William Allen's Narrative of the 1841 Niger expedition
William Allen's Narrative of the 1841 Niger expedition

Royal Navy1841 Niger expeditionBookChapter V ◄► Chapter VII



The Grain Coast - Krumen and Fishmen, or Grébus - Peculiar characteristics - Mode of government - Religious observances - Diseases - Music - Curious tradition - Good and evil spirits - Marocho, or Kru Christmas - Marriages - Observances on the death of individuals - Ceremony of drinking "Sassa water" - Aggri beads found among the Krus - Supposed communication with the ancient Egyptians - Kru fondness for finery - No slaves exported from the Kru country - Animosities of Krus and Grébus - Emigration recommended - Sail from Cape Palmas - Dangerous situation of the 'Wilberforce ' - Bottomless pit - Bobsum Accra - Whale-boat swamped in landing - Sudden death of a liberated African - Several cases of fever - Fatal case - Arrival at Cape Coast - Governor M'Lean's desire to forward the views of the expedition - Appearance of Cape Coast - Governor M'Lean's policy - Fanti aversion to labour - Difficulty of improving the condition of the natives - The Governor visits the 'Wilberforce' - Amusing scene - Surf - Town of Cape Coast - Huts - Weaver-birds and their pensile nests - Mr. Freeman's missionary labours among the Fantis - Searching for gold dust.

18th. Proceeding slowly towards Cape Coast. - As we have already passed the Grain Coast, an interesting locality, connected with the little-known but most deserving Krumen, it is as well to bring them here under consideration. Premising that the general and proper native names are Grébus, or Fishmen, and Krumen, the appellation of the latter not being derived from their forming part of the crew of a ship, as erroneously stated by some authors, but in reality from the part of the coast whence they were first, employed, viz., Nanna Kru and Settra Kru. Still there can be no doubt, on comparing the physical characters and language of both, that they are certainly one and the same race of people, however much the present animosities existing between them may induce each to declare to the contrary. Under the two heads of Grébus or Fishmen, and Krumen, may be classed the inhabitants of the small section of West Africa, comprised between 6° and 10° west longitude, and 4° 25' and 5° 45' north latitude. Of the two tribes, the Fishmen, or Grébus, are somewhat the more numerous: they inhabit the following localities of the space just referred to - Cape Palmas, Grand Sesters, Fishtown, Garraway, Log Town, Carvallhi, Po River, Tahou; while the proper Krumen possess Settra Kru, Krubar, Nanna Kru, King William's Town, and Piccaniny Sesters.

The Fishmen, as their name implies, are mostly accustomed to canoe life; and from their sitting so much in their narrow confined barks, the skin over the outer ankle becomes thickened in many cases, and this they refer to as a distinct and inherited mark, which of course is absurd, as it only obtains among a few of them who have been much occupied on the water. That they are not inappropriately named, is evident from the dexterity they have acquired in their favourite element, wherein they seem to be more at home than on "terra firma."

The Krumen attend more to agriculture, and trust principally to the growth of rice and Indian corn.

The history, and domestic and religious customs, are the same in both. Each tribe has a King or Bullioh, as well as a grand "palaver" house. That for the Kru country is held at Krubar; the Bullioh residing at Nanna Kru, while Grand Sesters is the head-quarters of the Grébus, or Fishmen's King, and the grand " palaver" house.

Each separate town has a chief and little "palaver" house, where minor disputes are settled; but every two or three years, a grand "palaver" is held, to which deputies are sent from the little "palaver" houses, and the more important matters of each town arranged by majority.

The food of these tribes is principally rice, palm oil, and fish. The Grébus live more on the latter, but they add plantains, the flesh of deer, beef, &c., occasionally, as it can be procured. Umbilical and scrotal hernia and enlargement of some of the conglomerate glands, dicchari, or a species of slow gangrene, by which they lose their toes or fingers, and ulcers, are the most important diseases; but during August - the middle of their rainy season and the most sickly month - dysentery, and fevers, remittent and intermittent, occur; the latter is the most fatal, though slowest. These they attribute to the bad thick water which at that time flows in all their rivers.

