MoboReader > Literature > Ismailia


Ismailia By Sir Samuel White Baker Characters: 61247

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

I determined upon a new plan. I knew the direction of Lobore, as I had been there during my former expedition; the distance could not exceed sixty miles.

If the soldiers could draw the carts, I might yet manage to advance, as I should be able to procure carriers on arrival at Lobore; provided always that the natives were as friendly as when I left them some years ago.

It would be impossible to convey the steamer, as I could not expect to provide 2,000 carriers; but I might be able to penetrate south, suppress the slave-hunters, establish the government, and open up a legitimate trade.

The first step necessary was to convey the large herd of cattle across the river, which was about 400 yards in width, with a very rapid stream. I fully expected that we should be attacked by the natives in great force during this operation, which necessitated a division of my force upon both banks of the Nile.

The sheep were taken across in vessels, but the cows were obliged to swim. This passage was very tedious, as the animals were necessarily taken in small batches, guided by men who swam by their side in the manner already described at Gondokoro.

Although the natives were avowedly hostile, they dared not face us in the open. They made another attempt by night to surprise the cattle kraal, but Colonel Abd-el-Kader immediately set fire to a few villages as a response and warning.

We were occupied four days in passing the cattle across the river. During the passage, we lost one taken by a crocodile, and three cows were wantonly seized and drowned by hippopotami. A herd of these creatures happened to be in the way as the cows were floating in large numbers down the stream, and several were seen to attack the cattle and seize them in their jaws. As the hippopotamus is not carnivorous, this was an unexpected attack.

My Englishmen had been busily engaged in erecting the carts, greasing the wheels, and attaching the ropes necessary for hauling. They were all loaded, and were arranged to be drawn by fifteen men each.

On the evening of the 5th February, while we were at dinner, I was astonished by the unexpected mustering of my whole force, excepting the "Forty Thieves." The men were without arms or officers, but they marched to the margin of the river and formed a line two deep alongside the diahbeeah, which lay close against the bank.

I knew at once what all this meant, but I pretended to take no notice, and I continued eating my dinner.

I was quickly interrupted by loud cries from the men. "We can't draw the carts! that's not the work for soldiers; we'll fight, or do anything else you may desire, but we are not camels to drag the waggons."

The "Forty Thieves" immediately seized their arms, and marching quickly to the spot, they formed in line upon the bank, between the diahbeeah and the men who thus mutinously had appeared without their officers.

I at once ordered the bugle call for all officers, and at the same time

I sent for the Englishmen to come to the diahbeeah.

When all had arrived, and the shouts still continued, I rose from the table and addressed the troops in Arabic, from the poop-deck of the diahbeeah.

I recalled to their recollection how I had always led them successfully through every difficulty, and I assured them that the distance to Lobore was trifling, and that we should find good and willing natives to convey the baggage, if we could only once reach the desired tribe.

Cries of "there are no good negroes-they are all bad," interrupted my discourse. I nevertheless continued; but having a thorough knowledge of the African character, and knowing that if a negro gets an idea into his head, that idea can only be eradicated by cutting the head off, I was not fool enough to persist in swimming against a torrent. The "Forty Thieves" now joined the tumult by declaring that "THEY would draw the carts, or do anything that I should command."

I took immediate advantage of the occasion, and exclaimed, "You SHALL do all that I command. I have changed my plans, and I order you to take the carts to pieces at sunrise to-morrow morning. All those who are afraid to follow me shall return with the vessels and carts to Gondokoro. I never turn back; and my lady and I will go on alone with Mr. Baker. I only require orderly soldiers, who know their duty; if you have forgotten your duty, you shall return at once to Gondokoro."

This declaration was followed by loud shouts-"We won't let you go alone; the natives are treacherous; we will follow wherever you lead. Are we not soldiers of the Sultan? are you not the Sultan's Pacha?"

I had them in hand; therefore I at once terminated the scene by commanding silence. I then gave an order aloud to the officers: "Return carts and all baggage on board vessels at sunrise to-morrow. All troops to be ready for the advance."

"Bugler! sound the retreat."

That peculiar habit of discipline yielded instinctively to the sound of the bugle. The officer gave the order, "Right, turn," and the late tumultuous crowd marched quietly to their quarters. This was ended; at the same time it was not cheering.

My Englishmen, who had been witnesses of this scene, were filled with indignation. They were men who thoroughly represented English determination, and they at once volunteered to carry their own baggage if I would only permit them to accompany me.

How often my heart has beaten with pride when I have seen the unconquerable spirit of the country burst forth like an unextinguishable flame in any great emergency!

I now had to quell the eagerness of my own good fellows, as I knew that if "the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak," and it would be impossible for Englishmen to carry loads through a journey in a tropical country.

I saw the necessity of the occasion at a glance; and I gave the necessary orders.

The Englishmen, together with the steamer sections, machinery, &c., must return to Gondokoro. They must immediately commence the construction of the No. 2 steamer of 108 tons and 20-horse power, as this vessel, being provided with twin screws instead of paddles, would be able to pass through the narrow channels of the Bahr Giraffe, and communicate with Khartoum.

I gave the order to prepare to-morrow for a return to Gondokoro.

On 6th February, at sunrise, all hands were at work dismounting the carts, and returning on board the vessels all material connected with the steamer, &c. I altered the loads, and made arrangements for a new plan of action.

I had determined to push on to Lobore with one hundred men, in heavy marching order, if I could only engage a few natives to carry the necessaries for the road. At Lobore I might be able to engage a few hundred porters that I should send back to the vessels with an escort of fifty soldiers, to bring up sufficient ammunition and material for an advance south. I knew the route.

It was therefore necessary to assort the baggage: much had to be returned to Gondokoro with the Englishmen.

I had a small invoice-book that had been carefully prepared by Mr. Marcopolo, which gave the numbers and contents of every box; therefore the difficulty of assortment was not great.

All the boxes were of block tin, painted; thus they could be piled like bricks one upon the other to form a wall. I arranged about 400 loads which were set apart for the carriers, should I be fortunate in procuring that number from Lobore.

On 7th February the carts were shipped. All the loads were perfected and ready for a start on the following day. Some of my men were endeavouring to train a few oxen to carry their baggage.

