Accordingly I drew a plan of operations, showing how a camp could be formed on the cliff above Karuma Falls, having two sides protected by the river, while a kraal could be formed in the vicinity completely commanded by our guns, where his cattle would remain in perfect security. He listened with wandering eyes to all military arrangements, and concluded by abandoning all idea of resistance, but resolutely adhering to his plan of flight to the island that had protected him on a former occasion.
We could only agree upon two points, the evacuation of Kisoona as untenable, and the necessity of despatching a summons to Ibrahim immediately. The latter decision was acted upon that instant, and runners were despatched with a letter to Shooa. Kamrasi decided to wait until the next morning for reports from expected messengers on the movements of the enemy, otherwise he might run into the very jaws of the danger he wished to avoid; and he promised to send porters to carry us and our effects, should it be necessary to march to Karuma: with this understanding, he departed. Bacheeta now assured me that the M'was were so dreaded by the Unyoro people that nothing would induce them to fight; therefore I must not depend upon Kamrasi in any way, but must make independent arrangements: she informed me, that the invasion was caused by accounts given to M'tese by Goobo Goolah, one of Speke's deserters, who had run away from Kamrasi shortly after our arrival in the country, and had reported to M'tese, the king of Uganda, that we were on our way to pay him a visit with many valuable presents, but that Kamrasi had prevented us from proceeding, in order to monopolise the merchandise. Enraged at this act of his great enemy Kamrasi, he had sent spies to corroborate the testimony of Goobo Goolah (these were the four men who had appeared some weeks ago), which being confirmed, he had sent an army to destroy both Kamrasi and his country, and to capture us and lead us to his capital. This was the explanation of the affair given by Bacheeta, who, with a woman's curiosity and tact, picked up information in the camps almost as correctly as a Times correspondent.
This was very enjoyable—the monotony of our existence had been unbearable, and here was an invigorating little difficulty with just sufficient piquancy to excite our spirits. My men were so thoroughly drilled and accustomed to complete obedience and dependence upon my guidance, that they had quite changed their characters. I called Eddrees, gave him ten rounds of ball cartridge for each of his men, and told him to keep with my party should we be obliged to march: he immediately called a number of natives and concealed all his ivory in the jungle. At about 9 P.M. the camp was in an uproar; suddenly drums beat in all quarters, in reply to nogaras that sounded the alarm in Kamrasi's camp; horns bellowed; men and women yelled; huts were set on fire; and in the blaze of light hundreds of natives, all armed and dressed for war, rushed frantically about, as usual upon such occasions, gesticulating, and engaging in mock fight with each other, as though full of valour and boiling over with a desire to meet the enemy. Bacheeta, who was a sworn enemy to Kamrasi, was delighted at his approaching discomfiture. As some of the most desperate looking warriors, dressed with horns upon their heads, rushed up to us brandishing their spears, she shouted in derision, "Dance away, my boys! Now's your time when the enemy is far away; but if you see a M'was as big as the boy Saat, you will run as fast as your legs can carry you."
The M'was were reported to be so close to Kisoona that their nogaras had been heard from Kamrasi's position, therefore we were to be ready to march for Atada before daybreak on the following morning. There was little sleep that night, as all the luggage had to be packed in readiness for the early start. Cassave, who could always be depended upon, arrived at my hut, and told me that messengers had reported that the M'was had swept everything before them, having captured all the women and cattle of the country and killed a great number of people; that they had seen the light of burning villages from Kamrasi's camp, and that it was doubtful whether the route was open to Atada. I suggested that men should be sent on in advance, to report if the path were occupied: this was immediately done.
Before daybreak on the following morning an immense volume of light with dense clouds of smoke in the direction of Kamrasi's position showed that his camp had been fired, according to custom, and that his retreat had commenced;—thousands of grass huts were in flames, and I could not help being annoyed at the folly of these natives at thus giving the enemy notice of their retreat, by a signal that could be seen at many miles' distance, when success depended upon rapid and secret movements.
Shortly after these signs of the march, crowds of women, men, cows, goats, and luggage appeared, advancing in single file through a grove of plantains and passing within twenty yards of us in an endless string. It was pouring with rain, and women carrying their children were slipping along the muddy path, while throngs of armed men and porters pushed rudely by, until at last the gallant Kamrasi himself appeared with a great number of women (his wives), several of whom were carried on litters, being too fat to walk. He took no notice of me as he passed by. M'Gambi was standing by me, and he explained that we were to close the rear, Kamrasi having concluded that it was advisable to have the guns between him and the enemy.
For upwards of an hour the crowd of thousands of people and cattle filed past; at length the last straggler closed the line of march. But where were our promised porters? Not a man was forthcoming, and we were now the sole occupants of the deserted village, excepting M'Gambi and Cassave. These men declared that the people were so frightened that no one would remain to carry us and ours effects, but that they would go to a neighbouring villa and bring porters to convey us to Foweera tomorrow, as that was the spot where Kamrasi wished us to camp; at Foweera there was no high grass, and the country was perfectly open, so that the rifles could command an extensive range. The cunning and duplicity of Kamrasi were extraordinary—he promised, only to deceive; his object in leaving us here was premeditated, as he knew that the M'was, should they pursue him, must fight us before they could follow on his path; we were therefore to be left to defend his rear. The order to camp at Foweera had a similar motive. I knew the country, as we had passed it on our march from Atada to M'rooli; it was about three miles from Karuma Falls, and would form a position in Kamrasi's rear when he should locate, himself upon the island. Foweera was an excellent military point, as it was equidistant from the Nile north and east at the angle where the river turned to the west from Atada.
I was so annoyed at the deception practised by Kamrasi that I determined to fraternise with the M'was, should they appear at Kisoona; and I made up my mind not to fire a shot except in absolute necessity for so faithless an ally as the king. This I explained to M'Gambi, and threatened that if porters were not supplied I would wait at Kisoona, join the M'was on their arrival, and with them as allies I would attack the island which Kamrasi boasted was his stronghold. This idea frightened M'Gambi, and both he and Cassave started to procure porters, promising most faithfully to appear that evening, and to start together to Foweera on the following morning. We were a party of twenty guns; there was no fear in the event of an attack. I ordered all the huts of the village to be burned except those belonging to our men; thus we had a clear space for the guns in case of necessity. In the evening, true to his promise, M'Gambi appeared with a number of natives, but Cassave had followed Kamrasi.
At sunrise on the following day we started, my wife in a litter, and I in a chair. The road was extremely bad, excessively muddy from the rain of yesterday, trodden deeply by the hoofs of herds of cattle, and by the feet of the thousands that had formed Kamrasi's army and camp followers. There was no variety in the country, it was the same undulating land overgrown with impenetrable grass, and wooded with mimosas; every swamp being shaded by clumps of the graceful wild date. After a march of about eight miles we found the route dry and dusty, the rain on the preceding day having been partial. There was no water on the road and we were all thirsty, having calculated on a supply from the heavy rain. Although many thousands of people had travelled on the path so recently as the previous day, it was nevertheless narrow and hemmed in by the high grass, as the crowd had marched in single file and had therefore not widened the route. This caused great delay to the porters who carried the litter, as they marched two deep; thus one man had to struggle through the high grass. M'Gambi started off in advance of the party with several natives at a rapid pace, while the Turks and some of my men guarded the ammunition, and I remained in company with the litter and five of my men to bring up the rear. The progress of the litter was so slow that, after travelling all day until sunset, we were outmarched, and just as it was getting dark, we arrived at a spot where a path branched to the south, while the main path that we had been following continued E.N.E. At this point a native was waiting, having been stationed there by the Turks to direct us to the south; he explained that the people had halted at a village close by. Pushing our way through the narrow path we shortly arrived at the village of Deang. This consisted of a few deserted huts scattered among extensive groves of plantains. Here we found Eddrees and the Turks, with their captives from the attack on Fowooka; passing their huts, we took possession of two clean and new huts in the midst of a well-cultivated field of beans that were about six inches above the ground, the cleared field forming an oasis in the middle of the surrounding grass jungle There was no water; it was already dark, and, although we had travelled through the heat of the day, no one had drunk since the morning. We were intensely thirsty, and the men searched in vain among the deserted huts in the hope of finding a supply in the water jars they were all empty. Fortunately we had a little sour milk in a jar that we had carried with us, barely sufficient for two persons. There was nothing to eat except unripe plantains: these we boiled as a substitute for potatoes. I disarmed all the porters, placing their lances and shields under my bedstead in the hut, lest their owners should abscond during the night. It now appeared that our party had scattered most disgracefully; those in advance with the ammunition who bad been ordered not to quit their charge for an instant, had outmarched the main body, leaving Eddrees and a few men with the captive women, who could not walk fast, and my small guard who had attended the litter.
No one ate much that night, as all were too thirsty. On the following morning I found to my dismay that all of our porters had absconded, except two men who had slept in the same hut with my people; we were for about the hundredth time deserted in this detestable country. I ordered Eddrees to push on to Foweera, and to desire my men with the ammunition to wait there until I should arrive, and to request Kamrasi to send porters immediately to assist us. Foweera was about thirteen miles from Deang, our present position. Eddrees and his party started, and I immediately sent my men with empty jars to search in all directions for water; they returned in about an hour, having been unsuccessful. I again ordered them to search in another direction, and should they find a native, to force him to be their guide to a drinking place. In about three hours they returned, accompanied by two old men, and laden with three large jars of good water; they had found the old people in a deserted village, and they had guided them to a spring about three miles distant. Our chief want being supplied, we had no fear of starving, as there was abundance of plantains, and we had about a dozen cheeses that we had manufactured while at Kisoona, in addition to a large supply of flour. A slight touch of fever attacked me, and I at length fell asleep.
