CHAPTER IX. THE TURKS ATTACK KAYALA.
On the 30th May, about an hour before daybreak, I was awoke by a rattle of musketry, which continued some time in irregular volleys, and subsided into a well-sustained and steady fire in single shots. On leaving my hut, I found the camp of Koorshid's people almost empty, while my own men were climbing on the roofs of their huts to obtain a view towards the west. Nothing was in sight, although the firing still continued at a distance of about a mile, apparently on the other side of a belt of trees. I now heard that Koorshid's people had started at between three and four o'clock that morning, by Commoro's request, to attack a neighbouring town that had been somewhat rebellious. The firing continued for about two hours, when it suddenly ceased, and I shortly saw with a telescope the Turks' red ensign emerge from the forest, and we heard the roll of their drum, mingled with the lowing of oxen and the bleating of sheep. Upon nearer approach, I remarked a considerable body of men, and a large herd of cattle and sheep driven by a number of Latookas, while a knot of Turks carried something heavy in their arms.
They soon arrived, with about 2,000 head of cattle and sheep; but they had lost one of their men, killed in the fight, and his body they carried home for interment. It happened to be about the best man of the party; really a very civil fellow, and altogether rather a pleasant robber. At Commoro's instigation, the Turks had attacked the town of Kayala; but the Latookas had fought so well, that the Turks found it impossible to capture the town, which was, as usual, protected by iron-wood palisades, upon which their bullets harmlessly flattened. Not only the Latooka men had fought well, but their women broke up their grinding-stones and defended the entrance by pelting their assailants with the fragments; several of the Turks were wounded by the stones thrown with such force by these brawny Amazons that some of the gun-barrels were indented. Many of these brave women had been shot by the dastardly Turks, and one was in the act of being carried off by the "pleasant robber," when a native, running to her rescue, drove his spear through his chest and killed him on the spot. Unfortunately for the Latookas, some of their cattle had left the town to pasture just before the attack took place; these were captured by the Turks, but not one hostile foot had been able to penetrate their town. On the following day the party were busily engaged in dividing the spoil, one third belonging to the men as a bonus, while the remainder were the property of the traders' establishment, or "Meri" (government), as they term the proprietor. This portion was to be sent to Obbo as a place of security and good pasturage, and the men were to engage in other razzias in Latooka, and to collect a large number of cattle to be driven south to exchange for ivory. Koorshid's camp was a scene of continual uproar, the men quarrelling over the division of the spoil.
Journal - June 2nd. - The Turks are now busy buying and selling, each man disposing of his share of the stolen cattle according to his wants: one exchanges a cow to the natives for corn and meat; another slaughters an ox, and retails small portions for merissa (beer), fowls, the natives flocking to the camp like vultures scenting flesh; others reserve their cattle for the purpose of purchasing the daughters of the natives for slaves under the name of wives, whom they will eventually sell in Khartoum for from twenty to thirty dollars each. My men look on in dismay at the happiness of their neighbours: like
"A Peri weeping at the gate
Of Eden, stood disconsolate,"
so may they be seen regarding the adjoining paradise, where meat is in profusion, sweetened by being stolen; but, alas! their cruel master does not permit them these innocent enjoyments.
Everything may be obtained for cattle as payment in this country. The natives are now hard at work making zareebas (kraals) for the cattle stolen from their own tribe and immediate neighbours, for the sake of two or three bullocks as remuneration to be divided among more than a hundred men. They are not deserving of sympathy; they are worse than vultures, being devoid of harmony even in the same tribe. The chiefs have no real control; and a small district, containing four or five towns, club together and pillage the neighbouring province. It is not surprising that the robber traders of the Nile turn this spirit of discord to their own advantage, and league themselves with one chief, to rob another, whom they eventually plunder in his turn. The natives say that sixty-five men and women were killed in the attack upon Kayala. All the Latookas consider it a great disgrace that the Turks fired upon women. Among all tribes, from Gondokoro to Obbo, a woman is respected, even in time of war. Thus, they are employed as spies, and become exceedingly dangerous; nevertheless, there is a general understanding that no woman shall be killed. The origin of this humane distinction arises, I imagine, from their scarcity. Where polygamy is in force, women should be too dear to kill; the price of a girl being from five to ten cows, her death is equal to the actual loss of that number.