My Apingi Kingdom - Paul du Chaillu
LEAVE THE APINGI COUNTRY.—GO INTO THE INTERIOR.—I AM LOST.—I RAISE THE AMERICAN FLAG ON A BIG TREE.—LEAVE IT FLYING.—STARVATION AND SUFFERING.—RETURN TO REMANDJI.
Time was passing away, and I feel that I must make further exploration of the country. It seems to me, though I did not know why I had this feeling, that the Apingi did not wish me to go into another country. They were jealous, and I was afraid they did not want any other tribe to possess me. I did not tell the people that I thought so, and kept them good friends with me. That same evening, the old men were smoking their pipes under the veranda of Remandji. Old Remandji was there, and I was ready for another long talk from him about the country.
He had spoken to me, as I have told you before, of Sapadi, but this evening he talked to me of a people of whom I had never seen or heard—of men and women who were all small. There were no tall people among them. They lived in the woods, like the gorilla and chimpanzee, and moved from place to place without fixed habitations. "What!" said I, "Remandji, have you seen such a people?" "No," said he, "but slaves of mine who came from far away (pointing in the direction of the rising sun) have told me often that they have seen them." I changed at once the conversation, fully persuaded that such people did not exist. I learned that there were many tribes living in the distant mountains, and no one among the Apingi, or among their slaves, could tell where the immense forest in which you have been traveling with me, in the three volumes I have written for you, came to an end. Strange names of tribes of wild men, living in this the most gigantic jungle of the world, were given me, many of which I had never heard before. Cannibals were not known among them, with the exception of a tribe living far off in the north-east, called Moshobo. There were tribes called Madouma, Meouandji, Ngalois, Ishogo, Ashango, and others.
So I said, "Remandji, you must give me some people, for I want to wander in the forest, far beyond the Apingi country. I want to see if I can find something new, if I can see the strange men, and discover new birds and new animals." I had a vague idea that perhaps I might meet with the unicorn; at any rate, I thought I could not help seeing new things.
But I was in trouble, for I was getting very poor, and would cut a poor figure as a king. Of course I had not a dollar, for money is perfectly useless there. The people would rather have one big bead than a twenty-dollar gold piece. I mean that my stock of goods for presents to the natives was very short. I had no more red caps, and I had but very few beads left. In fact, I had only some looking-glasses, a very few yards of calico prints, a few fine steel files, knives and forks, matches, and a few other trinkets.
My clothes were entirely worn out. I had but little powder left, only five or six scores of large bullets, and not very many pounds of small shot. My medicines were almost gone. I had but little quinine, and what should I do without it if I had a return of those violent attacks of fever which, from time to time get hold of me?
You would have laughed if you had seen my wardrobe. It was composed of a coat, a single shirt, and two very old pairs of pantaloons! Happily, one of them was made of very strong material, but both were full of holes, and had been mended over and over again. One pair was minus half a leg! The shirt I wore was the only one I had to my back, for I had given the other to Remandji. I had also a linen coat. It is true, it was almost good for nothing, but, nevertheless, it was very useful, for I could wear it while my shirt was drying in the sun after being washed. Besides, I had two old pairs of socks—I should rather say, remains of socks, for I do not know how to darn stockings, and consequently the holes in the heels were getting bigger and bigger every day. As for the two old pairs of shoes I had on hand, I had mended them over and over, the needle I used being that with which I sewed the skins of the wild animals I prepared.
How sorry I felt not to be richer, for I could have gone a long way into the interior. Oh how I loved to roam and wander in the great forest! How strange every thing looked to me! It was like the discovery of a new world. So I said to myself, go a little further again, Friend Paul! Never mind the shoes, never mind the quinine, never mind any thing. Go ahead for a little while more.
So one fine morning Remandji and I, with a few Apingi, left the village and once more entered the forest. We traveled entirely by compass, avoiding the eminences as far as we could. The way was somewhat rocky, and the forest dense. Roads there were none, and for the greater part of the time the rocky beds of rivulets formed our paths. Of course, these were terrible for the shoes. The very first day the heels of one pair gave out; but, fortunately, I had another pair.
