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About The news-herald. (Plattsmouth, Neb.) 1909-1911 | View Entire Issue (Sept. 9, 1909)
WEIBD ' FDNEBALjS
GfL'P A. KODZCKz
HE old king of Totoquelli
was dead. It was in the
Llberlan hinterland, four
daya back from Monrovia,
a region where the gov
ernment levies no taxes,
where the native African
chiefs reign supreme, where the only
statutes are the laws of the hush. A
couple of English prospectors, on
English rubber trader and an Ameri
can missionary compose the foreign
population all the way back to the
French frontier. There is no part of
the west coast of Africa so lightly
touched by the white man, for even
the occasional government officials
who visit tho region are black. In
all the towns the babies yelled at my
approach and the children fled In ter
ror if I walked toward them.
While King Wobeh's star was In
the ascendency death came out of
the foggy bush and laid its hand
upon him. A famous mullah man
was called to make incantations and
tho "sand cutter" brought out all Ids
paraphernalia of divination and
peeped impressively iuto the future.
That which Wobeh really needed, a
good physician, does not exist In that
region. The mullah and the "sand
cutter" gave an unfavorable progno
sis, so the suffering king was pre
pared for his departure In the manner
prescribed by the law of the hush.
Secretly and In the dead of night he was car
ried back into the bush to an obscure "half
town" called Ooomah, no woman being allowed
to know his whereabouts. Courtesy to the mul
lah and the "sand cutter" demanded that Wobeh
should promptly pass into the unknown, but the
old man held on to life with his characteristic
tenacity. It was several weeks before the news
was quietly brought to Totoquelli that its found
er was dead. The information was passed on
to Boporo and King Sow came over to take
charge of tho town until all Its palavers were
The funeral of an African chief follows the
law of tho bush implicitly, but the details vary
in different parts of the west coast. The pro
ceedings in this case extended over a period of
about three weeks.
First Wobeh's body was removed from the
hut where he had died and placed in an open
kitchen in Gooninh. These kitchens are merely
large huts without walls, or, rather, with walls
nbout three feet high. The roof is of thatch and
the floor of clay. In the center of one of these
kitchens a shallow grave was dug. Then the
feet were bound together, the arms were extend
ed down tho body and the hands bound together
by means of a strong stick placed between
hands and feet, the body was placed In tho grave
and lightly covered. After It had lain there for
two days It was taken up by night and carried to
Totoquelli, where it was again placed In a shal
low grave, but In a hut where no woman could
bring 111 luck by looking upon it. The law of the
bush shuts out all women from any approach to
the dead. Then the family and the town began
to inake rendy for the obsequies, formal notices
were sent out to all the big kings within two
days'. walk, In order- that they might come (with
gifts) and assist Wobeh's spirit into rest.
The funeral continued for eight days. First
tho body was again lifted from the grave and
"laid out" in an open kitchen carefully screened.
The king's women were then segregated in an
other kitchen and intrusted with the duty of
making great lamentation. Then the head of the
"devil bush" he Is a great functionary in West
Africa came into the village to announce the
king's death n performance on a par with the
formal notification given to a presidential nomi
nee by a committee from a national convention.
The "devil bush" is a sort of combination of se
cret society and a boys' boarding school. It Is a
collection of huts hidden away in the bush which
women must avoid or pay the penalty of death.
Here are collected most of the boys of the com
munity and they remain In seclusion for a period
varying from three to six years, being taught
some sense and much nonsense. The grip of su
perstition is so Btrong that tho head of tho bush
becomes a great man in the tribe and death is the
peualty for any woman who looks upon his face.
Totoquelll's "devil" preceded his entrance Into
the town by an unearthly yell, which was the
signal for all the women and girls (and every
man not a member of the "devil bush") to se
crete themselves. Then with a sorles of ventrll
oqulstic yells he came Into the center of the
town, announced the death of Wobeh, ordered
tho funeral to proceed and vanished Into the
bush. Then the real uolee begin.
and children reassem
bled In their kitchen
and resumed their
mournful chant. This
Is a performance in
which the women of
West Africa are very
accomplished and Wo
beh's family was
thuuiR crowding each other In their
efforts to watch every movement.
When it finally censed its struggles
there was a chorus of "Ah!" followed
by some excited talking. It was ex
pii.ini'd to me that when a chicken
dies with its foot In tho air It is a
siu that the nephew has been true
to tho king and has not meddled with
his women. In this case the chicken
had died on its Bide.
