Abbildungen der Seite

in the low, sympathetic voice she had used formerly; she had suddenly felt very tired and old and depressed, and her voice sounded harsh and quick.

'Needless to say, I have not told you all this to-night without a purpose. Cyril Stanton died a year ago, and since then Violet has been nursing typhus in Serbia. Now, it seems, she's pretty well done up and Harry Osborne wants to take her back.'

Five women stiffened. This was news, even to Esther Davis.

'As you know, he never divorced her; Cyril Stanton was a Catholic, so she never could have married him anyway, and, in spite of everything, Harry has always been in love with her. She's willing to come back on one condition

if you want her. She does n't want you to accept her out of charity or pity; she confesses no sin, is unrepentant of her act, but she realizes that we six women can more or less reinstate her. It sounds a worldly, snobbish thing to say, but it's true if we take her back, she's back more or less where she started from; though, mind you, we could n't do it without Harry any more than Harry could do it without us. And without us she won't come, knowing as she does that it's social damnation for her girls.'

[ocr errors]

Mrs. Metcalfe stood up and walked across the room at the door she paused.

crimson months than all the long, gray years that make up some lives which people call respectable and successful. And yet I'm not even so awfully sorry it's going to end like this," she said very gently; "when a man's old he wants his friends and his children and his clubs and all his comforts, and Cyril would n't have any of those, poor darling; but when he goes away, he'll still be quite young, and he'll never have wanted anything very much but me."

'We were very silent until just before I left, when she asked me about the children-hardly trusting herself for the first question, and then her eagerness was tragic: how often did I see them? how did they look? what did they wear?- her hungry eyes straining to see the visions my answers conjured for her. But when Cyril appeared to bid me good-bye, she was quite serene; not gay, as at lunch, but deeply content to be in his dear presence once more. I think she was almost glad when I left them alone, though then, of course, she could not guess how short their time together was to be.'

Again the speaker paused. Everyone in the room knew the immediate sequel to the story: the Metcalfes had come home very unexpectedly, and a few weeks later Cyril Stanton had died. One of the women, the soft-hearted Esther Davis, wept a little; but from the others there was no sound; no one commented on the story, no one seemed inclined to gossip over its details. Mrs. Metcalfe spoke again, but this time not

'Your answer must be unanimous,' she said, ‘and I must cable her your decision at once.'




It is often said about the negro that, unlike the Red Indian, he is apt rapidly to forget both a kindness and an injury. As to the latter, I have my doubts. I have known cases when natives nursed their resentment for many years, apparently quite oblivious of the injury inflicted; and then, when the opportunity and the probability of impunity offered themselves, struck with a vengeance. As regards the reproach of habitual ingratitude, it must be said that natives do not always look on treatment experienced from Europeans as the latter themselves do, and often take as their due, or as a condescension on their own part, what the latter fondly imagine to have been an act of kindness, condescension, or generosity. It has repeatedly occurred in the interior, to me as well as to others, that natives, after they had been successfully treated for some ill, came and claimed their reward.

[blocks in formation]


upon anything for their relief or comfort that Europeans do, only as a small part-payment of a debt.

But manifestations of gratitude do occasionally occur, mostly on the part of children, who are probably instigated to them by their mothers. Many years ago, a little Swahili boy in the hospital in Zanzibar, to whom an orange was brought, handed it back and begged that it should be given to the kind lady who had put medicine on his sore eyes. In British East Africa I once, without the slightest danger to myself, rescued a little boy from drowning. A month afterward he appeared in my camp with a dozen eggs, for which he refused to be paid. He must have collected them one by one, for they were all rotten!

Negroes do not feel as we do, or, if they do, they show their feelings in a different way. I once had a Kikuyu servant, an excellent fellow, named Tairara. We were camped for some time in the Mweli hills, in the Sayidie Province of British East Africa, and the village, a market-place, was periodically visited by Waduruma and Wanyika, who came from a considerable distance, to get, by barter, what articles they required. Tairara had already spoken to me about one of his sisters, who, years before, had been kidnaped from her native country and taken to the coast.

And one day, sure enough, just as in a story-book, the two met in the principal street of Mideli. The emotion of Tairara was genuine and violent and, I must say, most affecting. He sat on the ground, holding with one hand the hand of his sister, who was standing near him, while, with the open palm of his other hand, he kept beating the ground; and, all the time, tears were streaming from his eyes. The sister showed much less emotion. She looked, if anything, rather embarrassed.

