CHAPTER XVI. The greeting of the slave - traders - Collapse of the mutiny - African funerals - Visit from the Latooka chief - Bokke makes a suggestion - Slaughter of the Turks - Success as a prophet - Commoro's philosophy.

Although Ellyria was a rich and powerful country, we were not able to procure any provisions. The natives refused to sell, and their general behavior assured me of their capability of any atrocity had they been prompted to attack us by the Turks. Fortunately we had a good supply of meal that had been prepared for the journey prior to our departure from Gondokoro; thus we could not starve. I also had a sack of corn for the animals, a necessary precaution, as at this season there was not a blade of grass, all in the vicinity of the route having been burned.

We started on the 30th of March, at 7.30 A.M., and entered from the valley of Ellyria upon a perfectly flat country interspersed with trees. The ground was most favorable for the animals, being perfectly flat and free from ravines. We accordingly stepped along at a brisk pace, and the intense heat of the sun throughout the hottest hours of the day made the journey fatiguing for all but the camels. The latter were excellent of their class, and now far excelled the other transport animals, marching along with ease under loads of about 600 pounds each.

My caravan was at the rear of the trader's party; but the ground being good we left our people and cantered on to the advanced flag. It was curious to witness the motley assemblage in single file extending over about half a mile of ground. Several of the people were mounted on donkeys, some on oxen; the most were on foot, including all the women to the number of about sixty, who were the slaves of the trader's people. These carried heavy loads, and many, in addition to the burdens, carried children strapped to their backs in leather slings. After four or five hours' march during the intense heat, many of the overloaded women showed symptoms of distress and became footsore. The grass having been recently burned had left the sharp charred stumps, which were very trying to those whose sandals were not in the best condition. The women were forced along by their brutal owners with sharp blows of the coorbatch, and one who was far advanced in pregnancy could at length go no further. Upon this the savage to whom she belonged belabored her with a large stick, and not succeeding in driving her before him, he knocked her down and jumped upon her. The woman's feet were swollen and bleeding, but later in the day I again saw her hobbling along in the rear by the aid of a bamboo.

After a few days' march we reached Latome, a large Latooka town, and upon our near approach we discovered crowds collected under two enormous trees. Presently guns fired, drums beat, and we perceived the Turkish flags leading a crowd of about a hundred men, who approached us with the usual salutes, every man firing off ball cartridge as fast as he could reload. My men were soon with this lot of ragamuffins, and this was the ivory or slave-trading party that they had conspired to join. They were marching toward me to honor me with a salute, which, upon close approach, ended by their holding their guns muzzle downward, and firing them almost into my feet. I at once saw through their object in giving me this reception. They had already heard from the other party exaggerated accounts of presents that their leader had received, and they were jealous at the fact of my having established confidence with a party opposed to them. The vakeel of Chenooda was the man who had from the first instigated my men to revolt and to join his party, and he at that moment had two of my deserters with him that had mutinied and joined him at Gondokoro. It had been agreed that the remainder of my men were to mutiny at this spot and to join him with MY ARMS AND AMMUNITION. This was to be the stage for the outbreak. The apparent welcome was only to throw me off my guard.

I was coldly polite, and begging them not to waste their powder, I went to the large tree that threw a beautiful shade, and we sat down, surrounded by a crowd of both natives and trader's people. Mahommed Her sent me immediately a fat ox for my people. Not to be under any obligation, I immediately gave him a double-barrelled gun. Ibrahim and his men occupied the shade of another enormous tree at about one hundred and fifty yards' distance.

