Junction of the Two Hemispheres — The First Contact with Persons Acquainted with European Habits — Interruptions and Plots — The Mysterious Mahamed — Native Revelries — The Plundering and Tyranny of the Turks — The Rascalities of the Ivory Trade — Feeling for the Nile — Taken to see a Mark left by a European — Buffalo, Eland, and Rhinoceros Stalking — Meet Baker — Petherick’s Arrival at Gondokoro.
After receiving more pombe from the chief, and, strange to say, hot water to wash with — for he did not know how else to show hospitality better — we started again in the same straggling manner as yesterday. In two hours we reached the palace of Piejoko, a chief of some pretensions, and were summoned to stop and drink pombe. In my haste to meet Petherick’s expedition, I would listen to nothing, but pushed rapidly on, despite all entreaties to stop, both from the chief and from my porters, who, I saw clearly, wished to do me out of another day.
Half of my men, however, did stop there, but with the other half Grant and I went on; and, as the sun was setting, we came in sight of what we thought was Petherick’s outpost, N. lat. 3° 10’ 33”, and E. long. 21° 50’ 45”. My men, as happy as we were ourselves, now begged I would allow them to fire their guns, and prepare the Turks for our reception. Crack, bang, went their carbines, and in another instant crack, bang, was heard from the northerners’ camp, when, like a swarms of bees, every height and other conspicuous place was covered with men. Our hearts leapt with an excitement of joy only known to those who have escaped from long-continued banishment among barbarians, once more to meet with civilised people, and join old friends. Every minute increased this excitement. We saw three large red flags heading a military procession, which marched out of the camp with drums and fifes playing. I halted and allowed them to draw near. When they did so, a very black man, named Mahamed, in full Egyptian regimentals, with a curved sword, ordered his regiment to halt, and threw himself into my arms, endeavouring to hug and kiss me. Rather staggered at this unexpected manifestation of affection, which was like a conjunction of the two hemispheres, I gave him a squeeze in return for his hug, but raised my head above the reach of his lips, and asked who was his master? “Petrik,” was the reply. “And where is Petherick now?” “Oh, he is coming.” “How is it you have not got English colours, then?” “The colours are Debono’s.” “Who is Debono?” “The same as Petrik; but come along into my camp, and let us talk it out there;” saying which, Mahamed ordered his regiment (a ragamuffin mixture of Nubians, Egyptians, and slaves of all sorts, about two hundred in number) to rightabout, and we were guided by him, whilst his men kept up an incessant drumming and fifing, presenting arms and firing, until we reached his huts, situated in a village kept exactly in the same order as that of the natives. Mahamed then gave us two beds to sit upon, and ordered his wives to advance on their knees and give us coffee, whilst other men brought pombe, and prepared us a dinner of bread and honey and mutton.
A large shed was cleared for Grant and myself, and all my men were ordered to disperse, and chum in ones and twos with Mahamed’s men; for Mahamed said, now we had come there, his work was finished. “If that is the case,” I said, “tell us your orders; there must be some letters.” He said, “No, I have no letters or written orders; though I have directions to take you to Gondokoro as soon as you come. I am Debono’s Vakil, and am glad you are come, for we are all tired of waiting for you. Our business has been to collect ivory whilst waiting for you.” I said, “How is it Petherick has not come here to meet me? is he married?” “Yes, he is married; and both he and his wife ride fore-and-aft on one animal at Khartum.” “Well, then, where is the tree you told Bombay you would point out to us with Petherick’s name on it?” “Oh, that is on the way to Gondokoro. It was not Petherick who wrote, but some one else, who told me to look out for your coming this way. We don’t know his name, but he said if we pointed it out to you, you would know at once.”
4th. — After spending the night as Mahamed’s guest, I strolled round the place to see what it was like, and found the Turks were all married to the women of the country, whom they had dressed in clothes and beads. Their children were many, with a prospect of more. Temporary marriages, however, were more common than others — as, in addition to their slaves, they hired the daughters of the villagers, who remained with them whilst they were trading here, but went back to their parents when they marched to Gondokoro. They had also many hundreds of cattle, which it was said they had plundered from the natives, and now used for food, or to exchange for ivory, or other purposes. The scenery and situation were perfect for health and beauty. The settlement lay at the foot of small, well-wooded granitic hills, even prettier than the outcrops of Unyamuezi, and was intersected by clear streams.
At noon, all the rear troops arrived with Bombay and Piejoko in person. This good creature had treated Bombay very handsomely on his former journey. He said he felt greatly disappointed at my pushing past him yesterday, as he wished to give me a cow, but still hoped I would go over and make friends with him. I gave him some beads and off he walked. Old Chongi’s “children,” who had escorted us all the way from Kamrasi’s, then took some beads and cast-off clothes for themselves and their father, and left us in good-humour.
This reduced the expedition establishment to my men and Kidgwiga’s. With these, now, as there was no letter from Petherick, I ordered a march for the next morning, but at once met with opposition. Mahamed told me that there were no vessels at Gondokoro; we must wait two months, by which time he expected they would arrive there, and some one would come to meet him with beads. I said in answer, that Petherick had promised to have boats there all the year round, so I would not wait. “Then,” said Mahamed, “we cannot go with you, for there is a famine at this season at Gondokoro.” I said, “Never mind; do you give me an interpreter, and I will go as I am.” “No,” said Mahamed, “that will not do, as the Bari people are so savage, you could not get through them with so small a force; besides which, just now there is a stream which cannot be crossed for a month or more.”
