CHAPTER I. THE EXPEDITION
We were just ready to start; the supplies were all on board, the donkeys and horses were shipped, when an officer arrived from the Divan, to demand from me the poll tax that Moosa Pasha, the Governor-general, had recently levied upon the inhabitants; and to inform me, that in the event of my refusing to pay the said tax for each of my men, amounting to one month's wages per head, he should detain my boats. I ordered my captain to hoist the British flag upon each of the three boats, and sent my compliments to the Government official, telling him that I was neither a Turkish subject nor a trader, but an English explorer; that I was not responsible for the tax, and that if any Turkish official should board my boat, under the British flag, I should take the liberty of throwing him overboard. This announcement appeared so practical, that the official hurriedly departed, while I marched my men on board, and ordered the boatmen to get ready to start. Just at that moment, a Government vessel, by the merest chance, came swiftly down the river under sail, and in the clumsiest manner crashed right into us. The oars being lashed in their places on my boat, ready to start, were broken to pieces by the other vessel, which, fouling another of my boats just below, became fixed. The reis, or captain of the Government boat that had caused the mischief, far from apologizing, commenced the foulest abuse; and refused to give oars in exchange for those he had destroyed. To start was impossible without oars, and an angry altercation being carried on between my men and the Government boat, it was necessary to come to closer quarters. The reis of the Government boat was a gigantic black, a Tokrouri (native of Darfur), who, confident in his strength, challenged any one to come on board, nor did any of my fellows respond to the invitation. The insolence of Turkish Government officials is beyond description - my oars were smashed, and this insult was the reparation; so, stepping quickly on board, and brushing a few fellows on one side, I was obliged to come to a physical explanation with the captain, which terminated in a delivery of the oars. The bank of the river was thronged with people, many were mere idlers attracted by the bustle of the start, and others, the friends and relatives of my people, who had come to say a last good-bye, with many women, to raise the Arab cry of parting. Among others, was a tall, debauched-looking fellow, excessively drunk and noisy, who, quarrelling with a woman who attempted to restrain him, insisted upon addressing a little boy named Osman, declaring that he should not accompany me unless he gave him a dollar to get some drink. Osman was a sharp Arab boy of twelve years old, whom I had engaged as one of the tent servants, and the drunken Arab was his father, who wished to extort some cash from his son before he parted; but the boy Osman showed his filial affection in a most touching manner, by running into the cabin, and fetching a powerful hippopotamus whip, with which he requested me to have his father thrashed, or "he would never be gone." Without indulging this amiable boy's desire, we shoved off; the three vessels rowed into the middle of the river, and hoisted sail; a fair wind, and strong current, moved us rapidly down the stream; the English flags fluttered gaily on the masts, and amidst the shouting of farewells, and the rattling of musketry, we started for the sources of the Nile. On passing the steamer belonging to the Dutch ladies, Madame van Capellan, and her charming daughter, Mademoiselle Tinne, we saluted them with a volley, and kept up a mutual waving of handkerchiefs until out of view; little did we think that we should never meet those kind faces again, and that so dreadful a fate would envelope almost the entire party. [The entire party died of fever on the White Nile, excepting Mademoiselle Tinne. The victims to the fatal climate of Central Africa were Madame la Baronne van Capellan, her sister, two Dutch maidservants, Dr. Steudner, and Signor Contarini.]
It was the 18th December, 1862, Thursday, one of the most lucky days for a start, according to Arab superstition. In a few minutes we reached the acute angle round which we had to turn sharply into the White Nile at its junction with the Blue. It was blowing hard, and in tacking round the point one of the noggurs carried away her yard, which fell upon deck and snapped in half, fortunately without injuring either men or donkeys. The yard being about a hundred feet in length, was a complicated affair to splice; thus a delay took place in the act of starting which was looked upon as a bad omen by my superstitious followers. The voyage up the White Nile I now extract verbatim from my journal.
Friday, 19th Dec. - At daybreak took down the mast and unshipped all the rigging; hard at work splicing the yard. The men of course wished to visit their friends at Khartoum. Gave strict orders that no man should leave the boats. One of the horsekeepers absconded before daybreak; sent after him. The junction of the two Niles is a vast flat as far as the eye can reach, the White Nile being about two miles broad some distance above the point. Saati, my vakeel (headman), is on board one noggur as chief; Johann on board the other, while I being on the diahbiah I trust all the animals will be well cared for. I am very fearful of Johann's state of health: the poor fellow is mere skin and bone, and I am afraid his lungs are affected; he has fever again today; I have sent him quinine and wine,