We meet with these keen traders everywhere. They are easily known by a line of horizontal cicatrices, each half an inch long, down the middle of the forehead and chin. They often wear the hair collected in a mass on the upper and back part of the head, while it is all shaven off the forehead and temples. The Babisa and Waiau or Ajawa heads have more of the round bullet-shape than those of the Manganja, indicating a marked difference in character; the former people being great traders and travellers, the latter being attached to home and agriculture. The Manganja usually intrust their ivory to the Babisa to be sold at the Coast, and complain that the returns made never come up to the high prices which they hear so much about before it is sent. In fact, by the time the Babisa return, the expenses of the journey, in which they often spend a month or two at a place where food abounds, usually eat up all the profits.
Our new companions were trading in tobacco, and had collected quantities of the round balls, about the size of nine pounder shot, into which it is formed. One of them owned a woman, whose child had been sold that morning for tobacco. The mother followed him, weeping silently, for hours along the way we went; she seemed to be well known, for at several hamlets, the women spoke to her with evident sympathy; we could do nothing to alleviate her sorrow--the child would be kept until some slave-trader passed, and then sold for calico. The different cases of slave-trading observed by us are mentioned, in order to give a fair idea of its details.
We spent the first night, after leaving the slave route, at the village of Nkoma, among a section of Manganja, called Machewa, or Macheba, whose district extends to the Bua.
The next village at which we slept was also that of a Manganja smith. It was a beautiful spot, shaded with tall euphorbia-trees. The people at first fled, but after a short time returned, and ordered us off to a stockade of Babisa, about a mile distant. We preferred to remain in the smooth shady spot outside the hamlet, to being pent up in a treeless stockade. Twenty or thirty men came dropping in, all fully armed with bows and arrows, some of them were at least six feet four in height, yet these giants were not ashamed to say, "We thought that you were Mazitu, and, being afraid, ran away." Their orders to us were evidently inspired by terror, and so must the refusal of the headman to receive a cloth, or lend us a hut have been; but as we never had the opportunity of realizing what feelings a successful invasion would produce, we did not know whether to blame them or not. The headman, a tall old smith, with an enormous, well-made knife of his own workmanship, came quietly round, and, inspecting the shelter, which, from there being abundance of long grass and bushes near, our men put up for us in half an hour, gradually changed his tactics, and, in the evening, presented us with a huge pot of porridge and a deliciously well-cooked fowl, and made an apology for having been so rude to strangers, and a lamentation that he had been so foolish as to refuse the fine cloth we had offered. Another cloth was of course presented, and we had the pleasure of parting good friends next day.
Our guide, who belonged to the stockade near to which we had slept, declined to risk himself further than his home. While waiting to hire another, Masiko attempted to purchase a goat, and had nearly concluded the bargain, when the wife of the would-be seller came forward, and said to her husband, "You appear as if you were unmarried; selling a goat without consulting your wife; what an insult to a woman! What sort of man are you?" Masiko urged the man, saying, "Let us conclude the bargain, and never mind her;" but he being better instructed, replied, "No, I have raised a host against myself already," and refused.
We now pushed on to the east, so as to get down to the shores of the Lake, and into the parts where we were known. The country was beautiful, well wooded, and undulating, but the villages were all deserted; and the flight of the people seemed to have been quite recent, for the grain was standing in the corn-safes untouched. The tobacco, though ripe, remained uncut in the gardens, and the whole country was painfully quiet: the oppressive stillness quite unbroken by the singing of birds, or the shrill calls of women watching their corn.
On passing a beautiful village, called Bangwe, surrounded by shady trees, and placed in a valley among mountains, we were admiring the beauty of the situation, when some of the much dreaded Mazitu, with their shields, ran out of the hamlet, from which we were a mile distant. They began to scream to their companions to give us chase. Without quickening our pace we walked on, and soon were in a wood, through which the footpath we were following led. The first intimation we had of the approaching Mazitu was given by the Johanna man, Zachariah, who always lagged behind, running up, screaming as if for his life. The bundles were all put in one place to be defended; and Masiko and Dr. Livingstone walked a few paces back to meet the coming foe. Masiko knelt down anxious to fire, but was ordered not to do so. For a second or two dusky forms appeared among the trees, and the Mazitu were asked, in their own tongue, "What do you want?" Masiko adding, "What do you say?" No answer was given, but the dark shade in the forest vanished. They had evidently taken us for natives, and the sight of a white man was sufficient to put them to flight. Had we been nearer the Coast, where the people are accustomed to the slave-trade, we should have found this affair a more difficult one to deal with; but, as a rule, the people of the interior are much more mild in character than those on the confines of civilization.
The above very small adventure was all the danger we were aware of in this journey; but a report was spread from the Portuguese villages on the Zambesi, similar to several rumours that had been raised before, that Dr. Livingstone had been murdered by the Makololo; and very unfortunately the report reached England before it could be contradicted.