Chapter XX. Madi
Junction of the Two Hemispheres - The First Contact with Persons Acquainted with European Habits - Interruptions and Plots - The Mysterious Mahamed - Native Revelries - The Plundering and Tyranny of the Turks - The Rascalities of the Ivory Trade - Feeling for the Nile - Taken to see a Mark left by a European - Buffalo, Eland, and Rhinoceros Stalking - Meet Baker - Petherick's Arrival at Gondokoro.
After receiving more pombe from the chief, and, strange to say, hot water to wash with - for he did not know how else to show hospitality better - we started again in the same straggling manner as yesterday. In two hours we reached the palace of Piejoko, a chief of some pretensions, and were summoned to stop and drink pombe. In my haste to meet Petherick's expedition, I would listen to nothing, but pushed rapidly on, despite all entreaties to stop, both from the chief and from my porters, who, I saw clearly, wished to do me out of another day.
Half of my men, however, did stop there, but with the other half Grant and I went on; and, as the sun was setting, we came in sight of what we thought was Petherick's outpost, N. lat. 3§ 10' 33", and E. long. 21§ 50' 45". My men, as happy as we were ourselves, now begged I would allow them to fire their guns, and prepare the Turks for our reception. Crack, bang, went their carbines, and in another instant crack, bang, was heard from the northerners' camp, when, like a swarms of bees, every height and other conspicuous place was covered with men. Our hearts leapt with an excitement of joy only known to those who have escaped from long-continued banishment among barbarians, once more to meet with civilised people, and join old friends. Every minute increased this excitement. We saw three large red flags heading a military procession, which marched out of the camp with drums and fifes playing. I halted and allowed them to draw near. When they did so, a very black man, named Mahamed, in full Egyptian regimentals, with a curved sword, ordered his regiment to halt, and threw himself into my arms, endeavouring to hug and kiss me. Rather staggered at this unexpected manifestation of affection, which was like a conjunction of the two hemispheres, I gave him a squeeze in return for his hug, but raised my head above the reach of his lips, and asked who was his master? "Petrik," was the reply. "And where is Petherick now?" "Oh, he is coming." "How is it you have not got English colours, then?" "The colours are Debono's." "Who is Debono?" "The same as Petrik; but come along into my camp, and let us talk it out there;" saying which, Mahamed ordered his regiment (a ragamuffin mixture of Nubians, Egyptians, and slaves of all sorts, about two hundred in number) to rightabout, and we were guided by him, whilst his men kept up an incessant drumming and fifing, presenting arms and firing, until we reached his huts, situated in a village kept exactly in the same order as that of the natives. Mahamed then gave us two beds to sit upon, and ordered his wives to advance on their knees and give us coffee, whilst other men brought pombe, and prepared us a dinner of bread and honey and mutton.
A large shed was cleared for Grant and myself, and all my men were ordered to disperse, and chum in ones and twos with Mahamed's men; for Mahamed said, now we had come there, his work was finished. "If that is the case," I said, "tell us your orders; there must be some letters." He said, "No, I have no letters or written orders; though I have directions to take you to Gondokoro as soon as you come. I am Debono's Vakil, and am glad you are come, for we are all tired of waiting for you. Our business has been to collect ivory whilst waiting for you." I said, "How is it Petherick has not come here to meet me? is he married?" "Yes, he is married; and both he and his wife ride fore-and-aft on one animal at Khartum." "Well, then, where is the tree you told Bombay you would point out to us with Petherick's name on it?" "Oh, that is on the way to Gondokoro. It was not Petherick who wrote, but some one else, who told me to look out for your coming this way. We don't know his name, but he said if we pointed it out to you, you would know at once."
4th. - After spending the night as Mahamed's guest, I strolled round the place to see what it was like, and found the Turks were all married to the women of the country, whom they had dressed in clothes and beads. Their children were many, with a prospect of more. Temporary marriages, however, were more common than others - as, in addition to their slaves, they hired the daughters of the villagers, who remained with them whilst they were trading here, but went back to their parents when they marched to Gondokoro. They had also many hundreds of cattle, which it was said they had plundered from the natives, and now used for food, or to exchange for ivory, or other purposes. The scenery and situation were perfect for health and beauty. The settlement lay at the foot of small, well-wooded granitic hills, even prettier than the outcrops of Unyamuezi, and was intersected by clear streams.
At noon, all the rear troops arrived with Bombay and Piejoko in person. This good creature had treated Bombay very handsomely on his former journey. He said he felt greatly disappointed at my pushing past him yesterday, as he wished to give me a cow, but still hoped I would go over and make friends with him. I gave him some beads and off he walked. Old Chongi's "children," who had escorted us all the way from Kamrasi's, then took some beads and cast-off clothes for themselves and their father, and left us in good-humour.