core of the young palm-trees, for food.