ALONG THE EAST COAST
Were a man picked up on a flying carpet and dropped without warning into Lorenço Marquez, he might guess for a day before he could make up his mind where he was, or determine to which nation the place belonged.
If he argued from the adobe houses with red-tiled roofs and walls of cobalt blue, the palms, and the yellow custom-house, he might think he was in Santiago; the Indian merchants in velvet and gold embroideries seated in deep, dark shops which breathe out dry, pungent odors, might take him back to Bombay; the Soudanese and Egyptians in long blue night-gowns and freshly ironed fezzes would remind him of Cairo; the dwarfish Portuguese soldiers, of Madeira, Lisbon, and Madrid, and the black, bare-legged policemen in khaki with great numerals on their chests, of Benin, Sierra Leone, or Zanzibar. After he had noted these and the German, French, and English merchants in white duck, and the Dutch man-of-warsmen, who look like ship's stewards, the French marines in coal-scuttle helmets, the British Jack-tars in their bare feet, and the native Kaffir women, each wrapped in a single, gorgeous shawl with a black baby peering from beneath her shoulder-blades, he would decide, by using the deductive methods of Sherlock Holmes, that he was in the Midway of the Chicago Fair.
Several hundred years ago Da Gama sailed into Delagoa Bay and founded the town of Lorenço Marquez, and since that time the Portuguese have always felt that it is only due to him and to themselves to remain there. They have great pride of race, and they like the fact that they possess and govern a colony. So, up to the present time, in spite of many temptations to dispose of it, they have made the ownership of Delagoa Bay an article of their national religion. But their national religion does not require of them to improve their property. And to-day it is much as it was when the sails of Da Gama's fleet first stirred its poisonous vapors.
The harbor itself is an excellent one and the bay is twenty-two miles along, but there is only one landing-pier, and that such a pier as would be considered inconsistent with the dignity of the Larchmont Yacht Club. To the town itself Portugal has been content to contribute as her share the gatherers of taxes, collectors of customs and dispensers of official seals. She is indifferent to the fact that the bulk of general merchandise, wine, and machinery that enter her port is brought there by foreigners. She only demands that they buy her stamps. Her importance in her own colony is that of a toll-gate at the entrance of a great city.
Lorenço Marquez is not a spot which one would select for a home. When I was first there, the deaths from fever were averaging fifteen a day, and men who dined at the club one evening were buried hurriedly before midnight, and when I returned in the winter months, the fever had abated, but on the night we arrived twenty men were robbed. The fact that we complained to the police about one of the twenty robberies struck the commandant as an act of surprising and unusual interest. We gathered from his manner that the citizens of Lorenço Marquez look upon being robbed as a matter too personal and selfish with which to trouble the police. It was perhaps credulous of us, as our hotel was liberally labelled with notices warning its patrons that "Owing to numerous robberies in this hotel, our guests will please lock their doors." This was one of three hotels owned by the same man. One of the others had been described to us as the "tough" hotel, and at the other, a few weeks previous, a friend had found a puff-adder barring his bedroom door. The choice was somewhat difficult.
On her way from Lorenço Marquez to Beira our ship, the Kanzlar, kept close to the shore, and showed us low-lying banks of yellow sand and coarse green bushes. There was none of the majesty of outline which reaches from Table Bay to Durban, none of the blue mountains of the Colony, nor the deeply wooded table-lands and great inlets of Kaffraria. The rocks which stretch along the southern coast and against which the waves break with a report like the bursting of a lyddite shell, had disappeared, and along Gazaland and the Portuguese territory only swamps and barren sand-hills accompanied us in a monotonous yellow line. From the bay we saw Beira as a long crescent of red-roofed houses, many of them of four stories with verandas running around each story, like those of the summer hotels along the Jersey coast. It is a town built upon the sands, with a low stone breakwater, but without a pier or jetty, the lack of which gives it a temporary, casual air as though it were more a summer resort than the one port of entry for all Rhodesia. It suggested Coney Island to one, and to others Asbury Park and the board-walk at Atlantic City. When we found that in spite of her Portuguese flags and naked blacks, Beira reminded us of nothing except an American summer-resort, we set to discovering why this should be, and decided it was because, after the red dust of the Colony and the Transvaal, we saw again stretches of white sand, and instead of corrugated zinc, flimsy houses of wood, which you felt were only opened for the summer season and which for the rest of the year remained boarded up against driven sands and equinoctial gales. Beira need only to have added to her "Sea-View" and "Beach" hotels, a few bathing-suits drying on a clothes-line, a tin-type artist, and a merry-go-round, to make us feel perfectly at home. Beira being the port on the Indian Ocean which feeds Mashonaland and Matabeleland and the English settlers in and around Buluwayo and Salisbury, English influence has proclaimed itself there in many ways. When we touched, which was when the British soldiers were moving up to Rhodesia, the place, in comparison with Lorenço Marquez, was brisk, busy, and clean. Although both are ostensibly Portuguese, Beira is to Lorenço Marquez what the cleanest street of Greenwich Village, of New York City, is to "Hell's Kitchen" and the Chinese Quarter. The houses were well swept and cool, the shops were alluring, the streets were of clean shifting