CHAPTER IV. FIRST NIGHT'S MARCH.
My heart sank whenever we came 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. I dismounted from my horse and loaded him with sacks, to relieve a camel that was perfectly done - but on we marched. Every one was silent; the men were too tired to speak; and through the increasing gloom we crept slowly forward Suddenly another ravine, but not so deep; and we trusted that the camels might cross it without the necessity of unloading; down went the leading camel, rolling completely over with his load to the bottom. Now, the boy Saat was the drummer; but being very tired, he had come to the conclusion that the drum would travel quite as easily upon a camel's back as upon his shoulders; he had accordingly slung it upon the very camel that had now performed a somersault and solo on the drum. The musical instrument was picked up in the shape of a flat dish, and existed no longer as a drum, every note having been squeezed out of it. The donkey is a much more calculating animal than the camel, the latter being an excessively stupid beast, while the former is remarkably clever - at least I can answer for the ability of the Egyptian species. The expression "what an ass!" is in Europe supposed to be slightly insulting, but a comparison with the Egyptian variety would be a compliment. Accordingly my train of donkeys, being calculating and reasoning creatures, had from thus night's experience come to the conclusion that the journey was long; that the road was full of ravines; that the camels who led the way would assuredly tumble into these ravines unless unloaded; and that as the reloading at each ravine would occupy at least half an hour, it would be wise for them (the donkeys) to employ that time in going to sleep - therefore, as it was just as cheap to lie down as to stand, they preferred a recumbent posture, and a refreshing roll upon the sandy ground. Accordingly, whenever the word "halt" was given, the clever donkeys thoroughly understood their advantage, and the act of unloading a camel on arrival at a ravine was a signal sufficient to induce each of twenty-one donkeys to lie down. It was in vain that the men beat and swore at them to keep them on their legs; the donkeys were determined, and lie down they would. This obstinacy on their part was serious to the march - every time that they lay down they shifted their loads; some of the most wilful (sic) persisted in rolling, and of course upset their packs. There were only seventeen men, and these were engaged in assisting the camels; thus the twenty-one donkeys had it all their own way; and what added to the confusion was the sudden cry of hyenas in close proximity, which so frightened the donkeys that they immediately sprang to their feet, with their packs lying discomfited, entangled among their legs. Thus, no sooner were the camels reloaded on the other side of the ravine, than all the donkeys had to undergo the same operation; during which time the camels, however stupid, having observed the donkeys' "dodge," took the opportunity of lying down also, and necessarily shifted their loads. The women were therefore ordered to hold the camels, to prevent them from lying down while the donkeys were being reloaded; but the women were dead tired, as they had been carrying loads; they themselves laid down, and it being dark, they were not observed until a tremendous scream was heard, and we found that a camel had lain down on the TOP OF A WOMAN who had been placed to watch it, but who had herself fallen asleep. The camel was with difficulty raised, and the woman dragged from beneath. 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; I therefore, on arrival at a large plateau of rock, ordered the animals to be unloaded, and both man and beast to rest. The people had no water; I had a girba full for Mrs. Baker and myself, which was always slung on my saddle; this precaution I never neglected.
The men were hungry. Before leaving Gondokoro I had ordered a large quantity of kisras (black pancakes) to be prepared for the march, and they were packed in a basket that had been carried on a camel; unfortunately Mrs. Baker's pet monkey had been placed upon the same camel, and he had amused himself during the night's march by feasting and filling his cheeks with the kisras, and _throwing the remainder away_ when his hunger was satisfied. There literally was not a kisra remaining in the basket.
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; therefore determined to leave in the jungle such articles as could be dispensed with, and to rearrange all the loads.