My Apingi Kingdom - Paul du Chaillu
A COUNCIL.—SHALL WE BUILD A HUNDRED CANOES.—THE GREAT FALLS OF SAMBA-NAGOSHI.—FOUGAMOU, THE FORGER OF IRON.—PEOPLE CANNOT SEE HIM WORK IRON; IF THEY DO, THEY DIE.
After the scenes I have described to you in the preceding volumes, and by which you saw with what degree of superstition the people looked upon me, I need not tell you that I was the most powerful man in the country. The superstitious natives thought me to be a mighty spirit. Their king I was, and they respected me, and it was my aim to deserve their respect and love. I remembered the good precepts my mother had tried to teach me in my boyhood.
I cultivated with them truthfulness and kindness of heart. I took care of their sick, I loved their children, I prevented their women from being beaten; I made them feel they could rely upon my word, so that when I promised a thing would be done they knew it would be done. I was firm at the same time. I had to be politic, and there were customs and superstitions which I disliked, but which I knew time and education alone could destroy.
Remandji, his people, and the whole of the Apingi nation seemed to love me more and more as time passed on. I had some glorious talks with them, and every day I learned more of their people, superstitions, and customs. I loved to talk with those old men, and they loved to talk with me, and to ask me questions about the land of the Moguizi. Every day we had a talk together. Their men would bring them their palm wine, and they would gradually sip it, just as the Germans do their beer, and jabber away at the same time.
WE ARE IN COUNCIL.
One sultry afternoon, when the rays of the sun were pouring down upon the forest, and making the heat intense in the village, Remandji, a few old men, and myself went towards the river, and, after reaching its banks, we seated ourselves under a very wide-spreading tree, with the big stream rolling at our feet. The water was yellow and turbid, for the rains had been heavy for a few days past.
After we had seated ourselves, comfortably on some logs of wood that were lying on the ground—although I did not seat myself before I had examined my log well, for centipedes and scorpions are often found in the cracks of these dead pieces of wood—I began to question them.
"Remandji," said I, "suppose you build one hundred large canoes, while I go to the sea-shore and bring back to you and the Apingi large quantities of guns and swords. Then, after my return, suppose we load our canoes with palm oil, India-rubber, ebony wood, ivory, gum copal, and then go down the river to the sea and trade these products, and bring back all kinds of things that the people like, and would exchange for them.
"What do you think of this?" I said to him, looking him steadily but gently in the face, for I wanted to know his own thoughts, not by what he was going to say, but by the expression he would show.
Remandji and the old men round him began to look thoughtful, and seemed for a while to be lost in reflection.
Then Remandji said: "Spirit, the question you ask is a big thing. There are a great many tribes of wild and fighting men living on the banks of that big river that flows at our feet, and no one has ever tried to do what you propose. If you were to fly away, what would become of us? The whole country would be against us; tribe after tribe would fight us, for they would all say, 'How do the Apingi dare to come down the river and pass us?' I will tell you, Spirit, the names of some of the strange people who live on the banks of the river below us."
I must confess that some of these names were hard to pronounce, and if I had not written them down in my journal I should certainly have forgotten them. I give some of them to you, for I want you to know the names of some of the tribes inhabiting the banks of the big river by which we stood—the Kambas, Aviia, Osounga, Njavi; our old friends the Bakalai, of whom you have been made thoroughly well acquainted with in STORIES OF THE GORILLA COUNTRY, WILDLIFE UNDER THE EQUATOR, and LOST IN THE JUNGLE; Anenga, Ngaloi, Adjomba, and the Ogobai people. "These Ngalois, Anenga, Adjomba, and Ogobai people would fight us all the time," said Remandji, "for they have sworn, before our fathers were born, that no people from the up river should pass their tribe to go down; and who knows, perhaps, but that they would call all the people belonging to another river much bigger than ours, which is called Rembo Okanda, to come and join them and fight against us? Oh, Spirit, they are mighty fighting men on the Rembo Okanda River."
Then there was a pause. Remandji looked thoughtfully on the ground, and then, gradually raising his eyes, looked at me, and said again:
"I know that you want to make the Apingi people a great people; but what you said can not be done, for there is, lower down in the river, something more formidable, more terrible than all the wild people I have spoken of."
