A voyage to Abyssinia (Salt)/Chapter 1
Departure from England.—Arrival at Madeira.—Passage thence to the Cape of Good Hope.—Brief Account of the Society in that Settlement.—Improvements introduced into the Colony by the English—Mr. Cowan's Mission into the Interior.—Accident which occurred to detain the Ship.—Convoy granted.—Departure.—Remarks in the Mosambique Channel.—Excursion in search of Sofala.—Arrival at the Island of Mosambique.—Reception there by the Portuguese Governor.—Its Harbour, Forts, means of defence, &c.—Enquiries after Mr. Cowan's party.—Visit to Mesuril on the Continent.—Excursions from that Place.—Description of the Monjou.—Remarks relative to the Exportation of Slaves.—Fidelity of the native Troops.—Ferocity of the Makooa; their Incursions into the Peninsula of Cabaçeiro.—Dress,—Manners,—Habits, &c.—Some Account of the Tribes adjacent to Mosambique in Friendship with the Portuguese.—Description of Mesuril and its Environs.—Manners of the Planters.—Peninsula of Cabaçeiro.—Variety of Sea Productions on the Coast.—Return to Mosambique.
ON Friday the 20th of January 1809, having taken charge of some presents prepared for the occasion, and a letter from his Majesty the King of Great Britain, addressed to the Emperor of Abyssinia, I embarked at Portsmouth, on board the Marian, a merchant vessel, commanded by Captain Thomas Weatherhead, and on the 23d we set sail on our destination, in company with an East India fleet, under convoy of his Majesty's ship Clorinde. We had scarcely got out of the harbour, before we encountered a sudden gale from the north-west, which, in the course of the ensuing day, came round to the south-west, and compelled us to lie-to. Under these circumstances we continued beating against tremendous gales, and a heavy sea for four days, until the 27th, when, finding our endeavours unavailing, and several of the ships much endangered by the storm, we bore up and returned back to St. Helen's, which our vessel was fortunate enough to effect, without having received the slightest damage. On the following day the ship was carried to the Motherbank; and we had reason to be exceedingly thankful, at getting in; for on the 31st a perfect hurricane came on, that drove no less than fifteen vessels on shore, in the harbour, which, had we remained in the Channel, would in all probability have put an early stop to our voyage. So unpleasant a commencement, was indeed not very encouraging, with respect to the final termination of our enterprize; but the imminent danger we had escaped compensated, in some degree, for the inconveniences we had suffered.
The adverse winds, and tempestous weather, continued until the 2d of March, when we again set sail, with a Brazil convoy, under the direction of Captain Smith of the Brilliant. At eleven in the morning we passed through the Needles, and at four in the afternoon took our departure, from the white and beautiful cliff of St. Albans. This was the last sight of the English coast we enjoyed. The weather was fine, and the wind so much in our favour, that on the 10th, we crossed the rolling sea which distinguishes the Bay of Biscay, and on the 13th came in sight of the Island of Porto Santo. The mountains on this island are picturesque in their forms, and when the sun sets behind them, assume great varieties of effect. These we had sufficient time to admire; for the wind being light, we did not reach the anchorage at Funchal, on the Island of Madeira, until the 15th.
On landing at that place, I was gratified by finding that Major Newman, belonging to the eleventh British regiment of foot, one of my schoolfellows, and earliest friends, was stationed on the island; in whose society I spent three days, in the most agreeable manner. The town of Funchal, owing to the number of ships in the harbour, chiefly East Indiamen, formed at this time one continued scene of gaiety; dinner parties, balls and plays were repeated every day, and the fineness of the season added to the beautiful aspect of the country. I should not, however, from the observations I made, judge it was particularly well calculated, to benefit the health of the numerous invalids now resorting to it, unless they possess a greater degree of abstinence, from scenes of pleasure, than usually belongs to the natives of England. My stay, nevertheless, was too short to enable me to make any very accurate estimate, of the general habits and customs of the place, or to gain any new information respecting an island, so often described.
On the 18th we took our departure; on the 20th we saw the Island of Palmas, where the sea being, as is usual, calm, we caught a turtle, sleeping on the water; on the 10th of April, we crossed the Equator, and on the 19th of May approached the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope. The sea birds round our ship now became numerous, many of which were taken by the ship's company, with a hook and line; and in the same way, three albatrosses were caught, one of which measured nine feet ten inches from wing to wing. On the 20th, we came in sight of the mountains of the Cape, and on the same day at noon, our ship was at anchor in Table Bay. The season of the year was too far advanced to render this step prudent, but the Captain was induced to venture it on account of part of his cargo which he had to deliver at Cape Town; though not, as appears by a remark in his journal, without feeling "an unpleasant impression that some accident might occur."
My remarks at the Cape will be almost entirely confined to the occurrences of the day; the description of this colony having been so exhausted by preceding writers, especially by the present able Secretary to the Admiralty, that I should deem it a trespass, on the patience of the reader, were I to dwell on the subject at any length. The introductions I had received from England, procured me a very gratifying reception, from His Excellency the Governor, Lord Caledon, General Grey, and the Admiral commanding the station, besides many agreeable English families resident at the Cape. I also, through the kindness of a friend, became acquainted with several Dutch families of the highest respectability, which added greatly to the pleasure of my stay, at the settlement, and enabled me to form a tolerably fair estimate of its society. Among all the foreign colonies that I have visited, I have found no residence so agreeable as the Cape. The neatness, and conveniency of the houses, the salubrity of the climate, and the grandeur of the adjacent mountains, make Cape Town, except during the prevalence of the south-east winds, a most desirable place of abode; and the many beautiful rides and well sheltered country residences in the neighbourhood, render the adjoining country always delightful. To a person possessing a taste for the sublime, the scenery here could not fail to interest; if fond of plants, the infinite variety of species found close even to the town, would afford him endless amusement; and if inclined to the charms of social intercourse, he might at this time have been gratified, by mixing in a society, perhaps equal to any in England; excepting that which is to be met with in the highly polished circles of our metropolis.
The Dutch seem desirous, generally, to associate with the English, and when they find a person willing to do justice to their character, and to conform to their manners, they seldom fail to cherish his acquaintance, and to treat him with distinguished attention. The best informed are perfectly sensible of the great improvements made in the colony by the English, since they have had possession of it; and appear anxious, by placing their sons in our navy, and army, and by marrying their daughters to our countrymen, to cement the bond of union that subsists between the two nations. In their domestic character, there is blended so much urbanity, and such an earnest desire to render life happy, that it makes them in general pleasant companions; and their habits of life, to a person with unprejudiced feelings, for any particular system, are neither disgreeable, nor to a certain degree difficult of adoption.
The women of the Cape are most of them pretty, and very pleasing in their manners; and there is a freedom of intercourse allowed them in society, which renders their company peculiarly attractive. In no part of the world are country excursions better conducted than in this colony. The climate, during a great part of the year, from the mildness of its temperature, is particularly adapted to parties of this description: and the lively spirit which characterizes the younger females, is on no occasion shewn to greater advantage. Sometimes eight or ten ladies, and as many gentlemen start on horseback, at the break of day, and ride six or seven miles to one of the country-seats, before breakfast, and afterwards remount their horses, extend their excursions, dine at the house of another friend, and without the slightest appearance of fatigue conclude the evening with a dance. I have enjoyed many parties like these, through the kindness of an amiable family with which I spent great part of my time; and I confess that the sensations excited on such occasions rendered them some of the happiest moments of my existence. I found on such excursions, that the feelings of my countrymen were pretty much in unison with my own; and the frequent marriages, which have ensued from the kind of intimacy, to which they give rise, do equal credit to the taste of both parties.
I have before said that it was not my intention, to enter into a description at length, of the commercial or political affairs of this colony; I shall therefore only remark in general terms, that it appeared to have greatly improved since my former visit in 1802, which is in a great measure to be attributed to the judicious conduct of Lord Caledon, whose many amiable qualities acquired him the esteem and admiration of all the valuable part of the settlement. He was indeed thought by some to have been too mild, and conciliating in his general treatment of the Dutch inhabitants, and to have listened to their opinions with too much respect; but if these be failings, they are of a description from which I hope that his successors may not be exempt, since their effects have assuredly been eminently beneficial, as the whole state of the colony sufficiently proves. The revenue has been nearly doubled, by the encouragement given to commerce; and great improvements have been gradually introduced into the judicial department; the most important of which is, an annual circuit of one of the Judges, into the more distant parts of the colony. Agriculture is daily extending its benefits; the land has become more valuable; and considerable alterations for the better have taken place, with respect to the implements of husbandry, and the general modes of cultivating the farms. The English plough has been introduced; the Spanish breed of sheep, which proves extremely advantageous, is rapidly increasing; and the manner of dressing the vines, as practised on the Rhine, has been adopted, in some of the vintages, with success. Nothing indeed appears to be wanting to the welfare of the colony, except an increase of population, which an extraordinary fatality, prevailing among children, seems to render hopeless without some external assistance; but every attempt of this nature has not been attended hitherto with the expected advantages. It is a curious fact, that the male population exceeds the female in every class of inhabitants in this settlement; the surplus on the male side amounting altogether to about 1600.
