Part 3 out of 5
The Atbara exploration was completed, and I looked forward to the fresh
enterprise of exploring new rivers and lower latitudes, that should
unravel the mystery of the Nile!
Abyssinian slave-girls--Khartoum--The Soudan under Egyptian rule
--Slave-trade in the Soudan--The obstacles ahead.
A rapid march of sixteen miles brought us to Metemma or Gallabat. As we
descended the valley we perceived great crowds of people in and about
the town, which, in appearance, was merely a repetition of Katariff. It
was market-day, and as we descended the hill and arrived in the scene
below, with our nine camels heavily laden with the heads and horns of a
multitude of different beasts, from the gaping jaws of hippopotami to
the vicious-looking heads of rhinoceroses and buffaloes, while the skins
of lions and various antelopes were piled above masses of the
much-prized hide of the rhinoceros, we were beset by crowds of people,
who were curious to know whence so strange a party had come. We formed a
regular procession through the market, our Tokrooris feeling quite at
home among so many of their brethren.
While here I visited the establishments of the various slave merchants.
These were arranged under large tents formed of matting, and contained
many young girls of extreme beauty, ranging from nine to seventeen years
of age. These lovely captives, of a rich brown tint, with delicately
formed features, and eyes like those of the gazelle, were natives of the
Galla, on the borders of Abyssinia, from which country they were brought
by the Abyssinian traders to be sold for the Turkish harems. Although
beautiful, these girls are useless for hard labor; they quickly fade
away, and die unless kindly treated. They are the Venuses of that
country, and not only are their faces and figures perfection, but they
become extremely attached to those who show them kindness, and they make
good and faithful wives. There is something peculiarly captivating in
the natural grace and softness of these young beauties, whose hearts
quickly respond to those warmer feelings of love that are seldom known
among the sterner and coarser tribes. Their forms are peculiarly elegant
and graceful; the hands and feet are exquisitely delicate; the nose is
generally slightly aquiline, the nostrils large and finely shaped; the
hair is black and glossy, reaching to about the middle of the back, but
rather coarse in texture. These girls, although natives of Galla,
invariably call themselves Abyssinians, and are generally known under
that name. They are exceedingly proud and high-spirited, and are
remarkably quick at learning. At Khartoum several of the Europeans of
high standing have married these charming ladies, who have invariably
rewarded their husbands by great affection and devotion. The price of
one of these beauties of nature at Gallabat was from twenty-five to
On the march from Gallabat to the Rahad River I was so unfortunate as to
lose my two horses, Gazelle and Aggahr. The sudden change of food from
dry grass to the young herbage which had appeared after a few showers,
brought on inflammation of the bowels, which carried them off in a few
hours. We now travelled for upward of a hundred miles along the bank of
the Rahad, through a monotonous scene of flat alluvial soil. The entire
country would be a Mine of wealth were it planted with cotton, Which
could be transported by river to Katariff, and thence directly to
I shall not weary the reader with the details of the rest of our journey
to Khartoum, the capital of the Soudan provinces, at which we arrived on
the 11th of June.
The difference between the appearance of Khartoum at the distance of a
mile, with the sun shining upon the bright river Nile in the foreground,
and its appearance upon close inspection, was equal to the difference in
the scenery of a theatre as regarded from the boxes or from the stage.
Even that painful exposure of an optical illusion would be trifling
compared with the imposture of Khartoum. The sense of sight had been
deceived by distance, but the sense of smell was outraged by innumerable
nuisances, when we set foot within the filthy and miserable town. After
winding through some narrow, dusty lanes, hemmed in by high walls of
sun-baked bricks that had fallen in gaps in several places, exposing
gardens of prickly pears and date palms, we at length arrived at a large
open place, that, if possible, smelt more strongly than the landing
spot. Around this square, which was full of holes where the mud had been
excavated for brick-making, were the better class of houses; this was
the Belgravia of Khartoum. In the centre of a long mud wall, ventilated
by certain attempts at frameless windows, guarded by rough wooden bars,
we perceived a large archway with closed doors. Above this entrance was
a shield, with a device that gladdened my English eyes: there was the
British lion and the unicorn! Not such a lion as I had been accustomed
to meet in his native jungles, a yellow cowardly fellow that had often
slunk away from the very prey from which I had driven him; but a real
red British lion, that, although thin and ragged in the unhealthy
climate of Khartoum, looked as though he was pluck to the back-bone.
This was the English Consulate. The consul was absent, in the hope of
meeting Speke and Grant in the upper Nile regions, on the road from
Zanzibar, but he had kindly placed rooms at our disposal.
For some months we resided at Khartoum, as it was necessary to make
extensive preparations for the White Nile expedition, and to await the
arrival of the north wind, which would enable us to start early in
December. Although the north and south winds blow alternately for six
months, and the former commences in October, it does not extend many
degrees southward until the beginning of December. This is a great
drawback to White Nile exploration, as, when near the north side of the
equator, the dry season commences in November and closes in February;
thus the departure from Khartoum should take place by a steamer in the
latter part of September. That would enable the traveller to leave
Gondokoro, lat. N. 4 "degrees" 54', shortly before November. He would
then secure three months of favorable weather for an advance inland.
Khartoum is a wretchedly unhealthy town, containing about thirty
thousand inhabitants, exclusive of troops. In spite of its unhealthiness
and low situation, on a level with the river at the junction of the Blue
and White Niles, it is the general emporium for the trade of the Soudan,
from which the productions of the country are transported to Lower
Egypt, i.e. ivory, hides, senna, gum arabic, and beeswax. During my
experience of Khartoum it was the hotbed of the slave-trade. It will be
remarked that the exports from the Soudan are all natural productions.
There is nothing to exhibit the industry or capacity of the natives. The
ivory is the produce of violence and robbery; the hides are the simple
sun-dried skins of oxen; the senna grows wild upon the desert; the gum
arabic exudes spontaneously from the bushes of the jungle; and the
bees-wax is the produce of the only industrious creatures in that
When we regard the general aspect of the Soudan, it is extreme
wretchedness. The rainfall is uncertain and scanty; thus the country is
a desert, dependent entirely upon irrigation. Although cultivation is
simply impossible without a supply of water, one of the most onerous
taxes is that upon the sageer or water-wheel, with which the fields are
irrigated on the borders of the Nile. It would appear natural that,
instead of a tax, a premium should be offered for the erection of such
means of irrigation, which would increase the revenue by extending
cultivation, the produce of which might bear an impost. With all the
talent and industry of the native Egyptians, who must naturally depend
upon the waters of the Nile for their existence, it is extraordinary
that for thousands of years they have adhered to their original simple
form of mechanical irrigation, without improvement.
The general aspect of the Soudan is that of misery; nor is there a
single feature of attraction to recompense a European for the drawbacks
of pestilential climate and brutal associations. To a stranger it
appears a superlative folly that the Egyptian Government should have
retained a possession the occupation of which is wholly unprofitable,
the receipts being far below the expenditure malgre the increased
taxation. At so great a distance from the sea-coast and hemmed in by
immense deserts, there is a difficulty of transport that must nullify
all commercial transactions on an extended scale.
The great and most important article of commerce as an export from the
Soudan is gum arabic. This is produced by several species of mimosa, the
finest quality being a product of Kordofan; the other natural
productions exported are senna, hides, and ivory. All merchandise both
to and from the Soudan must be transported upon camels, no other animals
being adapted to the deserts. The cataracts of the Nile between Assouan
and Khartoum rendering the navigation next to impossible, camels are the
only medium of transport, and the uncertainty of procuring them without
great delay is the trader's greatest difficulty. The entire country is
subject to droughts that occasion a total desolation, and the want of
pasture entails starvation upon both cattle and camels, rendering it at
certain seasons impossible to transport the productions of the country,
and thus stagnating all enterprise. Upon existing conditions the Soudan
is worthless, having neither natural capabilities nor political
importance; but there is, nevertheless, a reason that first prompted its
occupation by the Egyptians, and that is, THE SOUDAN SUPPLIES SLAVES.
Without the White Nile trade Khartoum* would almost cease to exist; (*
This was written about twenty years ago, and does not apply to the
Khartoum of to-day. In 1869 The Khedive of Egypt despatched an
expedition under Sir Samuel Baker to suppress slavery in the Soudan and
Central Africa. To the success of that expedition, and to the efforts of
Colonel (now General) Gordon, who succeeded to the command of the
Soudan, was owing the suppression of the traffic in slaves. Within the
last few weeks, under the stress of circumstances, General Gordon has
been forced to promise the removal of this prohibition of slavery.--E.
J. W.) and that trade is kidnapping and murder. The character of the
Khartoumers needs no further comment. The amount of ivory brought down
from the White Nile is a mere bagatelle as an export, the annual value
being about 40,000 pounds.
The people for the most part enraged in the nefarious traffic of the
White Nile are Syrians, Copts, Turks, Circassians, and some few
EUROPEANS. So closely connected with the difficulties of my expedition
is that accursed slave-trade, that the so-called ivory trade of the
White Nile requires an explanation.
Throughout the Soudan money is exceedingly scarce and the rate of
interest exorbitant, varying, according to the securities, from
thirty-six to eighty per cent. This fact proves general poverty and
dishonesty, and acts as a preventive to all improvement. So high and
fatal a rate deters all honest enterprise, and the country must lie in
ruin under such a system. The wild speculator borrows upon such terms,
to rise suddenly like a rocket, or to fall like its exhausted stick.
Thus, honest enterprise being impossible, dishonesty takes the lead, and
a successful expedition to the White Nile is supposed to overcome all
charges. There are two classes of White Nile traders, the one possessing
capital, the other being penniless adventurers. The same system of
operations is pursued by both, but that of the former will be evident
from the description of the latter.
A man without means forms an expedition, and borrows money for this
purpose at 100 per cent. after this fashion: he agrees to repay the
lender in ivory at one-half its market value. Having obtained the
required sum, he hires several vessels and engages from 100 to 300 men,
composed of Arabs and runaway villains from distant countries, who have
found an asylum from justice in the obscurity of Khartoum. He purchases
guns and large quantities of ammunition for his men, together with a few
hundred pounds of glass beads. The piratical expedition being complete,
he pays his men five months' wages in advance, at the rate of forty-five
piastres (nine shillings) per month, and he agrees to give them eighty
piastres per month for any period exceeding the five months for which
they are paid. His men receive their advance partly in cash and partly
in cotton stuffs for clothes at an exorbitant price. Every man has a
strip of paper, upon which is written, by the clerk of the expedition,
the amount he has received both in goods and money, and this paper he
must produce at the final settlement.
The vessels sail about December, and on arrival at the desired locality
the party disembark and proceed into the interior, until they arrive at
the village of some negro chief, with whom they establish an intimacy.
Charmed with his new friends, the power of whose weapons he
acknowledges, the negro chief does not neglect the opportunity of
seeking their alliance to attack a hostile neighbor. Marching throughout
the night, guided by their negro hosts, they bivouac within an hour's
march of the unsuspecting village doomed to an attack about half an hour
before break of day. The time arrives, and, quietly surrounding the
village while its occupants are still sleeping, they fire the grass huts
in all directions and pour volleys of musketry through the flaming
thatch. Panic-stricken, the unfortunate victims rush from their burning
dwellings, and the men are shot down like pheasants in a battue, while
the women and children, bewildered in the danger and confusion, are
kidnapped and secured. The herds of cattle, still within their kraal or
"zareeba," are easily disposed of, and are driven off with great
rejoicing, as the prize of victory. The women and children are then
fastened together, and the former secured in an instrument called a
sheba, made of a forked pole, the neck of the prisoner fitting into the
fork, and secured by a cross-piece lashed behind, while the wrists,
brought together in advance of the body, are tied to the pole. The
children are then fastened by their necks with a rope attached to the
women, and thus form a living chain, in which order they are marched to
the head-quarters in company with the captured herds.