The music of these people is very simple; the subjoined is a specimen.


They accompany all their songs with the tom-tom, or, if afloat, by striking the paddle against the gunwale of the canoe or boat.

The traditional history of both tribes, Grebu and Kru, is identical; and, as well as their physical character and language, confirms the statement of their common origin.

They say their old men have a legend that a long time past their forefathers dwelt near high mountains which are many days' journey from the sea; that they were driven gradually from thence down to the coast by the Mandingo and Fulah Mahommedans, or as they themselves so well describe it, "Them fellows live behind we in bush. Make Allah, Allah! Allah Akbar every morning," alluding to the Mandingos and Fulahs, "they drive Kruboy and Grebu down to sea."

The religion among both is Paganism; but they believe in a Great God, whom they style "Nisrah," intermediate between whom and the priest, or Dhrrhiu, are the Buhs, or Gregres - various rude idols of wood and clay.

They say they cannot see or know the Great God, or "Nisrah;" and, therefore, it is necessary to have some intercessory agents between them; and for this purpose are the Gregres, or Buhs.

They also worship evil spirits to propitiate them; and thus ward off the ills they consider them capable of inflicting. The Grébus are more under the influence of this latter superstition than the Krumen.

Marocho, which occurs about our Christmas period of the year, is the greatest religious festival, but it is to celebrate the completion of their seed sowing. The feast continues for five or six days, during which they keep up a succession of dancing, singing, and firing of muskets. Goats, ducks and fowls, or rather the blood and heads, are offered up to their Gregres: the bodies being reserved for the entertainment. As the season corresponds so exactly with our Christmas, they say, "Kruboy keep Christmas too, all same white man."

Marriage is here, as all over the west coast of Africa, a civil contract. The man usually takes a wife when he is about twenty years of age, after which time the number increases according to his circumstances, from four - a usual number - to as many as one hundred. Females would thus appear to be more numerous than the males, but having no statistics to guide us, it must rest on the testimony of the natives that such is the case. They even say that there are many women who cannot get husbands, which we can only suppose must be, because they are deficient in those lines of beauty which constitute a Kru or Grebu Venus. The average number in family could not be ascertained.

When a person is desirous of obtaining a wife, he visits the father of the girl, who, if agreeable to the match, or rather purchase, receives gifts from the proposing party, or his parent. These are generally a piece of blue cotton cloth, a brass kettle, some bars of iron, and two or more cows, as also country money - long cylindrical beads - much the same as those found in the Egyptian tombs. These preliminaries having been arranged, or in fact the wife paid for, she is brought to the husband's house, where a rude entertainment is provided. Drinking, dancing, and firing of muskets conclude the festivity. A small "dash" or present is usually given by the mother of the man as a propitiatory offering to the Buhs or Gregres, to ensure a prolific union.

On the death of any individual, the body is kept for two or three days; during which they offer up prayers incessantly to their gods in behalf of the deceased, that he be not persecuted by evil spirits, and that he may enjoy the new existence on which he is supposed to enter: a sort of Irish wake is then kept up in "Kru fashion." All this time the wives remain concealed from public view. While the burial is going on, the Dhrrhiu, or Gregre priest, makes "palaver," throwing various herbs over the body, which is always covered with English or native cloths, according to the wealth of the deceased. A bottle of rum, together with some cooked eatables, are generally placed on the grave over the head, together with such household articles - kettles or pots, &c., as the deceased was supposed to prize. A number of Gregres and amulets are suspended round the grave. After three moons, or months, prayers are again offered up for the departed.

Any woman known or suspected to have been on bad terms with her husband is obliged, on his demise, to drink "Sassy water," which mostly proves fatal, unless the Dhrrhiu, or priest, is well bribed to dilute the poisonous draught.

