“The Story of My Life”

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The Story of My Life.

(As told by Saleh and recorded in shorthand.)

Head and shoulders portrait of Saleh Bin Osman, in seven-eighths profile facing to his right. Saleh Bin Osman.

I BORN in July 9, 1871. My mother was dead when I three years old. When I was one year older, I go to my mother sister, and stay with her. When I get four year old, my father send me school to read Koran, and then when I seven year old I begin to read the Bible, and finish when I eight year old the Bible. The schoolmaster name is "Shayhah"; over in America you call him schoolmaster. He change my name and call him "Saleh," mean "honey"; and when I ten year old, I finish all school and went to my father, and taker me one year to stay with my father. When I get ten year, he taker me travel to India, Bombay, Calcutta, Bungola, and come back to Zanzibar.

He asker me, "Which kine business you 795 0002 796 The Story of My Life. [AUG. like?" I say, "l liker make shop, fruit-shop"; and then he give me 40 dollar, and I go to my fren [friend] and he give 40 dollar, and then to 'nother fren, he give 40 dollar, and then we make bisness. We sell cokenuts, orange, and mango, and sweet lemon. And then my fren he tol' me "This maker dirty bisness, much better to buy boat, a little rowboat," and we pay 200 dollar, and that 's all money we got.

When 'Merican manwah [man-of-war] come, we bring people down; and next time we went to go, the sea very bad, and boat he go down, and one my fren no swim, he wear heavy jacket, and he go down dead. And we swim to manwah, and 'nother boat he come and bring us to shore, and all people say my fault, because I at the head of the bisness, and I mad. And he say I be liker to get a plent' money quick! And my father was cross-to me because all people say that my fault. I run away and went to Malagascar [Madagascar]; and all money I get I got 20 rupee [rupee, 40 cts.j in my pocket.

When we 'rive to Malagascar, we stop at Noosbay. All French people, and master asker me for passage. I broke French. I say, "How much?" He say, "Twenty rupee," and I say, "That 's all money I got." He say, "I don't care, I want twenty rupee, now, quick!" I give it him, and I don't got any money in my pocket. And I went in police station, and soon I see myself, and I set down and cry. When watchman come, asker me, "Why you cry?" He think somebody beat me. I told I cry because I no home this country , no fren. He asker me what language speak. I say, "I speak Arab"; and he laugh me, and say you can't go far, we no speak Arab in this country [Madagascar]. I stayed there till half-past five, and see him, he bring in tin, a small tin liker a cup, and it inside no sugar, no milk. A piece bread he giver me, and said, "That all I have in my supper. Have no better supper." And I say, "Thank you to God, and thank you to yourself." And then he show me place and say, "You go down there." In evening rain come and sundercome [thunder come], and I fright. And I don't got blanket, don't got pillow, just sleep in groun. And when rain come, and I up and I sit down, and I cry.

In morning I went to French town, and I see big big man, and he say to me, "Hello, boy! what you do here?" Because he know me very well, because I dress different; I dress Zanzibar dress. He say, "You Zanzibar boy." I said, "Yes. I don't know anybody here." He say, "Come with me." And I go to him. And he told me, "I want you to go to my wife, and carry bag, and to go with her all places she go, when she go for walk." This man Frenchman. He name Pierre. He fight in Malagascar. And he taker me in his manwah, and taker me to his wife; and she be glad. She say, "I tried to find Zanzibar boy when I there, to teacher me Zanzibar language."

Half-past four we went down shore, in town, and she buy too much cloths, and guve to me, and she told to me, "I want you to throw 'way dirty cloths you got." And I throw 'way, and dress fine.

We sail from Noosbay to Junka, and we fight there for seven day. That was the native Malagascar, called "Hover"; yellow, liker Chinese. Got two name, the other name we call him "Wambalambo." When we fight we stay there for two mont's. And Madam Pierre she show very kine for me, liker my mother. And then I teach her in Zanzibar tongue for two mont's, and then she speaker me very well. When I say something to her she understan'. And then she asker me everything 'bout myself, an' I told her how I come. She said, "I am very sorry for you, I maker you happy just liker mother." And then she say, "I want you teacher me Zanzibar language, and I want you learn Malagascar, because when Admirally go home he will want you interpreter, and on manwah."

He got two boys, and he say, "Now, Saleh, you taker walk with these boys every day and they teacher you. You go down city, and they tell you name everything." One boy told me something and I put down Arab, and I learn quick in four months. And Madam go home, and she say, "Admirally, taker care Saleh, he good boy." And then my bisness was carry Admirally's rifle and glass when we go in shore. And on manwah I have nothing do, and sit down and eat and dress nice. And then he call me, "Saleh, my boy," in Zanzibar language, because he speak Zanzibar first class. One day he called
0003 1891.] The Story of My Life. 797 me in morning and give me letter, and I open and fine Madam's picture and little gold ring.