This is the commencement of business. Should there be ivory in any of
the huts not destroyed by the fire, it is appropriated. A general
plunder takes place. The trader's party dig up the floors of the huts to
search for iron hoes, which are generally thus concealed, as the
greatest treasure of the negroes; the granaries are overturned and
wantonly destroyed, and the hands are cut off the bodies of the slain,
the more easily to detach the copper or iron bracelets that are usually
worn. With this booty the TRADERS return to their negro ally. They have
thrashed and discomfited his enemy, which delights him; they present him
with thirty or forty head of cattle, which intoxicates him with joy, and
a present of a pretty little captive girl of about fourteen completes
An attack or razzia, such as described, generally leads to a quarrel
with the negro ally, who in his turn is murdered and plundered by the
trader--his women and children naturally becoming slaves.
A good season for a party of a hundred and fifty men should produce
about two hundred cantars (20,000 lbs.) of ivory, valued at Khartoum at
4,000 pounds. The men being paid in slaves, the wages should be NIL, and
there should be a surplus of four or five hundred slaves for the
trader's own profit--worth on an average five to six pounds each.
The amiable trader returns from the White Nile to Khartoum; hands over
to his creditor sufficient ivory to liquidate the original loan of 1,000
pounds, and, already a man of capital, he commences as an independent
Such was the White Nile trade when I prepared to start from Khartoum on
my expedition to the Nile sources. Every one in Khartoum, with the
exception of a few Europeans, was in favor of the slave-trade, and
looked with jealous eyes upon a stranger venturing within the precincts
of their holy land--a land sacred to slavery and to every abomination
and villainy that man can commit.
The Turkish officials pretended to discountenance slavery; at the same
time every house in Khartoum was full of slaves, and the Egyptian
officers had been in the habit of receiving a portion of their pay in
slaves, precisely as the men employed on tile White Nile were paid by
their employers. The Egyptian authorities looked upon the exploration of
the White Nile by a European traveller as an infringement of the slave
territory that resulted from espionage, and every obstacle was thrown in
To organize an enterprise so difficult that it had hitherto defeated the
whole world, required a careful selection of attendants, and I looked
with despair at the prospect before me. The only men procurable for
escort were the miserable cut-throats of Khartoum, accustomed to murder
and pillage in the White Nile trade, and excited not by the love of
adventure, but by the desire for plunder. To start with such men
appeared mere insanity.
There was a still greater difficulty in connection with the White Nile.
For years the infernal traffic in slaves and its attendant horrors had
existed like a pestilence in the negro countries, and had so exasperated
the tribes that people who in former times were friendly had become
hostile to all comers. An exploration to the Nile sources was thus a
march through an enemy's country, and required a powerful force of
well-armed men. For the traders there was no great difficulty, as they
took the initiative in hostilities, and had fixed camps as "points
d'appui;" but for an explorer there was no alternative, but he must make
a direct forward march with no communications with the rear. I had but
slight hope of success without assistance from the authorities in the
shape of men accustomed to discipline. I accordingly wrote to the
British consul at Alexandria, and requested him to apply for a few
soldiers and boats to aid me in so difficult an enterprise. After some
months' delay, owing to the great distance from Khartoum, I received a
reply inclosing a letter from Ismail Pacha (the present Viceroy), the
regent during the absence of Said Pacha, REFUSING the application.
I confess to the enjoyment of a real difficulty. From the first I had
observed that the Egyptian authorities did not wish to encourage English
explorations of the slave-producing districts, as such examinations
would be detrimental to the traffic, and would lead to reports to the
European governments that would ultimately prohibit the trade. It was
perfectly clear that the utmost would be done to prevent my expedition
from starting. This opposition gave a piquancy to the undertaking, and I
resolved that nothing should thwart my plans. Accordingly I set to work
in earnest. I had taken the precaution to obtain an order upon the
Treasury at Khartoum for what money I required, and as ready cash
performs wonders in that country of credit and delay, I was within a few
weeks ready to start. I engaged three vessels, including two large
noggurs or sailing barges, and a good decked vessel with comfortable
cabins, known by all Nile tourists as a diahbiah.
On December 18th, 1862, we left Khartoum. Our course up the river was
slow and laborious. At times the boats had to be dragged by the men
through the high reeds. It is not surprising that the ancients gave up
the exploration of the Nile, when they came to the countless windings
and difficulties of the marshes. The river is like an entangled skein of
thread, and the voyage is tedious and melancholy beyond description. We
did not reach Gondokoro until February 2d. This was merely a station of
the ivory traders, occupied for two months during the year, after which
time it was deserted, the boats returning to Khartoum and the
expeditions again departing to the interior.
Gondokoro--A mutiny quelled--Arrival of Speke and Grant--The sources of
the Nile--Arab duplicity--The boy-slave's story-- Saat adopted.
Having landed all my stores, and housed my corn in some granaries belong
to Koorshid Aga, I took a receipt from him for the quantity, and gave
him an order to deliver one half from my depot to Speke and Grant,
should they arrive at Gondokoro during my absence in the interior. I was
under an apprehension that they might arrive by some route without my
knowledge, while I should be penetrating south.
There were a great number of men at Gondokoro belonging to the various
traders, who looked upon me with the greatest suspicion. They could not
believe that simple travelling was my object, and they were shortly
convinced that I was intent upon espionage in their nefarious ivory
business and slave-hunting.
I had heard when at Khartoum that the most advanced trading station was
fifteen days' march from Gondokoro. I now understood that the party from
that station were expected to arrive at Gondokoro in a few days, and I
determined to await them, as their ivory porters returning might carry
my baggage and save the backs of my transport animals.
After a few days' detention at Gondokoro I saw unmistakable sign of
discontent among my men, who had evidently been tampered with by the
different traders' parties. One evening several of the most disaffected
came to me with a complaint that they had not enough meat, and that they
must be allowed to make a razzia upon the cattle of the natives to
procure some oxen. This demand being of course refused, they retired,
muttering in an insolent manner their determination of stealing cattle
with or without my permission. I said nothing at the time, but early on
the following morning I ordered the drum to beat and the men to fall in.
I made them a short address, reminding them of the agreement made at
Khartoum to follow me faithfully, and of the compact that had been
entered into, that they were neither to indulge in slave-hunting nor in
cattle-stealing. The only effect of my address was a great outbreak of
insolence on the part of the ringleader of the previous evening. This
fellow, named Eesur, was an Arab, and his impertinence was so violent
that I immediately ordered him twenty-five lashes, as an example to the
Upon the vakeel's (Saati) advancing to seize him, there was a general
mutiny. Many of the men threw down their guns and seized sticks, and
rushed to the rescue of their tall ringleader. Saati was a little man,
and was perfectly helpless. Here was an escort! These were the men upon
whom I was to depend in hours of difficulty and danger on an expedition
into unknown regions! These were the fellows that I had considered to be
reduced "from wolves to lambs"!
I was determined not to be balked, but to insist upon the punishment of
the ringleader. I accordingly went toward him with the intention of
seizing him; but he, being backed by upward of forty men, had the
impertinence to attack me, rushing forward with a fury that was
ridiculous. To stop his blow and to knock him into the middle of the
crowd was not difficult, and after a rapid repetition of the dose I
disabled him, and seizing him by the throat I called to my vakeel Saati
for a rope to bind him, but in an instant I had a crowd of men upon me
to rescue their leader.
How the affair would have ended I cannot say; but as the scene lay
within ten yards of my boat, my wife, who was ill with fever in the
cabin, witnessed the whole affray, and seeing me surrounded, she rushed
out, and in a few moments she was in the middle of the crowd, who at
that time were endeavoring to rescue my prisoner. Her sudden appearance
had a curious effect, and calling upon several of the least mutinous to
assist, she very pluckily made her way up to me. Seizing the opportunity
of an indecision that was for the moment evinced by the crowd, I shouted
to the drummer boy to beat the drum. In an instant the drum beat, and at
the top of my voice I ordered the men to "fall in." It is curious how
mechanically an order is obeyed if given at the right moment, even in
the midst of mutiny. Two thirds of the men fell in and formed in line,
while the remainder retreated with the ringleader, Eesur, whom they led
away, declaring that he was badly hurt. The affair ended in my insisting
upon all forming in line, and upon the ringleader being brought forward.
In this critical moment Mrs. Baker, with great tact, came forward and
implored me to forgive him if he kissed my hand and begged for pardon.
This compromise completely won the men, who, although a few minutes
before in open mutiny, now called upon their ringleader, Eesur, to
apologize and all would be right. I made them rather a bitter speech,
and dismissed them.
From that moment I felt that my expedition was fated. This outbreak was
an example of what was to follow. Previously to leaving Khartoum I had
felt convinced that I could not succeed with such villains for escort as
these Khartoumers; thus I had applied to the Egyptian authorities for a
few troops, but had been refused. I was now in an awkward position. All
my men had received five months' wages in advance, according to the
custom of the White Nile; thus I had no control over them. There were no
Egyptian authorities in Gondokoro. It was a nest of robbers, and my men
had just exhibited so pleasantly their attachment to me, and their
fidelity! There was no European beyond Gondokoro, thus I should be the
only white man among this colony of wolves; and I had in perspective a
difficult and uncertain path, where the only chance of success lay in
the complete discipline of my escort and the perfect organization of the
expedition. After the scene just enacted I felt sure that my escort
would give me more cause for anxiety than the acknowledged hostility of
I had been waiting at Gondokoro twelve days, expecting the arrival of
Debono's party from the south, with whom I wished to return. Suddenly,
on the 15th of February, I heard the rattle of musketry at a great
distance and a dropping fire from the south. To give an idea of the
moment I must extract verbatim from my journal as written at the time.
"Guns firing in the distance; Debono's ivory porters arriving, for whom
I have waited. My men rushed madly to my boat, with the report that two
white men were with them who had come from the SEA! Could they be Speke
and Grant? Off I ran, and soon met them in reality. Hurrah for old
England! They had come from the Victoria N'yanza, from which the Nile
springs . . . . The mystery of ages solved! With my pleasure of meeting
them is the one disappointment, that I had not met them farther on the
road in my search for them; however, the satisfaction is, that my
previous arrangements had been such as would have insured my finding
them had they been in a fix . . . . My projected route would have
brought me vis-a-vis with them, as they had come from the lake by the
course I had proposed to take . . . . All my men perfectly mad with
excitement. Firing salutes as usual with ball cartridge, they shot one
of my donkeys--a melancholy sacrifice as an offering at the completion
of this geographical discovery."
When I first met the two explorers they were walking along the bank of
the river toward my boats. At a distance of about a hundred yards I
recognized my old friend Speke, and with a heart beating with joy I took
off my cap and gave a welcome hurrah! as I ran toward him. For the
moment he did not recognize me. Ten years' growth of beard and mustache
had worked a change; and as I was totally unexpected, my sudden
appearance in the centre of Africa appeared to him incredible. I hardly
required an introduction to his companion, as we felt already
acquainted, and after the transports of this happy meeting we walked
together to my diahbiah, my men surrounding us with smoke and noise by
keeping up an unremitting fire of musketry the whole way. We were
shortly seated on deck under the awning, and such rough fare as could be
hastily prepared was set before these two ragged, careworn specimens of
African travel, whom I looked upon with feelings of pride as my own
countrymen. As a good ship arrives in harbor, battered and torn by a
long and stormy voyage, yet sound in her frame and seaworthy to the
last, so both these gallant travellers arrived at Gondokoro. Speke
appeared the more worn of the two; he was excessively lean, but in
reality was in good, tough condition. He had walked the whole way from
Zanzibar, never having once ridden during that wearying march. Grant was
in honorable rags, his bare knees projecting through the remnants of
trousers that were an exhibition of rough industry in tailor's work. He
was looking tired and feverish, but both men had a fire in the eye that
showed the spirit that had led them through.
They wished to leave Gondokoro as soon as possible, en route for
England, but delayed their departure until the moon should be in a
position for an observation for determining the longitude. My boats were
fortunately engaged by me for five months, thus Speke and Grant could
take charge of them to Khartoum.
