CHAPTER XI. THE START FOR THE LAKE:
The day of starting at length arrived; the chief and guide appeared, and we were led to the Kafoor river, where canoes were in readiness to transport us to the south side. This was to our old quarters on the marsh. The direct course to the lake was west, and I fully expected some deception, as it was impossible to trust Kamrasi. I complained to the guide, and insisted upon his pointing out the direction of the lake, which he did, in its real position, west; but he explained that we must follow the south bank of the Kafoor river for some days, as there was an impassable morass that precluded a direct course. This did not appear satisfactory, and the whole affair looked suspicious, as we had formerly been deceived by being led across the river in the same spot, and not allowed to return. We were now led along the banks of the Kafoor for about a mile, until we arrived at a cluster of huts; here we were to wait for Kamrasi, who had promised to take leave of us. The sun was overpowering, and we dismounted from our oxen, and took shelter in a blacksmith's shed. In about an hour Kamrasi arrived, attended by a considerable number of men, and took his seat in our shed. I felt convinced that his visit was simply intended to peel the last skin from the onion. I had already given him nearly all that I had, but he hoped to extract the whole before I should depart.
He almost immediately commenced the conversation by asking for a pretty yellow muslin Turkish handkerchief fringed with silver drops that Mrs. Baker wore upon her head: one of these had already been given to him, and I explained that this was the last remaining, and that she required it .... He "must" have it .... It was given.
He then demanded other handkerchiefs. We had literally nothing but a few most ragged towels; he would accept no excuse, and insisted upon a portmanteau being unpacked, that he might satisfy himself by actual inspection. The luggage, all ready for the journey, had to be unstrapped and examined, and the rags were displayed in succession; but so wretched and uninviting was the exhibition of the family linen, that he simply returned them, and said "they did not suit him." Beads he must have, or I was "his enemy." A selection of the best opal beads was immediately given him. I rose from the stone upon which I was sitting, and declared that we must start immediately. "Don't be in a hurry," he replied; "you have plenty of time; but you have not given me that watch you promised me." .... This was my only watch that he had begged for, and had been refused every day during my stay at M'rooli. So pertinacious a beggar I had never seen. I explained to him that, without the watch, my, journey would be useless, but that I would give him all that I had except the watch when the exploration should be completed, as I should require nothing on my direct return to Gondokoro. At the same time, I repeated to him the arrangement for the journey that he had promised, begging him not to deceive me, as my wife and I should both die if we were compelled to remain another year in this country by losing the annual boats in Gondokoro. The understanding was this: he was to give me porters to the lake, where I was to be furnished with canoes to take me to Magungo, which was situated at the junction of the Somerset. From Magungo he told me that I should see the Nile issuing from the lake close to the spot where the Somerset entered, and that the canoes should take me down the river, and porters should carry my effects from the nearest point to Shooa, and deliver me at my old station without delay. Should he be faithful to this engagement, I trusted to procure porters from Shooa, and to reach Gondokoro in time for the annual boats. I had arranged that a boat should be sent from Khartoum to await me at Gondokoro early in this year, 1864; but I felt sure that should I be long delayed, the boat would return without me, as the people would be afraid to remain alone at Gondokoro after the other boats had quitted.
In our present weak state another year of Central Africa without quinine appeared to warrant death; it was a race against time, all was untrodden ground before us, and the distance quite uncertain. I trembled for my wife, and weighed the risk of another year in this horrible country should we lose the boats. With the self-sacrificing devotion that she had shown in every trial, she implored me not to think of any risks on her account, but to push forward and discover the lake - -that she had determined not to return until she had herself reached the "M'wootan N'zige."