Then another chicken was brought
for another nephew to kill. It like
wise died on its side and there was
another chorus of excited grunts. A
third chicken was killed by a niece,
with the same result; but the fourth,
killed by another niece, stopped with
Ms feet In the air. The crowd went
wild, caught up tho girl and marched
around the town with her on their
shoulders. Wobeh had one relative
that had been true.
This ceremony was followed an
hour or two later by that of eating
the chickens, together with rice
cooked In yellow palm oil. The food
was placed at the head of the grave
and Wobeh's head wife presided over
the pot. All the children squatted
about on the grave and the other rel
atives were assembled around it.
King Sow hud a good ninny remarks
to make before ho called up the eld
est son and motioned for him to tako
the palinful of rice which the widow
had held out. Before entlng It he made certain
promises relathe to peace In tho family. Each of
the relatives was called out In turn and required
to go through tho sanio performance. Old King
Sow kept his ears open and whenever ho was
not satisfied with a given promise he arose and
cross questioned the relative like a country law
yer until ho made him promise what he wanted,
rarts of this ceremony were exciting; at times
there were outhursts of laughter at one of Sow's
r " I" ' '' ... 1 ii
large enough to be
heard. Meanwhile for
two days and nights
the men of the town
made it lively for the
spirits of evil that
were supposed to be
hovering in tho bush
that surrounds the vil
lage. Guns heavily
charged with powder
were fired at intervals
throughout the entire
AMITAC DJTKGCrrOA Of -VOC
time, causing the evil shapes to take to flight.
Most of the night was given over to the beating
of drums, the women and younger men dancing
in procession all over town.
When night closed In on the scene and the
moon began to shed Its soft light through hazy
clouds the night's dancing began. There was no
undercurrent of sadness in it; everybody was lit
erally out for a good time. The dancers were
drummed up in groups, the drummers shuffling
all through the town to organize a procession. A
second crowd was gathered under the leadership
of a man with a string Instrument made from a
calabash, and eventually a third group shuffled
along to the tune of a cnlabash strung with Iron
rings, the sound being that of a gourd half filled
with dried peas.
The succeeding day was one of the most
eventful of all. Before sunrise the men of the
town brought large stones to tho grave nnd
walled it in, making an Inclosure about six feet
wide and 10 feet long. Dozens of empty gin
bottles wero brought and plnced all around the
grave a very common custom on this coast. The
mound was then leveled down and the entire
inclosure covered with stones and wet sand. At
the head they placed a couple of small ivory
tusks, a rice bowl containing Wobeh's silver ring
nnd some kola nuts, two pitchers and a small
brass ketfle. Across these was laid un unsheath
ed sword. The fixing of the grave was not com
pleted until they had brought a small jug of
rum and poured a little of it Into each vessel.
The thirst of Wobeh's spirit was apparently more
easily quenched than had been that of the man
In life and this enabled the men about the
grave to put the greater part of the rum to bet
After the grave had been properly arranged
the town assembled to witness the significant
ceremony of killing the white chicken. The
principal nephew of the late king knelt on the
grave and held the chicken's head above Wobeh's
head. King Sow made a long speech and then
different members of Wobeh's family gave the
chicken messages to tako to his spirit. This
part of the ceremony was very solemn and Im
pressive. It was clear that they implicitly be
lieved that their messages would reach their des
tination. Then tho nephew pulled off the chicken's head
and threw the body down on the grave. Curi
ously enough, tho headless chicken fluttered
n.round until it reached the head of the grave
and then seemed to be trying to bore its way
down to the king, it then fluttered away, the
jokes; very little of It was sad or pathetic. When
tho chief widow's turn came there was pathos in
her voice, tliough she gave no other sign of grief.
Turning her motherly face to the grave, she sat
there and bilked to Wobeh's spirit as naturally as
If she were looking Into his face. Nobody needed
to cross question her
There wiis nothing extraordinary for the next
two days. On the first day the mourning women
were taken to the creek nnd washed, in order that
they might begin to dress up for the final feast.
On the seco'id day the men of the town were as
sembled under the big palaver tree and Individu
ally sworn 1 1 be loyal to the town. The oath was
administered by making the man drink from a
bowl of milkish fluid which was supposed to kill
the man if ho was insincere. On this day, also,
the men brought in large quantities of firewood
and the women were busy threshing and cleaning
rice and po's
Then came the third and greatest day the
slaughter of the bullock and the great feast. So
far as I could learn there is no sacrificial idea
Involved In t he ceremony; the slaughter is solely
for the purpose of providing for a joyful banquet.