Good Remandji could not stand this kind of knocking round in the woods, and telling me at last that he was too old for such work, he gave me his son Okabi for a companion, and returned home.
Our way in the woods was so crooked at times that it seemed to me as if I was really going all round the compass, and began to suspect that the Apingi either did not want me to leave their country, or did not know the roads. Several days were thus spent in wandering in the forest. When night came we would build a camp wherever we happened to be. One evening a tornado blew over the land, and broke down the trees and their branches all round us, but, fortunately, none fell on our camp, or I might not be living to write you this story of my weary wandering. I always had to sleep with one eye open, for leopards were plentiful, and their howls filled the forest during the night. The gloom of the woods was something quite appalling to the spirits. There were places where the forest was so sombre and silent that it seemed a fit place for the haunt of some sylvan monster, delighting in silence and in the shades of night. I wondered not that the natives should be superstitious, and say that such monsters do exist. They often imagine that they see them, but as they approach near to them they suddenly disappear.
The 31st of December found me in the great forest. That evening I thanked the Great Spirit and Maker of the universe for his great kindness to me during the year that had just gone by.
The next day was New-year's, 1859. How time had fled. I had attained my manhood in that great forest searching after the mysteries of Nature. What wonders I had seen since I left home! What perils I had gone through, what warlike tribes I had met! Dangers seen and unseen I had escaped, and the end had not yet come, for I was far away from that sea which bathed the shores from which I was to get a vessel, and I knew not if I should ever reach those shores.
Oh dear! At last I could go no farther. My last pair of shoes gave out completely that New-year's-day! They were torn, both uppers and soles, and at every step my bleeding feet were more and more lacerated, till at last the agony became too great, and the strong will which had sustained me gave way. I had to stop from time to time, for I could hardly put a step foward without an accompanying scream. The pain obliged me to lie down near a brook, where I had stopped to bathe my wounded feet, but I tried hard to show I did not suffer. To add to the misery, I found that we were lost in the forest! What was to be done? Not a village could be seen. We built our camp. I mended my shoes all that evening, as well as I could, for the morrow's journey. We ate the last of our plantains. I took a mouthful of a little brandy I had, which was very precious to me as a medicine, and we went to sleep.
Thus ended New-year's-day. How different from New-year's-day at home! But never mind, said I to myself, I have seen many things which nobody else has seen.
The next morning my feet were so swollen that I could not force them into my shoes. We decided to retrace our steps.
On a high hill not far from our camp stood a large and very tall tree. After a breakfast of berries and wild nuts, I took from a little sack, in which it had been laid away, a little American flag; we tied it on that tall tree on the high hill. When it floated out in the breeze we all gave three cheers for the Star-spangled banner. The sight seemed to give me new courage, and I fired a salute of three guns.
PAUL MENDING SHOES.
As my socks were totally unfit to wear, I tore the sleeves of my shirt, and bandaged my feet carefully with them, forced them gently into my old torn, worn-out shoes, and then, giving a last look at the flag, and shouting good-by to it, I left it to float by itself in the midst of the mountains and forests of Equatorial Africa.
I suffered dreadfully on my way back. I remember that my feet got worse instead of better. When my wretched shoes were beyond even tying together with vines, I cast them away, and bandaged my feet with what remained of my shirt, but it was of little use. The stony path and thorny jungle laughed at such protection. Starvation, real starvation, with nothing to eat, was also our lot. But one day our ears were gladdened by the roar of a gorilla. We killed it, and this furnished us with food for the remainder of our journey.
At last, after many days of weary wandering, villages were seen, and finally we got into comfortable quarters at Remandji. How well I was received! These Apingi had learned to love me, and were glad to welcome me back. Old Remandji himself was overjoyed to see his Spirit, and, in order to celebrate my arrival, got jolly drunk upon palm wine.