Unable to stand Mahamed’s shifting devices with equanimity any longer, I accused him of trying to trick me in the same way as all the common savage chiefs had done wherever I went, because they wished me to stop for their own satisfaction, quite disregarding my wishes and interest; so I said I would not stop there any longer I would raft over the river, and find my way through the Bari, as I had through the rest of the African savages. We talked and talked, but could make nothing of it. I maintained that if he was commissioned to help me, he at least could not refuse to give me a guide and interpreter; when, if I failed in the direct route, I would try another, but go I must, as I could not hold out any longer, being short of beads and cows. I had just enough, but none to spare. He told me not to think of such a thing, as he would give me all that was needful, both for myself and my men; but if I would have patience, he would collect all his officers, and the next morning would see what their opinions were on the subject.
5th. — I found that every one of Mahamed’s men was against our going to Gondokoro. They told me, in fact, with one voice, that it was quite impossible; but they said, if I liked they would furnish me guides to escort me on ten marches to a depot at the further end of the Madi country, and if I chose to wait there until they could collect all their ivory tusks together and join us, we would be a united party too formidable to be resisted by the Bari people. This offer of immediate guides I of course accepted at once, as to keep on the move was my only desire at that time; for my men were all drunk, and Kidgwiga’s were deserting. Once more on the way, I did not despair of reaching Gondokoro by myself. In the best good-humour now, I showed Mahamed our picture-books: and as he said he always drilled his two hundred men every Friday, I said I would, if he liked, command them myself. This being agreed to, all the men turned out in their best, and, to my surprise, they not only knew the Turkish words of command, but manoeuvred with some show of good training; though, as might have been expected with men of this ragamuffin stamp, all the privates gave orders as well as their captains.
When the review was over, I complimented Mahamed on the efficiency of his corps, and, retiring to my hut, as I thought I had him now in a good-humour, again discussed our plans for going ahead the next day. Scarcely able to look me in the face, the humbugging scoundrel said he could not think of allowing me to go on without him, for if any accident happened he would be blamed for it. At the same time, he could not move for a few days, as he expected a party of men to arrive about the next new moon with ivory. My hurry he thought was uncalled for; for, as I had spent so many days with Kamrasi, why could I not be content to do so with him?
I was provoked beyond measure with this, as it upset all my plans. Kidgwiga’s men were deserting, and I feared I should not be able to keep my promise to Kamrasi of sending him another white visitor, who would perhaps do what I had left undone, when I did not follow up the connection of the Little Luta Nzige with the Nile. We battled away again, and then Mahamed said there was not one man in his camp who would go with me until their crops were cut and taken in; for whilst residing here they grew grain for their support. We battled again, and Mahamed at last, out of patience himself, said, “Just look here, what a fix I am in,” showing me a hut full of ivory. “Who,” he said, “is to carry all this until the natives have got in their crops?” This, I said, so far as I was concerned, was all nonsense. I merely had asked him for a guide and interpreter, for go I must. In a huff he then absconded; and my men — those of them who were not too drunk — came and said to me, “For Godsake let us stop here. Mahamed says the road is too dangerous for us to go alone; he has promised to carry all our loads for us if we stop; and all Kamrasi’s men are running away, because they are afraid to go on.”
6th. — Next morning I called Kidgwiga, and begged him to procure two men as guides and interpreters. He said he could not find any. I then went at Mahamed again, who first said he would give me the two men I wanted, then went off, and sent word to say he would not be visible for three days. This was too much for my patience, so I ordered all my things to be tied up in marching order, and gave out that I should leave and find out the way myself the following morning. Like an evil spirit stirred up, my preparations for going no sooner were heard of than Mahamed appeared again, and after a long and sharp contest in words, he promised us guides if I would consent to write him a note, testifying that my going was against his expressed desire.
This was done; but the next morning (7th), after our things were put out for the march, all Kidgwiga’s men bolted, and no guides would take service with us. It was now obvious that, even supposing I succeeded in taking Kidgwiga to Gondokoro, he would not have a sufficient escort to come back with, unless, indeed, it happened that Englishmen might be there who might wish to carry out my investigations by penetrating to the Little Luta Nzige, and to pay a visit to Kamrasi. I therefore called Kidgwiga, and after explaining these circumstances, advised him to go back to Kamrasi. He was loth to leave, he said, until his commission was fully performed; but as I thought it advisable, he would consent. I then gave him a double gun and ammunition, as well as some very rich beads which I obtained from Mahamed’s stores, to take back to Kamrasi, with orders to say that, as soon as I reached Gondokoro or Khartum, I would send another white man to him — not by the way I had come through Kidi, but by the left bank of the Nile: to which Kidgwiga replied, “That will do famously, for Kamrasi will change his residence soon, and come on the Nile this side of Rionga’s palace, in order that he may cut in between his brother and the Turks’ guns.”
After this, I gave a lot of rich beads to Kidgwiga for himself, and a lot also for the senior officers at the Chopi and Kamrasi’s palaces, and sent the whole set off as happy as birds. When these men were gone, I tried to get up an elephant-shooting excursion due west of this, with a view to see where the Nile was, for I would not believe it was very far off, although no one as yet, since I left Chopi, either would or could tell me where the stream had gone to.
