Return to the Sea-Shore
At Washington once more.—Delights of the sea-shore.—I have been made a makaga.—Friends object to my return into the jungle.—Quengueza taken sick.—Gives a letter to his nephew.—Taking leave.
Time passed away. In the mean time I had returned to Washington, that beautiful little village I had built near the sea-shore on the banks of the Fernand Vaz River. I brought down the innumerable trophies of my wanderings while "lost in the jungle"—gorillas, chimpanzees, kooloo-kamba, and other animals; also reptiles. The birds could be counted by thousands, the other specimens by hundreds, all of which I carefully stored.
Every day I would cross the tongue of land separating the Fernand Vaz from the sea, and would go and look at the deep water of the ocean. My eyes would try to look far into the distance, in the hope of spying a sail. There was no vessel for me. I was still alone on that deserted coast of the Gulf of Guinea.
I loved to steal away from Washington, and seat myself all alone on the shore, and look at the big, long, rolling billows of the surf as they came dashing along, white with foam; the booming sound they gave in breaking was like music to me. It was so nice to have left that everlasting jungle; to see prairie land and the wide expanse of the Atlantic; to look at the sun as it disappeared, apparently under the water. How grand the spectacle was! I loved to look at the gulls, to hear their shrill cries, for these cries were so unlike those of the birds of the great forest. There was also something very invigorating in that strong sea breeze that came from the south and southwest. Beyond the breakers I could see now and then the fins of some huge sharks searching for their prey; sometimes they would hardly appear to move, at other times they swam very fast.
The time had not yet come for me to return to New York. I must go back again into the great jungle; I must discover new mountains, new rivers, new tribes of people, new beasts, and new birds; I must have more fights with gorillas, more elephant-hunting. I would be so glad to see Querlaouen, Malaouen, and Gambo.
While I was in the interior, the Commi people, in great council, had made me a makaga, which title only one man, and he generally the best hunter and bravest, may bear. The office of the makaga is to lead in all desperate frays. He is the avenger of blood. If any one has murdered one of his fellow-villagers, and the murderer's townspeople refuse to give him up (which almost always happens, for they think it a shame to surrender any one who has taken refuge with them), then it is the office of the makaga to take the great warriors of the tribe, to attack and destroy the village, and cut off the heads of as many people as he can.
If any one is suspected of being a wizard, and runs away from his village, it is the business of the makaga to follow and capture him. In that case he is a kind of sheriff. In fact, he has to see that the laws are executed.
It was only among the Commi that I heard of a makaga.
So you may conceive I did not care to be a makaga, and in a great meeting of the chiefs I declared I could not be. But they all shouted, "We want you, the great slayer of beasts, to be our makaga; we want you to stay with us all the time."
I was getting well and strong again, for I had taken a long rest. I concluded I must go again into the jungle.
My good friend Ranpano said, "Why do you wish to go back into the forest? If you go again to countries where not one black man has ever gone before, we shall never see you again. I have heard that the people want you; they only desire to kill you, for they want to get your skull; they want to make a fetich of your hair. They have many fetiches, but they want one from your hair and brain. We love you; you are our white man. What you tell us to do, we do. When you say it is wrong, we do not do it. We take care of your house, your goats, your fowls, your parrots, your monkeys, and your antelopes;" then shouted with a loud voice, "We love you!"
To which all the people answered, "Yes, we love him. He is our white man, and we have no other white man."
Then the king continued: "We know that writing talks; write to us, therefore, a letter to prove to your friends, if you do not come back, that we have not hurt you; so that when a vessel from the white-man country comes, we can show your letter to the white men." These poor people had an idea that every white man must know me like they knew me.
Finally, when they saw I was bound to go once more to the jungle, they gave me up, all exclaiming in accents of wonder, "Ottaugani angani (man of the white men), what is the matter with you that you have no fear? God gave you the heart of a leopard; you were born without fear!"
Just as I was making the final preparations for my departure, a great trial came upon me. Quengueza, who had accompanied me to the coast, became dangerously ill. There were murmurs among the up-river people.
I began to despair of his life. All the medicine I gave him seemed for a while to do him no good, and he became thinner and thinner every day, till at last he looked almost like a skeleton.
How anxious I felt! Was my great and beloved African friend to die? What would the people say? for I had brought him down from his country. They would surely say that I had killed their king. I could not make out what would be the end if so great a misfortune was to happen. The murmurs of the people, which had already began, caused me sad forebodings of the future.
But there was still a bright spot.
Quengueza knew that, even if I could, I would not make him ill; he knew I loved him too well, and every day he would declare that whoever said that I had made him ill was a liar. And one morning I heard him protest that the man who would say that his friend Chally had made him ill was a wizard. Of course, after such talk, the people took good care to keep their tongues quiet.
Finally he got better and better, and became stronger What a load of anxiety was removed from my mind!
I felt that I must go now; the rainy season was coming on. Quengueza was not strong enough; besides, he wanted to remain, for He had business to transact with some of the sea-shore chiefs after he was well enough to go about.
So Quengueza called one of his nephews of the name of Rapero, and as these people do not write, he gave him "his mouth;" that is to say, he sent word to his brother, or, as I discovered after, to his nephew, who reigned in his stead in Goumbi, to give me as many people as I wanted; and he ordered that his nephew Adouma must be the chief of the party who were to accompany me in the Ashira country, and to take me to Glenda, the king of that people.
My dear little Commi boy Macondai was to come with me, and he was the only one at the sea-side Quengueza would allow to return.
Then, when all was ready for our departure, I went to bid good-by to my two best friends in Africa, King Ranpano and King Quengueza. I have told you before how much I loved King Quengueza, the great chief of the Rembo River. In the presence of all the people, having his idol by his side, covered with the chalk of the Alumbi, he took my two hands in his, the palms of our hands touching each other. Then he invoked the spirits of his ancestor Kombé Ricati Ratenou, and of his mother Niavi, marking me on the forehead with the mpeshou (ochre) of his mother Niavi; then he invoked her spirit, for his sake, to protect me, his great friend. He invoked, also, the spirits of his ancestors who had done great deeds to follow me once more in the jungle where he and his people had never been, so that no one could hurt me.
There was a dead silence when the old chief spoke. After pausing a while, he took a piece of wild cane, which he chewed; then put in his mouth a little piece of the mpeshou, and chewed the two together. He then spat the stuff he had chewed on me and round me, still holding my hands, upon which he breathed gently and said, "May the spirits of my ancestors, as the wind that I have blown upon you, follow you wherever you go." And then he shouted with a tremendous voice, "Niavi, Kombé Ricati Ratenou, be with my white man in the jungle where he goes!"