CHAPTER VII. ARRIVAL AT GONDOKORO.
After the usual voyage upon the White Nile, during which we passed the Bohr and the Shir tribes, and had excellent sport in antelope shooting when the steamer stopped at forests to cut fuel, we arrived opposite the old mission station at Gondokoro on April 15, 1871.
I found a great change in the river since my last visit. The old channel, which had been of great depth where it swept beneath the cliffs, was choked with sand-banks. New islands had formed in many places, and it was impossible for the vessels to approach the old landing-place. We therefore dropped down the stream to a spot where high ground and a few trees invited us to the east bank. At this place the traders had founded a new settlement that was now without in habitants, and was represented by half-a-dozen broken-down old huts.
"The country is sadly changed; formerly, pretty native villages in great numbers were dotted over the landscape, beneath shady clumps of trees, and the land was thickly populated. Now, all is desolate: not a village exists on the mainland; they have all been destroyed, and the inhabitants have been driven for refuge on the numerous low islands of the river; these are thronged with villages, and the people are busily cultivating the soil.
"I sent for the chief, Allorron, who, upon arrival with some other natives, explained that his country had been destroyed by the attacks of the people of Loquia at the instigation of the traders. I promised him protection if he and his people would return to the mainland and become true subjects to the Khedive. At the same time I informed him that, in return for protection, his people must cultivate corn, and build the huts required for the troops upon arrival. This he promised to do, and I arranged that he should summon a general meeting of the headmen and their people to-morrow, or as soon as possible.
"I at once cleared a small plot of ground and sowed some garden seeds on the new soil now annexed to Egypt. My soldiers took a great interest in the operation, and as we covered the seeds with light earth, we concluded the sowing with the usual ejaculation-'Biamillah!' (in the name of God).
"I walked up to the old mission station. Not one brick remains upon another - all is totally destroyed. The few fruit-trees planted by the pious hands of the Austrian Missionaries remain in a tangled wilderness by the river's bank. The beautiful avenue of large lemon trees has been defaced by the destruction of many boughs, while the ground beneath is literally covered by many thousands of withered lemons that have fallen neglected from the branches without a hand to gather them. The natives will not eat them, thus the delicious fruit has been wasted; perhaps sixty or eighty bushels have rotted on the earth. I trust that the seeds I have already sown will have a more useful result than the lost labour of the unfortunate missionaries. It would be heartbreaking to them could they see the miserable termination of all their good works.
April 16. - The mileage from the junction of the Bahr Giraffe I have calculated at 364 to this point (Gondokoro); but I deduct 10 per cent., as we took several wrong turns of the river. The distance may be about 330 miles.
From Bahr Giraffe, junction to Gondokoro 330 miles
Upper Nile junction to Dubba on Bahr Giraffe 48 miles
Dubba to Lower Nile junction 300 miles
Lower Nile junction to Sobat 38 miles
Sobat to Khartoum 693 miles
1,409 miles to Gondokoro."
The chief Allorron arrived with a number of his people, and asked for "araki and cognac!" He is a big and savage-looking naked brute of the lowest description, his natural vices having been increased by constant associations with the slave-hunters. This man declared that his people could not prepare materials for the camp, as the neighbouring tribes were hostile; and he could not venture to collect bamboos.
I told him that if my orders were not obeyed, the troops would be obliged to be sheltered in his villages upon arrival, as I could not allow them to be exposed to the rains.