Chapter IV. Ugogo, and the Wilderness of Mgunda Mkhali
Much disappointed at this, I now proposed to make for the track we came by in the morning, and follow it down into camp; but this luxury was not destined to be our lot that night, for the rain had obliterated all our footprints of the morning, and we passed the track, mistaking it for the run of wild beasts. It struck me we had done so; but say what I would, the boys thought they knew better; and the consequence was that, after wandering for hours no one knew where - for there was no sun to guide us - I pulled up, and swore I would wait for the stars, else it might be our fate to be lost in the wilderness, which I did not much relish. We were all at this time "hungry as hunters," and beginning to feel very miserable from being wet through. What little ammunition I had left I fired off as signals, or made tinder of to get up a fire, but the wood would not burn. In this hapless condition the black boys began murmuring, wishing to go on, pretending, though both held opposite views, that each knew the way; for they thought nothing could be worse than their present state of discomfort.
Night with its gloom was then drawing on, heightened by thunder and lightning, which set in all around us. At times we thought we heard musketry in camp, knowing that Grant would be sure to fire signals for us; and doubtless we did so, but its sound and the thunder so much resembled one another that we distrusted our ears. At any rate, the boys mistook the west for the east; and as I thought they had done so, I stood firm to one spot, and finally lay down with them to sleep upon the cold wet ground, where we slept pretty well, being only disturbed occasionally by some animals sniffing at our feet. As the clouds broke towards morning, my obstinate boys still swore that west was east, and would hardly follow me when tracking down Venus; next up rose the moon and then followed the sun, when, as good luck would have it, we struck on the track, and walked straight into camp.
Here every one was in a great state of excitement: Grant had been making the men fire volleys. The little sheikh was warmly congratulatory as he spoke of the numbers who had strayed away and had been lost in that wilderness; whilst Bombay admitted he thought we should turn up again if I did not listen to the advice of the boys, which was his only fear. Nothing as yet, I now found, had been done to further our march. The hongo, the sheikh said, had to precede everything; yet that had not been settled, because the chief deferred it the day of our arrival, on the plea that it was the anniversary of Short-legs's death; and he also said that till then all the Wagogo had been in mourning by ceasing to wear all their brass bracelets and other ornaments, and they now wished to solemnise the occasion by feasting and renewing their finery. This being granted, the next day another pretext for delay was found, by the Wahumba having made a raid on their cattle, which necessitated the chief and all his men turning out to drive them away; and to-day nothing could be attended to, as a party of fugitive Wanyamuezi had arrived and put them all in a fright. These Wanyamuezi, it then transpired, were soldiers of Manua Sera, the "Tippler," who was at war with the Arabs. He had been defeated at Mguru, a district in Unyamuezi, by the Arabs, and had sent these men to cut off the caravan route, as the best way of retaliation that lay in his power.
At last the tax having been settled by the payment of one dubani, two barsati, one sahari, six yards merikani, and three yards kiniki (not, however, until I had our tents struck, and threatened to march away if the chief would not take it), I proposed going on with the journey, for our provisions were stored. but when the loads were being lifted, I found ten more men were missing; and as nothing now could be done but throw ten loads away, which seemed to great a sacrifice to be made in a hurry, I simply changed ground to show we were ready to march, and sent my men about, either to try to induce the fugitive Wanyamuezi to take service with me or else to buy donkeys, as the chief said he had some to sell.
We had already been here too long. A report was now spread that a lion had killed one of the chief's cows; and the Wagogo, suspecting that our being here was the cause of this ill luck, threatened to attack us. This no sooner got noised over the camp than all my Wanyamuezi porters, who had friends in Ugogo, left to live with them, and would not come back again even when the "storm had blown over," because they did not like the incessant rains that half deluged the camp. The chief, too, said he would not sell us his donkeys, lest we should give them back to Mohinna, from whom they were taken during his fight here. Intrigues of all sorts I could see were brewing, possibly at the instigation of the fugitive Wanyamuezi, who suspected we were bound to side with the Arabs - possibly from some other cause, I could not tell what; so, to clear out of this pandemonium as soon as possible I issued cloths to buy double rations, intending to cross the wilderness by successive relays in double the ordinary number of days. I determined at the same time to send forward two freed men to Kaze to ask Musa and the Arabs to send me out some provisions and men to meet us half-way.