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change of children for food in periods of dearth is a common transaction; and, heartless though this kind of bargain appears to be, it must be admitted that it is one by which both sides profit. Besides, in my own experience, the children, after years have passed since the famine, frequently return to their old home of their own accord.
In Ukinga, until a few years ago, not always under the stress of hunger, children were sold to lake-shore dwellers for a basket of fish each, but the distance from the range to the lake is in reality so small, that the sale really only amounted to sending the child to the lake to be taught to fish and row, and accepting a basket of fish in celebration of the occasion.
It was, of course, quite different in the old days of slavery, when children thus sold had to follow their new masters to the coast. Mr. Giraud, a French naval officer, who visited the lake region in the early eighties, relates how disgusted he was with a mother who, after she had sold her little girl to a trader from the coast, turned round, without the least sign of emotion, and went her way without once looking back. He says that he intended to buy back the child and return it to its mother; but that the latter's callousness deterred him from doing so. I am not certain that the poor woman did not feel a great deal more than Mr. Giraud gives her credit for. He expresses equal disgust with the child, because it was soon laughing and playing with another child. Perhaps the tears came at night.
Although natives are capable of forming strong ties of affection or love, it is quite impossible to deny, on the other hand, the truth of the assertion that they are, like the man in Christmas carols who had lost his heart, utterly incapable of feeling pity for suffering fellow creatures, man or beast. They never volunteer to lend a hand for the
necessary functions around a sick-bed. Many a time, sick people, even children, could not be brought to my camp from ever so short a distance, because there was not one among the idle adults who surrounded them who would consent to bring them; and the same thing happened when a sick man's hut had to be cleaned, oran ointment applied. Among the Wayao, the most grasping of all the tribes with which I am acquainted, a traveler, surprised by a heavy shower of rain, and seeking shelter, not inside, but under the overhanging roof of a hut, unless the owner happens to be a relation, is mercilessly chased away unless he agrees to pay as much, sometimes, as sixpence.
The death of a European master, even if they appear to be attached to him, does not seem to affect negroes in the least. As a rule, they avoid, when they can, being present at the deathbed of a master, — particularly when within reach of an authority, — because they are afraid of inquiries. I myself, when down with fever, have twice been deserted by 'boys,' who thought that my last moment had come.
But they do not go far when a harvest is expected. The late H. Hyde Baker, that 'great hunter,' a nephew of Sir Samuel Baker, told me that once, when he was lying ill with fever and apparently unconscious in his tent in the wilds, he heard his devoted servants, who were squatting just outside his tent, settle how they would divide among themselves their master's spoils as soon as he died, the one to get the watch, another this, another that. And yet, although strict, Baker was a generous master.
But the master, to the negro, is only the source of food, and nothing beyond that. I remember how once, in the Pare mountains, when I was walking along a steep incline, followed by one of my servants, I happened to slip. He uttered an exclamation of anxiety. I looked back, gratified about his concern for my person, and the faithful creature said: 'Who will feed me if you fall down there?' This child of Nature was nothing if not frank. Once he commented upon a golden tooth I am afflicted with. 'Aha!' I said, 'you would like to cut my head off while I sleep, and run away with that tooth!'
'Oh! Master,' he replied, 'who could do such a thing now, with so many Police-Askaris about!'
But it must be said, in justice to them, that natives do not look upon death in the same light that we do. I have heard men who were suspected of having sleeping sickness discuss the eventuality eagerly and with a great show of interest, entirely as if they had been talking, not about themselves, but about strangers.
Natives, as is well known, are admirable mimics and, during the war, imitations of people dying and being killed were a great feature, and, I regret to say, a great source of amusement, in the villages. On one occasion I witnessed the representation, to an audience made up of all the people in my camp, of the bayoneting of a man. The actor was an invalided Askari, who had entered my service a short time before. First, one cut downward from the left, then another in the same direction from the right, then one upward, from the left, and then a terribly realistic imitation of the death-rattle. The audience was delighted; my cook, the brute, laughed so much that he had to lie on the ground.
It is not to be expected that people who are so indifferent to the sufferings of man should be actuated by softer feelings in their attitude toward the animal kingdom. In general, they do not go out of their way in order to inflict
pain, but they are completely indifferent to the sufferings of animals, and they all delight in killing. It really does appear as if the witnessing of the transition from life to death in another creature gave the savage a peculiarly gratifying sensation. Where they commit acts of cruelty, they are generally meant as reprisals of a wholly irrational and wanton kind; as for instance, when they cut off the beaks of birds which they have caught feeding on their fields; or when they pull out the tongue of a live chameleon, for no other reason than because chameleons frighten them; or when they hang dogs which have committed a larceny. Negro children, I think, are not naturally as cruel as the children of Europeans, although they, too, enjoy walking about with a miserable little bird fluttering on a string fastened to its leg, as does the son of Rubens in his father's famous picture.