On 8th February the Englishmen, in very low spirits, started for Ismailia (Gondokoro) in two vessels, with ninety urdeps of dhurra consigned to Mr. Marcopolo.

I had arranged that twenty-two boatmen should accompany me to Lobore, carrying such loads as were absolutely necessary for our party. They would then return together with the fifty soldiers who would escort the native carriers to the vessels.

I had given the Englishmen instructions to commence the building of the steamer immediately, and to confine their work to this vessel until she should be completed.

Having counted all the loads that were left in charge of Major Abdullah, I took a receipt for them, and gave that officer both clear and positive orders for his conduct.

I left with him 120 men, together with the field-piece and eight artillerymen. In addition to these men was the crew of the No. 10 steamer, all of whom were trained as soldiers. Thus with the armed crews of the different vessels he would have a force of about 145 muskets. It was highly probable that the natives would attack the vessels and the cattle in my absence, as they would have remarked the great reduction of force. Although the country was perfectly open, the ground was high and rocky, and rapidly rose to about 200 feet above the level of the river within a distance of a mile; thus the natives scattered about the heights could always observe our proceedings.

Before I quitted the vessels, I made every preparation for their security. All the metal boxes were built into a quadrangular breastwork, that would form a little fort for a dozen people.

I moored the vessels in line close to the mouth of a deep flat-bottomed ravine, which, although now dry and about thirty paces wide, had formed the bed of a river during the wet season. The perpendicular banks of this fosse would make a grand protection for the cattle; I therefore ordered a fence of thorns to be constructed across the ravine about a hundred yards from the river, so as to form a kraal, in which the cows would be confined below the level of the country.

Sixty men were to guard the cattle at night; thirty upon either bank. As this ravine ran at right angles with the river, the sixty men would enfilade an enemy attacking the vessels, and the guard of the vessels would at the same time enfilade an enemy should he attack the cattle on the north side.

I placed the gun in a convenient position about twenty yards from the margin of the river, on a piece of hard, flat ground, exactly opposite the centre of the line of vessels. This would sweep the approach in front and upon the left flank.

I ordered the officer to load with canister containing 250 small musket balls. Having served out a dozen Woolwich tubes, instead of the uncertain Egyptian articles, I gave positive orders that the gun was to be laid for a point-blank range of 200 yards every evening at sunset, with the tube in its place, the lanyard attached and coiled. A piece of raw hide was to cover the breech of the gun to protect it from the night dew.

Having given every instruction, and impressed upon officers and men the necessity of vigilance, I ordered Major Abdullah, in command, to remain in charge of the vessels and cattle until I should either send him carriers for an advance, or fall back myself, should I be unable to obtain them.

A tall old man of about seventy, or perhaps eighty years, had paid us a visit. From his appearance, and the numerous spells hung about his person, I judged him to be a rain-maker. His face was smeared with wood ashes, and there was a good deal of the ideal demon in his personal exterior.

I gave him a blue shirt, and a glass of Marsala wine, thus appealing at once to his exterior and interior.

It is always advisable to make friends with the rain-makers, as they are regarded by the natives as priests, and are considered with a certain respect. I therefore give him another glass of wine; or, to be correct, he drank it from a tin that had contained preserved provisions.

This caused him to blink his eyes and smack his lips, and the old rain-maker grinned a ghastly smile of admiration. His wood ash-smeared features relaxed into an expression that denoted "more wine." I thought he had enough, and there was none to spare; therefore, having opened his heart, I began to ask him questions.

That unfailing key, liquor, had established a confidential flow of conversation. The old fellow explained that he knew the entire country, and he had no objection to accompany us to Lobore for a small consideration in the shape of a cow. He assured me that if he were with us, the natives would be civil throughout the journey. Bedden had behaved very badly, but he had got the worst of it, and the news had spread up the country.

I asked him whether he would keep the rain away during the journey, as it would be very unpleasant should the soldiers' kits get wet. He immediately blew his rain-whistle that was suspended to his neck, and looked at me as though I could no longer doubt his capability. I then sent for a German horn from my cabin. This was a polished cow's horn, fitted with brass, which I think had cost a shilling. I begged the old rain-maker's acceptance of this instrument, which might be perhaps superior to his whistle.

The wine had now so far warmed his old blood, that the ancient sorcerer was just in that state of good-will with all mankind which made him doubly grateful for so interesting a present. He blew the horn!-again, and again! He grinned till the tears ran down his eyes, and at once suspended the glittering toy around his neck. He now said, "I am a great sheik; there is no rain-maker so great as I; you will travel with me, and this horn shall keep you dry. Don't trouble yourself about the Baris, they won't molest you; but start as soon as you can."

We had thus gained a valuable ally and guide. Although I knew the direction of Lobore, I should have been obliged to travel by compass, therefore I was overjoyed that we had obtained so experienced an old fellow as the rain-maker. His name was Lokko.

At 3 p.m., on 8th February, we started, old Lokko leading the way, and waving a couple of thin, peeled sticks at a refractory black cloud that appeared determined to defy his rain-ruling powers. A few loud blasts upon the new horn, and a good deal of pantomime and gesticulation on the part of old Lokko, at length had the desired effect; the cloud went off about its business, and Lokko, having given his face an extra rub of fresh wood-ashes before starting, looked ugly enough to frighten any rain-devil out of his wits.

My people were heavily laden. At the commencement of the journey, an ox that Monsoor had been training, kicked off its load, and went off at full gallop like a wild animal, and we never saw it again. Poor Monsoor now shouldered the load that the ox had left helpless, and marched thus heavily laden up the hill.

My wife rode "Greedy Grey," which carried as much as could be hung upon the saddle. I rode the powerful chestnut "Jamoos." Lieutenant Baker mounted a very handsome light chestnut "Gazelle," and Colonel Abd-el-Kader rode the Zafteer. The latter was a fine old Arab that I had purchased of a zafteer (mounted police) in Cairo. I had ten donkeys which carried officers' effects, spare ammunition, flour, &c. The twenty-two boatmen carried boxes.