I was awakened by the voices of my men, who were standing at the door of my hut with most doleful countenances. They explained that Richarn was missing, and was supposed to have been killed by the natives. My vakeel held a broken ramrod in his hand: this suspicious witness was covered with blood. It appeared that while I was asleep, Richarn and one of my men named Mahommed had taken their guns, and without orders had rambled through the country in search of a village, with the intention of procuring porters, if possible, to carry us to Foweera.
They had arrived at a nest of small villages, and had succeeded in engaging four men; these Richarn left in charge of Mahommed while he proceeded alone to a neighbouring village. Shortly after his departure Mahommed heard the report of a gun in that direction about half a mile distant, and leaving his charge, he ran towards the spot. On arrival, he found the village deserted, and on searching the neighbourhood, and vainly calling Richarn, he came upon a large pool of blood opposite several huts; lying upon the blood was the broken ramrod of Richarn's gun. After searching without success, he had returned with the melancholy report of this disaster. I was very fond of Richarn; he had followed me faithfully for years, and with fewer faults than most of his race, he had exhibited many sterling qualities. I waited for two days in this spot, searching for him in all directions. On one occasion my men saw a number of men and women howling in a village not far from the place where the accident had happened; on the approach of my people they fled into the jungles: thus, there was no doubt that Richarn must have shot a man before he had been killed, as the natives were mourning for the dead.
I was much distressed at this calamity; my faithful Richarn was dead, and the double-barrelled Purdey that he carried was lost; this belonged to my friend Oswell, of South African and Lake Ngami celebrity; it was a much-prized weapon, with which he had hunted for five years all the heavy game of Africa with such untiring zeal that much of the wood of the stock was eaten away by the "wait a bit" thorns in his passage on horseback at full speed through the jungles. He had very kindly lent me this old companion of his sports, and I had entrusted it to Richarn as my most careful man: both man and gun were now lost.
Having vainly searched for two days, and my men having seen several village dogs with their mouths and feet covered with blood, we came to the conclusion that his body had been dragged into the grass jungle by the natives, and there, concealed, it had been discovered and devoured by the dogs.
No porters had arrived from Kamrasi, neither had any reply been sent to the message I had forwarded by Eddrees;—the evening arrived, and, much dispirited at the loss of my old servant, I lay down on my angarep for the night. At about eight o'clock, in the stillness of our solitude, my men asleep, with the exception of the sentry, we were startled by the sound of a nogara at no great distance to the south of our huts. The two natives who had remained with us immediately woke the men, and declared that the drums we heard were those of the M'was, who were evidently approaching our village;—the natives knew the peculiar sound of the nogaras of the enemy, which were different to those of Kamrasi. This was rather awkward—our ammunition was at Foweera, and we had no more than the supply in our cartouche boxes, my men thirty rounds each, while I carried in my pouch twenty-one. Our position was untenable, as the drinking place was three miles distant. Again the nogara sounded, and the native guides declared that they could not remain where we then were, but they would conceal themselves in the high grass. My wife proposed that we should forsake our luggage, and march at once for Foweera and effect a junction with our men and ammunition before daybreak. I was sure that it could not be less than twelve or thirteen miles, and in her weak state it would be impossible for her to accomplish the distance, through high grass, in darkness, over a rough path, with the chance of the route being already occupied by the enemy. However, she was determined to risk the march. I accordingly prepared to start at 9 P.M., as at that time the moon would be about 30 degrees above the horizon and would afford us a good light. I piled all the luggage within the hut, packed our blankets in a canvas bag, to be carried by one of the natives, and ordered one of our black women to carry a jar of water. Thus provided, and forsaking all other effects, we started at exactly nine o'clock, following our two natives as guides.
Our course was about E.N.E. The moon was bright, but the great height of the grass shadowed the narrow path so that neither ruts nor stones were visible. The dew was exceedingly heavy, and in brushing through the rank vegetation we were soon wet to the skin. This was our first attempt at walking a distance since many months, and being dreadfully out of condition, I much feared that one of us might be attacked by fever before we should have accomplished the march; at all events, there was no alternative but to push ahead until we should reach Foweera, however distant. We walked for about three hours along a narrow but unmistakeable path, well trodden by the cattle and people that had accompanied Kamrasi. Suddenly we arrived at a place where a path diverged to the right, while another led to the left: the former was much trodden by cattle, and the guides declared this to be the right direction. Perfectly certain of their mistake, as Foweera lay to the east, while such a course would lead us due south, I refused to follow, and ordered the party to halt while I made a survey of the neighbourhood. I shortly discovered in the bright moonlight that the larger path to the south had been caused by the cattle that had been driven in that direction, but had again returned by the same route. It was evident that some village lay to the south, at which Kamrasi and his army had slept, and that they had returned by the same path to the Foweera main route on the following morning. I soon discovered cattle tracks on the smaller path to the east: this I determined to follow. My guides were of little use, and they confessed that they had only once visited the Foweera country. We were bound for the principal village that belonged to the chief Kalloe, an excellent man, who had frequently visited us at Kisoona.
Not far from the branch roads we came suddenly upon a few huts, the inmates of which were awake. They gave us the unpleasant intelligence that the M'was occupied the country in advance, and that we should not be able to pass them on our present route, as they were close to that spot. It was now past midnight, the country was perfectly still, and having no confidence in the guides I led the way.
About a mile from the huts that we had passed we suddenly observed the light of numerous fires, and a great number of temporary huts formed of green grass and plantain leaves: this was the camp of the M'was. I did not observe any people, nor did we wait long in our present position, but taking a path that led to the north, we quietly and stealthily continued our march through walls of high grass, until in about an hour we arrived in a totally different country. There was no longer the dismal grass jungle in which a man was as much lost as a rabbit in a field of corn, but beautiful park-like glades of rich and tender grass, like an English meadow, stretched before us in the pale moonlight, darkened in many places by the shadows of isolated trees and clumps of forest. Continuing along this agreeable route, we suddenly arrived at a spot where numerous well-beaten paths branched into all directions. This was extreme confusion. We had left the direct route to Foweera when we had made the detour to avoid the M'was' camp. I knew that, as we had then turned to the north, our course should now be due east. There was a path leading in that direction; but just as we were quietly deliberating upon the most advisable course, we heard distant voices. Any voice in this neighbourhood I concluded must be that of an enemy, therefore I ordered my people to sit down, while two men concealed themselves on the borders of a jungle, about a hundred yards distant, as sentries.
I then sent Bacheeta and one of the guides towards the spot from which the sound of voices had proceeded, to listen to their language, and to report whether they were M'was, or people of Foweera. The spies started cautiously on their errand.
About five minutes passed in utter silence; the voices that we had heard had ceased. We were very cold, being wet through with the dew. My wife was much fatigued, and now rested by sitting on the bag of blankets. I was afraid of remaining long in inaction, lest she should become stiff and be unable to march.
We had been thus waiting for about ten minutes, when we were suddenly startled by the most fearful and piercing yell I ever heard. This proceeded from the jungle where one of my men was on guard, about a hundred yards distant.
For the moment I thought he had been caught by a lion, and cocking my rifle, I ran towards the spot. Before I reached the jungle I saw one of the sentries running in the same direction, and two other figures approaching, one being dragged along by the throat by my man Moosa. He had a prisoner. It appeared, that while he was crouching beneath the bushes at the entrance of the main path that led through the jungle, he suddenly observed a man quietly stealing along the forest close to him. He waited, unobserved, until the figure had passed him, when he quickly sprang upon him from behind, seizing his spear with his left hand and grasping his throat with his right.
This sudden and unexpected attack from an unseen enemy had so terrified the native that he had uttered the extraordinary yell that had startled our party. He was now triumphantly led by his captor, but he was so prostrated by fear that he trembled as though in an ague fit. I endeavoured to reassure him, and Bacheeta shortly returning with the guide, we discovered the value of our prize.
Far from being an enemy, he was one of Kalloe's men, who had been sent to spy the M'was from Foweera: thus we had a dependable guide. This little incident was as refreshing as a glass of sherry during the night's march, and we enjoyed a hearty laugh. Bacheeta had been unsuccessful in finding the origin of the voices, as they had ceased shortly after she had left us. It appeared that our captive had also heard the voices, and he was stealthily endeavouring to ascertain the cause when he was so roughly seized by Moosa. We now explained to him our route, and he at once led the way, relieving the native who had hitherto carried the bag of blankets. We had made a considerable circuit by turning from the direct path, but we now had the advantage of seeing the open country before us, and marching upon a good and even path. We walked for about three hours from this spot at a brisk pace, my wife falling three times from sheer fatigue, which induced stumbling over the slightest inequalities in the road. At length we descended a valley, and crossing a slight hollow, we commenced the ascent of a gentle inclination upon a beautiful grassy undulation crowned by a clump of large trees. In the stillness of the night wherever we had halted we had distinctly heard the distant roar of the river; but the sound had so much increased within the last hour that I felt convinced we must be near Foweera at the bend of the Victoria Nile. My wife was so exhausted with the long march, rendered doubly fatiguing by the dew that had added additional weight to her clothes, that she could hardly ascend the hill we had just commenced. For the last hour our guide had declared that Foweera was close to us; but experienced in natives' descriptions of distance, we were quite uncertain as to the hour at which we should arrive. We were already at the top of the hill, and within about two hundred yards of the dense clump of trees my wife was obliged to confess that she could go no farther. Just at that moment a cock crowed; another replied immediately from the clump of trees close to us, and the guide, little appreciating the blessing of his announcement, told us that we had arrived at Kalloe's village, for which we were bound.