I found that Lord Caledon had not confined his views solely to the improvement of the settlement itself, but that he had also sent a mission to the interior; in the well-founded expectation that new discoveries might be made, interesting in a general point of view, as well as tending ultimately to the advantage of the colony. Mr. Cowan, a medical gentleman, was the person entrusted with the charge of this mission, who had previously evinced considerable ability in a journal he had written of an expedition to the Karroo, and he was accompanied by Lieutenant Donovan, with a sufficient number of attendants for the management of two wagons, in which the party set out on its expedition. At the time of my being at the Cape, letters had been just received from Mr. Cowan, bearing a recent date; at which time he and his companions had penetrated much farther north than any preceding travellers. The information already obtained appeared interesting; the country through which the party had passed was rich and fertile, and intersected by numerous rivers, all shaping their course to the west; the native tribes, which they had met with, were peaceably inclined, and it seems not unlikely, from Mr. Cousin's opinion, might be induced to open an intercourse with the Cape.
At the latter end of May preparations were made for our departure from this settlement, which were suddenly retarded by the occurrence of an accident which threatened to bring our voyage to an unpleasant termination. On Monday the 29th, about eleven in the morning, the wind sprung up from the north-east, accompanied with dark hazy weather, and a heavy sea. At twelve, after violent rain, the wind increased to a gale, and so tremendous a swell came rolling into Table Bay that it occasioned our ship to strike the ground, in which dangerous predicament she continued nearly two hours. The violence of the shocks she sustained tore away the rudder from its fastenings, and stove in part of the stern. Our chief officer, who was on board, immediately hoisted lights, and fired several guns as signals of distress; on hearing which the Captain, who happened to be on shore, went down to the beach, and, though the evening was so dark that the vessel could only be seen for a moment, during the flashing of the guns, succeeded, with the assistance of his supercargo, and two captains of merchant-vessels, who volunteered their services on the occasion, in launching a boat and getting her off to the ship, where he arrived just in time to remedy the disaster, and prevent farther mischief. Admiral Bertie considered the situation of the vessel extremely dangerous, and exerted himself very strenuously to prevent the loss of lives and property likely to ensue in the event of her being driven on shore; for which purpose he ordered out a parole of dragoons on the beach; while he himself waited in great anxiety, to render any personal assistance, that might be requisite.
Owing to the entrance into the Bay being at this season interdicted by the Dutch law, it appears that there exists no provision at Cape Town, with respect to boats or seamen, for the purpose of affording aid in cases of distress; the whole of the naval establishment being removed to Simon's Town. This deficiency ought to be remedied, or at least a life-boat might be kept in readiness, to preserve the lives of persons endangered, as it is by no means unusual for merchant-vessels to run all hazards, rather than subject their cargo to the heavy expenses attendant on the land carriage from Simon's Bay.
The reader will easily imagine the anxious state of suspense, in which I was kept during this distressing occurrence; it, however, seemed to turn out ultimately to our advantage; for the delay it occasioned, enabled me to obtain convoy for the Marian as far as Mosambique, in consequence of a representation I had occasion to make to the Admiral, respecting the dangers to be apprehended, from French privateers in that channel, which fortunately happened to coincide with other important views, entertained by him, somewhat connected with the same quarter.
The vessels appointed for this service were the Racehorse, and Staunch brigs of war, commanded by Captains Fisher and Street. The former obligingly offered me a passage on board his vessel, as far as Mosambique: which I gladly accepted, and on the 27th of July the three ships left Simon's Bay, on their destination. I shall pass over the first part of our voyage; as nothing particular occurred worthy of notice, except a violent storm of thunder and lightning on the 5th of August, in latitude 33° 38′, which was tremendously awful.
I shall now proceed to describe the events, which took place in our passage, through the Mosambique channel.
On the 15th of August we made the land, between the Capes Corrientes, and St. Sebastian. As we approached the shore, we had soundings from 35 to 25 fathoms on a steep bank. The current in this place ran strong to the southward, impeding our course, not less than sixty miles in the twenty-four hours. The season being late, and the weather rather unsettled, Captain Fisher, anxious to lose as little time as possible, dispatched the Staunch and Marian, on the evening of the 16th, direct to Mosambique, while we proceeded along shore, in the Racehorse, for the purpose of visiting Sofala. On the 17th, we made Cape St. Sebastian, a moderately high bluff point, from which a low sandy beach extends out to the north-east; during the day we stretched along shore, keeping it at about four miles distant, and afterwards passed close to the Bazaruto Islands, which are apparently connected by reefs of rocks to each other, and to the coast. At night we stood off to sea.
On the 18th of August, standing in shore, we came into good soundings of twenty, fifteen, and twelve fathoms on the Sofala bank; and while searching for the harbour we discovered a long reef of rocks, over which the sea was breaking, which we supposed to be the one laid down in the charts a little to the southward of Inancata. We bore away to round this, for which the. soundings proved an excellent guide, and soon after, seeing a point, which we supposed to be the northern end of Inancata Island, we came to an anchor in ten fathoms.
On the 19th, Mr. Green the first Lieutenant, and myself set out at day light, to look for the harbour and town of Sofala. After leaving the vessel we sailed straight for the point, which we conceived to be Inancata, having regular soundings decreasing as we advanced. On approaching the point we found breakers extending a considerable way from it, which we rounded in one and a half fathom, when the water became deeper, and a second point opened beyond, to which we directed our course. On reaching it the sea was perfectly smooth, to the beach, and we determined, in consequence, to land. A great number of curlews, and other birds were feeding by the water's edge, but they were so wild, that they flew away long before we were within gun-shot.
The point, on which we landed, was covered with brushwood, and small trees, consisting chiefly of such species, as grow in salt water, the most common kind being the rack of the Red Sea, of which Mr. Bruce has given a tolerably correct drawing. In every part of the thicket, the footsteps of numerous elephants might be seen, and we could plainly trace the recent ravages of these animals among the trees, many of which lay torn up by the roots, stripped of their bark, and their branches and leaves rudely twisted off, and trampled in the mire. At some little distance round the point, we discovered an old deserted shed, the remains of a fire, and some remnants of roasted fish, and cashew nuts left by the natives. Several trees near this spot had been burnt to the ground, and a kind of artificial entrenchment, seemed to have been made, for the purpose, no doubt, of keeping away elephants, and other wild beasts during the night. Soon afterwards we started a deer, which led us to conceive, that the natives were not at that time in the neighbourhood; still, however, having no particular object in view, we did not think it prudent to proceed, and therefore returned to the boat, after having collected a few specimens of plants, among which the following may be enumerated; a new and beautiful species of Combretum, Rhizophora gymnorhiza Linn.; Sonneratia ascida Linn. suppl.; Avicennia tomentosa Linn. (rack-tree of Mr. Bruce;) a species of Sapindus; and another of Diospyros, probably not described.
Whether the neck of land which we now left (which I shall call Elephant Point,) be an island, or a part of the main land, we had no means of ascertaining; it forms the southern cape of a large bay, or inlet about five miles across, and ten or twelve deep. As we stretched across this bay, about three miles west by south from Elephant Point, we came to a reef, over which the sea was breaking, which compelled us to tack in again; but the wind and tide being both contrary, we made so little progress, that we thought it best to take our sail in at once, and pull directly into the bay. We had no chart, nor directions to guide us to the situation of Sofala; but as we thought we could distinguish buildings, on an elevated ground lying about nine miles S. W. by W. from us, and as a volume of smoke was rising behind it, we steered in that direction. Advancing slowly into the bay, we shoaled our water gradually, from five fathoms to three, to two, and one fathom, and at last to three feet. This was at the bottom of the bay, which we had reached after four hours hard rowing. Our disappointment then became very great, on finding ourselves as far from our object as ever, not being able to discover the slightest trace of town, fort, nor inhabitants.
