Gateway to the Classics: The Country of the Dwarfs by Paul du Chaillu
The Country of the Dwarfs by  Paul du Chaillu

A Deputation from the Village

A deputation from the village.—A plain talk with them.—A beautiful and prosperous town.—Cheerful character of the people.—More observations.

Before daylight I arose, and again went out upon the prairie, but saw no one there from the Apono villages, and heard no war-drumming. After a while a deputation of three men came from the village to Nchiengain, and said, "Why have you brought this Oguizi to us? He will give us the eviva."

"No," said Nchiengain; "months ago the eviva was in the country. I myself got it; people died of it, and others got over it. The eviva has worked where it pleased, and gone where it pleased, and that when the Spirit had never made his appearance. He has nothing to do with the eviva. Go and tell your people that Nchiengain said so, and that the Spirit has only been a few days in our country." The men went off without seeing me, for Nchiengain was afraid they might be frightened.

Toward ten o'clock Nchiengain and Mayolo were sent for, and, a short time after they had gone, some of Nchiengain's people came for me, saying that the Aponos wanted to see me, and that Nchiengain was talking, to them; so, followed by all my Commi men, armed to the teeth, I started. We left the wood and entered the beautiful prairie, and soon, I saw Nchiengain standing up, and by him, seated in rows upon the ground in a semicircle, were several hundreds of Aponos. As I approached they began to move backward, each row trying to hide behind the other. Then Nchiengain said, "Do not be afraid," and they stopped.

Nchiengain said to me, in a loud voice, so that every one could hear, "The Aponos sent for me this morning to ask me to tell you to come out of that wood. They want to see you, the great Spirit. Then they want you to go on the top of that hill" (pointing to it), "and stay there three days, so that the people may come and look at you, and bring you food."

"No," said I, in a loud voice, "no, I shall not go on the top of that hill. I am angry with the Apono people, for they curse me by saying that I bring the eviva with me. Has not the eviva been here long? Did not the people die of it long before they ever heard of me?"

"Rovano! Rovano!" ("That is so!") shouted the Aponos.

"Aponos," I resumed, "do not be frightened; I will make you hear a noise you never heard before," and I ordered my men to discharge their guns. The Apollo chiefs stood by me, and I said to them, "Do not be afraid." Nevertheless, a good many of the people fled. The chiefs did not move. Then, putting beads around their necks, I said to them, "Go away in peace; the Spirit loves the Aponos." The people departed, and I went back into the wood, for the heat was intense on the prairie.

In the afternoon the Aponos became emboldened, and hundreds of them came to get a look at me, taking care not to come too near. Presents of goats, fowls, ground- nuts, sugar-cane, and plantains were sent to me. Afterward a deputation came to ask me to leave the wood, and to come to a wood nearer their villages, which I did. Then the different chiefs of the adjacent Apollo villages begged me to become their guest, and to remain in their villages.

After, consultation with Nchiengain, it was arranged that we were to go to a village called Mokaba, and accordingly we left our encampment, and were received in the midst of the most intense excitement by the villagers, who exclaimed, "The Spirit is coming!" How frightened they seemed to be!

The chief came and walked around me, fanning me with a fan made of the ear of an elephant, and saying, "Oguizi, do not be angry with me; Oguizi, do not be angry with me. Oguizi, I never saw thee before; I am afraid of thee. I will give thee food; I will give thee all I have!"

That night the village of Mokaba was as silent as the grave. The next morning immense crowds of Aponos came to see me. The noise was perfectly deafening. The people hid themselves behind the trees, in the tall grass around the villages, and behind the huts, or wherever they could see me without being seen by me. If perchance I cast my eyes upon one of them, he ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.

I spent the evening in making a great number of astronomical observations. The Aponos, when they saw me do this, were seized with fear, and the next morning they came to ask me to go back into the wood, promising that they would bring food to me. I refused, saying, "I was in the wood, and you told me to come to Mokaba; and now that I am here, you ask me to go back into the wood. I will not go. Do not be afraid; I am not an evil spirit. I love to look at the stars and at the moon"

The chief of Mokaba, named Kombila, seemed to be a nice fellow, of medium height, black as jet, with several huge scars of sabre wounds on his back and arms, showing that he was a great fighter. I liked him very much.

The village of Mokaba was beautiful. It was situated on a hill in the prairie, just at the foot of the woody mountains which form a part of the immense equatorial range. From the mountains came a stream of clear water, which ran at the foot of the hill upon which Mokaba was built The mountains in the background seemed to be very high, and the country was picturesque. The village was not large, but its houses were nice, and each family possessed a square yard, around which the dwellings were built, The whole place was adorned with three squares, in the midst of which grew many gigantic palm-trees. Back of the village there were also great numbers of palm-trees, which were planted by the parents of the present inhabitants. Goats and chickens were abundant. The plantain, however, is the food of the country, and the hills surrounding Mokaba were covered with plantain groves. Handsome lime-trees, covered with little yellow blossoms, were also to be seen every where.