It was nearly 5 A.M., and we had marched from Deang at 9 P.M. There was some caution required in approaching the village, as, should one of the Turks' sentries be on guard, he would in all probability fire at the first object he might see, without a challenge. I therefore ordered my men to shout, while I gave my well-known whistle that would be a signal of our arrival. For some time we exerted our lungs in this manner before we received a reply, and I began to fear that our people were not at this village: at length a well-known voice replied in Arabic. The sentries and the whole party were positively ASLEEP, although close to an enemy's country. They were soon awake when it was reported that we had arrived, and upon our entering the village they crowded around us with the usual welcome. A large fire was lighted in a spacious hut, and fortunately, the portmanteau having preceded us together with the ammunition, we were provided with a change of clothes.
I slept for a couple of hours, and then sent for the chief of Foweera, Kalloe. Both he and his son appeared; they said that their spies had reported that the M'was would attack this village on the following day; that they had devastated the entire country and occupied the whole of Unyoro and Chopi; that they had cut off a large herd of cattle belonging to Kamrasi, and he had only just reached the island in time for security, as the enemy had arrived at the spot and killed a number of people who were too late to embark. Kalloe reported that Kamrasi had fired at the M'was from the island, but having no bullets his rifle was useless. The M'was had returned the fire, being provided with four guns that they had procured from Speke's deserters;—they were in the same condition as Kamrasi, having no bullets; thus a harmless fusilade had been carried on by both parties. The M'was had retired from their position on the bank of the river by Kamrasi's island, and had proceeded to Atada, which they had destroyed.
They were now within three miles of us; nevertheless the foolish Kalloe expressed his determination of driving his cattle to Kamrasi's island for security, about two miles distant. I endeavoured to persuade him that they would be perfectly safe if under our protection, but his only reply was to order his son to drive them off immediately.
That day, Kalloe and all the natives quitted the village and fled to an island for security, leaving us masters of the position. I served out a quantity of ammunition to the Turks, and we were perfectly prepared. The drums of the M'was were heard in all directions both day and night; but we were perfectly comfortable, as the granaries were well filled, and innumerable fowls stored both this and the closely adjoining deserted villages.
On the following day M'Gambi appeared with a message from Kamrasi, begging us to come and form a camp on the bank of the river opposite to his island to protect him from the M'was, who would assuredly return and attack him in canoes. I told him plainly that I should not interfere to assist him, as he had left me on the road at Deang; that Richarn had been killed by his people, and that one of my guns was still in their possession, added to which I had been obliged to forsake all my baggage, owing to the desertion of the porters;—for all these errors I should hold Kamrasi responsible. He replied that he did not think Richarn was killed, but that he had shot the chief of a village dead, having got into some quarrel with the natives.
The conversation ended by my adhering to my intention of remaining independent at Foweera. M'Gambi said they were very miserable on the island, that no one could rest day or night for the mosquitoes, and that they were suffering from famine;—he had several men with him, who at once set to work to thrash out corn from the well-filled granaries of the village, and they departed heavily laden. During the day a few natives of the district found their way into the village for a similar purpose. I had previously heard that the inhabitants of Foweera were disaffected, and that many were in correspondence with the enemy. I accordingly instructed Bacheeta to converse with the people, and to endeavour through them to get into communication with the M'was, assuring them that I should remain neutral, unless attacked, but if their intentions were hostile I was quite ready to fight. At the same time I instructed her to explain that I should be sorry to fire at the servants of M'tese, as he had behaved well to my friends Speke and Grant, but that the best way to avoid a collision would be for the M'was to keep at a distance from my camp. Bacheeta told me that this assurance would be certain to reach the chief of the M'was, as many of the natives of Chopi were in league with them against Kamrasi.
In the afternoon of that day I strolled outside the village with some of my men to accompany the party to the drinking place from which we procured our water; it was about a quarter of a mile from the camp, and it was considered dangerous for any one to venture so far without the protection of an armed party.
We had just returned, and were standing in the cool of the evening on the lawn opposite the entrance of the camp, when one of my men came rushing towards us, shouting, "Richarn! Richarn's come back!" In another moment I saw with extreme delight the jet black Richarn, whom I had mourned as lost, quietly marching towards us. The meeting was almost pathetic. I took him warmly by the hand and gave him a few words of welcome, but my vakeel, who had never cared for him before, threw himself upon his neck and burst out crying like a child. How long this sobbing would have continued I know not, as several of my Arabs caught the infection and began to be lachrymose, while Richarn, embraced on all sides, stood the ordeal most stoically, looking extremely bewildered, but totally unconscious of the cause of so much weeping. To change the current of feeling, I told the boy Saat to fetch a large gourd-shell of merissa (native beer), of which I had received a good supply from Kalloe. This soon arrived, and was by far the most acceptable welcome to Richarn, who drank like a whale. So large was the gourd, that even after the mighty draught enough remained for the rest of the party to sip. Refreshed by the much-loved drink, Richarn now told us his story. When separated from Mahommed at the village he had found a great number of people, some of whom were our runaway porters; on his attempting to persuade them to return, a quarrel had taken place, and the chief of the village heading his men had advanced on Richarn and seized his gun;—at the same time the chief called to his men to kill him. Richarn drew his knife to release his gun; seeing which, the chief relaxed his hold, and stepping a pace back he raised his lance to strike;—at the same moment Richarn pulled the trigger and shot him dead. The natives, panic-stricken at the sudden effect of the shot, rushed away, and Richarn, profiting by the opportunity, disappeared in the high grass, and fled. Once in the interminable sea of grass that was almost impenetrable, he wandered for two days without water: hearing the distant roar of the Nile, he at length reached it when nearly exhausted with thirst and fatigue;—he then followed up the stream to Karuma, avoided the M'was,—and knowing the road thence to M'rooli that we had formerly travelled, he arrived at Foweera. His ramrod had been broken in the struggle when the chief seized his gun, and to his great astonishment I now showed him the piece that we had picked up on the pool of blood. He had made an excellent loading-rod with his hunting knife by shaping a sapling of hard wood, and had reloaded his gun; thus with a good supply of ammunition he had not much fear of the natives. Kamrasi had evidently heard the true account of the affair.
Late in the evening we heard from a native that the whole of Kalloe's cattle that he had driven from Foweera had been captured by the enemy on their way to the river island, and that one of his sons and several natives who had driven them were killed;—this was the result of his precipitate flight.
The M'was followed up their advantages with uninterrupted success, overrunning the entire country even to the shores of the Albert lake, and driving off the cattle, together with all the women that had not taken refuge upon the numerous islands of the Victoria Nile. During this time, Kamrasi and his wives, together with his principal chiefs, resided in the misery of mosquitoes and malaria on the river; great numbers of people died of disease and starvation.
M'Gambi appeared frequently at our camp in order to procure corn, and from him we received reports of the distress of the people; his appearance had much changed; he looked half starved, and complained that he had nothing to drink but Nile water, as they had neither corn, nor pots in which they could make merissa, and the M'was had destroyed all the plantains, therefore they could not prepare cider.
Among other losses my two cows were reported by M'Gambi to have been stolen by the M'was, in company with the cattle of Kamrasi, with which they had been driven from Kisoona. I did not believe it, as he also told me that all the luggage that I had left at Deang had like wise been stolen by the enemy. But I had heard from Bacheeta that the natives of that neighbourhood had carried it (about six loads) direct to Kamrasi's island; thus it was in his possession at the same time that he declared it to have been stolen by the M'was. I told him, that I should hold him responsible, and that he should pay me the value of the lost effects in a certain number of cows.
A few days after this conversation, my cows and the whole of my luggage were delivered to me in safety. Kamrasi had evidently intended to appropriate them, but being pressed by the M'was and his old enemies on the east bank of the Nile (the Langgos), who had made common cause with the invaders, the time was not favourable for a quarrel with either me or the Turks.
On the evening of the 19th September, a few days after this occurrence, intelligence was brought into camp that Ibrahim and a hundred men had arrived at Karuma Falls at the ferry by which we had formerly crossed the river to Atada. I immediately despatched ten men to investigate the truth of the report. In about two hours they returned in high spirits, having exchanged greeting with Ibrahim and his party across the river. Kamrasi had despatched boats to another ferry above the Falls to facilitate the passage of the entire party on the following morning, as he wished them to attack the M'was immediately.
Not being desirous of such an encounter, the M'was, who had witnessed the arrival of this powerful reinforcement, immediately retreated, and by sunrise they had fallen back about twenty miles on the road to M'rooli.
On the morning of the 20th Ibrahim arrived, bringing with him the Post from England; that being addressed to the consul at Khartoum had been forwarded to Gondokoro by the annual boats, and taken charge of by Ibrahim on his arrival at that station last April with ivory from the interior. My letters were of very old dates, none under two years, with the exception of one from Speke, who had sent me the Illustrated London News, containing his portrait and that of Grant; also Punch, with an illustration of Punch's discovery of the Nile sources. For a whole day I revelled in the luxury of letters and newspapers.
