The Batoka had made a near approach to the custom of more refined nations and had permanent graveyards, either on the sides of hills, thus rendered sacred, or under large old shady trees; they reverence the tombs of their ancestors, and plant the largest elephants' tusks, as monuments at the head of the grave, or entirely enclose it with the choicest ivory. Some of the other tribes throw the dead body into the river to be devoured by crocodiles, or, sewing it up in a mat, place it on the branch of a baobab, or cast it in some lonely gloomy spot, surrounded by dense tropical vegetation, where it affords a meal to the foul hyenas; but the Batoka reverently bury their dead, and regard the spot henceforth as sacred. The ordeal by the poison of the muave is resorted to by the Batoka, as well as by the other tribes; but a cock is often made to stand proxy for the supposed witch. Near the confluence of the Kafue the Mambo, or chief, with some of his headmen, came to our sleeping-place with a present; their foreheads were smeared with white flour, and an unusual seriousness marked their demeanour. Shortly before our arrival they had been accused of witchcraft; conscious of innocence, they accepted the ordeal, and undertook to drink the poisoned muave. For this purpose they made a journey to the sacred hill of Nchomokela, on which repose the bodies of their ancestors; and, after a solemn appeal to the unseen spirits to attest the innocence of their children, they swallowed the muave, vomited, and were therefore declared not guilty. It is evident that they believe that the soul has a continued existence; and that the spirits of the departed know what those they have left behind them are doing, and are pleased or not according as their deeds are good or evil; this belief is universal. The owner of a large canoe refused to sell it, because it belonged to the spirit of his father, who helped him when he killed the hippopotamus. Another, when the bargain for his canoe was nearly completed, seeing a large serpent on a branch of the tree overhead, refused to complete the sale, alleging that this was the spirit of his father come to protest against it.
Some of the Batoka chiefs must have been men of considerable enterprise; the land of one, in the western part of this country, was protected by the Zambesi on the S., and on the N. and E. lay an impassable reedy marsh, filled with water all the year round, leaving only his western border open to invasion: he conceived the idea of digging a broad and deep canal nearly a mile in length, from the reedy marsh to the Zambesi, and, having actually carried the scheme into execution, he formed a large island, on which his cattle grazed in safety, and his corn ripened from year to year secure from all marauders.
Another chief, who died a number of years ago, believed that he had discovered a remedy for tsetse-bitten cattle; his son Moyara showed us a plant, which was new to our botanist, and likewise told us how the medicine was prepared; the bark of the root, and, what might please our homoeopathic friends, a dozen of the tsetse are dried, and ground together into a fine powder. This mixture is administered internally; and the cattle are fumigated by burning under them the rest of the plant collected. The treatment must be continued for weeks, whenever the symptoms of poison appear. This medicine, he frankly admitted, would not cure all the bitten cattle. "For," said he, "cattle, and men too, die in spite of medicine; but should a herd by accident stray into a tsetse district and be bitten, by this medicine of my father, Kampa-kampa, some of them could be saved, while, without it, all would inevitably die." He stipulated that we were not to show the medicine to other people, and if ever we needed it in this region we must employ him; but if we were far off we might make it ourselves; and when we saw it cure the cattle think of him, and send him a present.
Our men made it known everywhere that we wished the tribes to live in peace, and would use our influence to induce Sekeletu to prevent the Batoka of Moshobotwane and the Makololo under-chiefs making forays into their country: they had already suffered severely, and their remonstrances with their countryman, Moshobotwane, evoked only the answer, "The Makololo have given me a spear; why should I not use it?" He, indeed, it was who, being remarkably swift of foot, first guided the Makololo in their conquest of the country. In the character of peacemakers, therefore, we experienced abundant hospitality; and, from the Kafue to the Falls, none of our party was allowed to suffer hunger. The natives sent to our sleeping-places generous presents of the finest white meal, and fat capons to give it a relish, great pots of beer to comfort our hearts, together with pumpkins, beans, and tobacco, so that we "should sleep neither hungry nor thirsty."