Unfortunately, the generality of Europeans do not find it worth their while to try to teach the native to exercise a little kindness toward his dumb brethren, and sometimes, alas, they are themselves the very pioneers of cruelty toward animals. Years ago, when I was living in a part of British East Africa where settlers were still conspicuous by their absence, and the aborigines still almost untouched by civilization, there appeared a taxidermist who collected small mammals for a great museum, and the parasites of small mammals for a private gentleman — a happy combination.
Up to then, in that locality, I had not seen a single act of cruelty to animals committed by young or old, although, or possibly because, the inhabitants were fearless hunters of wild beasts. But this state of affairs was now changed, almost at a moment's notice. All the little boys and some adults were called, rewards were lavishly promised, and the chase began. Whoever has read records of naturalists in both hemispheres, knows how difficult it is to persuade natives to abstain from wounding or maiming specimens which they bring in. For one intact animal they injure a dozen. There was no exception to this rule in this instance, and, worst of all, animals not needed, or past repair, were simply refused.
I remember one particularly odious occurrence. Some boys had brought a quantity of live bats, fastened, for convenience of transport, to a string, like the beads of a necklace, the string passing through a hole which had been made in each bat's wings! But the taxidermist had no more use for bats, and refused to take them; and so the lot was simply thrown away by the side of the road, alive and, of course, not untied; for where is the negro who would take the trouble to untie a knot, unless compelled to do so by necessity?
This will, to some people, appear a small thing only; but who can doubt that that taxidermist has sown a seed which will, in the future, cause much suffering to an incalculable number of living creatures? As he was a peripatetic taxidermist, the place where I met him was only one in a hundred.
To the lover of animals it must also be a matter of great regret that the different commissions on tropical diseases have to use native help when they experiment on animals; for, given the negro's passion for imitation, and his passion for 'showing off' before other natives, one shudders at the thought of what these helpers may be doing after they have returned to their homes.
Although natives love to see animals die, especially mammals, they often omit to take the trouble to finish small wounded animals and birds, and will carry the latter, fluttering and struggling, for miles and miles, to their place of destination. It is pitiful to know, in this connection, that both settlers and
officials, who are collecting, either for themselves or to supply museums, in the hope of perpetuating a name, otherwise doomed to oblivion, by having it affixed to a new species of animal, are in the habit of sending out fully equipped natives on collecting expeditions, which sometimes last for months at a time. It is all done for the promotion of science, we are told, when we dare to utter a mild word of remonstrance. Many a poor bird, or small mammal, which has been carried for half a day, alive and suffering unspeakable torment, if it had the gift of speech, might conceivably, before dying, utter a variant of Madame Roland's famous exclamation at the foot of the scaffold.
One cannot mention the negro's attitude toward the animal kingdom without speaking about his relations with the 'friend of man.' It is only after making acquaintance with the pariah dogs of native villages that one fully understands why Moses branded the dog, forever, as an unclean beast. Except in those regions where he is still used for hunting, when scanty remains of a devoured animal sometimes fall to his lot, he feeds only on nameless offal, and is expected to do so. Among some tribes the licking clean of human ulcers is, as in the Old Testament, a recognized and admitted part of a dog's duties. The most startling of the various uses to which he is put, however, exists among the Wangoni, where he has to replace, with his tongue, the baby's morning tub! This is done quite as a matter of course, the mother, sometimes helped by the father, holding the baby, while the dog conscientiously accomplishes his duty. The babies do not seem to mind it much, and struggle mildly, as babies will do when they object to being washed. Expressions of disgust and indignation on my part, when I first witnessed this performance, were met with undisguised astonishment on the part of the parents.
And those unfortunate creatures breed like rabbits! It is a pitiful sight to see a poor native bitch, reduced to skin and bones, trying to satisfy the ravenous hunger of half a dozen halfgrown young gluttons. In many places these curs, hunting either in packs by themselves or with their masters, have entirely extirpated whole species of small mammals. In Buanji, where they were formerly numerous, all the mongooses have been destroyed by the joint voracity of man and dog; and, surely, anyone who has had the good fortune to make the personal acquaintance of a mongoose, not to mention the famous Ricky-ticky, will admit that one mongoose is worth a hundred native dogs.
Thanks to the greediness of certain Europeans; who do not scruple to sell to chiefs — who will pay almost any price for them — the pups of large European breeds, these nuisances constantly increase in number, size, and strength. The Wahehe, in what was formerly German East Africa, keep their dogs, not only to hunt with, but also as food; and those destined for that fate are prevented from moving about too much by having one of their legs broken!
Natives train their dogs for the hunt with great skill and cruelty. Once, in the Livingstone Range, not many hundred yards from my tent, and before I could interfere, a native from Buanji, who, with others, had been chasing a reed-buck, cudgeled his dog to death because he considered that he had been slack in the performance of his duty.