At a Grebu town, near the American settlement of Greenwell, some of the officers of H.M.S. 'Albert' witnessed a curious ceremony connected with drinking "Sassy water," and which the Krumen said was gone through after the woman had shewn her innocence. We give it in the words of the Rev. J. Schön, one of the clergymen employed on the expedition, who was present: - "In a large open space between several houses, there was a considerable number of natives of both sexes and all ages assembled. Two women had seated themselves under the projecting roof of a native dwelling-house, with musical instruments - small calabashes garnished with iron and brass rings - and hooks in their hands, from which they dexterously produced the same sound, continually accompanying their instruments with vocal music, singing the same sentences over and over again. On their left hand was an old man sitting on the ground, beating a drum made out of the trunk of a tree merely hollowed out. In front of them was a small fire; to the right of which was a heap of charms of various kinds, as horns, claws, teeth, and skins of animals, filthy pieces of calico, &c. There was also a country mortar, such as is generally used by the natives to beat their rice in, containing a little water, with some herbs or leaves and earth beaten up in it. The music having continued for some time, a woman of about forty or forty-five years of age stepped forward, placing herself before the mortar above described. Her legs were covered almost to her knees with iron rings, whether as an ornament or a punishment I cannot say; to me they would undoubtedly have proved the latter. Another woman then placed herself on the other side of the mortar, and with both her hands took out some of its contents, smearing it over the other woman's face, chest, back, arms, and legs. This being done, the person thus marked, decorated, or sullied, began dancing in a small circle for a few minutes, occasionally blowing a large horn. An old man now made his appearance, and put a few questions to the dancing woman, which, if I am not mistaken, were always answered in the affirmative, while the eyes of the woman appeared faint, and an unnatural perspiration covered her whole body. The old man then took two white fowls, a cock and a hen, and speaking in a low and mysterious voice handed them over to the great actress. She placed them first under her left arm, after which she lifted them up with both hands, shewing them to the people assembled. She then took a few grains of rice, and scattered them among the charms which were lying in front of her, placed a few grains on the musical instruments, and held the heads of the fowls near the rice, which they picked up eagerly. It appeared to me that the people were pleased at this, and the fowls were removed out of sight alive. A young kid was now brought forward by the same old man, and presented to the woman who tried whether it would eat rice; but not a single grain being eaten, she handed it over to the old man, who after murmuring a few unintelligible words, not addressed to anybody as far as I could observe, took it by its hind legs, and with all his strength struck its head three or four times on the ground, then turning it round swiftly, he seized its head with both hands and knocked its body several times on the ground with such violence that every bone of the poor creature must have been broken. When the kid was dead, the people walked off, aud the ceremony seemed to be over." The proper solution to the above was: "that the woman had been obliged to drink 'Sassy water,' which not having proved fatal, this observance was gone through as an offering to the Gregres, and a proof of her innocence."

Witchcraft, adultery, and domestic quarrels are the offences for which "Sassy water" is mostly administered.

We have referred to the Aggri bead as one species of the country money and a most valued ornament; it is a cylindrical, light coloured bead, exactly the same as some of those now exhibited in the British Museum, taken from the Egyptian sarcophagi. These are much appreciated, especially by the Krus and each one passes current at the value of a Spanish dollar. The people say these beads are very old, and that, their ancestors found them growing a long way off in the bush; but there can be little doubt they were obtained when their possessors inhabited the mountain district to the north, and trafficked with other tribes who had commercial dealings with the Egyptians.

The presence of these ornaments at such a distance from the place where they were originally produced is a curious fact, and may throw some light on the early Kru history; at least it points to the probability of their having had communication, more or less direct, with the Egyptians: that it was no casual circumstance is shewn from the quantity of these beads which are found among them. Of late years, the traders on the coast have tried to introduce imitations, but they are immediately distinguished, and do not pass for one twentieth of the value of the real Aggri bead.

The Krumen have for a long period been connected with our trade on the west coast of Africa, and are almost the only tribes who entertained such confidence in Englishmen as to trust themselves away from their homes, and for an indefinite time on board ship. This has now become so general among them - as the only way of acquiring riches - that nearly all the male population spend a shorter or longer term of probation, either in trade ships or in vessels of war. The commencement of their career is by an apprenticeship to a headman - generally an influential person, and of great previous experience, whose duty it is to initiate his "boys" - as they are called - into the various duties the white man may require; for this preliminary education he receives a small portion of the wages of each of his party. Every gang of Krumen or Fishmen has, therefore, one or more headmen, according to its numbers, who interpret the orders and see them properly executed. These superiors can alone punish the people under their care, which they do with right good will when it is necessary. Even on board vessels of war, they are not allowed to be punished by white men, as such a proceeding would be so offensive to either tribe, that they would probably desert in a body.