At the first blush on meeting them, I had considered my expedition as
terminated by having met them, and by their having accomplished the
discovery of the Nile source; but upon my congratulating them with all
my heart upon the honor they had so nobly earned, Speke and Grant with
characteristic candor and generosity gave me a map of their route,
showing that they had been unable to complete the actual exploration of
the Nile, and that a most important portion still remained to be
determined. It appeared that in N. lat. 2 "degrees" 17', they had
crossed the Nile, which they had tracked from the Victoria Lake; but the
river, which from its exit from that lake had a northern course, turned
suddenly to the WEST from Karuma Falls (the point at which they crossed
it at lat. 2 "degrees" 17'). They did not see the Nile again until they
arrived in N. lat. 3 "degrees" 32', which was then flowing from the
west-south-west. The natives and the King of Unyoro (Kamrasi) had
assured them that the Nile from the Victoria N'yanza, which they had
crossed at Karuma, flowed westward for several days' journey, and at
length fell into a large lake called the Luta N'zige; that this lake
came from the south, and that the Nile on entering the northern
extremity almost immediately made its exit, and as a navigable river
continued its course to the north, through the Koshi and Madi countries.
Both Speke and Grant attached great importance to this lake Luta N'zige,
and the former was much annoyed that it had been impossible for them to
carry out the exploration. He foresaw that stay-at-home geographers,
who, with a comfortable arm-chair to sit in, travel so easily with their
fingers on a map, would ask him why he had not gone from such a place to
such a place? why he had not followed the Nile to the Luta N'zige lake,
and from the lake to Gondokoro? As it happened, it was impossible for
Speke and Grant to follow the Nile from Karuma: the tribes were fighting
with Kamrasi, and no strangers could have gone through the country.
Accordingly they procured their information most carefully, completed
their map, and laid down the reported lake in its supposed position,
showing the Nile as both influent and effluent precisely as had been
explained by the natives.
Speke expressed his conviction that the Luta N'zige must be a second
source of the Nile, and that geographers would be dissatisfied that he
had not explored it. To me this was most gratifying. I had been much
disheartened at the idea that the great work was accomplished, and that
nothing remained for exploration. I even said to Speke, "Does not one
leaf of the laurel remain for me?" I now heard that the field was not
only open, but that an additional interest was given to the exploration
by the proof that the Nile flowed out of one great lake, the Victoria,
but that it evidently must derive an additional supply from an unknown
lake, as it entered it at the NORTHERN extremity, while the body of the
lake came from the south. The fact of a great body of water such as the
Luta N'zige extending in a direct line from south to north, while the
general system of drainage of the Nile was from the same direction,
showed most conclusively that the Luta N'zige, if it existed in the form
assumed, must have an important position in the basin of the Nile.
My expedition had naturally been rather costly, and being in excellent
order it would have been heartbreaking to return fruitlessly. I
therefore arranged immediately for my departure, and Speke most kindly
wrote in my journal such instructions as might be useful.
On the 26th of February Speke and Grant sailed from Gondokoro. Our
hearts were too full to say more than a short "God bless you!" They had
won their victory; my work lay all before me. I watched their boat until
it turned the corner, and wished them in my heart all honor for their
great achievement. I trusted to sustain the name they had won for
English perseverance, and I looked forward to meeting them again in dear
old England, when I should have completed the work we had so warmly
I now weighed all my baggage, and found that I had fifty-four cantars
(100 lbs. each). The beads, copper, and ammunition were the terrible
onus. I therefore applied to Mahommed, the vakeel of Andrea Debono, who
had escorted Speke and Grant, and I begged his co-operation in the
expedition. Mahommed promised to accompany me, not only to his camp at
Faloro, but throughout the whole of my expedition, provided that I would
assist him in procuring ivory, and that I would give him a handsome
present. All was agreed upon, and my own men appeared in high spirits at
the prospect of joining so large a party as that of Mahommed, which
mustered about two hundred men.
At that time I really placed dependence upon the professions of Mahommed
and his people; they had just brought Speke and Grant with them, and had
received from them presents of a first-class double-barrelled gun and
several valuable rifles. I had promised not only to assist them in their
ivory expeditions, but to give them something very handsome in addition,
and the fact of my having upward of forty men as escort was also an
introduction, as they would be an addition to the force, which is a
great advantage in hostile countries. Everything appeared to be in good
trim, but I little knew the duplicity of these Arab scoundrels. At the
very moment that they were most friendly, they were plotting to deceive
me, and to prevent the from entering the country. They knew that, should
I penetrate the interior, the IVORY TRADE of the White Nile would be no
longer a mystery, and that the atrocities of the slave trade would be
exposed, and most likely be terminated by the intervention of European
Powers; accordingly they combined to prevent my advance, and to
overthrow my expedition completely. All the men belonging to the various
traders were determined that no Englishman should penetrate into the
country; accordingly they fraternized with my escort, and persuaded them
that I was a Christian dog that it was a disgrace for a Mahometan to
serve; that they would be starved in my service, as I would not allow
them to steal cattle; that they would have no slaves; and that I should
lead them--God knew where--to the sea, from whence Speke and Grant had
started; that they had left Zanzibar with two hundred men, and had only
arrived at Gondokoro with eighteen, thus the remainder must have been
killed by the natives on the road; that if they followed me and arrived
at Zanzibar, I would find a ship waiting to take me to England, and I
would leave them to die in a strange country. Such were the reports
circulated to prevent my men from accompanying me, and it was agreed
that Mahommed should fix a day for our pretended start IN COMPANY, but
that he should in reality start a few days before the time appointed;
and that my men should mutiny, and join his party in cattle-stealing and
slave-hunting. This was the substance of the plot thus carefully
My men evinced a sullen demeanor, neglected all orders, and I plainly
perceived a settled discontent upon their general expression. The
donkeys and camels were allowed to stray, and were daily missing, and
recovered with difficulty. The luggage was overrun with white ants,
instead of being attended to every morning. The men absented themselves
without leave, and were constantly in the camps of the different
traders. I was fully prepared for some difficulty, but I trusted that
when once on the march I should be able to get them under discipline.
Among my people were two blacks: one, "Richarn," already described as
having been brought up by the Austrian Mission at Khartoum; the other, a
boy of twelve years old, "Saat." As these were the only really faithful
members of the expedition, it is my duty to describe them. Richarn was
an habitual drunkard, but he had his good points: he was honest, and
much attached to both master and mistress. He had been with me for some
months, and was a fair sportsman, and being of an entirely different
race from the Arabs, he kept himself apart from them, and fraternized
with the boy Saat.
Saat was a boy that would do no evil. He was honest to a superlative
degree, and a great exception to the natives of this wretched country.
He was a native of "Fertit," and was minding his father's goats, when a
child of about six years old, at the time of his capture by the Baggara
Arabs. He described vividly how men on camels suddenly appeared while he
was in the wilderness with his flock, and how he was forcibly seized and
thrust into a large gum sack and slung upon the back of a camel. Upon
screaming for help, the sack was opened, and an Arab threatened him with
a knife should he make the slightest noise. Thus quieted, he was carried
hundreds of miles through Kordofan to Dongola on the Nile, at which
place he was sold to slave-dealers and taken to Cairo to be sold to the
Egyptian government as a drummer-boy. Being too young he was rejected,
and while in the dealer's hands he heard from another slave, of the
Austrian Mission at Cairo, that would protect him could he only reach
their asylum. With extraordinary energy for a child of six years, he
escaped from his master and made his way to the Mission, where he was
well received, and to a certain extent disciplined and taught as much of
the Christian religion as he could understand. In company with a branch
establishment of the Mission, he was subsequently located at Khartoum,
and from thence was sent up the White Nile to a Mission-station in the
Shillook country. The climate of tie White Nile destroyed thirteen
missionaries in the short space of six months, and the boy Saat returned
with the remnant of the party to Khartoum and was readmitted into the
Mission. The establishment was at that time swarming with little black
boys from the various White Nile tribes, who repaid the kindness of the
missionaries by stealing everything they could lay their hands upon. At
length the utter worthlessness of the boys, their moral obtuseness, and
the apparent impossibility of improving them determined the chief of the
Mission to purge his establishment from such imps, and they were
accordingly turned out. Poor little Saat, the one grain of gold amid the
mire, shared the same fate.
It was about a week before our departure from Khartoum that Mrs. Baker
and I were at tea in the middle of the court-yard, when a miserable boy
about twelve years old came uninvited to her side, and knelt down in the
dust at her feet. There was something so irresistibly supplicating in
the attitude of the child that the first impulse was to give him
something from the table. This was declined, and he merely begged to be
allowed to live with us and to be our boy. He said that he had been
turned out of the Mission, merely because the Bari boys of the
establishment were thieves, and thus he suffered for their sins. I could
not believe it possible that the child had been actually turned out into
the streets, and believing that the fault must lie in the boy, I told
him I would inquire. In the mean time he was given in charge of the
It happened that on the following day I was so much occupied that I
forgot to inquire at the Mission, and once more the cool hour of evening
arrived, when, after the intense heat of the day, we sat at table in the
open court-yard. Hardly were we seated when again the boy appeared,
kneeling in the dust, with his head lowered at my wife's feet, and
imploring to be allowed to follow us. It was in vain that I explained
that we had a boy and did not require another; that the journey was long
and difficult, and that he might perhaps die. The boy feared nothing,
and craved simply that he might belong to us. He had no place of
shelter, no food; had been stolen from his parents, and was a helpless
The next morning, accompanied by Mrs. Baker, I went to the Mission and
heard that the boy had borne an excellent character, and that it must
have been BY MISTAKE that he had been turned out with the others. This
being conclusive, Saat was immediately adopted. Mrs. Baker was shortly
at work making him some useful clothes, and in an incredibly short time
a great change was effected. As he came from the hands of the cook,
after a liberal use of soap and water, and attired in trousers, blouse,
and belt, the new boy appeared in a new character.
From that time he considered himself as belonging absolutely to his
mistress. He was taught by her to sew. Richarn instructed him in the
mysteries of waiting at table, and washing plates, etc., while I taught
him to shoot, and gave him a light double-barrelled gun. This was his
Not only was the boy trustworthy, but he had an extraordinary amount of
moral in addition to physical courage. If any complaint were made, and
Saat was called as a witness, far from the shyness too often evinced
when the accuser is brought face to face with the accused, such was
Saat's proudest moment; and, no matter who the man might be, the boy
would challenge him, regardless of all consequences.
We were very fond of this boy; he was thoroughly good, and in that land
of iniquity, thousands of miles away from all except what was evil,
there was a comfort in having some one innocent and faithful in whom to
Startling disclosures--The last hope seems gone--The Bari chief's
advice--Hoping for the best--Ho for Central Africa!
We were to start upon the following Monday. Mahommed had paid me a
visit, assuring me of his devotion, and begging me to have my baggage in
marching order, as he would send me fifty porters on Monday, and we
would move off in company. At the very moment that he thus professed, he
was coolly deceiving me. He had arranged to start without me on
Saturday, while he was proposing to march together on Monday. This I did
not know at the time.
One morning I had returned to the tent after having, as usual, inspected
the transport animals, when I observed Mrs. Baker looking
extraordinarily pale, and immediately upon my arrival she gave orders
for the presence of the vakeel (headman). There was something in her
manner so different from her usual calm, that I was utterly bewildered
when I heard her question the vakeel, whether the men were willing to
march. "Perfectly ready," was the reply. "Then order them to strike the
tent and load the animals; we start this moment."
The man appeared confused, but not more so than I. Something was
evidently on foot, but what I could not conjecture. The vakeel wavered,
and to my astonishment I heard the accusation made against him that
during the night the whole of the escort had mutinously conspired to
desert me, with my arms and ammunition that were in their hands, and to
fire simultaneously at me should I attempt to disarm them. At first this
charge was indignantly denied, until the boy Saat manfully stepped
forward and declared that the conspiracy was entered into by the whole
of the escort, and that both he and Richarn, knowing that mutiny was
intended, had listened purposely to the conversation during the night;
at daybreak the boy reported the fact to his mistress. Mutiny, robbery,
and murder were thus deliberately determined.
