Imatges de pÓgina

of bowmen on foot, and of horsemen ill mounted but active, dressed in the most grotesque manner, and covered with charms. On reaching the brow of a hill, the great capital of Eyeo opened to the view, on the opposite side of a vast plain bordered by a ridge of granite hills, and surrounded by a brilliant belt of verdure. On reaching the gate they entered the house of a caboceer, till notice was sent to the king, who immediately invited them to his palace. They had five miles to march through this spacious capital, during which the multitude collected was so immense, and raised such a cloud of dust, that they must have stopped short, had not their escort, by a gentle but steady application of the whip and the cane, opened a way, and finally cleared a space in front of the throne. The king was sitting under a veranda, dressed in two long cotton tobes, and ornamented with three strings of glass beads, and a pasteboard crown covered with blue cotton, which had been procured from the coast. The mission, instead of the usual prostration, merely took off their hats, bowed, and presented their hands, which the king lifted up three times, calling out "Ako! ako!" (How do you do?) His wives behind, drawn up in a dense body, which the travellers vainly attempted to number, raised loud cheers, and smiled in the most gracious manner. After an interview of half an hour, the chief eunuch showed the party to handsome and commodious lodgings, where a good dinner was prepared. In the evening they were surprised by a visit from his majesty in plain patriarchal style, with a long staff in his hand, saying that he could not sleep without again inquiring after them.

Eyeo, or Katunga, capital of the kingdom of Yarriba, is fifteen miles in circumference, and supplied by seven large markets; but there are many open fields and spaces in this wide circuit, and hence the number of inhabitants could not even be conjectured. The population of the country must be very great, the whole being under cultivation, and the towns large and numerous. The government, in theory, is most despotic. The greatest chiefs, when they approach the sovereign, throw themselves prostrate on the ground, lie flat on their faces, and heap sand or dust upon their heads; and the same degrading homage is paid to the nobles by their inferiors. Yet the administration seems mild and paternal; no instances of wanton cruelty were

[ocr errors]

observed; and the flourishing state of the people showed clearly the absence of all severe oppression. The horrid and bloody customs, which produce such dark scenes in Ashantee and Dahomey, were mentioned here with detestation. At the death of the king only, a few of his principal ministers and favourite wives take poison, presented to them in parrots' eggs, that they may accompany and serve him in the invisible world. The first question asked by every caboceer and great man was, How many wives the king of England had? being prepared, it should seem, to measure his greatness by that standard; but when told that he had only one, they gave themselves up to a long and ungovernable fit of laughter, followed by expressions of pity and wonder how he could possibly exist in that destitute condition. The king of Yarriba's boast was, that his wives, linked hand in hand, would reach entirely across the kingdom. Queens, however, in Africa are applied to various uses, of which Europeans have little idea. They were seen forming a large band of body-guards; and their majesties were observed in every part of the kingdom acting as porters, and bearing on their heads enormous burdens; so that whether they should be called queens or slaves seems scarcely doubtful.

The Eyeos, like other nations purely negro, are wholly unacquainted with letters or any form of writing; these are known only to the Arabs or Fellatas, who penetrate thither in small numbers; yet they have a great deal of extemporary poetry. Every great man has bands of singers of both sexes, who constantly attend him, and loudly celebrate his achievements in poems of their own composition. The convivial meetings of the people, even their labours and journeys, are cheered by songs composed for the occasion, and sung often with considerable taste. Their houses are mere clay-built cottages, yet studiously adorned with carv. ing; the door-posts and every piece of furniture are covered with well-executed representations of warlike proces sions, and of the movements of huge serpents seizing their prey. They have also public performances, which do not indeed deserve the name of dramatic, as they consist of mere mimicry and buffoonery. The first act of a piece witnessed by the strangers exhibited men dancing in sacks, who per formed their part to admiration. One of the bags opened, and there came forth the boa constrictor, fourteen feet long

covered with cotton cloth, imitating the colour and stripes of the original. Though rather full in the body, it presented very nearly the form, and imitated well the actions, of that huge animal. The mouth was opened wide, probably by two hands, to devour a warrior armed with a sword, who had come forth to contend with this formidable creature, and who struck it with repeated blows, till it writhed in agony, and finally expired. Lastly, out of another sack came the white devil, a meager, shivering figure, and so painted as to represent an European. It took snuff, rubbed its hands, and attempted, in the most awkward manner, to walk on its naked feet. The audience, amid shouts of laughter, called the particular attention of the Captain to this performance; which being really good, he deemed it advisable to join in the mirth.