Ibrahim had very kindly thought of our necessities when at Gondokoro, and had brought me a piece of coarse cotton cloth of Arab manufacture (darmoor) for clothes for myself, and a piece of cotton print for a dress for Mrs. Baker, in addition to a large jar of honey, and some rice and coffee—the latter being the balance of my old stock that I bad been obliged to forsake for want of porters at Shooa. He told me that all my effects that I had left at Obbo had been returned to Gondokoro, and that my two men, whom I had left in charge, had returned with them to Khartoum, on board the vessel that had been sent for me from that place, but which had joined the traders' boats on their return voyage. Ibrahim had assured the captain that it was impossible that we could arrive during that year. It was thus fortunate that we had not pushed on for Gondokoro after April in expectation of finding the boat awaiting us. However, "All's well that ends well," and Ibrahim was astounded at our success, but rather shocked at our personal appearance, as we were thin and haggard, and our clothes had been so frequently repaired that they would hardly hold together.
On the 23d September we moved our camp, and took possession of a village within half a mile of the Victoria Nile. Kamrasi was now very valorous, and returned from his island to a large village on the banks of the river. He sent Ibrahim an immense quantity of ivory, in addition to the store that had been concealed by Eddrees on our departure from Kisoona; this was sent for, and in a few days it was safely deposited in the general camp. Ibrahim was amazed at the fortune that awaited him. I congratulated him most heartily on the success of the two expeditions— the geographical, and the ivory trade; the latter having far more than fulfilled my promise.
Kamrasi determined to invade the Langgo country immediately, as they had received Fowooka after his defeat, and he was now residing with the chief. Accordingly, eighty of Ibrahim's men were despatched across the river, and in three days they destroyed a number of villages, and captured about 200 head of cattle, together with a number of prisoners, including many women. Great rejoicings took place on their return; Ibrahim presented Kamrasi with a hundred cows, and in return for this generosity the king sent thirty immense tusks, and promised a hundred more within a few days.
Another expedition was demanded, and was quickly undertaken with similar success; this time Fowooka narrowly escaped, as a Turk fired at him, but missed and killed a native who stood by him. On the return of the party, Kamrasi received another present of cattle, and again the ivory flowed into the camp.
In the meantime, I had made myself excessively comfortable; we were in a beautiful and highly cultivated district, in the midst of immense fields of sweet potatoes. The idea struck me that I could manufacture spirit from this source, as they were so excessively sweet as to be disagreeable as a vegetable. Accordingly I collected a great number of large jars that were used by the natives for brewing merissa; in these I boiled several hundredweight of potatoes to a pulp. There were jars containing about twenty gallons; these I filled with the pulp mashed with water, to which I added yeast from a brewing of merissa. While this mixture was fermenting I constructed my still, by fixing a jar of about twelve gallons on a neat furnace of clay, and inserting the mouth of a smaller jar upon the top; the smaller jar thus inverted became the dome of the still. In the top of this I bored a hole, in which I fitted a long reed of about an inch in diameter, which descended to my condenser; the latter was the kettle, sunk by a weight in a large pan of cold water.
My still worked beautifully, and produced four or five bottles of good spirit daily;—this I stored in large bottle gourds, containing about four gallons each. My men were excessively fond of attending to the distillery, especially Richarn, who took a deep interest in the operation, but who was frequently found dead asleep on his back; the fire out; and the still at a standstill. Of course he could not be suspected of having tried the produce of his manufactory! I found an extraordinary change in my health from the time that I commenced drinking the potato whisky. Every day I drank hot toddy. I became strong, and from that time to the present day my fever left me, occurring only once or twice during the first six months, and then quitting me entirely. Not having tasted either wine or spirits for nearly two years, the sudden change from total abstinence to a moderate allowance of stimulant produced a marvellous effect. Ibrahim and some of his men established stills; several became intoxicated, which so delighted M'Gambi, who happened to be present, that he begged a bottle of spirit from Ibrahim as a sample for Kamrasi. It appears that the king got drunk so quickly upon the potent spirit, that he had an especial desire to repeat the dose—he called it the maroua (cider) of our country, and pronounced it so far superior to his own that he determined to establish a factory. When I explained to him that it was the produce of sweet potatoes, he expressed his great regret that he had never sufficiently appreciated their value, and he expressed a determination to cultivate whole districts. Ibrahim was requested to leave one of his men who understood the management of a still, to establish and undertake the direction of "King Kamrasi's Central African Unyoro Potato-Whisky Company, unlimited."
Ibrahim had brought a variety of presents for Kamrasi: fifty pounds of beads, a revolver pistol, cotton cloths, blue glass tumblers, looking-glasses, &c. These donations, added to the pleasure afforded by the defeat of his enemies, put his majesty into excellent humour, sad he frequently came to visit us. On one occasion I gave him the portraits of Speke and Grant: the latter he recognised immediately; he could not understand the pictures in Punch, declaring that he (Punch) was not an Englishman, as he neither resembled me nor Speke; but he was exceedingly pleased with the Paris fashions in the Illustrated London News, which we cut out with a pair of scissors, and gave him as specimens of English ladies in full dress.
The war being concluded by the total discomfiture of his enemies, Kamrasi was determined to destroy all those inhabitants of Foweera who had in any way connived as the attack of the M'was. Daily executions took place in the summary manner already described, the victims being captured, led before the king, and butchered in his presence without a trial.
Among others suspected as favourable to revolution was Kalloe, the chief of Foweera; next to Kamrasi and M'Gambi he was the principal man in the kingdom; he was much beloved by the entire population of Chopi and Foweera, and I had always found him most intelligent and friendly. One night, at about eight o'clock, Ibrahim came to my hut looking very mysterious, and after assuring himself that no one was present, he confided to me that he had received orders from Kamrasi to attack Kalloe's village before daybreak on the following morning, to surround his dwelling, and to shoot him as he attempted to escape; Ibrahim was further instructed to capture the women and children of the village as his perquisites. At the very moment that thus treacherous compact had been entered into with Ibrahim, Kamrasi had pretended to be upon the most friendly terms with Kalloe, who was then in his camp; but he did not lay violent hands upon him, as, many of the natives being in his favour, the consequences might have been disagreeable: thus he had secretly ordered his destruction. I at once desired Ibrahim at all hazards to renounce so horrible a design. Never did I feel so full of revolution as at that moment; my first impulse was to assist Kalloe to dethrone Kamrasi, and to usurp the kingdom. Ibrahim had an eye to business; he knew, that should he offend Kamrasi there would be an end to the ivory trade for the present. The country was so rich in ivory that it was a perfect bank upon which he could draw without limit, provided that he remained an ally of the king; but no trade could be carried on with the natives, all business being prohibited by Kamrasi, who himself monopolised the profits. In the event of war, not a tusk would be obtained, as the ivory in possession of the natives was never stored in their huts, but was concealed in the earth. The Turks were now mercenaries employed by the king to do any bloody work that he might require.
Ibrahim was in a dilemma. I offered to take the entire onus upon myself. That Kalloe should not be murdered I was determined; the old man had on several occasions been very obliging to me and to my people, and I resolved to save him at any risk. His son, perfectly unsuspicious of evil, was at that moment in our camp, having fraternized with some of my men. I sent for him immediately and explained the entire plot, concluding by telling him to run that instant at full speed to his father (about two miles distant), and to send away all the women and children from the village, but to bring Kalloe to my hut; that I would hoist the British flag, as I had done at Kisoona, and this should protect him from the bloodthirsty Kamrasi, who would not dare to seize him. Should he refuse to trust me, he must fly immediately, as the Turks would attack the village before daybreak. Away started the astonished son in the dark night at full speed along the well-known path, to give the warning.
I now arranged with Ibrahim that to avoid offending Kamrasi he should make a false attack upon the village at the time appointed; he would find it deserted, and there would be an end of the matter should Kalloe prefer flight to trusting in my protection, which I felt sure he would. Midnight arrived, and no signs of Kalloe had appeared; I went to sleep, satisfied that he was safe. Before daybreak eighty men of the Turks' party started upon their feigned expedition; in about two hours they returned, having found the village deserted;—the bird had flown. I was delighted at the success of this ruse, but I should have been more satisfied had Kalloe placed himself in my hands: this I had felt sure he would decline, as the character of the natives is generally so false and mistrustful that he would suspect a snare.
At about noon we heard yells; drums were beating and horns blowing in all directions. For the moment I thought that Kalloe had raised the country against Kamrasi, as I observed many hundred men dressed for war, scouring the beautiful open park, like hounds upon a scent. The Turks beat their drum and called their men under arms beneath the ensign planted outside the village,—not knowing the intention of the unusual gathering. It shortly transpired that Kamrasi had heard of the escape of Kalloe, and, enraged at the loss of his prey, he had immediately started about a thousand men in pursuit.
In the evening I heard that he had been captured. I sent to Kamrasi directly, to beg him to postpone his execution, as I wished to speak with him on the following morning.
