We continue our wanderings.—Joined by Etia.—We starve.—Gambo and Etia go in search of berries.—A herd of elephants.—The rogue elephant charges me.—He is killed.—He tumbles down near me.—Story of Redjioua.
Now we have left the land-crabs and the spiders, let us continue our wanderings in the jungle. I am ransacking the forest to discover and understand all that is in it. We had a lot of fun at that time. I was in good health and spirits. I was perhaps a little reckless, and did not seem to care for any thing. When there was danger in an undertaking, I frequently did not think enough about it, but rather took delight in it, scorpions, centipedes, and venomous serpents being the exception, for I rather objected to them, and did not fancy meeting them in my hunt, or under my bed, nor, indeed, any where else. Whenever I could, I killed them without mercy.
I delighted to sleep under the trees, in the midst of the thickest part of the forest, and where savage beasts were plentiful. In that case I always kept a sharp lookout, and saw that our fires were kept blazing.
Friend Etia had come to meet us, and was going to join us in the woods for a few days, and we were all glad to see him. One day, while we were hunting, we came to a spot where large quantities of fern were growing under the tall trees, and we saw that in the morning a large herd of elephants had been there, for their heavy footprints were strongly marked on the ground. Immediately there was great rejoicing, for we knew that the elephants could not be far off.
How eager were the faces of Malaouen, Querlaouen, and Gambo. They looked at their guns as if to say, "I hope you will help me to kill an elephant." The guns I gave them were their great pets.
Gambo and Etia had gone away through the jungle, and were to remain two days collecting berries and nuts, and then they were to come back to us. We were in a sorry plight—we were starving. We could not wait for them, for fear that, while waiting, the elephants would move off. What a pity! each of us might bag an elephant. By the way, should I say bag? When I was a boy I used to bag squirrel; that is to say, put them in my bag.
It was about three o'clock when we came upon the tracks of the elephants. What a number of them must be together!" There must be at least twenty," whispered Malaouen. "There must be at least thirty," said Querlaouen. Malaouen insisted there were only twenty. Then I had my say, and I said I thought there were about twenty-five. We tracked them till five o'clock, and then concluded that we had better have our camp built where we were, rather than go too near to them.
Being the dry season, we were not afraid of rain or tornadoes, so we chose a place to lie down, under a gigantic tree, as there we would only require a fire in front of us, our backs being protected by the tree, and the leopards would have less chance at us, and we would not have to build so many fires.
In the evening we furbished our guns, chose the steel-pointed bullets we used for elephants, and then went to sleep on the dry ground.
During the night we were awakened by a tremendous crashing of trees all round us, and we saw elephants bounding in the forest like wild bulls, tearing every thing before them, and then disappearing through the darkness. They seemed perfectly mad.
Malaouen shouted, "Chaillie! the bashikouays are coming; let us make a big fire. He had hardly said this when I heard the tremendous roar of a male gorilla, then the piercing shrieks of his female, followed by the cries of a young gorilla.
We immediately scattered the firewood we had lighted. It was high time, for the bashikouay were coming. The insects began flying over our heads. Happily, we were in the midst of a fortress of fire.
In less than half an hour they had gone on their march, and the forest became as silent as the night itself.
We had had a narrow escape. If it had not been for the timely warning of the elephants, we should have been obliged to clear out double-quick through that jungle in the middle of the night. It would have been no joke.
"The bashikouay have driven away every thing before them. What will become of our elephants?" I said. "They may have gone a great distance, and it may take us five days to overtake them. I wish the bashikouay had gone somewhere else."
We went to sleep again, and when we awoke it was broad daylight. The birds were singing, and the sun's rays peeped through the dark foliage.
I was really annoyed, for I was sure the elephants had gone a long way off. We could not pursue them, I thought, for it would take so much time that Etia and Gambo might return and not find us. Then Malaouen said that the elephants had probably gone back among the ferns, and we had better try to find them there. He was not mistaken, for when we went back there we saw at once that their footsteps were in that direction.
We traveled slowly in the dense jungle, now and then frightening a guinea-fowl. At other times we would see a snake running away before us, or we would meet a strange insect or a queer butterfly. Malaouen, who this time walked ahead of me, suddenly turned round and made me a sign to stop, and then he came near me, his feet appearing not to touch the ground; I could not hear them. He whispered to me the word njogoo (elephant). I started, I looked round, I could not see any, and I could not understand how Malaouen could have seen them. His quick ear had heard the sound of the footsteps of one. We advanced carefully. At last I saw the elephants lying quietly on the ground. I counted twenty of the huge beasts, and among them I recognized a tremendous bull elephant. What a sight it was! On a sudden the elephants got up, and they all retreated slowly through the forest, with the exception of the old bull, who stood still. I think I still see him, with his long ears, his big tusks, his thick, wrinkled black skin, covered with scattered and short hair. Malaouen and I lay flat on the ground, as flat as we possibly could. It was no child's play. We were to have a little business to transact with the bull, the fighting one of the herd. If we missed him he would charge us, and, what made it worse, we could not get a good shot at the huge and leviathan-like creature. Presently Malaouen crawled forward; I lay still. How he could crawl without making a noise I could not tell, but he did it, till at last he almost came under the elephant's body. The elephant was looking toward me, and Malaouen had succeeded in approaching from behind. I was thinking that if Malaouen did not kill the elephant where he stood, I would run the risk of being charged by him and trampled to death, unless I shot the beast dead upon the spot. I felt like shouting to Malaouen to be careful, and not to miss his shot at the elephant. When his gun rose, it rose slowly but surely; then I heard a tremendous detonation, and down the elephant came in my direction, close upon me. I fired, and the monster fell just in front of where I was lying. Three or four yards more, and he would have tumbled down upon me, and probably made a pancake of your friend. Querlaouen came rushing to the rescue, but the great beast lay without motion. Querlaouen had killed him. I had shot the elephant right between the two eyes, which is not a good spot, while Querlaouen's bullet had gone right into his body through the lower part of the belly.