white sand, and the sidewalks, of gray cement, were as well kept as a Philadelphia doorstep. The most curious feature of Beira is her private tram-car system. These cars run on tiny tracks which rise out of the sand and extend from one end of the town to the other, with branch lines running into the yards of shops and private houses. The motive power for these cars is supplied by black boys who run behind and push them. Their trucks are about half as large as those on the hand-cars we see flying along our railroad tracks at home, worked by gangs of Italian laborers. On some of the trucks there is only a bench, others are shaded by awnings, and a few have carriage-lamps and cushioned seats and carpets. Each of them is a private conveyance; there is not one which can be hired by the public. When a merchant wishes to go down town to the port, his black boys carry his private tram-car from his garden and settle it on the rails, the merchant seats himself, and the boys push him and his baby-carriage to whatever part of the city he wishes to go. When his wife is out shopping and stops at a store the boys lift her car into the sand in order to make a clear track for any other car which may be coming behind them. One would naturally suppose that with the tracks and switch-boards and sidings already laid, the next step would be to place cars upon them for the convenience of the public, but this is not the case, and the tracks through the city are jealously reserved for the individuals who tax themselves five pounds a year to extend them and to keep them in repair. After the sleds on the island of Madeira these private street-cars of Beira struck me as being the most curious form of conveyance I had ever seen.
Beira was occupied by the Companhia de Mozambique with the idea of feeding Salisbury and Buluwayo from the north, and drawing away some of the trade which at that time was monopolized by the merchants of Cape Town and Durban. But the tse-tse fly belt lay between Beira on the coast and the boundary of the Chartered Company's possessions, and as neither oxen nor mules could live to cross this, it was necessary, in order to compete with the Cape-Buluwayo line, to build a railroad through the swamp and jungle. This road is now in operation. It is two hundred and twenty miles in length, and in the brief period of two months, during the long course of its progress through the marshes, two hundred of the men working on it died of fever. Some years ago, during a boundary dispute between the Portuguese and the Chartered Company, there was a clash between the Portuguese soldiers and the British South African police. How this was settled and the honor of the Portuguese officials satisfied, Kipling has told us in the delightful tale of "Judson and the Empire." It was off Beira that Judson fished up a buoy and anchored it over a sand-bar upon which he enticed the Portuguese gunboat. A week before we touched at Beira, the Portuguese had rearranged all the harbor buoys, but, after the casual habits of their race, had made no mention of the fact. The result was that the Kanzlar was hung up for twenty-four hours. We tried to comfort ourselves by thinking that we were undoubtedly occupying the same mud-bank which had been used by the strategic Judson to further the course of empire.
The Kanzlar could not cross the bar to go to Chinde, so the Adjutant, which belongs to the same line and which was created for these shallow waters, came to the Kanzlar, bringing Chinde with her. She brought every white man in the port, and those who could not come on board our ship remained contentedly on the Adjutant, clinging to her rail as she alternately sank below, or was tossed high above us. For three hours they smiled with satisfaction as though they felt that to have escaped from Chinde, for even that brief time, was sufficient recompense for a thorough ducking and the pains of sea-sickness. On the bridge of the Adjutant, in white duck and pith helmets, were the only respectable members of Chinde society. We knew that they were the only respectable members of Chinde society, because they told us so themselves. On her lower deck she brought two French explorers, fully dressed for the part as Tartarin of Tarascon might have dressed it in white havelocks and gaiters buckled up to the thighs, and clasping express rifles in new leather cases. From her engine-room came stokers from Egypt, and from her forward deck Malays in fresh white linen, Mohammedans in fez and turban, Portuguese officials, chiefly in decorations, Indian coolies and Zanzibari boys, very black and very beautiful, who wound and unwound long blue strips of cotton about their shoulders, or ears, or thighs as the heat, or the nature of the work of unloading required. Among these strange peoples were goats, as delicately colored as a meerschaum pipe, and with the horns of our red deer, strange white oxen with humps behind the shoulders, those that are exhibited in cages at home as "sacred buffalo," but which here are only patient beasts of burden, and gray monkeys, wildcats, snakes and crocodiles in cages addressed to "Hagenbeck, Hamburg." The freight was no less curious; assegais in bundles, horns stretching for three feet from point to point, or rising straight, like poignards; skins, ground-nuts, rubber, and heavy blocks of bees-wax wrapped in coarse brown sacking, and which in time will burn before the altars of Roman Catholic churches in Italy, Spain, and France.
People of the "Bromide" class who run across a friend from their own city in Paris will say, "Well, to think of meeting you here. How small the world is after all!" If they wish a better proof of how really small it is, how closely it is knit together, how the existence of one canning-house in Chicago supports twenty stores in Durban, they must follow, not the missionary or the explorers, not the punitive expeditions, but the man who wishes to buy, and the man who brings something to sell. Trade is what has brought the latitudes together and made the world the small department store it is, and forced one part of it to know and to depend upon the other.