We nevertheless entered the mouth of a wide river, which soon branched off into so many divisions, and had so wild an appearance, as to render it imprudent to advance. The shores were all flat and covered with a thick jungle close down to the water's-edge, and the different points, or islands, formed by the intersecting streams, were so much alike, and so extremely intricate, that once entangled among them, it would have been scarcely possible for us to have found the way out. As we returned, we saw on the left bank two canoes hauled up on shore; on approaching them, one of the natives, quite naked, if I may except a thick coat of mud, started from the beach with a spear in his hand, and running away in great alarm, soon hid himself among the trees. The spot where he disappeared bore some resemblance to an Indian village; large trees (of the genus ficus,) like the banian-tree, were planted in apparent order; and we thought we could distinguish huts, and every now and then people, passing to and fro among the trees.
Being at no great distance from the shore, we called out repeatedly, in Arabic and Portuguese, but in vain; and to induce the natives to come down, sent some of our crew to the canoes, (in reaching which they were obliged to wade up to their waists in mud) to hoist a white handkerchief, by way of flag, and to place there a coarse knife, and some biscuits, as tokens of friendship; but, like the rest of our plans this day, our hopes that some of the natives might be tempted down, proved fruitless, for so long as we remained in sight, the handkerchief was not removed.
A few miles from this spot, while sailing out of the Bay, we fell in with three more canoes afloat, filled with natives, and made towards them, in the hope of gaining some intelligence respecting the object of our research; but before we could overtake them, they had reached an inlet near a clump of lofty trees, where they jumped out, and drew their vessels to shore. The chief, as we conceived one of them to be, from his wearing a piece of blue cloth over his shoulders, and a covering on his head, walked leisurely up the beach. The rest were busily engaged, in carrying up some bundles from the canoes. Being within hail, we hoisted English colours, waved our handkerchiefs, and called out to them in Portuguese and Arabic not to be alarmed, as our intentions were friendly. They seemed partly to understand us, but appeared to give little credit to our professions, for instead of inviting us on shore, they brandished their spears, drew their arrows to the head, tore the branches wildly from the trees, and performed other strange antics, pretty obviously with the view of forbidding our approach; at the same time jabbering most vociferously in their native jargon, and making motions to us to be gone. We repeatedly questioned them where Sofala lay; but could get no intelligible answer. While this was passing, two of these natives boldly walked down to their canoes (which were within close pistol shot,) and took out their war-caps, and other ornaments, with which they equipped themselves. They afterwards, to exhibit their skill, shot their arrows sideways along the beach, as at a mark, making the whole time a variety of curious gestures.
Finding it useless to wait longer, we departed; but first gave them three cheers, and fired a pistol in the air, to see what effect it would have on their courage. This only redoubled their savage merriment; they shouted in return, jumped and skipped about and ran madly along the beach, expressing a kind of admiration, rather than dread, of our fire-arms. Much as we regretted our not being able to communicate with these natives, yet considering their vicinity to the Portuguese, I could not be surprised at their behaviour; nay, I was rather pleased to witness their warlike spirit, and to see how ready, and able they were to defend themselves against the attacks of slave-dealers, with whom they have had but too much intercourse, and for whom, there is every reason to think, we were mistaken.
From the little we saw of these people, I should suppose them, from their stature, colour, habits and language, to be nearly allied to the Kaffers, a large party of whom I had seen a short time before at the Cape, and I consider both races as perfectly distinct from either that of the Hottentot or of the Negro.
From this place we sailed direct to Elephant Point, and thence, the wind being foul, pulled with great difficulty through a heavy sea to the ship, which we did not reach till half past nine at night. During our absence, the Racehorse had moved her position, in doing which she had edged on another shoal in three and a half fathom. In the evening, Captain Fisher had a lunar observation, which confirmed his reckoning, and proved that the bay we had visited was actually that of Sofala.
On the 20th of August, the weather being very unsettled, and the wind hanging much to the eastward, Captain Fisher, unwilling to risk his ship on a shore where there was evidently many unknown shoals, determined at once to proceed to Mosambique.
Before we could get into ten fathoms, we passed three more shoals, over which the sea was breaking, when the soundings became regular, and no farther danger appeared. The two following days we continued running along the bank of Sofala, in twelve fathoms. It appears evident, that this bank has been thrown up by the violence of the south-east winds, which generally prevail, blowing in direct opposition to the currents of many rapid rivers which here flow into the sea. The shoals appear by the old charts to have perceptibly increased, and it is probable, like the sands at the mouth of the Ganges, which they much resemble, that they are liable to shift, so that too much caution cannot be used in sailing up the coast. No ship should venture into less than twelve fathoms, in which depth she may traverse the Bank in perfect safety. The Portuguese are so well aware of the dangers of approaching nearer, that they never let their ships attempt it, but carry on the whole intercourse with Sofala by small coasting vessels from Mosambique.
The number of whales we met with on the Bank was very considerable. At times we had twenty or thirty in sight; some of them passing close by the vessel, others darting away, making a snorting noise, and throwing up the water like a fountain. At different times they seemed to be pursuing each other, wildly rolling and tumbling about, occasionally rising erect out of the water, shining like bright pillars of silver, then falling on their backs, and flapping their enormous fins violently on the surface, with a noise somewhat resembling the report of a cannon. It occurred to us that during this period, they were probably engaged in generating their species, on which account, it is not improbable, that at this particular season only they frequent the Bank; but whatever might have been the occasion of their assemblage, it was an uncommon and interesting sight, to see these wieldy monsters, wantonly sporting in the deep like playful dolphins.
On the 23d of August, at three in the afternoon, we made the Angoxa Islands, and found Mafamede very correctly laid down by Captain Huddart, in the Oriental Pilot. In the course of the day we saw several waterspouts, which luckily did not approach near enough to produce any great alarm. One of them continued steadily in the same position, for several minutes, and afforded me an opportunity of making a sketch of it.
On approaching the shore the following day, after standing off during the night, we found ourselves abreast of Bluff Point, of which we had got a sight the evening before, and we then kept along shore in search of the town of Mosambique, in the manner directed by the Indian Pilot, which very concisely tells you to "go on till you see the town;" however, this day, neither town nor any thing like it could be seen. In consequence, we again stood off during the night.
On the 25th, at day-break, we hauled in for the coast, and could soon plainly distinguish the flat table land referred to in the directory as a mark for making Mosambique harbour, but it is somewhat strange that no bearing of it is given by which we could ascertain whether Mosambique lay to the north or south of it. Running in for the shore, we got into a bay skirted by moderately steep light-coloured cliffs, curiously interspersed with patches of black, and occasional inlets having a sandy beach. As we saw several natives on the shore, and thought we could distinguish canoes, Captain Fisher sent his boat to procure a pilot, and some information respecting the site of the town. The coast in this part must be very steep, for at the distance of only one mile and a half we could get no soundings.
At one, P.M. after we had ascertained our latitude, Mr. Green returned with a native pilot, and we learned that we were a few miles to the northward of Mosambique. This circumstance, of overshooting the harbour, very commonly occurs to ships coming from the southward; the Staunch and Marian fell into the same error, and spent two days in getting up their ground. As a caution, it is particularly necessary to observe, that Table Mountain, the first object visible on approaching the coast, bears by compass from the harbour, N. b. W. The people on shore received Mr. Green very civilly, and he found that the name of the village was called Mozimbe, where a Portuguese officer resides, which renders it a very convenient place for ships from the northward to get a pilot, when unacquainted with the harbour.
The sea-breeze setting in, or rather the prevailing wind, as is generally the case after mid-day, coming more round to the eastward, enabled us to steer a southerly course along shore, and soon afterwards we discovered the flag on the fort of Mosambique. We passed close to the Island of Quintangone, and were just able to weather the Isle des Arbores off Cabaçeiro. Hence we continued a course direct for the Island of St. George, until we arrived within three quarters of a mile of it, when, having the three outer islands in one line, we bore up for the harbour. The marks for entering it are tolerably well given in a chart by Mr. Arrowsmith, excepting Paó Mountain, which lies at so great a distance in the interior as to be seldom seen, and therefore must not be relied on as a sea-mark.
In going into the harbour it is necessary to sail close under the walls of a fort situated on the north end of the Island. This fort is strongly built, of an octagonal form, furnished with six bastions, the foundation of which at its northern extremity extends beyond the low watermark into the sea: above high-water mark stands a parapet, mounted with eight or ten guns flanking from S. E. to N. W. over which the main wall rises about eighty feet. As we passed the fort we were hailed, as is customary, from the ramparts with a capacious trumpet about three feet in circumference, which appeared as if it had answered the same purpose ever since the establishment of the colony. Soon after rounding the point we came to an anchor in seven fathoms, outside of the twelve Portuguese vessels which were riding in the port, when we were somewhat surprised to find that neither the Staunch nor Marian had arrived.