I immediately ordered an angarep (travelling bedstead) to be placed
outside the tent under a large tree. Upon this I laid five
double-barrelled guns loaded with buckshot, a revolver, and a naked
sabre as sharp as a razor. A sixth rifle I kept in my hands while I sat
upon the angarep, with Richarn and Saat both with double- barrelled guns
behind me. Formerly I had supplied each of my men with a piece of
mackintosh waterproof to be tied over the locks of their guns during the
march. I now ordered the drum to be beaten, and all the men to form in
line in marching order, with their locks TIED UP IN THE WATERPROOF. I
requested Mrs. Baker to stand behind me and point out any man who should
attempt to uncover his locks when I should give the order to lay down
their arms. The act of uncovering the locks would prove his intention,
in which event I intended to shoot him immediately and take my chance
with the rest of the conspirators.
I had quite determined that these scoundrels should not rob me of my own
arms and ammunition, if I could prevent it.
The drum beat, and the vakeel himself went into the men's quarters and
endeavored to prevail upon them to answer the call. At length fifteen
assembled in line; the others were nowhere to be found. The locks of the
arms were secured by mackintosh as ordered. It was thus impossible for
any man to fire at me until he should have released his locks.
Upon assembling in line I ordered them immediately to lay down their
arms. This, with insolent looks of defiance, they refused to do. "Down
with your guns thus moment," I shouted, "sons of dogs!" And at the sharp
click of the locks, as I quickly cocked the rifle that I held in my
hands, the cowardly mutineers widened their line and wavered. Some
retreated a few paces to the rear; others sat down and laid their guns
on the ground, while the remainder slowly dispersed, and sat in twos or
singly, under the various trees about eighty paces distant. Taking
advantage of their indecision, I immediately rose and ordered my vakeel
and Richarn to disarm them as they were thus scattered. Foreseeing that
the time had arrived for actual physical force, the cowards capitulated,
agreeing to give up their arms and ammunition if I would give them their
written discharge. I disarmed them immediately, and the vakeel having
written a discharge for the fifteen men present, I wrote upon each paper
the word "mutineer" above my signature. None of them being able to read,
and this being written in English, they unconsciously carried the
evidence of their own guilt, which I resolved to punish should I ever
find them on my return to Khartoum.
Thus disarmed, they immediately joined other of the traders' parties.
These fifteen men were the "Jalyns" of my party, the remainder being
Dongolowas--all Arabs of the Nile, north of Khartoum. The Dongolowas had
not appeared when summoned by the drum, and my vakeel being of their
nation, I impressed upon him his responsibility for the mutiny, and that
he would end his days in prison at Khartoum should my expedition fail.
The boy Saat and Richarn now assured me that the men had intended to
fire at me, but that they were frightened at seeing us thus prepared,
but that I must not expect one man of the Dongolowas to be any more
faithful than the Jalyns. I ordered the vakeel to hunt up the men and to
bring me their guns, threatening that if they refused I would shoot any
man that I found with one of my guns in his hands.
There was no time for mild measures. I had only Saat (a mere child) and
Richarn upon whom I could depend; and I resolved with them alone to
accompany Mahommed's people to the interior, and to trust to good
fortune for a chance of proceeding.
I was feverish and ill with worry and anxiety, and I was lying down upon
my mat when I suddenly heard guns firing in all directions, drums
beating, and the customary signs of either an arrival or departure of a
trading party. Presently a messenger arrived from Koorshid Aga, the
Circassian, to announce the departure of Mahommed's party without me,
and my vakeel appeared with a message from the same people, that if I
followed on their road (my proposed route) they would fire upon me and
my party, as they would allow no English spies in their country.
My last hope seemed gone. No expedition had ever been more carefully
planned; everything had been well arranged to insure success. My
transport animals were in good condition, their saddles and pads had
been made under my own inspection, my arms, ammunition, and supplies
were abundant, and I was ready to march at five minutes' notice to any
part of Africa; but the expedition, so costly and so carefully
organized, was completely ruined by the very people whom I had engaged
to protect it. They had not only deserted, but they had conspired to
murder. There was no law in these wild regions but brute force; human
life was of no value; murder was a pastime, as the murderer could escape
all punishment. Mr. Petherick's vakeel had just been shot dead by one of
his own men, and such events were too common to create much attention.
We were utterly helpless, the whole of the people against us, and openly
threatening. For myself personally I had no anxiety; but the fact of
Mrs. Baker's being with me was my greatest care. I dared not think of
her position in the event of my death among such savages as those around
her. These thoughts were shared by her; but she, knowing that I had
resolved to succeed, never once hinted an advice for retreat.
Richarn was as faithful as Saat, and I accordingly confided in him my
resolution to leave all my baggage in charge of a friendly chief of the
Baris at Gondokoro, and to take two fast dromedaries for him and Saat,
and two horses for Mrs. Baker and myself, and to make a push through the
hostile tribe for three days, to arrive among friendly people at "Moir,"
from which place I trusted to fortune. I arranged that the dromedaries
should carry a few beads, ammunition, and the astronomical instruments.
Richarn said the idea was very mad; that the natives would do nothing
for beads; that he had had great experience on the White Nile when with
a former master, and that the natives would do nothing without receiving
cows as payment; that it was of no use to be good to them, as they had
no respect for any virtue but "force;" that we should most likely be
murdered; but that if I ordered him to go, he was ready to obey.
I was delighted with Richarn's rough and frank fidelity. Ordering the
horses to be brought, I carefully pared their feet. Their hard flinty
hoofs, that had never felt a shoe, were in excellent order for a gallop,
if necessary. All being ready, I sent for the chief of Gondokoro.
Meanwhile a Bari boy arrived, sent by Koorshid Aga, to act as my
The Bari chief was, as usual, smeared all over with red ochre and fat,
and had the shell of a small land tortoise suspended to his elbow as an
ornament. I proposed to him my plan of riding quickly through the Bari
tribe to Moir. He replied, "Impossible! If I were to beat the great
nogaras (drums), and call my people together to explain who you are,
they would not hurt you; but there are many petty chiefs who do not obey
me, and their people would certainly attack you when crossing some
swollen torrent, and what could you do with only a man and a boy?"
His reply to my question concerning the value of beads corroborated
Richarn's statement: nothing could be purchased for anything but cattle.
The traders had commenced the system of stealing herds of cattle from
one tribe to barter with the next neighbor; thus the entire country was
in anarchy and confusion, and beads were of no value. My plan for a dash
through the country was impracticable.
I therefore called my vakeel, and threatened him with the gravest
punishment on my return to Khartoum. I wrote to Sir R. Colquhoun, H.M.
Consul-General for Egypt, which letter I sent by one of the return
boats, and I explained to my vakeel that the complaint to the British
authorities would end in his imprisonment, and that in case of my death
through violence he would assuredly be hanged. After frightening him
thoroughly, I suggested that he should induce some of the mutineers, who
were Dongolowas (his own tribe), many of whom were his relatives, to
accompany me, in which case I would forgive them their past misconduct.
In the course of the afternoon he returned with the news that he had
arranged with seventeen of the men, but that they refused to march
toward the south, and would accompany me to the east if I wished to
explore that part of the country. Their plea for refusing a southern
route was the hostility of the Bari tribe. They also proposed a
condition, that I should "LEAVE ALL MY TRANSPORT ANIMALS AND BAGGAGE
BEHIND ME." To this insane request, which completely nullified their
offer to start, I only replied by vowing vengeance against the vakeel.
The time was passed by the men in vociferously quarrelling among
themselves during the day and in close conference with the vakeel during
the night, the substance of which was reported on the following morning
by the faithful Saat. The boy recounted their plot. They agreed to march
to the east, with the intention of deserting me at the station of a
trader named Chenooda, seven days' march from Gondokoro, in the Latooka
country, whose men were, like themselves, Dongolowas; they had conspired
to mutiny at that place and to desert to the slave-hunting party with my
arms and ammunition, and to shoot me should I attempt to disarm them.
They also threatened to shoot my vakeel, who now, through fear of
punishment at Khartoum, exerted his influence to induce them to start.
Altogether it was a pleasant state of things.
I was determined at all hazards to start from Gondokoro for the
interior. From long experience with natives of wild countries I did not
despair of obtaining an influence over my men, however bad, could I once
quit Gondokoro and lead them among the wild and generally hostile tribes
of the country. They would then be separated from the contagion of the
slave-hunting parties, and would feel themselves dependent upon me for
guidance. Accordingly I professed to believe in their promises to
accompany me to the east, although I knew of their conspiracy; and I
trusted that by tact and good management I should eventually thwart all
their plans, and, although forced out of my intended course, should be
able to alter my route and to work round from the east to my original
plan of operations south. The interpreter given by Koorshid Aga had
absconded; this was a great loss, as I had no means of communication
with the natives except by casually engaging a Bari in the employment of
the traders, to whom I was obliged to pay exorbitantly in copper
bracelets for a few minutes' conversation.
A party of Koorshid's people had just arrived with ivory from the
Latooka country, bringing with them a number of that tribe as porters.
They were to return shortly, but they not only refused to allow me to
accompany them, but they declared their intention of forcibly repelling
me, should I attempt to advance by their route. This was a good excuse
for my men, who once more refused to proceed. By pressure upon the
vakeel they again yielded, but on condition that I would take one of the
mutineers named "Bellaal," who wished to join them, but whose offer I
had refused, as he had been a notorious ringleader in every mutiny. It
was a sine qua non that he was to go; and knowing the character of the
man, I felt convinced that it had been arranged that he should head the
mutiny conspired to be enacted upon our arrival at Chenooda's camp in
the Latooka country.
The plan that I had arranged was to leave all the baggage not
indispensable with Koorshid Aga at Gondokoro, who would return it to
Khartoum. I intended to wait until Koorshid's party should march, when I
resolved to follow them, as I did not believe they would dare to oppose
me by force, their master himself being friendly. I considered their
threats as mere idle boasting to frighten me from an attempt to follow
them; but there was another more serious cause of danger to be
On the route between Gondokoro and Latooka there was a powerful tribe
among the mountains of Ellyria. The chief of that tribe (Legge) had
formerly massacred a hundred and twenty of a trader's party. He was an
ally of Koorshid's people, who declared that they would raise the tribe
against me, which would end in the defeat or massacre of my party. There
was a difficult pass through the mountains of Ellyria which it would be
impossible to force; thus my small party of seventeen men would be
helpless. It would be merely necessary for the traders to request the
chief of Ellyria to attack my party to insure its destruction, as the
plunder of the baggage would be an ample reward.
There was no time for deliberation. Both the present and the future
looked as gloomy as could be imagined; but I had always expected
extraordinary difficulties, and they were, if possible, to be
surmounted. It was useless to speculate upon chances. There was no hope
of success in inaction, and the only resource was to drive through all
obstacles without calculating the risk.
The day arrived for the departure of Koorshid's people. They commenced
firing their usual signals, the drums beat, the Turkish ensign led the
way, and they marched at 2 o'clock P.M., sending a polite message
"DARING" me to follow them.
I immediately ordered the tent to be struck, the luggage to be arranged,
the animals to be collected, and everything to be ready for the march.
Richarn and Saat were in high spirits; even my unwilling men were
obliged to work, and by 7 P.M. we were all ready.
We had neither guide nor interpreter. Not one native was procurable, all
being under the influence of the traders, who had determined to render
our advance utterly impossible by preventing the natives from assisting
us. All had been threatened, and we, perfectly helpless, commenced the
desperate journey in darkness about an hour after sunset.
"Where shall we go?" said the men, just as the order was given to start.
"Who can travel without a guide? No one knows the road." The moon was
up, and the mountain of Belignan was distinctly visible about nine miles
distant. Knowing that the route lay on the east side of that mountain, I
led the way, Mrs. Baker riding by my side, and the British flag
following close behind us as a guide for the caravan of heavily laden
camels and donkeys. And thus we started on our march into Central Africa
on the 26th of March, 1863.
A start made at last--A forced march--Lightening the ship-- Waiting for
the caravan--Success hangs in the balance--The greatest rascal in
Central Africa--Legge demands another bottle.
The country was park-like, but much parched by the dry weather. The
ground was sandy, but firm, and interspersed with numerous villages, all
of which were surrounded with a strong fence of euphorbia. The country
was well wooded, being free from bush or jungle, but numerous trees, all
evergreens, were scattered over the landscape. No natives were to be
seen but the sound of their drums and singing in chorus was heard in the
far distance. Whenever it is moonlight the nights are passed in singing
and dancing, beating drums, blowing horns, and the population of whole
villages thus congregate together.