My wife and I, with Lieutenant Baker and an advanced guard of five of

"The Forty," followed old Lokko, who led the way; and Colonel

Abd-el-Kader and Captain Mohammed Deii were with the rear-guard, which

drove 1,000 cows and 500 sheep. The cattle were in the charge of the

Bari interpreter, Morgian.

Our boys and girls all carried loads. Amarn looked like a small Robinson Crusoe, with a tanned sheepskin bag of clothes upon his back, upon which was slung the coffee-pot, an umbrella, and various smaller articles, while he assisted himself with a long staff in his hand. Little Cuckoo, who, although hardly seven years old, was as strong as a little pony, strode along behind my horse, carrying upon his head my small travelling bag.

Everybody was in the best spirits, as the reaction from despair to success was delightful. We were really off at last, and were actually on the march to the interior.

That evening we halted at a village on the heights, only three miles from the vessels. The natives had deserted their habitations on our approach, and would not come near us. I ordered the troops to save their flour, and to eat from that discovered in the village, for which on the following morning I left two cows as a present. They were tied up in the native zareeba. The cows were worth at least fifty times the flour we had consumed; but I wished to adopt this plan throughout the journey to Lobore, in order to establish confidence, and to open up the road for the future.

On 9th February we started at 5.35 a.m., and marched two hours and a half through a very beautiful undulating country, diversified with rocks, streams, and handsome park-like timber.

We halted at a village called Koojok, beneath a large fig-tree (Ficus Indica). Our old friend Lokko appeared to be perfectly well known, and he at once introduced us to the natives, who received us without fear or suspicion. At this village I was able to hire five natives for as many cows, to ease my people (especially Monsoor) of their loads.

Thus relieved, we started at 2 p.m., and halted for the night at a village named Gobbohr. The day's march was twelve miles. North latitude, by observation, 4 degrees 28 minutes.

At this spot the natives brought us a great curiosity, which they had purchased from the Baris of Belinian. This was no less than a shell of 8 1/4 lbs. that had been fired at the Baris by our cannon, but the fuze had not ignited. It had been sold to the natives of Gobbohr as a piece of iron.

I inquired the use of such a lump of metal to them. "Oh!" they replied, "we are going to hammer it into molotes (hoes)."

I explained to them that it was a loaded shell, that would explode and blow the blacksmith and his people to pieces, if he were to place it on the fire. They went away with their shell, evidently doubting my explanation.

On the 10th February, having as usual presented the natives with two cows, we started at 6 a.m., and marched ten miles. The country was even more lovely than before, comprising fine rocky scenery and beautiful park-like views. The undulations terminated in stony bottoms or water-courses; the rocks were all syenite, gneiss, and large masses of snow-white quartz.

Although at this season the ground was parched, the trees were all vividly green: the contrast of this bright green with the yellow turf was very remarkable.

At 2.50 p.m. we again started, and marched three miles, arriving at a village on high ground called Marengo, in N. lat. 4 degrees 18 minutes. Here I met an old acquaintance, who, of course, asked me for a cow. This was a very respectable man, named Nersho, who had, when a boy, been brought up by the Austrian missionaries at Gondokoro. I had met him during my former journey when in company with Koorshood's vakeel, Ibrahim. We slept at Marengo. The soldiers borrowed the natives' mats, cooking pots, &c., but scrupulously returned everything according to orders.

February 11. -Nersho received his cow; and I left two in addition for the headman of the village.

We started at 5.35 a.m., and marched ten miles, and halted at a small ravine of running water among wooded hills.

Our old guide, Lokko, was at fault. After much trouble we succeeded in obtaining two natives, who told us, that in this spot they had killed a large number of the slave-hunters' people.

Other natives soon joined us, and we were led by a difficult rocky path through thick forest among the hills for five miles, to the pretty open country of Mooge.

Throughout the journey from the Nile, the country had been thickly populated. At Mooge we camped in a large village on the hill.

February 12. -We started at 5.25, and marched straight to Lobore, a distance of fourteen miles. The road was through forest, intersected at right-angles with deep watercourses from the mountain, called Forke, about a mile distant upon our left. This fine, rocky, and almost perpendicular hill is 2,000 feet high.

On arrival at Lobore we halted beneath a large tree, and waited for the cattle, which were some distance in the rear, owing to the difficulty in crossing the numerous steep ravines. Some work would be necessary on this road to render it possible for carts.

We had thus marched fifty-seven miles from our vessels without the necessity of firing a shot, although we were accompanied by so tempting a prize as a large herd of cattle and sheep.

The natives of Lobore soon began to collect, and the dragoman, Wani, shortly appeared, who proved to be an old acquaintance in my former journey. This man, who had been an interpreter when a boy among the traders, spoke good Arabic, and we soon felt quite at home. Abbio, the old sheik of Lobore appeared. This old fellow was half-blind; but he seemed very willing to assist, and, after I had explained the object of my visit, he assured me that his people would go to the vessels if accompanied by my soldiers, and that I need not be uneasy about my baggage.

The Lobore are not Bari. I was delighted to have passed the southern frontier at Mooge, and to have quitted that incomprehensible tribe. The language of the Lobore is a dialect of the Madi.

In the evening, the cattle arrived with the rear-guard. I had requested the old sheik to have a zareeba prepare, for them; this was quickly accomplished, therefore an ox was slaughtered as a reward for all those who had worked at the inclosure.

On 13th February "we held a regular market for the purchase of flour in exchange for sheep and goats. Many of these useful little animals were sickly, owing to the marches in the hot sun, which had created intense thirst. Upon arrival at streams upon the route, they had drunk too greedily, and some had died of inflammation.

"The natives purchased live goats at the rate of about 30 lbs. of flour. This was an equal exchange in live weight of the animal; a pound of flour for a pound of goat.

"February 14.-The whole country turned out to hunt, and the natives returned in the evening, having only killed two buffaloes and a few small antelopes. Even the small boys are armed in this country with bows and barbed arrows, with which they shoot remarkably well.

"February 15.-The old sheik, Abbio, accompanied by Wani, appeared early, together with a considerable number of natives. They selected 396 cows from my zareeba, and a similar number of men promised to start to-morrow with fifty soldiers to convoy the material from the vessels.