At sunrise I started, and found the king sitting in his but, while Kalloe was lying under a plantain tree perfectly resigned, with his leg in the Kamrasi shoe—a block of wood of about four feet long and ten inches thick (the rough trunk of a tree); his left foot had been thrust through a small hole in the log, while a peg driven through at right angles just above the instep effectually secured the prisoner. This was a favourite punishment of the king; the prisoner might thus languish until released by death; it was impossible to sit up, and difficult to lie down, the log having to be adjusted by an attendant according to the movement of the body. I told Kamrasi that as I had saved him from the attack of the Turks at Kisoona he must grant me a favour, and spare Kalloe's life: this request, to my astonishment, he at once granted, [A few days afterwards he shot Kalloe with his own hands.] and added, that he should only keep him in the "shoe" for a few days, until his people should bring him a hundred cows as a fine, in which case he should release him. I had no faith in his promise, as I had before heard that it was his practice to put the shoe upon any rich man in order to extract a fine, upon the payment of which the unfortunate prisoner was on some occasions killed instead of liberated. However, I had done all in my power; and had Kalloe been a man of determination, he could have saved himself by trusting implicitly to me. As I returned to the camp, I could not help reflecting on the ingratitude I had experienced among all the natives; on many occasions I had exerted myself to benefit others in whom I had no personal interest, but in no single instance had I ever received even a look of gratitude.
Two days after this occurrence I ordered the boy Saat to go as usual in search of supplies to the neighbouring villages; but as he was starting, Ibrahim advised him to wait a little, as something was wrong, and it would be dangerous to go alone. A few minutes later, I heard three shots fired in rapid succession at about three-quarters of a mile distant. The Turks and my men immediately thronged outside the village, which position being on a hill, we had a panoramic view of the surrounding country.
We shortly perceived a number of men, including a few of the Turks' party, approaching from an opposite hill, carrying something heavy in their arms. With the telescope I distinguished a mat on which some object of weight was laboriously supported, the bearers grasping the corners in their hands. "One of our people is killed!" murmured one Turk. "Perhaps it's only a native," said another. "Who would trouble himself to carry a black fellow home!" exclaimed a third. The mystery was soon cleared by the arrival of the party with the dead body of one of Kamrasi's headmen; one ball had struck him through the chest, another through the right arm, and the third had passed through the body from side to side. He had been shot by some Bari slaves who acted as soldiers belonging to the Turks' party. It appeared that the deceased had formerly sent seventy elephants' tusks to the people of Mahommed Wat-el-Mek against the orders of Kamrasi, who had prohibited the export of ivory from his kingdom, as he had agreed to deal exclusively with Ibrahim. The culprit was therefore condemned to death, but having some powerful adherents in his village, Kamrasi had thought it advisable to employ the Turks to shoot him; this task they gladly accepted, as they were minus seventy tusks through his conduct. Without my knowledge, a small party had started in open daylight to his village close to our camp, and on attempting to enter the fence, several lances were thrown at the Turks; the deceased rushed from the hut attempting to escape, and was immediately shot dead by three of the Bari soldiers. The hands were then (as usual in all these countries) amputated at the wrists, in order to detach the copper bracelets; the body being dragged about two hundred paces from the village, was suspended by the neck to a branch of the tamarind tree. All the slave women (about seventy) and children were then driven down to the spot by the Turks to view the body as it swung from the branch; when thoroughly horrified by the sight, they were threatened to be served precisely in a similar manner should they ever attempt to escape.
Superlatively brutal as this appeared, I could not help reflecting that our public executions in England convey a similar moral; the only difference being in the conduct of the women; the savages having to be DRIVEN to the sight as witnesses, while European females throng curiously to such disgusting exhibitions. A few minutes after the departure of the crowd, the tree was covered with vultures, all watching the prospective feast. [The woman Bacheeta ran away, and we never saw her again. Some time after, we heard that she had escaped to Fowooka's people, fearing to be left by us, as we had promised, in Chopi.]
In the evening Kamrasi sent a number of women and children as presents to Ibrahim: altogether he had given him seventy-two slaves in addition to those captured in the various wars. There never was a more supreme despot than the king Kamrasi—not only the property, but the families of his subjects were at his disposal; he boasted that "all belonged to him." Thus, when disposed to be liberal, he took from others and bestowed upon his favourites; should any sufferer complain, there were no lawyer's costs, but the "shoe," or death. His power depended upon a perfect system of espionage, by which he obtained a knowledge of all that passed throughout his kingdom; that being divided into numerous small districts, each governed by a chief, who was responsible for the acts committed within his jurisdiction, the government was wonderfully simplified. Should a complaint be made against a governor, he was summoned before the king; if guilty, death, or the "shoe!" To be suspected of rebellion, was to die. A bodyguard of about 500 men, who were allowed to pillage the country at discretion, secured the power of the king, as with this organized force always at hand he could pounce upon the suspected and extinguish them at once: thus the tyrant held his sway over a population so timid that they yielded tamely to his oppression. Having now allied himself to the Turks, he had conceived the most ambitious views of conquering Uganda, and of restoring the ancient kingdom of Kitwara; but the total absence of physical courage will utterly frustrate such plans for extension, and Kamrasi the Cruel will never be known as Kamrasi the Conqueror.
It was the middle of November—not the wretched month that chills even the recollection of Old England, but the last of the ten months of rain that causes the wonderful vegetation of the fertile soil in Equatorial Africa. The Turks were ready to return to Shooa, and I longed for the change from this brutal country to the still wilder but less bloody tribe of Madi, to the north.
The quantity of ivory in camp was so large that we required 700 porters to carry both tusks and provisions, &c. for the five days' march through uninhabited country. Kamrasi came to see us before we parted; he had provided the requisite porters. We were to start on the following day; he arrived with the Blissett rifle that had been given him by Speke. He told me that he was sorry we were going; and he was much distressed that he had burst his rifle!—he had hammered a large bullet in the endeavour to fit the bore; and the lump of lead having stuck in the middle, he had fired his rifle and split the barrel, which being of remarkably good metal had simply opened. He told me that it did not matter so very much after all, as he had neither powder nor ball (this was false, as Ibrahim had just given him a quantity), therefore his rifle would have been useless if sound; but he added, "You are now going home, where you can obtain all you require, therefore you will want for nothing; give me, before you leave, the little double-barrelled rifle that YOU PROMISED me, and a supply of ammunition!" To the last moment he was determined to persevere in his demand, and, if possible, to obtain my handy little Fletcher 24 rifle, that had been demanded and refused ever since my residence in his country. I was equally persistent in my refusal, telling him that there were many dangers on the road, and I could not travel unarmed.
On the following morning our people crossed the river: this was a tedious operation, as our party consisted of about 700 porters and eighty armed men: Ibrahim had arranged to leave thirty men with Kamrasi to protect him from the M'was until he should return in the following season, when he promised to bring him a great variety of presents. By 4 P.M. the whole party had crossed the river with ivory and baggage. We now brought up the rear, and descended some fine crags of granite to the water's edge; there were several large canoes in attendance, one of which we occupied, and, landing on the opposite shore, we climbed up the steep ascent and looked back upon Unyoro, in which we had passed ten months of wretchedness. It had poured with rain on the preceding day, and the natives had constructed a rough camp of grass huts.
On the break of day on the 17th November we started. It would be tedious to describe the journey, as, although by a different route, it was through the same country that we had traversed on our arrival from Shooa. After the first day's march we quitted the forest and entered upon the great prairies. I was astonished to find after several days' journey a great difference in the dryness of the climate. In Unyoro we had left the grass an intense green, the rain having been frequent: here it was nearly dry, and in many places it had been burnt by the native hunting parties. From some elevated points in the route I could distinctly make out the outline of the mountains running from the Albert lake to the north, on the west bank of the Nile; these would hardly have been observed by a person who was ignorant of their existence, as the grass was so high that I had to ascend a white ant-hill to look for them; they were about sixty miles distant, and my men, who knew them well, pointed them out to their companions.
The entire party, including women and children, amounted to about 1,000 people. Although they had abundance of flour, there was no meat, and the grass being high there was no chance of game. On the fourth day only I saw a herd of about twenty tetel (hartebeest) in an open space that had been recently burnt. We were both riding upon oxen that I had purchased of Ibrahim, and we were about a mile ahead of the flag in the hope of getting a shot; dismounting from my animal, I stalked the game down a ravine, but upon reaching the point that I had resolved upon for the shot, I found the herd had moved their position to about 250 paces from me. They were all looking at me, as they had been disturbed by the oxen and the boy Saat in the distance. Dinner depended on the shot. There was a leafless bush singed by the recent fire; upon a branch of this I took a rest, but just as I was going to fire they moved off—a clean miss! —whizz went the bullet over them, but so close to the ears of one that it shook its head as though stung by a wasp, and capered round and round; the others stood perfectly still, gazing at the oxen in the distance. Crack went the left-hand barrel of the little Fletcher 24, and down went a tetel like a lump of lead, before the satisfactory sound of the bullet returned from the distance. Off went the herd, leaving a fine beast kicking on the ground. It was shot through the spine, and some of the native porters, having witnessed the sport from a great distance, threw down their loads and came racing towards the meat like a pack of wolves scenting blood. In a few minutes the prize was divided, while a good portion was carried by Saat for our own use; the tetel, weighing about 500 lbs. vanished among the crowd in a few minutes.
On the fifth day's march from the Victoria Nile we arrived at Shooa; the change was delightful after the wet and dense vegetation of Unyoro: the country was dry, and the grass low and of fine quality. We took possession of our camp, that had already been prepared for us in a large courtyard well cemented with cow-dung and clay, and fenced with a strong row of palisades. A large tree grew in the centre. Several hits were erected for interpreters and servants, and a tolerably commodious hut, the roof overgrown with pumpkins, was arranged for our mansion.