The evening arrived, and my vakeel, with his usual cunning, came to ask me whether I intended to start tomorrow. He said there was excellent shooting in this neighborhood, and that Ibrahim's camp not being more than five hours' march beyond, I could at any time join him, should I think proper. Many of my men were sullenly listening to my reply, which was that we should start in company with Ibrahim. The men immediately turned their backs and swaggered insolently to the town, muttering something that I could not distinctly understand. I gave orders directly that no man should sleep in the town, but that all should be at their posts by the luggage under the tree that I occupied. At night several men were absent, and were with difficulty brought from the town by the vakeel. The whole of the night was passed by the rival parties quarrelling and fighting. At 5.30 on the following morning the drum of Ibrahim's party beat the call, and his men with great alacrity got their porters together and prepared to march. My vakeel was not to be found; my men were lying idly in the positions where they had slept, and not a man obeyed when I gave the order to prepare to start- except Richarn and Sali. I saw that the moment had arrived. Again I gave the order to the men to get up and load the animals. Not a man would move except three or four, who slowly rose from the ground and stood resting on their guns. In the mean time Richarn and Sali were bringing the camels and making them kneel by the luggage. The boy Saat was evidently expecting a row, and although engaged with the black women in packing, he kept his eyes constantly on me.

I now observed that Bellaal was standing very near me on my right, in advance of the men who had risen from the ground, and employed himself in eying me from head to foot with the most determined insolence. The fellow had his gun in his hand, and he was telegraphing by looks with those who were standing near him, while not one of the others rose from the ground, although close to me. Pretending not to notice Bellaal, who was now, as I had expected, once more the ringleader, for the third time I ordered the men to rise immediately and to load the camels. Not a man moved; but the fellow Bellaal marched up to me, and looking me straight in the face dashed the butt-end of his gun in defiance on the ground and led the mutiny. "Not a man shall go with you! Go where you like with Ibrahim, but we won't follow you nor move a step farther. The men shall not load the camels; you may employ the 'niggers' to do it, but not us."

I looked at this mutinous rascal for a moment. This was the outburst of the conspiracy, and the threats and insolence that I had been forced to pass over for the sake of the expedition all rushed before me. "Lay down your gun!" I thundered, "and load the camels!" "I won't," was his reply. "Then stop here!" I answered, at the same time lashing out as quick as lightning with my right hand upon his jaw.

He rolled over in a heap, his gun flying some yards from his hand, and the late ringleader lay apparently insensible among the luggage, while several of his friends ran to him and played the part of the Good Samaritan. Following up on the moment the advantage I had gained by establishing a panic, I seized my rifle and rushed into the midst of the wavering men, catching first one by the throat and then another, and dragging them to the camels, which I insisted upon their immediately loading. All except three, who attended to the ruined ringleader, mechanically obeyed. Richarn and Sali both shouted to them to "hurry"; and the vakeel arriving at this moment and seeing how matters stood, himself assisted, and urged the men to obey.

Ibrahim's party had started. The animals were soon loaded, and leaving the vakeel to take them in charge, we cantered on to overtake Ibrahim, having crushed the mutiny and given such an example that, in the event of future conspiracies, my men would find it difficult to obtain a ringleader. So ended the famous conspiracy that had been reported to me by both Saat and Richarn before we left Gondokoro; and so much for the threat of firing simultaneously at me and deserting my wife in the jungle. In those savage countries success frequently depends upon one particular moment; you may lose or win according to your action at that critical instant. We congratulated ourselves upon the termination of this affair, which I trusted would be the last of the mutinies.

Upon our arrival at a large town called Kattaga, my vakeel reported the desertion of five of my men to Mahommed Her's party, with their guns and ammunition. I abused both the vakeel and the men most thoroughly, and declared, "As for the mutineers who have joined the slave- hunters, Inshallah, the vultures shall pick their bones!"

This charitable wish - which, I believe, I expressed with intense hatred - was never forgotten either by my own men or by the Turks. Believing firmly in the evil eye, their superstitious fears were immediately excited.

I had noticed during the march from Latome that the vicinity of every town was announced by heaps of human remains. Bones and skulls formed a Golgotha within a quarter of a mile of every village. Some of these were in earthenware pots, generally broken; others lay strewn here and there, while a heap in the centre showed that some form had originally been observed in their disposition. This was explained by an extraordinary custom, most rigidly observed by the Latookas. Should a man be killed in battle the body is allowed to remain where it fell, and is devoured by the vultures and hyenas; but should he die a natural death he is buried in a shallow grave within a few feet of his own door, in the little courtyard that surrounds each dwelling. Funeral dances are then kept up in memory of the dead for several weeks, at the expiration of which time the body, being sufficiently decomposed, is exhumed.