At Sierra Leone, they have a locality called Kru Town, where they reside until their services may be required; and it is amusing to notice their variety of costume on particular occasions. Being always the highest bidders at the sale of deceased officers' effects, articles of uniform are purchased by them; and it is not unusual to see one with a post-captain's coat and epaulettes, surmounting a waistcloth; or another with a scanty fold of cotton round the middle, while his head and the lower extremities are severally encased in a cocked hat and pair of Wellington boots. The lucky possessors of such outward insignia, of office, are fond of imitating the routine of a man-of-war, in Kru Town, by mustering at divisions, the officer of the watch, spy-glass in hand, reporting to the Captain, &c. This produces emulation and a desire to serve on board ship, and to merit a "good book" or character.

When their term of servitude has expired, they repair to their several towns with all sorts of English manufactures, the fruit of cheerful labour, and bearing with them recollections of civilized life, which must eventually be productive of good.

Although that portion of West Africa occupied by the Grébus and Krus, is inconsiderable in extent and power, it is distinguished from all other parts of the coast by the free and independent character of the people. This is so well known to the slave dealers, that they never attempt to prosecute their vile traffic in that country. Nothing, indeed, hurts the pride of these fine fellows more than to insinuate that they are "esclavos," or slaves. Nevertheless, they have among them a small number of captives, taken in war, whom they treat with gentleness.

In physical character, the Grébus and Krus rank among the highest in the division not inappropriately designated by some ethnologists, the Ibu-Ashanti race. They are generally well-made, muscular, active and very powerful. The features of many are good, and the chin well-formed; but in some the feet are rather large and the nose flattened; these latter characteristics are particularly noticeable in those whose colour of skin is lighter. The head inclines more to an oval, and does not rise so high as in their eastern neighbours - the Fantis; and the facial angle, as fear as one can judge from ocular comparison, is in favour of the Krus and Grébus. The distinctive mark is a line tattoed along the middle of the forehead, continued over the nose, and a tripod figure on each temple {The several admeasurements will be found in the Appendix}. The two middle incisors of the upper jaw are filed away, leaving an angular space.

The two tribes, Grébus and Krus, have been spoken of under one head, as they are really one and the same race; but, unfortunately, an animosity exists between them which causes each to keep aloof, and even sometimes leads to intestine wars. As far as can be learned, one great reason of it has been, the fact, that the Krus returning with their little earnings along the coast from Sierra Leone, have often been way-laid, robbed, and sometimes murdered by the Grébus, or Fishmen. This seems to he the secret of the ill-feeling.

If you ask a Grebu the character of a Kru, he says, "Kru boy big rogue," while the latter replies of the Grebu, "Fishman debblish big rogue," so it is merely a question of comparative honesty between them.

That the kindly disposition of these tribes affords a pleasing contrast to that of most other Africans, will be confirmed when they pass more in review during the difficulties of the Expedition; and we gladly seize this opportunity to bring them under the favourable notice of those who are interested in the emigration of free blacks to our West Indian possessions.

No people on the west coast of Africa labour so well, so cheerfully, or for such low remuneration as the Krus and Grébus, and even the hard and unmerited treatment they sometimes meet with will not discourage them. Of the two, the Krumen would probably be found the more usefu1 to be employed as labourers on our Sugar plantations, as they are more accustomed to agricultural pursuits than the Fishmen, who look principally to the sea to afford them occupation. It would be very easy to engage a large number of the former at the rate of from fifteen to twenty shillings per mensem, paid either in money or in English goods.