That evening the native women crowded to our camp to welcome my wife home, and to dance in honour of our return; for which exhibition they expected a present of a cow.
Much to my satisfaction, I found that my first-rate riding ox that had been lamed during the previous year by falling into a pitfall, and had been returned to Shooa, was perfectly recovered; thus I had a good mount for my journey to Gondokoro.
Some months were passed at Shooa, during which I occupied my time by rambling about the neighbourhood, ascending the mountain, making duplicates of my maps, and gathering information, all of which was simply a corroboration of what I had heard before, excepting from the East. The Turks had discovered a new country called Lira, about thirty miles from Shooa; the natives were reported as extremely friendly, and their country as wonderfully fertile and rich in ivory. Many of the people were located in the Turks' camp; they were the same type as the Madi, but wore their hair in a different form: it was woven into a thick felt, which covered the shoulders, and extended as low upon the back as the shoulderblade.
They were not particular about wearing false hair, but were happy to receive subscriptions from any source; in case of death the hair of the deceased was immediately cut off and shared among his friends to be added to their felt. When in full dress (the men being naked) this mass of felt was plastered thickly with a bluish clay, so as to form an even surface; this was most elaborately worked with the point of a thorn, so as to resemble the cuttings of a file: white pipe-clay was then arranged in patterns on the surface, while an ornament made of either an antelope's or giraffe's sinew was stuck in the extremity and turned up for about a foot in length. This when dry was as stiff as horn, and the tip was ornamented with a tuft of fur—the tip of a leopard's tail being highly prized.
I am not aware that any Lord Chancellor of England or any member of the English bar has ever penetrated to Central Africa, therefore the origin of the fashion and the similarity in the wigs is most extraordinary; a well-blacked barrister in full wig and nothing else would thoroughly impersonate a native of Lira. The tribe of Lira was governed by a chief; but he had no more real authority than any of the petty chiefs who ruled the various portions of the Madi country. Throughout the tribes excepting the kingdom of Unyoro, the chiefs had very little actual power, and so uncertain was their tenure of office that the rule seldom remained two generations in one family. On the death of the father, the numerous sons generally quarrelled for his property and for the right of succession, ending in open war, and in dividing the flocks and herds, each settling in a separate district and becoming a petty chief; thus there was no union throughout the country, and consequently great weakness. The people of Lira were fighting with their friends the Langgos—those of Shooa with the natives of Fatiko; nor were there two neighbouring tribes that were at peace. It was natural that such unprincipled parties as the Khartoum traders should turn this general discord to their own advantage; thus within the ten months that I had been absent from Shooa a great change had taken place in the neighbourhood. The rival parties of Koorshid and Debono, under their respective leaders, Ibrahim and Mahommed Wat-el-Mek, had leagued themselves with contending tribes, and the utter ruin of the country was the consequence. For many miles' circuit from Shooa, the blackened ruins of villages and deserted fields bore witness to the devastation committed; cattle that were formerly in thousands, had been driven off, and the beautiful district that had once been most fertile was reduced to a wilderness. By these wholesale acts of robbery and destruction the Turks had damaged their own interests, as the greater number of the natives had fled to other countries; thus it was most difficult to obtain porters to convey the ivory to Gondokoro. The people of the country had been so spoiled by the payment in cows instead of beads for the most trifling services, that they now refused to serve as porters to Gondokoro under a payment of four cows each; thus, as 1,000 men were required, 4,000 cows were necessary as payment. Accordingly razzia must be made.
Upon several expeditions, the Turks realized about 2,000 cows; the natives had become alert, and had driven off their herds to inaccessible mountains. Debono's people at their camp, about twenty-five miles distant, were even in a worse position than Ibrahim; they had so exasperated the natives by their brutal conduct, that tribes formerly hostile to each other now coalesced and combined to thwart the Turks by declining to act as porters; thus their supply of ivory could not be transported to Gondokoro. This led to extra violence on the part of the Turks, until at last the chief of Faloro (Werdella) declared open war, and suddenly driving off the Turks' cattle, he retired to the mountains, from whence he sent an impertinent message inviting Mahommed to try to rescue them.
This act of insolence united the rival trading parties against Werdella: those of Ibrahim and Mahommed agreed to join in an attack upon his village. They started with a force of about 300 armed men, and arriving at the foot of the mountains at about 4 A.M. they divided their force into two parties of 150 men each, and ascended the rocky hill upon two sides, intending to surprise the village on one side, while the natives and their herds would be intercepted in their flight upon the other.
The chief, Werdella, was well experienced in the affairs of the Turks, as he had been for two or three years engaged with them in many razzias upon the adjoining tribes—he had learnt to shoot while acting as their ally, and having received as presents two muskets, and two brace of pistols from Debono's nephew Amabile, he thought it advisable to supply himself with ammunition; he had therefore employed his people to steal a box of 500 cart ridges and a parcel containing 10,000 percussion caps from Mahommed's camp. Werdella was a remarkably plucky fellow; and thus strengthened by powder and ball, and knowing the character of the Turks, he resolved to fight.
Hardly had the Turks' party of 150 men advanced half way up the mountain path in their stealthy manner of attempting a surprise, when they were assailed by a shower of arrows, and the leader who carried the flag fell dead at the report of a musket fired from behind a rock. Startled at this unexpected attack, the Turks' party recoiled, leaving their flag upon the ground by the dead standard-bearer. Before they had time to recover from their first panic, another shot was fired from the same shelter at a distance of about thirty paces, and the brains of one of the Turks' party were splattered over his comrades, as the ball took the top of his head completely off. Three Bagara Arabs, first-rate elephant hunters, who were with the Turks, now rushed forward and saved the flag and a box of ammunition that the porter had thrown down in his flight. These Arabs, whose courage was of a different class to that of the traders' party, endeavoured to rally the panic-stricken Turks, but just as they were feebly and irresolutely advancing, another shot rang from the same fatal rock, and a man who carried a box of cartridges fell dead. This was far too hot for the traders' people, who usually had it all their own way, being alone possessed of firearms. A disgraceful flight took place, but Werdella was again too much for them. On their arrival at the bottom of the hill, they ran round the base to join the other division of their party; this effected, they were consulting together as to retreat or advance, when close above their heads from an overhanging rock another shot was fired, and a man dropped, shot through the chest. The head of Werdella was distinctly seen grinning in triumph; —the whole party fired at him! "He's down!" was shouted, as the head disappeared;—a puff of smoke from the rock, and a shriek from one of the Turks at the sound of another musket shot from the same spot, settled the question; a man fell mortally wounded. Four men were shot dead, and one was brought home by the crestfallen party to die in two or three days; five shots had been fired, and five killed, by one native armed with two guns against 300 men. "Bravo, Werdella!" I exclaimed, as the beaten party returned to camp and Ibrahim described the fight. He deserved the Victoria Cross. This defeat completely cowed the cowardly Turks; nor would any persuasions on the part of Ibrahim induce them to make another razzia within the territory of the redoubted chief, Werdella.
During the absence of the traders' party upon various expeditions, about fifty men were left in their camp as headquarters. Nothing could exceed the brutality of the people; they had erected stills, and produced a powerful corn spirit from the native merissa; their entire time was passed in gambling, drinking, and fighting, both by night and day. The natives were ill-treated, their female slaves and children brutally ill-used, and the entire camp was a mere slice from the infernal regions. My portion of the camp being a secluded courtyard, we were fortunately independent.
On one occasion a razzia had been made; and although unsuccessful in cattle, it had been productive in slaves. Among the captives was a pretty young girl of about fifteen; she had been sold by auction in the camp, as usual, the day after the return from the razzia, and had fallen to the lot of one of the men. Some days after her capture, a native from the village that had been plundered confidently arrived at the camp with the intention of offering ivory for her ransom. Hardly had he entered the gateway, when the girl, who was sitting at the door of her owner's hut, caught sight of him, and springing to her feet, she ran as fast as her chained ankles would allow her, and threw herself in his arms, exclaiming, "My father!" It was her father, who had thus risked his life in the enemy's camp to ransom his child.
The men who were witnesses to this scene immediately rushed upon the unfortunate man, tore him from his daughter, and bound him tightly with cords.
While this was enacting, I happened to be in my hut; thus I was not an eye-witness. About an hour later, I called some of my men to assist me in cleaning some rifles. Hardly had we commenced, when three shots were fired within a hundred paces of my hut. My men exclaimed, "They have shot the Abid (native)!" "What native?" I inquired. They then related the story I have just described. Brutal as these bloodthirsty villains were, I could hardly believe in so cold-blooded a murder. I immediately sent my people and the boy Saat to verify it; they returned with the report that the wretched father was sitting on the ground, bound to a tree, dead; shot by three balls.