The bones are cleaned and are deposited in an earthenware jar, and carried to a spot near the town which is regarded as the cemetery.

There is little difficulty in describing the toilette of the native, that of the men being limited to the one covering of the head, the body being entirely nude. It is curious to observe among these wild savages the consummate vanity displayed in their head-dresses. Every tribe has a distinct and unchanging fashion for dressing the hair, and so elaborate is the coiffure that hair-dressing is reduced to a science. European ladies would be startled at the fact that to perfect the coiffure of a man requires a period of from eight to ten years! However tedious the operation, the result is extraordinary. The Latookas wear most exquisite helmets, all of which are formed of their own hair, and are, of course, fixtures. At first sight it appears incredible; but a minute examination shows the wonderful perseverance of years in producing what must be highly inconvenient. The thick, crisp wool is woven with fine twine, formed from the bark of a tree, until it presents a thick network of felt. As the hair grows through this matted substance it is subjected to the same process, until, in the course of years, a compact substance is formed like a strong felt, about an inch and a half thick, that has been trained into the shape of a helmet. A strong rim about two inches deep is formed by sewing it together with thread, and the front part of the helmet is protected by a piece of polished copper, while a piece of the same metal, shaped like the half of a bishop's mitre and about a foot in length, forms the crest. The framework of the helmet being at length completed, it must be perfected by an arrangement of beads, should the owner of the bead be sufficiently rich to indulge in the coveted distinction. The beads most in fashion are the red and the blue porcelain, about the size of small peas. These are sewn on the surface of the felt, and so beautifully arranged in sections of blue and red that the entire helmet appears to be formed of beads; and the handsome crest of polished copper surmounted by ostrich plumes gives a most dignified and martial appearance to this elaborate head-dress. No helmet is supposed to be complete without a row of cowrie-shells stitched around the rim so as to form a solid edge.

Although the men devote so much attention to their head-dress, the woman's is extremely simple. It is a curious fact that while the men are remarkably handsome the women are exceedingly plain. They are immense creatures, few being under five feet seven in height, with prodigious limbs. They wear exceedingly long tails, precisely like those of horses, but made of fine twine and rubbed with red ochre and grease. These are very convenient when they creep into their huts on hands and knees! In addition to the tails, they wear a large flap of tanned leather in front. Should I ever visit that country again, I should take a great number of Freemasons' aprons for the women; these would be highly prized, and would create a perfect furore.

The day after my arrival in Latooka I was accommodated by the chief with a hut in a neat courtyard, beautifully clean and cemented with clay, ashes, and cow- dung. Not patronizing the architectural advantages of a doorway two feet high, I pitched my large tent in the yard and stowed all my baggage in the hut. All being arranged, I had a large Persian carpet spread upon the ground, and received the chief of Latooka in state. He was introduced by Ibrahim, and I had the advantage of his interpreter. I commenced the conversation by ordering a present to be laid on the carpet of several necklaces of valuable beads, copper bars, and colored cotton handkerchiefs. It was most amusing to witness his delight at a string of fifty little "berrets" (opal beads the size of marbles) which I had brought into the country for the first time, and which were accordingly extremely valuable. No sooner had he surveyed them with undisguised delight than he requested me to give him another string of opals for his wife, or she would be in a bad humor; accordingly a present for the lady was added to the already large pile of beads that lay heaped upon the carpet before him. After surveying his treasures with pride, he heaved a deep sigh, and turning to the interpreter he said, "What a row there will be in the family when my other wives see Bokke (his head wife) dressed up with this finery. Tell the 'Mattat' that unless he gives necklaces for each of my other wives they will fight!" Accordingly I asked him the number of ladies that made him anxious. He deliberately began to count upon his fingers, and having exhausted the digits of one hand I compromised immediately, begging him not to go through the whole of his establishment, and presented him with about three pounds of various beads to be divided among them. He appeared highly delighted, and declared his intention of sending all his wives to pay Mrs. Baker a visit. This would be an awful visitation, as each wife would expect a present for herself, and would assuredly leave either a child or a friend for whom she would beg an addition. I therefore told him that the heat was so great that we could not bear too many in the tent, but that if *Bokke*, his favorite, would appear, we should be glad to see her. Accordingly he departed, and shortly we were honored by a visit.

