CHAPTER VIII. IBRAHIM's RETURN.
No man would think of starting upon a journey without the blessing of the old chief; and a peculiar "hocus pocus" is considered as necessary from the magic hands of Katchiba that shall charm the traveller, and preserve him from all danger of wild animals upon the road. In case of sickness he is called in, not as M.D. in our acceptation, but as "doctor of magic," and he charms both the hut and the patient against death, with the fluctuating results that must attend professionals even in sorcery. His subjects have the most thorough confidence in his power; and so great is his reputation that distant tribes frequently consult him, and beg his assistance as a magician. In this manner does old Katchiba hold his sway over his savage, but credulous people; and so long has he imposed upon the public that I believe he has at length imposed upon himself, and that he really believes he has the power of sorcery, notwithstanding repeated failures. In order to propitiate him, his people frequently present him with the prettiest of their daughters; and so constantly is he receiving additions to his domestic circle that he has been obliged to extend his establishment to prevent domestic fracas among the ladies. He has accordingly hit upon the practical expedient of keeping a certain number of wives in each of his villages: thus, when he makes a journey through his territory, he is always at home. This multiplicity of wives has been so successful that Katchiba has one hundred and sixteen children living - another proof of sorcery in the eyes of his people. One of his wives had no children, and she came to me to apply for medicine to correct some evil influence that had lowered her in her husband's estimation. The poor woman was in great distress, and complained that Katchiba was very cruel to her because she had been unable to make an addition to his family, but that she was sure I possessed some charm that would raise her to the standard of his other wives. I could not bet rid of her until I gave her the first pill that came to hand from my medicine chest, and with this she went away contented.
Katchiba was so completely established in his country, not only as a magician, but as "pere de famille," that every one of his villages was governed by one of his sons; thus the entire government was a family affair. The sons of course believed in their father's power of sorcery, and their influence as head men of their villages increased the prestige of the parent. Although without an idea of a Supreme Being, the whole country bowed down to sorcery. It is a curious distinction between faith and credulity; - these savages, utterly devoid of belief in a Deity, and without a vestige of superstition, believed most devotedly that the general affairs of life and the control of the elements were in the hands of their old chief, and therefore they served him - not with a feeling of love, neither with a trace of religion, but with that material instinct that always influences the savage; they propitiated him for the sake of what they could obtain. It is thus almost unconquerable feeling, ever present in the savage mind, that renders his conversion difficult; he will believe in nothing, unless he can obtain some specific benefit from the object of his belief.
Savages can be ruled by two powers - "force," and "humbug;" accordingly, these are the instruments made use of by those in authority: where the "force" is wanting, "humbug" is the weapon as a "pis aller." Katchiba having no physical force, adopted cunning, and the black art controlled the savage minds of his subjects. Strange does it appear, that these uncivilized inhabitants of Central Africa should, although devoid of religion, believe implicitly in sorcery; giving a power to man superhuman, although acknowledging nothing more than human. Practical and useful magic is all that is esteemed by the savage, the higher branches would be unappreciated; and spirit-rapping and mediums are reserved for the civilized (?) of England, who would convert the black savages of Africa.
Notwithstanding his magic, Katchiba was not a bad man: he was remarkably civil, and very proud at my having paid him a visit. He gave me much information regarding the country, but assured me that I should not be able to travel south for many months, as it would be quite impossible to cross the Asua river during the rainy season; he therefore proposed that I should form a camp at Obbo, and reside there until the rains should cease. It was now May, thus I was invited to postpone my advance south until December.
I determined to make a reconnaissance south towards the dreaded Asua, or, as the Obbo people pronounced it, the Achua river, and to return to my fixed camp. Accordingly I arranged to leave Mrs. Baker at Obbo with a guard of eight men, while I should proceed south without baggage, excepting a change of clothes and a cooking pot. Katchiba promised to take the greatest care of her, and to supply her with all she might require; offering to become personally responsible for her safety; he agreed to place a spell upon the door of our hut, that nothing evil should enter it during my absence. It was a snug little dwelling, about nine feet in diameter, and perfectly round; the floor well cemented with cow-dung and clay, and the walls about four feet six inches in height, formed of mud and sticks, likewise polished off with cow-dung. The door had enlarged, and it was now a very imposing entrance of about four feet high, and a great contrast to the surrounding hut or dog-kennel with two feet height of doorway.