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Paul du Chaillu

Arrival in Apingi Land

First day in Apingi land.—I fire a gun.—The natives are frightened.—I give the king a waist-coast.—He wears it.—The Sapadi people.—The music-box.—I must make a mountain of beads.

In the morning when I awoke I looked round my room. Of course I did not have to look far, for the house was small; besides, it was filled with my baggage. Several fetiches hung on the walls, and in a corner was the skull of an antelope fastened to the roof. There were no windows, the floor of pounded yellow clay, and just by the few sticks which formed my bed were the remains of an extinguished fire. It was daylight, for I could hear the birds singing. The sun had risen, for I could see the sunshine through the crevices of the walls, which were made of the bark of trees, and through these the light came in. I listened to hear voices in the village; but no, all was silent. I got up, intending to go to the river to wash my face, and opened the door, which had been made with the bottom of an old canoe. Every hut in the village had its door, for there were famished leopards in the forest which often carried away people.

I had hardly stepped out of the house when I saw before me a very large crowd of people, who gave a loud yell at my appearance. I instinctively put my hand on one of my revolvers and held my gun in readiness; then looked at these people, who had been surrounding my hut since daylight, without saying a word.

Their yells were pretty loud. I knew not what they meant at first. I looked at them, when most of the women and children, and some of the men, ran away, although I cried out to them not to be afraid.

King Remandji soon arrived to say good-morning to me, and, while he was by my side, I raised the double-barreled gun I had with me, which I had loaded with a very heavy charge of powder, and fired it off. The gun recoiled on my shoulder, and hurt me slightly. The people fled in dismay, and the noise of the detonation re-echoed through the forest.

Remandji regarded me with fear and trembling. I reassured him by a smile, and by putting on his head a most flaming red cap which I had got ready for him. How he admired the bright red! He shouted to his people to come back, which they all did.

After washing my face in the river I returned to the village. It was a beautiful village. The houses were small, most of them being eight or ten feet long and six or eight feet wide. The walls were built with the bark of trees, and were about five feet high. The roofs were thatched either with large leaves or with the leaves of the palm, and at the top were about seven feet high. At the rear of the houses were large groves of plantain-trees.

Walking through the street, I came to the big idol, or mbuiti of the place, which stood under a ouandja (a covered roof), and there kept guard. That morning a few plantains, ground-nuts, sugar-cane, and a piece of a deer were before it. There was also a vessel with palm wine.

After walking to the end of the village I came back to Remandji, the people hollering and shouting all the time, "The good spirit has come! the spirit has come!"

I breakfasted outside of my hut, a few roasted plantains and a boiled fowl being my fare. How wild the shouts of these people were when they saw me eating! They were perfectly frantic. The fork was an object of the greatest wonder. They exclaimed, "The spirit does not eat with his hand; the spirit has a queer mouth; the spirit has teeth that are not filed sharp to a point; the spirit has a nose; how strange is the hair of the spirit!"

The crowd was pouring in from all the surrounding villages, and the excitement was intense. They were afraid, but, in despite of their fear, they came to see the great spirit who had arrived in their country.

After breakfast I called Remandji, and led him into my hut, and also the two head men, or graybeards of his village. Then I put on his majesty a flaming red waist-coat. I could not spare a coat, and I had no pantaloons to give him; luckily, they never want to wear the latter in this part of the world. He looked splendid with his waistcoat on. I also put round his neck a necklace of large blue and white beads, of the size of sparrow's eggs. I gave him, into the bargain, a looking-glass, and he was very much frightened when he saw his face in it, and he looked at me as if to say "What next?"

To the two elders, or graybeards, I gave each a necklace of large beads, and put on the head of each a red cap. Then we came out. As soon as the people saw them appear in such great style, they became very wild. I fired two guns, and Remandji and the two graybeards told the people not to be afraid. Immediately, guided by the same instinct, they all advanced toward us in a half-sitting posture, clapping their hands, and at the same time shouting "Ah! ah! ah!" When they thought they were near enough, they stopped, looked at me with a queer expression, and then shouted, "You are a great spirit! you are a great spirit!" and then they suddenly got up, and ran away to the other end of the village.

"Really the Apingi country is a strange land," said I to myself.

In the afternoon several thousand strangers filled the village. They had come to look at me, but before sunset almost all of them had returned to their homes. They had come by water and by land, from the mountains and from the valleys. The story of the arrival of the spirit in Remandji Village had spread far and wide, and every one came to see if it was true, desiring to see for themselves. But how afraid they were when I looked at them! How fast they ran away, and how quickly they would come back, but always keeping at a respectful distance!

In the evening there was a grand ball. The noise was horrible, the dancing was grand, the gesticulations and contortions were funny, the tam-tams sounded strangely, the singing was powerful, and I, of course, enjoyed the affair amazingly. I staid out all night to please them, and they were glad to see me look at them and laugh.