"February 16.-After some delay the natives assembled, and with horns blowing and much shouting and whistling, they at length started, together with our return sailors, and an escort of fifty soldiers.

"I shall thus, after much care and anxiety, be able to push on with a quantity of goods sufficient to open the path and to establish relations with the equatorial countries. I shall have 212 troops and a good supply of ammunition, goods, and cattle: thus there should be no insurmountable difficulty.

"I wrote to Mr. Higginbotham, also to Mr. Marcopolo, and sent the letters inclosed in a bottle.

"February 17. A slight shower fell this morning. The sheik of Mooge arrived to see me last evening, and presented a fat goat.

"I am trying to persuade him and old Abbio to join in cutting the cart-road through the forest from Mooge. I gave Abbio a mixture of sulphate of zinc for his eyes, and put a mustard plaster on Wani the interpreter's stomach. At first he said it was of no use, as it only felt like cold water, but when it began to burn, he was greatly amazed, and said the cold water had turned to fire.

"I then physicked Colonel Abd-el-Kader and Monsoor, both of whom were overheated.

"A judicious present of a few blue shirts to certain headmen put every one in good humour.

"February 18.-I took a stroll for some miles in the forest accompanied by Lieutenant Baker. Game was very scarce, but we at length came upon a fine herd of tetel (Antelope Babalis). These having been disturbed by the noise we had made in walking over loose stony ground, dashed through the open forest, about 120 paces in my front. I shot one through the shoulder, and upon running up I found it in the act of falling.

"I then heard a shot from Lieutenant Baker on my left, to whom my shot had turned the antelopes. He had killed a very large bull by a good shot in the neck.

"This luck was a windfall for the Lobore natives who had accompanied us; and a man immediately started off for assistance, as many men were required to transport the flesh and hides of such large animals.

"February 19.-The natives begged that we would accompany them to hunt, and they started with a considerable party.

"Having formed a long line like skirmishers, with intervals of about ten yards between each, they advanced with their bows prepared, and the arrows on the string, ready for a shot on the instant should game start on foot. There were many boys of about twelve years old, all of whom were armed with bows and arrows, and they advanced in the same line with the men. There were too many people, and the game became scared; so that after a long walk, we returned to camp without having fired a shot.

"I found some very curious flowers, which issued from the ground in pods, without leaves; these burst and threw out beautiful compact silk balls in great numbers, not half of which could be returned to the pod that had scattered them.

"On 22nd February we had purchased and stored, in expectation of the arrival of the troops, 3,740 lbs. of flour.

"I was determined to carry a large supply to the south, as the country had in some places been depopulated by the slave-hunters.

"February 23.-I went out with Lieutenant Baker, accompanied by some natives, and travelled over very likely ground, composed of forest, glades, ravines full of bamboos, &c., until we reached the base of Gebel Forke.

"We had passed over several miles and had only seen a few small antelopes, when upon ascending some rising ground in the very open forest, we caught sight of a herd of tetel bounding along through some high grass towards some low, rocky hills, a few hundred yards distant. There were many large trees growing out of the clefts of the rocks, and I proposed that Lieutenant Baker should go round the hill on my right, while I should creep quietly over the summit of the rocks, as I expected we should find the antelopes standing in some sheltered glade.

"When I arrived at the base of the small hill, which was not higher than seventy or eighty feet, and was composed of large masses of granite, I carefully ascended, without making the slightest noise.

"On arrival at the denuded summit, I was well concealed by a detached block of granite that lay upon a flat weather-worn surface of the same rock.

"I raised my head, and looked in vain for the antelopes. The ground was a beautiful park, characterized by numerous masses of granite, like ruined castles, among trees of all shades of green. The ground was covered with young grass about six inches high, which had sprung up after the annual fire that had destroyed the last year's dry herbage.

"I could see no game. Presently I observed the native, who was a few yards on my left, making eager gestures, and pointing with his finder in order to direct my attention. I at once perceived a family of wild pigs which had emerged from some bush, and were quietly feeding along the glade, so that they would shortly pass in front of me within sixty yards.

"The natives love pork beyond all other flesh, thus I had a good opportunity for showing them a little treat. With a quick right and left shot I knocked over two pigs, and reloading the "Dutchman" in a few instants, I rolled over a boar that had galloped off to about 120 yards' distance. This animal recovered itself and got away to some place of cover.

"Upon the arrival of Lieutenant Baker and the natives, we tracked the blood for about 300 yards to a small plot of high grass that had escaped the fire. I knew that we must find the wounded boar in this retreat. I therefore ordered the natives to beat it out. The boar soon broke cover and galloped off along the open, but quickly rolled over as a shot from the "Dutchman" struck it behind the shoulder. The natives were delighted with the success of the rifle, as it had produced three fine pigs for their service within a few minutes."

"February 24. -The whole of the troops and baggage from the vessels arrived safely to-day, together with the cattle and sheep, thus all my arrangements have, thank God, speeded, and I am now in possession of my force and material."

Major Abdullah delivered his report. As I had expected, he had been attacked in great force by the natives after my departure. The Baris, as usual, had employed treachery, which had very nearly succeeded.

A day or two after I had left the vessels, several natives had desired to communicate with Major Abdullah. These men declared that they had nothing to do with Bedden, and that all the Baris of the east side of the Nile desired peace.

It would have been natural to suppose that after so recent an example of treachery on the part of Bedden, Major Abdullah would have been keenly suspicious; he was nevertheless deceived by the specious promises of the wily Baris. This officer knew my wish for peace and good-will, and he trusted to be able to assure me, that after my departure he had been able to establish amicable relations with our late enemies.

The messengers returned to their villages, and natives visited the camp with fowls, tobacco, and various articles for sale. The soldiers were ready purchasers, as they were well supplied with beads, zinc mirrors, and various trifles which they had recently obtained from the government magazines. The fault of my men lay in their extravagance, and they usually spoiled a market by offering too much. The trade commenced vigorously, and the now peaceable Baris thronged to the vessels, and mixed freely with the officers and troops.

On the night of February 17, 1872, the troops were fast asleep. Confidence had been thoroughly established, and there was no apprehension of coming danger. My officers and men were careless of precautions; the sentries were nearly all asleep. The cannon had been loaded with shell instead of canister. The Woolwich tubes had been put away so safely that they could not be found when wanted. The gun had not been sighted for close distance, neither had any of my most positive instructions been carried

out. The artillerymen were sound asleep upon their mats around their neglected gun.