A great step toward this is already gained in the long established custom which this race of men have, and which is unknown to the rest of the Africans, namely, to hire themselves out at a fixed rate of pay for a term of years. They would, therefore, go to our colonies with a perfect understanding of what they would have to expect and what would be expected of them. The first thing should be to secure some intelligent and very influential Kruman, who would be sure to carry with him a large number of "boys," as all the subordinates are called, to whom they would serve a sort of apprenticeship; among these might be mixed a few liberated Africans, who being acquainted with the head Krumen, and having confidence in them, would more readily embark in an enterprize of which they could not otherwise comprehend the nature. The force of example may induce others to follow, and, by degrees, with proper encouragement to the Kru race, who, from their intelligence and well recognised disposition to industry, must be considered as leaders, a considerable number of labourers might be procured. But it must be done in gangs, as is customary with ships when they engage Krumen, for it would be hopeless to expect to get a sufficient number to volunteer individually. {Since these remarks were prepared for publication, we are happy to find the Government has offered every encouragement to this scheme, which we cannot help believing will be followed by the best results.}

July 18.- As we were able to procure only a small supply of fuel here, we sailed in the afternoon towards our rendezvous, but had not gone far along the coast when the wood - which consumed very rapidly - began to fail, so that reserving six hours' supply for an emergency, we had recourse to our sails; by means of these, with only a light wind, an adverse current and excessive leeway, we not only made very little progress across the bay, between Cape Palmas and Cape Three-points, but we soon became aware that the vessel was setting bodily towards the land. We were, in fact, in that most critical of all situations for a ship - embayed on a dangerous lee-shore. In our case, however, the peril was diminished by the certainty that the wind seldom blows with any force on this coast, and we might trust to our anchors when we should reach soundings. In the early and middle part of the night, no bottom was found by the lead, but at 3 A.M. we struck soundings.

On trying another cast, at 4.40 A.M., it had decreased from thirty-seven to eighteen fathoms; and five minutes after, to ten, when we immediately anchored, and had indeed just time to do so, as we heard the breakers roar with fearful warning. We could scarcely see the land, which is here very low and covered with underwood, the sand of the beach being of a light colour; these, together with the extreme darkness and gloom of the morning, prevented our observing it till the sudden decrease of the soundings set sharper eyes to work than those of the drowsy look-out men.

It was indeed a providential escape, we had crossed a part of the bay where the line of one hundred fathoms, after running along shore at a distance of five miles, suddenly turns sharp in towards the shore, and then out again like a loop, having within it no soundings at a depth of one hundred fathoms, until half a mile from the shore. It is called the Bottomless Pit.


If we had been set-in towards this a little sooner, we must inevitably have been lost, as we could not have found anchorage till within the breakers. It was therefore a mercy that soundings had not been tried half-an-hour sooner, where we probably crossed the "Pit," in two hundred and fifty or two hundred and seventy fathoms: we should then have been lulled into the belief that we were sufficiently far from the shore, and could not have been aware of its dangerous proximity, till too late for such a dull sailer to escape without steam.

At daylight we found we were only half a mile from the shore, with breakers close to us, and a very heavy surf all along the beach.

We immediately got up the steam, weighed and stood right out to sea: when a sufficient "offing" was obtained, we were obliged again to let the steam down, in order to reserve the remaining fuel of only two hours - for a future emergency. This, unfortunately, soon occurred, as before midnight it fell calm, and we were again drifted within two miles of this shore of ill-omen. Anchored till daylight.

July 21.- With the steam, and a light air, we luckily secured a good offing by the time the last piece of wood was expended. We thus were enabled to pass Cape Three-points; which, having now a strong current in our favour, we did in good style.

Soon after this, calm again obliged us to anchor off a place called Bobsum Accra. A very heavy surf here also gave little prospect of being able to procure wood. A boat was however sent to try to communicate with the natives; Mr. Toby, mate, having volunteered for this dangerous service. He succeeded in landing; but, in attempting to come off again, the boat was swamped, upset, and all were thrown by the surf on the beach, where the natives - being a friendly tribe - rendered them prompt assistance. If such a thing had occurred in the bay of the "Bottomless Pit," they would probably have all been put to death, as the natives of that part are hostile.

