Imatges de pÓgina

or chief attended by bands of musical bards, whom he dignifies with the title of "juddies or fiddlers," and compares them to the Irish rhymesters. These are called, as we learn from other authors, Jelle, or Jillemen, and perform on several instruments rudely formed of wood, making a very loud noise. These minstrels, with the Greegree men, or magicians, most fantastically attired, often form singular groups, as exhibited in the accompanying plate. The two chief festivals were those of circumcision and of funeral. The former, performed in a very rough manner, attracted the whole country; the forest blazed with fires, while loud music, shouts, and dancing resounded throughout the night. At the funeral of chiefs there was much crying and lamentation, conducted in a somewhat mechanical manner, which reminded him of the Irish howl. Flowers of the sweetest scent were buried along with the deceased, and much gold was deposited for his service in the other world; but there is no mention of those human sacrifices which form so foul a blot on some of the most civilized African nations. At all festivals a conspicuous place was acted by a personage called Horey, which name our author interprets "the Devil." This being took his station in the adjoining woods, whence he sent forth tremendous sounds, supposed to be of sinister portent to all within hearing. The only remedy was to deposite, as near to the spot as any one would venture, a large supply of "belly-timber," the speedy disappearance of which authenticated to the villagers both the existence of this supernatural being and the fact of his having been appeased. To Jobson, on the contrary, this very circumstance, combined with the severe hoarseness with which sundry of the natives were afflicted, afforded a clew to the origin of this extraordinary roaring. Of this he had soon ocular demonstration. Happening, in company with a marabout, to hear the Horey in full cry from a neighbouring thicket, he seized a loaded musket, declaring aloud his resolution forthwith to discharge the contents at his infernal majesty. The marabout implored him to stop; the tremendous sound was changed into a low and fearful tone; and Jobson, on running to the spot, found this mighty demon in the shape of a huge negro, extended on the ground in such agonies of fear that he was unable even to ask for mercy.

The company, amid the divisions already alluded to, do

not appear to have prosecuted farther their designs of discovery. The next attempt was made about 1660 or 1665, by Vermuyden, a rich merchant on the Gambia, who fitted out a boat well stored with beef, bacon, biscuit, rice, strong waters, and other comfortable supplies; which, however, when he arrived at the flats and shallows, were found materially to impede the movement of the vessel. He came first to a wide expanse which he compares to Windermere lake, where the only difficulty was to find the main branch amid several that opened from different quarters. "Up the buffing stream," says he, "with sad labour we wrought ;" and when they ascended higher, it became necessary often to drag the boat over the flats; for which purpose they were frequently obliged to strip naked and walk through the water. They were rather rudely received by the only tenants of these upper tracts, the crocodiles and river-horses, "ill pleased or unacquainted with any companions in these watery regions." One of the latter struck a hole in the boat with his teeth, an accident which proved very inconvenient, from the absence of any one skilled in carpentry; but by hanging a lantern at the stern, they induced these monsters, which are afraid of light shining in the dark, to maintain a respectful distance. On landing to search for gold, they were assailed by an incredible number of huge baboons, on which it is complained that no oratory except guns could produce any impression; and even after two or three of them had been killed, they attacked with increased and alarming fury, till successive discharges at length compelled them to retreat.

The sole object in this voyage was the discovery of gold. The adventurer landed at various points, washed the sand, and examined the rocks. He had carried out not only mercury, aqua regia, and large melting pots, but also a divining rod, which was not found to exhibit any virtue; however, on being laughed at by his companions for his delusive expectations from it, he persuaded himself that this potent instrument had lost its qualities by being dried up during the voyage from England. On one occasion he found a large mass of apparent gold, which proved to be mere spar. The real metal, he observes, is never found in low, fertile, and woody spots, but always on naked and barren hills, imbedded in a reddish earth. At one place, by twenty days' labour, he succeeded in extracting twelve pounds. At length he

declares, that he arrived "at the mouth of the mine itself, and saw gold in such abundance as surprised him with joy and admiration." However, he gives no notice of the position of this famous mine, the existence of which has not been confirmed by any subsequent observer.