After a silent march of two hours we saw watchfires blazing in the
distance, and upon nearer approach we perceived the trader's party
bivouacked. Their custom is to march only two or three hours on the
first day of departure, to allow stragglers who may have lagged behind
in Gondokoro to rejoin the party before morning.
We were roughly challenged by their sentries as we passed, and were
instantly told "not to remain in their neighborhood." Accordingly we
passed on for about half a mile in advance, and bivouacked on some
rising ground above a slight hollow in which we found water.
The following morning was clear, and the mountain of Belignan, within
three or four miles, was a fine object to direct our course. I could
distinctly see some enormous trees at the foot of the mountain near a
village, and I hastened forward, as I hoped to procure a guide who would
also act as interpreter, many of the natives in the vicinity of
Gondokoro having learned a little Arabic from the traders. We cantered
on ahead of the party, regardless of the assurance of our unwilling men
that the natives were not to be trusted, and we soon arrived beneath the
shade of a cluster of most superb trees. The village was within a
quarter of a mile, situated at the very base of the abrupt mountain. The
natives seeing us alone had no fear, and soon thronged around us. The
chief understood a few words of Arabic, and I offered a large payment of
copper bracelets and beads for a guide. After much discussion and
bargaining a bad-looking fellow offered to guide us to Ellyria, but no
farther. This was about twenty-eight or thirty miles distant, and it was
of vital importance that we should pass through that tribe before the
trader's party should raise them against us. I had great hopes of
outmarching the trader's party, as they would be delayed in Belignan by
ivory transactions with the chief.
At that time the Turks were engaged in business transactions with tile
natives; it was therefore all important that I should start immediately,
and by a forced march arrive at Ellyria and get through the pass before
they should communicate with the chief. I had no doubt that by paying
blackmail I should be able to clear Ellyria, provided I was in advance
of the Turks; but should they outmarch me, there would be no hope; a
fight and defeat would be the climax. I accordingly gave orders for an
IMMEDIATE start. "Load the camels, my brothers!" I exclaimed to the
sullen ruffians around me; but not a man stirred except Richarn and a
fellow named Sali, who began to show signs of improvement. Seeing that
the men intended to disobey, I immediately set to work myself loading
the animals, requesting my men not to trouble themselves, and begging
them to lie down and smoke their pipes while I did the work. A few rose
from the ground ashamed and assisted to load the camels, while the
others declared it an impossibility for camels to travel by the road we
were about to take, as the Turks had informed them that not even the
donkeys could march through the thick jungles between Belignan and
"All right, my brothers!" I replied; "then we'll march as far as the
donkeys can go, and leave both them and the baggage on the road when
they can go no farther; but I GO FORWARD."
With sullen discontent the men began to strap on their belts and
cartouche boxes and prepare for the start. The animals were loaded, and
we moved slowly forward at 4.30 P.M. We had just started with the Bari
guide that I had engaged at Belignan, when we were suddenly joined by
two of the Latookas whom I had seen when at Gondokoro and to whom I had
been very civil. It appeared that these follows, who were acting as
porters to the Turks, had been beaten, and had therefore absconded and
joined me. This was extraordinary good fortune, as I now had guides the
whole way to Latooka, about ninety miles distant. I immediately gave
them each a copper bracelet and some beads, and they very good-naturedly
relieved the camels of one hundred pounds of copper rings, which they
carried in two baskets on their heads.
We now crossed the broad dry bed of a torrent, and the banks being steep
a considerable time was occupied in assisting the loaded animals in
their descent. The donkeys were easily aided, their tails being held by
two men while they shuffled and slid down the sandy banks; but every
camel fell, and the loads had to be carried up the opposite bank by the
men, and the camels reloaded on arrival. Here again the donkeys had the
advantage, as without being unloaded they were assisted up the steep
ascent by two men in front pulling at their ears, while others pushed
behind. Altogether the donkeys were far more suitable for the country,
as they were more easily loaded. The facility of loading is
all-important, and I now had an exemplification of its effect upon both
animals and men. The latter began to abuse the camels and to curse the
father of this and the mother of that because they had the trouble of
unloading them for the descent into the river's bed, while the donkeys
were blessed with the endearing name of "my brother," and alternately
whacked with the stick.
For some miles we passed through a magnificent forest of large trees.
The path being remarkably good, the march looked propitious. This good
fortune, however, was doomed to change. We shortly entered upon thick
thorny jungles. The path was so overgrown that the camels could scarcely
pass under the overhanging branches, and the leather bags of provisions
piled upon their backs were soon ripped by the hooked thorns of the
mimosa. The salt, rice, and coffee bags all sprang leaks, and small
streams of these important stores issued from the rents which the men
attempted to repair by stuffing dirty rags into the holes. These thorns
were shaped like fishhooks; thus it appeared that the perishable baggage
must soon become an utter wreck, as the great strength and weight of the
camels bore all before them, and sometimes tore the branches from the
trees, the thorns becoming fixed in the leather bags. Meanwhile the
donkeys walked along in comfort, being so short that they and their
loads were below the branches.
My wife and I rode about a quarter of a mile at the head of the party as
an advance guard, to warn the caravan of any difficulty. The very nature
of the country showed that it must be full of ravines, and yet I could
not help hoping against hope that we might have a clear mile of road
without a break. The evening had passed, and the light faded. What had
been difficult and tedious during the day now became most serious; we
could not see the branches of hooked thorns that over-hung the broken
path. I rode in advance, my face and arms bleeding with countless
scratches, while at each rip of a thorn I gave a warning shout--"Thorn!"
for those behind, and a cry of "Hole!" for any deep rut that lay in the
path. It was fortunately moonlight; but the jungle was so thick that the
narrow track was barely perceptible; thus both camels and donkeys ran
against the trunks of trees, smashing the luggage and breaking all that
could be broken. Nevertheless the case was urgent; march we must at all
My heart sank whenever we cane to a deep ravine or hor; the warning cry
of "halt" told those in the rear that once more the camels must be
unloaded and the same fatiguing operation must be repeated. For hours we
marched; the moon was sinking; the path, already dark, grew darker; the
animals, overloaded even for a good road, were tired out, and the men
were disheartened, thirsty, and disgusted. Everything was tired out. I
had been working like a slave to assist and to cheer the men; I was also
fatigued. We had marched from 4.30 P.M--it was now 1 A.M.; we had thus
been eight hours and a half struggling along the path. The moon had
sunk, and the complete darkness rendered a further advance impossible;
therefore, on arrival at a large plateau of rock, I ordered the animals
to be unloaded and both man and beast to rest.
Every one lay down supperless to sleep. Although tired, I could not rest
until I had arranged some plan for the morrow. It was evident that we
could not travel over so rough a country with the animals thus
overloaded; I therefore determined to leave in the jungle such articles
as could be dispensed with, and to rearrange all the loads.
At 4 A.M. I awoke, and lighting a lamp I tried in vain to wake any of
the men, who lay stretched upon the ground like so many corpses, sound
I threw away about 100 lbs. of salt, divided the heavy ammunition more
equally among the animals, rejected a quantity of odds and ends that,
although most useful, could be forsaken, and by the time the men awoke,
a little before sunrise, I had completed the work. We now reloaded the
animals, who showed the improvement by stepping out briskly. We marched
well for three hours at a pace that bade fair to keep us well ahead of
the Turks, and at length we reached the dry bed of a stream, where the
Latooka guides assured us we should obtain water by digging. This proved
correct; but the holes were dug deep in several places, and hours passed
before we could secure a sufficient supply for all the men and animals.
Ascending from this place about a mile we came to the valley of Tollogo.
We passed the night in a village of the friendly natives, and were off
again bright and early. On reaching the extremity of the valley we had
to thread our way through the difficult pass. Had the natives been
really hostile they could have exterminated us in five minutes, as it
was only necessary to hurl rocks from above to insure our immediate
destruction. It was in this spot that a trader's party of one hundred
and twenty-six men, well armed, had been massacred to a man the year
Bad as the pass was, we had hope before us, as the Latookas explained
that beyond this spot there was level and unbroken ground the whole way
to Latooka. Could we only clear Ellyria before the Turks, I had no fear
for the present; but at the very moment when success depended upon speed
we were thus baffled by the difficulties of the ground. I therefore
resolved to ride on in advance of my party, leaving them to overcome the
difficulties of the pass by constantly unloading the animals, while I
would reconnoitre in front, as Ellyria was not far distant. My wife and
I accordingly rode on, accompanied only by one of the Latookas as a
guide. After turning a sharp angle of the mountain, leaving the cliff
abruptly rising to the left from the narrow path, we descended a ravine
worse than any place we had previously encountered, and were obliged to
dismount in order to lead our horses up the steep rocks on the opposite
side. On arrival at the summit a lovely view burst upon us. The valley
of Ellyria was about four hundred feet below, at about a mile distant.
Beautiful mountains, some two or three thousand feet high, of gray
granite, walled in the narrow vale, while the landscape of forest and
plain was bounded at about fifty or sixty miles' distance to the east by
the blue mountains of Latooka. The mountain of Ellyria was the
commencement of the fine range that continued indefinitely to the south.
The whole country was a series of natural forts occupied by a large
population. A glance at the scene before me was quite sufficient. To
FIGHT a way through a valley a quarter of a mile wide, hemmed in by high
walls of rock and bristling with lances and arrows, would be impossible
with my few men, encumbered by transport animals. Should the camels
arrive I could march into Ellyria in twenty minutes, make the chief a
large present, and pass on without halting until I cleared the Ellyria
valley. At any rate I was well before the Turks, and the forced march at
night, however distressing, had been successful. The great difficulty
now lay in the ravine that we had just crossed; this would assuredly
delay the caravan for a considerable time.
Tying our horses to a bush, we sat upon a rock beneath the shade of a
small tree within ten paces of the path, and considered the best course
to pursue. I hardly liked to risk an advance into Ellyria alone before
the arrival of my whole party, as we had been very rudely received by
the Tollogo people on the previous evening; nevertheless I thought it
might be good policy to ride unattended into Ellyria, and thus to court
an introduction to the chief. However, our consultation ended in a
determination to wait where we then were until the caravan should have
accomplished the last difficulty by crossing the ravine, when we would
all march into Ellyria in company. For a long time we sat gazing at the
valley before us in which our fate lay hidden, feeling thankful that we
had thus checkmated the brutal Turks. Not a sound was heard of our
approaching camels; the delay was most irksome. There were many
difficult places that we had passed through, and each would be a source
of serious delay to the animals.
At length we heard them in the distance. We could distinctly hear the
men's voices, and we rejoiced that they were approaching the last
remaining obstacle; that one ravine passed through, and all before would
be easy. I heard the rattling of the stones as they drew nearer, and
looking toward the ravine I saw emerge from the dark foliage of the
trees within fifty yards of us the hated RED FLAG AND CRESCENT LEADING
THE TURK'S PARTY! We were outmarched!
One by one, with scowling looks, the insolent scoundrels filed by us
within a few feet, without making the customary salaam, neither noticing
us in any way, except by threatening to shoot the Latooka, our guide,
who had formerly accompanied them.
Their party consisted of a hundred and forty men armed with guns, while
about twice as many Latookas acted as porters, carrying beads,
ammunition, and the general effects of the party. It appeared that we
were hopelessly beaten.
However, I determined to advance at all hazards on the arrival of my
party, and should the Turks incite the Ellyria tribe to attack us, I
intended, in the event of a fight, to put the first shot through the
leader. To be thus beaten at the last moment was unendurable. Boiling
with indignation as the insolent wretches filed past, treating me with
the contempt of a dog, I longed for the moment of action, no matter what
were the odds against us. At length their leader, Ibrahim, appeared in
the rear of the party. He was riding on a donkey, being the last of the
line, behind the flag that closed the march.