I have already described the tactics of Bari night attacks. There can be no doubt that their scouts must have crept close to the camp, and must have returned to the main body without having been observed by the sentries. The report that all were asleep, or off their guard, had been delivered.

It is supposed that some thousands of the enemy moved cautiously forward, concealed by the darkness, upon ground that otherwise could not have admitted a stealthy approach.

Fortunately for the expedition, one or two of the cattle sentries were awake, otherwise the entire force must have been massacred.

The Baris crept forward without being observed, until they arrived near the silent and sleepy camp. Then with sudden shrieks and yells they rushed forward in a mass upon the unsuspecting troops!

A slight impediment may check an assault during the darkness of night. The only protection to the position was a simple line of thorn branches laid in a row about twenty paces in the front, running parallel with the river. The naked legs of the first line of the enemy must have become entangled in this unseen obstruction for a few seconds, which caused sufficient confusion to destroy the momentum of the first rush forward.

The sentries by the ravine immediately fired, and the sixty men who formed the cattle guard quickly responded, and poured a fire into the enemy's flank.

The delay caused by the thorns was only momentary, but it had been sufficient to allow the troops to awaken and to clutch their muskets. Here was a glorious opportunity for the gun, if loaded with canister and ready at point-blank range!

The enemy were already at the muzzle. The Egyptian artillerymen forsook their piece and fled ignominiously to the vessels for protection. Only one fine fellow had stood by the gun, and he pulled the lanyard when the crowd of natives were almost upon him. Where were the unfailing English tubes? An Egyptian tube had been placed in the vent in spite of all my orders. It MISSED FIRE!

The gun that should have swept a clear road through the enemy was silent, and the gallant soldier who alone had stood faithful at his post was immediately speared through the body, and fell dead. The gun was in the hands of the Baris.

The troops, seized with a panic, fled on board the vessels, where they were with difficulty rallied by their officers so as to open fire from the protection of the banks of the river.

The Baris were prepared with fire to burn the ships; which they not only succeeded in throwing within the vessels, but they killed an unfortunate woman with a lance, who was on the fore part of a noggur.

Troops had rushed into the cabins and upon the poop-deck of my diahbeeah, from which they now opened fire upon the enemy who were at the same time exposed to a flank fire from the sixty cattle guards. Thus checked the advance, and the major, Abdullah, succeeded in leading his men forward and recapturing the gun. At length a tube was found and fitted in the vent. Fortunately the Baris were ignorant, and the lanyard was lying by the gun. Another tube failed, but after some delay, the gun at length spoke, but unfortunately not with canister.

It was already too hot for the Baris, who were between two fires, and a few shots from the cannon settled the affair and determined the retreat.

I could not have believed in such negligence and folly had I not had a long experience of Egyptian troops, whether brown or black. These people can generally be surprised, unless their commanding officer is vigilant and most severe. Little or no dependence can be placed on the non-commissioned officers; these are ignorant, thoughtless people, who having learnt from their Mohammedan teachers to trust themselves to God, would seldom remain awake unless kept to their duty by their superior officers.

On the morning following this attack, the big drums of the natives were sounding in all directions upon both sides of the river. Thousands of Baris had congregated upon the various heights, and it appeared that a general attack would be renewed upon the camp.

It was not considered safe to drive the cattle out to pasturage.

There can be no doubt that with a force of 145 men, Major Abdullah should have anchored his vessels a few yards from the shore, and have then made a vigorous attack upon the Baris. He was provided with Hale's rockets in addition to the field-piece; and he should have given the enemy a severe example.

Instead of assuming the offensive, he remained inactive, which so encouraged the enemy that they gathered from every quarter, and naturally concluded that the troops had received a panic from the night attack.

At this critical time, the scarlet uniforms of my fifty men appeared in the rear of the natives, together with 400 of the Lobore. Some of my men belonged to the "Forty Thieves;" and the Baris upon seeing the arrival of so powerful a reinforcement, immediately dispersed, with much blowing of horns and whistles in defiance of Major Abdullah.

It was declared that the Baris had suffered severely during the night attack; but I had ceased to pay much attention to the official reports of the enemy's losses, which were always exaggerated.

Between the river and Lobore, the troops had marched without opposition, and they had followed my instructions by leaving cows for payment at every night's halting-place.

I now divided the flour into loads of sixty pounds each, packed in baskets covered with raw hide.

I thus carried 3,600 lbs. by sixty porters. My troops were now relieved from much weight, as I engaged 500 natives for the journey to the interior; at the same time I ordered every soldier to carry six pounds of flour in addition to his knapsack and accoutrements. Every one of my men was provided with a small tanned goatskin stripped from the animal (like a stocking from the leg) and secured at one end like a bag. These little chorabs, or travelling sacks, were most convenient, and were well adapted for carrying flour, as they were easily strapped to the top of the knapsack.

I lost no time in preparing for a move forward. Wani the interpreter was invaluable, as he superintended all the arrangements necessary for collecting the carriers.

The cattle were confined within the kraal waiting for selection. About 1,000 natives assembled, and they were allowed to enter the zareeba and choose their cows, in parties of four at one time, to prevent confusion.

This was a tedious operation, as the Lobore carriers were almost as particular in their selection of cattle as ladies are supposed to be in the choice of their dresses.

February 27.-The Lobore were exceedingly quiet and orderly in their conduct, and 500 cows having been received by as many natives, they returned to their homes to make arrangements for the journey to Fatiko. I find the following extract in my journal of this date :-

"The Lobore will be useful allies as they are enemies of the Bari, and their country is well situated, lying between Bari and Madi, on the route to Fatiko; thus they will be ready as carriers for both ends of the line.

"If I can obtain eighty camels from Khartoum, I can get the steamer along without any serious difficulty, as the Lobore natives can be engaged to make the road; but nothing can prosper until a regular camel transport service shall be established.

"I am sadly in want of troops and European officers. There should be 200 men in four parties stationed at intervals along the line to direct the natives in opening the road.