Tho big bullock was led to a vacant place near
the grave, ju.'t at sunrise, and securely tied down
on Its side. Its throat was then cut, the wind
pipe being t-evered, and the animal slowly bled to
death. It w;is 20 minutes before the .animal
ceased to s( niggle, but its tall had been severed
long before, this being the especial perquisite of
the men selected ns butchers.
The carcass was then skinned and King Sow
sat In his leopard chair while the bullock was cut
up. lie kept a careful watch to see that not even
an ounce of meat was taken by anybody, Two
large brass kettles and a large basket were placed
In front of him nnd in those were placed the In
ternal organs and the choicest cuts the king's
meat. Now and then one of the butchers would
overlook some small portion, but the king over
looked nothing; he had the error promptly recti
fied. Altogether he received about one-third of
the bullock. The remainder was cut up and dis
tributed among the families, to be cooked; posi
tively no pnrt of the animal except the hide nnd
horns wbb discarded. There was not quite enough
to go around, so the king ordered dog killed to
make up the deficiency.
BY HELEN ELLSWORTH WRIGHT
tCupyrltilit, by J. li. Uppincott Co.)
I tell you, stranger, it's no use. I
couldn't ;.art with that clay hlll up
yonder, not If your wife has took a
dozeu notions to It, nnd you was to
pay mo 110,000 nn acre. Why, man, I
don't want your money. I'm 46 years
old this full, I've got enough to last,
and there an t a chick nor a child to
leave It to, and that hill well, It's no
use, that's all.
The place ain't good fcr raisin'
much, just pines and berry brambles
and them there white azallos, but
when It comes my turn to dlo I want
'em to leavo me thero. Soe that place
where tho trees grow thick an' It's
dark an' cool an' still? That's It!
That's where I'm goin" to He.
Your wife, Bhe funded that? Pe
culiar, ain't it? Women folks likes
light most always, light and sunny
parts, though onco I knowed a girl
but that was 20 years ago.
Buy half my hill, you say? No. slr-
reo, you can't have half an Inch! I
tell you, once for all, you cnu't buy
half an Inch!
Mebby you city folks can't under
stand, but I'll tell you viiat, there's
things up here that money couldn't
touch, and that there spot is one of
'fin. Confound It, man, I'll tell you
You soe, 'twas more than twenty
years ago that I come here to soe a
friend o' mine, named Ephralm Jones.
Y'ou know Eph. Jones? Well, that's
odd, ain't it? Ho an' I was chums.
This place was mighty l'-ely then.
Thoso cabins there was full of folks,
an' men was takln' fortunes out o'
quartz most every day.
Tho schoolhouse stood up yonder
near my hill, an' the teachor's namo
Bessie Wat Willing,
"Oh, der," said the tired mother, "I wish I
were a little girl again like you!" "Well." re
joined flve-yciirold Bessie, "let's piny you are my
little girl, then you act naughty and I'll spank you
and fend you to bed without your supper."
"Why, Man, for God's Saks, What's
well, that don't matter anyhow. I
couldn't say what she was like; I
couldn't tell a blind man what a lily
was! Your cities never grow that
kind, no more than they do sugar
pines or rhododendron flowers.
Well, we were friends. We used
to go for white aznlles, she an' I, up
on my hill when school was through.
It wasn't my hill then, not till long
offer, when she'd gone away, and yet
we called It "ours."
We used to sit there where the
trees grow thick an' plan out what
the years would bring. We'd sit there
till the shadows came an' shut the
world away, an' then were glad, for
all the night an' all the stars seemed
made for Just us two! Tho vood owls
nested in those trees, an' when I'd
say I loved some one, thej'd always
ask me: "Who?"
And so the summer slipped along
an' time come for me to go. I was
to fix a little homo, an' when next the
white azalies bloomed to go back
again for her.
Well, first she wrote mo regular
every week, and then her letters got
to soundln' queer, like one who laughs
an' wants to cry, an' then well, then
they stopped. Those were busy times
with us, but I wrote by every stage.
One evenln' 'twns along in May,
an' I was potterin' round at dusk
adoln' up the chores I saw a man
come down the trail. The man was
Ephralm Jones. Ho never said a
word Just reached out an' took my
hand, an' wrung It hard, pn' kind o'
choked. By and by he said:
"I-ook here, old man, it takes an
awful blast, you know, to shatter out
that hard groy rock so you can get the
gold. Well, the good Ixrd blasts us
nurd sometimes perhips to find our
Then he told me how her father'd
got in debt, nn gone away, an' left
her mother sick an' them two little
sisters on her hands, with nothing but
the money from her school; how she
had tried to keep It from me all those
weeks, und then a mr.n had come, n
Judge, from heaven knows where, an'
old enough to
Say, stranger, be this sun too hot?