Madam go home, write Admirally, "Please bring Saleh home, we show people, and we send him back to Zanzibar." One day in morning he called me, we go shoot guinea-fowl, and taker clean and bring to Madam when we go to France. And we went there and shoot one, and he send me look for it, and he forget I there, and he shoot and his bullets come through my ear, and I fall down and cry loud, and he come and looker, and then throw 'way his gun, and call somebody taker me 'way to manwah. And he taker care for me, and when I get better he finish his business himself, and we sail for Marseilles, France. And then he ketch fever in sea, and when he go to Marseilles he sick seven day, and he dead. And his wife she was good to me and sen' me back to Zanzibar.

I was glad to go back, but I was sorry to lose Admirally because he was good to me. I was glad to go home, but l was sorry to leave Madam because she nicer lady.

That all my story travel in Malagascar with Admirally.

My uncle, Tippu Tib, told me much about Mis'r Stanley. He know him. He Mis'r Stanley's fren. When Mis'r Stanley 'rive in Zanzibar, that maker me to go with him in Africa because I think I travel all same liker I travel in Malagascar. I find Mis'r Stanley nices' man I ever see. He is strong man, and very clever man. He is a very good shot. He is strong for march. He is clever for caravan. He has six hundred twenty-one Zanzibars, and all liker him, all speaker good for him. He think all time for his people. This Dark Forest, we don't have car'age there, no horse, no donkey, no camel, no railway, you know very well. This travel everybody must carry his rifle, his cloths, tent, and ammunition. And this Dark Forest, all bush and trees very very high, -- big! People live in this Dark Forest, cannibals and pigmies. This little people, this pigmies are 'bout two feet and half big. The pigmies not strong 'nough for grow anything. They maker iron, they maker fine powsen [poison], and they go round elephant, because they so small he no see them, and they shoot him in eyes with powsen arrow, and before long he fall down dead. And they go to village and call big natuve, we call

Full-body portrait of Tibbu Tip, seated, in three-quarters profile facing to his left.
Tippu Tib.

Wasamgora and cannibals. Pigmies have no big knife, [and bring other natives] because they got knives to cut elephant. Now this big natuve he come cut all meat and divide, and taker half, and half he leave to pigmies. These cannibals (Wasamgora) eat man the same they eat beef and mutton. And we have cannibal man, he belong to Emin Pasha, and his name we call Binsa. Emin Pasha give him to Docter Junker and taker to Zanzibar, and he went with us in Africa. He is not cannibal now.

0004 798 The Story of My Life.

I think Mis'r Stanley is very fine man. We lose many people in Dark Forest for hunger. I don't forget why I say Mis'r Stanley is very fine man, he think for his people more than for himself. One day he told me, "I think I liker my people very much, because my people is my home. If I lose my people I can't go anywhere." All native in Africa liker Mis'r Stanley. Ev'rything he want and do, he call his people, asker first. And me sure many people say Mis'r Stanley bad man -- all je'lus, have nothing in head, all head full [of] flies. I see six hundred people myself liker Mis'r Stanley, speak well for him. I been three year and half with him, he teach me very well. I enjoy my travel with him. He bring me back to Zanzibar, home. I asker him to come to Europe with him. I come for good time with him in Europe. He is here July, and have wife, good heart and fine looking. We all went through Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Switz'land, come back to London and went to Scotlan' and Irelan' and all over Englan'. He taker me over here to 'Merica now, and I liker 'Merica very much. I think there is nice ladies in 'Merica. And I think there is nice boys and girls. I think they have nice schools in 'Merica. I believe this is a rich country. I been in New York, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Springfield, Boston, Worcester, Providence, Chelsea, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, and too many places in all the country that no have time to say, and I forget his name.

I have no time to tell you how good time I have this country. I like this country very much. I write book in Arab, and I go to publish when I go home. I have no time tell you how fine ladies this country. How fine boys. I 'm sure I got something to say when I get home. Goo'-bye. I sail Wednesday to Englan'. Soon as I get to Englan' I go home to Zanzibar.

Saleh Bin Osman,                        

Of the Stanley Expedition for the Relief of Emin Pasha.

[         ]

Item Details

Author(s) & contributor(s): Saleh Bin Osman; [Edward J. Glave]

Date(s): August 1891

Form & transmission history: Autobiographical narrative, as translated, written down, and published by a British explorer in collaboration with British publishers.

Original publication details: St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks 18 (August 1891): 795-98

Digital edition & date: One More Voice, 2020

Critical editing & encoding: Anne Martin, Heather F. Ball, Adrian S. Wisnicki

Cite this digital edition (MLA): Saleh Bin Osman; [Edward J. Glave]. “‘The Story of My Life’” (August 1891). Anne Martin, Heather F. Ball, Adrian S. Wisnicki, eds. One More Voice, site launch edition, 2020, https://onemorevoice.org/html/transcriptions/liv_020002_TEI.html.

Rights: Critically-edited text copyright One More Voice. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Explore complete/original item: Internet Archive

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