The explorer tells you, "I was the first man to climb Kilamajaro." "I was the first to cut a path from the shores of Lake Nyassa into the Congo Basin." He even lectures about it, in front of a wet sheet in the light of a stereopticon, and because he has added some miles of territory to the known world, people buy his books and learned societies place initials after his distinguished name. But before his grandfather was born and long before he ever disturbed the waters of Nyassa the Phoenicians and Arabs and Portuguese and men of his own time and race had been there before him to buy ivory, both white and black, to exchange beads and brass bars and shaving-mirrors for the tusks of elephants, raw gold, copra, rubber, and the feathers of the ostrich. Statesmen will modestly say that a study of the map showed them how the course of empire must take its way into this or that undiscovered wilderness, and that in consequence, at their direction, armies marched to open these tracts which but for their prescience would have remained a desert. But that was not the real reason. A woman wanted three feathers to wear at Buckingham Palace, and to oblige her a few unimaginative traders, backed by a man who owned a tramp steamer, opened up the East Coast of Africa; another wanted a sealskin sacque, and fleets of ships faced floating ice under the Northern Lights. The bees of the Shire Riverway help to illuminate the cathedrals of St. Peters and Notre Dame, and back of Mozambique thousands of rubber-trees are being planted to-day, because, at the other end of the globe, people want tires for their automobiles; and because the fashionable ornament of the natives of Swaziland is, for no reason, no longer blue-glass beads, manufacturers of beads in Switzerland and Italy find themselves out of pocket by some thousands and thousands of pounds.
The traders who were making the world smaller by bringing cotton prints to Chinde to cover her black nakedness, her British Majesty's consul at that port, and the boy lieutenant of the paddle-wheeled gunboat which patrols the Zambesi River, were the gentlemen who informed me that they were the only respectable members of Chinde society. They came over the side with the gratitude of sailors whom the Kanzlar might have picked up from a desert island, where they had been marooned and left to rot. They observed the gilded glory of the Kanzlar smoking-room, its mirrors and marble-topped tables, with the satisfaction and awe of the California miner, who found all the elegance of civilization in the red plush of a Broadway omnibus. The boy-commander of the gunboat gazed at white women in the saloon with fascinated admiration.
"I have never," he declared, breathlessly, "I have never seen so many beautiful women in one place at the same time! I'd forgotten that there were so many white people in the world."
"If I stay on board this ship another minute I shall go home," said Her Majesty's consul, firmly. "You will have to hold me. It's coming over me--I feel it coming. I shall never have the strength to go back." He appealed to the sympathetic lieutenant. "Let's desert together," he begged.
In the swamps of the East Coast the white exiles lay aside the cloaks and masks of crowded cities. They do not try to conceal their feelings, their vices, or their longings. They talk to the first white stranger they meet of things which in the great cities a man conceals even from his room-mate, and men they would not care to know, and whom they would never meet in the fixed social pathways of civilization, they take to their hearts as friends. They are too few to be particular, they have no choice, and they ask no questions. It is enough that the white man, like themselves, is condemned to exile. They do not try to find solace in the thought that they are the "foretrekkers" of civilization, or take credit to themselves because they are the path-finders and the pioneers who bear the heat and burden of the day. They are sorry for themselves, because they know, more keenly than any outsider can know, how good is the life they have given up, and how hard is the one they follow, but they do not ask anyone else to be sorry. They would be very much surprised if they thought you saw in their struggle against native and Portuguese barbarism, fever, and savage tribes, a life of great good and value, full of self-renunciation, heroism, and self-sacrifice.
On the day they boarded the Kanzlar the pains of nostalgia were sweeping over the respectable members of Chinde society like waves of nausea, and tearing them. With a grim appreciation of their own condition, they smiled mockingly at the ladies on the quarter-deck, as you have seen prisoners grin through the bars; they were even boisterous and gay, but their gayety was that of children at recess, who know that when the bell rings they are going back to the desk.
A little English boy ran through the smoking-room, and they fell upon him, and quarrelled for the privilege of holding him on their knees. He was a shy, coquettish little English boy, and the boisterous, noisy men did not appeal to him. To them he meant home and family and the old nursery, papered with colored pictures from the Christmas Graphic. His stout, bare legs and tangled curls and sailor's hat, with "H.M.S. Mars" across it, meant all that was clean and sweet-smelling in their past lives.
"I'll arrest you for a deserter," said the lieutenant of the gunboat. "I'll make the consul send you back to the Mars." He held the boy on his knee fearfully, handling him as though he were some delicate and precious treasure that might break if he dropped it.
The agent of the Oceanic Development Company, Limited, whose business in life is to drive savage Angonis out of the jungle, where he hopes in time to see the busy haunts of trade, begged for the boy with eloquent pleading.
