Women On Adventure is a blog by K.L. Webber exploring our rich shared history of women's adventure writing. This curated collection of quotations showcases the opinions and experiences of influential female travellers in their own words.

"Wise and experienced chief officers never see Mrs. S.’s crates, but young and truculent ones do..."

Well, the Batanga after leaving Calabar and calling at Bonny had duly waited for the branch boat in Forcados and ultimately got her and her cargo, with its attendant uproar; and an account of the latest iniquities of Lagos Bar which had one of its bad fits on just then and was capturing and wrecking branch boats galore; and we had the usual scene with Mrs. S. Mrs. S., I may remark, is a comely and large black lady, an old acquaintance of mine, hailing from Opobo and frequently going up and down to Lagos, in connection with trading affairs of her own, and another lady with whom Mrs. S. is in a sort of partnership. This trade usually consists of extensive operations in chickens. She goes up to Lagos and buys chickens, brings them on board in crates, and takes them to Opobo and there sells them. It is not for me as a fellow woman to say what Mrs. S. makes on the transaction, nor does it interest the general public, but what does interest the general public (at least that portion of it that goes down to the sea in ships and for its sins wanders into Forcados River) is Mrs. S.’s return trip to Lagos with those empty crates and the determination in her heart not to pay freight for them. Wise and experienced chief officers never see Mrs. S.’s crates, but young and truculent ones do, and determine, in their hearts, she shall pay for them, advertising this resolve of theirs openly all the way from Opobo, which is foolish. When it comes to sending heavy goods overside into the branch boat at Forcados, the wise chief officer lets those crates go, but the truculent one says, 

“Here, Mrs. S., now you have got to pay for these crates.”

“Lor’ mussy me, sar,” says Mrs. S., “what you talk about?”

“These here chicken crates of yours, Mrs. S.”

“Lor’ mussy me,” says Mrs. S., “those crates no ‘long to me, sar.”

“Then,” says the truculent one, “heave 'em over side! We don’t want that stuff lumbering up our deck.”

Mrs. S. then expostulates and explains they are the property of a love lorn lady in Lagos to whom Mrs. S. is taking them from the highest motives; motives “such a nice gentleman” as the first officer must understand, and which it will be a pleasure to him to share in, and she cites instances of other chief officers who according to her have felt, as it were, a ray of sunlight come into their lives when they saw those chicken crates and felt it was in their power to share in the noble work of returning them to Lagos freight free. The truculent one then loses his head and some of his temper and avows himself a heartless villain, totally indifferent to the sex, and says all sorts of things, but my faith in the ultimate victory of Mrs. S. never wavers. My money is on her all the time, and she has never disappointed me, and when I am quite rich some day, I will give Mrs. S. purses of gold in the eastern manner for the many delicious scenes she has played before me with those crates in dreary Forcados. 

Lagos, Nigeria, 1894


Source: Mary H. Kingsley, Travels in West Africa, London: MacMillan and Co., Ltd, 1897

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