I never saw a more atrocious countenance than that exhibited in this
man. A mixed breed, between a Turk sire and all Arab mother, he had the
good features and bad qualities of either race--the fine, sharp,
high-arched nose and large nostril, the pointed and projecting chin,
rather high cheek-bones and prominent brow, overhanging a pair of
immense black eyes full of expression of all evil. As he approached he
took no notice of us, but studiously looked straight before him with the
most determined insolence.
The fate of the expedition was at this critical moment retrieved by Mrs.
Baker. She implored me to call him, to insist upon a personal
explanation, and to offer him some present in the event of establishing
amicable relations. I could not condescend to address the sullen
scoundrel. He was in the act of passing us, and success depended upon
that instant. Mrs. Baker herself called him. For the moment he made no
reply; but upon my repeating the call in a loud key he turned his donkey
toward us and dismounted. I ordered him to sit down, as his men were
ahead and we were alone.
The following dialogue passed between us after the usual Arab mode of
greeting. I said: "Ibrahim, why should we be enemies in the midst of
this hostile country? We believe in the same God; why should we quarrel
in this land of heathens, who believe in no God? You have your work to
perform; I have mine. You want ivory; I am a simple traveller; why
should we clash? If I were offered the whole ivory of the country I
would not accept a single tusk, nor interfere with you in any way.
Transact your business, and don't interfere with me; the country is wide
enough for us both. I have a task before me, to reach a great lake--the
head of the Nile. Reach it I WILL(Inshallah). No power shall drive me
back. If you are hostile I will imprison you in Khartoum; if you assist
me I will reward you far beyond any reward you have ever received.
Should I be killed in this country, you will be suspected. You know the
result: the Government would hang you on the bare suspicion. On the
contrary, if you are friendly I will use my influence in any country
that I discover, that you may procure its ivory for the sake of your
master, Koorshid, who was generous to Captains Speke and Grant, and kind
to me. Should you be hostile, I shall hold your master responsible as
your employer. Should you assist me, I will befriend you both. Choose
your course frankly, like a man--friend or enemy?"
Before he had time to reply, Mrs. Baker addressed him much in the same
strain, telling him that he did not know what Englishmen were; that
nothing would drive them back; that the British Government watched over
them wherever they might be, and that no outrage could be committed with
impunity upon a British subject; that I would not deceive him in any
way; that I was not a trader; and that I should be able to assist him
materially by discovering new countries rich in ivory, and that he would
benefit himself personally by civil conduct.
He seemed confused, and wavered. I immediately promised him a new
double-barrelled gun and some gold when my party should arrive, as an
earnest of the future.
He replied that he did not himself wish to be hostile, but that all the
trading parties, without one exception, were against me, and that the
men were convinced that I was a consul in disguise, who would report to
the authorities at Khartoum all the proceedings of the traders. He
continued that he believed me, but that his men would not; that all
people told lies in their country, therefore no one was credited for the
truth. "However," said he, "do not associate with my people, or they may
insult you; but go and take possession of that large tree (pointing to
one in the valley of Ellyria) for yourself and people, and I will come
there and speak with you. I will now join my men, as I do not wish them
to know that I have been conversing with you." He then made a salaam,
mounted his donkey, and rode off.
I had won him. I knew the Arab character so thoroughly that I was
convinced that the tree he had pointed out, followed by the words, "I
will come there and speak to you," was to be the rendezvous for the
receipt of the promised gun and money.
I did not wait for the arrival of my men, but mounting our horses, my
wife and I rode down the hillside with lighter spirits than we had
enjoyed for some time past. I gave her the entire credit of the "ruse."
Had I been alone I should have been too proud to have sought the
friendship of the sullen trader, and the moment on which success
depended would leave been lost.
On arrival at the grassy plain at the foot of the mountain there was a
crowd of the trader's ruffians quarrelling for the shale of a few large
trees that grew on the banks of the stream. We accordingly dismounted,
and turning the horses to graze we took possession of a tree at some
distance, under which a number of Latookas were already sitting. Not
being very particular as to our society, we sat down and waited for the
arrival of our party.
The natives were entirely naked, and precisely the same as the Bari.
Their chief, Legge, was among them, and received a present from Ibrahim
of a long red cotton shirt, and he assumed an air of great importance.
Ibrahim explained to him who I was, and he immediately came to ask for
the tribute he expected to receive as "blackmail" for the right of
entree into his country. Of all the villainous countenances that I have
ever seen, that of Legge excelled. Ferocity, avarice, and sensuality
were stamped upon his face, and I immediately requested him to sit for
his portrait, and in about ten minutes I succeeded in placing within my
portfolio an exact likeness of about the greatest rascal that exists in
I had now the satisfaction of seeing my caravan slowly winding down the
hillside in good order, having surmounted all their difficulties.
Upon arrival my men were perfectly astonished at seeing us so near the
trader's party, and still more confounded at my sending for Ibrahim to
summon him to my tree, where I presented him with some English
sovereigns and a double-barrelled gun. Nothing escapes the
inquisitiveness of these Arabs; and the men of both parties quickly
perceived that I had established an alliance in some unaccountable
manner with Ibrahim. I saw the gun lately presented to him being handed
from one to the other for examination, and both my vakeel and men
appeared utterly confused at the sudden change.
The chief of Ellyria now came to inspect my luggage, and demanded
fifteen heavy copper bracelets and a large quantity of beads. The
bracelets most in demand are simple rings of copper five-eighths of an
inch thick and weighing about a pound, smaller ones not being so much
valued. I gave him fifteen such rings, and about ten pounds of beads in
varieties, the red coral porcelain (dimiriaf) being the most acceptable.
Legge was by no means satisfied; he said his belly was very big and it
must be filled, which signified that his desire was great and must be
gratified. I accordingly gave him a few extra copper rings; but suddenly
he smelt spirits, one of the few bottles that I possessed of spirits of
wine having broken in the medicine chest. Ibrahim begged me to give him
a bottle to put him in a good humor, as he enjoyed nothing so much as
araki. I accordingly gave him a pint bottle of the strongest spirits of
To my amazement he broke off the neck, and holding his head well back he
deliberately allowed the whole of the contents to trickle down his
throat as innocently as though it had been simple water. He was
thoroughly accustomed to it, as the traders were in the habit of
bringing him presents of araki every season. He declared this to be
excellent, and demanded another bottle. At that moment a violent storm
of thunder and rain burst upon us with a fury well known in the tropics.
The rain fell like a waterspout, and the throng immediately fled for
shelter. So violent was the storm that not a man was to be seen; some
sheltered themselves under the neighboring rocks, while others ran to
their villages that were close by. The trader's people commenced a
fusillade, firing off all their guns lest they should get wet and miss
The greeting of the slave--traders--Collapse of the mutiny--African
funerals--Visit from the Latooka chief--Bokke makes a
suggestion--Slaughter of the Turks--Success as a prophet--Commoro's
Although Ellyria was a rich and powerful country, we were not able to
procure any provisions. The natives refused to sell, and their general
behavior assured me of their capability of any atrocity had they been
prompted to attack us by the Turks. Fortunately we had a good supply of
meal that had been prepared for the journey prior to our departure from
Gondokoro; thus we could not starve. I also had a sack of corn for the
animals, a necessary precaution, as at this season there was not a blade
of grass, all in the vicinity of the route having been burned.
We started on the 30th of March, at 7.30 A.M., and entered from the
valley of Ellyria upon a perfectly flat country interspersed with trees.
The ground was most favorable for the animals, being perfectly flat and
free from ravines. We accordingly stepped along at a brisk pace, and the
intense heat of the sun throughout the hottest hours of the day made the
journey fatiguing for all but the camels. The latter were excellent of
their class, and now far excelled the other transport animals, marching
along with ease under loads of about 600 pounds each.
My caravan was at the rear of the trader's party; but the ground being
good we left our people and cantered on to the advanced flag. It was
curious to witness the motley assemblage in single file extending over
about half a mile of ground. Several of the people were mounted on
donkeys, some on oxen; the most were on foot, including all the women to
the number of about sixty, who were the slaves of the trader's people.
These carried heavy loads, and many, in addition to the burdens, carried
children strapped to their backs in leather slings. After four or five
hours' march during the intense heat, many of the overloaded women
showed symptoms of distress and became footsore. The grass having been
recently burned had left the sharp charred stumps, which were very
trying to those whose sandals were not in the best condition. The women
were forced along by their brutal owners with sharp blows of the
coorbatch, and one who was far advanced in pregnancy could at length go
no further. Upon this the savage to whom she belonged belabored her with
a large stick, and not succeeding in driving her before him, he knocked
her down and jumped upon her. The woman's feet were swollen and
bleeding, but later in the day I again saw her hobbling along in the
rear by the aid of a bamboo.
After a few days' march we reached Latome, a large Latooka town, and
upon our near approach we discovered crowds collected under two enormous
trees. Presently guns fired, drums beat, and we perceived the Turkish
flags leading a crowd of about a hundred men, who approached us with the
usual salutes, every man firing off ball cartridge as fast as he could
reload. My men were soon with this lot of ragamuffins, and this was the
ivory or slave-trading party that they had conspired to join. They were
marching toward me to honor me with a salute, which, upon close
approach, ended by their holding their guns muzzle downward, and firing
them almost into my feet. I at once saw through their object in giving
me this reception. They had already heard from the other party
exaggerated accounts of presents that their leader had received, and
they were jealous at the fact of my having established confidence with a
party opposed to them. The vakeel of Chenooda was the man who had from
the first instigated my men to revolt and to join his party, and he at
that moment had two of my deserters with him that had mutinied and
joined him at Gondokoro. It had been agreed that the remainder of my men
were to mutiny at this spot and to join him with MY ARMS AND AMMUNITION.
This was to be the stage for the outbreak. The apparent welcome was only
to throw me off my guard.
I was coldly polite, and begging them not to waste their powder, I went
to the large tree that threw a beautiful shade, and we sat down,
surrounded by a crowd of both natives and trader's people. Mahommed Her
sent me immediately a fat ox for my people. Not to be under any
obligation, I immediately gave him a double-barrelled gun. Ibrahim and
his men occupied the shade of another enormous tree at about one hundred
and fifty yards' distance.
The evening arrived, and my vakeel, with his usual cunning, came to ask
me whether I intended to start tomorrow. He said there was excellent
shooting in this neighborhood, and that Ibrahim's camp not being more
than five hours' march beyond, I could at any time join him, should I
think proper. Many of my men were sullenly listening to my reply, which
was that we should start in company with Ibrahim. The men immediately
turned their backs and swaggered insolently to the town, muttering
something that I could not distinctly understand. I gave orders directly
that no man should sleep in the town, but that all should be at their
posts by the luggage under the tree that I occupied. At night several
men were absent, and were with difficulty brought from the town by the
vakeel. The whole of the night was passed by the rival parties
quarrelling and fighting. At 5.30 on the following morning the drum of
Ibrahim's party beat the call, and his men with great alacrity got their
porters together and prepared to march. My vakeel was not to be found;
my men were lying idly in the positions where they had slept, and not a
man obeyed when I gave the order to prepare to start- except Richarn and
Sali. I saw that the moment had arrived. Again I gave the order to the
men to get up and load the animals. Not a man would move except three or
four, who slowly rose from the ground and stood resting on their guns.
In the mean time Richarn and Sali were bringing the camels and making
them kneel by the luggage. The boy Saat was evidently expecting a row,
and although engaged with the black women in packing, he kept his eyes
constantly on me.
I now observed that Bellaal was standing very near me on my right, in
advance of the men who had risen from the ground, and employed himself
in eying me from head to foot with the most determined insolence. The
fellow had his gun in his hand, and he was telegraphing by looks with
those who were standing near him, while not one of the others rose from
the ground, although close to me. Pretending not to notice Bellaal, who
was now, as I had expected, once more the ringleader, for the third time
I ordered the men to rise immediately and to load the camels. Not a man
moved; but the fellow Bellaal marched up to me, and looking me straight
in the face dashed the butt-end of his gun in defiance on the ground and
led the mutiny. "Not a man shall go with you! Go where you like with
Ibrahim, but we won't follow you nor move a step farther. The men shall
not load the camels; you may employ the 'niggers' to do it, but not us."