8th. Mahamed professed to be delighted I had made up my mind to such a scheme. He called the heads of the villages to give me all the information I sought for, and went with me to the top of a high rock, from which we could see the hills I first viewed at Chopi, sweeping round from south by east to north, which demarked the line of the Asua river. The Nile at that moment was, I believed, not very far off; yet, do or say what I would, everybody said it was fifteen marches off, and could not be visited under a month. 25 It would be necessary for me to take thirty-six of Mahamed’s men, besides all my own, to go there, which, he said, I was welcome to, but I should have to pay them for their services. This was a damper at once.
25 It will appear shortly that is was actually not more than two marches to the northward of Faloro.
I knew in my mind all these reports were false, but, rather than be out of the way when the time came for marching, I agreed to wait patiently, write the history of the Wahuma, and make collections, till Mahamed was ready, trusting that I might find some one at Gondokoro who would finish what I had left undone; or else, after arriving there, I might go up the Nile in boats and see for myself. The same evening I was attracted by the sound of drums to a neighbouring village, where, by the moonlight, I found the natives were dancing. A more indecent or savage spectacle I never witnessed. The whole place was alive with naked humanity in a state of constant motion. Drawing near, I found that a number of drums were beaten by men in the centre. Next to them was a deep ring of women, half of whom carried their babies; and outside these again was a still deeper circle of men, some blowing horns, but most holding their spears erect. To the sound of the music both these rings of the opposite sexes kept jumping and sidling round and round the drummers, making the most grotesque and obscene motions to one another.
9th to 14th. — Nothing of material consequence happened until the 14th, when eighty of Rionga’s men brought in two slaves and thirty tusks of ivory, as a present to Mahamed. Of course, I knew this was a bribe to induce Mahamed to fight with Rionga against Kamrasi; but, counting that no affair of mine, I tried to induce these men to give me some geographical information of the countries they had just left. Not one of them would come near me, for they knew I was friends with Kamrasi; and Mahamed’s men, when they saw mine attempting to converse with them, abused them for “prying into other men’s concerns.” “These men,” they said, “are our friends, and not yours; if we choose to give them presents of cloth and beads, and they give us a return in ivory, what is that to you?” Mysterious Mahamed next came to me, and begged for a blanket, as he said he was going off for a few days to a depot where he had some ivory; and he also wanted to borrow a musket, as one of his had been burnt.
My suspicions and even apprehensions, were now greatly excited. I began to think he had prevailed on me to stop here, that I might hold the place whilst he went to fight Kamrasi with Rionga’s men; so I begged him to listen to my advice, and not attempt to cross the Nile, “else,” I said, “all his guns would be taken from him, and his passage back cut off.” At once he saw the drift of my thought, and said he was not going towards the Nile, but on the contrary, he was going with Rionga’s men in the opposite direction, to a place called Paira. “If that is the case,” I said, “why do you want a gun?” “Because there are some other matters to settle. I shall not be long away, and my men will take care of you whilst I am gone.” I gave him the blanket after this, but was too suspicious of his object to lend him a gun.
15th to 20th. — I saw Mahamed march his regiment out of the place, drums and fifes playing, colours flying, a hundred guns firing, officers riding — some of them on donkeys and others — yes, actually on cows! whilst a host of the natives, Rionga’s men included, carrying spears and bows and arrows, looked little like a peaceful caravan of merchants, but very much resembled a band of marauders. After this I heard they were not going to Rionga himself, but were going to show Rionga’s men the way that they made friends with old Chongi of Koki. In reality, Chongi had invited Mahamed to fight against an enemy of his, in whose territories immense stores of ivory were said to be buried, and the people had an endless number of cattle — for they lived by plunder, and had lifted most of old Chongi’s; and this was the service on which the expedition had set off.
21st to 31st. — I had constantly wondered, ever since I first came here, and saw the brutal manner in which the Turks treated the natives, that these Madi people could submit to their “Egyptian taskmasters,” and therefore was not surprised now to find them pull down their huts and march off with the materials to a distant site. Every day this sort of migration continued, just as you see in the picture; and nothing more important occurred until Christmas-day, when an armadillo was caught, and I heard from Mahamed’s head wife that the Turks had plundered and burnt down three villages, and in all probability they would return shortly laden with ivory. This was a true anticipation; for, on the 31st, Mahamed came in with his triumphant army laden with ivory, and driving in five slave-girls and thirty head of cattle.
1st to 3d. — I now wished to go on with the journey, as I could get no true information out of the suspicious blackguards who called themselves Turks; but Mahamed postponed it until the 5th, by which time he said he would be able to collect all the men he wanted to carry his ivory. Rionga’s men then departed, and Mahamed showed some signs of getting ready by ordering one dozen cows to be killed, the flesh of which was to be divided amongst those villagers who would carry his ivory, and the skins to be cut into thongs for binding the smaller tusks of ivory together in suitable loads.
4th and 5th. — Another specimen of Turkish barbarity came under my notice, in the head man of a village bringing a large tusk of ivory to Mahamed, to ransom his daughter with; for she had been seized as a slave on his last expedition, in common with others who could not run away fast enough to save themselves from the Turks. Fortunately for both, it was thought necessary for the Turks to keep on good terms with the father as an influential man; and therefore, on receiving the tusk, Mahamed gave back the girl, and added a cow to seal their friendship.
