THE EXPLORATION AND COLONIZATION OF AFRICA, II
According to Clapperton the people of Yariba have fewer of the characteristics of the negro race than any natives of Africa with whom he was brought in contact. Their lips are not so thick and their noses are of a more aquiline shape. The men are well made, and carry themselves with an ease which cannot fail to be remarked. The women are less refined-looking than the men, the result, probably, of exposure to the sun and the fatigue they endure, compelled as they are to do all the work of the fields.
Soon after leaving Katunga, Clapperton crossed the Mousa, a tributary of the Quorra and entered Kiama, one of the halting-places of the caravans trading between Houssa and Borghoo, and Gandja, on the frontiers of Ashantee. Kiama contains no less than 13,000 inhabitants, who are considered the greatest thieves in Africa. To say a man is from Borghoo is to brand him as a blackguard at once.
Outside Kiama the traveller met the Houssa caravan. Some thousands of men and women, oxen, asses, and horses, marching in single file, formed an interminable line presenting a singular and grotesque appearance. A motley assemblage truly: naked girls alternating with men bending beneath their loads, or with Gandja merchants in the most outlandish and ridiculous costumes, mounted on bony steeds which stumbled at every step.
Clapperton now made for Boussa on the Niger, where Mungo Park was drowned. Before reaching it he had to cross the Oli, a tributary of the Quorra, and to pass through Wow-wow, a district of Borghoo, the capital of which, also called Wow-wow, contained some 18,000 inhabitants. It was one of the cleanest and best built towns the traveller had entered since he left Badagry. The streets are wide and well kept, and the houses are round, with conical thatched roofs. Drunkenness is a prevalent vice in Wow-wow: governor, priests, laymen, men and women, indulge to excess in palm wine, in rum brought from the coast, and in "bouza." The latter beverage is a mixture made of dhurra, honey, cayenne pepper, and the root of a coarse grass eaten by cattle, with the addition of a certain quantity of water.
Clapperton tells us that the people of Wow-wow are famous for their cleanliness; they are cheerful, benevolent, and hospitable. No other people whom he had met with had been so ready to give him information about their country; and, more extraordinary still, did not meet with a single beggar. The natives say they are not aborigines of Borghoo, but that they are descendants of the natives of Houssa and Nyffé. They speak a Yariba dialect, but the Wow-wow women are pretty, which those of Yariba are not. The men are muscular and well-made, but have a dissipated look. Their religion is a lax kind of Mahommedanism tinctured with paganism.
Since leaving the coast Clapperton had met tribes of unconverted Fellatahs speaking the same language, and resembling in feature and complexion others who had adopted Mahommedanism. A significant fact which points to their belonging to one race.
Boussa, which the traveller reached at last, is not a regular town, but consists of groups of scattered houses on an island of the Quorra, situated in lat. 10° 14' N., and long. 6° 11' E. The province of which it is the capital is the most densely populated of Borghoo. The inhabitants are all Pagans, even the sultan, although his name is Mahommed. They live upon monkeys, dogs, cats, rats, beef, and mutton.
Breakfast was served to the sultan whilst he was giving audience to Clapperton, whom he invited to join him. The meal consisted of a large water-rat grilled without skinning, a dish of fine boiled rice, some dried fish stewed in palm oil, fried alligators' eggs, washed down with fresh water from the Quorra. Clapperton took some stewed fish and rice, but was much laughed at because he would eat neither the rat nor the alligators' eggs.
The sultan received him very courteously, and told him that the Sultan of Yaourie had had boats ready to take him to that town for the last seven days. Clapperton replied that as the war had prevented all exit from Bornou and Yaourie, he should prefer going by way of Coulfo and Nyffé. "You are right," answered the sultan; "you did well to come and see me, and you can take which ever route you prefer."
At a later audience Clapperton made inquiries about the Englishmen who had perished in the Quorra twenty years before. This subject evidently made the sultan feel very ill at ease, and he evaded the questions put to him, by saying he was too young at the time to remember what happened.
Clapperton explained that he only wanted to recover their books and papers, and to visit the scene of their death; and the sultan in reply denied having anything belonging to them, adding a warning against his guest's going to the place where they died, for it was a "very bad place."
"But I understood," urged Clapperton, "that part of the boat they were in could still be seen."
"No, it was a false report," replied the sultan, "the boat had long since been carried down by the stream; it was somewhere amongst the rocks, he didn't know where."
To a fresh demand for Park's papers and journals the sultan replied that he had none of them; they were in the hands of some learned men; but as Clapperton seemed to set such store by them, he would have them looked for. Thanking him for this promise, Clapperton begged permission to question the old men of the place, some of whom must have witnessed the catastrophe. No answer whatever was returned to this appeal, by which the sultan was evidently much embarrassed. It was useless to press him further.