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which could ensure to the three steam vessels, of which the expedition was composed, a safe and speedy passage up the almost unnavigated stream, beneath whose waters it was not known what dangers might lie concealed.
On the 15th of October, the passage across the bar was effected, and one melancholy event occurred, an omen, it might be regarded, of future failure. The instrument-maker died, and the first landing effected on the banks of the Niger was for the purpose of laying his remains in a grave by lantern-light. The ceremony was watched with curiosity by numerous natives, who came down to witness the burial, in their land, of the strange white man. Pursuing their way, with as much rapidity as the dangerous nature of the stream would admit, they passed several small woods and dense masses of mangrove, whence not a sound arose, save when the richly-plumaged grey-headed king-hunter, or the pennant-winged night-jar, broke out from the foliage, and flitted from tree to tree, awakened from slumber by the strange noise of the steam-vessels as they advanced up the river. During a walk which some of the officers took on the right bank, they observed many beautiful specimens of the winged creation ; among others, a new and curious species of swallow, which was whirling rapidly over the surface of a placid pool, darting occasion. ally at the insects which formed its food. Several parties of natives were encountered, whose dress consisted of merely a small piece of chequered cloth bound about the loins. They were stout, wellbuilt men, with faces scarcely to be equalled for ugliness. A little higher up, our travellers saw the dead body of a female, not long deceased, lying exposed where the receding tide had left her. The natives laughed when interrogated on the subject, and said that probably she was one of the people who had been sacrificed at some place up the river, and been floated down by the current. One or two other bodies were passed shortly after, which gave rise to the belief that the tribes in the interior, having received information of the coming of the English vessels, had, to secure themselves from harm, enacted some great Fetiche tragedy, to propitiate their idols.
Akassa was the first village passed. It stood on the left bank, and was composed of a number of small, quadrangular huts, built of bamboo, roofed with palm-leaves, and surrounded by little plantations of cassada, Indian corn, and bananas. The interior arrangements of these simple dwellings are excessively primitive. A compartment divides the hut into two. Fires are continually burned in winter, and round them the family, when unemployed, usually congregate. Flat, narrow boards, raised about eighteen inches, on four stones, constitute the bed. places. The people here admitted that human sacrifices do occa
se simple the hut intem the fa
sionally take place among them, the victims being slaves, whose bodies are cast into the stream. The corpses of free men are, however, buried in the huts, in graves decorated with articles of clothing as furniture. A short visit having been made to this place, the progress was continued. The banks of the river assumed a different aspect, being bolder and more densely clothed with vegetation. But few vestiges of man, however, were apparent, though now and then a solitary hut was observed, standing in the midst of a little patch of cultivated ground. A few fishing stakes told the inmate's occupation, while occasionally a native, in a tiny canoe, emerged from beneath some hanging foliage, and as suddenly darted again into concealment, up one of the numerous little creeks which branch off from the main stream.
• The universal stillness of the scene was very imposing ; unbroken as it was by any sound, save the dashing of our own paddle-wheels, and the clear musical cry of the leadsman, which aided the effect, falling on the ear in measured cadence. The huge and umbrageous trees, with their festoons of orchideæ, and purple and white convolvuli hanging upon the branches, formed a combination of forest scenery, so striking and novel, as enabled us to forget that the much talked-of Delta of the Niger had been fairly entered upon. Several monkeys were noticed hopping about, the little gambollers springing from tree to tree, as if intent on trying rate of speed with us.'-Vol. i. p. 178.
Passing Amazuma, a town consisting of three hundred huts, beautifully situated on the banks of the stream, they pursued their upward way. A village or two appeared at intervals,snugly located beneath the shadow of the forest, where occasionally was observed anchored a fleet of the trading boats from Brass Town. In one of the canoes was a slave, who, knowing that were he once on board of an English vessel he should be free, endeavoured to prevail on his master to let him visit the steamer. To this sacrifice, however, the chief could not be brought to consent, and the unfortunate captive was hurried past, deprived for ever, perhaps, of the chance of liberty. On the 14th they reached Oniah, a considerable village, where they received a visit from some men of distinction. A little above this place they struck into a branch stream, at the further end of which was situated the country called by the Brass people, Senama, between whose inhabitants and the surrounding tribes, a brisk traffic is carried on in slaves, palm oil, and other native productions. There is little ivory in this neighbourhood. Some idea may be formed of the state of society existing here, when we mention the fact, that a community of Ibus, trading with the people of Benin, who come through various streams to meet them, dare not advance their canoes beyond the Egoa creek, which is also the limit set to the progress of the traders from Benin, while the Oniahs must not go beyond Senama, unrestricted intercourse being forbidden. It was not deemed desirable to explore more than five or six miles of the branch river, our explorers therefore retraced their track, and entered again upon the main stream, now of magnificent dimensions. The banks were occasionally dotted with lofty fishing huts, built on poles ; and large boats, with numerous small canoes, sprinkled the stream. Two days after, a boat of considerable dimensions was observed steering from a creek. On board of it was a deputation from King Obi, of Aboh Town, who sent to inquire whether the intentions of the expedition were peaceable; and whether any of his friends of the former expedition had accompanied it, Ejeh, a young prince, behaved with much politeness to Captain Allen, and insisted upon being allowed to wash his feet. After partaking of an ample breakfast, and having received assurance of the good intentions of the new comers, the young chief returned to Aboh to report progress to the king. Three hours elapsed, and the royal cortege was seen moving slowly down the waters of the creek, at the head of which the town stood. Foremost came a large boat, with a rude attempt at an Union Jack hoisted on its mast. In this his majesty sat, while a numerous retinue followed in craft of smaller dimensions. As they approached the vessels, evident signs of timidity were evinced, the natives being, doubtless, anxious as to the result of their placing themselves on the deck of a canoe so formidable as the Wilberforce. However, his majesty shortly came on board, and after a protracted visit, left amid the tumult of tom toms, which his black attendants vigorously belaboured with wooden sticks. While dwelling on this portion of the narrative, we cannot refrain from remarking on the many amiable traits of character observed among the natives, who when some trifling articles of dress were thrown into the water for the villagers, in order to save the time occupied by sending on shore, picked them up, and offered to restore them, imagining they had been dropped by accident. At another place, one of the vessels ran upon a shoal and remained fast. The inhabitants of a neighbouring hamlet not at first perceiving the cause of this stoppage, thronged to the river's brink armed with various weapons. No sooner, however, did they learn the real cause of the delay, than they lent a willing hand, and speedily set the steamer afloat in deep water.