*Bokke* and her daughter were announced, and a pair of prettier savages I never saw. They were very clean; their hair was worn short, like that of all the women of the country, and plastered with red ochre and fat so as to look like vermilion; their faces were slightly tattooed on the cheeks and temples, and they sat down on the many-colored carpet with great surprise, and stared at the first white man and woman they had ever seen. We gave them both a number of necklaces of red and blue beads, and I secured Bokke's portrait in my sketch- book, obtaining a very correct likeness. She told us that Mahommed Her's men were very bad people; that they had burned and plundered one of her villages; and that one of the Latookas who had been wounded in the fight by a bullet had just died, and they were to dance for him to-morrow; if we would like to we could attend. She asked many questions; among others, how many wives I had, and was astonished to hear that I was contented with one. This seemed to amuse her immensely, and she laughed heartily with her daughter at the idea. She said that my wife would be much improved if she would extract her four front teeth from the lower jaw and wear the red ointment on her hair, according to the fashion of the country; she also proposed that she should pierce her under lip, and wear the long pointed polished crystal, about the size of a drawing-pencil, that is the "thing" in the Latooka country. No woman among the tribe who has any pretensions to being a "swell" would be without this highly-prized ornament; and one of my thermometers having come to an end, I broke the tube into three pieces, and they were considered as presents of the highest value, to be worn through the perforated under lip. Lest the piece should slip through the hole in the lip, a kind of rivet is formed by twine bound round the inner extremity, and this, protruding into the space left by the extraction of the four front teeth of the lower jaw, entices the tongue to act upon the extremity, which gives it a wriggling motion indescribably ludicrous during conversation.

It is difficult to explain real beauty. A defect in one country is a desideratum in another. Scars upon the face are, in Europe, a blemish; but here and in the Arab countries no beauty can be perfect until the cheeks or temples have been gashed. The Arabs make three gashes upon each cheek, and rub the wounds with salt and a kind of porridge (asida) to produce proud-flesh; thus every female slave captured by the slave- hunters is marked to prove her identity and to improve her charms. Each tribe has its peculiar fashion as to the position and form of the cicatrix.

The Latookas gash the temples and cheeks of their women, but do not raise the scar above the surface, as is the custom of the Arabs.

Polygamy is, of course, the general custom, the number of a man's wives depending entirely upon his wealth, precisely as would the number of his horses in England. There is no such thing as LOVE in these countries; the feeling is not understood, nor does it exist in the shape in which we understand it. Everything is practical, without a particle of romance. Women are so far appreciated as they are valuable animals. They grind the corn, fetch the water, gather firewood, cement the floors, cook the food, and propagate the race; but they are mere servants, and as such are valuable. The price of a good-looking, strong young wife, who could carry a heavy jar of water, would be ten cows; thus a man rich in cattle would be rich in domestic bliss, as he could command a multiplicity of wives. However delightful may be a family of daughters in England, they nevertheless are costly treasures; but in Latooka and throughout savage lands they are exceedingly profitable. The simple rule of proportion will suggest that if one daughter is worth ten cows, ten daughters must be worth a hundred; therefore a large family is a source of wealth: the girls bring the cows, and the boys milk them. All being perfectly naked (I mean the girls and the boys), there is no expense, and the children act as herdsmen to the flocks as in the patriarchal times. A multiplicity of wives thus increases wealth by the increase of family. I am afraid this practical state of affairs will be a strong barrier to missionary enterprise.

A savage holds to his cows and his women, but especially to his COWS. In a razzia fight he will seldom stand for the sake of his wives, but when he does fight it is to save his cattle.

