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THE TAIL GIRL OF KROBO HILL.
About half way down the sea-board naked. He is forever on the look-out of the colony of the Gold Coast the for sign and portents, he is ever in great forest that has marched for fear that for lack of attention some many hundreds of miles parallel with evil Fetish may be seeking to injure the long lines of heavy surf abruptly him. He has learnt for generations to recedes thirty miles inland, to spread obey and propitiate the “Fetishes" itself over a range of low mountains, through the medium of their priests. covering them with the heaviest trop- Forest, river, and plain are full of ical timber, leaving a vast grass-cov- baleful and unnerving influences, and ered plain dead flat, of unbroken mo- the negro suffers accordingly. notony and highly cultivated. The flat The “Fetishes,' the media through country, with hardly a tree, ends ab- which the supreme and unapproachruptly at the foot of the hills, and the able power works, have their own detraveller along the three-foot track grees. The sinallest undertake the from the sea leaves in a moment the duty of watching the huts or goods of hot sunlight and dust of the plains for the villagers or fishermen, the greatest the gloom and shadow of green can- exercise more sway than a monarch. opies and the coolness of mountain They have names, as have human bestreams and heavy undergrowth, and ings. To that extent they are looked journeying along the ridges he looks on as living entities. When a Fetish on the hot land below, apart and dis- in his arrogance becomes too obstrepertinct as though it had been (ut il Way ous, the Government pass an Ordi. with a knife. Dusky mountain! Hund nance directed against him by name sun-scorched plain, the contrast is to put him down. There are laws to complete. But there is an exception. regulate his conduct. By Ordinance, Five miles, or perhaps a little more, any Fetish who arrogates to himself from the mountain's edge there rises the power to grant immunity for it sheer out of the plain a single great
(rime, before or after its commission, rock. It is five hundred feet in height. renders himself liable to abolition. and a mile or more in circumference. Only a few years ago the Fetish KatOn the south side its suinmit is (OV- a were had a law passed for his speered with timber, on the north à cial benefit, putting him down and slightly sloping surface of smooth and confiscating his property, and these slippery rock runs to the edge of the things are duly published in the Govprecipice. It stands by itself, an out- ernment Gazette. Now the country is post to the mountains; not a boulder well under control, but it is not so long lies near it-only the one great rock, since it behoved the British Governand its name is Krobo Hill.
ment to walk very warily in these In a country where everything bi- matters. zarre is attributed to the supernatural, The Fetish of Krobo Hill was one of naturally Krobo is sacred. Not only the greatest in the whole of West Afis the negro superstitious but his su- rica. It possessed a numerous and perstition is always with him. Hlis most powerful hierarchy, it exacted fondness for meetings and services absolute submission from the surwhen he is civilized is but a develop- rounding tribes. It was the ruler of ment of what he did at home, when the countryside. But it had become he ate with his fingers and went about
more than this. Through the
powers of a remarkably able chief waists were wrapped, cummer-bundpriest it had killed all the other Fet- wise, broad strips of dark blue cloth, ishes for many miles round, and stood the ends of which dangled down besupreme. It sent its emissaries far on hind to their ankles, and from which either hand exacting tribute and pres- they derived their name. For the rest ents. No tribe in the vicinity under- a girl wore nothing sa ve her ornatook any business of importance with- ments of shell or bead anklets, braceout its sanction, it insisted on being lets, and necklace. During their stay consulted in private matters, it could on the hill the girls were allowed, on fetch in at a word neighboring chiefs occasion when their presence was urwho were glad to assuage its wrath gently required, to visit their homes, with the costliest presents.
but under the strictest guard and suple of the hamlets planted at the hill's pervision. It was not a very unusual foot, known as the "Krobo Villages," siglt to see a Tail Girl with her culived humble and
under its rious hat, in village under the protection,-as did the common folk guardianship of her three duennas, of the middle-ages squatting under the surrounded by an admiring crowd of Baron's castle,-till they became iden- children and old folk, while the young tified with it, and grew into towns men forbidden to approach gazed from haughty and domineering, and plun- a distance. Many a youth coveting dered their neighbors, who hated them the forbidden fruit would make up his for being under the wing and immedi- mind to wait for that particular ate protection of the Fetish, where all charmer when it came to his turn to were in the shadow of its menace and climb the mountain. power. And so from always having Every year, at the season of the been of very great importance and ripening of the yam, the great annual grandeur it grew greater and yet more Custom was held at which all the great, and waxed so powerful that it waiting bridegrooms of the country bereigned absolutely supreme.