You look so kind o' faint an' fuddled
out Perhaps you'd rather have me
stop my yarn? Go on? Well, there
ain't much more to tell.
The Judge, he come a-courtln' her,
but she said olways, "No." He told
her how he'd take 'em all, an' make
her mother well, an' send the girls
away to school, an' do a heap o'
Then winter come, an' they hadn't
even wood, nor clothes, nor things to
eat The mother blamed her some
an' cried; the little girls both teased
nn coaxed, an' the Judge come every
day. And so the winter turned to
early spring, but things weren't better
Ono evenln' Ephralm come across
our hill an' found her up there, where
the trees grow thick. Tho leaves were
comin' on the white azalle plants, an'
her hands were full of little tender
"Go, take him these,' she said, "and
say when they bloom I'll be his bride.
My mother and tho children need me
most; my duty is to them!"
Well, the judge, he married her an'
took 'em all away. And I? I've got
them little dry shoots yet an' shall
have always too!
Ephralm went down to see 'em once
he knew tho Judge, you know. They
were llvln' In a splendid house, with
carriages nn' everything. The Judge
wns doln' all he could, but money
can't buy lovel She seemed so kind
o' Bweet an' still, like a lily thafa
been picked an' taken from the sun.
Thero was a baby, too, a puny mite
her baby an' she called him Joe!
I guess the Judge, he didn't know
what for, but It was me!
What is it, stranger? Be you 111?
Perhaps the air's too light up here, an'
your heart ain't over strong!
Well, to go on, he died, did little
Joe, an' she sent Ephralm word. The
white azallos was In bloom, an I got
most a hundred sprays, an' Eph, be
took 'em down. The little chap had
lots o' flowers, all boughten ones, you
know; but mine the mother took an
held 'em close an' cried. (Confound
this smoke! It's gettln' In your eyes?)
Well, after that they went away,
somewhere In foreign parts, and that
was IB year ago! The Judge, If be'a
n llvln' now, must be as old as you!
Tho pines l;eep slngln' on our hill,
an' everything grows just the same s
when we two was young, an' some
Say, you've seen quicksilver In with
gold? The part that Isn't used rolls
down the sluice in little shiny balls,
but when they meet they form a
whole so well that nobody can tell
which Is which. The gold divides It
mebby, by an' by, but each takes
somewhat of the other's part an' holds
It till they meet again, to give It back
with its own self besides. Well,
hearts is Just like that.
You see, I couldn't sell the place
It's "ours!" In this world she's the
Judge's wife, but In the next she's
Why, man, for God's sake, what's
gone wrong? She's what? She's what,
The Judge? Your wife! Consump
tion, man? Dear heaven, be more
Say, mister, that clay hill Is yours.
I'm goin' I'm goln' away. You'll pay
mo? No. You've paid a thousand
times. You've brought her back to
die. You tell her this: A queer old
chap, rough as the gray rock peepln
through" the hill, says the owls have
always nested where the trees grow
thick, an' the white azalies have waited
SOME FREAKS OF LIGHTNING.
Man Who Has Investigated Exhaust
Ively Points Out Some Errors In
Death by lightning Is rare in this
country, though the fear of it Is ever
piesent In the minds of nervous
people. In South Africa, however, It
Is much more frequent and a pains
taking colonist has gathered a mass
of facts that dispel some common mis
takes nbout lightning.
In the first plnce, he has found that
lightning does not necessarily hum
those whom it strikes, even when they
have metal objects about them. He
has found Instances where men and
animals have been struck without the
metallic objects they carried being
melted In the least
There does not seem to be any con
nection between the metal and the
marks left by the lightning. And la
many cases no marks at all are left.
In some instances clothing Is torn
and even ripped off entirely. Some
sort of an explosion seems to take
place between the skin and the cloth
ing, which appears to be blown out
ward from the body. Often when this
happens the person Is not Injured be
yond the shock, which soon passes
away, leaving no bad effects.
It Is comforting to know that these
somewhat gruesome facts were col
lected so far away as South Africa.
If statistics were at hand In this coun
try it would be found that being
struck by lightning Is about as likely
to happen as falling heir to half a
Truly a Lucky Bride.
Among the presents received by an
American bride, the daughter of a
millionaire, were a string of diamonds
six feet In length, containing 240
stones, a gold after-dinner coffee set,
a silver breakfast service and a
cheque for J 100,000.
Gets Mors Than He Expected.
"Do man who is lookln' foh trouble,"
said Uncle Eben, "generally finds It.
But he mos' always doesn' manage to
meet up wit de particular kind he felt
competent to manage."
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