One day, soon after Bokke's visit, I heard that there had been some disaster, and that the whole of Mahommed Her's party had been massacred. On the following morning I sent ten of my men with a party of Ibrahim's to Latome to make inquiries. They returned on the following afternoon, bringing with them two wounded men. It appeared the Mahommed Her had ordered his party of 110 armed men, in addition to 300 natives, to make a razzia upon a certain village among the mountains for slaves and cattle. They had succeeded in burning a village and in capturing a great number of slaves. Having descended the pass, a native gave them the route that would lead to the capture of a large herd of cattle that they had not yet discovered. They once more ascended the mountain by a different path, and arriving at the kraal they commenced driving off the vast herd of cattle. The Latookas, who had not fought while their wives and children were being carried into slavery, now fronted bravely against the muskets to defend their herds, and charging the Turks they drove them down the pass.

It was in vain that they fought; every bullet aimed at a Latooka struck a rock, behind which the enemy was hidden. Rocks, stones, and lances were hurled at them from all sides and from above. They were forced to retreat. The retreat ended in a panic and precipitate flight. Hemmed in on all sides, amid a shower of lances and stones thrown from the mountain above, the Turks fled pell-mell down the rocky and precipitous ravines. Mistaking their route, they came to a precipice from which there was no retreat. The screaming and yelling savages closed round them. Fighting was useless; the natives, under cover of the numerous detached rocks, offered no mark for an aim, while the crowd of armed savages thrust them forward with wild yells to the very verge of the great precipice about five hundred feet below. Down they fell, hurled to utter destruction by the mass of Latookas pressing onward! A few fought to the last, but one and all were at length forced, by sheer pressure, over the edge of the cliff, and met a just reward for their atrocities.

My men looked utterly cast down, and a feeling of horror pervaded the entire party. No quarter had been given by the Latookas, and upward of two hundred natives who had joined the slave-hunters in the attack had also perished with their allies. Mahommed Her had not himself accompanied his people, both he and Bellaal, my late ringleader, having remained in camp, the latter having, fortunately for him, been disabled, and placed hors de combat by the example I had made during the mutiny.

My men were almost green with awe when I asked them solemnly, "Where are the men who deserted from me?" Without answering a word they brought two of my guns and laid them at my feet. They were covered with clotted blood mixed with sand, which had hardened like cement over the locks and various portions of the barrels. My guns were all marked. As I looked at the numbers upon the stocks, I repeated aloud the names of the owners. "Are they all dead?" I asked. "All dead," the men replied. "FOOD FOR THE VULTURES?" I asked. "None of the bodies can be recovered," faltered my vakeel. "The two guns were brought from the spot by some natives who escaped, and who saw the men fall. They are all killed." "Better for them had they remained with me and done their duty. The hand of God is heavy," I replied. My men slunk away abashed, leaving the gory witnesses of defeat and death upon the ground. I called Saat and ordered him to give the two guns to Richarn to clean.

Not only my own men but the whole of Ibrahim's party were of opinion that I had some mysterious connection with the disaster that had befallen my mutineers. All remembered the bitterness of my prophecy, "The vultures will pick their bones", and this terrible mishap having occurred so immediately afterward took a strong hold upon their superstitious minds. As I passed through the camp the men would quietly exclaim, "Wah Illahi Hawaga!" (My God, Master!) To which I simply replied, "Robine fe!" (There is a God.) From that moment I observed an extraordinary change in the manner of both my people and those of Ibrahim, all of whom now paid us the greatest respect.

One day I sent for Commoro, the Latooka chief, and through my two young interpreters I had a long conversation with him on the customs of his country. I wished if possible to fathom the origin of the extraordinary custom of exhuming the body after burial, as I imagined that in this act some idea might be traced to a belief in the resurrection.

Commoro was, like all his people, extremely tall. Upon entering my tent he took his seat upon the ground, the Latookas not using stools like the other White Nile tribes. I commenced the conversation by complimenting him on the perfection of his wives and daughters in a funeral dance which had lately been held, and on his own agility in the performance, and inquired for whom the ceremony had been performed. He replied that it was for a man who had been recently killed, but no one of great importance, the same ceremony being observed for every person without distinction.