The creek leading to the celebrated Brass Town was passed, but our travellers had sufficient knowledge of King Boy, and did not wish to increase the acquaintance with him. After a second
visit from Obi, therefore, and a lengthened conference on the subject of the Slave Trade, in the course of which the king ad. mitted its sinfulness, and gave promise of amendment, the expedition pushed on towards Aboh, situated, as we before mentioned, at the head of a long narrow creek. The steamers made but little progress. Boats were next resorted to, and afterwards canoes; but the water became too shallow, and the channel too intricate, even for these. Overhanging boughs, too, had rendered their advance difficult; the party therefore landed; his majesty mounted the shoulders of a brawny native, and they proceeded together towards the royal dwelling :
On arriving at the palace, the king invited them to sit on his throne, a mud couch, covered with matting. Obi gave them palm-wine, and began to relate the result of his visit to the white man's ship; of all the wonderful things he had seen, and the still stranger things they had told him ; of its being wrong to buy and sell glaves, &c. He had a numerous and willing audience in his wives, who crowded round the door of their chamber, expressing their astonishment at all they heard, by loud exclamations and various gestures. They were of various ages, some being young and good-looking, but all fat enough. At another door were about twenty of a more mature age, which the interpreter said were superannuated. Their simple dress was a piece of cotton cloth round their waists ; but they were abundantly adorned with anklets of ivory, weighing several pounds, armlets of the same, or of brass, and some of leather, with cowries, and pieces of brass. Our officers were, of course, objects of curious scrutiny, and every remark was accompanied by a loud laugh; whether complimentary or not, was left to the imagi. nation of the subjects of it.'-Ib. p. 232.
A barbarous state of society characterises the population of Aboh. Their domestic manners are rude, and destitute of every civilised feature, while their religious superstitions are as various and degrading, as their civil and moral code is severe and unjust. The birth of twins is looked upon as the most terrible misfortune that can befal an Ibu woman. One of the ill-fated infants is immediately seized, deposited in an earthern pot or basket, and exposed in some wild wood or thicket, to become a prey for the beasts of the forest. The unhappy mother is compelled to depart from her native place, and pass a long period of purification in the woods, and if she ever returns, her people look upon her as an object of horror, whom it would be a degradation to speak to, or to sit in company with. Children who cut their upper teeth first are believed to possess a wicked disposition, hateful to God and man, and are therefore sacrificed on the altars of the tribe — altars but too often reddened with the stain of human blood. In a small hut at Aboh, our travellers saw a boy, fastened by an iron chain and ring, to a
ther as an object sit in company to possess a wickerificed on
hateful teeth first aron companyom it would her people
post. From all that was heard about him, they had too much reason to conjecture that he was doomed to die at one of the Fetiche sacrifices, which are sometimes perpetrated with the most frightful cruelty, the victims being fearfully mutilated, and thus left to linger out their existence, when the carcases are thrown into the river. A treaty of peace and friendship was, however, concluded with the king, in which he promised to aba stain from these atrocities, to check slavery in his dominions, and to exert his efforts towards the extension of lawful trade. What may be the ultimate result of these measures time alone can show. Notwithstanding the quarrel, however, which subsequently took place with this crafty prince, we are inclined to believe that much good may spring from the footing thus established on the banks of the Niger. Treaties may be broken, engagements set aside, and promises disregarded, but the native chiefs will never cease to remember that the power which could send an armament so formidable, to a quarter of the world so remote, penetrating into the heart of a country swarming with strange races, whose habits and practices were in direct opposition to the will of Great Britain, could also at any time exert its power for good or for evil among those races. Thus an influence will be established, which it should be our care not to let die.
On the 3rd of November they reached Iddah, by moonlight. This town is situated on the summit of a rocky cliff, overhang. ing the stream. Several huge fires blazed from conspicuous points, and threw a rich, ruddy glare over the waters. A number of dusky figures was observed moving over the rocks, and the ceaseless sound of the tom tom, and the loud and joyful shouts with which the arrival of our travellers was greeted, told them they were welcome to Iddah. The night was passed in peace, such peace at least as it was possible to enjoy, while the tremendous clamour of voices and drums continued. On the following morning a party of Krumen was sent on shore to hew down trees for fuel, while the commanders of the expedition opened negotiations with the attah or prince. His highness at first made an assumption of imperial dignity, bidding the deputation wait until he was graciously pleased to reply. Their patience being exhausted, they pressed for an answer, and being still further detained, sent word to the attah that the British representatives (for as such they must be considered) were not accustomed to be trifled with. The king must send and grant an appointment with them, or they should return at once to the vessels.
With much ceremony they were then admitted to the royal presence; the intentions of the commissioners were explained on the one hand, and promises of future good behaviour obtained on the other. But the negotiations in this instance were some