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.
One benefit arose from the Mazitu adventure. Zachariah, and others who had too often to be reproved for lagging behind, now took their places in the front rank; and we had no difficulty in making very long marches for several days, for all believed that the Mazitu would follow our footsteps, and attack us while we slept.
A party of Babisa tobacco-traders came from the N.W. to Molamba, while we were there; and one of them asserted several times that the Loapula, after emerging from Moelo, received the Lulua, and then flowed into Lake Mofu, and thence into Tanganyika; and from the last- named Lake into the sea. This is the native idea of the geography of the interior; and, to test the general knowledge of our informant, we asked him about our acquaintances in Londa; as Moene, Katema, Shinde or Shinte, who live south-west of the rivers mentioned, and found that our friends there were perfectly well-known to him and to others of these travelled natives. In the evening two of the Babisa came in, and reported that the Mazitu had followed us to the village called Chigaragara, at which we slept at the bottom of the descent. The whole party of traders set off at once, though the sun had set. We ourselves had given rise to the report, for the women of Chigaragara, supposing us in the distance to be Mazitu, fled, with all their household utensils on their heads, and had no opportunity afterwards of finding out their mistake. We spent the night where we were, and next morning, declining Nkomo's entreaty to go and kill elephants, took our course along the shores of the Lake southwards.
We have only been at the Lake at one season of the year: then the wind blows strongly from the east, and indeed this is its prevailing direction hence to the Orange River; a north or a south wind is rare, and seldom lasts more than three days. As the breeze now blew over a large body of water, towards us, it was delightful; but when facing it on the table-land it was so strong as materially to impede our progress, and added considerably to the labour of travelling. Here it brought large quantities of the plant (Vallisneriae), from which the natives extract salt by burning, and which, if chewed, at once shows its saline properties by the taste. Clouds of the kungo, or edible midges, floated on the Lake, and many rested on the bushes on land.
The reeds along the shores of the Lake were still crowded with fugitives, and a great loss of life must since have taken place; for, after the corn they had brought with them was expended, famine would ensue. Even now we passed many women and children digging up the roots, about the size of peas, of an aromatic grass; and their wasted forms showed that this poor hard fare was to allay, if possible, the pangs of hunger. The babies at the breast crowed to us as we passed, their mothers kneeling and grubbing for the roots; the poor little things still drawing nourishment from the natural fountain were unconscious of that sinking of heart which their parents must have felt in knowing that the supply for the little ones must soon fail. No one would sell a bit of food to us: fishermen, even, would not part with the produce of their nets, except in exchange for some other kind of food. Numbers of newly-made graves showed that many had already perished, and hundreds were so emaciated that they had the appearance of human skeletons swathed in brown and wrinkled leather. In passing mile after mile, marked with these sad proofs that "man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn," one experiences an overpowering sense of helplessness to alleviate human woe, and breathes a silent prayer to the Almighty to hasten the good time coming when "man and man the world o'er, shall brothers be for all that." One small redeeming consideration in all this misery could not but be felt; these ills were inflicted by heathen Mazitu, and not by, or for, those who say to Him who is higher than the highest, "We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge."
We crossed the Mokole, rested at Chitanda, and then left the Lake, and struck away N.W. to Chinsamba's. Our companions, who were so much oppressed by the rarefied air of the plateau, still showed signs of exhaustion, though now only 1300 feet above the sea, and did not recover flesh and spirits till we again entered the Lower Shire Valley, which is of so small an altitude, that, without simultaneous observations with the barometer there and on the sea-coast, the difference would not be appreciable.
On a large plain on which we spent one night, we had the company of eighty tobacco traders on their way from Kasungu to Chinsamba's. The Mazitu had attacked and killed two of them, near the spot where the Zulus fled from us without answering our questions. The traders were now so frightened that, instead of making a straight course with us, they set off by night to follow the shores of the Lake to Tsenga, and then turn west. It is the sight of shields, or guns that inspires terror. The bowmen feel perfectly helpless when the enemy comes with even the small protection the skin shield affords, or attacks them in the open field with guns. They may shoot a few arrows, but they are such poor shots that ten to one if they hit. The only thing that makes the arrow formidable is the poison; for if the poisoned barb goes in nothing can save the wounded. A bow is in use in the lower end of Lake Nyassa, but is more common in the Maravi country, from six to eight inches broad, which is intended to be used as a shield as well as a bow; but we never saw one with the mark on it of an enemy's arrow. It certainly is no match for the Zulu shield, which is between four and five feet long, of an oval shape, and about two feet broad. So great is the terror this shield inspires that we sometimes doubted whether the Mazitu here were Zulus at all, and suspected that the people of the country took advantage of that fear, and, assuming shields, pretended to belong to that nation.