CHAPTER VIII. IBRAHIM's RETURN.
On the following morning I started at daybreak, and after a march of about thirteen miles through the same park-like and uninhabited country as that of the preceding day, I reached the country of Farajoke, and arrived at the foot of a rocky hill, upon the summit of which was a large village. I was met by the chief and several of his people leading a goat, which was presented to me, and killed immediately as an offering, close to the feet of my horse. The chief carried a fowl, holding it by the legs, with its head downwards; he approached my horse, and stroked his fore-feet with the fowl, and then made a circle around him by dragging it upon the ground; my feet were then stroked with the fowl in the same manner as those of the horse, and I was requested to stoop, so as to enable him to wave the bird around my head; this completed, it was also waved round my horse's head, who showed his appreciation of the ceremony by rearing and lashing out behind, to the great discomfiture of the natives. The fowl did not appear to have enjoyed itself during the operation; but a knife put an end to its troubles, as, the ceremony of welcome being completed, the bird was sacrificed and handed to my headman. I was now conducted to the village. It was defended by a high bamboo fence, and was miserably dirty, forming a great contrast to the clean dwellings of the Bari and Latooka tribes. The hill upon which the village was built was about eighty feet above the general level of the country, and afforded a fine view of the surrounding landscape. On the east was the chain of Madi mountains, the base well wooded, while to the south all was fine open pasturage of sweet herbage, about a foot high, a totally different grass to the rank vegetation we had passed through. The country was undulating, and every rise was crowned by a village. Although the name of the district is Farajoke, it is comprised in the extensive country of Sooli, together with the Shoggo and Madi tribes, all towns being under the command of petty chiefs. The general elevation of the country was 3,966 feet above the sea-level, 292 feet higher than Obbo.
The chief of Farajoke, observing me engaged in taking bearings with the compass, was anxious to know my object, which being explained, he volunteered all information respecting the country, and assured me that it would be quite impossible to cross the Asua during the rainy season, as it was a violent torrent, rushing over a rocky bed with such impetuosity, that no one would venture to swim it. There was nothing to be done at this season, and however trying to the patience, there was no alternative. Farajoke was within three days' hard marching of Faloro, the station of Debono, that had always been my projected head-quarters; thus I was well advanced upon my intended route, and had the season been propitious, I could have proceeded with my baggage animals without difficulty.
The loss of my horse "Filfil" was a severe blow in this wild region, where beasts of burthen were unknown, and I had slight hopes of his recovery, as lions were plentiful in the country between Obbo and Farajoke; however, I offered a reward of beads and bracelets, and a number of natives were sent by the chief to scour the jungles. There was little use in remaining at Farajoke, therefore I returned to Obbo with my men and donkeys, accomplishing the whole distance (thirty miles) in one day. I was very anxious about Mrs. Baker, who had been the representative of the expedition at Obbo during my absence. Upon my approach through the forest, my well-known whistle was immediately answered by the appearance of the boy Saat, who, without any greeting, immediately rushed to the hut to give the intelligence that "Master was arrived."
I found my wife looking remarkably well, and regularly installed "at home." Several fat sheep were tied by the legs to pegs in front of the hut; a number of fowls were pecking around the entrance, and my wife awaited me on the threshold with a large pumpkin shell containing about a gallon of native beer. "Dulce domum," although but a mud hut, the loving welcome made it happier than a palace; and that draught of beer, or fermented mud, or whatever trash it might be compared with in England, how delicious it seemed after a journey of thirty miles in the broiling sun! and the fat sheep and the fowls all looked so luxurious. Alas! - for destiny - my arrival cut short the existence of one being; what was joy to some was death to a sheep, and in a few moments the fattest was slain in honour of master's return, and my men were busily employed in preparing it for a general feast.
Numbers of people gathered round me: foremost among them was the old chief Katchiba, whose self-satisfied countenance exhibited an extreme purity of conscience in having adhered to his promise to act as guardian during my absence. Mrs. Baker gave him an excellent character; he had taken the greatest care of her, and had supplied all the luxuries that had so much excited my appetite on the first coup d'oeil of my home. He had been so mindful of his responsibility, that he had placed some of his own sons as sentries over the hut both by day and night.