My Apingi Kingdom - Paul du Chaillu

Journey Back to Washington


The day of departure has at last come. All our provisions have been gathered. For three days past the Apingi have been coming to say good-by to me. We are on the banks of the river, and the canoes that are to ferry us over are waiting.

I am well again. My feet had been getting better every day. With the skin of an antelope I had made some kind of boots to protect them. You would have laughed if you had seen my attempt at shoemaking.

Remandji is by my side, and leads me to the river bank. I am followed by my Ashiras. We get into the canoes. Remandji and I look at each other for the last time. I take hold of his hand, blow upon it, and I am off! Soon after I stand on the bluff on the opposite shore. A wild hurra from the Apingi I have just left greets our ears. Remandji waves his hands to me. I wave mine to him, and, just before disappearing in the great forest, I fire a gun, and look back for the last time at the good old chief and at his people. As we entered the great jungle, the sound of a multitude of voices dimly reaches our ears. It is the last good-by from the good Apingi people to me.

Once more I plunge into the great forest toward where the sun sets, and shall not stop till the broad Atlantic stops my footsteps.

My first adventure during the day was to start a flock of white-nosed monkeys. I was lucky enough to kill the very biggest of the flock. But how he dogged me! He seemed to know that I was after him.

The rain had been heavy of late, and the forest was in many places muddy. Toward evening I spied a village situated in a little prairie just in the edge of the woods. I discovered it by the smoke curling up from the huts, the huts themselves being low, and overshadowed by the background and tall trees of the forests. As there was a prospect of a tornado, I insisted on going to the village for the night.

"But," said Minsho, "suppose they are enemies? Suppose some Ashira are there, and they catch us, what then?"

Pointing to my revolvers, I said, "Minsho, no one will capture you when I am with you." This seemed to reassure him.

We entered the village, the people fleeing at the same time. The old chief and a few other men alone remained. They were Bakalais. These Bakalais people seem to be scattered all over the country, for I meet them every where, and they always seem to be dreaded by the other tribes.

The chief gave me a gazelle, and called his people back. I gave them a few beads. I could not give them much, for you know I was very poor.

The chief gave me the nicest hut in his village to sleep in; but, toward midnight, I was suddenly started from my sleep by the roof of my establishment being swept off by a tornado, which had come down with fearful power. I tell you I cleared out in the wink of an eye into the middle of the street. The whole of the village was upset. There was not a roof standing. I was blinded by the lightning, and the rain began to fall by the bucketful. The thunder was deafening, and we all stood in the middle of the street, the rain pouring down upon us without mercy, and my clothes sticking to me as if I had been ducked in a stream.

The next morning we started, and had an awful time of it, for it rained hard the greater part of the day; and when at last I reached the Louvendji River, it was so swollen, and the water rushed down with such a fearful velocity, that it was utterly impossible to cross. We must build our camp close to its banks, and there wait as patiently as we could for the waters to subside.

This part of the forest seemed to be filled with bees. They came about us in great swarms, and plagued us out of our lives; and, as if this was not enough, we had also the boco, the nchouna, and the ibolai. These are old enemies of ours, as you well know. We were also tormented by several varieties of mosquitoes. Our ripe plantains seemed to attract the bees. It made me wish to see all the bee-hives in the country out of the way, and I did not bless the boco, nchouna, and ibolai. The next morning I thought I should go mad with the igoo-guais. I have described to you all these pleasant flies in my former volumes.

In the afternoon of the following day we thought we could venture to cross, although the current was still very strong. Each of us had armed himself with a strong stick six feet long, to be used for support against the strong current, as no one could have crossed without them.

Minsho started first, and, before we knew it, he tumbled down, and rolled over in the foaming billows of the Louvendji several times, but, after a hard struggle, he succeeded in getting on his legs again, and scrambled out of the river. As the waters were subsiding fast, we waited about three hours longer, and then made another trial.

This time Minsho had no idea of putting himself forward as our pioneer. He had had enough in the first attempt. Each one advised his neighbor to go first. One of the Ashiras started, and succeeded in reaching the left bank with very little trouble; but I saw that the water was still deep, and, as he was tall and I was short, I was almost sure the water would reach above my head.

At last my turn came. I entered the water, holding firmly to my stick. The current dashed against me at a furious rate, but I held my own, and, as I approached the left bank, a long liane (vine) was held out to me. I seized it, and made a great effort to reach the bank. The water lifted me off my feet, but I held firmly, and was pulled ashore.

We continued our route, and came once more to the dreaded passage of the Ovigui. I wish the Ovigui had been in some other country. The stream was very full, and the current was running at an awful speed. It was almost up to our neck as we crossed the bridge, clinging firmly to the guards, and swept against us impetuously. We had hardly crossed when the rain began to fall in torrents. No fire could be lighted, though the night was pitch-dark, and it was no joke to receive the rain all night on our unprotected bodies. I seated myself on the little chest which once contained my clothes, and fired my gun from time to time to frighten the leopards and other wild beasts, none of us wanting to be carried off by them.