Immediately opposite to the anchorage lies the town of Mosambique, which occupies the central part of an island of the same name situated directly across the mouth of a deep bay. This island measures about two miles and a half in length, and a quarter of a mile in breadth, resembling in shape a crescent with its hollow part towards the sea.
The landing place is about a musket shot from the anchorage, and is rendered very commodious by steps carried out on either side of a pier built on arches, which formerly extended a considerable way into the sea. This had been much injured by time and weather, but was then undergoing a thorough repair.
On our landing, the guard, stationed near the pierhead was turned out to salute Captain Fisher, and we were led forward by several officers in waiting to the Government House, a handsome building that makes a conspicuous object in the annexed view of the town. Here we were introduced into a large saloon, in which were assembled most of the military officers and civil servants in the Settlement. The manner in which we were received was extremely gratifying, and the Governor, Don Antonio Manoel de Mello Castro e Mendoça assured us that he would do every thing in his power to facilitate our views, and make our stay at Mosambique agreeable.
This gentleman had arrived and taken the command of the Government only twelve days before, which was a fortunate circumstance, as he possessed a much higher character and more liberal feelings than is generally to be expected in a person at the head of a Portuguese settlement. He had early in life been employed in the Mediterranean, and had afterwards served eleven years in the Azores, had been subsequently promoted to the government of St. Paul in the Brazils, and had now accepted the government of Mosambique at the earnest desire of the Prince Regent of Portugal for the purpose of arranging the affairs of the colony, which had lately fallen into great disorder.
Before we returned to the ship, we made a circuit of the town; the first aspect of it and of the people, forms a strange mixture of Indian, Arabian and European costume, not blending very harmoniously together, and of which it is difficult to convey an adequate idea to any one unacquainted with the three countries.
On Saturday the 26th of August, having expressed a wish to see the Fort, an order was immediately issued for the purpose. The commandant received us at the gateway and went round the works with us. They contained about eighty pieces of cannon mounted, and plenty of balls piled near them, which seemed to have rested long undisturbed, if a judgment might be formed by the rusty coat of antiquity which adhered to them. Some of the cannon were marked 1660, Alonzo II., others were of Dutch extraction; and there was a very large howitzer made to cast stones of 100 lbs. weight, which might probably boast a Turkish origin. The situation of the fort is judiciously chosen, and if the cannon were well served would most effectually command the entrance into the harbour, as upwards of thirty of its guns would bear on any ship attempting to force the passage. There did not, at this time, appear much "note of preparation," a few sentries, some confined felons, and two or three old women, with cakes to sell, seemed to constitute the whole of the garrison, and in truth it was not of a description to be "marched thro' Coventry." It would appear that in earlier times a more vigilant attention was paid to its defence, for in the year 1608 this fort made a most gallant resistance against an attack of the Dutch, who landed on the Island in considerable force, and after remaining from the 29th of July to the 18th of August, were obliged to re-embark with disgrace, and a loss of more than a hundred men killed and wounded.
From the top of the ramparts we had a fine view of the sea and the adjacent islands, and had the pleasure of seeing the Staunch and Marian standing into the harbour. The former was passing Trumpet-point, when the same questions, pro formâ, were put to her as to the Racehorse, notwithstanding the wind was so strong that there was not a possibility of getting an answer, and though the officers had just heard from us every thing required concerning them.
Having procured from the Marian my letters of introduction from Lord Caledon, I went on shore on the 28th to present them, and had a long conversation with the Governor on the subject of his Lordship's mission. He expressed his sorrow that nothing had yet been heard on the Mosambique side of Africa of Mr. Cowan or his party. He conceived it possible that they might penetrate as far as the neighbourhood of Zimbao, but that beyond this the very numerous rivers and the savage disposition of the natives would certainly render their advance impracticable. On this account he had sent letters to the subordinate settlements of Sena and Tête, to provide the travellers, should they arrive there, with a vessel to carry them on to Mosambique, where every means for proceeding should be afforded them; though he was still of opinion that all attempts to penetrate into the interior, from this side, would be attended with insuperable difficulties.
He added, that it had long been anxiously desired by the Portuguese government to form a communication with their western settlements, but all their efforts to effect it had failed. Some persons sent from the opposite coast, did indeed report that they had crossed far enough to see great waters, and boats like those on the Angola side, but that he believed that the conjecture of this being the eastern sea was totally unfounded. One of the governors of Sena, about seven years ago, undertook a journey inland, and advanced several hundred miles along the course of the great river Zambezi, but he had failed also in his endeavours to discover any connection with the western side. In this incursion he suffered great annoyance from the opposition of the natives. This gentleman is since dead, but the observations which he left are valuable, and in the hands of the Brazil government.
The Governor farther observed, that the little advantage actually to be derived from such an undertaking rendered the attempt scarcely worth the risk, as the articles of commerce are too much alike on either coast to bear the expense of carriage. In a geographical point of view, it certainly might prove interesting, but at that time he was too much engaged to enter into any plans of the kind, on account of the great disorder in which he had found affairs on his arrival. After the death of his predecessor, the Government fell into the hands of the Council, consisting of three persons. They had quarrelled among themselves, and the consequence was, that great confusion had prevailed in every department, and general discontent had arisen among the inhabitants. Innocent men had been imprisoned with the guilty, and every thing regulated by caprice and injustice. One case he shewed me, where a murder had been clearly proved against a soldier, for which another poor fellow had been since, without cause, negligently confined for five months. While this conversation occurred, we were walking in the government garden, which seemed to have been as much neglected as the government itself, containing nothing but a few cabbages, lettuces and capsicums, growing wild under the shade of some mimosa, papaw and pomegranate trees.
On the same day we dined at the government-house, with a large party of the principal inhabitants belonging to the Settlement. The dinner was well served, with great profusion of meat, dressed partly after the Indian, and partly after the European fashion. The rice, which came from Sofala, was small, but remarkably fine, and the bread exceedingly white and excellent, owing to its being prepared with a small quantity of toddy, drawn from the cocoa-nut tree. In compliment to the English present, a toast was given during dinner to the health of His Majesty the King of Great Britain, at which time the company all stood up, and a royal salute was fired from the fort. We gave in return, the Prince Regent of Portugal, and a royal salute was fired from the Racehorse.
After dinner we retired to another apartment, where tea and coffee were set out in a splendid service of pure gold from Sena, of excellent workmanship, executed by the Banians resident on the island. The Governor, when in his official dress, wears a very costly and curiously wrought chain of the same metal, and, on state days, has two or three black slaves in attendance, who appear almost overwhelmed by the pressure of the golden ornaments, with which they are encumbered, remnants of the splendour once attending these Viceroys of Eastern Africa. Upon the whole, the day passed away as pleasantly as can be imagined, without the society of ladies, whom it is difficult even to get a sight of in this Settlement.
On the ensuing day Captain Fisher and myself set out at day-break, with the Governor in his state-barge, rowed by native blacks, with paddles like the boats in India, on a visit to Mesuril, lying nearly at the bottom of the bay, about three leagues distant from the town, where the Governor has a country residence. The appearance of the house on the approach by water is extremely beautiful. It is situated on a high bank, at no great distance from the beach, with a small garden in front, forming a kind of terrace, from which a double flight of steps leads down to a grove of lemon, orange, citron, and papaw trees, which were at this time bending with the weight of their fruit. On its eastern side, and at the back of it, rises a thick forest of cocoa-nut, mango, cashew, (Anicardium occidentale) and other lofty trees, and on the western side is a flight of steps, leadlng up from the seaside to the house. The house itself is not very large, consisting of one range of apartments only, almost destitute of furniture; but the agreeableness of the situation, and the hospitality with which we were treated, left us nothing to desire, after the inconveniences of a voyage.
