|CHAPTER XXVIII. -- OLD CALABAR--VICTORIA'S JUBILEE--CAPE MOUNT--CLAY-ASHLAND -- HOLINESS ASSOCIATION--RELIGION OF AFRICA--TRIAL -- FOR WITCHCRAFT--THE WOMEN OF AFRICA.|
I went and looked out of the window, and there was a poor girl, I suppose about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and as pretty a colored girl as I ever saw; she had a dark brown skin, was of medium size, and beautifully formed; her hair was done up prettily, as they can do it, and her hands and arms were as plump and as delicately shaped as if she had been born a queen.
There were five or six men, and the same number of boys. The old man was as ugly as a monkey; he was her husband; he had hold of her arm, and was jerking her along, and beating her; then the boys would run up and give her a slap on her bare shoulders, which you could hear quite plainly.
I ran down stairs and called Mr. R., and begged him to go and see if he could do anything for the poor thing. He said it was a woman palaver, he supposed, and that is the biggest kind of a palaver in Africa, and nobody can help settle them, but themselves. However, I begged him so hard that he went.
He came back in about an hour, and said she was the wife of this horrid, old man, and she had run away from him because he had beaten her, and had been gone several weeks; and these other men had found her, and had held her for the old man, but she did not want to go to him.
"Well," I said, "can't anything be done to help her?"
"No," he said, "there is only one thing; if some one of these younger men would coax the old man to sell her, and he consented and they paid him a good dowry, they could have her. But if the old man was contrary, and should refuse, he would torture her to death right in the presence of her own father, and he could not help her."
But he said the old man was rather good natured, and he thought one of these young fellows would buy her.
Sometimes these old fellows do these tricks to get money. I really hope they did buy her.
Now that is the reason it is so much better for the missionary to buy the girls, at the price of a bullock, which is twenty or twenty-five dollars; that is the price of a girl. And they are very honorable in this. If a girl has been bought by a missionary, she is free as long as she lives; no one will ever claim her; but if otherwise, she can be claimed years after, by anyone of her people who chooses to make trouble. Even if she was married and settled it would not save her, if she could not say she was bought.
I was not asked to pay anything for my Frances, a Bassa girl, though that was their custom. Her father gave her to me, and so did Mrs. Brown, to whom he had first given her, without any dowry. Her mother died, and I told Mr. Brown if her people wanted her, they must pay me two bullocks; for it had cost me that with the care and trouble I had had with her. After that I never heard any more about it.
The boys are free; no dowry for them. They can go and live with missionaries, marry and settle, just as they like.