"A soldier deserted and ran away with his arms and ammunition to some distant village. I immediately called Wani and the old sheik Abbio, to whom I explained that I should hold them responsible if the deserter were not captured. They sent out natives in all directions in search.

"February 28.-The natives returned, saying they had found the deserter about half a march distant, but they could not seize him alive, as he threatened to shoot them; at the same time they were afraid to kill him, as he was my soldier.

"I immediately sent a sergeant and three men of 'The Forty' to take him prisoner.

"In the evening the soldiers returned, having captured the deserter. I left him in irons to be kept at hard labour by the sheik Abbio at Lobore, until I should return to the country. This is a good lesson to the troops.

"The natives had a grand dance to-day; the men and women as usual naked, leaping, and yelling wild songs to an extraordinary accompaniment of music, produced by beating a long stick of extremely hard wood with a short stick of the same substance. Some of the girls were pretty, but being smeared with red ochre and fat, they were not attractive. The natives were very civil, and although at least a thousand were present, they immediately made room for me upon my arrival; that I might have a good place to witness their performance."

I was much struck with a simple arrangement made use of by the old people to support the back in lieu of an arm-chair. Each person had a cord knotted by the ends so as to form an endless loop or hoop. The size depended upon the measurement required, so that if the hoop were thrown over the body when in a sitting posture upon the ground, with the knees raised, the rope would form a band around the forepart of the knees and the small of the back, which would thus be supported.

The Lobore are great workers in iron, which is used generally in the manufacture of ornaments. Large rings of this metal are worn round the neck, and upon the arms and ankles. Many of these ankle-rings are of extreme thickness, and would suffice for the punishment of prisoners. I was interested with the mechanical contrivance of the Lobore for detaching the heavy metal anklets, which, when hammered firmly together, appeared to be hopeless fixtures in the absence of a file.

I required several irons to construct the manacles for the deserter, thus I had purchased the massive ornaments which had to be detached from the ankles of the owner.

The man sat upon the ground. A stick of hard, unyielding wood was thrust through the ring beneath the ankle, so that each end of the stick rested on the earth. A man secured one end by standing upon it, while another placed a stone upon the stick thus secured, which he used as a fulcrum. The lever employed was a piece of abdnoos, which worked upon the stone, and pressed down the base of the ring at the same time that it opened the joint sufficiently to allow it to be passed over the thin portion of the leg.

I never saw this ingenious application of the lever among other tribes than the Lobore. The usual method among the Madi is far more simple, but requires a certain number of men, and places the patient in an uncomfortable position. A rope is fastened to each side of the ring, upon which a number of men haul in opposite directions until they have opened the joint sufficiently to detach it from the leg.

On 29th February we were ready for the start. The loads were all prepared and arranged in separate divisions of twenty each, under the charge of selected officers and men.

The big nogara had sounded, the natives collected, and each man stood by his load; thus twenty-five gangs of twenty each should have stood in line.

I now discovered that the vaunted honesty of the Lobore was of the same order as that of other negroes. Five hundred cows had been given to as many natives, for all of which the sheik Abbio had declared himself responsible. The big nogara sounded in vain. After waiting for some hours, and sending numerous messengers to as many villages, only 433 carriers could be mustered; thus sixty-seven had eloped with as many cows!

No one can imagine the trouble of such a journey with so long a retinue of carriers, most of whom are dishonest, and only seek an opportunity to abscond upon the road.

The Lobore are immensely powerful men, and they carried the boxes of Hale's rockets as single loads, although weighing upwards of seventy-two pounds. At the same time they quarrelled among themselves as to the choice of parcels, and I could with difficulty prevail upon them to carry the zinc boat, although it did not exceed 130 lbs. Four men actually refused to touch it, as it sat uneasily upon their heads.

This handy little vessel was made of zinc upon an iron framework, and would contain four people upon a pinch, but would easily convey three across a river. I had arranged it upon two stout bamboos so adjusted that four men should have carried it with ease. The natives demanded eight, but I at length compromised for six.

The delay caused by the non-appearance of the sixty-seven carriers was extremely dangerous, as it increased the chance of desertions. Already many had volunteered to search for their missing friends, which would have resulted in a search for them also, until my body of carriers would have melted away.

Fortunately I had made a considerable allowance for desertions on the road, and I could manage to start with the assistance of the soldiers and their wives, among whom I divided many baskets of flour.

At 3.25 P.M. we started.

There was no danger now that we had passed the Bari tribe, therefore we could push on with an advance guard of five picked men of "The Forty," who always accompanied us, and leave the charge of the march and baggage to Colonel Abd-el-Kader and the various officers.

We accordingly marched, at four miles an hour, through a rocky and hilly country, generally wooded, which would have been an awkward position if held by an enemy.

At 6 P.M. we halted at a rocky ravine where water had been expected by our guide. To our dismay we found it nearly dry, and it was necessary to dig temporary wells in the sand to procure a supply for ourselves, while the horses were forced to content themselves with the impure pool.

It quickly became dark, and the troops and baggage were far behind. We therefore gathered wood and made a blazing fire to show our position; at the same time a bugler and drummer who had accompanied us, made as much noise as possible from the summit of a small hill.

At 7.30 P.M. the cattle arrived by torchlight, together with the troops and baggage. Some of the Lobore carriers had already deserted on the road, which had caused much delay.

We had marched nine miles, but it was absolutely necessary to send four men back to Lobore, to insist upon fresh carriers being immediately sent to replace the runaways.

On March 1 we started at half-past six A.M., after a terrific scramble for loads by 400 Lobore carriers, who rushed in and tugged and wrestled for their packages like wolves over a carcase. Boxes were turned upside down, and carried in that manner with an utter disregard for the contents.

The inverted canteen was discovered upon the head of a brutal Lobore, whose body was being basted with Cognac and gin that showered from the loosened stoppers of the decanters.

I never saw such a wild pack of savages; they were only fit to carry the elephants' tusks of the traders; but any civilized baggage ran a risk of instant destruction.

The old sheik, Abbio, had given me his son to keep order among the people. This young man was about twenty-seven years of age, but, although respectable in appearance, he did not appear to have the slightest control over his people, and he regarded their desertions with seeming indifference.