The day dawned at last, and we reached Olendo in the midst of most tremendous cheers. None of us had perished. Then I became very home-sick. I had nothing more to keep me in Africa. I was out of every thing, and I longed to leave the Ashira country. So I made preparations to start off for the sea-shore as soon as possible.

The parting day came. Every thing was ready. Olendo said good-by. The Ashira and Quengueza's people, who had come to meet me, followed me till I disappeared from the plain, and had plunged out of sight once more into the great forest.

We had hardly been gone more than two hours when, before we knew it, we were in the midst of a large army of bashikouays. Goodness gracious! I shouted, jumping as high as I could, and making a face, which showed at once that I felt the bites of these dreadful insects. They seemed to bite me every where, and they were different from the other bashikouay; in fact, these were a new species. They were larger, stronger, and much slower in their movement. Their bite was more severe. Their heads were armed with heavy pincers, which took off the flesh at every bite. We jumped high up in the air to avoid them. The men, at every bite, would say brew, brew, brew, which is an exclamation meaning "it hurts." It is very expressive.

At length we reached the banks of the Ofoubou. Quengueza's canoes were waiting for us. I slept at good Obindji's. The next day we started, and finally reached the village of Goumbi. Quengueza was on the shores to welcome me. How happy he was to see me. How happy I was to see that he was quite well. It did my heart good to see the best friend I had in Africa. We hugged each other in the good old African fashion among equals. I told him I had been made a king. I can stay but a few days with him. I must go. I am dreadfully home-sick.

A few days after this I arrived in Washington. Ranpano welcomed me. My houses were in good order, and nothing had been stolen from me. The people are honest, and they love me.

I must see the ocean. How it made my heart leap for joy when I saw the deep blue water! It was grand. I kneeled down on the sand, and thanked God for his great kindness to me, the poor and lonely traveler of the jungle of Equatorial Africa.

How glad I was when I returned to that dear little bamboo house of mine, and looked at the dear little akoko (my bed), and saw my little clock still on the mantel-piece waiting for me, though its ticking had ceased. How refreshing it was to see the little comforts that were to surround me once more.

I immediately went to look into several tin Japanese boxes which were full of provisions and other good things to eat. In one there was a little coffee and tea, in another some preserved meat, in others rice, crackers, etc. Not a thing had been touched. It would never have entered the head of good Ranpano or any of his people to rob me.

African village


I wish you could have seen how glad the Commi were to see me; how many fowls and bunches of plantains they brought me.

I was at home again; once more I was in my African home, in my little settlement of Washington. There stood piles upon piles, of boxes filled with trophies of my hunting, all well preserved and well kept by the aid of arsenic, of which, when I left New York, I had taken with me one hundred pounds.

I wish you had been with me when I unpacked the big boxes which contained the immense collections in natural history I had made. You would have seen that I had not been idle. I am sure you would have been delighted with the sight of those boxes. There would come out of one a huge gorilla, a chimpanzee, or nshiego mbouvé; from another a wild boar, an antelope, or a gazelle; then from another would come out hundreds of birds, with smaller quadrupeds. Then came another box; then would come crocodiles, queer-looking turtles, stuffed fish and snakes. The next would be a box of shells, then one of insects and butterflies, and another containing otters, hyenas, leopards, squirrels, wild cats, rats, mice, and I do not know what else.

What are these big things? They are manatees. Then come three huge hippopotami. I opened their stomachs, and there came out from their inside gorillas and their skeletons, and any amount of stuffed wild beasts, Every animal I killed I stuffed and brought home, with the exception of the elephants, for I did not know how I could ever carry a stuffed elephant through the jungle. I am sure you will agree with me, it would be a most difficult work. The hippopotami, which, of course, I killed by the river side, I could put in canoes and send to Washington by water. I have given one of their skins to my distinguished friend Bierstadt, whose magnificent paintings some of you have seen. I can assure you it was an immense work for me to carry these collections through the jungle and take them to my different dépôts, till I took them to my settlement of Washington. It would have made your heart glad to see the many species of birds and animals which were entirely new, and which I have since described before scientific societies. There were also boxes which did not contain skins of wild beasts or other specimens. You would have seen that they contained queer guitars covered with snake skin or elephants' ears. You would have seen handja, terrible-looking spears, huge square knives, long, double-edged, sharp-pointed knives, bags of poisoned arrows, sharp-pointed axes, war-axes, shields made with the skin of the elephant, and other fearful implements of war made by those savages; and you would have shouted with one voice, "Oh, Friend Paul, we wish we had been with you in those great forests of Equatorial Africa!"

And now let us take a cruise along the western coast of Africa, live a great part of the time on board of a ship, and see new countries, unlike the regions where we have been wandering together so long.