6th to 10th. — I saw this land-pirate Mahamed take a blackmail like a negro chief. Some men who had fled from their village when Mahamed’s plundering party passed by them the other day, surprised that he did not stop to sack their homes, now brought ten large tusks of ivory to him to express the gratitude they said they felt for his not having molested them. Mahamed, on finding how easy it was to get taxes in this fashion, instead of thanking them, assumed the air of the great potentate, whose clemency was abused, and told the poor creatures that, though they had done well in seeking his friendship, they had not sufficiently considered his dignity, else they would have brought double that number of tusks, for it was impossible he could be satisfied at so low a price. “What,” said these poor creatures, “can we do then? for this is all we have got.” “Oh,” says Mahamed, “if it is all you have got now in store, I will take these few for the present; but when I return from Gondokoro, I expect you will bring me just as many more. Good-bye, and look out for yourselves.”
Tired beyond all measure with Mahamed’s procrastination, as I could not get him to start, I now started myself, much to his disgust, and went ahead again, leaving word that I would wait for him at the next place, provided he did not delay more than one day. The march led us over long rolling downs of grass, where we saw a good many antelopes feeding; and after going ten miles, we came, among other villages, to one named Panyoro, in which we found it convenient to put up. At first all the villagers, thinking us Turks, bolted away with their cattle and what stores they could carry; but, after finding out who we were, they returned again, and gave us a good reception, helping us to rig up a shed with grass, and bringing a cow and some milk for our dinner.
12th. — To-day I went out shooting, but though I saw and fired at a rhinoceros, as well as many varieties of antelopes, I did not succeed in killing one head. All my men were surprised as well as myself; and the villagers who were escorting me in the hope of getting flesh, were so annoyed at their disappointment, they offered to cut my fore-finger with a spear and spit on it for good-luck. Joining in their talk, I told them the powder must be crooked; but, on inspecting my rifle closer, I found that the sights had been knocked on one side a little, and this created a general laugh at all in turn. Going home from the shooting, I found all the villagers bolting again with their cattle and stores, and, on looking towards Faloro, saw a party of Turks coming.
As well as I could I reassured the villagers, and brought them back again, when they said to me, “Oh, what have you done? We were so happy yesterday when we found out who you were, but now we see you have brought those men, all our hearts have sunk again; for they beat us, they make us carry their loads, and they rob us in such a manner, we know not what to do.” I told them I would protect them if they would keep quiet; and, when the Turks came, I told them what I had said to the head man. They were the vanguard of Mahamed’s party, and said they had orders to march on as far as Apuddo with me, where we must all stop for Mahamed, who, as well as he could, was collecting men. There was a certain tree near Apuddo which was marked by an Englishman two years ago, and this, Mahamed thought, would keep us amused.
The next march brought us to Paira, a collection of villages within sight of the Nile. It was truly ridiculous; here had we been at Faloro so long, and yet could not make out what had become of the Nile. In appearance it was a noble stream, flowing on a flat bed from west to east, and immediately beyond it were the Jbl (hills) Kuku, rising up to a height of 2000 feet above the river. Still we could not make out all, until the following day, when we made a march parallel to the Nile, and arrived at Jaifi.
This was a collection of huts close to a deep nullah which drains The central portions of Eastern Madi. At this place the Turks killed a crocodile and ate him on the spot, much to the amusement of my men, who immediately shook their heads, laughingly, and said, “Ewa, Allah! are these men, then, Mussulmans? Savages in our country don’t much like a crocodile.”
After crossing two nullahs, we reached Apuddo, and at once, I went to see the tree said to have been cut by an Englishman some time before. There, sure enough, was a mark, something like the letters M. I., on its bark, but not distinct enough to be ascertained, because the bark had healed up. In describing the individual who had done this, the Turks said he was exactly like myself, for he had a long beard, and a voice even much resembling mine. He came thus far with Mahamed from Gondokoro two years ago, and then returned, because he was alarmed at the accounts the people gave of the countries to the southward, and he did not like the prospect of having to remain a whole rainy season with Mahamed at Faloro. He knew we were endeavouring to come this way, and directed Mahamed to point out his name if we did so.
We took up our quarters in the village as usual, but the Turks remained outside, and carried off all the tops of the villagers’ huts to make a camp for themselves. I rebuked them for doing so, but was mildly told they had no huts of their own. They carried no pots either for cooking their dinners, and therefore took from the villagers all that they wanted. It was a fixed custom now, they told us, and there was no use in our trying to struggle against it. If the natives were wise, they would make enough to sell; but as they would not, they must put up with their lot; for the “government” cannot be baulked of its ivory. Truly there seemed to be nothing but misery here; food was so scarce the villagers sought for wild berries and fruits; whilst the Turks helped themselves out of their half-filled bins — a small reserve store to last up to the far-distant harvest. Then, to make matters worse, all the village chiefs were at war with one another.
At night a party of warriors walked round our village, but feared to attack it because we were inside. Next morning the villagers turned out and killed two of the enemy; but the rest, whilst retreating, sang out that they would not attempt to fight until “the guns” were gone — after that, the villagers had better look out for themselves. I now proposed going on if the Apina, or chief of the village, would give me a guide; but he feared to do so lest I should come to grief, and Mahamed would then be down upon him. Struggling was useless, for I had no beads to pay my way with, and my cows were now all finished; so I took the matter quietly, and went out foraging with the rifle.