"You've had the kiddie long enough now," he urged. "Let me have him. Come here, Mr. Mars, and sit beside me, and I'll give you fizzy water--like lemon-squash, only nicer." He held out a wet bottle of champagne alluringly.
"No, he is coming to his consul," that youth declared. "He's coming to his consul for protection. You are not fit characters to associate with an innocent child. Come to me, little boy, and do not listen to those degraded persons." So the "innocent child" seated himself between the consul and the chartered trader, and they patted his fat calves and red curls and took his minute hands in their tanned fists, eying him hungrily, like two cannibals. But the little boy was quite unconscious and inconsiderate of their hunger, and, with the cruelty of children, pulled himself free and ran away.
"He was such a nice little kiddie," they said, apologetically, as though they felt they had been caught in some act of weakness.
"I haven't got a card with me; I haven't needed one for two years," said the lieutenant, genially. "But fancy your knowing Sparks! He has the next station to mine; I'm at one end of the Shire River and he's at the other; he patrols from Fort Johnson up to the top of the lake. I suppose you've heard him play the banjo, haven't you? That's where we hit it off--we're both terribly keen about the banjo. I suppose if it wasn't for my banjo, I'd go quite off my head down here. I know Sparks would. You see, I have these chaps at Chinde to talk to, and up at Tete there's the Portuguese governor, but Sparks has only six white men scattered along Nyassa for three hundred miles."
I had heard of Sparks and the six white men. They grew so lonely that they agreed to meet once a month at some central station and spend the night together, and they invited Sparks to attend the second meeting. But when he arrived he found that they had organized a morphine club, and the only six white men on Lake Nyassa were sitting around a table with their sleeves rolled up, giving themselves injections. Sparks told them it was a "disgusting practice," and put back to his gunboat. I recalled the story to the lieutenant, and he laughed mournfully.
"Yes," he said; "and what's worse is that we're here for two years more, with all this fighting going on at the Cape and in China. Still, we have our banjos, and the papers are only six weeks old, and the steamer stops once every month."
Fortunately there were many bags of bees-wax to come over the side, so we had time in which to give the exiles the news of the outside world, and they told us of their present and past lives: of how one as an American filibuster had furnished coal to the Chinese Navy; how another had sold "ready to wear" clothes in a New York department store, and another had been attaché at Madrid, and another in charge of the forward guns of a great battle-ship. We exchanged addresses and agreed upon the restaurant where we would meet two years hence to celebrate their freedom, and we emptied many bottles of iced-beer, and the fact that it was iced seemed to affect the exiles more than the fact that it was beer.
But at last the ship's whistle blew with raucous persistence. It was final and heartless. It rang down the curtain on the mirage which once a month comes to mock Chinde with memories of English villages, of well-kept lawns melting into the Thames, of London asphalt and flashing hansoms. With a jangling of bells in the engine-room the mirage disappeared, and in five minutes to the exiles of Chinde the Kanzlar became a gray tub with a pennant of smoke on the horizon line.
I have known some men for many years, smoked and talked with them until improper hours of the morning, known them well enough to borrow their money, even their razors, and parted from them with never a pang. But when our ship abandoned those boys to the unclean land behind them, I could see them only in a blurred and misty group. We raised our hats to them and tried to cheer, but it was more of a salute than a cheer. I had never seen them before, I shall never meet them again--we had just burned signals as our ships passed in the night--and yet, I must always consider among the friends I have lost, those white-clad youths who are making the ways straight for others through the dripping jungles of the Zambesi, "the only respectable members of Chinde Society."[A]
[Footnote A: NOTE--I did not lose the white-clad youths. The lieutenant now is the commander of a cruiser, and the consul, a consul-general; and they write me that the editor of the Chinde newspaper, on his editorial page, has complained that he, also, should be included among the respectable members of Chinde Society. He claims his absence at Tete, at the time of the visit of the Kanzlar, alone prevented his social position being publicly recognized. That justice may be done, he, now, is officially, though tardily, created a member of Chinde's respectable society. R.H.D.]
The profession of the slave-trader, unless it be that of his contemporary, the pirate preying under his black flag, is the one which holds you with the most grewsome and fascinating interest. Its inhumanity, its legends of predatory expeditions into unknown jungles of Africa, the long return marches to the Coast, the captured blacks who fall dead in the trail, the dead pulling down with their chains those who still live, the stifling holds of the slave-ships, the swift flights before pursuing ships-of-war, the casting away, when too closely chased, of the ship's cargo, and the sharks that followed, all of these come back to one as he walks the shore-wall of Mozambique. From there he sees the slave-dhows in the harbor, the jungles on the mainland through which the slaves came by the thousands, and still come one by one, and the ancient palaces of the Portuguese governors, dead now some hundreds of years, to whom this trade in human agony brought great wealth, and no loss of honor.
