Adventures on a Mountain Trek
Ascension of the Ofoubou-Orèrè and Andelè Mountains.—The Ashira bleed their hands.—Story of a fight between a gorilla and a leopard.—The gorilla and the elephant.—Wild boars.
The day arrived when we were to ascend the Ofoubou-Orèrè and Andelè Mountains, which were the highest peaks of that range. Mandji, who is really a nice chief, had given me the necessary people, and I longed to reach the summits of these woody regions. We intended to hunt there also while we looked around.
Every one prepared himself for several days' hard work, and finally, when every thing was ready, each being loaded with a good stock of provisions, we bade good-by to the villagers.
The Ashiras, before starting, covered themselves with fetiches, as usual, and drew blood from their hands by cutting small gashes on them, in order to insure good luck in the hunt. They were in great spirits, for the idol of the village had told the people that we should kill much game. The first night after we camped a tremendous tornado blew from the northeast, leaving us safely in our leafy shelter, however, and then the men began to tell stories of the gorilla.
Oyagui was the first to get up. He was a splendid story-teller; but, before he began, he swore that he was going to tell a true story, part of which he saw, and a part was seen by his brother, which was the same as if he himself had seen it. A smile stole over the faces of all present, for Oyagui was known to tell tremendous big stories, and a great deal of faith was required before one could believe them.
"One day," said he, "a gorilla was walking in the forest, when he met a ngègo (leopard). The gorilla stopped, and so did the leopard. The latter, being hungry, crouched for a spring at his foe, whereat the gorilla set up a hideous roar. Undismayed by that terrific noise, the leopard made his leap, but was caught in mid air by the gorilla, who seized him by the tail, and whirled him round his head till the tail broke off and remained in his hand, and the animal escaped, leaving his brush in the big hands of the gorilla. How funny the leopard did look, as he ran off without his tail!"
"You never saw that," exclaimed one of the party.
"I did," said Oyagui; "I did, as sure as I live. The leopard ran away to his companions, who, when they saw him, asked, 'What is the matter?' whereupon the unfortunate beast recounted his defeat."
"How do you know," said another, "that the leopards asked the one without a tail 'What is the matter?' You can not understand leopard talk."
"Oh," said Oyagui, undismayed, "they looked at each other, and I am sure they said what I have told you, or something of the kind, for immediately the chief ngègo began howling till all the leopards of the forest came, who, when they saw their brother thus injured, and without a tail, vowed vengeance, and set out to find the gorilla. This my brother saw," said Oyagui, talking louder than ever, "and he followed the leopard, while I was watching the gorilla."
"They had not long to hunt. When the gorilla saw them coming he broke down a tree, of which he made a club, and then swung it round and round his head, keeping the troop of leopards at bay. At last, however, the gorilla grew tired, his efforts began to slacken, and he whirled round his tree with less force. He stopped, and then the leopards rushed on him with one accord, and soon killed him. They sprang on his head, on his breast, on his arms, and on his legs."
"You never saw this!" shouted all the Ashiras together.
"I have!" bawled Oyagui, as loud as he could.
Then they all said, "Oyagui, tell us another story." There was a pause and a short silence while we gave another start to the fires, for, at any rate, Oyagui had succeeded in making us think of leopards in telling us his story. Then Oyagui began again.
"A great gorilla was once walking in the forest with his wife and baby, when they came upon a huge elephant, who said, 'Let me pass, gorilla; move off, for these woods belong to me!'
"Oh, oh!' said the gorilla, how do the woods belong to thee? Am I not the master here? Am I not the Man of the Woods? Do I not roam where I please?'"
"Oh!" once more exclaimed the Ashiras, "this can not be, for you do not talk gorilla; you can not understand gorillas' or elephants' talk."
"No," said Oyagui, "I can not understand gorillas' or elephants' talk, but I can see what they mean, for I have a fetich which makes me comprehend the talking of the beasts."
"Ordering his wife and baby to move aside, the gorilla broke down a large limb of a tree, and, brandishing it like a club, made for the elephant, whom he soon killed by furious blows. The body of the latter I found a few days afterward, with the club of the gorilla lying by his side. I got frightened when I saw the big elephant charging at the gorilla, and the gorilla charging at the elephant, and so I ran away; but I saw the club by the side of the big elephant."
Soon after the conclusion of this story we went to sleep, I believing, for one, that Oyagni had most wonderful powers of imagination. I really do think that he believed all he said, for, as he told the stories, he got very excited, and his body shone with perspiration.
The next morning, after a good night's rest, I got up very early, and proceeded a little way into the forest, before our ascent, to see if I could find some antelope or gazelle, or some other kind of game, wandering about in search of food, when I unexpectedly heard the grunt of wild boars. I was alone. I listened, and made sure that they were coming down the mountain. I knew that I must get shelter in order not to be seen, for I had discovered that they were coming just in my direction. A wild boar would not be a bad thing, I thought, especially if it was fat. Were they yellow wild boars, or black ones? Yellow or black, one would be welcome.
Looking around, I saw the remains of a tree that had fallen down from old age. The top of the stump was about three feet above the ground, and in it was a hollow, into which I could easily get, and there could not be seen, for the tree, in falling, broke off, carrying away part of the trunk.
I looked inside to see if there were any snake, or scorpion, or centipede in it, but saw nothing.
If I had tried, I could not have made a better hiding-place. So I stepped in, making a peep-hole to see through, and lay in wait. The grunting became louder. I could hear them uprooting the ground, and finally four big yellow wild boars were before me. I cocked my gun as the big fellow of the party approached, unaware of his danger, and fired, and down he came. His three companions made a leap of about ten yards—a tremendous leap it was. These wild boars can leap farther than an antelope. This was a Potamocherus albifrons, a species which I have described to you in a former volume.
There was great joy when I returned to the camp and told the good news. They thought I had killed a monkey.
We had part of it for our breakfast, and it was excellent, but not very fat, as this time of the year is not their fat season.
One of my Ashira men had at home a small idol, which had the reputation of being an excellent guardian of his vacant house, and to this idol he was to take a piece of smoked boar's flesh. I succeeded in purchasing the idol, a likeness of which I here give you.