When evening's shades o'er Goree's Isle extend,
The nimble Yumboes from the Paps descend,
Slily approach the natives' huts, and steal,
With secret hand, the pounded coos-coos meal.
THE Jaloff inhabitants of the mainland of Africa, opposite the isle of Goree, believe in a species of beings who have a striking and surprising correspondence with the Gothic Fairies. They call them Yumboes, and describe them as being about two feet high, of a white colour, as every thing preternatural is in Africa. It is remarkable that, acting on the same principle as the Greeks, who called their Furies Eumenides, and the Scots and Irish, who style the Fairies Good Neighbours, or Good People, the Africans call the Yumboes, Bakhna Rakhna, or Good People. The dress of the Yumboes exactly corresponds with that of the natives, and they imitate their actions in every particular. They attach themselves to particular families; and whenever any of their members die, the Yumboes are heard to lament them, and to dance, upon their graves. The Moors believe the Yumboes to be the souls of their deceased friends.
The chief abode of the Yumboes is a subterraneous dwelling on the Paps, the hills about three miles distant from the coast. Here they dwell in great magnificence, and many wonderful stories are told of those persons, particularly Europeans, who have been received and entertained in the subterraneous residence of the Yumboes: of how they were placed at richly furnished tables; how nothing but hands and feet were to be seen, which laid and removed the various dishes; of the numerous stories the underground abode consisted of; the modes of passing from one to the other without stairs, etc., etc.
In the evening the Yumboes come down to the habitation of man, wrapped close in their pangs, [a] with only their eyes and nose visible. They steal to the huts, where the women are pounding in mortars the coos-coos, or corn, watch till the pounders are gone for sieves to searce the meal, and then slily creep to the mortars, take out the meal, and carry it off in their pangs, looking every moment behind them, to see if they are observed or pursued; or they put it into calabashes, and arranging themselves in a row, like the monkeys, convey it from hand to hand, till it is placed in safety.
They are also seen at night in their canoes, out fishing in the bay. They bring their fish to land, and, going to the fires kindled by the natives to keep away the wild beasts, they steal each as much fire as will roast his fish. They bury palm-wine, and when it becomes sour they drink of it till it intoxicates them, and then make a great noise, beating Jaloff drums on the hills. [b]
[a] The Pang (Span. pano, cloth) is an oblong piece of cotton cloth, which the natives manufacture and wear wrapped round their bodies.
[b] For the preceding account of the Yumboes we are indebted to a young lady, who spent several years of her childhood at Goree. What she related to us she had heard from her maid, a Jaloff woman, who spoke no language but Jaloff.