Mozambique in the days of her glory was, with Zanzibar, the great slave-market of East Africa, and the Portuguese and the Arabs who fattened on this traffic built themselves great houses there, and a fortress capable, in the event of a siege, of holding the garrison and all the inhabitants as well. To-day the slave-trade brings to those who follow it more of adventure than of financial profit, but the houses and the official palaces and the fortress still remain, and they are, in color, indescribably beautiful. Blue and pink and red and light yellow are spread over their high walls, and have been so washed and chastened by the rain and sun, that the whole city has taken on the faint, soft tints of a once brilliant water-color. The streets themselves are unpeopled, empty and strangely silent. Their silence is as impressive as their beauty. In the heat of the day, which is from sunrise to past sunset, you see no one, you hear no footfall, no voices, no rumble of wheels or stamp of horses' hoofs. The bare feet of the native, who is the only human being who dares to move abroad, makes no sound, and in Mozambique there are no carriages and no horses. Two bullock-carts, which collect scraps and refuse from the white staring streets, are the only carts in the city, and with the exception of a dozen 'rikshas are the only wheeled vehicles the inhabitants have seen.
I have never visited a city which so impressed one with the fact that, in appearance, it had remained just as it was four hundred years before. There is no decay, no ruins, no sign of disuse; it is, on the contrary, clean and brilliantly beautiful in color, with dancing blue waters all about it, and with enormous palms moving above the towering white walls and red tiled roofs, but it is a city of the dead. The open-work iron doors, with locks as large as letter-boxes, are closed, the wooden window-shutters are barred, and the wares in the shops are hidden from the sidewalk by heavy curtains. There is a park filled with curious trees and with flowers of gorgeous color, but the park is as deserted as a cemetery; along the principal streets stretch mosaic pavements formed of great blocks of white and black stone, they look like elongated checker-boards, but no one walks upon them, and though there are palaces painted blue, and government buildings in Pompeiian red, and churches in chaste gray and white, there are no sentries to guard the palaces, nor no black-robed priests enter or leave the churches. They are like the palaces of a theatre, set on an empty stage, and waiting for the actors. It will be a long time before the actors come to Mozambique. It is, and will remain, a city of the fifteenth century. It is now only a relic of a cruel and barbarous period, when the Portuguese governors, the "gentlemen adventurers," and the Arab slave-dealers, under its blue skies, and hidden within its barred and painted walls, led lives of magnificent debauchery, when the tusks of ivory were piled high along its water-front, and the dhows at anchor reeked with slaves, and when in the market-place, where the natives now sit bargaining over a bunch of bananas or a basket of dried fish, their forefathers were themselves bought and sold.
In the five hundred years in which he has claimed the shore line of East Africa from south of Lorenço Marquez to north of Mozambique, and many hundreds of miles inland, the Portuguese has been the dog in the manger among nations. In all that time he has done nothing to help the land or the people whom he pretends to protect, and he keeps those who would improve both from gaining any hold or influence over either. It is doubtful if his occupation of the East Coast can endure much longer. The English and the Germans now surround him on every side. Even handicapped as they are by the lack of the seaports which he enjoys, they have forced their way into the country which lies beyond his and which bounds his on every side. They have opened up this country with little railroads, with lonely lengths of telegraph wires, and with their launches and gunboats they have joined, by means of the Zambesi and Chinde Rivers, new territories to the great Indian Ocean. His strip of land, which bars them from the sea, is still unsettled and unsafe, its wealth undeveloped, its people untamed. He sits at his café at the coast and collects custom-dues and sells stamped paper. For fear of the native he dares not march five miles beyond his sea-port town, and the white men who venture inland for purposes of trade or to cultivate plantations do so at their own risk, he can promise them no protection.
The land back of Mozambique is divided into "holdings," and the rent of each holding is based upon the number of native huts it contains. The tax per hut is one pound a year, and these holdings are leased to any Portuguese who promises to pay the combined taxes of all the huts. He also engages to cut new roads, to keep those already made in repair, and to furnish a sufficient number of police to maintain order. The lessees of these holdings have given rise to many and terrible scandals. In the majority of cases, the lessee, once out of reach of all authority and of public opinion, and wielding the power of life and death, becomes a tyrant and task-master over his district, taxing the natives to five and ten times the amount which each is supposed to furnish, and treating them virtually as his bondsmen. Up along the Shire River, the lessees punish the blacks by hanging them from a tree by their ankles and beating their bare backs with rhinoceros hide, until, as it has been described to me by a reputable English resident, the blood runs in a stream over the negro's shoulders, and forms a pool beneath his eyes.
You hear of no legitimate enterprise fostered by these lessees, of no development of natural resources, but, instead, you are told tales of sickening cruelty, and you can read in the consular reports others quite as true; records of heartless treatment of natives, of neglect of great resources, and of hurried snatching at the year's crop and a return to the Coast, with nothing to show of sustained effort or steady development. The incompetence of Portugal cannot endure. Now that England has taken the Transvaal from the Boer, she will find the seaport of Lorenço Marquez too necessary to her interests to much longer leave it in the itching palms of the Portuguese officials. Beira she also needs to feed Rhodesia, and the Zambesi and Chinde Rivers to supply the British Central African Company. Farther north, the Germans will find that if they mean to make German Central Africa pay, they must control the seaboard. It seems inevitable that, between the two great empires, the little kingdom of Portugal will be crowded out, and having failed to benefit either herself or anyone else on the East Coast, she will withdraw from it, in favor of those who are fitter to survive her.
