CHAPTER V. EXPLORATION OF THE OLD WHITE NILE.
The close of August showed a mean temperature of 73 6/10 degrees at 6 a.m., and 85 degrees Fahrenheit at noon, with seven days of heavy and seven of light rain. Although the station was admirably drained, the climate acted unfavourably upon the people. On 9th September it was necessary for the unfortunate Dr. Gedge, my chief medical officer, to return to Khartoum, as his state of health required immediate change.
Just as the diahbeeah was leaving the station, a vessel arrived from the Bahr Gazal, by which I received a letter from the German traveller, Dr. Schweinfurth. This gentleman, to whom I was quite unknown personally, had the extreme courtesy and generosity to intrust me with all the details of his geographical observations, collected in his journey in the Western Nile Basin.
It was necessary for me to return personally to Khartoum to assure myself that my arrangements should be carried out without delay. I had determined that the expedition should start for the south from Tewfikeeyah on 1st Dec., at which time the Nile would be full, and the wind strong from the north. As Tewfikeeyah was nearly half way in actual distance from Khartoum to Gondokoro, I trusted that we should have time to accomplish the work of cutting through the marshes, and be enabled to pass the shallows before the river should begin to fall. I therefore sent Mr. Higginbotham to Khartoum to engage vessels; I followed on 15th September, with the No. 10 steamer towing my diahbeeah - and ten empty vessels to bring up a supply of corn.
We reached Khartoum on the 21st Sept. at 9.30 a.m., to the astonishment of the governor and population, who could not understand why I had returned. I now met for the first time the Vicomte de Bizemont, who was to accompany the expedition. This gentleman had been intrusted by the Empress of the French with a very gracious token of her interest in the expedition, which he presented as a gift from her Majesty to my wife. I now heard for the first time the startling news of the war between France and Prussia. I found Dr. Gedge alive, but in a deplorable state of health. It was impossible for him to travel north, therefore he was carefully attended by the Greek physician to the forces, Dr. Georgis. I at once saw that there was no hope of recovery. Mr. Higginbotham had been exceedingly kind and attentive to his wants.
I was very well received by my old friend, Djiaffer Pacha, the governor-general, but as usual the work was all behind-hand, and Mr. Higginbotham had been in despair until my arrival. Only seven vessels were forthcoming. I had expected thirty! Thus, it would again be impossible to transport the camels that were indispensable for the transport of the steamers from Gondokoro. This was very heart-breaking. Instead of completing the expedition by a general direct move south with all material, transport animals, store, in travelling order, the operation would extend over some years, for the simple reason that the government had not the means of transport. Even now the steamers had not arrived from Cairo. The fifteen large sloops had failed to pass the cataract; thus, I was reduced to the miserable open vessels of Khartoum, and even these were of an inferior description and few in number. Fortunately I had brought ten empty vessels with me from Tewfikeeyah, otherwise we should not have had sufficient transport for the necessary supply of corn. However, now that I had arrived, things began to move a little faster. I find this entry in my journal, dated "1st October, 1870. Thermometer, 6 a.m., 80 degrees; noon, 94 degrees. Wind, north. The fact of my having captured the boats of Kutchuk Ali and Agad with slaves on board, has determined a passive, but stubborn, resistance in Khartoum to the expedition. This is shared by the officials.
"Although I wrote to Djiaffer Pacha months ago requesting him to send me thirty vessels, there is not one actually ready, neither are there more than seven to be obtained. Even these are not prepared for the journey. The object appears to be to cause such delay as shall throw me back until the river shall be too low for the passage of the Bahr Giraffe.
"October 2. - I wrote an official letter to Djiaffer Pacha, protesting against delay, and reminding him of the Khedive's instructions."
The only authority who, I believe, takes a real interest in the expedition is Ismail Bey, who is a highly intellectual and clever man. This Bey is the President of the Council, and I have known him during many years. He speaks excellent French, and is more European in his ideas than any of my acquaintances.[*]
[*Footnote: Since this was written Ismail Bey has become Pacha, and is governor of the Khartoum province.]
The action that I had taken against the proceedings of the governor of Fashoda was very distasteful to the Khartoum public. I much regretted the necessity, but I could not have acted otherwise. This complication placed my friend, Djiaffer Pacha, in a most unpleasant position, as the Koordi of Fashoda was his employee; it would therefore appear that no great vigilance had been exercised by the governor-general at Khartoum, and suspicions might be aroused that the character and acts of the Fashoda governor must have been previously known to the Khartoum authorities.