CHAPTER X. LIFE AT OBBO.
After a long walk, during which I did not obtain another shot, I returned to my resting-place, and, refreshed by a bathe in the cool river, I slept as sound as though in the most luxurious bed in England. On the following morning I went out early, and shot a small species of antelope; and shortly after my return to breakfast, the Turks' party arrived, bringing with them about three hundred head of cattle that they had captured from the Madi tribe. They did not seem at all in good spirits, and I shortly heard that they had lost their standard-bearer, killed in the fight, and that the flag had been in great peril, and had been saved by the courage of a young Bari slave. The ensign was separated from the main party, and was attacked by four natives, who killed the bearer, and snatched away the flag: this would inevitably have been lost, had not the Bari boy of about fifteen shot the foremost native dead with a pistol, and, snatching the flag from his hands, ran with it towards the Turks, some of whom coming up at that instant, the natives did not think it wise to pursue their advantage. A number of slaves had been captured; among others, several young children, one of whom was an infant. These unfortunate women and children, excepting the infant, were all tied by the neck with a long leathern thong, so as to form a living chain, and guards were set over them to prevent escape.
The Bari natives would make good soldiers, as they are far more courageous than most of the savage tribes. The best men among the party of Ibrahim are Baris; among them is a boy named Arnout; he is the drummer, and he once saved his master in a fight by suddenly presenting his drumstick like a pistol at several natives, who had attacked him while unloaded. The natives, seeing the determined attitude of the boy, and thinking that the drumstick was a firearm, ran off. We started at daybreak on 13th January, and, ascending the whole way, we reached Shooa, in latitude 3 degrees 4 minutes. The route throughout had been of the same parklike character, interspersed with occasional hills of fine granite, piled in the enormous blocks so characteristic of that stone.
Shooa was a lovely place. A fine granite mountain ascended in one block in a sheer precipice for about 800 feet from its base, perfectly abrupt on the eastern side, while the other portions of the mountain were covered with fine forest trees, and picturesquely dotted over with villages. This country formed a natural park, remarkably well watered by numerous rivulets, ornamented with fine timber, and interspersed with numerous high rocks of granite, which from a distance produced the effect of ruined castles.
The pasturage was of a superior quality, and of the same description as that of Farajoke. The country being undulating, there was a small brook in every valley that formed a natural drain. Accordingly, the more elevated land was remarkably dry and healthy. On arrival at the foot of the abrupt mountain, we camped beneath an immense india-rubber tree, that afforded a delightful shade, from which elevated spot we had a superb view of the surrounding country, and could see the position of Debono's camp, about twenty-five miles to the west by north, at the foot of the Faloro hills.
By Casella's thermometer, I determined the altitude of Shooa to be 3,877 feet - 1,002 feet above the Asua river, and 89 feet lower than Farajoke. These observations of the thermometer agreed with the natural appearance of the country, the Asua river forming the main drain in a deep valley, into which innumerable rivulets convey the drainage from both north and south. Accordingly, the Asua, receiving the Atabbi river, which is the main drain of the western face of the Madi mountains, and the entire drainage of the Madi and Shooa countries, together with that of extensive countries to the east of Shooa, including the rivers Chombi and Udat, from Lira and Umiro, it becomes a tremendous torrent so long as the rains continue, and conveys a grand volume of water to the Nile; but the inclination of all these countries tending rapidly to the northwest, the bed of the Asua river partakes of the general incline, and so quickly empties after the cessation of the rains that it becomes nil as a river. By the mean of several observations I determined the latitude of Shooa 3 degrees 04 minutes, longitude 32 degrees 04 minutes E.
We were now about twelve miles south of Debono's outpost, Faloro. The whole of the Shooa country was assumed to belong to Mahommed Wat-el-Mek, the vakeel of Debono, and we had passed the ashes of several villages that had been burnt and plundered by these people between Farajoke and this point; the entire country had been laid waste.
There was no great chief at Shooa; each village had a separate headman; formerly the population had occupied the lower ground, but since the Turks had been established at Faloro and had plundered the neighbouring tribes, the natives had forsaken their villages and had located themselves among the mountains for security. It was the intention of Ibrahim to break through the rules accepted by the White Nile traders, and to establish himself at Shooa, which, although claimed by Debono's people, would form an excellent point d'appui for operations towards the unknown south.
Shooa was "flowing with milk and honey;" fowls, butter, goats, were in abundance and ridiculously cheap; beads were of great value, as few had ever reached that country. The women flocked to see Mrs. Baker, bringing presents of milk and flour, and receiving beads and bracelets in return. The people were precisely the same as those of Obbo and Farajoke in language and appearance, exceedingly mild in their manner, and anxious to be on good terms.