18th and 19th. — Antelopes were numerous, but so wild I could not get near them. On bending round homewards, however, three buffaloes, feeding in the distance, on the top of a roll of high ground beyond where we stood, were observed by the natives, who had flocked out in the hopes of getting flesh. To stalk them, I went up wind to near where I expected to find them; then bidding the natives lie down, I stole along through the grass until at last I saw three pairs of horns glistening quite close in front of me. Anxious lest they should take sudden fright, I gently raised myself, wishing to fire, but I was quite puzzled; there was no mistake about what they were; still, look from as high as I would, I could not see their bodies. The thought never struck me they were lying down in such open ground in the day-time; so, as I could not go closer without driving them off, I took a shot with my single rifle at where I judged the chest of the nearest one ought to be, and then discovered my error. In an instant all three sprang on their legs and scampered off. I began loading, but before I had half accomplished my object, those three had mingled with the three previously seen grazing, and all six together came charging straight at me. I really thought I should now catch a toss, if I were not trampled to death; but suddenly, as they saw me standing, whether from fear or what else I cannot say, they changed their ferocious-looking design, swerved round, and galloped off as fast as their legs could carry them. This was bad luck; but Grant made up for it the next day by killing a very fine buck nsamma.
20th. — I went again after the herd of six buffaloes, as I thought one was wounded, and after walking up a long sloping hill for three miles towards the east, I found myself at once in view of the Nile on one hand, and the long-heard-of Asua river on the other, backed by hills even higher than the Jbl Kuku. The bed of the Asua seemed very large, but, being far off, was not very distinct, nor did I care to go and see it them; for at that moment, straight in front of me, five buffaloes, five giraffes, two eland and sundry other antelopes, were too strong a temptation.
The place looked like a park, and I began stalking in it, first at the eland, as I wanted to see if they corresponded with those I shot in Usagara; but the gawky giraffes, always in the way, gave the alarm, and drove all but two of the buffaloes away. At these two I now went with my only rifle, leaving the servants and savages behind. They were out in the open grass feeding composedly, so that I stole up to within forty yards of them, and then, in a small naked patch of ground, I waited my opportunity, and put a ball behind the shoulder of the larger one. At the sound of the gun, in an instant both bulls charged, but they pulled up in the same naked ground as myself, sniffing and tossing their horns, while looking out for their antagonist, who, as quick as themselves, had thrown himself flat on the ground.
There we were, like three fools, for twenty minutes or so; one of the buffaloes bleeding at the mouth and with a broken hind-leg, for the bullet had traversed his body, and the other turning round and round looking out for me, while I was anxiously watching him, and by degrees loading my gun. When ready, I tried a shot at the sound one, but the cap snapped and nearly betrayed me, for they both stared at the spot where I lay — the sound one sniffing the air and tossing his horns, but the other bleeding considerably. Some minutes more passed in this manner, when they allowed me to breathe freer by walking away. I followed, of course, but could not get a good chance; so, as the night set in, I let them alone for the time being, to get out the following morning.
21st and 22d. — At the place where I left off, I now sprang a large herd of fifty or more buffaloes, and followed them for a mile, when the wounded one, quite exhausted from the fatigue, pulled up for a charge, and allowed me to knock him over. This was glorious fun for the villagers, who cut him up on the spot and brought him home. Of course, one half the flesh was given to them, in return for which they brought us some small delicacies to show their gratitude; for, as they truly remarked, until we came to their village they never knew what it was to get a present, or any other gift by a good thrashing.
23d. — To-day I tried the ground again, and, whilst walking up the hill, two black rhinoceros came trotting towards us in a very excited manner. I did not wish to fire at them, as what few bullets remained in my store I wished to reserve in better sport, and therefore for the time being, let them alone. Presently, however, they separated; one passed in front of us, stopped to drink in a pool, and then lay down in it. Not heeding him, I walked up the hill, whilst the other rhinoceros, still trotting, suddenly turned round and came to drink within fifty yards of us, obstructing my path; this was too much of a joke; so, to save time, I gave him a bullet, and knocked him over. To my surprise, the natives who were with me would not touch his flesh, though pressed by me to “n’yam n’yam,” or to eat. I found that they considered him an unclean beast; so, regretting I had wasted my bullet, I went farther on and startled some buffaloes.
Though I got very near them, however, a small antelope springing up in front of me scared them away, and I could not get a front shot at any of them. Thus the whole day was thrown away, for I had to return empty-handed.
24th to 30th. — Grant and I after this kept our pot boiling by shooting three more antelopes; but nothing of consequence transpired until the 30th, when Bukhet, Mahamed’s factotum, arrived with the greater part of the Turk’s property. He then confirmed a report we had heard before, that, some days previously, Mahamed had ordered Bukhet to go ahead and join us, which he attempted to do; but, on arrival at Panyoro, his party had a row with the villagers, and lost their property. Bukhet then returned to Mahamed and reported his defeat and losses; upon hearing which, Mahamed at once said to him, “What do you mean by returning to me empty-handed? go back at once and recover your things else how can I make my report at Gondokoro?” With these peremptory orders Bukhet went back to Panyoro, and commenced to attack it. The contest did not last long; for, after three of Bukhet’s men had been wounded, he set fire to the villages, killed fifteen of the natives, and, besides recovering his own lost property, took one hundred cows.