The catastrophe was witnessed by all on board, who were anxiously looking on. Mr. Toby and his men were kindly treated by the chief of the village, to whom a present was afterwards sent. By their assistance, the Krumen, with their usual dexterity and cheerfulness, got the boat through the surf on the following morning, and all arrived safely on board.

A melancholy event occurred in the evening, a liberated African, about twenty-two years of age, and apparently in good health, after uttering an exclamation, suddenly expired. He had a few minutes before been speaking with some of his companions, on the prospect of soon seeing their native land. An attempt was made to bleed him, but in vain, stertorous breathing was observed for a few seconds, and he died almost instantly, without doubt, of apoplexy. Of this, indeed, Dr. Pritchett was so firmly convinced, that he thought it unnecessary to shock the prejudices of the coloured people by examining the body.

There were, unfortunately, at this time several cases of fever on board, principally among the West Indian blacks who were shipped in England, on the supposition that they would enjoy an immunity from the fatal effects which the climate has upon European constitutions.

It was very tantalizing to be so near our rendezvous and resources - for we could almost see Cape Coast Castle - without being able to move, as it continued calm; a boat, however, was sent to communicate with Captain Trotter, and apprize him of our position.

July 24.- Last night Henry Halbert breathed his last. He was a Mulatto, born at Falmouth, and had not served much within the tropics. Soon after the laborious work of wooding at Grand Bassa, he was seized with fever, which though severe at first, admitted some hope of recovery, as his mouth was affected by the mercurial remedies. On the 21st, however, the ptyalism suddenly ceased, and the case went rapidly on to a fatal termination. His remains and those of Wright, were consigned to the deep, after the usual solemn funeral service, which was most devoutly attended by all the crew. We weighed at 6.30. A.M. and with a light air stood towards our port.

About noon we observed the 'Soudan' steaming towards us, she took us in tow, having been despatched by Captain Trotter for that purpose immediately he became acquainted with our difficulties. We arrived in the afternoon at Cape Coast Castle, where we found all our little squadron assembled.

Although the rollers were here also very heavy, we immediately commenced the operations of taking in coals, stores, provisions, goods for the Model Farm, &c. from the transport, and sending on board of her such articles as we were not likely to want in the river, but which were to be landed at Fernando Po.

The Commissioners went on shore to the Castle, and presented Lord John Russell's letter to Mr. President M'Lean, who professed his cordial desire to forward our views.

The country around Cape Coast is for the most part flat, and, therefore, only presents a line of elevated tropical foliage, enlivened by the large and well-built fortress, which stands forth in bold relief from the surrounding dark green, on a rock close to the sea. Cape Coast may be considered the most important of the European settlements on that portion of the coast, termed, par excellence, "the Gold Coast," which is comprised within the following limits: from 1° 10' east longitude, to 3° 20' west longitude, and running nearly along the parallel of 5° 10' north latitude. Of the various settlements which have been at different times attempted on this coast by our countrymen, only four now remain; Dix Cove, Cape Coast Castle, Anamaboe, and Accra; while the Danish and Dutch have also a few factories and forts, of which St. George Del Mina, near Cape Coast, and Christianberg near Accra, are the principal. {Del Mina, so named by the first Dutch settlers finding gold and supposing the mine to be near. The discoverer was ennobled with the title of "El-Mina."} Perhaps the cause of the decadence of all the others, and the slow progress of those which remain, may be traced to the Ashanti wars, which, while they depopulated the Fanti country, broke up the commercial interchanges, which before those unfortunate occurrences, were beginning to expand. It would be foreign to the purpose of this narrative, either to trace the history of our possessions on that coast, or to enter on the "casus belli," which have impoverished them. Mr. Becham's excellent work on Ashanti, pourtrays too clearly our mismanagement and its consequences. Under the able governance of Captain M'Lean, it is generally admitted that much had been done towards amelioration - trade had improved, though slowly, and the attention of the natives had been turned to agriculture; while he endeavoured to introduce future elements for raising the social and moral condition of the people under his care, by instituting schools, a printing-press, all of which, though now producing so little fruit, will eventually, it is to be hoped, yield a good harvest. Above all, he established a rigid system of justice, and such was the influence he gained over them by moral force, that even distant chiefs came at his summons, to await his decision in cases of dissensions, which would otherwise have led to wars. The great drawback to the furtherance of any useful object among these people, is, in the first place, their evident inferiority to many other African races, in their mental and physical characters; strongly marked by their indisposition to any continuous employment or useful application of means conducive to their own improvement Indolent as we, alas, know the African too often to be, here we find among the Fantis the very personification of idleness. To remove this, and to stimulate them to useful exertion, was one of Mr. President M'Lean's great objects.

