Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a

out to me as corpse-eaters have the any terror. Their burial rites are of the same type of visage, and it is quite pos- merriest, and anybody unacquainted sible that many an innocent man owes with the customs of that nation would his evil reputation only to the fortui- be convinced, on first witnessing the tous shape of his face.

approach of a funeral cortège, with its Weird and frightful legends have gay music, its bullock-cart decorated been woven by folklore around these with bunting, shining pieces of metal, creatures. One thing, however, is cer- and small mirrors, that it was a nuptain: natives, when brought in con- tial party. Again, suicide by one of tact with corpses and putrefaction, do the many deadly poisons that abound not feel the same horror that we do. in every thicket of that island, where, as A bright, intelligent young fellow once in Ireland, venomous snakes do not exasked me, in a matter-of-fact way, if ist, is resorted to quite as a matter of I had never tasted a corpse. To

my course, on the least provocation, even indignant protest, “The smell alone is by children when they have been scoldsufficient to drive a man away,' he re- ed by their parents. plied, 'No, the smell is very pleasant! Nearly all natives, including most of And on another occasion I was asked the Mohammedan tribes, are, with the quite seriously if, among the many exception of the Somali and the warrior tinned stuffs' brought into the country castes of the Nilotic tribes, passionately by Europeans, there is not also tinned addicted to drink. There is much truth human meat.

in what has been written: that the whole This total indifference to the smell of population of Tropical and Subtropical putrefaction and the contact with it Africa is drunk after sunset. Many had fostered awful customs among the

kinds of fermented liquor exist, some of Sakalawas on the southwest coast of which are very palatable, as, for inMadagascar before the French govern- stance, the honey-beer of the Wataweta, ment stopped, or tried to stop, them by or a kind of champagne that the Walegislation. Corpses were kept exposed bena produce out of the sap of a bamfor weeks above-ground before burial, boo, which, curiously enough, refuses to the length of the period of exposure de yield its precious liquid when it is transpending upon the rank of the individual. planted from its own country. At the Even when you were camped a mile time of year when this sap is collected, away from the village, the odor, when both men and women drink it to excess, the wind blew your way, made a con- until they fall down senseless near their tinued stay impossible. Dead chiefs fires. I have been shown in Ubena

. were carried in state from village to vil- many little children who had been badly lage for months, and in each village were burned because their mothers had colkept exposed for weeks on a wooden lapsed too close to the fire, and many platform; Bacchanalian revelries went

grown-up persons who, being unable on as long as the visit lasted, and it was from drunkenness to crawl back into a common thing for the young men, at their huts, had been shockingly mutithe height of the festivities, to go and lated by hyenas. stand under the platform and rub all Pombe— beer made either from banaover their bodies the liquid matter which nas or from maize and millet — is the oozed from the corpse and trickled curse of the African native. Entirely through the planks.

unable as he is by constitution to resist Not only the dead, but death itself, temptation, he drinks as long as the seems not to inspire the Sakalawas with state of his finances and the existing pro

[ocr errors]

visions permit. It has always seemed tain or river, and look quite surprised to me as if the effects of intoxication on when, glancing at your notebook, you a native were different from what they tell them that they have given you an are on a European. They may be sim- entirely different name a little earlier in ilar when he gets hold of whiskey; but the day. This weak memory, added they undoubtedly differ in cases of to the difficulty which, like Darwin's drunkenness produced by pombe. In a Aborigines of the Terra del Fuego, even native who has got drunk on pombe, the comparatively civilized negroes have in effect is none the less violent because it 'understanding the simplest alternais less apparent in the beginning. Its tive,' is the chief obstacle that travelers climax is reached some twenty-four to encounter to getting correct informathirty-six hours after the libation has tion. And yet, - another anomaly, — ceased, and manifests itself in a nervous African negroes are the greatest linirritability which often leads to disas- guists on earth. trous consequences. Some individuals It has happened to me, not once only, in this state, although sober to all ap- but repeatedly, that I have come among pearances, become a grave danger to a tribe accompanied by men who had their neighbors. It was in this condi- never heard its idiom; and, before a tion, as I have been informed on good month was over, they were, without a authority, that the Police Askaris in a single exception, able to converse flucertain East African colony committed ently with the inhabitants, and that all those wanton acts of cruelty which even when that particular language created such a sensation in Europe a differed from their own as much as does few years before the war. One need English from Italian. not go very far, perhaps, to recover the But not that only; although I speak recipe of the famous drink of the very indifferent Swahili, – a language Assassins.