31st. — To-day Mahamed came in, and commenced to arrange for the march onwards. This, however, was no easy matter, for the Turks alone required six hundred porters — half that number to carry their ivory, and the other half to carry their beds and bedding; whilst from fifty to sixty men was the most a village had to spare, and all the village chiefs were at enmity with one another. The plan adopted by Mahamed was, to summon the heads of all the villages to come to him, failing which, he would seize all their belongings. Then, having once got them together, he ordered them all to furnish him with so many porters a-head, saying he demanded it of them, for the “great government’s property” could not be left on the ground. Their separate interests must now be sacrificed, and their feuds suspended: and if he heard, on his return again, that one village had taken advantage of the other’s weakness caused by their employment in his service, he would then not spare his bullets — so they might look out for themselves.
Some of the Turks, having found ninty-nine eggs in a crocodile’s nest, had a grand feast. They gave us two of the eggs, which we ate, but did not like, for they had a highly musky flavour.
1st. — On the 1st of February we went ahead again, with Bukhet and the first half of Mahamed’s establishment, as a sufficient number of men could not be collected at once to move all together. In a little while we struck on the Nile, where it was running like a fine Highland stream between the gneiss and mica-schist hills of Kuku, and followed it down to near where the Asua river joined it. For a while we sat here watching the water, which was greatly discoloured, and floating down rushes. The river was not as full as it was when we crossed it at the Karuma Falls, yet, according to Dr Khoblecher’s 26 account, it ought to have been flooding just at this time: if so, we had beaten the stream. Here we left it again as it arched round by the west, and forded the Asua river, a stiff rocky stream, deep enough to reach the breast when waded, but not very broad. It did not appear to me as if connected with Victoria N’yanza, as the waters were falling, and not much discoloured; whereas judging from the Nile’s condition, it ought to have been rising. No vessel ever could have gone up it, and it bore no comparison with the Nile itself. The exaggerated account of its volume, however, given by the expeditionists who were sent up the Nile by Mehemet Ali, did not surprise us, since they had mistaken its position; for we were now 3° 42’ north, and therefore had passed their “farthest point” by twenty miles.
26 Dr Khoblecher, the founder of the Austrian Church Mission Establishment of Gondokoro, ascertained that the Nile reached its lowest level there in the middle of January.
In two hours more we reached a settlement called Madi, and found it deserted. Every man and woman had run off into the jungles from fright, and would not come back again. We wished ourselves at the end of the journey; thought anything better than this kind of existence — living entirely at the expense of others; even the fleecings in Usui felt less dispiriting; but it could not be helped, for it must always exist as long as these Turks are allowed to ride rough-shod over the people. The Turks, however, had their losses also; for on the way four Bari men and one Bari slave-girl slipped off with a hundred of their plundered cattle, and neither they nor the cattle could be found again. Mijalwa was here convicted of having stolen the cloth of a Turk whilst living in his hut when he was away at the Paira plundering and got fifty lashes to teach him better behaviour for the future.
A party of fifty men came from Labure, a station on ahead of this, to take service as porters, knowing that at this season the Turks always come with a large herd of plundered cattle, which they call government property, and give in payment to the men who carry their tusks of ivory across the Bari country.
We now marched over a rolling ground, covered in some places with bush-jungle, in others with villages, where there were fine trees, resembling oaks in their outward appearance; and stopping one night at the settlement of Barwudi, arrived at Labure, where we had to halt a day for Mahamed to collect some ivory from a depot he had formed near by. We heard there was another ivory party collecting tusks at Obbo, a settlement in the country of Panuquara, twenty miles east of this.
Next we crossed a nullah draining into the Nile, and, travelling over more rolling ground, flanked on the right by a range of small hills, put up at the Madi frontier station, Mugi, where we had to halt two days to collect a full complement of porters to traverse the Bari country, the people of which are denounced as barbarians by the Turks, because they will not submit to be bullied into carrying their tusks for them. Here we felt an earthquake. The people would not take beads, preferring, they said, to make necklaces and belts out of ostrich-eggs, which they cut into the size of small shirt-buttons, and then drill a hole through their centre to string them together. A passenger told us that three white men had just arrived in vessels at Gondokoro; and the Bari people, hearing of our advance, instead of trying to kill us with spears, had determined to poison all the water in their country. Mahamed now disposed of half of his herd of cows, giving them to the chiefs of the villages in return for porters. These, he said, were all that belonged to the government; for the half of all captures of cows, as well as all slaves, all goats, and sheep, were allowed to the men as part of their pay.
When all was settled we marched, one thousand strong, to Wurungi; and next day, by a double march, arrived at Marson, in the Bari country. I wished still to put up in the native villages, but Mahamed so terrified all my men, by saying these Bari would kill us in the night if we did not all sleep together in one large camp, that we were obliged to submit. The country, still flanked on the right by hills, was undulating and very prettily wooded. Villages were numerous, but as we passed them the inhabitants all fled from us, save a few men, who, bolder than the rest, would stand and look on at us as we marched along. Both night and morning the Turks beat their drums; and whenever they stopped to eat they sacked the villages.
