Let any one try by repeatedly jobbing a pole with all his force to make a deep hole in the ground, and he will understand how difficult it is always to strike it into the same spot.
As we were sleeping one night outside a hut, but near enough to hear what was going on within, an anxious mother began to grind her corn about two o'clock in the morning. "Ma," inquired a little girl, "why grind in the dark?" Mamma advised sleep, and administered material for a sweet dream to her darling, by saying, "I grind meal to buy a cloth from the strangers, which will make you look a little lady." An observer of these primitive races is struck continually with such little trivial touches of genuine human nature.
The mill consists of a block of granite, syenite, or even mica schist, fifteen or eighteen inches square and five or six thick, with a piece of quartz or other hard rock about the size of a half brick, one side of which has a convex surface, and fits into a concave hollow in the larger and stationary stone. The workwoman kneeling, grasps this upper millstone with both hands, and works it backwards and forwards in the hollow of the lower millstone, in the same way that a baker works his dough, when pressing it and pushing from him. The weight of the person is brought to bear on the movable stone, and while it is pressed and pushed forwards and backwards, one hand supplies every now and then a little grain to be thus at first bruised and then ground on the lower stone, which is placed on the slope so that the meal when ground falls on to a skin or mat spread for the purpose. This is perhaps the most primitive form of mill, and anterior to that in oriental countries, where two women grind at one mill, and may have been that used by Sarah of old when she entertained the Angels.
On 2nd October we applied to Muazi for guides to take us straight down to Chinsamba's at Mosapo, and thus cut off an angle, which we should otherwise make, by going back to Kota-kota Bay. He replied that his people knew the short way to Chinsamba's that we desired to go, but that they all were afraid to venture there, on account of the Zulus, or Mazitu. We therefore started back on our old route, and, after three hours' march, found some Babisa in a village who promised to lead us to Chinsamba.
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.