which it is very easy to learn to speak It is probable that the shortness of badly, and almost impossible for a Eumemory, with which most natives are ropean to learn to speak faultlessly, afflicted to quite a remarkable degree new servants who entered my employ as regards things which do not touch learned to speak it in a few weeks simthem directly, is due in part to this ply by my talking to them. That they racial vice and in part to the abuse learned it from me was quite evident of the elixirs mentioned above. This from the fact that they acquired all my deficiency of memory is a palpable evil, mistakes! This facility in learning new not, I think, sufficiently recognized as languages is, perhaps, connected with such by those who employ natives, and the extraordinary mimetic power of is the source of many mistakes and acci- natives, which Darwin also mentions dents that are attributed to culpable with regard to Kaffirs as well as Fueneglect or evil intent. The very tone of gians and Australians. voice in which a native says, 'Nimesa- Besides their facility in learning new hau' (I have forgotten), implies that, languages, negroes also have a remarkfor him at least, to forget is a conclusive able gift for communicating with each excuse, which precludes all possibility other by signs. I have often been asof guilt and desert of reproach. Very tounded to notice how all the inhabifrequently they do not remember what tants of a village, including the children, they have said a few minutes before; were able to converse fluently with a they will give you half a dozen different deaf-mute. A few signs with the lips names in succession for the same moun- and the fingers were sufficient to convey

a

а

the meaning of a long sentence, and the they could find a measure of justificamute did not seem to be in the least in- tion in the writings of more than one convenienced by his inability to enun- philosopher. ciate words.

For their lies, they have the funniest It would appear as if, in the different excuses. Some time ago I missed one colonies of East and Central Africa, of my men, and when I inquired after very few natives belonging to the house- him, I got, from a lad named Mohamholds of Europeans speak the latter's mad, the answer: 'He has gone into the language. This apparent ignorance, forest to dig for medicine." ' however, is open to doubt. It seems cu- ‘What is the matter with him?' I rious that 'boys' who are not supposed asked. to understand a word of English or 'He has great pains in his head and Portuguese should constantly be caught stomach.' ' listening to their employers' conversa- Sometime later, Wasi — that was tion; and that vital secrets, exchanged the absent man's name

came back, between two Europeans, in the presence carrying firewood, and when I asked of natives who, when addressed directly him why he had not told me that he in their master's language, reply only was ill, he was very much surprised. with a vacant stare, should, within There was absolutely nothing the mattwenty-four hours, inevitably become ter with him. I then soundly rated Mopublic property. Natives are as inquisi- hammad for telling such lies, when my tive as they are incapable of keeping a head-boy interfered by saying in a consecret. The latter is a fortunate evil. ciliatory tone, 'He did not lie, master. Were negroes able to hold their tongues, He said it only to make conversation.' there would not be a white man alive in Native logic runs in grooves different Africa to-day.

from ours, often in an exactly contrary Of course, the inaccuracies in the direction. When I listen to their argustatements of negroes are, in the ma- ments, I am often reminded of Leonard jority of cases, due to deliberate lying. da Vinci's famous reversed drawing of But sometimes they are unpremeditated the castle of Amboise. On one occasion, and unintentional.

one of my boys told me that another It is extremely difficult to find, in boy had told him something, which, alnative statements, the line of demarca- though a matter of small importance, tion between deliberate falsehood, lapse he was not supposed to communicate to of memory, and a congenital inability others. I taxed this other boy with havto distinguish accurately between the ing betrayed my confidence, but he flatreal and the unreal. They all lie, all, ly denied having spoken. I confronted

I without a single exception, though in them both, and a friendly dispute envarious degrees, and they themselves sued, which led to no result. I then know and sometimes admit it; and I said to the boy who, according to the have met one, at least, who expressed other, had spoken without leave, 'Why to me, with apparently genuine feeling, are you not angry with Soliman for tellhis regret for this hereditary defect. ing such a lie about you?' To which he The average native does not appear to smilingly replied, “No! I am not angry! see any fundamental difference between Why should I be angry? He lied! If he reality and imagination - a point of had spoken the truth, then I should be view for which, if they only knew it, angry.'

.
(A further paper by Mr. Coudenhove will appear later.)

a

KNIGHTS AND TURCOPOLIERS

BY WILLIAM McFEE

I

He came out of the Strada Mezzodi ed an uncanny impression of its being running, shoulders back, gloves and his first timorous experiment in handcane held bosom-high in his clenched shaking - another peculiar and parafists, like an athlete's corks, the whole doxical by-product of his personality. body of the man pulsing and glowing He turned me round and propelled from the ascent of that precipitous me back along the Strada Reale. He slot. Came out into the Strada Reale, said the man I wanted to see at the and brought up against me with a Base Office was away playing polo, and squashing thump that left us limp and I could see him in the morning. He uncertain of the future.