There is no more interesting contrast along the coast of East Africa than that presented by the colonies of England, Germany, and Portugal. Of these three, the colonies of the Englishmen are, as one expects to find them, the healthiest, the busiest, and the most prosperous. They thrive under your very eyes; you feel that they were established where they are, not by accident, not to gratify a national vanity or a ruler's ambition, but with foresight and with knowledge, and with the determination to make money; and that they will increase and flourish because they are situated where the natives and settlers have something to sell, and where the men can bring, in return, something the natives and colonials wish to buy. Port Elizabeth, Durban, East London, and Zanzibar belong to this prosperous class, which gives good reason for the faith of those who founded them.
On the other hand, as opposed to these, there are the settlements of the Portuguese, rotten and corrupt, and the German settlements of Dar Es Salaam and Tanga which have still to prove their right to exist. Outwardly, to the eye, they are model settlements. Dar Es Salaam, in particular, is a beautiful and perfectly appointed colonial town. In the care in which it is laid out, in the excellence of its sanitary arrangements, in its cleanliness, and in the magnificence of its innumerable official residences, and in their sensible adaptability to the needs of the climate, one might be deceived into believing that Dar Es Salaam is the beautiful gateway of a thriving and busy colony. But there are no ramparts of merchandise along her wharves, no bulwarks of strangely scented bales blocking her water-front; no lighters push hurriedly from the shore to meet the ship, although she is a German ship, or to receive her cargo of articles "made in Germany." On the contrary, her freight is unloaded at the English ports, and taken on at English ports. And the German traders who send their merchandise to Hamburg in her hold come over the side at Zanzibar, at Durban, and at Aden, where the English merchants find in them fierce competitors. There is nothing which goes so far to prove the falsity of the saying that "trade follows the flag" as do these model German colonies with their barracks, governor's palace, officers' clubs, public pleasure parks, and with no trade; and the English colonies, where the German merchants remain, and where, under the English flag, they grow steadily rich. The German Emperor, believing that colonies are a source of strength to an empire, rather than the weakness that they are, has raised the German flag in Central East Africa, but the ships of the German East African Company, subsidized by him, carry their merchandize to the English ports, and his German subjects remain where they can make the most money. They do not move to those ports where the flag of their country would wave over them.
Dar Es Salaam, although it lacks the one thing needful to make it a model settlement, possesses all the other things which are needful, and many which are pure luxuries. Its residences, as I have said, have been built after the most approved scientific principles of ventilation and sanitation. In no tropical country have I seen buildings so admirably adapted to the heat and climatic changes and at the same time more in keeping with the surrounding scenery. They are handsome, cool-looking, white and clean, with broad verandas, high walls, and false roofs under which currents of air are lured in spite of themselves. The residences are set back along the high bank which faces the bay. In front of them is a public promenade, newly planted shade-trees arch over it, and royal palms reach up to it from the very waters of the harbor. At one end of this semicircle are the barracks of the Soudanese soldiers, and at the other is the official palace of the governor. Everything in the settlement is new, and everything is built on the scale of a city, and with the idea of accommodating a great number of people. Hotels and cafés, better than any one finds in the older settlements along the coast, are arranged on the water-front, and there is a church capable of seating the entire white population at one time. If the place is to grow, it can do so only through trade, and when trade really comes all these palaces and cafés and barracks which occupy the entire water-front will have to be pushed back to make way for warehouses and custom-house sheds. At present it is populated only by officials, and, I believe, twelve white women.
You feel that it is an experiment, that it has been sent out like a box of children's building blocks, and set up carefully on this beautiful harbor. All that Dar Es Salaam needs now is trade and emigrants. At present it is a show place, and might be exhibited at a world's fair as an example of a model village.
In writing of Zanzibar I am embarrassed by the knowledge that I am not an unprejudiced witness. I fell in love with Zanzibar at first sight, and the more I saw of it the more I wanted to take my luggage out of the ship's hold and cable to my friends to try and have me made Vice-Consul to Zanzibar through all succeeding administrations.
Zanzibar runs back abruptly from a white beach in a succession of high white walls. It glistens and glares, and dazzles you; the sand at your feet is white, the city itself is white, the robes of the people are white. It has no public landing-pier. Your rowboat is run ashore on a white shelving beach, and you face an impenetrable mass of white walls. The blue waters are behind you, the lofty fortress-like façade before you, and a strip of white sand is at your feet.
And while you are wondering where this hidden city may be, a kind resident takes you by the hand and pilots you through a narrow crack in the rampart, along a twisting fissure between white-washed walls where the sun cannot reach, past great black doorways of carved oak, and out suddenly into the light and laughter and roar of Zanzibar.
