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THE MITIMONI RAIDERS.
On the Portuguese side of village. In fact, if ever the the Rovuma River, some eighty old adage “Put a beggar on miles east of Lake Nyasa, horseback ” was exemplified stands-or rather stood—the anywhere in this world, it village of Mitimoni.
was in the conduct of those In its day it had been quite three native police officials at an important village. For- the village of Mitimoni. merly it was the seat of the The groans of the oppresslocal government, for the Por- ed population ascended unto tuguese commandant had his heaven, but—and this was more house there, from which he important—they did not penedispensed justice to the sur trate through the two hundred rounding district. In our day, miles of jungle that separated however, Mitimoni had fallen Mitimoni from the nearest Porfrom this high estate, and tuguese administrator. The when we first knew it, was police watched that. nothing more than a rather Many times my gorge has large Yao village, presided over risen at the tales that drifted by a native police “capitao” through the bush to our camp, and two constables.
but, of course, we could do These three gentlemen ruled nothing. We had not the ear with a rod of iron. They took of the Portuguese governor the first-fruits of all harvests, any more than the native had. especially of the rice crop. We could neither of us speak They commandeered the pick Portuguese—and the governor of the young girls. They levied could speak no language but toll on the river ford in the Portuguese-80 that
we had dry weather, and extracted an to converse with him through exorbitant fee for the canoe his native interpreter, we speakpassage in the wet season. They ing Yao and the native transinaugurated a system of free lating us into Portuguese. labour for themselves and their Naturally, the interpreter (who, households, and collected a of course, drew large sums of private tax, in addition to the backsheesh from the police) regular Government poll tax, told the governor anything but from every one in the district. what we were complaining of. Furthermore, they systematic. Then, turning to us, he would ally robbed the stranger within naïvely promise that the the gate, and charged lodgings matter would be looked into !” at a very high figure to every This was as far as we ever got, traveller passing through the but we bided our time.
Our chance came when these hippo shooting. With an ere three policemen stopped one of to our future comfort we had our boys, and through some made it a rule that wherever misunderstanding as to where we stopped for a night, the he came from, severely thrashed Angoni people must build us a him prior to robbing him of his house. In later days these little store of money, and of houses were remarkably useful our letters which he was bring- as dâk-bungalows, for use when ing to the camp. Now al- we were out after elephant. though we could not interfere Now during the dry season, between the villagers and the whole villages would flock to police, we most certainly could the Rovuma to catch fish. between our own boys and the Often they stayed for a month police, and as soon as ever I or more, and in time we began could get away, I set off with to realise that these hordes of a small following—including the natives were using our houses maltreated boy-for the village as a sort of home from home. of Mitimoni. It lay rather In this way the places were over one hundred miles west becoming rapidly uninhabitable of our camp, but the going was -from a European point of fairly easy, and the journey was view—so we took steps to accomplished in five days. rectify matters. Boys were
The police capitao was most sent out from our camp with obliging, and offered me the instructions to throw out any choice of half the houses in natives who might be found the village to sleep in. As a occupying the Bwanas' houses, matter of fact, I elected to and afterwards to rebuild the sleep in my own tents, and houses and leave everything there, early next morning, I habitable. held my court. Having heard This was done, and a good the evidence for and against many sore heads were conmy boy, I found a verdict tracted in the doing of it. Imagainst the police, and amid agine, then, my surprise when the terrified silence of the vil- my partner shortly afterwards lagers, administered the thrash- returned from a shoot and ining of his life to Police Capitao formed me that twenty-five Gombameti. I also gave a natives had not only taken smaller dose to the two con- possession of two of our houses stables by way of thoroughly but were actually digging their impressing upon them that the gardens round them ! This person of the white man and was the limit, and we were all his household were sacrosanct still debating the best way of to police oppression.
once and for all putting a stop To appreciate what followed to this kind of thing, when it is necessary to go back a word was brought in that a little to the previous year, when native had been caught by a we had been doing a lot of lion.
Selimani, our capitao, in- strong line about the dogs," vestigated the business, and remarked R. We might do strangely enough it turned out worse than broadcast that to be one of the boys who had yarn.” trespassed on our property. The more we thought about
“Well, he's paid the price, it the better we liked the idea, Selimani,” observed R. as the and eventually we decided to capitao related the tragedy to carry it out. Up and down us. “He should not have the countryside went the word slept in the Bwana's house, that the Bwanas' “ dogs then the lion would not have (lions) had been warned to caught him."