I had a strong suspicion that he might quietly abscond at night, in which case every man might instantly follow his example. I therefore ordered a light thong of leather to be attached to the iron collar worn as an ornament upon his neck, and I trusted him to the surveillance of a couple of soldiers told off as his guard of honour.

We marched south for sixteen miles through a fine country of hills and low forest, where the villages of the Madi had been mostly destroyed by the slave-hunting parties of Abou Saood.

We passed large tracts of land that had formerly been in a high state of cultivation, and the charred remains of numerous villages bespoke the desolation caused by these brigands of the White Nile. The road was well watered by many small streams in deep gorges, until we descended to the Asua river. This was just twenty-five miles from our camp at Lobore, in latitude N., by observation, 3 degrees 43 minutes.

We happened to arrive at the spot where the river Atabbi joined the

Asua. At this junction the Atabbi was perfectly clear, while the Asua

was muddy, which proved that heavy rain had fallen in the Madi and

Shooli countries, while the weather was dry in the mountains of Obbo.

The Asua flowed through a fine forest, but although the water was muddy from recent rains, the volume at this season was confined to a portion of the bed, in the deepest parts of which it did not exceed two feet six inches. The bed from bank to bank was about 120 yards in width, and the maximum rise of the river was about twelve feet. During the wet season this is a frightful torrent that acts as a barrier to any advance or retreat of troops encumbered with baggage.

Having waded through the river, we halted under the shady trees on the south side; here there was excellent herbage for the cattle, as the young grass after the annual fires was now about eight inches high, upon the rich soil near the river's bank.

Whenever we halted during daylight, I took a stroll with the rifle, accompanied by Lieutenant Baker.

We walked for some time along the banks of the river up stream without seeing any game, and I was struck with the absence of tracks of the larger animals, which coincided with my remarks on the Asua river many years previous, when I crossed it about thirty miles higher up, on my route from Latooka to Shooa.

I expected to return without seeing game, when we suddenly spied a few waterbuck in the sandy bed of the river, about 300 paces distant.

We made a good stalk, but I only wounded the animal at which I fired at about 150 yards, and they galloped off through the open forest. I heard the bullet from the left hand barrel strike a tree stem, which saved the antelope, but having quickly reloaded, I had a clear and steady shot at a long range as the large buck suddenly stopped and looked back. I put up the last sight for 250 yards and took a full bead. To my great satisfaction the waterbuck with a fine set of horns dropped dead. I could not measure the distance accurately as we had to descend a rocky bank, and then, crossing the bed of the Asua, to ascend the steep north bank before we arrived at tolerably level ground.

Upon reaching the animal, I found the bullet in the neck, where it had divided the spine. I guessed the distance at about 240 yards. Some of our Lobore natives, who had kept at a distance behind us, now came up, and in a short time the noble waterbuck was cut up and the flesh carried into camp. This species of antelope, when in good condition, weighs about thirty stone (cleaned).

On March 2 we started at 6 A.M., and marched at a rapid rate along a hard and excellent path, which inclined upwards from the river for about eight miles.

The bush was very open, and in many portions the country was a succession of deep dells, which in the wet season were covered with high grass, but at this time the young grass was hardly three inches high, having sprouted after the recent fires.

From an altitude of about 1,000 feet above the Asua river, we had a splendid view of the entire landscape.

On the east, at about fifty miles distant, was the fine range of lofty mountains that stretched in a long line towards Latooka. On the west, on the left bank of the White Nile, which now flowed almost beneath our feet, was the precipitous mountain Neri, known by the Arab traders as Gebel huku. This fine mass of rock descends in a series of rugged terraces from a height of between three and four thousand feet to the Nile, at a point where the river boils through a narrow gorge between the mountains. It is in this passage that the principal falls take place which I witnessed in my former journey. At that time our path led along the rocky bank of the river, and was both difficult and dangerous.

Eight miles from the Asua river now brought us to the top of the pass, and having stopped for a few moments to take compass bearings, we began the somewhat steep descent.

Walking was preferable to riding, and after a distance of a couple of miles had been accomplished, we rounded the rocky hill by crossing a ravine upon our right, and the view of the promised land burst upon us.

The grand White Nile lay like a broad streak of silver on our right as it flowed in a calm, deep stream direct from the Albert N'yanza; at this spot above all cataracts. No water had as yet been broken by a fall; the troubles of river-life lay in the future; the journey to the sea might be said to have only just commenced. Here the entire volume flowed from the Albert N'yanza, distant hardly one degree; and here had I always hoped to bring my steamers, as the starting-point for the opening of the heart of Africa to navigation. (This has since been proved correct by the efforts of my successor, Colonel Gordon, who carried the 38-ton steamer which I had left at Gondokoro to this point above the cataracts, and constructed her at Duffle on the opposite bank. This vessel steamed into the Albert N'yanza without any difficulty, and corroborated my assertion that the river was navigable. It may be remembered that many geographers had contested the fact that the Nile was an effluent from the Albert N'yanza.)

I was deeply mortified when I gazed upon this lovely view, and reflected upon the impossibilities that had prevented my success. Had the White Nile been open as formerly, I should have transported the necessary camels from Khartoum, and there would have been no serious difficulty in the delivery of the steamers to this point. Two or three strong pioneer parties, with native assistance, would quickly have bridged over the narrow water-courses and have cleared a rough road through the forests as the carts advanced.

It was useless to repine. I still hoped to accomplish the work.

We now descended into the beautiful plain, to which I had given the name

Ibrahimeyah, in honour of the father of his Highness the Khedive

(Ibrahim Pacha).

This point is destined to become the capital of Central Africa.

The general depot for the steamers will be near the mouth of the Un-y-Ame river; which, after rising in the prairies between Fatiko and Unyoro, winds through a lovely country for about eighty miles, and falls into the White Nile opposite to Gebel Kuku. The trade of Central Africa, when developed by the steamers on the Albert N'yanza, will concentrate at this spot, whence it must be conveyed by camels for 120 miles to Gondokoro, until at some future time a railway may perhaps continue the line of steam communication.

It is a curious fact that a short line of 120 miles of railway would open up the very heart of Africa to steam transport-between the Mediterranean and the equator, when the line from Cairo to Khartoum shall be completed!