In the narrow streets are all the colors of the Orient, gorgeous, unshaded, and violent; cobalt blue, greens, and reds on framework, windows, and doorways; red and yellow in the awnings and curtains of the bazaars, and orange and black, red and white, yellow, dark blue, and purple, in the long shawls of the women. It is the busiest, and the brightest and richest in color of all the ports along the East African coast. Were it not for its narrow streets and its towering walls it would be a place of perpetual sunshine. Everybody is either actively busy, or contentedly idle. It is all movement, noise, and glitter, everyone is telling everyone else to make way before him; the Indian merchants beseech you from the open bazaars; their children, swathed in gorgeous silks and hung with jewels and bangles, stumble under your feet, the Sultan's troops assail you with fife and drum, and the black women, wrapped below their bare shoulders in the colors of the butterfly, and with teeth and brows dyed purple, crowd you to the wall. Outside the city there are long and wonderful roads between groves of the bulky mango-tree of richest darkest green and the bending palm, shading deserted palaces of former Sultans, temples of the Indian worshippers, native huts, and the white-walled country residences and curtained verandas of the white exiles. It is absurd to write them down as exiles, for it is a Mohammedan Paradise to which they have been exiled.
The exiles themselves will tell you that the reason you think Zanzibar is a paradise, is because you have your steamer ticket in your pocket. But that retort shows their lack of imagination, and a vast ingratitude to those who have preceded them. For the charm of Zanzibar lies in the fact that while the white men have made it healthy and clean, have given it good roads, good laws, protection for the slaves, quick punishment for the slave-dealers, and a firm government under a benign and gentle Sultan, they have done all of this without destroying one flash of its local color, or one throb of its barbaric life, which is the showy, sunshiny, and sumptuous life of the Far East. The good things of civilization are there, but they are unobtrusive, and the evils of civilization appear not at all, the native does not wear a derby hat with a kimona, as he does in Japan, nor offer you souvenirs of Zanzibar manufactured in Birmingham; Reuter's telegrams at the club and occasional steamers alone connect his white masters with the outer world, and so infrequent is the visiting stranger that the local phrase-book for those who wish to converse in the native tongue is compiled chiefly for the convenience of midshipmen when searching a slave-dhow.
Zanzibar is an "Arabian Nights" city, a comic-opera capital, a most difficult city to take seriously. There is not a street, or any house in any street, that does not suggest in its architecture and decoration the untrammelled fancy of the scenic artist. You feel sure that the latticed balconies are canvas, that the white adobe walls are supported from behind by braces, that the sunshine is a carbon light, that the chorus of boatmen who hail you on landing will reappear immediately costumed as the Sultan's body-guard, that the women bearing water-jars on their shoulders will come on in the next scene as slaves of the harem, and that the national anthem will prove to be Sousa's Typical Tune of Zanzibar.
Several hundred years ago the Sultans of Zanzibar grew powerful and wealthy through exporting slaves and ivory from the mainland. These were not two separate industries, but one was developed by the other and was dependent upon it. The procedure was brutally simple. A slave-trader, having first paid his tribute to the Sultan, crossed to the mainland, and marching into the interior made his bargain with one of the local chiefs for so much ivory, and for so many men to carry it down to the coast. Without some such means of transport there could have been no bargain, so the chief who was anxious to sell would select a village which had not paid him the taxes due him, and bid the trader help himself to what men he found there. Then would follow a hideous night attack, a massacre of women and children, and the taking prisoners of all able-bodied males. These men, chained together in long lines, and each bearing a heavy tooth of ivory upon his shoulder, would be whipped down to the coast. It was only when they had carried the ivory there, and their work was finished, that the idea presented itself of selling them as well as the ivory. Later, these bearers became of equal value with the ivory, and the raiding of native villages and the capture of men and women to be sold into slavery developed into a great industry. The industry continues fitfully to-day, but it is carried on under great difficulties, and at a risk of heavy punishments. What is called "domestic slavery" is recognized on the island of Zanzibar, the vast clove plantations which lie back of the port employing many hundreds of these domestic slaves. It is not to free these from their slight bondage that the efforts of those who are trying to suppress the slave-trade is to-day directed, but to prevent others from being added to their number. What slave-trading there is at present is by Arabs and Indians. They convey the slaves in dhows from the mainland to Madagascar, Arabia, or southern Persia, and to the Island of Pemba, which lies north of Zanzibar, and only fifteen miles from the mainland. If a slave can be brought this short distance in safety he can be sold for five hundred dollars; on the mainland he is not worth more than fifteen dollars. The channels, and the mouths of rivers, and the little bays opening from the Island of Pemba are patrolled more or less regularly by British gunboats, and junior officers in charge of a cutter and a crew of half a dozen men, are detached from these for a few months at a time on "boat service." It seems to be an unprofitable pursuit, for one officer told me that during his month of boat service he had boarded and searched three hundred dhows, which is an average of ten a day, and found slaves on only one of them. But as, on this occasion, he rescued four slaves, and the slavers, moreover, showed fight, and wounded him and two of his boat's crew, he was more than satisfied.
