The first day's march led us over a rich, well-cultivated plain. This was succeeded by highlands, undulating, stony, and covered with scraggy trees. Many banks of well rounded shingle appear. The disintegration of the rocks, now going on, does not round off the angles; they are split up by the heat and cold into angular fragments. On these high downs we crossed the River Kaombe. Beyond it we came among the upland vegetation--rhododendrons, proteas, the masuko, and molompi. At the foot of the hill, Kasuko-suko, we found the River Bua running north to join the Kaombe. We had to go a mile out of our way for a ford; the stream is deep enough in parts for hippopotami. The various streams not previously noticed, crossed in this journey, had before this led us to the conclusion, independently of the testimony of the natives, that no large river ran into the north end of the Lake. No such affluent was needed to account for the Shire's perennial flow.
On September 15th we reached the top of the ascent which, from its many ups and downs, had often made us puff and blow as if broken- winded. The water of the streams we crossed was deliciously cold, and now that we had gained the summit at Ndonda, where the boiling- point of water showed an altitude of 3440 feet above the sea, the air was delightful. Looking back we had a magnificent view of the Lake, but the haze prevented our seeing beyond the sea horizon. The scene was beautiful, but it was impossible to dissociate the lovely landscape whose hills and dales had so sorely tried our legs and lungs, from the sad fact that this was part of the great slave route now actually in use. By this road many "Ten thousands" have here seen "the Sea," "the Sea," but with sinking hearts; for the universal idea among the captive gangs is, that they are going to be fattened and eaten by the whites. They cannot of course be so much shocked as we should be--their sensibilities are far from fine, their feelings are more obtuse than ours--in fact, "the live eels are used to being skinned," perhaps they rather like it. We who are not philosophic, blessed the Providence which at Thermopylae in ancient days rolled back the tide of Eastern conquest from the West, and so guided the course of events that light and liberty and gospel truth spread to our distant isle, and emancipating our race freed them from the fear of ever again having to climb fatiguing heights and descend wearisome hollows in a slave-gang, as we suppose they did when the fair English youths were exposed for sale at Rome.
Looking westwards we perceived that, what from below had the appearance of mountains, was only the edge of a table-land which, though at first undulating, soon became smooth, and sloped towards the centre of the country. To the south a prominent mountain called Chipata, and to the south-west another named Ngalla, by which the Bua is said to rise, gave character to the landscape. In the north, masses of hills prevented our seeing more than eight or ten miles.
The air which was so exhilarating to Europeans had an opposite effect on five men who had been born and reared in the malaria of the Delta of the Zambesi. No sooner did they reach the edge of the plateau at Ndonda, than they lay down prostrate, and complained of pains all over them. The temperature was not much lower than that on the shores of the Lake below, 76 degrees being the mean temperature of the day, 52 degrees the lowest, and 82 degrees the highest during the twenty-four hours; at the Lake it was about l0 degrees higher. Of the symptoms they complained of--pains everywhere--nothing could be made. And yet it was evident that they had good reason for saying that they were ill. They scarified almost every part of their bodies as a remedial measure; medicines, administered on the supposition that their malady was the effect of a sudden chill, had no effect, and in two days one of them actually died in consequence of, as far as we could judge, a change from a malarious to a purer and more rarefied atmosphere.
As we were on the slave route, we found the people more churlish than usual. On being expostulated with about it, they replied, "We have been made wary by those who come to buy slaves." The calamity of death having befallen our party, seemed, however, to awaken their sympathies. They pointed out their usual burying-place, lent us hoes, and helped to make the grave. When we offered to pay all expenses, they showed that they had not done these friendly offices without fully appreciating their value; for they enumerated the use of the hut, the mat on which the deceased had lain, the hoes, the labour, and the medicine which they had scattered over the place to make him rest in peace.
The primitive African faith seems to be that there is one Almighty Maker of heaven and earth; that he has given the various plants of earth to man to be employed as mediators between him and the spirit world, where all who have ever been born and died continue to live; that sin consists in offences against their fellow-men, either here or among the departed, and that death is often a punishment of guilt, such as witchcraft. Their idea of moral evil differs in no respect from ours, but they consider themselves amenable only to inferior beings, not to the Supreme. Evil-speaking--lying--hatred-- disobedience to parents--neglect of them--are said by the intelligent to have been all known to be sin, as well as theft, murder, or adultery, before they knew aught of Europeans or their teaching. The only new addition to their moral code is, that it is wrong to have more wives than one. This, until the arrival of Europeans, never entered into their minds even as a doubt.
Everything not to be accounted for by common causes, whether of good or evil, is ascribed to the Deity. Men are inseparably connected with the spirits of the departed, and when one dies he is believed to have joined the hosts of his ancestors. All the Africans we have met with are as firmly persuaded of their future existence as of their present life. And we have found none in whom the belief in the Supreme Being was not rooted. He is so invariably referred to as the Author of everything supernatural, that, unless one is ignorant of their language, he cannot fail to notice this prominent feature of their faith. When they pass into the unseen world, they do not seem to be possessed with the fear of punishment. The utensils placed upon the grave are all broken as if to indicate that they will never be used by the departed again. The body is put into the grave in a sitting posture, and the hands are folded in front. In some parts of the country there are tales which we could translate into faint glimmerings of a resurrection; but whether these fables, handed down from age to age, convey that meaning to the natives themselves we cannot tell. The true tradition of faith is asserted to be "though a man die he will live again;" the false that when he dies he is dead for ever.
Important geographical discoveries in the Wabisa countries--Cruelty of the slave-trade--The Mazitu--Serious illness of Dr. Livingstone-- Return to the ship.