CHAPTER XXI. TREACHERY.
For some days past, Kabba Rega had frequently sent his interpreters with messages, that he wished to sell the ivory which he had collected for the government. We had noticed on several occasions many people laden with large elephants' tusks, who invariably marched towards the same direction. The dragoman, Kadji-Barri, daily brought ivory for sale for the account of his master; and exchanged tusks for all kinds of trifles, such as porcelain cups and saucers, small musical boxes,
On 6th June, twenty-one tusks were purchased from the messengers of Kabba Rega, and I thought that the young king was getting tired of his sulky fit, and that we should be once more friends.
The supply of food was always a trouble. Every day was passed in repeated applications to the authorities for supplies, which were at length grudgingly bestowed.
On 7th June, there was nothing for the troops to eat. Although on 31st May we had received twenty loads of corn, these were simply the long narrow packages which are so neatly made of the plantain bark throughout Unyoro, but which contain very little.
Several times during the day Lieutenant-Colonel Abd-el-Kader, together with Monsoor, had been sent to the divan of Kabba Rega, to impress upon his chiefs the necessity of a supply of food. They explained my great annoyance, as this was precisely the result that I had foretold when Kabba Rega had neglected to clear the ground for cultivation.
At about 3 P.M., the tall chief Matonse appeared, together with Umbogo, and several natives, who carried five large jars of plantain cider. These were sent to me from Kabba Rega, with a polite but lying message, that "he much regretted the scarcity of corn; there was positively none in Masindi, but a large quantity would arrive to-morrow from Agguse." In the mean time he begged I would accept for the troops a present of five jars of cider.
I declined to accept the present, as I did not require drink, but solid food for the troops. The jars were therefore returned.
About sunset Matonse again appeared, accompanied by Umbogo and natives with SEVEN jars of cider, and two large packages of flour, which he assured me had been borrowed from Rahonka. He was exceedingly polite, and smiled and bowed, beseeching me to accept the cider, as plenty of corn would be sent on the following day, when better arrangements would be made for future supplies.
I could no longer refuse the cider, therefore I sent for Abd-el-Kader, and gave him five jars for the officers and troops.
It was at this time about seven o'clock, and we sat down to dinner in the divan, as it was too chilly to dine outside.
We had just finished dinner, when Abd-el-Kader suddenly entered the divan in a state of troubled excitement, to inform me that "many of the troops appeared to be dying, and they had evidently been POISONED by the plantain cider!"
I inquired "how many men had drunk from the jars?" He could not tell, but he feared that at least half the company had taken some portion, more or less. He had himself drunk a tumblerful, and he already felt uncomfortable, with a tightness of the throat, and a burning pain in his inside.
I at once flew to my medicinal arms. Independently of the large medicine-chest, I had a small box, about nine inches by five, which contained all that could be desired for any emergency. This little chest had been my companion for twenty-five years.
I begged my wife to get as much mustard and strong salt and water ready as she could mix in a hurry, and I started off with Abd-el-Kader and Lieutenant Baker. I immediately sent Monsoor to find Umbogo.
On arrival at the camp, which was about 120 yards distant, my first order was to double all the sentries.
I found the men in a terrible state. Several lay insensible, while about thirty were suffering from violent constriction of the throat, which almost prevented them from breathing. This was accompanied by spasms and burning pain in the stomach, with delirium, a partial palsy of the lower extremities, and in the worst cases, total loss of consciousness.
I opened the jaws of the insensible, and poured down a dessert-spoonful of water, containing three grains of emetic tartar, and, in about ten minutes, I dosed everybody who had partaken of the poisoned cider with the same emetic, while I insisted upon a flood of mustard and salt and water being swallowed. Fortunately we had everything at hand. The soldiers who were sound were all nursing the sick, and they poured down gallons of brine, until the patients began to feel the symptoms of a rough passage across the British Channel.
My servants always kept the lanterns trimmed - this was a positive order. The lights were now moving to and fro, and having seen all the poisoned under the full effect of a large dose of tartarised antimony, with an accompaniment of strong brine and mustard, I returned to the divan, where I found Umbogo had just arrived with Monsoor, who had met with him at his own hut.
I sat quietly at the table as though nothing had occurred.
"Are you fond of merissa, Umbogo?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Would you like to drink some that you brought from Kabba Rega, this evening?"
"Yes, if you have any to spare," replied Umbogo.
I ordered Monsoor to fill a gourd-shell that would contain about a quart. This was handed to him, together with a reed.
Umbogo began to suck it vigorously through the tube. My wife thought he was shamming.
"Drink it off, Umbogo!" I exclaimed.
He drank with enjoyment - there was no mistake.
"Stop him! - that's enough, Umbogo! Don't drink it all." The man was evidently not guilty, although he had been employed to bring the poisoned stuff.