In travelling from the Kafue to the Zungwe we frequently passed several villages in the course of a day's march. In the evening came deputies from the villages, at which we could not stay to sleep, with liberal presents of food. It would have pained them to have allowed strangers to pass without partaking of their hospitality; repeatedly were we hailed from huts, and asked to wait a moment and drink a little of the beer, which was brought with alacrity. Our march resembled a triumphant procession. We entered and left every village amidst the cheers of its inhabitants; the men clapping their hands, and the women lullilooing, with the shrill call, "Let us sleep," or "Peace." Passing through a hamlet one day, our guide called to the people, "Why do you not clap your hands and salute when you see men who are wishing to bring peace to the land?" When we halted for the night it was no uncommon thing for the people to prepare our camp entirely of their own accord; some with hoes quickly smoothed the ground for our beds, others brought dried grass and spread it carefully over the spot; some with their small axes speedily made a bush fence to shield us from the wind; and if, as occasionally happened, the water was a little distance off, others hastened and brought it with firewood to cook our food with. They are an industrious people, and very fond of agriculture. For hours together we marched through unbroken fields of mapira, or native corn, of a great width; but one can give no idea of the extent of land under the hoe as compared with any European country. The extent of surface is so great that the largest fields under culture, when viewed on a wide landscape, dwindle to mere spots. When taken in connection with the wants of the people, the cultivation on the whole is most creditable to their industry. They erect numerous granaries which give their villages the appearance of being large; and, when the water of the Zambesi has subsided, they place large quantities of grain, tied up in bundles of grass, and well plastered over with clay, on low sand islands for protection from the attacks of marauding mice and men. Owing to the ravages of the weevil, the native corn can hardly be preserved until the following crop comes in. However largely they may cultivate, and however abundant the harvest, it must all be consumed in a year. This may account for their making so much of it into beer. The beer these Batoka or Bawe brew is not the sour and intoxicating boala or pombe found among some other tribes, but sweet, and highly nutritive, with only a slight degree of acidity, sufficient to render it a pleasant drink. The people were all plump, and in good condition; and we never saw a single case of intoxication among them, though all drank abundance of this liting, or sweet beer. Both men and boys were eager to work for very small pay. Our men could hire any number of them to carry their burdens for a few beads a day. Our miserly and dirty ex-cook had an old pair of trousers that some one had given to him; after he had long worn them himself, with one of the sorely decayed legs he hired a man to carry his heavy load a whole day; a second man carried it the next day for the other leg, and what remained of the old garment, without the buttons, procured the labour of another man for the third day.
Men of remarkable ability have risen up among the Africans from time to time, as amongst other portions of the human family. Some have attracted the attention, and excited the admiration of large districts by their wisdom. Others, apparently by the powers of ventriloquism, or by peculiar dexterity in throwing the spear, or shooting with the bow, have been the wonder of their generation; but the total absence of literature leads to the loss of all former experience, and the wisdom of the wise has not been handed down. They have had their minstrels too, but mere tradition preserves not their effusions. One of these, and apparently a genuine poet, attached himself to our party for several days, and whenever we halted, sang our praises to the villagers, in smooth and harmonious numbers. It was a sort of blank verse, and each line consisted of five syllables. The song was short when it first began, but each day he picked up more information about us, and added to the poem until our praises became an ode of respectable length. When distance from home compelled his return he expressed his regret at leaving us, and was, of course, paid for his useful and pleasant flatteries. Another, though a less gifted son of song, belonged to the Batoka of our own party. Every evening, while the others were cooking, talking, or sleeping, he rehearsed his songs, containing a history of everything he had seen in the land of the white men, and on the way back. In composing, extempore, any new piece, he was never at a loss; for if the right word did not come he halted not, but eked out the measure with a peculiar musical sound meaning nothing at all. He accompanied his recitations on the sansa, an instrument figured in the woodcut, the nine iron keys of which are played with the thumbs, while the fingers pass behind to hold it. The hollow end and ornaments face the breast of the player. Persons of a musical turn, if too poor to buy a sansa, may be seen playing vigorously on an instrument made with a number of thick corn-stalks sewn together, as a sansa frame, and keys of split bamboo, which, though making but little sound, seems to soothe the player himself. When the instrument is played with a calabash as a sounding board, it emits a greater volume of sound. Pieces of shells and tin are added to make a jingling accompaniment, and the calabash is also ornamented.
After we had passed up, a party of slaves, belonging to the two native Portuguese who assassinated the chief, Mpangwe, and took possession of his lands at Zumbo, followed on our footsteps, and representing themselves to be our "children," bought great quantities of ivory from the Bawe, for a few coarse beads a tusk. They also purchased ten large new canoes to carry it, at the rate of six strings of red or white beads, or two fathoms of grey calico, for each canoe, and, at the same cheap rate, a number of good-looking girls.
The Victoria Falls of the Zambesi--Marvellous grandeur of the Cataracts--The Makololo's town--The Chief Sekeletu.