He looked at me to see if I knew what it was, when suddenly I shouted, "Do you mean the Samba-Nagoshi Falls?" for I had heard of them from the people of the sea-shore. Their fame was greater even than that of the Nkoumou-Naboulai Mountains, the summit of which I had tried to reach, of which enterprise you have had account already.
"Yes," said Remandji; "no man can pass through the Samba-Nagoshi. No Apingi would dare pass to come near it, for there is death there, and mighty spirits reside there, who guard the river."
"Tell me," said I to Remandji, "tell me about the Samba-Nagoshi Falls. I want to hear what you have to say about them."
Remandji then fixed himself comfortably for a long speech, and began as follows:
"In the days of old, long, long ago, there was a great spirit living in the forest, whose name was Fougamou. Fougamou was a great forger of iron, and a mighty spirit. One day, as Fougamou was wandering through the great forest, he came upon the banks of our river, and made up his mind to dwell by it. At last the people began to find out that Fougamou would work iron for them. So, when any one wanted a spear or a hatchet, battle-axe, knife, or any other implement, he would go near the banks of the river, and cry, 'Oh! mighty Fougamou, I want this iron to be forged;' and then he named the instrument he wanted, as he deposited the rough iron he had dug up on the ground. Then he departed, for no one could ever see Fougamou work the iron, for Fougamou had forbidden people ever to look at him, and the people were afraid to do it, as they believed that if ever they saw him they would die.
"The following morning, when they went back to the place where they had deposited the iron, they would find the weapon they had asked for finished. So I need not tell you, Spirit, how much Fougamou was loved by the people.
"When Fougamou came to live on the banks of the river, he said to himself that no one should ever go down or up the river in canoes, and he made a mighty barrier across the river, made of stone; and the water tumbles down and runs so fast," said Remandji, with a shudder, "that if a canoe was to be carried over the falls it would be broken in pieces, and the people killed. I wish you could hear the roaring water of Fougamou.
"Listen," added Remandji, observing that I was about to speak; "I have not finished the story of this great spirit.
"One day, however, a man and his son went in the forest with their iron and charcoal to ask Fougamou to work it for them, but they had made up their mind, before starting, that they would see Fougamou work the iron, and find out how it was done, and they said,' Surely we shall not die if we see him.'
"So, after going for a long while through the forest, they came to the spot where the people were in the habit of depositing the iron. After leaving it and the charcoal on the ground, they hid themselves, the father in the hollow of a tree, and the son among the boughs of another tree. Fougamou came with his son, for Fougamou had a child, and began to work, when suddenly the son said, 'Father, I smell the smell of people.' The father replied, 'Of course you smell people; for does not the iron and charcoal come from the hands of people?' So they worked on. But the son again interrupted his father, saying again, 'Father, I do smell the smell of people.' Then Fougamou began to look round, thinking that what his son told him might be true. Then he saw the two men. He roared with rage till his roar shook the whole forest; and then, to punish the father and his son, he turned the tree in which the father was hidden into an ant-hill, and the hiding-place of the son into a nest of black ants. But," added Remandji, with a great sigh, "since then Fougamou has never worked iron. These two people were aniemba ("wizards"), for they broke the law Fougamou had made, and did not wish Fougamou to work iron any more for the people. But, like in the days of old, he still keeps the river.
"But, besides the great Fougamou, there are two other spirits who live by the river, and they also have made the river such that no canoe can pass. These two spirits are Samba and Nagoshi. Nagoshi is the wife of Samba."
After hearing the interesting legend of Samba-Nagoshi, I was surprised that time had gone on so rapidly. The sun had disappeared behind the trees, and darkness was soon to succeed daylight. The birds were looking for the trees they intended to rest upon for the night. Flocks of parrots were making for different parts of the forest. The insects were seeking for the leaves where they were going to take shelter, and the butterflies had become quiet.
How quickly time had fled! What strange "talks" I had heard!
So we got up and made for the village. When, we entered it the people seemed glad to see us again, and I heard them say, "Look how the Spirit seems to love Remandji!"