Sunday 25.- The remaining cases of fever are progressing favourably. After divine service to-day, performed by our estimable chaplain, Mr. Müller, all on board were much amused by the appearance of a large canoe coming from the shore, having two Europeans in the bow and about forty "pull-a-boys," or black paddlers; their noisy vociferation - as with rapid and simultaneous strokes they forced the long canoe through the water - was anything but pleasing to the ear. Instead of coming alongside at once, they pulled several times round the vessel at the top of their speed, singing out in loud chorus, "Pull away - pull away - Gubbernor come, Gubbernor come, Gubbernor come;" then with three cheers they darted her up alongside, when it was discovered to be Governor M'Lean, who, notwithstanding his control over the people, could not induce the "pull-a-boys" to forego a ceremony which they conceived would add to his dignity.

26th.- The landing to-day was anything but pleasant, the surf all along the shore being great, and the sharks are said to be both numerous and voracious; but the natives are expert, and know the favourable moment when to push for the landing-place, which is round a little rock not far from the outer bastion of the fort.

[illustration: King Aggri's house at Cape Coast Castle]

Although we possess nothing beyond the walls, the native town, with its chief and a population of about six thousand, is quite as much under the influence of the Governor of the Castle as if subject to it. With the exception of a few English houses, the town consists of straggling lines of mud-huts, to which little clusters of Palm trees and an occasional Tamarind, add a look of coolness, even under the burning sun of that coast. Suspended from the graceful leaf of the former, we noticed some of the curious and interesting nests of the Ploceus textor, or Weaver-bird; formed principally of little shreds of dried grass and palm-leaf, neatly interwoven into an oval-shape, and having a rounded aperture at the upper part; they are fastened by several long grassy filaments to the palm branch, and have a beautiful effect, while their chattering occupants, decorated in their rufous-brown and rich yellow plumage, flitted about as if fearful of our intrusive visit. We must admire the provident instinct evinced in this arrangement of the nests; ensuring protection for the eggs and young, which, in the breeding season, would otherwise be destroyed by the numerous snakes.

On entering several of the huts, the men were found lying about as if there was no possible occasion for working, while the women were employed in some of their simple household duties. The Fantis are thoroughly superstitious; near most of the dweliings could be observed some rude clay or wooden objects, intended for Fetiche worship, and they have their lucky and unlucky days; on the latter, of course, no work is done, from a belief that it would bc unsuccessful.

Mr. Freeman, missionary, an active and useful man from all that could be learned, as well as a consistent Christian, who had already made himself well known by his mission to Kumassi, was proceeding steadily with his labours among the Fantis - and seemed to have some hope of their improvement.

While rambling about the town, we found several women engaged in washing the sand left in the little channels caused by the late rains; from which they procured a small quantity of gold dust. Roscher purchased a small but pure sample at a moderate price.

It is to be feared that this searching after the gold is one of the employments which militates against the improvement of the natives. It is a speculative one, sometimes yielding a fair day's return, at others nothing; but as the whole labour falls on the women, the lazy Fanti looks on unconcerned, since the expenditure of the proceeds is usually on his own tastes and pleasures - drinking and smoking.

The natives have several ways of adulterating the gold dust, with filings of copper, brass, &c., it is then called Krakra, but English merchants, by long experience, easily detect it.

The Akim gold is considered the best, having only from four to seven per cent. dross; the next in quality is that from Accra, while that of Cape Coast is the least valuable, having sometimes from fifteen to twenty per cent. dross.

Top↑Chapter V ◄► Chapter VII 
Valid HTML 5.0