One wonders why administrators do not introduce a native dog-tax. It would affect only the well-to-do, and an unmitigated evil would gradually disappear. There would be no necessity
for drastic measures, like the marooning of the dogs of Constantinople.
Among the hunting tribes, the men are incredibly swift of foot. I have known them to run down a buffalo, and get it, too. This was in Ubena, which is a hilly country, and the buffalo must have been old, as I have tasted of its meat, which was extremely tough. In a flat country, I think, such a feat would have been almost impossible, although I have been told by natives in the great plains of British East Africa, that men exist who will run antelopes down.
The pivot around which all native conceptions of life turn is food — chakula I To eat as much as he possibly can at one sitting is looked upon by every native as a sacred duty; and, like those dung-beetles described by Henri Fabre, he never, never stops, so long as there is any thing to eat before him. An American divine, as well known for his beautiful preaching as for his successes with the rifle in East Africa, has told us how a native with whom he remonstrated for gorging himself with the meat of butchered zebras, excused himself by saying that he might be dead by the morning, and then, what an opportunity would have been lost! If you ask a native why he goes and gets married, he never replies: 'Because I love the girl'; but invariably by the question: 'Who is to prepare my food?'
It is quite useless to try to give natives extras. I often started, but always gave it up again, quite disheartened. The more sugar and tea you give them, the quicker they finish it. They have no conception of husbanding provisions, and are never satisfied or grateful. There are, besides, always a lot of hangers-on; and the servants and porters, who fear retaliation in a moment of penury, simply dare not refuse to share. As one said to me once: 'If a man sees that I have got something that he has not got, and if I refuse to give him some of it, perhaps some day, when I am very hungry and without food, and he has plenty of it, he will also refuse to share.'
That the native custom to share all food with everybody present is not, as some may imagine, the outcome of altruism, is amply proved by the heartless attitude toward the diseased and the disabled, where a reversal of the position appears an eventuality too remote to be worth being considered. Although all natives know how to cook, roast, fry, to a certain point, their palate is absolutely devoid of taste. The great majority will, like Mark Twain's Goshoot Indians, eat anything that the raven and the hyena — which latter, in Africa, stands for coyote — eat — or leave.
The variety of the native bill of fare is enormous, and, roughly speaking, implies, besides vegetable food, everything that breathes. Not all tribes, however, are so catholic in their taste. Some will look with disgust on what others consider a delicacy, and vice versa; and Mohammedans will, although they are not by any means strict as regards the ritual, abstain from certain things as long as they have to fear the censure of public opinion. Unfortunately all natives, including Mohammedans, eat all birds, with the exception, in some cases, of birds of prey, or of birds which are fetish, like the ground hornbill. Not even the smallest birds, like nectarines or waxbills, are safe from pursuit — a state of affairs which clamors for legislative interference.
Rats and moles are in great demand among many tribes; some, like the Wahehe, eat dogs; the Wangoni eat cats; the Wangulu, snakes and lizards. Several kinds of caterpillars, both smooth and hairy, are collected in baskets and eaten as a relish or kitoveo; locusts and white ants replace in native cuisine our oysters and turtles; and some people are particularly fond of a large, strongsmelling tree-bug.
But if the white man stands aghast before the native articles of diet, the native reciprocates as far as many of our food-stuffs are concerned. Tinned food, especially since the war brought enormous quantities of it into the country, is a source of incessant interest and inquiries. Natives have often expressed to me their wonder at the great variety of things which Europeans eat. One of them could not be persuaded that what he had seen in a tin was not chameleon!
A settler whom I knew in Uhehe once poisoned some wild dogs with strychnine and then buried them. On the following day several men came to him and asked permission to unearth the carrion, in order to eat it. The settler refused, explaining that the dogs had been poisoned; but they came back in the night, dug the dogs out, and took them away.
Once, in the Transvaal, I opened a tin of mortadella di Bolognai and, finding it entirely spoiled, threw it away. A European who was staying with me presently saw my head boy pick up the tin, and, before he could interfere, swallow the contents. We both expected the fellow to die of ptomaine poisoning, but nothing happened; he seemed, if anything, rather more cheerful after, than before, his meal.
I remember that once, when I was camped on the shore of Lake Nyasa, a very large dead fish floated slowly past, poisoning the atmosphere with its effluvium. Suddenly I noticed that several of my men rushed to the landing-place and jumped into a dugout; and when I asked them what they were up to, the reply was, that they wanted to haul the fish ashore. 'What for?'I asked, horrified. 'Because we want to eat it!' I screamed a peremptory warning and was grudgingly and wonderingly obeyed.
Up to fifteen years ago, in the socalled Kaffir eating-houses on the Rand, native mining boys used to buy, by pref