I looked at this mutinous rascal for a moment. This was the outburst of
the conspiracy, and the threats and insolence that I had been forced to
pass over for the sake of the expedition all rushed before me. "Lay down
your gun!" I thundered, "and load the camels!" "I won't," was his reply.
"Then stop here!" I answered, at the same time lashing out as quick as
lightning with my right hand upon his jaw.
He rolled over in a heap, his gun flying some yards from his hand, and
the late ringleader lay apparently insensible among the luggage, while
several of his friends ran to him and played the part of the Good
Samaritan. Following up on the moment the advantage I had gained by
establishing a panic, I seized my rifle and rushed into the midst of the
wavering men, catching first one by the throat and then another, and
dragging them to the camels, which I insisted upon their immediately
loading. All except three, who attended to the ruined ringleader,
mechanically obeyed. Richarn and Sali both shouted to them to "hurry";
and the vakeel arriving at this moment and seeing how matters stood,
himself assisted, and urged the men to obey.
Ibrahim's party had started. The animals were soon loaded, and leaving
the vakeel to take them in charge, we cantered on to overtake Ibrahim,
having crushed the mutiny and given such an example that, in the event
of future conspiracies, my men would find it difficult to obtain a
ringleader. So ended the famous conspiracy that had been reported to me
by both Saat and Richarn before we left Gondokoro; and so much for the
threat of firing simultaneously at me and deserting my wife in the
jungle. In those savage countries success frequently depends upon one
particular moment; you may lose or win according to your action at that
critical instant. We congratulated ourselves upon the termination of
this affair, which I trusted would be the last of the mutinies.
Upon our arrival at a large town called Kattaga, my vakeel reported the
desertion of five of my men to Mahommed Her's party, with their guns and
ammunition. I abused both the vakeel and the men most thoroughly, and
declared, "As for the mutineers who have joined the slave- hunters,
Inshallah, the vultures shall pick their bones!"
This charitable wish--which, I believe, I expressed with intense hatred
- was never forgotten either by my own men or by the Turks. Believing
firmly in the evil eye, their superstitious fears were immediately
I had noticed during the march from Latome that the vicinity of every
town was announced by heaps of human remains. Bones and skulls formed a
Golgotha within a quarter of a mile of every village. Some of these were
in earthenware pots, generally broken; others lay strewn here and there,
while a heap in the centre showed that some form had originally been
observed in their disposition. This was explained by an extraordinary
custom, most rigidly observed by the Latookas. Should a man be killed in
battle the body is allowed to remain where it fell, and is devoured by
the vultures and hyenas; but should he die a natural death he is buried
in a shallow grave within a few feet of his own door, in the little
courtyard that surrounds each dwelling. Funeral dances are then kept up
in memory of the dead for several weeks, at the expiration of which time
the body, being sufficiently decomposed, is exhumed.
The bones are cleaned and are deposited in an earthenware jar, and
carried to a spot near the town which is regarded as the cemetery.
There is little difficulty in describing the toilette of the native,
that of the men being limited to the one covering of the head, the body
being entirely nude. It is curious to observe among these wild savages
the consummate vanity displayed in their head-dresses. Every tribe has a
distinct and unchanging fashion for dressing the hair, and so elaborate
is the coiffure that hair-dressing is reduced to a science. European
ladies would be startled at the fact that to perfect the coiffure of a
man requires a period of from eight to ten years! However tedious the
operation, the result is extraordinary. The Latookas wear most exquisite
helmets, all of which are formed of their own hair, and are, of course,
fixtures. At first sight it appears incredible; but a minute examination
shows the wonderful perseverance of years in producing what must be
highly inconvenient. The thick, crisp wool is woven with fine twine,
formed from the bark of a tree, until it presents a thick network of
felt. As the hair grows through this matted substance it is subjected to
the same process, until, in the course of years, a compact substance is
formed like a strong felt, about an inch and a half thick, that has been
trained into the shape of a helmet. A strong rim about two inches deep
is formed by sewing it together with thread, and the front part of the
helmet is protected by a piece of polished copper, while a piece of the
same metal, shaped like the half of a bishop's mitre and about a foot in
length, forms the crest. The framework of the helmet being at length
completed, it must be perfected by an arrangement of beads, should the
owner of the bead be sufficiently rich to indulge in the coveted
distinction. The beads most in fashion are the red and the blue
porcelain, about the size of small peas. These are sewn on the surface
of the felt, and so beautifully arranged in sections of blue and red
that the entire helmet appears to be formed of beads; and the handsome
crest of polished copper surmounted by ostrich plumes gives a most
dignified and martial appearance to this elaborate head-dress. No helmet
is supposed to be complete without a row of cowrie-shells stitched
around the rim so as to form a solid edge.
Although the men devote so much attention to their head-dress, the
woman's is extremely simple. It is a curious fact that while the men are
remarkably handsome the women are exceedingly plain. They are immense
creatures, few being under five feet seven in height, with prodigious
limbs. They wear exceedingly long tails, precisely like those of horses,
but made of fine twine and rubbed with red ochre and grease. These are
very convenient when they creep into their huts on hands and knees! In
addition to the tails, they wear a large flap of tanned leather in
front. Should I ever visit that country again, I should take a great
number of Freemasons' aprons for the women; these would be highly
prized, and would create a perfect furore.
The day after my arrival in Latooka I was accommodated by the chief with
a hut in a neat courtyard, beautifully clean and cemented with clay,
ashes, and cow- dung. Not patronizing the architectural advantages of a
doorway two feet high, I pitched my large tent in the yard and stowed
all my baggage in the hut. All being arranged, I had a large Persian
carpet spread upon the ground, and received the chief of Latooka in
state. He was introduced by Ibrahim, and I had the advantage of his
interpreter. I commenced the conversation by ordering a present to be
laid on the carpet of several necklaces of valuable beads, copper bars,
and colored cotton handkerchiefs. It was most amusing to witness his
delight at a string of fifty little "berrets" (opal beads the size of
marbles) which I had brought into the country for the first time, and
which were accordingly extremely valuable. No sooner had he surveyed
them with undisguised delight than he requested me to give him another
string of opals for his wife, or she would be in a bad humor;
accordingly a present for the lady was added to the already large pile
of beads that lay heaped upon the carpet before him. After surveying his
treasures with pride, he heaved a deep sigh, and turning to the
interpreter he said, "What a row there will be in the family when my
other wives see Bokke (his head wife) dressed up with this finery. Tell
the 'Mattat' that unless he gives necklaces for each of my other wives
they will fight!" Accordingly I asked him the number of ladies that made
him anxious. He deliberately began to count upon his fingers, and having
exhausted the digits of one hand I compromised immediately, begging him
not to go through the whole of his establishment, and presented him with
about three pounds of various beads to be divided among them. He
appeared highly delighted, and declared his intention of sending all his
wives to pay Mrs. Baker a visit. This would be an awful visitation, as
each wife would expect a present for herself, and would assuredly leave
either a child or a friend for whom she would beg an addition. I
therefore told him that the heat was so great that we could not bear too
many in the tent, but that if *Bokke*, his favorite, would appear, we
should be glad to see her. Accordingly he departed, and shortly we were
honored by a visit.
*Bokke* and her daughter were announced, and a pair of prettier savages
I never saw. They were very clean; their hair was worn short, like that
of all the women of the country, and plastered with red ochre and fat so
as to look like vermilion; their faces were slightly tattooed on the
cheeks and temples, and they sat down on the many-colored carpet with
great surprise, and stared at the first white man and woman they had
ever seen. We gave them both a number of necklaces of red and blue
beads, and I secured Bokke's portrait in my sketch- book, obtaining a
very correct likeness. She told us that Mahommed Her's men were very bad
people; that they had burned and plundered one of her villages; and that
one of the Latookas who had been wounded in the fight by a bullet had
just died, and they were to dance for him to-morrow; if we would like to
we could attend. She asked many questions; among others, how many wives
I had, and was astonished to hear that I was contented with one. This
seemed to amuse her immensely, and she laughed heartily with her
daughter at the idea. She said that my wife would be much improved if
she would extract her four front teeth from the lower jaw and wear the
red ointment on her hair, according to the fashion of the country; she
also proposed that she should pierce her under lip, and wear the long
pointed polished crystal, about the size of a drawing-pencil, that is
the "thing" in the Latooka country. No woman among the tribe who has any
pretensions to being a "swell" would be without this highly-prized
ornament; and one of my thermometers having come to an end, I broke the
tube into three pieces, and they were considered as presents of the
highest value, to be worn through the perforated under lip. Lest the
piece should slip through the hole in the lip, a kind of rivet is formed
by twine bound round the inner extremity, and this, protruding into the
space left by the extraction of the four front teeth of the lower jaw,
entices the tongue to act upon the extremity, which gives it a wriggling
motion indescribably ludicrous during conversation.
It is difficult to explain real beauty. A defect in one country is a
desideratum in another. Scars upon the face are, in Europe, a blemish;
but here and in the Arab countries no beauty can be perfect until the
cheeks or temples have been gashed. The Arabs make three gashes upon
each cheek, and rub the wounds with salt and a kind of porridge (asida)
to produce proud-flesh; thus every female slave captured by the slave-
hunters is marked to prove her identity and to improve her charms. Each
tribe has its peculiar fashion as to the position and form of the
The Latookas gash the temples and cheeks of their women, but do not
raise the scar above the surface, as is the custom of the Arabs.
Polygamy is, of course, the general custom, the number of a man's wives
depending entirely upon his wealth, precisely as would the number of his
horses in England. There is no such thing as LOVE in these countries;
the feeling is not understood, nor does it exist in the shape in which
we understand it. Everything is practical, without a particle of
romance. Women are so far appreciated as they are valuable animals. They
grind the corn, fetch the water, gather firewood, cement the floors,
cook the food, and propagate the race; but they are mere servants, and
as such are valuable. The price of a good-looking, strong young wife,
who could carry a heavy jar of water, would be ten cows; thus a man rich
in cattle would be rich in domestic bliss, as he could command a
multiplicity of wives. However delightful may be a family of daughters
in England, they nevertheless are costly treasures; but in Latooka and
throughout savage lands they are exceedingly profitable. The simple rule
of proportion will suggest that if one daughter is worth ten cows, ten
daughters must be worth a hundred; therefore a large family is a source
of wealth: the girls bring the cows, and the boys milk them. All being
perfectly naked (I mean the girls and the boys), there is no expense,
and the children act as herdsmen to the flocks as in the patriarchal
times. A multiplicity of wives thus increases wealth by the increase of
family. I am afraid this practical state of affairs will be a strong
barrier to missionary enterprise.
A savage holds to his cows and his women, but especially to his COWS. In
a razzia fight he will seldom stand for the sake of his wives, but when
he does fight it is to save his cattle.
One day, soon after Bokke's visit, I heard that there had been some
disaster, and that the whole of Mahommed Her's party had been massacred.
On the following morning I sent ten of my men with a party of Ibrahim's
to Latome to make inquiries. They returned on the following afternoon,
bringing with them two wounded men. It appeared the Mahommed Her had
ordered his party of 110 armed men, in addition to 300 natives, to make
a razzia upon a certain village among the mountains for slaves and
cattle. They had succeeded in burning a village and in capturing a great
number of slaves. Having descended the pass, a native gave them the
route that would lead to the capture of a large herd of cattle that they
had not yet discovered. They once more ascended the mountain by a
different path, and arriving at the kraal they commenced driving off the
vast herd of cattle. The Latookas, who had not fought while their wives
and children were being carried into slavery, now fronted bravely
against the muskets to defend their herds, and charging the Turks they
drove them down the pass.
It was in vain that they fought; every bullet aimed at a Latooka struck
a rock, behind which the enemy was hidden. Rocks, stones, and lances
were hurled at them from all sides and from above. They were forced to
retreat. The retreat ended in a panic and precipitate flight. Hemmed in
on all sides, amid a shower of lances and stones thrown from the
mountain above, the Turks fled pell-mell down the rocky and precipitous
ravines. Mistaking their route, they came to a precipice from which
there was no retreat. The screaming and yelling savages closed round
them. Fighting was useless; the natives, under cover of the numerous
detached rocks, offered no mark for an aim, while the crowd of armed
savages thrust them forward with wild yells to the very verge of the
great precipice about five hundred feet below. Down they fell, hurled to
utter destruction by the mass of Latookas pressing onward! A few fought
to the last, but one and all were at length forced, by sheer pressure,
over the edge of the cliff, and met a just reward for their atrocities.
