Poisoned arrows are made in two pieces. An iron barb is firmly fastened to one end of a small wand of wood, ten inches or a foot long, the other end of which, fined down to a long point, is nicely fitted, though not otherwise secured, in the hollow of the reed, which forms the arrow shaft. The wood immediately below the iron head is smeared with the poison. When the arrow is shot into an animal, the reed either falls to the ground at once, or is very soon brushed off by the bushes; but the iron barb and poisoned upper part of the wood remain in the wound. If made in one piece, the arrow would often be torn out, head and all, by the long shaft catching in the underwood, or striking against trees. The poison used here, and called kombi, is obtained from a species of strophanthus, and is very virulent. Dr. Kirk found by an accidental experiment on himself that it acts by lowering the pulse. In using his tooth-brush, which had been in a pocket containing a little of the poison, he noticed a bitter taste, but attributed it to his having sometimes used, the handle in taking quinine. Though the quantity was small, it immediately showed its power by lowering his pulse which at the time had been raised by a cold, and next day he was perfectly restored. Not much can be inferred from a single case of this kind, but it is possible that the kombi may turn out a valuable remedy; and as Professor Sharpey has conducted a series of experiments with this substance, we look with interest for the results. An alkaloid has been obtained from it similar to strychnine. There is no doubt that all kinds of wild animals die from the effects of poisoned arrows, except the elephant and hippopotamus. The amount of poison that this little weapon can convey into their systems being too small to kill those huge beasts, the hunters resort to the beam trap instead.
Another kind of poison was met with on Lake Nyassa, which was said to be used exclusively for killing men. It was put on small wooden arrow-heads, and carefully protected by a piece of maize-leaf tied round it. It caused numbness of the tongue when the smallest particle was tasted. The Bushmen of the northern part of the Kalahari were seen applying the entrails of a small caterpillar which they termed 'Nga to their arrows. This venom was declared to be so powerful in producing delirium, that a man in dying returned in imagination to a state of infancy, and would call for his mother's breast. Lions when shot with it are said to perish in agonies. The poisonous ingredient in this case may be derived from the plant on which the caterpillar feeds. It is difficult to conceive by what sort of experiments the properties of these poisons, known for generations, were proved. Probably the animal instincts, which have become so obtuse by civilization, that children in England eat the berries of the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) without suspicion, were in the early uncivilized state much more keen. In some points instinct is still retained among savages. It is related that in the celebrated voyage of the French navigator, Bougainville, a young lady, who had assumed the male attire, performed all the hard duties incident to the calling of a common sailor; and, even as servant to the geologist, carried a bag of stones and specimens over hills and dales without a complaint, and without having her sex suspected by her associates; but on landing among the savages of one of the South Sea Islands, she was instantly recognized as a female. They began to show their impressions in a way that compelled her to confess her sex, and throw herself on the protection of the commander, which of course was granted. In like manner, the earlier portions of the human family may have had their instincts as to plants more highly developed than any of their descendants--if indeed much more knowledge than we usually suppose be not the effect of direct revelation from above.
The Mukuru-Madse has a deep rocky bed. The water is generally about four feet deep, and fifteen or twenty yards broad. Before reaching it, we passed five or six gullies; but beyond it the country, for two or three miles from the river, was comparatively smooth. The long grass was overrunning all the native paths, and one species (sanu), which has a sharp barbed seed a quarter of an inch in length, enters every pore of woollen clothing and highly irritates the skin. From its hard, sharp point a series of minute barbs are laid back, and give the seed a hold wherever it enters: the slightest touch gives it an entering motion, and the little hooks prevent its working out. These seeds are so abundant in some spots, that the inside of the stocking becomes worse than the roughest hair shirt. It is, however, an excellent self-sower, and fine fodder; it rises to the height of common meadow-grass in England, and would be a capital plant for spreading over a new country not so abundantly supplied with grasses as this is.
We have sometimes noticed two or three leaves together pierced through by these seeds, and thus made, as it were, into wings to carry them to any soil suited to their growth.
We always follow the native paths, though they are generally not more than fifteen inches broad, and so often have deep little holes in them, made for the purpose of setting traps for small animals, and are so much obscured by the long grass, that one has to keep one's eyes on the ground more than is pleasant. In spite, however, of all drawbacks, it is vastly more easy to travel on these tracks than to go straight over uncultivated ground, or virgin forest. A path usually leads to some village, though sometimes it turns out to be a mere game track leading nowhere.
In going north, we came into a part called Mpemba where Chibisa was owned as chief, but the people did not know that he had been assassinated by the Portuguese Terera. A great deal of grain was lying round the hut, where we spent the night. Very large numbers of turtledoves feasted undisturbed on the tall stalked mapira ears, and we easily secured plenty of fine fat guinea-fowls--now allowed to feed leisurely in the deserted gardens. The reason assigned for all this listless improvidence was "There are no women to grind the corn- -all are dead."
The cotton patches in all cases seemed to have been so well cared for, and kept so free of weeds formerly, that, though now untended, but few weeds had sprung up; and the bushes were thus preserved in the annual grass burnings. Many baobab-trees grow in different spots, and the few people seen were using the white pulp found between the seeds to make a pleasant subacid drink.
On passing Malango, near the uppermost cataract, not a soul was to be seen; but, as we rested opposite a beautiful tree-covered island, the merry voices of children at play fell on our ears--the parents had fled thither for protection from the slave-hunting Ajawa, still urged on by the occasional visits of the Portuguese agents from Tette. The Ajawa, instead of passing below the Cataracts, now avoided us, and crossed over to the east side near to the tree on which we had hung the boat. Those of the Manganja, to whom we could make ourselves known, readily came to us; but the majority had lost all confidence in themselves, in each other, and in every one else. The boat had been burned about three months previously, and the Manganja were very anxious that we should believe that this had been the act of the Ajawa; but on scanning the spot we saw that it was more likely to have caught fire in the grass-burning of the country. Had we intended to be so long in returning to it, we should have hoisted it bottom upwards; for, as it was, it is probable that a quantity of dried leaves lay inside, and a spark ignited the whole. All the trees within fifty yards were scorched and killed, and the nails, iron, and copper sheathing, all lay undisturbed beneath. Had the Ajawa done the deed, they would have taken away the copper and iron.