It was not till 1720 that the spirit of African discovery again revived in England. The Duke of Chandos, then director of the African Company, concerned at the declining state of their affairs, entertained the idea of retrieving them by opening a path into the golden regions still reported to exist in the interior of Africa. At his suggestion, the company, in 1723, furnished Captain Bartholomew Stibbs with the usual means for sailing up the Gambia. On the 7th October this navigator arrived at James Island, the English settlement, about thirty miles from the mouth of the river, whence he immediately wrote to Mr. Willy, the governor, who happened to be then visiting the factory of Joar, more than a hundred miles distant, asking him to engage canoes. He received for answer that there were none to be had, and was almost distracted to learn that Mr. Willy was giving himself no concern about the affair. Some days after, however, a boat brought down the dead body of the governor, who had fallen a victim to the fever of the climate, which had previously affected his brain. Thus, notwithstanding every exertion of Orfeur, who succeeded him, the equipment of the boats was delayed till the 11th December, when the unfavourable season was fast approaching. Stibbs had assigned to him a crew of nineteen white men, of whom one indeed was as black as coal, but being a Christian, ranked as white, and served as interpreter; likewise twenty-nine grumettas, or hired negroes, with three female cooks; and he afterward took on board a balafeu, or native musician, to enliven the spirits of the party.

Stibbs set out on the 26th of December, and the voyage proceeded for some time very agreeably. The English were every where well received, and at one place even a saphie, or charm, had been laid upon the bank for the purpose of drawing them on shore. The captain had endeavoured to conceal his object, but in vain; he found himself every where pointed out as the person who was come to bring down the gold. The native crew, however, predicted the most fearful disaster if he should attempt to proceed above

the falls of Barraconda. As the boats approached that fatal boundary, the Africans came in a body, and stated their firm determination on no account to proceed any farther. No one, they said, had ever gone beyond Barraconda,Barraconda was the end of the world,- -or if there existed any thing beyond, it was a frightful and barbarous region where life would be in continual danger. A long palaver and a bottle of Stibbs's very best brandy were necessary ere they would agree to accompany him beyond this dreaded boundary of the habitable universe.

The falls of Barraconda were not found so formidable as rumour had represented; they were narrows rather than falls, the channel being confined by rocky ledges and fragments, between which there was only one passage, where the canoes rubbed against the rock on each side. In this region of the Upper Gambia, the natives, belying all slanderous rumours, proved to be a harmless, good-humoured people, who, wherever the crew landed, met them with presents of fowls and provisions.

The severest exertion now became necessary in order to pass the flats and quicksands, which multiplied in proportion as they ascended, and over which the boats in some instances could only be dragged by main force. The wild and huge animals that occupy these regions appeared still more dangerous to the present adventurers than to their predecessors. The elephants, which had fled precipitately before Jobson, struck the greatest terror into this party; one of them on a certain occasion putting to flight the whole crew. They were even seen in bands crossing from one side of the water to the other. The river-horses also presented themselves every where in numerous herds; and though this animal generally moved in a sluggish and harmless manner, yet in the shallow places, when walking along the bottom of the river, he occasionally came into collision with the boat; incensed at which, he was apt to strike a hole through it with his huge teeth, so as to endanger its sinking. If the courage of the crew against these mighty animals was not very conspicuous, their exertions in dragging the boat over the flats and shallows appear to have been most strenuous; yet so extremely unfavourable was the season, that at the end of two months Stibbs found himself, on the 22d February, when he had reached fifty-nine miles above Barraconda,

obliged to stop short even of Tenda, and consequently of the point to which Jobson had formerly attained.

The commander, on his return, after making every allowance for the inauspicious season and circumstances, could not forbear expressing deep disappointment in regard to the expectations with which he had ascended the Gambia. He saw no appearance of that mighty channel which was to lead into the remote interior of Africa, and through so many great kingdoms. He declared his conviction that "its original or head is nothing near so far in the country as by the geographers has been represented." It did not of course appear to him to answer in any respect the descriptions given of the Niger,-it nowhere bore that name-it did not come out of any lake that he could hear of it had no communication with the Senegal or any other great river. The natives reported that at twelve days' journey above Barraconda it dwindled into a rivulet, and "fowls walked over it." These statements were received most reluctantly and skeptically by Moore, now the company's factor on the Gambia, and a man of spirit and intelligence. He had even acquired some learning on the subject, and endeavoured to overwhelm Stibbs with quotations from Herodotus, Leo, Edrisi, and other high authorities. The mariner, though quite unable to cope with him in this field of discussion, did not the less steadily assert the plain facts which he had seen with his own eyes; and a degree of discouragement was felt, which prevented any other exploratory voyage from being undertaken for a considerable time into that part of the African continent.


French Discoveries.

FRANCE did not embark so early as some of the other powers in African discovery. Louis XIV., aided by his minister Colbert, was the first prince who studied to raise his kingdom to a high rank as a commercial and maritime

« AnteriorContinua »