I must do Ibrahim the justice to explain that he was not in the camp; had he been present, this murder would not have been committed, as he scrupulously avoided any such acts in my vicinity. A few days later, a girl about sixteen, and her mother, who were slaves, were missing; they had escaped. The hue and cry was at once raised. Ibrahimawa, the "Sinbad" of Bornu, who had himself been a slave, was the most indefatigable slave-hunter. He and a party at once started upon the tracks of the fugitives. They did not return until the following day; but where was the runaway who could escape from so true a bloodhound? The young girl and her mother were led into camp tied together by the neck, and were immediately condemned to be hanged. I happened to be present, as, knowing the whole affair, I had been anxiously awaiting the result. I took this opportunity of explaining to the Turks that I would use any force to prevent such an act, and that I would report the names of all those to the Egyptian authorities who should commit any murder that I could prove; neither would I permit the two captives to be flogged—they were accordingly pardoned. [It will be observed that at this period of the expedition I had acquired an extraordinary influence over the people, that enabled me to exert an authority which saved the lives of many unfortunate creatures who would otherwise have been victims.]
There was among the slaves a woman who had been captured in the attack upon Fowooka. This woman I have already mentioned as having a very beautiful boy, who at the time of the capture was a little more than a year old.
So determined was her character, that she had run away five times with her child, but on every occasion she had been recaptured, after having suffered much by hunger and thirst in endeavouring to find her way back to Unyoro through the uninhabited wilderness between Shooa and Karuma. On the last occasion of her capture, the Turks had decided upon her being incorrigible, therefore she had received 144 blows with the coorbatch (hippopotamus whip), and had been sold separately from her child to the party belonging to Mahommed Wat-el-Mek. Little Abbai had always been a great pet of Mrs. Baker's, and the unfortunate child being now motherless, he was naturally adopted, and led a most happy life. Although much under two years old, he was quite equal in precocity to a European child of three; in form and strength he was a young Hercules, and, although so young, he would frequently follow me out shooting for two or three miles, and return home with a guinea-fowl hanging over his shoulder, or his hands full of pigeons. Abbai became very civilized; he was taught to make a Turkish "salaam" upon receiving a present, and to wash his hands both before and after his meals. He had the greatest objection to eat alone, and he generally invited three or four friends of about his own age to dine with him; on such occasions, a large wooden bowl, about twenty inches in diameter, was filled with soup and porridge, around which steaming dish the young party sat, happier in their slavery than kings in power. There were two lovely girls of three and eight years of age that belonged to Ibrahim; these were not black, but of the same dark brown tint as Kamrasi and many of the Unyoro people. Their mother was also there, and their history being most pitiable, they were always allowed free access to our hut and the dinner bowl. These two girls were the daughters of Owine, one of the great chiefs who were allied with Fowooka against Kamrasi. After the defeat of Fowooka, Owine and many of his people with their families quitted the country, and forming an alliance with Mahommed Wat-el-Mek, they settled in the neighbourhood of his camp at Faloro, and built a village. For some time they were on the best terms, but some cattle of the Turks being missed, suspicion fell upon the new settlers. The men of Mahommed's party desired that they might be expelled, and Mahommed, in a fit of drunken fury, at once ordered them to be MASSACRED. His men, eager for murder and plunder, immediately started upon their bloody errand, and surrounding the unsuspecting colony, they fired the huts and killed EVERY MAN, including the chief, Owine; capturing the women and children as slaves. Ibrahim had received the mother and two girls as presents from Mahommed Wat-el-Mek. As the two rival companies had been forced to fraternize, owing to the now generally hostile attitude of the surrounding tribes, the leaders had become wonderfully polite, exchanging presents, getting drunk together upon raw spirits, and behaving in a brotherly manner—according to their ideas of fraternity. There was a peculiar charm in the association with children in this land of hardened hearts and savage natures: there is a time in the life of the most savage animal when infancy is free from the fierce instincts of race; even the lion's whelp will fondle the hand that it would tear in riper years: thus, separated in this land of horrors from all civilization, and forced by hard necessity into the vicinity of all that was brutal and disgusting, it was an indescribable relief to be surrounded by those who were yet innocent, and who clung in their forsaken state to those who looked upon them with pity. We had now six little dependents, none of whom could ever belong to us, as they were all slaves, but who were well looked after by my wife; fed, amused, and kept clean. The boy Abbai was the greatest favourite, as, having neither father nor mother, he claimed the greatest care: he was well washed every morning, and then to his great delight smeared all over from head to toes with red ochre and grease, with a cock's feather stuck in his woolly pate. He was then a most charming pet savage, and his toilette completed, he invariably sat next to his mistress, drinking a gourd-shell of hot milk, while I smoked my early morning pipe beneath the tree. I made bows and arrows for my boys, and taught them to shoot at a mark, a large pumpkin being carved into a man's head to excite their aim. Thus the days were passed until the evening; at that time a large fire was lighted to create a blaze, drums were collected, and after dinner a grand dance was kept up by the children, until the young Abbai ended regularly by creeping under my wife's chair, and falling sound asleep: from this protected spot he was carried to his mat, wrapped up in a piece of old flannel (the best cloth we had), in which he slept till morning. Poor little Abbai! I often wonder what will be his fate, and whether in his dreams he recalls the few months of happiness that brightened his earliest days of slavery.
Although we were in good health in Shooa, many of the men were ill, suffering generally from headache; also from ulcerated legs;—the latter was a peculiar disease, as the ulcer generally commenced upon the ankle bone and extended to such a degree that the patient was rendered incapable of walking. The treatment for headache among all the savage tribes was a simple cauterization of the forehead in spots burnt with a hot iron close to the roots of the hair. The natives declared that the water was unwholesome from the small stream at the foot of the hill and that all those who drank from the well were in good health. I went down to examine the spring, which I found beautifully clear, while the appearance of the stream was quite sufficient to explain the opposite quality. As I was walking quietly along the bank, I saw a bright ray of light in the grass upon the opposite side; in another moment I perceived the head of a crocodile which was concealed in the grass, the brightness of the sun's reflection upon the eye having attracted my attention. A shot with the little 24 rifle struck just above the eye and killed it; —it was a female, from which we extracted several large eggs, all with hard shells.
The shooting that I had while at Shooa was confined to antelopes; of these there was no variety excepting waterbuck and hartebeest. Whenever I shot an animal the Shooa natives would invariably cut its throat, and drink the hot blood as it gushed from the artery. In this neighbourhood there was a great scarcity of game the natives of Lira described their country as teeming with elephants and rhinoceros; a fine horn of the latter they brought with them to Shooa. There is only one variety of rhinoceros that I have met with in the portions of Africa that I have visited: this is the two-horned, a very exact sketch of which I made of the head of one that I cut off after I had shot it. This two-horned black rhinoceros is extremely vicious. I have remarked that they almost invariably charge any enemy that they smell, but do not see; they generally retreat if they observe the object before obtaining the wind.
In my rambles in search of game, I found two varieties of cotton growing indigenous to the country: one with a yellow blossom was so short in the staple as to be worthless, but the other (a red blossom) produced a fine quality that was detached with extreme ease from the seeds. A sample of this variety I brought to England, and deposited the seed at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. A large quantity was reported to be grown at Lira, some of which was brought me by the chief; this was the inferior kind. I sketched the old chief of Lira, who when in full dress wore a curious ornament of cowrie shells upon his felt wig that gave him a most comical appearance, as he looked like the caricature of an English judge. The Turks had extended their excursions in their search for ivory, and they returned from an expedition sixty miles east of Shooa, bringing with them two donkeys that they had obtained from the natives. This was an interesting event, as for nearly two years I had heard from the natives of Latooka, and from those of Unyoro, that donkeys existed in a country to the east. These animals were the same in appearance as those of the Soudan; the natives never rode, but simply used them to transport wood from the forest to their villages; the people were reported as the same in language and appearance as the Lira tribe.
THE NATIVES IN MOURNING.
The hour of deliverance from our long sojourn in Central Africa was at hand; it was the month of February, and the boats would be at Gondokoro. The Turks had packed their ivory; the large tusks were fastened to poles to be carried by two men, and the camp was a perfect mass of this valuable material. I counted 609 loads of upwards of 50 lbs. each; thirty-one loads were lying at an outstation: therefore the total results of the ivory campaign during the last twelve months were about 32,000 lbs., equal to about 9,630 pounds when delivered in Egypt. This was a perfect fortune for Koorshid.
We were ready to start. My baggage was so unimportant that I was prepared to forsake everything, and to march straight for Gondokoro independently with my own men; but this the Turks assured me was impracticable, as the country was so hostile in advance that we must of necessity have some fighting on the road; the Bari tribe would dispute our right to pass through their territory.
The porters were all engaged to transport the ivory, but I observed that the greater number were in mourning for either lost friends or cattle, having ropes twisted round their necks and waists, as marks of sorrow.
About 800 men received payment of cattle in advance; the next day they had all absconded with their cows, having departed during the night. This was a planned affair to "spoil the Egyptians:" a combination had been entered into some months before by the Madi and Shooa tribes, to receive payment and to abscond, but to leave the Turks helpless to remove their stock of ivory. The people of Mahommed Wat-el-Mek were in a similar dilemma; not a tusk could be delivered at Gondokoro.
This was not my affair. The greater portion of Ibrahim's immense store of ivory had been given to him by Kamrasi; I had guaranteed him a hundred cantars (10,000 lbs.) should he quit Obbo and proceed to the unknown south; in addition to a large quantity that he had collected and delivered at Gondokoro in the past year, he had now more than three times that amount. Although Kamrasi had on many occasions offered the ivory to me, I had studiously avoided the acceptance of a single tusk, as I wished the Turks to believe that I would not mix myself up with trade in any form, and that my expedition had purely the one object that I had explained to Ibrahim when I first won him over on the road to Ellyria more than two years ago, "the discovery of the Albert lake." With a certain number of presents of first class forty-guinea rifles and guns, &c. &c., to Ibrahim, I declared my intention of starting for Gondokoro. My trifling articles of baggage were packed: a few of the Lira natives were to act as porters, as, although the ivory could not be transported, it was necessary for Ibrahim to send a strong party to Gondokoro to procure ammunition and the usual supplies forwarded annually from Khartoum; the Lira people who carried my luggage would act as return porters.
