We made three long marches beyond Muazi's in a north-westerly direction; the people were civil enough, but refused to sell us any food. We were travelling too fast, they said; in fact, they were startled, and before they recovered their surprise, we were obliged to depart. We suspected that Muazi had sent them orders to refuse us food, that we might thus be prevented from going into the depopulated district; but this may have been mere suspicion, the result of our own uncharitable feelings.
We spent one night at Machambwe's village, and another at Chimbuzi's. It is seldom that we can find the headman on first entering a village. He gets out of the way till he has heard all about the strangers, or he is actually out in the fields looking after his farms. We once thought that when the headman came in from a visit of inspection, with his spear, bow and arrows, they had been all taken up for the occasion, and that he had all the while been hidden in some hut slily watching till he heard that the strangers might be trusted; but on listening to the details given by these men of the appearances of the crops at different parts, and the astonishing minuteness of the speakers' topography, we were persuaded that in some cases we were wrong, and felt rather humiliated. Every knoll, hill, mountain, and every peak on a range has a name; and so has every watercourse, dell, and plain. In fact, every feature and portion of the country is so minutely distinguished by appropriate names, that it would take a lifetime to decipher their meaning. It is not the want, but the superabundance of names that misleads travellers, and the terms used are so multifarious that good scholars will at times scarcely know more than the subject of conversation. Though it is a little apart from the topic of the attention which the headmen pay to agriculture, yet it may be here mentioned, while speaking of the fulness of the language, that we have heard about a score of words to indicate different varieties of gait--one walks leaning forward, or backward, swaying from side to side, loungingly, or smartly, swaggeringly, swinging the arms, or only one arm, head down or up, or otherwise; each of these modes of walking was expressed by a particular verb; and more words were used to designate the different varieties of fools than we ever tried to count.
Mr. Moffat has translated the whole Bible into the language of the Bechuana, and has diligently studied this tongue for the last forty- four-years; and, though knowing far more of the language than any of the natives who have been reared on the Mission-station of Kuruman, he does not pretend to have mastered it fully even yet. However copious it may be in terms of which we do not feel the necessity, it is poor in others, as in abstract terms, and words used to describe mental operations.
Our third day's march ended in the afternoon of the 27th September, 1863, at the village of Chinanga on the banks of a branch of the Loangwa. A large, rounded mass of granite, a thousand feet high, called Nombe rume, stand on the plain a few miles off. It is quite remarkable, because it has so little vegetation on it. Several other granitic hills stand near it, ornamented with trees, like most heights of this country, and a heap of blue mountains appears away in the north.
The effect of the piercing winds upon the men had never been got rid of. Several had been unable to carry a load ever since we ascended to the highlands; we had lost one, and another poor lad was so ill as to cause us great anxiety. By waiting in this village, which was so old that it was full of vermin, all became worse. Our European food was entirely expended, and native meal, though finely ground, has so many sharp angular particles in it, that it brought back dysentery, from which we had suffered so much in May. We could scarcely obtain food for the men. The headman of this village of Chinanga was off in a foray against some people further north to supply slaves to the traders expected along the slave route we had just left; and was said, after having expelled the inhabitants, to be living in their stockade, and devouring their corn. The conquered tribe had purchased what was called a peace by presenting the conqueror with three women.
This state of matters afforded us but a poor prospect of finding more provisions in that direction than we could with great difficulty and at enormous prices obtain here. But neither want of food, dysentery, nor slave wars would have prevented our working our way round the Lake in some other direction, had we had time; but we had received orders from the Foreign Office to take the "Pioneer" down to the sea in the previous April. The salaries of all the men in her were positively "in any case to cease by the 31st of December."
We were said to be only ten days' distant from Lake Bemba. We might speculate on a late rise of the river. A month or six weeks would secure a geographical feat, but the rains were near. We had been warned by different people that the rains were close at hand, and that we should then be bogged and unable to travel. The flood in the river might be an early one, or so small in volume as to give but one chance of the "Pioneer" descending to the ocean. The Makololo too were becoming dispirited by sickness and want of food, and were naturally anxious to be back to their fields in time for sowing. But in addition to all this and more, it was felt that it would not be dealing honestly with the Government, were we, for the sake of a little eclat, to risk the detention of the "Pioneer" up the river during another year; so we decided to return; and though we had afterwards the mortification to find that we were detained two full months at the ship waiting for the flood which we expected immediately after our arrival there, the chagrin was lessened by a consciousness of having acted in a fair, honest, above-board manner throughout.
On the night of the 29th of September a thief came to the sleeping- place of our men and stole a leg of a goat. On complaining to the deputy headman, he said that the thief had fled, but would be caught. He suggested a fine, and offered a fowl and her eggs; but wishing that the thief alone should be punished, it was advised that HE should be found and fined. The Makololo thought it best to take the fowl as a means of making the punishment certain. After settling this matter on the last day of September, we commenced our return journey. We had just the same time to go back to the ship, that we had spent in coming to this point, and there is not much to interest one in marching over the same ground a second time.