When breakfast was finished, the party set out on a shooting excursion, taking for the accommodation of such as did not prefer walking, one horse, a complete Rozinante, and three palanquins, as they are here termed, but which in India would be called doolies. These vehicles are by no means so commodious for travelling as palanquins, from their allowing of one position only, and that not a very convenient one, the traveller being compelled to lie down at full length. They however compensate this defect in some measure, by being extremely light, so that, when rolled up, the whole of one vehicle may be easily carried by a single bearer. The poles are not formed of bamboo, but of an elastic wood, which grows in the country, and they are covered invariably with zebra-skin. The native bearers are very good, and for a short distance run as fast as the best in India, that is, at about the rate of five miles an hour. They are also particularly expert in changing their burthen from one shoulder to the other. If any one of the four be fatigued, he gives a signal to his companions, by tapping on the pole a certain number of times with his fingers, when one of those at the opposite end of the pole answers with a similar number, they then all give two taps in unison, and in an instant lift the doolie, still running on, from one shoulder to the other, without the slightest jolt being felt by the person whom they are carrying. This singular mode of communicating, as I afterwards found, is used for a variety of purposes, and the signals are distinguished by the manner, as well as by the number of the taps which are given. For about a mile from the house, the road ran through a continued plantation of cocoa-nut trees, interspersed with the huts of the inhabitants, as is commonly seen in India. The scene was indeed completely Oriental, and very much resembled the coasts of Ceylon, or some of the wilder parts of the Island of Bombay. On leaving the wood, the view opened on a country planted over with manioca, (Jatropha manihot Linn.) divided into squares, by rows of cashew and mango trees, which, being in full bloom, filled the air with their perfume. The heat was great, but not so intemperate as to prevent our enjoying the morning's amusement, though the Governor, and several of his officers, who had accompanied us, considered it too oppressive for them to take any part in our diversion. We saw very little game, but we met with a great variety of birds. Among them two species of merops, erythropterus and superciliosus, Latham's Ind. Orn. i. 271, were observed sweeping their course through the air; the certhias, famosa, Ind. Orn. i. 288, and senegalensis, Ind. Orn. i. 284, flew from plant to plant, their glossy plumage fiickering in the sun, while the bright yellow of the oriolus monacha, Ind. Orn. i. 357, and galbula, Ind. Orn. i. 186, produced an agreeable relief to the dark green foliage of the mango. Whereever an orange or papaw tree was seen, flights of the chattering colius striatus, Ind. Orn. i. 369, allured by the fruit, were sure to make their appearance, and occasionally were heard the shriller notes of the Bengal jay, (coracius bengalensis, Ind. Orn. i. 168.) winging its way to some more distant plantation.
After travelling about three miles we reached a building situated in an inclosed area, which proved to be a manufactory of manioca, belonging to a Signior Montéro, in which nearly an hundred slaves were busily engaged, in preparing the roots for use. They are dug up, and brought to the place on asses, and in hackeries drawn by bullocks, of a large breed from Madagascar, and are then cleared from the dirt and rind, with rough scrapers, formed out of a large species of shell, (Helix terrestris) which is found in great profusion on the coast. After this process they are exposed to the sun, and, when sufficiently dry, are ground down as finely as possible, with a hand-wheel, edged with copper, and stuck round with spikes; this being completed, the pulp is put into large bags, and pressed with a heavy weight, and when all the juice is extracted, (which is said to be of a poisonous quality,) the mass is broken to pieces with the hand, and dried on copper-stoves, heated for the purpose, which reduces it to a wholesome farina. This, when mixed with water, constitutes almost entirely the food of the slaves; and sometimes, though very rarely, owing to a certain degree of pride, is used in their soups by the Portuguese.
Behind the manufactory is a marshy pool of fresh water, which if turned to the purposes of agriculture, would in such a climate prove invaluable; but, to our surprise, we observed that no pains were taken to convey it over the adjoining lands, and that the expressed juice of the manioca, with every other kind of filth, being permitted to run into it, rendered it unfit for any other use whatsoever; an instance of gross negligence strongly characteristic of the indolence of the planters. A number of ducks and other wild fowl were seen swimming on the pool, which afforded us, as sportsmen, considerable amusement; among them may be mentioned Parra africana, Ind. Orn. ii. 764, and a species of Gallinula of a reddish brown colour which has hitherto not been described, the skins of which I have brought over to England. In the shallower part grew several beaufiful water-plants, of which we with difficulty obtained specimens. The most remarkable of these were the Nymphea cœrulea Hort. Kew. ed. 2, Vol. iii., p. 294, Pistia stratiotes Linn.; and a new species of Æschynomene related to aspera, named by Dr. Browne, since my return, cristata.
On our return we passed through a fine estate belonging to Signior Guédez, one of the most respectable merchants in the Settlement, which appeared to be in better order than any of the others we saw on the peninsula.
In the afternoon we walked to the house of one of the planters, about a mile distant, in the village of Mesuril, for the purpose of seeing some native traders from the interior, of a nation called Monjou, who had come down with a cafila of slaves, (chiefly female) together with gold and elephants' teeth for sale. I was informed that they had been upwards of two months on their journey, having rested at times on their way; but that the distance they had travelled might be got over in about forty-five days. The Portuguese spoke of the country inhabited by this people, as being nearly half way across the continent, though from the enquiries I subsequently made, I have reason to think they were mistaken.
Some of the Monjou said, that they had been three months from home, others two, and another thought it might be accomplished in one and a half, allowing for days of rest. Now if we take the period even of two months, and reckon the progress made at fifteen miles per day, it gives on a rough calculation nine hundred miles only, which falls very short of the centre of the continent; moreover, I conceive the Monjou country to be situated in a north-easterly direction from Mosambique. They told me themselves that they were acquainted with other traders called Eveezi and Maravi, who had travelled far enough inland to see large waters, white people, (this must be taken comparatively) and horses. It is singular that the Monjou entertain a peculiar dread of the latter, running away at the appraoach of one of them, as from a wild beast.
The Monjou are negroes of the ugliest description, having high cheek bones, thick lips, small knots of woolly hair, like pepper-corns on their heads, and skins of a deep shining black. Their arms consist of bows and arrows, and very short spears with iron shafts. Their bows are of the simplest construction, being plain, strong, and formed of one stick; their arrows long, barbed and poisoned. Each man, besides his bow and quiver, caries a small apparatus for lighting a fire, which consists simply of two pieces of a particular kind of dark-coloured wood, one of which is flat, and the other rounded like a pencil. The latter held erect on the centre of the former is rubbed briskly between the palms of the hands till it excite a flame, which it does not require more than a minute to effect. A mode of producing fire similar to this is mentioned by Mr. Bruce, to have been practised by a tribe of Nuba, which he met with in the neighbourhood of Sennaar (Vol. vi. p. 345.) His whole description of the tribe accords so nearly with the character of the Monjou, that, as they are said to come from the mountains Dyre and Tegla, it may not be impossible that some remote connection once subsisted between them. To amuse us in the evening the slaves were assembled, and, according to the usual practice for keeping them in health, permitted to dance. The men first began to the sound of the tom-toms, which the women beat with sticks, while others clapped their hands and sung in tones by no means inharmonious. Afterwards the women joined in with the men, and danced altogether in a circle, beating the time very exactly with their feet, and some of the younger girls moving with considerable grace.
I subsequently saw several dances of the same kind, in the slave-yards on the island of Mosambique; but on these occasions it appeared to me that the slaves were compelled to dance. I shall never forget the expression of one woman's countenance, who had lately, I understood, been brought from the interior. She was young, and appeared to have been a mother, and when constrained to move in the circle, the solemn gloom that pervaded her features, spoke more forcibly than any language, the misery of her forlorn condition.
If there be still a sceptic who hesitates to approve of the abolition of the slave trade, let him visit one of these African slave-yards, a short time before a cargo of these wretched beings is exported, and if he have a spark of humanity left it will surely strike conviction to his mind.
On this day, seven Portuguese vessels left the harbour of Mosambique for Goa, having on board, besides a large quantity of gold and ivory, about five hundred slaves, who were bought at this place at the price of ten, fifteen and twenty dollars a head, that is, women and children at about the rate of three and four pounds a piece, and able bodied men at the price of five pounds!! I feel happy in thinking that so nefarious a traffic has in this quarter already received a check from the British interference since the taking of the Isles of France, (vide last Report of the African Institution) and I trust it will ultimately be put an entire stop to: at all events, immediate steps ought to be taken to prevent slaves from being imported into those parts of India, over which any influence is possessed by the British government. Five ships loaded with slaves went this year to the Brazils, each vessel carrying from three to four hundred: it is considered a lucky voyage if not more than sixty die in each ship.
In the afternoon of the following day, (August 30) I paid a second visit to the house of the planter where the Monjou traders resided, and I bought from one of them a bow and arrows, for a few beads, with which the planter supplied me, in consequence of the possessor of the bow refusing money, the value of which he did not seem to appreciate. I proceeded to amuse myself with my new purchase, which soon brought out some of the Monjou to see how I managed their weapons, and I persuaded them in return to give me a specimen of their skill. They were very expert in hitting a mark at about thirty paces, but in shooting at a long range, I found none that could cope with me, which I much suspect arose more from want of inclination than ability. The utmost distance that I could shoot with their bow, to any effect, was seventy-four paces.