guard all their property, and to “No, Bwana,” replied Seli- eat anybody whom they found mani slowly, but I noticed that living in the Bwanas' houses. he looked very thoughtfully The effect of this was highly from one to the other of us. satisfactory, and we had no
“What's he got into his further cause of complaint. head now q” asked R. as Seli To return now to the Mitimani went out. We could moni affair. always distinguish his“ great Having executed justice on idea ” look by this time. the police I arranged to leave
However, we thought no the next day, but before going more about it until later in I called together the whole the evening, when we hap- village, including the police, pened to be returning through and delivered a short but powerthe compound from an in- ful homily on the future penspection of our gardens. Seli- alties attached to the beating mani was sitting in the centre of any of the Bwanas' boys. of a circle of natives who were I was rather good at this sort listening open-mouthed to his of thing, and made a vast immonologue. We paused in the pression. Feeling my eloquence shelter of a hut and listened. beginning to fade before I had
and you see,” we properly rounded off the period, heard Selimani proclaiming in I searched in my mind for a his sonorous accents, “the suitable climax. The sight of lions caught him because he a mangy dog in the village was in the Bwana's house. gave me the idea. Looking These are true words, because the capitao straight in the eye, the Bwana told me so himself. I said, as impressively as I Lions are the same as dogs couldto the white man. This I
and as for you, Gomknow-"and away he started bamuti. Be careful ! If I on some long-winded story to hear anything more of you I illustrate his point.
shall send two of my 'dogs' We moved on, smiling, and over to fetch you to my camp!” went up to our house.
Thoroughly frightened, for That seems to me to be a of course he understood the
allusion, Gombameti threw his the other. I could see somearms in front of his eyes to thing was wrong. ward off the threatened evil, Bring the boys in, Seliand shrank back against the mani,” said R., and presently tent. For a moment I fixed we heard them approaching. him with what I imagined Come near,” I answered looked like an “evil eye," and to their ceremonious inquiry, then, in silence, departed thor- and in they came—six sweatoughly satisfied that I had smeared natives, each hiding “put the wind up ” Mitimoni. his eyes behind his hands. Indeed, from what I gathered "What is it ? What do on my way back to camp, my you here so far from your
was called blessed by homes ? I began. the delighted villagers, though “Oh, Great One, we have in the nostrils of the police it come for the bones of Capitao very properly stank.
Gombameti," quavered the The sequel to the affair was spokesman. not long delayed.
What! Is he dead, then ! Eleven days after my return I asked incredulously. we were sitting at dinner in “You know it,” he answered Siwezi Camp, when the cook- in a low voice. “ You sent boy rushed into the room to your dogs for him even as you inform us that six boys had said.” arrived from Mitimoni.
Good Lord! You mean a “Oh!” said I. What do lion got him? they want?
“Two, oh, Great One! Two The cook looked down awk- you said would come—and tuo wardly at his feet and said came.” nothing.
But Gombameti isn't here," “Didn't you hear” roared explained R. “We haven't R. in a voice of thunder. (Severe got him-or his bones!” toothache had very consider “The Great Ones but jest," ably shortened his already answered the old man solemnly. short enough temper.) But at “But I tell you I know that moment Selimani ran in. nothing about Gombameti. He He had already been to bed, is not here. This is foolish and his clothes showed signs talk. I have no dogs. White of a very hasty toilet.
men don't do things like that. “Bwana, they've come for Lions eat white men the same him," he burst out, his eyes as black men," I protested. rolling wildly in the lamplight. “Two dogs would be sent,
“Who's come for who ?” I the Great One said, and two asked petulantly.
dogs were sent," intoned the Gombameti,” he mouthed. old man. “This we know, and The boys have come for him.” So we have come for the bones
I looked from Selimani to that we may bury them, or where the cook stood, un- else the spirit of Gombameti easily rubbing one foot against will haunt the village."
We saw it was useless to my assurance that I would not argue further. The unfortunate again send my dogs to Mitimoni. words I had spoken had, by As events turned out, I was an extraordinary coincidence, very wide of the mark in this come true. The fact that two prophecy, for hardly a week lions had caught the man only had passed before more mesgave additional colour to the sengers were back with the prophecy, and now nothing on doleful news that two more earth would ever convince the people had been taken-one natives that I had not sent man and one woman. my “dogs ” to fetch the ill- commended these people to fated capitao, as I said I strengthen their doors, and would. Finally, I spoke again lock up early in the evening to the six men.
before the sun went down. * Very well! To-night you Beyond that, I told them, I shall sleep in my compound, could do nothing. and to-morrow we will speak From time to time word further of these things; and came down that more boys had for heaven's sake,” I added been taken, and then one day irritably, “do take your hands a harassed party came into from your eyes.”
camp to report the death of Gombameti saw-Gomba one of the constables. I gathmeti died,” observed the old ered that the remaining villagers man in a sepulchral voice, as thought that this man's death he turned and went out through would appease me, and that I the door.
would now hold off the dogs It
very sad-faced altogether. They had apparparty that crept away from ently formed the idea that I our camp the following day. hated the police, and had thereWe had had long talks through- fore sent my dogs to catch out the morning, but had come them. They explained away no nearer towards convincing the other outrages by saying the natives of the error of their that my dogs did not “know belief than we had been able Mitimoni, and were not sure to the previous night.
in which house the police During one lull in the con lived. versation my partner went out We thought things over, and to the kitchen and came back decided that it was about with the leg bones of a water time we went up to Mitimoni buck, which he solemnly handed to see exactly what was happento the committee. I roared ing there. That some particuwith laughter, but it was imme- larly bad man-eater was hangdiately obvious that the jest ing round the village seemed only heightened their belief tolerably certain, and it looked that we were deliberately play- as though he had his lioness ing with them. Anyway, in with him. the end they went back to Accordingly we set off, and their village, carrying with them in due course reached the vil