Now all the youth does is to arrange with the parents and the girl, and then hand over a few shillings, or some cloth or beads, and the girl is his. Then a beer drink usually takes place, and the youth, who has probably got a hut ready for his bride, takes her off and they cohabit.
The missionaries are trying to instil into the minds of the natives that a single wife is much preferable to a number, and they are teaching the natives to read and write and relinquish their polygamistic habits, and many of the younger men have done so.
This is a big question, but, so far as I can see, this system does not work well with natives, particularly with the older men who have from three to ten or more wives ; if these are cast off they either lead immoral lives or they hold an inferior position for being unattached. A man's wealth and food supply depends largely on the extent of his household, or households I should write it, as each wife has her own hut.
The women do the greater part of the hard work, as they perform most of the hoeing in the gardens, and they cook their husband's and children's food, get water and firewood, and do a lot more ; so if a man has only one wife he will find that his garden will be small, and often, if she is ill, there will be no food to eat, as it is hard work for her to pound grain, and do the other necessary daily tasks. Therefore many of the old men have refused to give up any of their wives, and as they are too old to bother about learning to read and write they lead their old lives, except that fighting and raiding play no exciting part.
The man usually does the heavy work of timber felling and making a garden, and he hunts pig and small buck with his dogs and a spear. The old men always have a great craving to imbibe native beer ; and they often travel long distances in search of it. I know several old native chiefs like this, and they are happy souls with little to worry them, except the difficulty of finding enough silver to pay the annual hut tax for all their huts. The younger generation are also pretty fond of beer, and they often waste a great amount of maize in making it, and consequently suffer from hunger at the end of the hot season, before the new crops, which are planted as soon as the rains break, have had time to bear.
The " White Fathers" Mission do a considerable amount of good work among the Angoni, and they have mission schools in most of the more important villages, in charge of educated native teachers, who get a small wage. If a youth or maiden wishes to attend such a school they are welcome, and after being able to repeat " the Lord's Prayer," they are presented with a chain and crucifix, and they are very proud of this symbol; but I question if they fully understand its meaning, and I think it is rather absurd to give it to them. They simply look at it as a pretty ornament, and I have had boys who wore them who were just as liable to lie and steal as others who lacked this symbol of Christianity.
Most of the " White Fathers " are Frenchmen, and they are broad-minded and intelligent men ; but I consider that they are going a " bit too fast," and no native should be given a crucifix until it is proved that he is wholly converted. The missionaries live in good brick houses, and usually have livestock, such as cattle, pigs, and sheep, and a fine vegetable garden. I think they are very wise in making themselves comfortable, as without good health they would be unable to perform their duties of attending to the sick and holding services throughout their district.
All of them, both the priests and the laymen, come out for the term of their natural lives, and they do not go home unless they are seized with severe illness which needs medical attention that cannot be got in this country. This Catholic mission is much more broad-minded than the Scotch and English missions in the country, and, personally, I have found them most friendly and hospitable. Any fault that may be found does not apply to any of them individually, and it is the result of a system which they have to follow. Although I have stated that certain of the natives who have been given a crucifix may be dishonest or untruthful, I think that many are influenced for good by the teaching they receive. If a native has more than one wife he cannot get a "mtanda" (crucifix), but it is only the younger natives who seem to care to possess one. To teach natives to read and write, and also to work at various trades, is most admirable, but to teach them merely to sing and chant hymns, and repeat the Lord's Prayer, is rather futile, as they have not the slightest idea of the true meaning, and simply do so because it is an excuse for making a noise, and a native is very fond of hearing his own voice. Natives, in their habits, are most gregarious, they like to collect together, and the way they have formed themselves into communities shows that they believe there is safety in numbers. This habit was doubtless caused in the old days, when they found it advisable to build their huts close together and live near one another. A negro is always inclined to show more bravery in front of his fellows than he is when by himself, as he does not possess that strength of mind and self-reliant spirit which enables him to depend on himself.
A strange story was told me with regard to the invasion of this country by the Angoni (Zulus).
They firmly believe that Zonandowa, the father of old Mpseni, when he came to the Zambesi River, made the waters go apart and leave a path for the army to cross safely to the other side. They say the place is not far from Nungwi (Tete), and some of the older men can point it out at the present day. Considering the old Scriptural story of the same kind, I think it most interesting that they should have such a belief.
When a man is fierce or bad-tempered, the Angoni say that the spirits of wild animals have entered into him ; and this is particularly the case when the " peppery " individual has killed a lot of big game, as they assert that he cannot help it, as the elephants', buffalos', and lions' spirits have found a place in his heart, and that they are responsible for his irascibility.