The grass of the prairie was yellow and tall, and reminded me of the wheat-fields at home when ready for the scythe. Each of the palm-trees around the village, grown from seeds planted by the people, had its owner. The palm is a precious tree, for each man draws from it his palm wine, and makes oil from the nuts, which, when they are ripe, are of a beautiful rich dark yellow color.

There was an atmosphere of comfort about Mokaba, and the whole country adjacent to it, which did my heart good. The Mokabans are a jolly people when they do not fight with their neighbors. They are fond of dancing, and the ocuya is one of the principal amusements. This is a queer pastime, and I will try to describe it for you.

One day, while I was quietly seated with Kombila, I heard at the end of the village a great noise, caused by loud singing, and immediately afterward saw a Crowd of people walking backward, beating their hands and singing, with their bodies bent almost double, and all shouting, dancing, and singing at the same time. Then I saw a tall figure suddenly emerge from behind a house and come into the street, and Kombila exclaimed, "The ocuya! the ocuya!"

The tall figure seemed to be about twelve feet in height. It wore a long dress made of grass-cloth, and reaching nearly to the ground. The creature's face was covered with a white mask painted with ochre. The lips of the mask appeared to be open, showing that the two upper and middle incisor teeth were wanting. The funniest part of the costume was that the mask had a head-dress, looking for all the world like a lady's bonnet, made of a monkey's skin, with the tail hanging on the back, while the part of the bonnet around the face was surrounded with feathers. The figure was a man on stilts.

But troubles and cares again came to destroy the enjoyment I had in their lively village. Mayolo fell ill once more, and grew worse so rapidly that his people determined to take him back to his village. A litter was made on which to carry him. But his own people said he had become jealous, and did not want any of them to get my fine things; he wanted them all for himself.

The party left early in the morning. In the afternoon news came that the chief of the village of Dilolo had died that day. Fortunately, the people of Mokaba did not like him, and they shouted with joy when they heard the news. He wanted war when he tried to prevent the Oguizi and his people from passing, and if war had come at that time he would have been killed. They all shouted, "He had aniemba, and aniemba has killed him! He will give us no more trouble; he will prevent no more people from coming to us! He will not stop the people who come to sell us salt!"

Two days after the departure of Mayolo, some of the Otandos, with some of the Mouendi people, came back to Mokaba. They came for Nchiengain. He was wanted. I never learned the reason. No doubt his people were afraid to leave him longer with me. Mayolo's life was now despaired of, and the Otando people told me slyly that they had mpoga-oganga, and that the oganga had said that the Nchiengain people had put things in the palm wine Mayolo drank in order to kill him.

Nchiengain came to me with a frightened air to tell me he had to go. He seemed to be afraid of me. I believe he thought I was going to kill him, as I had killed Remandji, Olenda, and Mayolo, and that now his turn had come. I said to him, "We are great friends. Make a good speech to the Apono for me, and I will give you such nice presents!" He promised to do it.

So all the Mokaba people were called. Nchiengain came out, and made a great speech. He said; "Kombila and Mokaba people, let the people who are to go with the Spirit come before me" They came and seated themselves on the ground, and I then gave to each a present, or his pay in goods, beads, trinkets. Then Nchiengain said, "Kombila, the Oguizi was brought to me by Mayolo, and before he reached Mayolo's village he passed through many countries of the black man. Now I leave him in your hands; pass him to the Ishogos. Then, when you leave him with the Ishogos, tell them they must take him to the Ashongos. After you leave him with the Ishogos your hands will be cleared, for you will have passed him over your tribe and clans. I am going; I leave him in your hands!" They all shouted, "We will take the Oguizi to the Ishogos! we will start the day the Oguizi wishes to start! We are men! the Mokaba people are men!"

Then Nchiengain added, "Wherever he goes, let the people give him plenty of goats, fowls, plantains, and game!" There was a great shout of "Rovana!"—"That is so! that is so!" "Do not be afraid of him," shouted Nchiengain; "see how well he has treated us! At first we were afraid of him; after a while our fears ceased. He will treat you just the same. He paid us when we left the village, and when we leave he gives us a parting present. Take him away to-morrow. Start for the country of the Ishogos. Hurry, for he does not want to tarry."

Then, in the presence of the people, he returned to me the brass kettle I had lent him for cooking his food, and the plate I had given him, and said to me, "Oguizi, good-by! I have not mpouguiza  (slighted) you, I go because I must go" As he disappeared behind the palm-trees he shouted again, "Oguizi, I have not mpouguiza  you!" I answered, "No, Nchiengain, I am not angry with you, I am only sorry we part."

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