After a few days I became the great friend of a good many. I gave them beads, especially the women. I handled their little babies, and never got angry, though sometimes their curiosity annoyed me very much indeed.

Remandji and I became great friends. He was a real nice king, and we spent hours together. I was obliged to use Minsho as an interpreter, for I do not understand the Apingi tongue very well. It seems to me like the language of the Mbinga, a tribe which I have spoken of in "Stories of the Gorilla Country."

One day a great crowd came and asked me to take my shoes off. When I asked them why, they said they wanted to know if I had toes like they had. "You have ears like we have," said they, "and we want to see if you have cloven feet like an antelope. We want to see if your feet are like those of a people who live far away from here, of whom we have heard, and who are called Sapadi. Yes," They exclaimed, with one voice, "far away in the mountains there are Sapadi; they do not have feet like other people; they have feet like antelopes; they have cloven feet."

I told them that; there were no such people. Remandji immediately called one of his slaves, a man to whose country none of the Apingi had ever been (the Shimba country), and he declared positively, with a look of great truthfulness, that he had seen Sapadi. Another man also came forward and declared the same thing—they were people like the Apingi, only their feet were like those of antelopes.

To please them, I took off my boots. This was done in the midst of most vociferous cheers. They took my socks to be my skin. After my socks were taken off, and my naked feet burst upon their sight, the excitement became intense. The idol was brought out, the drums began to beat, and they sang songs to me, shouting and hollering in the most approved African manner. Remandji took one of my feet in his lap and touched it, declaring that it was softer than the skin of a leopard. When his people saw this they became frantic. "The great spirit has come! the great spirit has come!" they shouted; "the king holds one of his feet!" Remandji rose, and, in a half-squatting position, danced and sang before me, the drums in the mean time beating furiously. The noise was deafening. They took me for a god.


The Music-box

When they had calmed down a little I went into my hut, wound up my large music-box, and, coming out, set it on an Apingi stool in the midst of the crowd, who immediately retreated farther off. I then let the spring go, and at once the music began to play. A dead silence followed the tumult; the drums dropped down from between the drummers' legs; a leaf falling on the ground could have been heard; they were perfectly mute. Remandji and the people looked at me in affright. I went away, but of course the music continued to go on. They looked from me to the box, and back again, and finally exclaimed, "Lo! the devil speaks to him." I disappeared into the woods, and the music continued—the devil continued to speak.

The town is filled once more with strangers from the countries round, who have come to see the spirit that is stopping with Remandji. The forests are full of olakos in which these people sleep. The women appear hideously ugly; every one of them seems to have three or four children, and they are tattooed all over. On the bodies of many of them one could not find a spot as big as a pea that was free from this tattooing. They think that cutting their bodies in this way is beautifying. It is simply hideous. They file their teeth sharp to a point, which gives their faces a frightfully savage appearance; but, with all their ugliness, the Apingi were kind-hearted, always treated me well, and loved me. I always tried to do what was right by them.

One day they saw me writing my journal, and they said I was making print and cloth to give them. During the nights they all believed I did not sleep, but that I was at work making beads and all the things I gave them, whereupon ensued a great council of above thirty Apingi chiefs, who, after due deliberation with Remandji, who was at their head, came to me, surrounded by thousands of their people, and then their king delivered the following speech: "Spirit, you are our king; you have come to our country to do us good." The people, with one accord, repeated what Remandji had said—"You can do every thing." I wondered what was coming next. Then, in a loud voice, he added, "Proceed now to make for us a pile of beads, for we love the beads you make and give us. Make a pile of them as high as the tallest tree in the village," and he pointed to a giant tree which could not have been less than two hundred feet in height, "so that our women and children may go and take as many beads as they wish. You must give us cloth, brass kettles, copper rods, guns, and powder."

The people liked the speech of Remandji, and shouted "Yo! yo!" a sign of approval.

He continued: "The people will come to see you after you have gone; and when we shall say to them, 'The spirit who came has gone,' they will say, 'It is a lie! it is a lie! no spirit ever came to visit Remandji.' But when the whole country shall be filled with the things which we ask you to make, then, though they do not see you, they will say, 'Truly a spirit has visited the land of the Apingi, and lived in Remandji's village.'"

The faces of the crowd were beaming with satisfaction, for they approved of Remandji's speech. Then there was a dead silence again. I did not know what to say. I did not want to tell them I was a spirit, nor did I wish to tell them I was not one, for prestige is a great thing in a savage country.

They felt grieved when I told them I brought them things, and did not make them. They did not believe me, and said, "Thy spirit does not wish to do what we ask of it. Why, spirit, will you not do what we ask you!" and then the whole crowd began to dance and sing before me, saying, "Moguizi, do not be angry with us. Moguizi, we love you. Moguizi, you are good. Moguizi, stay with us."

On my continued refusal they scattered, and I went among them.