Soon after we started the fever put the "Pioneer" almost entirely into the hands of the original Zambesi Expedition, and not long afterwards the leader had to navigate the ocean as well as the river. The habit of finding the geographical positions on land renders it an easy task to steer a steamer with only three or four sails at sea; where, if one does not run ashore, no one follows to find out an error, and where a current affords a ready excuse for every blunder.
Touching at Mohilla, one of the Comoro Islands, on our return, we found a mixed race of Arabs, Africans, and their conquerors, the natives of Madagascar. Being Mahometans, they have mosques and schools, in which we were pleased to see girls as well as boys taught to read the Koran. The teacher said he was paid by the job, and received ten dollars for teaching each child to read. The clever ones learn in six months; but the dull ones take a couple of years. We next went over to Johanna for our friends; and, after a sojourn of a few days at the beautiful Comoro Islands, we sailed for the Kongone mouth of the Zambesi with Bishop Mackenzie and his party. We reached the coast in seven days, and passed up the Zambesi to the Shire.
The "Pioneer," constructed under the skilful supervision of Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker and the late Admiral Washington, warm-hearted and highly esteemed friends of the Expedition, was a very superior vessel, and well suited for our work in every respect, except in her draught of water. Five feet were found to be too much for the navigation of the upper part of the Shire. Designed to draw three feet only, the weight necessary to impart extra strength, and fit her for the ocean, brought her down two feet more, and caused us a great deal of hard and vexatious work, in laying out anchors, and toiling at the capstan to get her off sandbanks. We should not have minded this much, but for the heavy loss of time which might have been more profitably, and infinitely more pleasantly, spent in intercourse with the people, exploring new regions, and otherwise carrying out the objects of the Expedition. Once we were a fortnight on a bank of soft yielding sand, having only two or three inches less water than the ship drew; this delay was occasioned by the anchors coming home, and the current swinging the ship broadside on the bank, which, immediately on our touching, always formed behind us. We did not like to leave the ship short of Chibisa's, lest the crew should suffer from the malaria of the lowland around; and it would have been difficult to have got the Mission goods carried up. We were daily visited by crowds of natives, who brought us abundance of provisions far beyond our ability to consume. In hauling the "Pioneer" over the shallow places, the Bishop, with Horace Waller and Mr. Scudamore, were ever ready and anxious to lend a hand, and worked as hard as any on board. Had our fine little ship drawn but three feet, she could have run up and down the river at any time of the year with the greatest ease, but as it was, having once passed up over a few shallow banks, it was impossible to take her down again until the river rose in December. She could go up over a bank, but not come down over it, as a heap of sand always formed instantly astern, while the current washed it away from under her bows.
On at last reaching Chibisa's, we heard that there was war in the Manganja country, and the slave-trade was going on briskly. A deputation from a chief near Mount Zomba had just passed on its way to Chibisa, who was in a distant village, to implore him to come himself, or send medicine, to drive off the Waiao, Waiau, or Ajawa, whose marauding parties were desolating the land. A large gang of recently enslaved Manganja crossed the river, on their way to Tette, a few days before we got the ship up. Chibisa's deputy was civil, and readily gave us permission to hire as many men to carry the Bishop's goods up to the hills as were willing to go. With a sufficient number, therefore, we started for the highlands on the 15th of July, to show the Bishop the country, which, from its altitude and coolness, was most suitable for a station. Our first day's march was a long and fatiguing one. The few hamlets we passed were poor, and had no food for our men, and we were obliged to go on till 4 p.m., when we entered the small village of Chipindu. The inhabitants complained of hunger, and said they had no food to sell, and no hut for us to sleep in; but, if we would only go on a little further, we should come to a village where they had plenty to eat; but we had travelled far enough, and determined to remain where we were. Before sunset as much food was brought as we cared to purchase, and, as it threatened to rain, huts were provided for the whole party.