asked where my baggage was; and He took off his cap and mopped his when I told him, he said the Regina swiftly sloping forehead with the heel was the worst hotel in town and there of his hand — an original and unfor- was a room vacant next to his in the gettable gesture. There he was, un- Angleterre. He turned me suddenly changed and unchangeable, a knotty into the entrance hall of a vast strucsliver of England, exactly the same, ture of stone, where in the cool darksave for the Naval Reserve uniform, ness diminished humans sat in tiny as when, some nine years before, I had chairs and read the news-telegrams at seen him barging his way into the ship- microscopic notice-boards. An ornate ping office in North Shields, to sign off inscription informed me that this place articles, for he was going away home had been the auberge of the Knights to Newcastle, to get married.

of the Tongue of Provence; but he said There he was, ready-witted as ever, it was the Union Club. He examined for he demanded with incredible ra- a row of pigeonholes and took out some pidity of utterance what the h--I letters. thought I was doing, and recognized me We sallied forth into the afternoon even as he asked. He was, for all his sunlight again, and he hurried me doeskin uniform and characteristically along toward the Piazza de San Giorshabby lace and gloves, the same scorn- gio. A captain and two commanders ful, black-browed, hook-nosed trucu- passed, and I saluted, but my comlent personality. Small, yet filling the panion spun round a corner into the picture like bigger men by reason of declivity called the Strada San Lucia, his plunging restlessness, his discon- and muttered that his salutes were all certing circumlocution of body, he vi- over and done with. Scandalized, yet brated before me, even now, an incar- suspecting in my unregenerate heart nate figure of interrogation. He found that here lay a tale that might be told breath and voice, and shook my hand in the twilight, I made no reply. Anin a limp, lifeless fashion that convey- other turn into the fitly named Strada

a

Stretta, no more than a congregation of engineer lieutenant, and now before stone staircases largely monopolized by my eyes tearing off his coat and vest goats with colossal udders and jingling and pants, and bent double over a long bells, and we hurtled into the archway black coffin-like steel chest, whence he of an enormous mediæval building whose drew a suit of undeniable tweeds. But iron gate shut upon us with a clang like it was only when he had abolished the a new-oiled postern.

last remaining trace of naval garniture And as we ascended the winding by substituting a cerise poplin cravat stone stairs there came down to us a for the black affair worn in memory of medley of persons and impressions. the late Lord Nelson, and a pair of There were far gongs and musical cries brown brogues for the puritanical messpierced by a thin continuous whine. boots of recent years, that Heatly turned There was a piratical creature, with to where I sat on the bed and looked fierce eyes and an alarming shock of searchingly at me from under his highupstanding black hair, who wielded a arched, semi-circular black eyebrows. mop and stared with voracious curios- He was extraordinarily unlike a naity. There came bounding down upon val officer now. Indeed, he was unus a boy of eleven or so, with brown like the accepted Englishman. He had hair, a freckled nose, and beautiful gray one of those perplexing personalities eyes. There descended a buxom wom- that are as indigenous to England as an of thirty, modest and capable to the the Pennine Range and the Yorkshire eye, yet with a sort of tarnish of sorrow- Wolds, as authentic as Stonehenge; ful experience in her demeanor. And yet, by virtue of their very perplexity, behind her, walking abreast and in have a difficulty in getting into literastep, three astounding apparitions, - ture. There was nothing of the tall, Russian guardsmen, — in complete re- blond, silent Englishman about this galia, blue and purple and bright gold, man, at all. Yet there was probably no so fabulous that one stumbled and mingling of foreign blood in him since grew afraid. Mincingly they descend- Phænician times. He was entirely and ed, in step, their close-shaven polls utterly English. He can be found in glistening, their small eyes and thin no other land, and yet is to be found long legs giving them the air of some- in all lands, generally with a concession thing dreamed, bizarre adumbrations from the government and a turbulent of an order gone down in ruin and band of assistants. His sloping simian secret butchery to a strangled silence. forehead was growing bald, and it

A high, deep, narrow gothic doorway gleamed as he came over to where I on a landing stood open, and we edged sat. His jaws, blue from the razor, through.

creased as he drew back his chin and I had many questions to ask. I was began his inevitable movement of the reasonably entitled to know, for exam- shoulders that preluded speech. He ple, the charges for these baronial halls was English, and was about to prove and gigantic refectories. I had a legiti- his racial affinity beyond all cavil. mate curiosity concerning the superb ‘But why get yourself demobilized beings who dwelt, no doubt, in media- out here?' I demanded, when he had val throne-rooms in distant wings of explained. 'Is there a job to be had?' the château. And above all I was wish- *Job!' he echoed, eyebrows raised, ful to learn the recent history of Mr. as he looked over his shoulder with Eustace Heatly, sometime second en- apparent animosity. ‘Job! There's a gineer of the old Ş.Ş. Dolores, late fortune out here! See this,'

[ocr errors]

а

« ZurückWeiter »