We looked like ants by the side of that huge creature. We cut his tail off, and then returned to our old camp, which was not far distant, where we were to meet Etia and Gambo.
In the afternoon they came in, and when we showed them the elephant's tail they looked at us with amazement, as if they did not believe their own eyes. Then they shouted, "You are men! you are men!" They were loaded with wild nuts, and thus we were to have plenty of food!
Death of the Bull Elephant.
In despite of my best endeavors to prevent it, there must be some heathen ceremonies to celebrate our victory over the elephant.
The hind quarters were cut off, and, with a piece of the flesh, were set apart and carried into the forest for the spirit Alombo to feed upon. Then my men muttered some words that I could not understand, but I did not care, for we were very much like the man who, when traveling in India, received an elephant as a present, and did not know what to do with it.
The next day, after taking as much elephant meat as we could, we moved away, for the flies were coming pretty thick; and besides, the bashikouay might return again, and the smell would not be of the pleasantest after a couple of days' sojourn by the body of the dead elephant.
So we started for another part of the forest, and built our camp several miles farther to the north of the place where we had been. Of course we chose a spot where there was a beautiful little stream, so that we had plenty of good water to drink. The next morning we were to go hunting, and we were glad to be all together again, it was so nice. We busied ourselves smoking our elephant meat, so that we might be sure of having food for a good many days, though we should not find any berries.
We furbished our guns, and had a real nice day in getting ready for some grand hunting. Nothing during the night disturbed us, and the next morning we all felt strong and refreshed. Querlaouen and I went hunting together, while Malaouen and Gambo went off in another direction.
We were really lost in that great jungle, and yet we appeared to think that the forest belonged to us. We were to come back toward sundown; no one was to camp out by himself. That was the law I made that day. The country was hilly, and under the tall trees the ground was covered with a dense jungle. That day nothing was seen, and toward night we were glad to rest our weary limbs by the huge pile of blazing fire, and then we went to sleep, hoping to be more fortunate the next time. Our supper was composed of a few wild berries, but chiefly of elephant meat, my men enjoying the elephant marvelously. After our supper, and before we went to sleep, Querlaouen got up and said, "Now I am going to tell you a story."
"Long ago, long before our fathers lived, in a far country there lived a king called Redjioua. That king had a daughter called Arondo. Arondo (sweetheart) was beautiful—more beautiful than all the girls of the country. Redjioua said to the people, 'Though a man would ask my daughter in marriage, and present me with a great many slaves, goats, and tusks of ivory, so that he might "soften" my heart to have her, he can not have her. I want only a man that shall agree that, when Arondo will be ill, he must be ill also; that when Arondo dies, he must die also the same day.'
"Years passed by; no one came to ask Arondo in marriage, for all were afraid of the law the king had made, no one being willing to die when she died."
I questioned Querlaouen, "Did Arondo ever marry?"
"Wait a little while and you will hear," said friend Querlaouen, as gently as he could.
"There was a man in that country called Akenda Mbani (never goes twice to the same place)." Many names among the tribes of Equatorial Africa have a meaning, and remember that Akenda Mbani's means "Never goes twice to the same place."
"Akenda Mbani came to the king and said to him, 'I come to marry Arondo, your daughter, the one you have (tená coni) made a law concerning; so I have brought no ivory, or slaves, or goats. I come without the things, for I agree to die when Arondo dies.'
"So Redjioua gave his beautiful daughter, the pride of his heart, the loveliest woman of his dominion, to Akenda Mbani.
"Akenda Mbani was a great hunter, but, as his name implied, he never went twice to the same place in the forest to hunt. But his name did not prevent his moving about his own village.
"After he had married Arondo, he went hunting, and one day he killed two wild boars, after which exploit he returned to the village of his father-in-law, carrying one of the boars on his back. He went to Redjioua and said, 'Father, I have killed two wild boars; I bring you one.' The king said, 'Thank you, my son; go and fetch the other.' Then Akenda Mbani replied,' When I was born, my father, in giving me my name of Akenda Mhani, gave me a coni (a law) never to go twice to the same place.' So the other wild boar was lost, as no one could tell where it was to be found in the forest.
"Then he went hunting again, and killed two antelopes. Of course Akenda Mbani said he could not go and fetch the other."