The trade in ivory, which has none of these restrictions upon it, still flourishes, and the cool, dark warerooms of Zanzibar are stored high with it. In a corner of one little cellar they showed us twenty-five thousand dollars worth of these tusks piled up as carelessly as though they were logs in a wood-shed. One of the most curious sights in Zanzibar is a line of Zanzibari boys, each balancing a great tusk on his shoulder, worth from five hundred to two thousand dollars, and which is unprotected except for a piece of coarse sacking.
The largest exporters of ivory in the world are at Zanzibar, and though probably few people know it, the firm which carries on this business belongs to New York City, and has been in the ivory trade with India and Africa from as far back as the fifties. In their house at Zanzibar they have entertained every distinguished African explorer, and the stories its walls have heard of native wars, pirate dhows, slave-dealers, the English occupation, and terrible marches through the jungles of the Congo, would make valuable and picturesque history. The firm has always held a semi-official position, for the reason that the United States Consul at Zanzibar, who should speak at least Swahili and Portuguese, is invariably chosen for the post from a drug-store in Yankton, Dakota, or a post-office in Canton, Ohio. Consequently, on arriving at Zanzibar he becomes homesick, and his first official act is to cable his resignation, and the State Department instructs whoever happens to be general manager of the ivory house to perform the duties of acting-consul. So, the ivory house has nearly always held the eagle of the consulate over its doorway. The manager of the ivory house, who at the time of our visit was also consul, is Harris Robbins Childs. Mr. Childs is well known in New York City, is a member of many clubs there, and speaks at least five languages. He understands the native tongue of Zanzibar so well that when the Prime Minister of the Sultan took us to the palace to pay our respects, Childs talked the language so much better than did the Sultan's own Prime Minister that there was in consequence much joking and laughing. The Sultan then was a most dignified, intelligent, and charming old gentleman. He was popular both with his own people, who loved him with a religious fervor, and with the English, who unobtrusively conducted his affairs.
There have been sultans who have acted less wisely than does Hamud bin Muhamad bin Said. A few years ago one of these, Said Khaled, defied the British Empire as represented by several gunboats, and dared them to fire on his ship of war, a tramp steamer which he had converted into a royal yacht. The gunboats were anchored about two hundred yards from the palace, which stands at the water's edge, and at the time agreed upon, they sank the Sultan's ship of war in the short space of three minutes, and in a brief bombardment destroyed the greater part of his palace. The ship of war still rests where she sank, and her topmasts peer above the water only three hundred yards distant from the windows of the new palace. They serve as a constant warning to all future sultans.
The new palace is of somewhat too modern architecture, and is not nearly as dignified as are the massive white walls of the native houses which surround it. But within it is a fairy palace, hung with silk draperies, tapestries, and hand-painted curtains; the floors are covered with magnificent rugs from Persia and India, and the reception-room is crowded with treasures of ebony, ivory, lacquer work, and gold and silver. There were two thrones made of silver dragons, with many scales, and studded with jewels. The Sultan did not seem to mind our openly admiring his treasures, and his attendants, who stood about him in gorgeous-colored silks heavy with gold embroideries, were evidently pleased with the deep impression they made upon the visitors. The Sultan was very gentle and courteous and human, especially in the pleasure he took over his son and heir, who then was at school in England, and who, on the death of his father, succeeded him. He seemed very much gratified when we suggested that there was no better training-place for a boy than an English public school; as Americans, he thought our opinion must be unprejudiced. Before he sent us away, he gave Childs, and each of us, a photograph of himself, one of which is reproduced in this book.
Our next port was the German settlement of Tanga. We arrived there just as a blood-red sun was setting behind great and gloomy mountains. The place itself was bathed in damp hot vapors, and surrounded even to the water's edge by a steaming jungle. It was more like what we expected Africa to be than was any other place we had visited, and the proper touch of local color was supplied by a trader, who gave as his reason for leaving us so early in the evening that he needed sleep, as on the night before at his camp three lions had kept him awake until morning.
The bubonic plague prevented our landing at other ports. We saw them only through field-glasses from the ship's side, so that there is, in consequence, much that I cannot write of the East Coast of Africa. But the trip, which allows one merely to nibble at the Coast, is worth taking again when the bubonic plague has passed away. It was certainly worth taking once. If I have failed to make that apparent, the fault lies with the writer. It is certainly not the fault of the East Coast, not the fault of the Indian Ocean, that "sets and smiles, so soft, so bright, so blooming blue," or of the exiles and "remittance men," or of the engineers who are building the railroad from Cape Town to Cairo, or of any lack of interest which the East Coast presents in its problem of trade, of conquest, and of, among nations, the survival of the fittest.
* * * * * * * * * * * *