Pushing on by degrees, stopping at noon to eat, we came again in sight of the Nile, and put up at a station called Doro, within a short distance of the well-known hill Rijeb, where Nile voyagers delight in cutting their names. The country continued the same, but the grass was conspicuously becoming shorter and finer every day — so much so, that my men all declared it was a sign of our near approach to England. After we had settled down for the night, and the Turks had finished plundering the nearest villages, we heard two guns fired, and immediately afterwards the whole place was alive with Bari people. Their drums were beaten as a sign that they would attack us, and the war-drums of the villages around responded by beating also. The Turks grew somewhat alarmed at this, and as darkness began to set in, sent out patrols in addition to their nightly watches. The savages next tried to steal in on us, but were soon frightened off by the patrols cocking their guns. Then, seeing themselves defeated in that tactic, they collected in hundreds in front of us, set fire to the grass, and marched up and down, brandishing ignited grass in their hands, howling like demons, and swearing they would annihilate us in the morning.
We slept the night out, nevertheless, and next morning walked in to Gondokoro, N. Lat. 4° 54’ 5”, and E. long. 31° 46’ 9”, where Mahamed, after firing a salute, took us in to see a Circassian merchant, named Kurshid Agha. Our first inquiry was, of course, for Petherick. A mysterious silence ensued; we were informed that Mr Debono was THE man we had to thank for the assistance we had received in coming from Madi; and then in hot haste, after warm exchanges of greeting with Mahamed’s friend, who was Debono’s agent here, we took leave, to hunt up Petherick. Walking down the bank of the river — where a line of vessels was moored, and on the right hand a few sheds, one-half broken down, with a brick-built house representing the late Austrian Church Mission establishment — we saw hurrying on towards us the form of an Englishman, who, for one moment, we believed was the Simon Pure; but the next moment my old friend Baker, famed for his sports in Ceylon, seized me by the hand. A little boy of his establishment had reported our arrival, and he in an instant came out to welcome us. What joy this was I can hardly tell. We could not talk fast enough, so overwhelmed were we both to meet again. Of course we were his guests in a moment, and learned everything that could be told. I now first heard of the death of H.R.H. the Prince–Consort, which made me reflect on the inspiring words he made use of, in compliment to myself, when I was introduced to him by Sir Roderick Murchison, a short while before leaving England. Then there was the terrible war in America, and other events of less startling nature, which came on us all by surprise, as years had now passed since we had received news from the civilised world.
Baker then said he had come up with three vessels — one dyabir and two nuggers — fully equipped with armed men, camels, horses, donkeys, beads, brass wire, and everything necessary for a long journey, expressly to look after us, hoping, as he jokingly said, to find us on the equator in some terrible fix, that he might have the pleasure of helping us out of it. He had heard of Mahamed’s party, and was actually waiting for him to come in, that he might have had the use of his return-men to start with comfortably. Three Dutch ladies 27, also, with a view to assist us in the same way as Baker (God bless them), had come here in a steamer, but were driven back to Khartum by sickness. Nobody had even dreamt for a moment it was possible we could come through. An Italian, named Miani, had gone farther up the Nile than any one else; and he, it now transpired, was the man who had cut his name on the tree by Apuddo. But what had become of Petherick? He was actually trading at N’yambara, seventy miles due west of this, though he had, since I left him in England, raised a subscription of £1000, from those of my friends to whom this Journal is most respectfully dedicated as the smallest return a grateful heart can give for their attempt to succour me, when knowing the fate of the expedition was in great jeopardy.
27 The Baroness Miss A. van Capellan, and Mrs and Miss Tinne.
Instead of coming up the Nile at once, as Petherick might have done — so I was assured — he waited, whilst a vessel was building, until the season had too far advanced to enable him to sail up the river. In short, he lost the north winds at 7° north, and went overland to his trading depot at N’yambara. Previously, however, he had sent some boats up to this, under a Vakil, who had his orders to cross to his trading depot at N’yambara, and to work from his trading station due south, ostensibly with a view to look after me, though contrary to my advice before leaving him in England, in opposition to his own proposed views of assisting me when he applied for help to succour me, and against the strongly-expressed opinions of every European in the same trade as himself; for all alike said they knew he would have gone to Faloro, and pushed south from that place, had his trade on the west of the Nile not attracted him there.
Baker now offered me his boats to go down to Khartum, and asked me if there was anything left undone which it might be of importance for him to go on and complete, by survey or otherwise; for, although he should like to go down the river with us, he did not wish to return home without having done something to recompense him for the trouble and expense he had incurred in getting up his large expedition. Of course I told him how disappointed I had been in not getting a sight of the Little Luta Nzige. I described how we had seen the Nile bending west where we crossed in Chopi, and then, after walking down the chord of an arc described by the river, had found it again in Madi coming from the west, whence to the south, and as far at least as Koshi, it was said to be navigable, probably continuing to be so right into the Little Luta Nzige. Should this be the case, then, by building boats in Madi above the cataracts, a vast region might be thrown open to the improving influences of navigation. Further, I told Baker of my contract with Kamrasi, and of the property I had left behind, with a view to stimulate any enterprising man who might be found at this place to go there, make good my promise, and, if found needful, claim my share of the things, for the better prosecution of his own travels there. This Baker at once undertook, though he said he did not want my property; and I drew out suggestions for him how to proceed. He then made friends with Mahamed, who promised to help him on to Faloro, and I gave Mahamed and his men three carbines as an honorarium.
I should now have gone down the Nile at once if the moon had been in “distance” for fixing the longitude; but as it was not, I had to remain until the 26th, living with Baker. Kurshid Agha became very great friends with us, and, at once making a present of a turkey, a case of wine, and cigars, said he was only sorry for his own sake that we had found a fellow-countryman, else he would have had the envied honour of claiming us as his guests, and had the pleasure of transporting us in his vessels down to Khartum.
