CHAPTER X. TO MRERA, UKONONGO.
About half way to Kasegera Mabruk Saleem was suddenly taken sick. I treated him with a grain of calomel, and a couple of ounces of brandy. As he was unable to walk, I furnished him with a donkey. Another man named Zaidi was ill with a rheumatic fever; and Shaw tumbled twice off the animal he was riding, and required an infinite amount of coaxing to mount again. Verily, my expedition was pursued by adverse fortunes, and it seemed as if the Fates had determined upon our return. It really appeared as if everything was going to wreck and ruin. If I were only fifteen days from Unyanyembe, thought I, I should be saved!
Kasegera was a scene of rejoicing the afternoon and evening of our arrival. Absentees had just returned from the coast, and the youths were brave in their gaudy bedizenment, their new barsatis, their soharis, and long cloths of bright new kaniki, with which they had adorned themselves behind some bush before they had suddenly appeared dressed in all this finery. The women "Hi-hi'ed" like maenads, and the "Lu-lu-lu'ing" was loud, frequent, and fervent the whole of that afternoon. Sylphlike damsels looked up to the youthful heroes with intensest admiration on their features; old women coddled and fondled them; staff-using, stooping-backed patriarchs blessed them. This is fame in Unyamwezi! All the fortunate youths had to use their tongues until the wee hours of next morning had arrived, relating all the wonders they had seen near the Great Sea, and in the "Unguja," the island of Zanzibar; of how they saw great white men's ships, and numbers of white men, of their perils and trials during their journey through the land of the fierce Wagogo, and divers other facts, with which the reader and I are by this time well acquainted.
On the 24th we struck camp, and marched through a forest of imbiti wood in a S.S.W. direction, and in about three hours came to Kigandu.
On arriving before this village, which is governed by a daughter of Mkasiwa, we were informed we could not enter unless we paid toll. As we would not pay toll, we were compelled to camp in a ruined, rat-infested boma, situated a mile to the left of Kigandu, being well scolded by the cowardly natives for deserting Mkasiwa in his hour of extremity. We were accused of running away from the war.
Almost on the threshold of our camp Shaw, in endeavouring to dismount, lost his stirrups, and fell prone on his face. The foolish fellow actually, laid on the ground in the hot sun a full hour; and when I coldly asked him if he did not feel rather uncomfortable, he sat up, and wept like a child.
"Do you wish to go back, Mr. Shaw?"
"If you please. I do not believe I can go any farther; and if you would only be kind enough, I should like to return very much."
"Well, Mr. Shaw, I have come to the conclusion that it is best, you should return. My patience is worn out. I have endeavoured faithfully to lift you above these petty miseries which you nourish so devotedly. You are simply suffering from hypochondria. You imagine yourself sick, and nothing, evidently, will persuade you that you are not. Mark my words - to return to Unyanyembe, is to DIE! Should you happen to fall sick in Kwihara who knows how to administer medicine to you? Supposing you are delirious, how can any of the soldiers know what you want, or what is beneficial and necessary for you? Once again, I repeat, if you return, you DIE!"
"Ah, dear me; I wish I had never ventured to come! I thought life in Africa was so different from this. I would rather go back if you will permit me."
The next day was a halt, and arrangements were made for the transportation of Shaw back to Kwihara. A strong litter was made, and four stout pagazis were hired at Kigandu to carry him. Bread was baked, a canteen was filled with cold tea, and a leg of a kid was roasted for his sustenance while on the road.
The night before we parted we spent together. Shaw played some tunes on an accordion which I had purchased for him at Zanzibar; but, though it was only a miserable ten-dollar affair, I thought the homely tunes evoked from the instrument that night were divine melodies. The last tune played before retiring was "Home, sweet Home."
The morning of the 27th we were all up early: There was considerable vis in our movements. A long, long march lay before us that day; but then I was to leave behind all the sick and ailing. Only those who were healthy, and could march fast and long, were to accompany me. Mabruk Saleem I left in charge of a native doctor, who was to medicate him for a gift of cloth which I gave him in advance.
The horn sounded to get ready. Shaw was lifted in his litter on the shoulders of his carriers. My men formed two ranks; the flags were lifted; and between these two living rows, and under those bright streamers, which were to float over the waters of the Tanganika before he should see them again, Shaw was borne away towards the north; while we filed off to the south, with quicker and more elastic steps, as if we felt an incubus had been taken from us.