Next forenoon we halted at the village of our old friend Mbame, to obtain new carriers, because Chibisa's men, never before having been hired, and not having yet learned to trust us, did not choose to go further. After resting a little, Mbame told us that a slave party on its way to Tette would presently pass through his village. "Shall we interfere?" we inquired of each other. We remembered that all our valuable private baggage was in Tette, which, if we freed the slaves, might, together with some Government property, be destroyed in retaliation; but this system of slave-hunters dogging us where previously they durst not venture, and, on pretence of being "our children," setting one tribe against another, to furnish themselves with slaves, would so inevitably thwart all the efforts, for which we had the sanction of the Portuguese Government, that we resolved to run all risks, and put a stop, if possible, to the slave-trade, which had now followed on the footsteps of our discoveries. A few minutes after Mbame had spoken to us, the slave party, a long line of manacled men, women, and children, came wending their way round the hill and into the valley, on the side of which the village stood. The black drivers, armed with muskets, and bedecked with various articles of finery, marched jauntily in the front, middle, and rear of the line; some of them blowing exultant notes out of long tin horns. They seemed to feel that they were doing a very noble thing, and might proudly march with an air of triumph. But the instant the fellows caught a glimpse of the English, they darted off like mad into the forest; so fast, indeed, that we caught but a glimpse of their red caps and the soles of their feet. The chief of the party alone remained; and he, from being in front, had his hand tightly grasped by a Makololo! He proved to be a well-known slave of the late Commandant at Tette, and for some time our own attendant while there. On asking him how he obtained these captives, he replied he had bought them; but on our inquiring of the people themselves, all, save four, said they had been captured in war. While this inquiry was going on, he bolted too. The captives knelt down, and, in their way of expressing thanks, clapped their hands with great energy. They were thus left entirely on our hands, and knives were soon busy at work cutting the women and children loose. It was more difficult to cut the men adrift, as each had his neck in the fork of a stout stick, six or seven feet long, and was kept in by an iron rod which was riveted at both ends across the throat. With a saw, luckily in the Bishop's baggage, one by one the men were sawn out into freedom. The women, on being told to take the meal they were carrying and cook breakfast for themselves and the children, seemed to consider the news too good to be true; but after a little coaxing went at it with alacrity, and made a capital fire by which to boil their pots with the slave sticks and bonds, their old acquaintances through many a sad night and weary day. Many were mere children about five years of age and under. One little boy, with the simplicity of childhood, said to our men, "The others tied and starved us, you cut the ropes and tell us to eat; what sort of people are you?--Where did you come from?" Two of the women had been shot the day before for attempting to untie the thongs. This, the rest were told, was to prevent them from attempting to escape. One woman had her infant's brains knocked out, because she could not carry her load and it. And a man was dispatched with an axe, because he had broken down with fatigue. Self-interest would have set a watch over the whole rather than commit murder; but in this traffic we invariably find self-interest overcome by contempt of human life and by bloodthirstiness.
The Bishop was not present at this scene, having gone to bathe in a little stream below the village; but on his return he warmly approved of what had been done; he at first had doubts, but now felt that, had he been present, he would have joined us in the good work. Logic is out of place when the question with a true-hearted man is, whether his brother man is to be saved or not. Eighty-four, chiefly women and children, were liberated; and on being told that they were now free, and might go where they pleased, or remain with us, they all chose to stay; and the Bishop wisely attached them to his Mission, to be educated as members of a Christian family. In this way a great difficulty in the commencement of a Mission was overcome. Years are usually required before confidence is so far instilled into the natives' mind as to induce them, young or old, to submit to the guidance of strangers professing to be actuated by motives the reverse of worldly wisdom, and inculcating customs strange and unknown to them and their fathers.
We proceeded next morning to Soche's with our liberated party, the men cheerfully carrying the Bishop's goods. As we had begun, it was of no use to do things by halves, so eight others were freed in a hamlet on our path; but a party of traders, with nearly a hundred slaves, fled from Soche's on hearing of our proceedings. Dr. Kirk and four Makololo followed them with great energy, but they made clear off to Tette. Six more captives were liberated at Mongazi's, and two slave-traders detained for the night, to prevent them from carrying information to a large party still in front. Of their own accord they volunteered the information that the Governor's servants had charge of the next party; but we did not choose to be led by them, though they offered to guide us to his Excellency's own agents. Two of the Bishop's black men from the Cape, having once been slaves, were now zealous emancipators, and volunteered to guard the prisoners during the night. So anxious were our heroes to keep them safe, that instead of relieving each other, by keeping watch and watch, both kept watch together, till towards four o'clock in the morning, when sleep stole gently over them both; and the wakeful prisoners, seizing the opportunity, escaped: one of the guards, perceiving the loss, rushed out of the hut, shouting, "They are gone, the prisoners are off, and they have taken my rifle with them, and the women too! Fire! everybody fire!" The rifle and the women, however, were all safe enough, the slave-traders being only too glad to escape alone. Fifty more slaves were freed next day in another village; and, the whole party being stark-naked, cloth enough was left to clothe them, better probably than they had ever been clothed before. The head of this gang, whom we knew as the agent of one of the principal merchants of Tette, said that they had the license of the Governor for all they did. This we were fully aware of without his stating it. It is quite impossible for any enterprise to be undertaken there without the Governor's knowledge and connivance.
The portion of the highlands which the Bishop wished to look at before deciding on a settlement belonged to Chiwawa, or Chibaba, the most manly and generous Manganja chief we had met with on our previous journey. On reaching Nsambo's, near Mount Chiradzuru, we heard that Chibaba was dead, and that Chigunda was chief instead. Chigunda, apparently of his own accord, though possibly he may have learnt that the Bishop intended to settle somewhere in the country, asked him to come and live with him at Magomero, adding that there was room enough for both. This hearty and spontaneous invitation had considerable influence on the Bishop's mind, and seemed to decide the question. A place nearer the Shire would have been chosen had he expected his supplies to come up that river; but the Portuguese, claiming the river Shire, though never occupying even its mouth, had closed it, as well as the Zambesi.