Chapter XIII. The March to Banza Nkulu.
But revelry at night brings morning headache, and we did not set out, as agreed, at dawn. By slow degrees the grumbling, loitering party was mustered. The chiefs were Gidi Mavunga, head guide, and his son Papagayo, a dull quiet body; Chico Mpamba, "French landlord" of Banza Nokki, and my interpreter Nchama Chamvu. Fourteen armed moleques carried our hammocks and our little viaticum in the shape of four bottles of present-gin, two costa- finas, (= twenty-four yards of fancy cotton), and fourteen fathoms of satin-stripe, the latter a reserved fund. The boy "Lendo," whose appropriate name means "The Go," bore a burden of his own size all day, and acted as little foot-page at the halt. The "gentlemen" were in full travelling costume. Slung by a thong to the chief guide's left shoulder were a tiger-cat skin, cardamom-sheaths and birds' beaks and claws clustering round a something in shape like the largest German sausage, the whole ruddled with ochre: this charm must not be touched by the herd; a slave-lad, having unwittingly offended, knelt down whilst the wearer applied a dusty big toe between his eyebrows. Papagayo had a bag of grass-cloth and bits of cane, from which protruded strips of leather and scarlet broadcloth.
At 6.45 A.M. on Saturday, September 12, we exchanged the fields surrounding Banza Chinguvu for a ridge or narrow plateau trending to the north-east and bending to the magnetic north. A few minutes led to a rock-slope, fit only for goat-hoofs or nude- footed natives. Winding along the hill-sides, we passed out of the Nokki territory into that of Ntombo, the property of Mfumo Nelongo: here we descended into a little vale or gorge bright as verdure could make it -
"arborets and flowers
Imborder'd on each bank"
of a bubbling brook, a true naiad of the hills, which ran to the embrace of the mighty stream; it characteristically stained its bed with iron. On our right was a conspicuous landmark, Zululu ke Sombe, a tall rock bearing the semblance of an elephant from the north-east, visible from the Congo's right bank and commanding a view of all the hills. Banza Vivi, our first destination, perching high on the farther side of the blue depression, bore due north. We then struck the roughest of descents, down broken outcrops and chines of granite - no wonder that the women have such grand legs. This led us into a dark green depression where lay Banza Chinsavu, the abode of King Nelongo. Our course had been three miles to the north-north-east.
Nothing can be more charming than the site, a small horseshoe valley, formed by a Wady or Fiumara, upon whose raised left bank stands the settlement, sheltered by palms, plantations, and wild figs. Eastward is a slope of bare rock polished by the rain- torrents; westward rise the grassy hills variegated with bush and boulder. We next crossed a rocky divide to the north and found a second basin also fertilized by its own stream; here the cactus and aloes, the vegetation of the desert, contrasted with half-a- dozen shades of green, the banana, the sycamore, the egg-plant, the sweet potato, the wild pepper, and the grass, whose colours were paling, but not so rapidly as in the lower lands.
We dismounted in state from our tipoias at the verandah of an empty house, where a chair had been placed; and we prepared for the usual delay and display. The guides will not leave these villages unvisited lest a "war" result; all the chiefs are cousins and one must not monopolize the plunder. A great man takes an hour to dress, and Nelongo was evidently soothing the toils of the toilette with a musical bellows called an accordeon. He sent us some poor, well-watered Msamba (palm toddy), and presently he appeared, a fat, good-natured man, as usual, ridiculously habited. He took the first opportunity of curtly saying in better Portuguese than usual, "There is no more march to-day!" This was rather too much for a somewhat testy traveller, when he changed his tone, begged me not to embroil him with a powerful neighbour, and promised that we should set out that evening. He at once sent for provisions, fowls, and a small river-fish, sugar-cane, and a fine bunch of S. Thome bananas.
About noon appeared Chico Furano, son of the late Chico de Ouro, in his quality of "English linguister;" a low position to which want of "savvy" has reduced him. His studies of our tongue are represented by an eternal "Yes!" his wits by the negative; he boasts of knowing how to "tratar com o branco" and, declining to bargain, he robs double. He is a short, small, dark man with mountaineer legs, a frightful psora, and an inveterate habit of drink. He saluted his superior, Nelongo, with immense ceremony, dating probably from the palmy times of the Mwani-Congo. Equals squat before one another, and shaking hands crosswise clap palms. Chico Furano kneels, places both "ferients" upon the earth and touches his nose-tip; he then traces three ground-crosses with the Jovian finger; again touches his nose; beats his "volae" on the dust, and draws them along the cheeks; then he bends down, applying firstly the right, secondly the left face side, and lastly the palms and dorsa of the hands to mother earth. Both superior and inferior end with the Sakila or batta-palmas,[FN#26] three bouts of three claps in the best of time separated by the shortest of pauses, and lastly a "tiger" of four claps. The ceremony is more elaborate than the "wallowings" and dust- shovellings described by Ibn Batuta at the Asiatic courts, by Jobson at Tenda,by Chapperton at Oyo,by Denham amongst the Mesgows, and by travellers to Dahome and to the Cazembe. Yet the system is virtually the same in these distant kingdoms, which do not know one another's names.