The Rev. Mr Moorlan, and two other priests of the Austrian Mission, were here on a visit from their station at Kich, to see the old place again before they left for Khartum; for the Austrian Government, discouraged by the failure of so many years, had ordered the recall of the whole of the establishment for these regions. It was no wonder these men were recalled; for, out of twenty missionaries who, during the last thirteen years, had ascended the White river for the purpose of propagating the Gospel, thirteen had died of fever, two of dysentary, and two had retired broken in health, yet not one convert had been made by them.
The fact is, there was no government to control the population or to protect property; boys came to them, looked at their pictures, and even showed a disposition to be instructed, but there it ended; they had no heart to study when no visible returns were to be gained. One day the people would examine the books, at another throw them aside, say their stomachs were empty, and run away to look for food. The Bari people at Gondokoro were described as being more tractable than those of Kich, being of a braver and more noble nature; but they were all half-starved — not because the country was too poor to produce, but because they were too lazy to cultivate. What little corn they grew they consumed before it was fully ripe, and then either sought for fish in the river or fed on tortoises in the interior, as they feared they might never reap what they sowed.
The missionaries never had occasion to complain of these blacks, and to this day they would doubtless have been kindly inclined to Europeans, had the White Nile traders not brought the devil amongst them. Mr Moorlan remembers the time when they brought food for sale; but now, instead, they turn their backs upon all foreigners, and even abuse the missionaries for having been the precursors of such dire calamities. The shell of the brick church at Gondokoro, and the cross on the top of a native-built hut in Kich, are all that will remain to bear testimony of these Christian exertions to improve the condition of these heathens. Want of employment, I heard was the chief operative cause in killing the poor missionaries; for, with no other resource left them to kill time, they spent their days eating, drinking, smoking, and sleeping, till they broke down their constitutions by living too fast.
Mr Moorlan became very friendly, and said he was sorry he could not do more for us. His headquarters were at Kich, some way down the river, where, as we passed, he hoped at least he might be able to show us as much attention and hospitality as lay in his power. Mosquitoes were said to be extremely troublesome on the river, and my men begged for some clothes, as Petherick, they said, had a store for me under the charge of his Vakil. The storekeeper was then called, and confirming the story of my men, I begged him to give me what was my own. It then turned out that it was all Petherick’s, but he had orders to give me on account anything that I wanted. This being settled, I took ninety-five yards of the commonest stuff as a makeshift for mosquito-curtains for my men, besides four sailor’s shirts for my head men.
On the 18th, Kurshid Agha was summoned by the constant fire of musketry, a mile or two down the river, and went off in his vessels to the relief. A party of his had come across from the N’yambara country with ivory, and on the banks of the Nile, a few miles north of this, were engaged fighting with the natives. He arrived just in time to settle the difficulty, and next day came back again, having shot some of the enemy and captured their cows. Petherick, we heard, was in a difficulty of the same kind, upon which I proposed to go down with Baker and Grant to succour him; but he arrived in time, in company with his wife and Dr James Murie, to save us the trouble, and told me he had brought a number of men with him, carrying ivory, for the purpose now of looking after me on the east bank of the Nile, by following its course up to the south, though he had given up all hope of seeing me, as a report had reached him of the desertion of my porters at Ugogo. He then offered me his dyabir, as well as anything else that I wanted that lay within his power to give. Suffice it to say, I had, through Baker’s generosity, at that very moment enough and to spare; but at his urgent request I took a few more yards of cloth for my men, and some cooking fat; and, though I offered to pay for it, he declined to accept any return at my hands.
Though I naturally felt much annoyed at Petherick — for I had hurried away from Uganda, and separated from Grant at Kari, solely to keep faith with him — I did not wish to break friendship, but dined and conversed with him, when it transpired that his Vakil, or agent, who went south from the N’yambara station, came amongst the N’yam N’yam, and heard from them that a large river, four days’ journey more to the southward, was flowing from east to west, beyond which lived a tribe of “women,” who, when they wanted to marry, mingled with them in the stream and returned; and then, again, beyond this tribe of women there lived another tribe of women and dogs. Now, this may all seem a very strange story to those who do not know the negro’s and Arab’s modes of expression; but to me it at once came very natural, and, according to my view, could be interpreted thus:— The river, running from east to west, according to the native mode of expressing direction, could be nothing but the Little Luta Nzige running the opposite way, according to fact and our mode of expression. The first tribe of women were doubtless the Wanyoro — called women by the naked tribes on this side because they wear bark coverings — an effeminate appendage, in the naked man’s estimation; and the second tribe must have been in allusion to the dog-keeping Waganda, who also would be considered women, as they wear bark clothes. In my turn, I told Petherick he had missed a good thing by not going up the river to look for me; for, had he done so, he would not only have had the best ivory-grounds to work upon, but, by building a vessel in Madi above the cataracts, he would have had, in my belief, some hundred miles of navigable water to transport his merchandise. In short, his succouring petition was most admirably framed, had he stuck to it, for the welfare of both of us. 28
28 See Petherick’s succouring petition, addressed to the Right Hon. Lord Ashburton, President of the Royal Geographical Society, in the Proceedings of that Society, date 10th June 1860.
We now received our first letters from home, and in one from Sir Roderick Murchison I found the Royal Geographical Society had awarded me their “founder’s medal” for the discovery of the Victoria N’yanza in 1858.
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