Well, I left them in this position. What followed, however, was the curious part of it. From that day onward they took no more notice of one another than if they had been strangers! I saw them pass each other a week or so later without exchanging even a word; and when I asked Tairara how that was, his reply was to the effect that they had now met, and that the incident was closed.

No native, I think, would hesitate to indorse the opinion of Bernard Shaw's charming heroine, Miss Lydia Carew, when she coldly remarks that 'grief of two years' duration is only a bad habit.' To the native, there is a time for grief and a time for pleasure, which may alternate without transition. Also, natives are, I believe, able to produce emotion at will; at least, the women are. At the wakes after the death of a relative or acquaintance, their wails are accompanied by genuine tears; yet both before and after, they are absolutely unconcerned, as if nothing had happened.

Ties of affection are strongest between mother and child, setting aside the transitory attachments of paramours. They are deep and lasting, and, in some tribes, manifest themselves in a touching way. Among the Wabuanji and Wakissi, for instance, the son, even when he is grown up, when he encounters his mother, steps aside and kneels down, and in this attitude waits until

she has passed. I remember how once, when I was walking in Buanji with a great chief, he suddenly left my side and knelt down near the path, until his old mother, who was coming our way, and who might have stood for a portrait of 'She' after her second baptism of fire, had passed without taking the slightest notice of him or me.

What a difference between this beautiful custom and that ruling among those dreadful Sakalavas of Madagascar! There every woman, as soon as she has reached the great climacteric, is degraded to the state of village idiot, becomes the butt of children's practical jokes, is forbidden the entrance of the house, fed on refuse, and never spoken to except in rough accents, even by her own children; whereas the old men receive every attention.

I once ventured to remonstrate on that subject with a beautiful young mulatto woman, much courted by Europeans, whose white-haired old grandmother was even then living in that miserable status. 'In my country,' I said, 'old women are treated with particular respect and consideration by all people alike, men and women and children. The older a woman is, the more respect we consider her to be entitled to.'

To which this heartless young lady replied pertly: 'Well, that is the custom in your country and the custom in our country is different, you see.'

But that was twenty years ago, and, perhaps, since then, the innumerable missions scattered along the Mozambique channel may have succeeded in changing this disgusting state of affairs.

On the whole, I am inclined to believe that the feelings of East and Central African natives are deeper than we think. Cases of the most passionate and romantic love occur, sometimes with a tragic ending. Some years ago, I brought down with me into the Shire

[blocks in formation]

I did not encourage this liaison, as I wanted him to go back to his family; and I looked upon it as a passing flirtation only, until, one day, I happened to speak to him about his return home, when he emphatically declared that he would never again leave the Shire Highlands and his new love.

I remonstrated, reminding him of his poor wife and children.

His reply was: 'But don't you know that with us, when a man leaves his country, his brother takes over his family? My wife and my children are now living with my brother.'

I believed that this infatuation would cool down in time, and, in the meanwhile, I discouraged as much as possible the visits to his mistress, who lived about four miles away, in the village of a chief who was supposed to be her brother. In time she became pregnant, and then followed the catastrophe. She died in child-bed, and that beast of a chief did not send a messenger to inform Barbarossa of her death until after she had been buried.

For two days the poor fellow looked absolutely crushed, and then recovered

VOL. 128-NO. 4


so rapidly from his grief, to all appearances, chatting and laughing just as before, that I thought that here was another example of native shallowness of feeling. I was mistaken. Three days later, during a heavy downpour of rain which deadened all sounds, he hanged himself in his hut, which stood not a hundred yards from my own.

I decided that he must be buried alongside the woman whom he had loved so much, and dispatched a messenger to the chief to inform him that I would send up the body for burial as soon as I should have got the eight carriers required, whom I was expecting. But before they had arrived, my messenger came back in breathless haste, to say that the chief and the villagers refused to allow Barbarossa to be buried in their burial-ground, because he did not belong to the same tribe. I sent back word to say that I should use force if they persisted in their refusal, and at last they gave way and the two now lie side by side.

I intended to adopt the baby, who was then still alive; but it followed its parents into the grave a few weeks later, because, so I was told, its fostermother's milk did not agree with it.


The refusal on the part of the chief to let Barbarossa be buried alongside his mistress, because he did not belong to the same tribe, is significant of the native clannishness, which cannot have been exceeded by the particularism of the small German principalities before 1870. Although it undoubtedly has its disadvantages, both for the administrator and the missionary, the fact that in it lies the chief European safeguard for the future is so obvious, that all attempts to educate' the native out of it ought to be made punishable by law.

In East and Central Africa, the ex

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, or an 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 gener

ous 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

« ZurückWeiter »