The day arrived for our departure; the oxen were saddled and we were ready to start. Crowds of people came to say "goodbye," but, dispensing with the hand-kissing of the Turks who were to remain in camp, we prepared for our journey towards HOME. Far away although it was, every step would bring us nearer. Nevertheless there were ties even in this wild spot, where all was savage and unfeeling—ties that were painful to sever, and that caused a sincere regret to both of us when we saw our little flock of unfortunate slave children crying at the idea of separation. In this moral desert, where all humanized feelings were withered and parched like the sands of the Soudan, the guilelessness of the children had been welcomed like springs of water, as the only refreshing feature in a land of sin and darkness. "Where are you going?" cried poor little Abbai in the broken Arabic that we had taught him. "Take me with you, Sitty!" (lady), and he followed us down the path, as we regretfully left our proteges, with his fists tucked into his eyes, weeping from his heart, although for his own mother he had not shed a tear. We could not take him with us;—he belonged to Ibrahim; and had I purchased the child to rescue him from his hard lot and to rear him as a civilized being, I might have been charged with slave dealing. With heavy hearts we saw him taken up in the arms of a woman and carried back to camp, to prevent him from following our party, that had now started.
We had turned our backs fairly upon the south, and we now travelled for several days through most beautiful park-like lands, crossing twice the Un-y-Ame stream, that rises in the country between Shooa and Unyoro, and arriving at the point of junction of this river with the Nile, in latitude 3 degrees 32 minutes N. On the north bank of the Un-y-Ame, about three miles from the embouchure of that river where it flows into the Nile, the tamarind tree was shown me that forms the limit of Signor Miani's journey from Gondokoro, the extreme point reached by any traveller from the north until the date of my expedition. This tree bore the name of "Shedder-el-Sowar" (the traveller's tree), by which it was known to the traders' parties. Several of the men belonging to Ibrahim, also Mahommed Wat-el-Mek, the vakeel of Debono's people, had accompanied Signor Miani on his expedition to this spot. Loggo, the Bari interpreter, who had constantly acted for me during two years, happened to have been the interpreter of Signor Miani; he confessed to me how he had been compelled by his master's escort to deceive him, by pretending that a combined attack was to be made upon them by the natives.
Upon this excuse, Miani's men refused to proceed, and determined to turn back to Gondokoro; thus ended his expedition. I regarded the tree that marked the limit of his journey with much sympathy. I remembered how I had formerly contended with similar difficulties, and how heartbreaking it would have been to have returned, baffled by the misconduct of my own people, when the determination of my heart urged me forward to the south; thus I appreciated the disappointment that so enterprising a traveller must have felt in sorrowfully cutting his name upon the tree, and leaving it as a record of misfortune.
With a just tribute to the perseverance that had carried him farther than any European traveller had penetrated before him, we continued our route over a most beautiful park of verdant grass, diversified by splendid tamarind trees, the dark foliage of which afforded harbour for great numbers of the brilliant yellow-breasted pigeon. We shortly ascended a rocky mountain by a stony and difficult pass, and upon arrival at the summit, about 800 feet above the Nile, which lay in front at about two miles' distance, we halted to enjoy the magnificent view. "Hurrah for the old Nile!" I exclaimed, as I revelled in the scene before me: here it was, fresh from its great parent, the Albert lake, in all the grandeur of Africa's mightiest river. From our elevated point we looked down upon a broad sheet of unbroken water, winding through marshy ground, flowing from W.S.W. The actual breadth of clear water, independent of the marsh and reedy banks, was about 400 yards, but, as usual in the deep and flat portions of the White Nile, the great extent of reeds growing in deep water rendered any estimate of the positive width extremely vague. We could discern the course of this great river for about twenty miles, and distinctly, trace the line of mountains on the west bank that we had seen at about sixty miles' distance when on the route from Karuma to Shooa; the commencement of this chain we had seen when at Magungo, forming the Koshi frontier of the Nile. The country opposite to the point on which we now stood was Koshi, which, forming the west bank of the Nile, extended the entire way to the Albert lake. The country that we occupied was Madi, which extended as the east bank of the Nile to the angle of the Victoria Nile (or Somerset river) junction opposite Magungo. These two countries, Koshi and Madi, we had seen from Magungo when we had viewed the exit of the Nile from the lake, as though a tail-like continuation of the water, until lost in the distance of the interminable valley of high reeds. Having, from Magungo, in lat. 2 degrees l6 minutes, looked upon the course of the river far to the north, and from the high pass, our present point, in lat. 3 degrees 34 min. N., we now comprised an extensive view of the river to the south; the extremities of the limits of view from north and south would almost meet, and leave a mere trifle of a few miles not actually inspected.
Exactly opposite the summit of the pass from which we now scanned the country, rose the precipitous mountain known as Gebel Kookoo, which rose to a height of about 2,500 feet above the level of the Nile, and formed the prominent feature of a chain which bordered the west bank of the Nile with few breaks to the north, until within thirty miles of Gondokoro. The pass upon which we stood was the southern extremity of a range of high rocky hills that formed the east cliff of the Nile; thus the broad and noble stream that arrived from the Albert lake in a sheet of unbroken water received the Un-y-Ame river, and then suddenly entered the pass between the two chains of hills,—Gebel Kookoo on the west, and the ridge that we now occupied upon the east. The mouth of the Un-y-Ame river was the limit of navigation from the Albert lake. As far as the eye could reach to the southwest, the country was dead flat and marshy throughout the course of the river; this appearance proving the correctness of the information I had received from the natives of Unyoro, and from Kamrasi himself, that the Nile was navigable for some days' journey from the Albert lake. Precisely the same information had been given to Speke, and the river level at this point showed by his thermometer so great a difference between that of Karuma, that he had concluded the fall of 1,000 feet must exist between the foot of Karuma Falls and the Albert lake; this, as already described, I proved to be 1,275 feet.
It would be impossible to describe the calm enjoyment of the scene from this elevated pass, from which we confirmed the results of our own labours and of Speke's well-reflected suggestions. We were now on the track by which he and Gant had returned; but I believe they had rounded the foot of the hill that we had ascended; the two routes led to the same point, as our course brought us at right angles with the Nile that flowed beneath us. Descending the pass through a thorny jungle, we arrived at the river, and turning suddenly to the north, we followed its course for about a mile, and then bivouacked for the evening. The Nile, having entered the valley between Gebel Kookoo and the western range, was no longer the calm river that we had seen to the south: numerous rocky islands blocked its course, and mud-banks covered with papyrus rush so obstructed the stream that the river widened to about a mile,—-this width was composed of numerous channels, varying in breadth between the obstructing rock and island. Upon one of the rush-covered islands a herd of elephants was discovered, almost concealed by the height of the vegetation. As they approached the edge of the water and became exposed, I tried about twenty shots at them with the Fletcher rifle, sighted to 600 yards, but in no instance could I either touch or disturb them by the bullets;—-this will afford some idea of the width of the river, the island appearing to be in the middle of the stream.
A short distance below this spot, the Nile rapidly contracted, and at length became a roaring torrent, passing through a narrow gorge between perpendicular cliffs, with a tremendous current. In some places the great river was pent up between rocks, which confined it to a width of about 120 yards, through such channels the rush of water was terrific, but to a casual observer approaching from the north, the volume of the Nile would have been underrated, unless calculated by the velocity of the stream.
From this point we followed the bank of the Nile over a difficult route, down steep ravines and up precipitous crags, by a winding path along the foot of the range of syenite hills that hemmed in the river on the west bank. Several considerable waterfalls added to the grandeur of the pass, through which for many miles the angry Nile chafed and roared like a lion in its confined den.
At length we arrived at a steep descent, and dismounting from our oxen after a walk of about a quarter of a mile over rough stones, we reached the Asua river, about a quarter of a mile above its junction with the Nile. The bed was rocky; but although the Atabbi had subscribed its waters above the point where we now crossed, there was merely a trifling stream occupying about a quarter of the river's bed, with a current of about two and a half miles an hour. Crossing this on foot, the water in the deepest part reached to the middle of my thighs. The Asua river, as already described at the time that I crossed it on the route from Farajoke to Shooa, is a mountain torrent formidable during the rains; quickly flooding and quickly emptying from its rapid inclination, it is exhausted during the dry season.
The crossing of this river was a signal for extra precaution in the arrangement of our march: we had entered the territory of the ever hostile Bari tribe; we had been already warned that we could not pass to Gondokoro without being attacked.
We slept on the road, about seven miles to the north of the Asua. On the following morning we started. The route led over a fine country parallel with the Nile, that still continued in a rockbound channel on the west of the march. Throughout the route from the Un-y-Ame junction, the soil had been wretchedly poor, a mass of rock and decomposed granite forming a sand that quickly parched during the dry season. The level of the country being about 200 feet above the Nile, deep gullies cut the route at right angles, forming the natural drains to the river.