As soon as our traveller was fixed at Eyeo, he began to negotiate in regard to the means of advancing into Houssa, anxious to pass through that country and reach Bornou before the rains should set in. The king had professed a determination to serve him in every shape; but this proved to be the very thing in which he was least inclined to fulfil his promise. All African princes seek to make a monopoly of the strangers who enter their territory. It was hinted, that one journey was well and fully employed in seeing the kingdom of Yarriba and visiting its great monarch. Captain Clapperton, having pleaded the positive command of his sovereign, was then informed that the direct route through Nyffe was much disturbed by civil war, the inroad of the Fellatas, and the insurrection of a great body of Houssa slaves, reports suspected at the time to have been got up merely to detain the travellers, but afterward found to be correct. The king absolutely refused permission to proceed to Rakah, though situated on the Niger at the distance of only three days' journey; but he undertook to convey them to Houssa by a safer though somewhat circuitous route, through the kingdom of Borgoo.

After passing through a number of smaller places, the mission arrived at Kiama, capital of a district of the same name, and containing 30,000 inhabitants. Kiama, Wawa, Niki, and Boussa are provinces composing the kingdom of Borgoo, all subject in a certain sense to the sovereign of Boussa; but the different cities plunder and make war or

[ocr errors]

each other, without the slightest regard to the supreme au-
thority. The people of Kiama and of Borgoo in general
have the reputation of being the greatest thieves and rob-
bers in all Africa, a character which nothing in their actual
conduct appeared to confirm. Clapperton was well received
at Kiama; and the king soon visited him with the most sin-
gular train ever seen by an European. Six young girls,
without any apparel except a fillet on the forehead, and a
string of beads round the waist, carrying each three light
spears, ran by the side of his horse, keeping pace with it at
full gallop.
"Their light form, the vivacity of their eyes,
and the ease with which they appeared to fly over the ground,
made them appear something more than mortal." On the
king's entrance the young ladies laid down their spears,
wrapped themselves in blue mantles, and attended on his
majesty. On his taking leave, they discarded their attire;
he mounted his horse, "and away went the most extraordi-
nary cavalcade I ever saw in my life." Our traveller was
visited by the principal queen, who had lost her youth and
charms; but a good deal of flirtation passed between him
and the eldest daughter, who, however, being twenty-five,
was considered in Africa as already on the wane. Yarro,
the king, was extremely accommodating, and no difficulty
was found in proceeding onward to Wawa.

Wawa is a large city, containing 18,000 inhabitants, enriched by the constant passage of the Houssa caravans. The people spend the wealth thus acquired in dissolute pleasure, and have been denounced by our traveller the most complete set of roaring topers he had ever known. The festivities were usually prolonged till near morning, and the town resounded through the whole night with the song, the dance, the castanet, and the Arab guitar. The Wawa ladies paid a very particular and rather troublesome attention to the English party. The Captain complains of being pestered by the governor's daughter, who came several times a-day, always half-tipsy, painted and bedizened in the highest style of African finery, to make love to him; and on meeting only with cold excuses, she departed usually in a flood of tears. But the most persevering suit was that of Zuma, an Arab widow, possessor of a thousand slaves, and the second personage in Wawa. Being turned of twenty, she was considered here as past her bloom, and a too ample

indulgence in the luxuries which her wealth afforded had enlarged her dimensions till they could be justly likened to those of a huge water-cask; yet she had still some beauty, and, being only of a deep-brown complexion, considered herself white, and was in the most eager search after a white husband. In this pursuit she cast her eyes first upon the servant, to whom our traveller hesitates not to assign the palm of good looks in preference to himself; and he gave Lander full permission to follow his fortune. But that sage person, unmoved by all her charms and possessions, repelled the overture in so decided a manner, that the widow soon saw there was nothing to be made of him. She then withdrew her artillery from Lander, and directed it entirely against his master, the Captain, to whom she laid very close siege. At length, in a frolic, he agreed to visit her. He found her surrounded by every circumstance of African pomp, seated cross-legged on a piece of Turkey carpet, with an English pewter mug for her goora-pot, and dressed in a rich striped silk and cotton robe of country manufacture. Her eyebrows were dyed black, her hair blue, her hands and feet red; necklaces and girdles of beads, coral, and gold profusely adorned her person. She made a display of additional finery lodged in her repositories, leading him through a series of apartments, one of which was ornamented with a number of pewter dishes and bright brass pans. After these preliminaries, she at once declared her wish to accompany him on his journey, and proposed to send forthwith for a malem, or holy man, to read the fatha, by which their fates would be indissolubly united. Clapperton, who seems to have been completely stunned by this proposal, stammered out the best apology he could, and hastened away. His conduct, however, does not appear to have been so decisive as to deter the lady from the most energetic perseverance in her suit. She even obtained his permission for his servant Pascoe to accept a wife from among her slaves; but he was not aware that, according to African ideas, she had thus acquired a sort of claim to himself.

Regardless of all these tender solicitations, our traveller had no sooner completed his arrangements than he set out for the Niger, leaving directions for his baggage to join him at the ferry of Comie, while he went round by way of

« AnteriorContinua »