low assembled on the top of the rock But there was one rite and function to choose their brides. No youth could belonging to the Big Fetish that was obtain any wife but the one allotted destined to get it into trouble. The to him by the Fetish, no youth who able old priest, whose skull had for did not attend the Custom could obtain many long years rested in the temple one at all. It did not follow that the conce in the wooded portion of the most beautiful girls were allotted to hill, had instituted the custom of bring- the richest men. Not infrequently the ing every girl who boasted any preten- priests were impelled to give a particsion to family or good looks, when ularly fine specimen to a poor man. To within a year or so of puberty, to the gain devoted adherents, men who in top of Krobo where she remained in the service of the Fetish would stick charge of the priests till she became at nothing, were as great an object marriageable. These girls were sometimes as the further accumulaknown as the “Tail Girls" of Krobo tion of money, for the Fetish's money Hill, from the costume, distinctive if bags were already swollen to burstingscanty, with which they were invested point. By securing the custody of the when they were summoned to ascend girls the Great Fetish gained full conand join the élite of their sex.
trol of the rest of the people. Of the On their heads they wore long coni- older men and men of importance, becal hats three feet high, shaped like an cause no one would take for wife a old strawberry pottle. Round their girl that had not the "cachet" of Krobo Hill. Of the young men, be- eration grew up, the Krobo villages (ause any one of them who had of. and plantations gained a
very evil fended it was forbidden to attend the name amongst other tribes, and at cerCustom and got no wife at all. Oftain seasons the paths became very the girls themselves and of their par- unsafe for the wayfaring stranger, ents, because she who had not been travelling down to the Coast with his through the ceremonies was ostracized load of palm-oil or rubber. But though and looked down upon as being 10 these things were known they were letter than a slave.
as yet below the surface. The GovOnce the old priest's plan was in ernment talked of them in whispers, working order it was bound to sue- and the terrified people hardly dared ceed. The Fetish had made a success- to grumble. ful corner in beautiful girls.
A girl's life upon the hill was unBut this very success was ultimately eventful. On arrival at the summit, to lead to ruin and destruction, and it under escort, she was allotted a room was through one of its own girls that in the village where the girls lived it was destroyed root and branch, and with their attendant women, and her the most sacrosanct of its priests time was thenceforward nearly all her hanged gallows-high on the top of
Every day she and her three Krobo Hill. With the death of the old hundred companions were paraded and priest and the loss of his controlling inspected by a burly black-bearded powers matters gradually got out of priest and his assistants, and then the hand. No priest in the succession was day's business was over. So long as found able and strong enough to rule they did not attempt to leave it, they the hierarchy, and the bloodthirsty in- were free to ramble and stroll where stinct of the uncontrolled savage as. they would over all the bare windserted itself. The gods demanded swept part of the mountain. The blood, nor were they satisfied with the dense grove where the abodes of the blood of sheep and goats, and an edict priests lay hidden built round the was issued from the temple of the great temple, they were forbidden even Great Fetish that no one should attend to approach. They used to look out the annual ceremony of the dancing towards their distant homes and wonand the choosing of wives unless he der what sort of husbands they would borought with him by way of voucher get, or inspect the great flat surface of a skull of a human being. It was still rock which cropped out curiously at wise enough to let the rule work grad- one end, and which, worn smooth by ually. The older men were allowed to the feet of past generations, formed produce an old skull of some ancestor the dancing-floor on the great night. or some one killed in battle. A skull Or in fear and trembling they would was allowed to be borrowed, but as crawl to the precipice's edge and the people became used to the idea the watch the young priests, the curates Fetish drew the strings tighter, till the and deacons, far below, tyling the rule grew absolute. No one, in spite lodge, circling round and round the of bribes, promises, or any inducement mountain to keep off any possible inwhatever, was allowed to ascend the truder; or even if the sun were right hill on the great night unless he could they could see a white speck against produce the proper "ticket of admis- the dark mountain-side, the home of sion." So as these became fewer in the Government officer, the Commisproportion to the number of people de- sioner of the District, who flew the siring them, and as the younger gen- gaily painted flag before his house,
and hated the Big Fetish with all his close ahead. From their hiding-place heart.
in the long grass they saw the priests It so happened that at the very conduct the girl to the foot of the time the Government, having settled path, and they heard the chatter of most of its big pala vers, leisurely the old ladies as relieved of their turned its attention to the doings of the charge they went to their huts, and Big Fetish, the top of whose strong- then they crept back through the hold could almost be seen from the bushes to the village, which they rebattlements of the castle where the gained unnoticed. Governor resided, Tail Girl de- But though they had followed toscended the hill on her way to the vil- gether, hid together and returned to. lage of Odumassi.
gether, the young men, for the first She was a handsome, strapping lass, time in their lives when in each other's whom good food and athletic training company, had not interchanged one had magnificently developed, and word.