I asked him why those slain in battle were allowed to remain unburied. He said it had always been the custom, but that he could not explain it.

"But," I replied, "why should you disturb the bones of those whom you have already buried, and expose them on the outskirts of the town?"

"It was the custom of our forefathers," he answered, "therefore we continue to observe it."

"Have you no belief in a future existence after death? Is not some idea expressed in the act of exhuming the bones after the flesh is decayed ?"

Commoro (loq.). - "Existence AFTER death! How can that be? Can a dead man get out of his grave, unless we dig him out?"

"Do you think man is like a beast, that dies and is ended?"

Commoro. - "Certainly. An ox is stronger than a man, but he dies, and his bones last longer; they are bigger. A man's bones break quickly; he is weak."

"Is not a man superior in sense to an ox? Has he not a mind to direct his actions?"

Commoro - "Some men are not so clever as an ox. Men must sow corn to obtain food, but the ox and wild animals can procure it without sowing."

"Do you not know that there is a spirit within you different from flesh? Do you not dream and wander in thought to distant places in your sleep? Nevertheless your body rests in one spot. How do you account for this?"

Commoro (laughing) - "Well, how do YOU account for it? It is a thing I cannot understand; it occurs to me every night."

"The mind is independent of the body. The actual body can be fettered, but the mind is uncontrollable. The body will die and will become dust or be eaten by vultures; but the spirit will exist forever."

Commoro - "Where will the spirit live ?"

"Where does fire live? Cannot you produce a fire* (* The natives always produce fire by rubbing two sticks together.) by rubbing two sticks together? Yet you SEE not the fire in the wood. Has not that fire, that lies harmless and unseen in the sticks, the power to consume the whole country? Which is the stronger, the small stick that first PRODUCES the fire, or the fire itself? So is the spirit the element within the body, as the element of fire exists in the stick, the element being superior to the substance."

Commoro - "Ha! Can you explain what we frequently see at night when lost in the wilderness? I have myself been lost, and wandering in the dark I have seen a distant fire; upon approaching the fire has vanished, and I have been unable to trace the cause, nor could I find the spot."

"Have you no idea of the existence of spirits superior to either man or beast? Have you no fear of evil except from bodily causes?"

Commoro. - "I am afraid of elephants and other animals when in the jungle at night; but of nothing else."

"Then you believe in nothing - neither in a good nor evil spirit! And you believe that when you die it will be the end of body and spirit; that you are like other animals; and that there is no distinction between man and beast; both disappear, and end at death?"

Commoro. - "Of course they do."

"Do you see no difference in good and bad actions?"

Commoro. - "Yes, there are good and bad in men and beasts."

"Do you think that a good man and a bad must share the same fate, and alike die, and end?"

Commoro. - "Yes; what else can they do? How can they help dying? Good and bad all die."

"Their bodies perish, but their spirits remain; the good in happiness, the bad in misery. If you leave no belief in a future state, WHY SHOULD A MAN BE GOOD? Why should he not be bad, if he can prosper by wickedness?"

Commoro. - "Most people are bad; if they are strong they take from the weak. The good people are all weak; they are good because they are not strong enough to be bad."

Some corn had been taken out of a sack for the horses, and a few grains lying scattered on the ground, I tried the beautiful metaphor of St. Paul as an example of a future state. Making a small hole with my finger in the ground, I placed a grain within it: "That," I said, "represents you when you die." Covering it with earth, I continued, "That grain will decay, but from it will rise the plant that will produce a reappearance of the original form."

Commoro. - "Exactly so; that I understand. But the original grain does NOT rise again; it rots like the dead man, and is ended. The fruit produced is not the same grain that we buried, but the PRODUCTION of that grain. So it is with man. I die, and decay, and am ended; but my children grow up like the fruit of the grain. Some men have no children, and some grains perish without fruit; then all are ended."

I was obliged to change the subject of conversation. In this wild naked savage there was not even a superstition upon which to found a religious feeling; there was a belief in matter, and to his understanding everything was MATERIAL. It was extraordinary to find so much clearness of perception combined with such complete obtuseness to anything ideal.