CHAPTER XVI. The greeting of the slave - traders - Collapse of the mutiny - African funerals - Visit from the Latooka chief - Bokke makes a suggestion - Slaughter of the Turks - Success as a prophet - Commoro's philosophy.
*Bokke* and her daughter were announced, and a pair of prettier savages I never saw. They were very clean; their hair was worn short, like that of all the women of the country, and plastered with red ochre and fat so as to look like vermilion; their faces were slightly tattooed on the cheeks and temples, and they sat down on the many-colored carpet with great surprise, and stared at the first white man and woman they had ever seen. We gave them both a number of necklaces of red and blue beads, and I secured Bokke's portrait in my sketch- book, obtaining a very correct likeness. She told us that Mahommed Her's men were very bad people; that they had burned and plundered one of her villages; and that one of the Latookas who had been wounded in the fight by a bullet had just died, and they were to dance for him to-morrow; if we would like to we could attend. She asked many questions; among others, how many wives I had, and was astonished to hear that I was contented with one. This seemed to amuse her immensely, and she laughed heartily with her daughter at the idea. She said that my wife would be much improved if she would extract her four front teeth from the lower jaw and wear the red ointment on her hair, according to the fashion of the country; she also proposed that she should pierce her under lip, and wear the long pointed polished crystal, about the size of a drawing-pencil, that is the "thing" in the Latooka country. No woman among the tribe who has any pretensions to being a "swell" would be without this highly-prized ornament; and one of my thermometers having come to an end, I broke the tube into three pieces, and they were considered as presents of the highest value, to be worn through the perforated under lip. Lest the piece should slip through the hole in the lip, a kind of rivet is formed by twine bound round the inner extremity, and this, protruding into the space left by the extraction of the four front teeth of the lower jaw, entices the tongue to act upon the extremity, which gives it a wriggling motion indescribably ludicrous during conversation.
It is difficult to explain real beauty. A defect in one country is a desideratum in another. Scars upon the face are, in Europe, a blemish; but here and in the Arab countries no beauty can be perfect until the cheeks or temples have been gashed. The Arabs make three gashes upon each cheek, and rub the wounds with salt and a kind of porridge (asida) to produce proud-flesh; thus every female slave captured by the slave- hunters is marked to prove her identity and to improve her charms. Each tribe has its peculiar fashion as to the position and form of the cicatrix.
The Latookas gash the temples and cheeks of their women, but do not raise the scar above the surface, as is the custom of the Arabs.
Polygamy is, of course, the general custom, the number of a man's wives depending entirely upon his wealth, precisely as would the number of his horses in England. There is no such thing as LOVE in these countries; the feeling is not understood, nor does it exist in the shape in which we understand it. Everything is practical, without a particle of romance. Women are so far appreciated as they are valuable animals. They grind the corn, fetch the water, gather firewood, cement the floors, cook the food, and propagate the race; but they are mere servants, and as such are valuable. The price of a good-looking, strong young wife, who could carry a heavy jar of water, would be ten cows; thus a man rich in cattle would be rich in domestic bliss, as he could command a multiplicity of wives. However delightful may be a family of daughters in England, they nevertheless are costly treasures; but in Latooka and throughout savage lands they are exceedingly profitable. The simple rule of proportion will suggest that if one daughter is worth ten cows, ten daughters must be worth a hundred; therefore a large family is a source of wealth: the girls bring the cows, and the boys milk them. All being perfectly naked (I mean the girls and the boys), there is no expense, and the children act as herdsmen to the flocks as in the patriarchal times. A multiplicity of wives thus increases wealth by the increase of family. I am afraid this practical state of affairs will be a strong barrier to missionary enterprise.
A savage holds to his cows and his women, but especially to his COWS. In a razzia fight he will seldom stand for the sake of his wives, but when he does fight it is to save his cattle.
One day, soon after Bokke's visit, I heard that there had been some disaster, and that the whole of Mahommed Her's party had been massacred. On the following morning I sent ten of my men with a party of Ibrahim's to Latome to make inquiries. They returned on the following afternoon, bringing with them two wounded men. It appeared the Mahommed Her had ordered his party of 110 armed men, in addition to 300 natives, to make a razzia upon a certain village among the mountains for slaves and cattle. They had succeeded in burning a village and in capturing a great number of slaves. Having descended the pass, a native gave them the route that would lead to the capture of a large herd of cattle that they had not yet discovered. They once more ascended the mountain by a different path, and arriving at the kraal they commenced driving off the vast herd of cattle. The Latookas, who had not fought while their wives and children were being carried into slavery, now fronted bravely against the muskets to defend their herds, and charging the Turks they drove them down the pass.