My men looked utterly cast down, and a feeling of horror pervaded the
entire party. No quarter had been given by the Latookas, and upward of
two hundred natives who had joined the slave-hunters in the attack had
also perished with their allies. Mahommed Her had not himself
accompanied his people, both he and Bellaal, my late ringleader, having
remained in camp, the latter having, fortunately for him, been disabled,
and placed hors de combat by the example I had made during the mutiny.
My men were almost green with awe when I asked them solemnly, "Where are
the men who deserted from me?" Without answering a word they brought two
of my guns and laid them at my feet. They were covered with clotted
blood mixed with sand, which had hardened like cement over the locks and
various portions of the barrels. My guns were all marked. As I looked at
the numbers upon the stocks, I repeated aloud the names of the owners.
"Are they all dead?" I asked. "All dead," the men replied. "FOOD FOR
THE VULTURES?" I asked. "None of the bodies can be recovered," faltered
my vakeel. "The two guns were brought from the spot by some natives who
escaped, and who saw the men fall. They are all killed." "Better for
them had they remained with me and done their duty. The hand of God is
heavy," I replied. My men slunk away abashed, leaving the gory witnesses
of defeat and death upon the ground. I called Saat and ordered him to
give the two guns to Richarn to clean.
Not only my own men but the whole of Ibrahim's party were of opinion
that I had some mysterious connection with the disaster that had
befallen my mutineers. All remembered the bitterness of my prophecy,
"The vultures will pick their bones", and this terrible mishap having
occurred so immediately afterward took a strong hold upon their
superstitious minds. As I passed through the camp the men would quietly
exclaim, "Wah Illahi Hawaga!" (My God, Master!) To which I simply
replied, "Robine fe!" (There is a God.) From that moment I observed an
extraordinary change in the manner of both my people and those of
Ibrahim, all of whom now paid us the greatest respect.
One day I sent for Commoro, the Latooka chief, and through my two young
interpreters I had a long conversation with him on the customs of his
country. I wished if possible to fathom the origin of the extraordinary
custom of exhuming the body after burial, as I imagined that in this act
some idea might be traced to a belief in the resurrection.
Commoro was, like all his people, extremely tall. Upon entering my tent
he took his seat upon the ground, the Latookas not using stools like the
other White Nile tribes. I commenced the conversation by complimenting
him on the perfection of his wives and daughters in a funeral dance
which had lately been held, and on his own agility in the performance,
and inquired for whom the ceremony had been performed. He replied that
it was for a man who had been recently killed, but no one of great
importance, the same ceremony being observed for every person without
I asked him why those slain in battle were allowed to remain unburied.
He said it had always been the custom, but that he could not explain it.
"But," I replied, "why should you disturb the bones of those whom you
have already buried, and expose them on the outskirts of the town?"
"It was the custom of our forefathers," he answered, "therefore we
continue to observe it."
"Have you no belief in a future existence after death? Is not some idea
expressed in the act of exhuming the bones after the flesh is decayed ?"
Commoro (loq.).--"Existence AFTER death! How can that be? Can a dead
man get out of his grave, unless we dig him out?"
"Do you think man is like a beast, that dies and is ended?"
Commoro.--"Certainly. An ox is stronger than a man, but he dies, and
his bones last longer; they are bigger. A man's bones break quickly; he
"Is not a man superior in sense to an ox? Has he not a mind to direct
Commoro--"Some men are not so clever as an ox. Men must sow corn to
obtain food, but the ox and wild animals can procure it without sowing."
"Do you not know that there is a spirit within you different from flesh?
Do you not dream and wander in thought to distant places in your sleep?
Nevertheless your body rests in one spot. How do you account for this?"
Commoro (laughing)--"Well, how do YOU account for it? It is a thing I
cannot understand; it occurs to me every night."
"The mind is independent of the body. The actual body can be fettered,
but the mind is uncontrollable. The body will die and will become dust
or be eaten by vultures; but the spirit will exist forever."
Commoro--"Where will the spirit live ?"
"Where does fire live? Cannot you produce a fire* (* The natives always
produce fire by rubbing two sticks together.) by rubbing two sticks
together? Yet you SEE not the fire in the wood. Has not that fire, that
lies harmless and unseen in the sticks, the power to consume the whole
country? Which is the stronger, the small stick that first PRODUCES the
fire, or the fire itself? So is the spirit the element within the body,
as the element of fire exists in the stick, the element being superior
to the substance."
Commoro--"Ha! Can you explain what we frequently see at night when lost
in the wilderness? I have myself been lost, and wandering in the dark I
have seen a distant fire; upon approaching the fire has vanished, and I
have been unable to trace the cause, nor could I find the spot."
"Have you no idea of the existence of spirits superior to either man or
beast? Have you no fear of evil except from bodily causes?"
Commoro.--"I am afraid of elephants and other animals when in the
jungle at night; but of nothing else."
"Then you believe in nothing--neither in a good nor evil spirit! And
you believe that when you die it will be the end of body and spirit;
that you are like other animals; and that there is no distinction
between man and beast; both disappear, and end at death?"
Commoro.--"Of course they do."
"Do you see no difference in good and bad actions?"
Commoro.--"Yes, there are good and bad in men and beasts."
"Do you think that a good man and a bad must share the same fate, and
alike die, and end?"
Commoro.--"Yes; what else can they do? How can they help dying? Good and
bad all die."
"Their bodies perish, but their spirits remain; the good in happiness,
the bad in misery. If you leave no belief in a future state, WHY SHOULD
A MAN BE GOOD? Why should he not be bad, if he can prosper by
Commoro.--"Most people are bad; if they are strong they take from the
weak. The good people are all weak; they are good because they are not
strong enough to be bad."
Some corn had been taken out of a sack for the horses, and a few grains
lying scattered on the ground, I tried the beautiful metaphor of St.
Paul as an example of a future state. Making a small hole with my finger
in the ground, I placed a grain within it: "That," I said, "represents
you when you die." Covering it with earth, I continued, "That grain will
decay, but from it will rise the plant that will produce a reappearance
of the original form."
Commoro.--"Exactly so; that I understand. But the original grain does
NOT rise again; it rots like the dead man, and is ended. The fruit
produced is not the same grain that we buried, but the PRODUCTION of
that grain. So it is with man. I die, and decay, and am ended; but my
children grow up like the fruit of the grain. Some men have no children,
and some grains perish without fruit; then all are ended."
I was obliged to change the subject of conversation. In this wild naked
savage there was not even a superstition upon which to found a religious
feeling; there was a belief in matter, and to his understanding
everything was MATERIAL. It was extraordinary to find so much clearness
of perception combined with such complete obtuseness to anything ideal.
Disease in the camp--Forward under difficulties--Our cup of misery
overflows--A rain-maker in a dilemma--Fever again--Ibrahim's
quandary--Firing the prairie.
Sickness now rapidly spread among my animals. Five donkeys died within a
few days, and the rest looked poor. Two of my camels died suddenly,
having eaten the poison-bush. Within a few days of this disaster my good
old hunter and companion of all my former sports in the Base country,
Tetel, died. These terrible blows to my expedition were most
satisfactory to the Latookas, who ate the donkeys and other animals the
moment they died. It was a race between the natives and the vultures as
to who should be first to profit by my losses.
Not only were the animals sick, but my wife was laid up with a violent
attack of gastric fever, and I was also suffering from daily attacks of
ague. The small- pox broke out among the Turks. Several people died,
and, to make matters worse, they insisted upon inoculating themselves
and all their slaves; thus the whole camp was reeking with this horrible
Fortunately my camp was separate and to windward. I strictly forbade my
men to inoculate themselves, and no case of the disease occurred among
my people; but it spread throughout the country. Small-pox is a scourge
among the tribes of Central Africa, and it occasionally sweeps through
the country and decimates the population.
I had a long examination of Wani, the guide and interpreter, respecting
the country of Magungo. Loggo, the Bari interpreter, always described
Magungo as being on a large river, and I concluded that it must be the
Asua; but upon cross-examination I found he used the word "Bahr" (in
Arabic signifying river or sea) instead of "Birbe (lake). This important
error being discovered gave a new feature to the geography of this part.
According to his description, Magungo was situated on a lake so large
that no one knew its limits. Its breadth was such that, if one journeyed
two days east and the same distance west, there was no land visible on
either quarter, while to the south its direction was utterly unknown.
Large vessels arrived at Magungo from distant arid unknown parts,
bringing cowrie-shells and beads in exchange for ivory. Upon these
vessels white men had been seen. All the cowrie-shells used in Latooka
and the neighboring countries were supplied by these vessels, but none
had arrived for the last two years.
I concluded the lake was no other than the N'yanza, which, if the
position of Mangungo were correct, extended much farther north than
Speke had supposed. I determined to take the first opportunity to push
for Magungo. The white men spoken of by Wani probably referred to Arabs,
who, being simply brown, were called white men by the blacks. I was
called a VERY WHITE MAN as a distinction; but I have frequently been
obliged to take off my shirt to exhibit the difference of color between
myself and men, as my face had become brown.
The Turks had set June 23d as the time for their departure from Latooka.
On the day preceding my wife was dangerously ill with bilious fever, and
was unable to stand, and I endeavored to persuade the trader's party to
postpone their departure for a few days. They would not hear of such a
proposal; they had so irritated the Latookas that they feared an attack,
and their captain or vakeel, Ibrahim, had ordered them immediately to
vacate the country. This was a most awkward position for me. The traders
had incurred the hostility of the country, and I should bear the brunt
of it should I remain behind alone. Without their presence I should be
unable to procure porters, as the natives would not accompany my feeble
party, especially as I could offer them no other payment than beads or
copper. The rain had commenced within the last few days at Latooka, and
on the route toward Obbo we should encounter continual storms. We were
to march by a long and circuitous route to avoid the rocky passes that
would be dangerous in the present spirit of the country, especially as
the traders possessed large herds that must accompany the party. They
allowed five days' march for the distance to Obbo by the intended route.
This was not an alluring programme for the week's entertainment, with my
wife almost in a dying state! However, I set to work and fitted an
angarep with arched hoops from end to end, so as to form a frame like
the cap of a wagon. This I covered with two waterproof Abyssinian tanned
hides securely strapped, and lashing two long poles parallel to the
sides of the angarep, I formed an excellent palanquin. In this she was
assisted, and we started on June 23d.
On our arrival at Obbo both my wife and I were excessively ill with
bilious fever, and neither could assist the other. The old chief of
Obbo, Katchiba, hearing that we were dying, came to charm us with some
magic spell. He found us lying helpless, and immediately procured a
small branch of a tree, and filling his month with water he squirted it
over the leaves and about the floor of the hut. He then waved the branch
around my wife's head, also around mine, and completed the ceremony by
sticking it in the thatch above the doorway. He told us we should now
get better, and, perfectly satisfied, took his leave.
The hut was swarming with rats and white ants, the former racing over
our bodies during the night and burrowing through the floor, filling our
only room with mounds like molehills. As fast as we stopped the holes,
others were made with determined perseverance. Having a supply of
arsenic, I gave them an entertainment, the effect being disagreeable to
all parties, as the rats died in their holes and created a horrible
effluvium, while fresh hosts took the place of the departed. Now and
then a snake would be seen gliding within the thatch, having taken
shelter front the pouring rain.
The small-pox was raging throughout the country, and the natives were
dying like flies in winter. The country was extremely unhealthy, owing
to the constant rain and the rank herbage, which prevented a free
circulation of air, and the extreme damp induced fevers. The temperature
was 65 degrees Fahr. at night and 72 degrees during the day; dense
clouds obscured the sun for many days, and the air was reeking with
moisture. In the evening it was always necessary to keep a blazing fire
within the hut, as the floor and walls were wet and chilly.