In the cool of the evening, the planter took us to a kind of fair, held in the neighbourhood, for the purpose of bartering with the traders lately arrived. The articles displayed to tempt these simple savages, were very trifling, such as salt, shells, beads, tobacco, coloured handkerchiefs, and coarse cloths from Surat; a circumstance that strongly proves how artfully the Portuguese have carried on this species of traffic, otherwise they could not for so long a period have kept the natives in an ignorance thus suitable to their purposes. I was informed that, in the interior, the traders are still able to purchase for about the value of two dollars, in the above articles, either a slave, or an elephant's tooth from sixty to eighty pounds weight. This fair was superintended by a guard of the Portuguese native troops, under the direction of an Arab, whose grandfather came from Egypt, and, having rendered some important services to the government, had the command of a district given him with the title of Prince of Patta, which latter is still continued by the natives to his descendant, though the post he now occupies is merely equal to that of a sergeant.
On the 1st of September, preparations were made for the departure of the Racehorse and Staunch, and on the 2d they left the harbour, when I returned to the Marian, after having had the unpleasant task of parting with Captain Fisher, whose kind attention during my stay with him, had made my residence on board a ship singularly agreeable.
On the following day, the Governor very obligingly made me an offer of rooms, either on the Island, or at Mesuril, which latter I accepted, and on the evening of the 5th I went over and took up my abode there. The dawn of day, which is in all countries exhilarating, was here perculiarly delightful; the refreshing coolness of the air, the still calmness of the water, and the unclouded serenity of the sky, opposed to the oppressive heat, heavy atmosphere, and hot winds that often prevail after midday in this climate, produce from contrast a sensation of pleasure not easily to be conceived by those who have never visited a tropical country.
During the time that I stayed at Mesuril, I amused myself by making excursions into different parts of the peninsula, and in gaining information respecting the native tribes, and I generally found those I conversed with, who were chiefly native soldiers, not only willing, but anxious to gratify my curiosity. They are so unaccustomed to be treated with common attention by Europeans, that the poor fellows were grateful for the slightest civility I shewed them, and I often observed their eyes glisten with satisfaction, at any little inquiry I made respecting their mode of living, or their families: I must however remark, in this instance, to the honour of the Portuguese, that the situation of this class of men is generally comfortable; their pay, though not large, is amply sufficient for all their wants, and the duty which they have to perform is never laborious. The greater part of them were by birth Makooa, who had been made slaves in early youth.
The Makooa, or Makooana, as they are often called, comprise a people consisting of a number of very powerful tribes, lying behind Mosambique, which extend northward as far as Melinda, and southward to the mouth of the river Zambezi, while hordes of the same nation are to be found in a south-west direction, perhaps almost to the neighbourhood of the Kaffers, bordering on the Cape of Good Hope. A late traveller in that settlement, mentions them as a tribe of Kaffers, and says the name is derived from the Arabic language, signifying "workers in iron." In this he is surely mistaken, as the Makooa are Negroes, which the Kaffers are not, and as there is no word in Arabic bearing such a signification. Still his notice of the name is satisfactory, as it tends to prove that such a people has been heard of by the Kaffers, which thus establishes the link of connection, between the tribes of the Cape and the Mosambique.
The Makooa are a strong athletic race of people, very formidable, and constantly in the habit of making incursions into the small tract of territory which the Portuguese possess on the coast. Their enmity is inveterate, and is confessed to have arisen from the shameful practices of the traders, who have gone among them to purchase slaves. They fight chiefly with spears, darts, and poisoned arrows; but they also possess no inconsiderable number of musquets, which they procure in the northern districts, from the Arabs, and very frequently, as the Governor assured me, from the Portuguese dealers themselves; who, in the eager pursuit of wealth, are thus content to barter their own security for the gold, slaves and ivory, which they get in return.
These obnoxious neighbours have latterly been quiet, but in their last incursion, they advanced with such a force into the peninsula of Cabaçeiro, as actually to oblige the Portuguese to quit the field. In their progress they destroyed the plantations, burnt the slave-huts, and killed or carried off every person who fell into their hands. They penetrated even into the fort of Mesuril, and threw down the image of St. John, which was in the chapel, plundered the one adjoining the Government House, and converted the priest's dress, in which he celebrates mass, into a habit of ceremony for their chief. This occurred about three years ago, and most clearly evinces the very weak and precarious state of this settlement.
The only force on an adequate scale, which the Portuguese have to oppose these marauders, is derived from the alliance of certain tribes on the coast, who speak the same language as the Makooa, but who early fell under the jurisdiction of the Arabs. These were conquered by the Portuguese, soon after the settlement of the colony, and were bound to render military service, besides the payment of a tribute in kind, which is now often commuted by the trifling present of a few limes. These tribes are ruled by chiefs, styled Sheiks, whose appointment depends on the Governor of Mosambique. Several of them are very powerful, and have extensive jurisdiction, but their support is not much to be relied upon, from their rarely acting in unison.
The principal chiefs among these are the Sheiks of Quintangone, St. Cûl, and the Sovereign of Sereima. The latter was at this time a queen, and much attached to the Portuguese, being then on a visit at Mosambique: she commands a large district, and can bring fifteen hundred men into the field. The Sheik of Quintangone is still more powerful; his district lies north of Mosambique, and he is said to command four or five thousand men, capable of bearing arms. His predecessor was for a long time at enmity with the Portuguese, and frequently committed great ravages in the peninsula of Cabaçeiro, which he entered by way of Soué Souâh. At length he fell into the hands of a Portuguese detachment, and was, by the order of the ruling governor, shot off from the mouth of a cannon, an example which was thought necessary to strike the neighbouring chieftains with awe. To the south of Mosambique lies the district of St. Cûl, which supplies about three thousand fighting men. The Sheik of this district died about a month before I arrived at Mosambique, and a successor had not been appointed, as the Governor did not feel himself sufficiently acquainted with the state of affairs, to sanction the person who had assumed that situation, without farther enquiry. Even the united force of these chiefs, is scarcely adequate to resist the furious attacks of the Makooa.
In addition to the bodily strength of the Makooa, may be added, the deformity of their visage, which greatly augments the ferocity of their aspect. They are very fond of tattooing their skins, and they practise it so rudely, that they sometimes raise the marks an eighth of an inch above the surface. The fashion most in vogue, is to make a stripe down the forehead along the nose to the chin, and another in a direct angle across from ear to ear, indented in a peculiar way, so as to give the face the appearance of its having been sewed together in four parts. They file their teeth to a point, in a manner that gives the whole set the appearance of a coarse saw, and this operation, to my surprise, does not injure either their whiteness or durability. They are likewise extremely fantastic in the mode of dressing their hair; some shave only one side of the head, others both sides, leaving a kind of crest, extending from the front to the nape of the neck, while a few are content to wear simply a knot on the top of their foreheads. They bore the gristle of the nose, and suspend to it ornaments made of copper or of bone. The protrusion of their upper lip is more conspicuous than in any other race of men I have seen, and the women in particular consider it as so necessary a feature to beauty, that they take especial care to elongate it, by introducing into the centre, a small circular piece of ivory, wood, or iron, as an additional ornament. The form of the females approximates to that of the Hottentot women, the spine being curved, and the hinder parts protruding; and indeed, to say the truth, it is scarcely possible to conceive a more disagreeable object to look at, than a middle-aged woman belonging to a tribe of the Makooa.
Wild as the Makooa are in their savage state, it is astonishing to observe how docile and serviceable they become as slaves, and when partially admitted to freedom, by being enrolled as soldiers, how quiokly their improvement advances, and how thoroughly their fidelity may be relied on. Among other enquiries, I was anxious to learn whether they entertain any notion of a Deity;—if they do, it must be an extremely obscure one, as they have no other word in their language to express the idea but "wherimb," which signifies also the sky. This remark is equally applicable to the Monjou, who in the same way apply the word "molungo," 'sky,' to their imperfect apprehension of the Deity.
The Makooa are fond of music and dancing, and are easily made happy with the sound of the tom-tom, yet, like all savages, their unvaried tunes and motions soon fatigue European attention. They have a favourite instrument, called 'Ambira,' the notes of which are very simple, yet harmonious, sounding to the ear, when skilfully managed, like the changes upon bells. It is formed by a number of thin bars of iron, of different lengths, highly tempered, and set in a row on a hollow case of wood, about five inches square, closed on three sides, and is generally played upon with a piece of quill. One of these instruments, which I brought to England, has twenty of these bars. There is another described in Porchas, that had only nine, which also differs in some other respects from the one I have just mentioned. As the description of this in old English is characteristic, I shall here give it to the reader.—"Another instrument they have called also 'Ambira,' all of iron wedges, flat and narrow, a span long, tempered in the fire to differing sounds. They are but nine set in a rew, with the ends in a piece of wood as in the necke of a viole, and hollow, on which they play with their thumbe nailes, which they weare long therefore, as lightly as men with us on the virginals, and is better musicke."
