Travels Of Richard And John Lander Travels in West Africa (Congo Francais, Corisco and Cameroons) by Mary H. Kingsley

 -   The frequency of these patches arises
from the nomadic habits of the chief tribe in these regions, the
Fans.  They - Page 35
Travels Of Richard And John Lander Travels in West Africa (Congo Francais, Corisco and Cameroons) by Mary H. Kingsley - Page 35 of 190 - First - Home

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The Frequency Of These Patches Arises From The Nomadic Habits Of The Chief Tribe In These Regions, The Fans.

They rarely occupy one site for a village for any considerable time on account - firstly, of their wasteful method of collecting rubber by cutting down the vine, which soon stamps it out of a district; and, secondly, from their quarrelsome ways.

So when a village of Fans has cleared all the rubber out of its district, or has made the said district too hot to hold it by rows with other villages, or has got itself very properly shelled out and burnt for some attack on traders or the French flag in any form, its inhabitants clear off into another district, and build another village; for bark and palm thatch are cheap, and house removing just nothing; when you are an unsophisticated cannibal Fan you don't require a pantechnicon van to stow away your one or two mushroom- shaped stools, knives, and cooking-pots, and a calabash or so. If you are rich, maybe you will have a box with clothes in as well, but as a general rule all your clothes are on your back. So your wives just pick up the stools and the knives and the cooking-pots, and the box, and the children toddle off with the calabashes. You have, of course, the gun to carry, for sleeping or waking a Fan never parts with his gun, and so there you are "finish," as M. Pichault would say, and before your new bark house is up, there grows the egombie- gombie, where your house once stood. Now and again, for lack of immediate neighbouring villages to quarrel with, one end of a village will quarrel with the other end. The weaker end then goes off and builds itself another village, keeping an eye lifting for any member of the stronger end who may come conveniently into its neighbourhood to be killed and eaten. Meanwhile, the egombie-gombie grows over the houses of the empty end, pretending it's a plantation belonging to the remaining half. I once heard a new-comer hold forth eloquently as to how those Fans were maligned. "They say," said he, with a fine wave of his arm towards such a patch, "that these people do not till the soil - that they are not industrious - that the few plantations they do make are ill-kept - that they are only a set of wandering hunters and cannibals. Look there at those magnificent plantations!" I did look, but I did not alter my opinion of the Fans, for I know my old friend egombie-gombie when I see him.

This morning the French official seems sad and melancholy. I fancy he has got a Monday head (Kipling), but he revives as the day goes on. As we go on, the banks become hills and the broad river, which has been showing sheets of sandbanks in all directions, now narrows and shows only neat little beaches of white sand in shallow places along the bank. The current is terrific. The Eclaireur breathes hard, and has all she can do to fight her way up against it. Masses of black weathered rock in great boulders show along the exposed parts of both banks, left dry by the falling waters. Each bank is steep, and quantities of great trees, naked and bare, are hanging down from them, held by their roots and bush-rope entanglement from being swept away with the rushing current, and they make a great white fringe to the banks. The hills become higher and higher, and more and more abrupt, and the river runs between them in a gloomy ravine, winding to and fro; we catch sight of a patch of white sand ahead, which I mistake for a white painted house, but immediately after doubling round a bend we see the houses of the Talagouga Mission Station. The Eclaireur forthwith has an hysteric fit on her whistle, so as to frighten M. Forget and get him to dash off in his canoe to her at once. Apparently he knows her, and does not hurry, but comes on board quietly. I find there will be no place for me to stay at at Njole, so I decide to go on in the Eclaireur and use her as an hotel while there, and then return and stay with Mme. Forget if she will have me. I consult M. Forget on this point. He says, "Oh, yes," but seems to have lost something of great value recently, and not to be quite clear where. Only manner, I suppose. When M. Forget has got his mails he goes, and the Eclaireur goes on; indeed, she has never really stopped, for the water is too deep to anchor in here, and the terrific current would promptly whisk the steamer down out of Talagouga gorge were she to leave off fighting it. We run on up past Talagouga Island, where the river broadens out again a little, but not much, and reach Njole by nightfall, and tie up to a tree by Dumas' factory beach. Usual uproar, but as Mr. Cockshut says, no mosquitoes. The mosquito belt ends abruptly at O'Soamokita.

Next morning I go ashore and start on a walk. Lovely road, bright yellow clay, as hard as paving stone. On each side it is most neatly hedged with pine-apples; behind these, carefully tended, acres of coffee bushes planted in long rows. Certainly coffee is one of the most lovely of crops. Its grandly shaped leaves are like those of our medlar tree, only darker and richer green, the berries set close to the stem, those that are ripe, a rich crimson; these trees, I think, are about three years old, and just coming into bearing; for they are covered with full-sized berries, and there has been a flush of bloom on them this morning, and the delicious fragrance of their stephanotis-shaped and scented flowers lingers in the air.

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