CHAPTER XVII. Disease in the camp - Forward under difficulties - Our cup of misery overflows - A rain-maker in a dilemma - Fever again - Ibrahim's quandary - Firing the prairie.
Sickness now rapidly spread among my animals. Five donkeys died within a few days, and the rest looked poor. Two of my camels died suddenly, having eaten the poison-bush. Within a few days of this disaster my good old hunter and companion of all my former sports in the Base country, Tetel, died. These terrible blows to my expedition were most satisfactory to the Latookas, who ate the donkeys and other animals the moment they died. It was a race between the natives and the vultures as to who should be first to profit by my losses.
Not only were the animals sick, but my wife was laid up with a violent attack of gastric fever, and I was also suffering from daily attacks of ague. The small- pox broke out among the Turks. Several people died, and, to make matters worse, they insisted upon inoculating themselves and all their slaves; thus the whole camp was reeking with this horrible disease.
Fortunately my camp was separate and to windward. I strictly forbade my men to inoculate themselves, and no case of the disease occurred among my people; but it spread throughout the country. Small-pox is a scourge among the tribes of Central Africa, and it occasionally sweeps through the country and decimates the population.
I had a long examination of Wani, the guide and interpreter, respecting the country of Magungo. Loggo, the Bari interpreter, always described Magungo as being on a large river, and I concluded that it must be the Asua; but upon cross-examination I found he used the word "Bahr" (in Arabic signifying river or sea) instead of "Birbe (lake). This important error being discovered gave a new feature to the geography of this part. According to his description, Magungo was situated on a lake so large that no one knew its limits. Its breadth was such that, if one journeyed two days east and the same distance west, there was no land visible on either quarter, while to the south its direction was utterly unknown. Large vessels arrived at Magungo from distant arid unknown parts, bringing cowrie-shells and beads in exchange for ivory. Upon these vessels white men had been seen. All the cowrie-shells used in Latooka and the neighboring countries were supplied by these vessels, but none had arrived for the last two years.
I concluded the lake was no other than the N'yanza, which, if the position of Mangungo were correct, extended much farther north than Speke had supposed. I determined to take the first opportunity to push for Magungo. The white men spoken of by Wani probably referred to Arabs, who, being simply brown, were called white men by the blacks. I was called a VERY WHITE MAN as a distinction; but I have frequently been obliged to take off my shirt to exhibit the difference of color between myself and men, as my face had become brown.
The Turks had set June 23d as the time for their departure from Latooka. On the day preceding my wife was dangerously ill with bilious fever, and was unable to stand, and I endeavored to persuade the trader's party to postpone their departure for a few days. They would not hear of such a proposal; they had so irritated the Latookas that they feared an attack, and their captain or vakeel, Ibrahim, had ordered them immediately to vacate the country. This was a most awkward position for me. The traders had incurred the hostility of the country, and I should bear the brunt of it should I remain behind alone. Without their presence I should be unable to procure porters, as the natives would not accompany my feeble party, especially as I could offer them no other payment than beads or copper. The rain had commenced within the last few days at Latooka, and on the route toward Obbo we should encounter continual storms. We were to march by a long and circuitous route to avoid the rocky passes that would be dangerous in the present spirit of the country, especially as the traders possessed large herds that must accompany the party. They allowed five days' march for the distance to Obbo by the intended route. This was not an alluring programme for the week's entertainment, with my wife almost in a dying state! However, I set to work and fitted an angarep with arched hoops from end to end, so as to form a frame like the cap of a wagon. This I covered with two waterproof Abyssinian tanned hides securely strapped, and lashing two long poles parallel to the sides of the angarep, I formed an excellent palanquin. In this she was assisted, and we started on June 23d.
On our arrival at Obbo both my wife and I were excessively ill with bilious fever, and neither could assist the other. The old chief of Obbo, Katchiba, hearing that we were dying, came to charm us with some magic spell. He found us lying helpless, and immediately procured a small branch of a tree, and filling his month with water he squirted it over the leaves and about the floor of the hut. He then waved the branch around my wife's head, also around mine, and completed the ceremony by sticking it in the thatch above the doorway. He told us we should now get better, and, perfectly satisfied, took his leave.
The hut was swarming with rats and white ants, the former racing over our bodies during the night and burrowing through the floor, filling our only room with mounds like molehills. As fast as we stopped the holes, others were made with determined perseverance. Having a supply of arsenic, I gave them an entertainment, the effect being disagreeable to all parties, as the rats died in their holes and created a horrible effluvium, while fresh hosts took the place of the departed. Now and then a snake would be seen gliding within the thatch, having taken shelter front the pouring rain.