Members of the same family, many covetous eyes were fixed on her they were by way of being close as she strode between two withered friends, but the sight of the girl, whom duennas, marching in Indian file along they had said good-bye to and dismissed the narrow track. According to the from their minds a couple of years Fetish's orders the village was cleared before, filled them with mutual jealof young men; but in the market-place, ousy and estranged them as surely as on a native stool, a big umbrella shad. were ever two friendly yokels esing him from the hot sun, sat an el- tranged, by the enhanced charms of derly one-eyed man with a few attend- the village belle returned from ants. He was the representative of twelve months' residence in London. the King of the Creppis, a neighbor- They had not fought nor quarrelled, ing potentate, despatched by his mas- for if by any mischance the old ladies ter to inpect the best of the girl-crop had become aware of their being that Krobo could produce, and, if pos- dogged, the consequences would have sible, for it was quite on the cards she been more than unpleasant; but if would be refused him, to book the Koffi, when he found that Cudjoe was same. The eye of the old man gleamed alive to the charms of the big Tail as he noted the grand presence of the Girl and was also in pursuit, could girl, whose skin shone and bloomed, have planted knife between his whom the tall head-dress rendered shoulder-blades, he would not have quite gigantic, and signifying his satis- done so with more pleasure than Cudfaction, he, after a few words, closed joe would have felt in dropping a the interview. The old ladies again handful of Calabar bean into his placed their charge between them and former chum's soup-pot. As it was, led the way back to the hill, the girl both of them knew they might as well overtopping them like a giant between hope to change the color of their skins
couple of pigmies. They had and turn black into white, as hope to scarcely cleared the village when two catch another glimpse
for many well-grown young men, who had been months of the desired object, so Koffi peering from the bushes during the in- went back to his farm and Cudjoe reterview with the ambassador, followed turned to his hunting, and the girl, in pursuit, keeping themselves care- unconscious of the feelings she had exfully out of sight, catching occasional cited, stayed on the hill to be prepared glimpses of the girl
the path for the great dance, after which she twisted, till the mountain showed up would become a bride, and to hope
that the man chosen for her would be that it was hard to tell where rain berich and, from her point of view, gan and mist ended, but with occahandsome.
sional days withal of hot sun, till the Though the negro is shallow, ver- country bloomed and blossomed, the satile, and happily given rather to farms from black turned a pale, then a make the best of what he can get thau dark green. The rains ceased, the sun sigh after what is beyond his reach, shone bright and warm, the ground he can on occasions nourish a grudge steamed; pleasant season if
unas keenly, and be as vindictive, as any healthy, for the earth, fresh from the body else, and Cudjoe watched with rains, smelt clean and sweet, and with increasing apprehension the applica- a few more days of steady, gentle rain tion of Koffi to his farming, his re- the work of generation was completed. claiming of more land from the fat, The crops of yams, plantains, nuts, and overgrown soil, his journeyings to the corn ripened and yellowed. The great coast with nuts and rubber; and when “Yam Custom," the harvest-thanksgivhe fetched up a few bolts of cloth and ing of the negro, drew near, and with began to trade, Cudjoe nearly exploded it also came the time of the harvest of with jealousy and hatred. Per contra, the girls and the Great Fetish dance Koffi's feelings were equally bitter on Krobo Hill. when he saw Cudjoe's game daily ex- All work was suspended in the vilposed in the market-place, and noted lages. Each young man reckoned up his bright new gun all red varnish and his capital and advantages. Cudjoenickel; and when he heard him ac- set out his guns, ammunition, skins, claimed by the whole village for doing and money, and soothed his anxiety by battle single-handed with a hi that ing veiled allusions in the markettrampled nightly on the crops, matters place to the hippopotamus, preening almost came to a climax. On one OC- himself on the compliments received. casion, when he saw him with a nicely Koffi pulled up the last weeds from his dressed hind-quarter of bush-cow set little farms, surveyed his store of kolaoff in his best cloth towards the moun- nuts and palm-kernels, gloated over tain, he felt such consternation that he his cloths and small articles of trade, had packed up the whole of his stock, and surveyed with pride his flat featand started on his track to make a ures and woolly head in a little lookvastly superior offering, before pru- ing-glass with a tin frame which he dence prevailed and prompted him to had bought up as a trade venture, but stay quiet where he was.
found himself unable to part with. The year moved on. The countryside Their friends and families admired became dried up and scorched. The them equally, admitting that whatever tough blackened grass was set alight, rivalry might lie between the two, and the country looked to the sea- there was no other young man in the farers a land of smoke and flame. village to approach either, and a few Through the black covering of ashes weeks before the great day the two the fat soil lay exposed; the farms young
interchanged the first were cleared and planted. Heavy tor- words they had spoken together since nadoes rolled up against the set of the the afternoon they had followed the trade winds, pulverizing the ashes and big Tail Girl back to the mountain. beating them into rich manure. Three days before the moon was at Then the rainy season set in, the time the full, a priest arrived at sunset in of torrential downpours and quiet the village. He spoke the names of steady mists so charged with moisture those young men who would be al