I have given in the Appendix a vocabulary of the language of the Makooa, to which, in a second column, I have added that of the Monjou, a people respecting which I have already furnished all the scanty information I had the means of obtaining. It remains for me to remark, that the latter appear to be of a milder nature than the Makooa, but this impression I may have received from having seen their traders only. I have also given a few words taken from John Dos Santos, who gives them as part of the language generally spoken at Zimbaoa, the capital of the Quitéve, or, as he is commonly called, the Emperor of Monomotapa.
On the 7th of September, the Governor came over to Mesuril, for the purpose of examining into the state of the peninsula of Cabaçeiro, and in the excursions which he made for this purpose, he, with great politeness, permitted me to accompany him. The settlement of Mosambique depends almost entirely on this tract of land for its supplies, excepting those which it draws from a few isolated spots cultivated by the Moors, at Loomb, on the opposite side of the bay. The peninsula is about eleven miles long, by four broad, and is connected to the continent by a neck of land about a mile across, called Soué Souâh, an Arabic term, importing the approximation of the sea on the two sides. Were there deep water on both sides of this isthmus, it would be easily rendered secure against any attack from the interior; but, unfortunately for the possessors, this occurs only to the north, while to the south extends a very broad sandy beach, which becomes dry at low water, and leaves a line of nearly four miles exposed to an enemy. To defend this, a fort is built on a projecting point, near the village of Mesuril, which occupies a considerable space of ground, and contains a chapel dedicated to St. John, above which rises an embattled tower with a gun upon it, commanding the works below. The whole of these are in a state of dilapidation, and are defended by a few rusty cannon only, which, to do any service, stand greatly in need of their patron saint's assistance. Indeed the situation itself is ill-chosen, and not calculated to answer the purpose intended, as at a much less expense, Martello towers might have been constructed across the whole line, and with this the Governor seemed so forcibly impressed, that he told me he would, if possible, carry the plan into etfect, out of the ample materials which this fort might supply.
The village of Mesuril, from its vicinity to the Government-house, and the security which the fort was supposed to afford, has been the favourite spot for building among the settlers, and many good houses are erected there, which, however, must necessarily be unhealthy, from being situated in the midst of a cocoa-nut wood, where nature is suffered to lavish her bounty in all the wild luxuriance of primitive vegetation. Similar to Mesuril, though on a smaller scale, are built the villages of Mapeita, Cabaçeiro, and Soué Souâh, in the neighhour-hood of which plantations are laid out, like those I have before described belonging to Signor Montéro. A great part of the land still remains uncultivated, but it affords grazing to numerous herds of cattle, and sustenance to vast droves of swine, the breeding of which, from their being reared with little trouble, has been greatly encouraged by the inhabitants.
In our various excursions from Mesuril, we often stopped at the houses of the planters, to obtain refreshment, and we always found them, even when we were alone, civil and attentive, without requiring any payment for the articles which they furnished. The refreshments which they generally offered us consisted of fresh roasted manioca, and the liquor of the cocoa-nut; the former resembles in taste the flavour of a yam, and the latter, when the nut is about half ripe, affords a very cool and refreshing draught, particularly after the fatigue resulting from exercise in a hot climate. We saw only a few of their women, and, if those few may be considered as a fair sample of the ladies of the Settlement, I am afraid they do not possess many charms to suit an Englishman's taste, being in general thin, sallow, and much relaxed by the climate, with no small share of that inertness usually attendant upon a long residence, in countries situated under the tropics. They are very negligent in their persons, excepting on public occasions, and go without stockings, like the Dutch planters' wives in the interior of the Cape. They also resemble the latter in their taste for a pipe, which they smoke much at their ease; but are nevertheless lively, and have a fine flow of animated conversation.
The food on which the planters live is gross in the extreme, and to this in a great measure may be attributed the diseases which prevail. Great profusion of boiled meats, chiefly pork and beef, are laid on the table, and rude mis-shapen lumps of these are mixed together with vegetables on the same plate, without any of that attention to nicety, observable at the table even of the poorer classes in England; while all the other dishes are dressed with a great quantity of oil, by no means remarkable for its purity. It appears to be the fashion to eat quick, and to drink pretty briskly while at table, and as soon as the cloth is removed, the company adjourn to a separate apartment.
As to the importance attached to the mode of taking our meals, it may be said altogether to arise from prejudice. The Hindoos with their solitary repast, the Arabs with their single dish, out of which they may be said to feed gregariously, and the Abyssinians with a joint of raw meat, all feel the same kind of satisfaction and pride in their respective methods, as the European does from the fancied superiority of his own. Conforming, as I have generally done, to most of these customs, I confess that I have felt almost as much repugnance to return to the tedious forms of an English entertainment, as I did to descend to the simple informality of these homely repasts; and possibly the irksome restraint of sitting in a constrained position for three hours, pampering the appetite with an accumulated succession of viands, may, with equal justice, appear to a savage quite as irrational, as his rude and unceremonious habits, to our more refined taste.
The Governor's household establishment forms a small society, in some degree independent of the old settlers; but in some degree only, for, owing to a most unpleasant practice, prevailing in the place, every person who can command a decent coat, takes advantage of the privilege to visit the Government House, about five o'clock in the evening, under the pretext of paying his compliments (as it is termed) to His Excellency, though, as I should rather presume, with the more immediate design of obtaining a cup of tea. Here many of them remain seated, not unfrequently without uttering a syllable, till so late an hour as nine o'clock. If the Governor remove to his country seat, it is esteemed a proper mark of respect to follow him, where the same custom is duly kept up, which, however absurd it may appear, has now been long sanctioned by usage, that it does not allow of any escape from the persecution.
September the 8th being a festival, I attended the Governor and family to mass, in the chapel adjoining to the house, where seats were placed in a gallery kept apart for the Governor's family and the Bishop. The latter had just returned from a shooting excursion, and was dressed (which appeared to us somewhat singular) in half boots and scarlet stockings. One lady only was present, who was habited very gaily, and had two black slave-girls to attend her. These, and a detachment of the native troops, whose conduct appeared to be extremely decorous, constituted the whole congregation.
After mass I had an opportunity of examining the body of the chapel: it was plain and neat, with a single picture of a saint on one of the sides, and a handsome altarpiece at the east-end, which on particular occasions is lighted up with a great profusion of tapers. Near the altar lay a solitary tomb-stone, with the following elegantly written inscription.
D. Annæ candidæ
animæque dimidium meæ
D. Dⁱᵉᵍᵒ. De Souza,
Regis a concilio,
Et Africæ Orientalis prorege,
in sui amoris
et pietatis signum
A.D. 1793—Die 17. Octobris.
The expression in this inscription of "Viceroy of Eastern Africa," deserves remark, as it is an appellation to which (though often assumed) the governor of this settlement is not at present entitled, his proper appellation being Governador e Capitaō General do Estᵒ de Mosambique, Rios de Senà e Sofala."
At a short distance from this chapel stands a house allotted to the Bishop, where he generally resides, belonging to the order of St. John De Deos, which has a monastery on the Island of Mosambique, now used as an hospital. It is a singular ordination imposed on the order, that the superior of it must be chosen out of the serviteurs. There were at this time only two monks in the monastery.
In the afternoon of the 9th, we crossed the isthmus of Soué Souâh, and visited a village bearing the same name, where two Arabs, styled princes, were in waiting to pay their compliments to the Governor. The little respect paid to these royal personages, together with their want of attendants, shews the degradation to which they are now reduced, and strongly evinces the folly of the Portuguese in having ever conferred such titles. We returned in the evening by torch light, through a wild jungle, and as the bearers of our palanquins tossed their torches carelessly about, they set fire in many places to the long grass underneath, which, burning like a stream of wild-fire, threw a bright glare of light among the trees, that produced a very singular and striking effect. After our return, the Banians gave a nautch to the Governor, performed by two Indian girls, which seemed to afford amusement to the spectators, perhaps from their not having witnessed the superior mode in which these dances are conducted in India.