Then Gambo interrupted the story by saying, "The king knew very well that Akenda Mbani could not go twice to the same spot; why did he ask him to go?"
"I can not say why," said Querlaouen; "I tell you the story as it has come to us from our forefathers."
"Shortly afterward Akenda Mbani killed two beautiful bongos, and brought one back. Then the people came and asked him to show them the way, so they might fetch the other. But Akenda Mbani said, 'You know that if we do not keep the coni our father gave us, we are sure to die. I do not wish to die for a bongo, so I can not go.' He thus went shooting month after month, but would never go back to the same spot.
"One fine evening, as Akenda Mbani was seated in front of his house, the people came to him and said, 'A people called Oroungous have come; they have come to trade, and also to buy ten slaves.'
"Akenda Mbani turned to his wife and said, 'Let us go and meet the Oroungous, who are still in their canoe on the river-bank, and who have come to be my guests.'
"Then they went and met the Oroungous. Akenda Mbani took a chest of goods, and put the chest on the head of his wife, and he himself took a sword, and they returned to their home, leaving the Oroungous on the beach.
"A moon (month) passed away since the Oroungous had left, and the chest which the Oroungous had brought, and which Arondo carried to her house, had not been opened. One evening Arondo said to her husband, 'Let us go and see what is in the chest.' So they went and took the cover off, and inside they discovered the most beautiful things, that had come from the white man's country. The chest was quite full of beautiful cloths. Arondo desired her husband to take two fathoms of one beautiful cloth, as she liked it. So Akenda Mbani cut off two fathoms. The chest was then closed again, and they left the place.
"Then Akenda Mbani seated himself on an ebongo (stool), and Arondo on the acoco (bed), and she began to sew. She had only pierced the cloth four times with her needle when she exclaimed, 'Husband! husband! I begin to have a headache!' Akenda Mbani replied, 'Take care, take care. Do not be sick if you do not wish me to die;' and he looked her steadily in the face. Arondo called again, 'Akenda Mbani! Akenda Mbani! my husband, do tie a string round my head, for I have a great deal of pain.' Then Arondo tied a string round her husband's head also, though he had no headache.
"In a short time Arondo began to cry again, for she suffered greatly, and her headache was getting worse and worse. Akenda Mbani was becoming frightened, for he did not want to die.
"The news of Arondo's illness spread all over the village, and soon reached the ears of King Redjioua, her father. The whole people of the village came to see Arondo, and many were around her when she was crying and calling on her father. The king said, 'Do not cry, my daughter; you will not die, my child.' As soon as Arondo heard this, she moaned, 'Ah father! ah father! why did you say I will not die, for you know that if you daga (mourn, lament, fear) death it is sure to come.'
She had hardly uttered these words when she died. The people mourned and wept, putting their hands over their heads.
"Redjioua said, 'As my daughter is dead, Akenda Mbani must die also.' Akenda Mbani answered, 'I will die, that I may be buried with Arondo, my wife.' So Akenda was killed.
"The king ordered a slave to be buried alive with his daughter. There were also placed in her grave ten dishes, ten jars full of palm wine, ten baskets, ten tusks of ivory, and many other things, among which was the chest of the Oroungous."
There was a dead silence among us all, for we wanted to hear the end of the story. Querlaouen stopped for breath, and then continued:
"The place where the people are buried is called Ndjimai, and here they laid the bodies of Akenda Mbani and of Arondo, side by side in one grave, laying over them the spears of Akenda Mbani, his battle-axe, the bed upon which he and his wife had slept, his cutlasses, and his hunting-bag. Then the people said, 'Now let us cover the grave with sand,' which they did until a little mound was formed.
"Then Agambouai (this name means the speaker of the village) said, 'King, there are leopards here.' As soon as Redjioua heard this, he cried, 'Do not build a mound over the grave of my child, for fear that leopards may see it, scratch up the earth, and eat the body of my beautiful daughter.'
"They replied, 'Let us take the things back and dig a deeper grave.' Then they took away the things, and seated the bodies of Arondo and Akenda Mbani on two seats. When they had finished their work, and thought the grave deep enough, they replaced all the things they had taken out. Then they lifted the body of Arondo and laid her gently in the grave. Next they took hold of Akenda Mbani, and raised him gently to place him by the side of his wife; but he opened his eyes and mouth, and said, 'Don't you know I never go twice to the same place? If any of you attempt to place me again in the tomb, I will kill him, for you know I never go twice to the same place.'
"He then rose, and, accompanied by the people, returned to the village; and when Redjioua saw him he said, `How is it that Akenda Mbani has returned? I thought he had been killed and buried.'
"Up to the time of Redjioua, when a husband or wife died, the survivor was killed; but Akenda Mbani broke the law by rising again from the grave. Since then, no one is killed on account of the spouse dying."
From this legend, which has been handed down from generation to generation, I conclude that perhaps at a remote period it was compulsory for both husband and wife to die at the same time.
After a hearty laugh at the lucky escape of Akenda Mbani, my men thanked their stars that they were not born at that time, and then we all went to sleep.