My Apingi Kingdom - Paul du Chaillu
THE SPIRIT, OUR KING.—GREAT NUMBER OF PLANTAIN TREES.—CURIOUS FENCE FOR GAME.—WE MARCH SILENTLY.—WE SURROUND OURSELVES WITH FIRES.—THE STRANGE LEGEND OF ARONDO-IéNOU.
The next morning the cries of the wild guinea-fowls which had come near the village awoke me. It was just daylight. The birds had come down from the trees where they had perched for the night, and were wandering in the neighboring jungle. I immediately jumped from my bed. It took but little time to dress, for my coat and my shoes were the only part of my clothing I had removed on lying down. By my side lay two of my guns. Taking a gun with me, I went to a little stream meandering not far from the village, and washed my face in its cool and clear water.
On my return I found that all the villagers were awake, and busy getting ready for our hunting trip. Remandji was standing before my hut, and, as soon as I made my appearance, they all shouted, "The Spirit, our king, is coming."
Every one loaded himself with his own provisions with the exception of Remandji and myself, and some of the boys carried the provisions of their fathers or uncles in queer-looking bags. So we started. Several wives of the king accompanied us. Our way was along a narrow hunting path which led us through some splendid plantations of plantain-trees and of cassada, which were worked by Remandji's wives and slaves. Now and then we crossed through large patches of sugar-cane, planted also by Remandji's wives. Two or three days before, the chimpanzees had come in large numbers and eaten a great quantity of it. Many patches of canes had been torn up and partly destroyed on the spot, The Apingi and Remandji cursed the chimpanzees as we passed by the half-destroyed patches of the cane.
After going through thousands and thousands of plantain-trees, we took a hunting path, and, after a walk of about three hours, we came to the "fence," which I examined carefully. The fence appeared to me like a miniature wall surrounding a fortified town; it was about six feet in height, and every twenty or thirty yards there was a cul de sac. Each of these was about ten or twelve feet in length, about eighteen inches or two feet broad at the opening, and gradually narrowed toward the end, so that the game, once in, could not turn round to get out. The sticks were small, about six feet in height, stuck in the ground, and closely tied together by the help of creepers and lianes. This game fence was said to be of very great length.
We continued our march for at least three hours after we had passed the fence, keeping perfectly silent in the mean time, not a single man uttering a word, as we did not want to frighten the game away. At length we came to a spot where there was a large clearing, which had been made by the natives. I could see at once that the spot was a rendezvous for hunting parties, as there were remains of old fires all about, and I saw the bones of wild animals which had been eaten before scattered on the ground. Sheds had also been constructed of large boughs, thatched with leaves, to protect the people from the heavy rains.
On each side of the camp ran a hunting path, which diverged from the one we had come by. One of these hunting paths ran straightly to the left, and the other to the right—that is, one went directly north, while the other went directly south. The path we had taken from Remandji ran almost eastward. The game fence we had passed ran, as I had been given to understand, south and north, so I came to the conclusion that these two paths were running parallel with the fence. When I asked Remandji, I saw that I was not mistaken.
This encampment which we had just reached was the spot where we were to spend the night; so some of the men went immediately to work and collected a large quantity of firewood, while others went after large leaves to repair the sheds, which were somewhat dilapidated, as it had been a long time since the Apingi had come here. Remandji and I had our sheds close to each other. I lighted four fires, one at my head, one on my left, another on my right, and another at my feet. I always liked to surround myself with fire, for I did not fancy the snakes which often crawl about at night, and, above all, I did not fancy to be carried away in the jaws of a leopard, for there is no way to get out of a leopard's jaw after you are there, and I did not care in the least to be carried off in that manner, and be devoured by such a monster. I thought this would be no joke, and I am sure, my dear young folks, you think just as I do. Leopards were plentiful, and the Apingi took great care to light a great many fires, for all wild beasts are afraid of fire.
Each man cooked his own meal—that is to say, every one roasted his plantain and his meat, which was either a dry piece of elephant, some smoked monkey, snake, or fish—about bright charcoal fires. So the fragrance of our cooking spread from one end of the camp to the other.
After our meal the time to tell stories came, and I am going to tell you one or two which were interesting to me, and may prove so to you. Okabi was to be the spokesman.
"Atoongouloo-Shimba was a king, having come to his kingdom by law of inheritance. Atoongouloo had made up his mind that whoever should quarrel in his dominions he would eat. After eating people after people, he was left all alone. A neighboring king, called Koniambie, had a beautiful child, named Arondo-Iénou. Atoongouloo-Shimba married this daughter of Koniambie, and, after he had put the rings on her legs, he started for the forest, to catch wild beasts with the Ashinga net, leaving his wife alone in the village.
"Koniambie, besides Arondo-Iénou, had three children—three boys. The eldest was called Ndjali (gun or thunder). Ndjali said he was going to take back from Atoongouloo-Shimba his sister, and Atoongouloo-Shimba ate Ndjali, who had come to take away his wife from him. He ate also the second brother. When a woman has several children, the last one is called Reninga. So Reninga came to take away his sister, and he and Atoongouloo-Shimba fought and fought from morning till the sun reached the meridian, but finally Atoongouloo succeeded in eating Reninga; but Reninga had a fetich, and came out of Atoongouloo-Shimba alive.
"When the latter saw this, he said, 'What are you coming back for?' Then he put the chalk of the Alumbi on Reninga and Arondo-Iénou; then, joining their hands together, he blew a breath upon them, and said to Reninga, 'Take your sister away.' Then Reninga took his sister away. After that, Atoongouloo-Shimba drowned himself, because his wife had been taken away from him. But, before dying, he said to Reninga, 'If Arondo-Iénou ever marries another man, she will die.' Arondo-Iénou did not believe the saying of Reninga, and married another man, and she at once died.
"At the place where Atoongouloo drowned himself, when a stranger looks in the water he sees in the deep the body of Arondo-Iénou, and her nails appear like looking-glass.
"Since that time water is often called Arondo-Iénou, because people can see their own likeness in it on account of the nails of Arondo-Iénou. Before the death of Arondo-Iénou, the water could not, reflect the image of people."