CHAPTER III. GUN ACCIDENT.
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 upwards 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 train, 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 me 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. The whole of the men belonging to the various traders were determined that no Englishman should penetrate into the country; accordingly they fraternised with my escort, and persuaded them that I was a Christian dog, that it was a disgrace for a Mahommedan 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 should find a ship waiting to take me to England, and I should 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 would 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 concocted.
My men evinced a sullen demeanour, 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 to the Arabs, he kept himself apart from them, and fraternised 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 Baggera 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 old, 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 the 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 re-admitted 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 amidst the mire, shared the same fate.