The No. 10 steamer that I had brought up to Gondokoro from Khartoum was originally built in England for the mail service (per Nile) between Alexandria and Cairo, at the time when the overland route was made by vans across the desert to Suez. This steamer had sailed from London, and had arrived complete at Alexandria.

It appears almost impossible that she is now floating at an altitude of nearly 2,000 feet above the sea level; to which great elevation she has actually steamed from the Mediterranean. Thus, starting from a base line, and producing a line perpendicular to the sea level of 2,000 feet, she has climbed up the Nile to her present high position.

Accepting the approximate length of the Nile in all its windings from the Mediterranean to N. lat. 4 degrees 38 minutes, at 3,000 miles in round numbers; this will give an average rise or fall in the river of nine inches per mile; which easily explains the position of the steamer at her most remote point below the last cataracts.

I revelled in this lovely country. The fine park-like trees were clumped in dark-green masses here and there. The tall dolape-palms (Borassus Ethiopicus) were scattered about the plain, sometimes singly, at others growing in considerable numbers. High and bold rocks; near and distant mountains; the richest plain imaginable in the foreground, with the clear Un-y-Ame flowing now in a shallow stream between its lofty banks, and the grand old Nile upon our right, all combined to form a landscape that produced a paradise.

The air was delightful. There was an elasticity of spirit, the result of a pure atmosphere, that made one feel happy in spite of many anxieties. My legs felt like steel as we strode along before the horses, with rifle on shoulder, into the broad valley, in which the mountain we had descended seemed to have taken root.

The country was full of game. Antelopes in great numbers, and in some variety, started from their repose in this beautiful wilderness, and having for a few moments regarded the strange sights of horses, and soldiers in scarlet uniform, they first trotted, and then cantered far away. The graceful leucotis stood in herds upon the river's bank, and was the last to retreat.

I selected a shady spot within a grove of heglik-trees for a bivouac, and leaving my wife with a guard, and the horses, I at once started off with Lieutenant Baker to procure some venison.

We returned after a couple of hours, having shot five antelopes. The native name for this part of the country is Afuddo. Our present halting place was thirty-seven miles from Lobore. Formerly there were villages in this neighbourhood, but they had been destroyed by the slave-hunters. Fortunately I had prepared a stock of flour sufficient for the entire journey to Fatiko.

In my last visit to this country I had thoroughly studied its features; thus I felt quite at home, and I knew my route in every direction. The mountain of Shooa was distinctly visible, where I had camped for four or five months, thus it would be impossible for the Lobore people to deceive me.

Abou Saood had four stations throughout this lovely district, i.e.,

Fatiko, Fabbo, Faloro, and Farragenia. I was now steering for Fatiko, as

it was a spot well known to me, and exactly on my proposed road to


On 3rd March, we marched at 6 A.M., and continued along the plain towards the rising ground that led to Shooa. At six miles from the halting place we took bearings:

Shooa hill, about 35 miles distant, bearing 162 1/2 degrees Akiko hill about 16 miles distant, bearing 321 1/2 degrees Gebel Kuku about 9 miles distant, 299 1/2 degrees

Our course lay towards the S.S.E., beneath a wall-like range of precipitous rocky hills upon our left, in no place higher than 200 feet. The guides were at fault, and no water could be found upon the road.

A herd of tetel (Antelope Bubalis) upon our right tempted me, and, jumping off my horse, I made a fair stalk and killed a fine beast with the "Dutchman" at 210 yards.

Every one was thirsty, as the sun was hot, and the wall-like, rocks upon our left reflected the heat. At length we discovered natives squatting upon the very summits of the perpendicular cliffs, and after some trouble we succeeded in coaxing them down. Two of these people volunteered to lead us to water, and they took us to a steep rocky ravine, in the bottom of which was a pool of dirty liquid that had been bathed in by wild buffaloes. My men quickly began to dig sand-wells with their hands, until the main body of the troops and cattle arrived.

In about an hour, I heard a great hubbub, with a noise of quarrelling and shouting; every one was running towards the spot. It appeared that a wild buffalo, being ignorant of our arrival, had suddenly visited his drinking-place, and had thoughtlessly descended the deep and narrow gorge to drink his evening draught. The Lobores had espied him, and they immediately rushed down and overwhelmed him with lances from the cliffs above. There was now an extraordinary scene over the carcase; four hundred men scrambling over a mass of blood and entrails, fighting and tearing with each other, and cutting off pieces of flesh with their lance-heads, with which they escaped as dogs may retreat with a stolen bone.

On 4th March we started at 6.25 A.M. The advent of the buffalo was a sad misfortune, as it had supplied the natives with sufficient flesh to feed them on the road home; thus thirty Lobores had absconded during the night.

Fortunately we had already consumed many loads of flour. I was now obliged to divide two days rations among the troops as extra weight. The light loads were then doubled. Brandy boxes of twelve bottles were now lashed together, so as to form a load of twenty-four. Several boxes of gin had been entirely destroyed by the savage carriers, who had allowed them to fall upon the rocks.

Having crossed the bends of the Un-y-Ame river twice, we halted for the night in fine open forest on the south bank, beneath a large tamarind-tree, that yielded an abundant supply of fruit for all hands.

We had only marched ten miles, owing to the delay occasioned by the desertion of the carriers.

On 5th March I led the way, as the Lobore guide professed ignorance of the route to Fatiko. The fact was, that the Lobores had wished on the previous day to take me to Farragenia, which is two days nearer than Fatiko. Had I been ignorant of the country, we should have been deceived.

I steered through low open forest, the leaves of which had been scorched off by the fire that had cleared the country. Neither a village nor the print of a human foot could be seen. This beautiful district that had formerly abounded in villages had been depopulated by the slave-hunters.

Having taken the Shooa mountain for a steering point, we reached the spot where in former years I had passed five months in the camp of Ibrahim. This also had been destroyed, in addition to all the numerous villages of the mountain. We had marched fourteen miles.

I gave orders that on the morrow all the troops were to appear in their best uniforms, as we were only six miles from Fatiko, the principal station, where I fully expected to meet Abou Saood himself.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top