On the 10th I paid a visit to the Bishop, early in the morning, who, on my arrival at his house, was absent on a shooting excursion. The furniture of his rooms, in the mean time, afforded me no slight entertainment. Four cages containing different species of singing birds were fixed to the walls, and over the doors of the bed-rooms, two beautiful prints of St. Cecilia were suspended opposite each other, to which two English prints, one representing Cupid disarmed, and the other Cupid revenged, served as companions. A short time afterwards, the Bishop returned with his gun in one hand, and two partridges (perdrix rubricolla) and several turtle doves, which he had shot, in the other. He was booted as usual, but still wore the holy badge of his profession, a splendid diamond cross that hung sparkling in the folds of his waistcoat. As he was aware of my wish to collect the rarities of the place, he made me a present of the partridges, and also of a large sucking fish of a species not yet accurately described, which had just been brought in by a fisherman; all the Portuguese gentlemen, whom I conversed with on this subject, agreed in assuring me that fish of this kind were employed on the coast in catching turtles. The mode of doing this is by confining the fish with a line to the boat, when it is said invariably to dart forwards, and to attach itself by its sucker to the lower shell of the first turtle found on the water, which prevents its sinking, and enables the fisherman to secure his prey. The reason for this fish fastening on the turtle, is supposed to be done (as the Bishop observed) with a view to self-preservation, and its strength is so great, that, when once fastened, the turtle very rarely is known to escape. This account appears to me somewhat extravagant, and almost incredible, but it sinks into nothing when compared with the tales told by Pliny of another species of the same fish; among which, that of "its stopping a galley, rowed by four hundred men, conveying Prince Caius to Antium," is not the least remarkable, though it was an occurrence that struck all the spectators, as he confesses, with astonishment—hence its Latin name of Remora. (Vide C. Plinii Nat. Hist. L. XXXII. cap. i.)
On the 11th, we left Mesuril, and returned to Mosambique by the way of Cabaçeiro. On our road we observed several trees of a curious species, called Malumpava, (a species of Adansonia,) which seems to expend its powers of vegetation in the trunk, and might, from its bulk, not unaptly be called the Elephant tree, as it sometimes measures full seventy feet in circumference, though it bears few leaves or branches in proportion. I measured one of the above magnitude, growing in a remote thicket, under which I had previously observed with some surprise, several human skulls and bones, with two or three small drinking vessels, lying on a rude kind of couch. The Portuguese could give me no explanation of this singular fact, but I conjectured that the place was used as a burying-ground by some of the natives; it being a custom with the Kaffers, (vide Mr. Barrow's Travels) and other nations in Africa, to expose the remains of their dead in this manner. The following passage, which I have since met with in Purchas's Collection, satisfactorily confirms my conjecture. Speaking of a tribe of natives on this coast, his author says, "When any of them die, the kindred friends and neighbours assemble and bewail him all that day in which he dieth, and the same day lay him on a mat or seat (a kind of rude couch) where he died, and if he had any cloth, bury him therein, otherwise naked. They make a hole in the desart, and set by him a vessel of water and a little maise to eate and drinke in his journey to the other "life, and without more ceremonies cover him with earth, and lay on the hole the mat, or chaire on which he was brought to burial, where they consume without any more respect, although they be new—for they hold it ominous to touch that seat on which one died.—The Christians there were as scrupulous of the mats or chaires of their slaves deceased; but I bestowed them on the fire or water, and they besought me of charitie to forbear lest some evils should befal them from the dead."
At Cabaçeiro stands an excellent house, belonging to a Signor Aranjo, who at this time was very prudently engaged in surrounding it with a high wall, as a protection against the Makooa. The shore on the side of the bay is flat, and intersected by a great number of sandy creeks and inlets, which are left dry at low water: these I repeatedly visited in search of sea productions, and I never met with so great a variety on any other coast. The star-fish and sea-flowers were particularly beautiful, and of many exquisite colours. Sponges too, of several curious sorts, were common, and the sand was besides loaded with muscles, crabs, and other shell fish; while in the shallow water various species of sea priapi were found, and different sorts of molluscæ, some of which, though beautiful to the eye, could not be preserved, as they soon dissolved on being exposed to the sun, or when immersed in spirits. A great number of slaves, men, women, and children, were always seen at low water, engaged in collecting shell fish, and the produce of their labour constitutes their chief means of subsistence. The appearance of these figures at night, moving along the beach by torch light, formed occasionally a very interesting scene, and, when the moon was seen obscurely through the trees, and the torches, waved to and fro, were reflected by the waters, an unusual and almost magical illusion was produced.
Some of the fishermen use wicker baskets, resembling our eel-baskets, which are left a little beyond low water mark during the flow of the tide, and on its retiring they seldom fail to furnish an ample supply of small fish. It may be worthy of remark, that this mode of fishing is mentioned in the Periplus as having been practiced at Rhapta; but from the practice being general along the coast, it affords no clue, (as Dr. Vincent expected it might,) to fix the site of that place. The species of oyster, caught on this coast, is that known by the name of the Hammer oyster, and it is said to yield pearls of considerable value; yet though we opened a considerable number, we could never discover the slightest trace of any.
Where sea productions are numerous, one may generally expect to meet with a great variety of birds; the beach was accordingly covered with flamingoes, spoonbills, herons of a large kind, curlews, snipes, and sand-larks, besides several species of sea-gulls.
- Captain Tomlinson, who went up this cannel a few months before us in the Caledon brig of war, has remarked in his journal "that this is the best track for India ships, from the beginning of May to the middle of August," which opinion, the observations we made fully confirm.
- Vide description of the leviathan in Job—"When he raiseth up himself, the might are afraid: by reason of breaking they purify themselves."—which expressions may possible apply to the circumstances above described.
- This species is the Balæna physalus, which, from its fierceness and the small quantity of oil which it yields, is seldom sought after by the fishermen.
- The improved directions given in the body of the chart were laid down by Captain Weatherhead.
- Vide Recueil des Voyages de la Comp. des Indes Orient. formée dans les Provinces Unies. Amsterdam, 1705, Vol. IV. p. 23-7. The following extract may serve to give the reader a pretty just idea of the cool kind of butchery practised by the Dutch in their Oriental expeditions. "Le 17 Août" (immediately before their re-embarkation) "on lia tous les prisonniers, on les conduisit à la "tranchée, et l'on cria aux assiégez que s'ils ne rendoient à l'instant "le déserteur, on les massacreroit tous à leur vuë. La response fut, que les Hollandois en useroient comme il leur plairoit, et que s'ils maltraitoient leurs prisonniers, le Vice-roi useroit de représailles sur tous leurs gens qui pourroient être pris le long de la côte—que quand ils auroient 100 Portugais, au lieu q'ils n'en avoient que 34, il les laisseroit périr, plutôt que d'abandonner un homme que s'étoit venu jetter entre ses bras, et à qui il avoit promis sa protection. Sur cette réponse on cassa la tête aux prisonniers à coups d'arquebuses." Le 18 l'armée fuit rangée en ordre de battaille et en même tems l' on brûla la ville; puis on marcha vers le bout occidentale de l'isle en pillant et ruinant tout ce qu'on rencontroit."
- A soldier who had deserted the preceding day.
- A similar vehicle is said to be in common use among the natives of Congo, of which a drawing is given in De Bry's Collect. Peregrinationum.
- This is allowed by all travellers. Mr. Barrow, from their colour, features and manners, considers the Kaffers as descendants of Arab Bedowee. In this I think him mistaken, as I believe them to be part of the Æthiopian tribes, of which an almost unbroken chain my be still traced from the borders of Egypt. Of these I shall have occasion to speak more fully in a subsequent part of the work.
- A similar incursion of these people is mentioned in Purchas, which happened in 1585. Vide Vol. II, page 1553.
- I perceived that some of the settlers were extremely jealous of the attention I paid to the natives, and had not the Governor liberally assisted me, I should latterly have been scarcely permitted to speak to them.
- Vide Histoire de l'Ethiopie Orient: par C. R. Père Jean dos Santos. Paris, 1684. A translation from the Portuguese by G. Charpy.
- It answers very nearly to the description of the Echineis Neuerates by Dr. Shaw, but the bars on the heads of many specimens, which I subsequently examined, differed from twenty-four to thirty-six in number, and their tails were invariably crescent-shaped.
- I was not aware, until after I had written the above, that this method of fishing had been noticed by Dr. Shaw; he mentions it (p. 209. Vol. IV. Part i.) on the testimony of Count de Cepede, from a manuscript of Commerson—a circumstance that tends at least to prove the universal belief of the fact among the Portuguese.
- The American Indians about Lima have a precisely similar custom, and a gentleman resident in London, possesses some of the vessels used on such occasions.