Among the Cannibals
On the morning of November 5th, 1876, the combined expedition broke camp and marched out of Nyangwe. The following is what Stanley wrote in his diary:
“The object of this desperate journey is to flash a torch of light across the western half of the Dark Continent. For from Nyangwe east, along the fourth parallel of south latitude, are some 830 geographical miles, discovered, explored, and surveyed, but westward to the Atlantic Ocean, along the same latitude, are 956 miles – over 900 geographical miles of which are absolutely unknown.
Instead, however, of striking directly west, we are about to travel north on the eastern side of the river, to prevent it bending easterly to Muta Nzige, or Nilewards, unknown to us, and to ascertain, if the river really runs westward, what affluents flow to it from the east; and to deduce from their size and volume some idea of the extent of country which they drain, and the locality of their sources.”
After five days of marching through almost impenetrable forests in which they were compelled to hew their way with axes step by step, they came to the country of Uregga, and stopped there to rest.
The inhabitants of the country lived as secluded in their dark forests as chimpanzees, but they provided themselves with comforts unknown to other African tribes. Their houses in the villages were all connected together in one block that was from 50 to 300 yards in length, and covered with a kind of pitch.
They also furnished their homes with many luxuries that were already known to civilization. The following are some of the things that Stanley saw there: cane settes, beautifully covered stools, sociable benches, exquisitely carved spoons, etc.
The women of Uregga wore only aprons that were 4 inches square, made of bark or grass cloth, and fastened by cords of palm fiber. The men wore skins of civet, or monkey, in the front and rear, with the monkey tails hanging downward in the back.
The native travelers around the area had talked of seeing “men with tails”, so Stanley thought that this must have been what they were talking about, because they probably only saw them as they were hurriedly running away.
At Wane-Kirumbu the Waregga were engaged chiefly in iron-working. They seemed to be experts in making hammers, axes, hatchets, spears, knives, swords, wire, iron-balls with spikes, leglets, armlets, and iron beads. At every village there was a furnace in full blast, with charcoal being the fuel that they used.
A Village of Skulls
Kampunzee was a village that was about 500 yards in length. It was formed of one street that was 30 feet wide, and flanked by a row of gable- roofed but low houses. Stanley was astonished to see in this village two rows of what appeared to be human skulls that were placed about ten feet apart and running the entire length of the street. He counted 186 skulls altogether.
When Stanley could address the chief, he asked him what the skulls belonged to that adorned the street. The chief described the creatures as being 5 feet tall, walking like a man, and going about with a stick with which they beat the trees in the forest and made hideous noises. The chief told him that they ate their bananas, so they had to hunt them down and kill them. By this point, Stanley knew that the chief was describing the soko, or gorilla. Stanley tried, but he never was able to catch one or even see any indication of one while he was there.
The chief’s explanation didn’t really satisfy Stanley, though, and he took several of the heads with him when he left. Then after he got back to England, he asked a science professor to look at them, and it was confirmed that they were human skulls. The professor told Stanley that more than half of them bore marks of a hatchet which had been driven into the head while the victims were still alive.
They set out again on the 19th for a march of five miles through the forest west from Kampunzu. This brought them to Lualaba, which was just 41 geographical miles north of the Arab depot Myangwe. It was at this point that Stanley dubbed it as the Livingstone River, and never refers to it as the Lualaba again.
Arrangements were made to cross the river by launching the Lady Alice and calling upon the people of a small village on the opposite shore for assistance with their canoes. After a long talk and many presents the natives provided the canoes. They had barely landed on the other side, when they were attacked by a thousand or more natives whom they had to drive off with their guns, though.
They drove them off pretty quickly, but now found themselves in the Ukusee country among savages whose lives were apparently devoted to slaughter, and whose choice meal was human flesh. Each village street was ornamented with two rows of bleached trophies of eaten humanity, which formed a ghastly imitation of shell decorations like those that might line the paths of our parks and gardens.
After Stanley had secured canoes again, he embarked on the expedition with the intention of completing his explorations by following the course of the river, no matter where it might lead him. He felt also that they would be much safer on the river because they would keep out of the range of the arrows of the cannibals and avoid ambushes.
As they floated down with the current, there rang out strange war cries from the villages below. The natives had left their goats and pigs unattended on purpose hoping that Stanley and his men would try to go ashore and get them. They would not be tempted, though, and just floated quietly on down river.
One day while they were passing a large and apparently wealthy village, a small child came down to the banks of the river to get water about the same time they were floating by. The child saw them and got scared and started screaming that the Wasambye were there to attack them.
The natives on the river were at war with the Wasambye tribe, and the child mistook Stanley and his men for the enemy. The people started screaming and running into the jungle like a herd of wild buffaloes.
Stanley also noticed the remarkable fact that many of the tribes in that part of Africa practiced circumcision in the very same manner that it was practiced among the ancient Israelites. He asked, but could not find out how the ceremony originated. The people just said that it had always been done that way.
The circumcised tribes were very peculiar, though, and did not have very much at all to do with their neighbors. In fact, a war waged between them and the other tribes.
On November 26th, they reached the village of Nakanpemba, which also had the terrible picture of streets lined with human skulls. All throughout this barbaric country, human flesh seemed to be a common dish at nearly every man’s table.
They started out again on the river, but there were numerous rapids that compelled them to carry their boats around them. Frequently they had to do this for a distance of several miles, over rock hills and through thick brush. This greatly exhausted the men, along with small-pox and dysentery, which were also thinning their ranks. The outlook for the future seemed anything but promising.
Capture of a Dwarf
About noon one day, they were on shore repairing a canoe. Some of the men with Stanley found a curious little savage concealed in the bushes and captured him and brought him to camp. He was armed with a small bow and a quiver of miniature arrows, with the points of the arrows being carefully rolled in leaves. Stanley suspicioned that the tips were poisoned. He wanted to make sure, so he uncovered one of the points and grasped the dwarf’s arm, acting like he was going to stick him with the point.
At this point, the dwarf screamed loudly and had a look of terror in his eyes. He cried mabi! mabi!. which meant bad – bad. When this happened, Stanley knew that he had been right about his suspicions.
The strange creature before them measured four feet 6 1/2 inches, and was a full head taller than the average height of his people. His head was large, his face decked with a scraggy fringe of whickers, and his complexion light chocolate. He was very bow-legged and thin, and was a totally hideous looking fiend and ugly little savage brute. His intelligence seemed to be only a little more than the beasts of the forest.
Stanley retained him as a prisoner and guide for several days, but finally dismissed him and sent him home with a handful of beads and shells and some bead necklaces. The dwarf had expected to be eaten, according to the custom of his country.
Though his captors had shook hands with him at parting and smiled, he could not comprehend why he himself had not been a feast for them. He only felt safe when he had plunged out of sight in his native woods.
This is the end of the story of Stanley and the dwarfs.