CHAPTER XVI. KAMRASI'S ADIEU.

It was the middle of November - not the wretched month that chills even the recollection of Old England, but the last of the ten months of rain that causes the wonderful vegetation of the fertile soil in Equatorial Africa. The Turks were ready to return to Shooa, and I longed for the change from this brutal country to the still wilder but less bloody tribe of Madi, to the north.

The quantity of ivory in camp was so large that we required 700 porters to carry both tusks and provisions, for the five days' march through uninhabited country. Kamrasi came to see us before we parted; he had provided the requisite porters. We were to start on the following day; he arrived with the Blissett rifle that had been given him by Speke. He told me that he was sorry we were going; and he was much distressed that he had burst his rifle! - he had hammered a large bullet in the endeavour to fit the bore; and the lump of lead having stuck in the middle, he had fired his rifle and split the barrel, which being of remarkably good metal had simply opened. He told me that it did not matter so very much after all, as he had neither powder nor ball (this was false, as Ibrahim had just given him a quantity), therefore his rifle would have been useless if sound; but he added, "You are now going home, where you can obtain all you require, therefore you will want for nothing; give me, before you leave, the little double-barrelled rifle that YOU PROMISED me, and a supply of ammunition!" To the last moment he was determined to persevere in his demand, and, if possible, to obtain my handy little Fletcher 24 rifle, that had been demanded and refused ever since my residence in his country. I was equally persistent in my refusal, telling him that there were many dangers on the road, and I could not travel unarmed.

On the following morning our people crossed the river: this was a tedious operation, as our party consisted of about 700 porters and eighty armed men: Ibrahim had arranged to leave thirty men with Kamrasi to protect him from the M'was until he should return in the following season, when he promised to bring him a great variety of presents. By 4 P.M. the whole party had crossed the river with ivory and baggage. We now brought up the rear, and descended some fine crags of granite to the water's edge; there were several large canoes in attendance, one of which we occupied, and, landing on the opposite shore, we climbed up the steep ascent and looked back upon Unyoro, in which we had passed ten months of wretchedness. It had poured with rain on the preceding day, and the natives had constructed a rough camp of grass huts.

On the break of day on the 17th November we started. It would be tedious to describe the journey, as, although by a different route, it was through the same country that we had traversed on our arrival from Shooa. After the first day's march we quitted the forest and entered upon the great prairies. I was astonished to find after several days' journey a great difference in the dryness of the climate. In Unyoro we had left the grass an intense green, the rain having been frequent: here it was nearly dry, and in many places it had been burnt by the native hunting parties. From some elevated points in the route I could distinctly make out the outline of the mountains running from the Albert lake to the north, on the west bank of the Nile; these would hardly have been observed by a person who was ignorant of their existence, as the grass was so high that I had to ascend a white ant-hill to look for them; they were about sixty miles distant, and my men, who knew them well, pointed them out to their companions.

The entire party, including women and children, amounted to about 1,000 people. Although they had abundance of flour, there was no meat, and the grass being high there was no chance of game. On the fourth day only I saw a herd of about twenty tetel (hartebeest) in an open space that had been recently burnt. We were both riding upon oxen that I had purchased of Ibrahim, and we were about a mile ahead of the flag in the hope of getting a shot; dismounting from my animal, I stalked the game down a ravine, but upon reaching the point that I had resolved upon for the shot, I found the herd had moved their position to about 250 paces from me. They were all looking at me, as they had been disturbed by the oxen and the boy Saat in the distance. Dinner depended on the shot. There was a leafless bush singed by the recent fire; upon a branch of this I took a rest, but just as I was going to fire they moved off - a clean miss! - whizz went the bullet over them, but so close to the ears of one that it shook its head as though stung by a wasp, and capered round and round; the others stood perfectly still, gazing at the oxen in the distance. Crack went the left-hand barrel of the little Fletcher 24, and down went a tetel like a lump of lead, before the satisfactory sound of the bullet returned from the distance. Off went the herd, leaving a fine beast kicking on the ground. It was shot through the spine, and some of the native porters, having witnessed the sport from a great distance, threw down their loads and came racing towards the meat like a pack of wolves scenting blood. In a few minutes the prize was divided, while a good portion was carried by Saat for our own use; the tetel, weighing about 500 lbs. vanished among the crowd in a few minutes.

On the fifth day's march from the Victoria Nile we arrived at Shooa; the change was delightful after the wet and dense vegetation of Unyoro: the country was dry, and the grass low and of fine quality. We took possession of our camp, that had already been prepared for us in a large courtyard well cemented with cow-dung and clay, and fenced with a strong row of palisades. A large tree grew in the centre. Several hits were erected for interpreters and servants, and a tolerably commodious hut, the roof overgrown with pumpkins, was arranged for our mansion.

That evening the native women crowded to our camp to welcome my wife home, and to dance in honour of our return; for which exhibition they expected a present of a cow.

Much to my satisfaction, I found that my first-rate riding ox that had been lamed during the previous year by falling into a pitfall, and had been returned to Shooa, was perfectly recovered; thus I had a good mount for my journey to Gondokoro.

Some months were passed at Shooa, during which I occupied my time by rambling about the neighbourhood, ascending the mountain, making duplicates of my maps, and gathering information, all of which was simply a corroboration of what I had heard before, excepting from the East. The Turks had discovered a new country called Lira, about thirty miles from Shooa; the natives were reported as extremely friendly, and their country as wonderfully fertile and rich in ivory. Many of the people were located in the Turks' camp; they were the same type as the Madi, but wore their hair in a different form: it was woven into a thick felt, which covered the shoulders, and extended as low upon the back as the shoulderblade.

They were not particular about wearing false hair, but were happy to receive subscriptions from any source; in case of death the hair of the deceased was immediately cut off and shared among his friends to be added to their felt. When in full dress (the men being naked) this mass of felt was plastered thickly with a bluish clay, so as to form an even surface; this was most elaborately worked with the point of a thorn, so as to resemble the cuttings of a file: white pipe-clay was then arranged in patterns on the surface, while an ornament made of either an antelope's or giraffe's sinew was stuck in the extremity and turned up for about a foot in length. This when dry was as stiff as horn, and the tip was ornamented with a tuft of fur - the tip of a leopard's tail being highly prized.

I am not aware that any Lord Chancellor of England or any member of the English bar has ever penetrated to Central Africa, therefore the origin of the fashion and the similarity in the wigs is most extraordinary; a well-blacked barrister in full wig and nothing else would thoroughly impersonate a native of Lira. The tribe of Lira was governed by a chief; but he had no more real authority than any of the petty chiefs who ruled the various portions of the Madi country. Throughout the tribes excepting the kingdom of Unyoro, the chiefs had very little actual power, and so uncertain was their tenure of office that the rule seldom remained two generations in one family. On the death of the father, the numerous sons generally quarrelled for his property and for the right of succession, ending in open war, and in dividing the flocks and herds, each settling in a separate district and becoming a petty chief; thus there was no union throughout the country, and consequently great weakness. The people of Lira were fighting with their friends the Langgos - those of Shooa with the natives of Fatiko; nor were there two neighbouring tribes that were at peace. It was natural that such unprincipled parties as the Khartoum traders should turn this general discord to their own advantage; thus within the ten months that I had been absent from Shooa a great change had taken place in the neighbourhood. The rival parties of Koorshid and Debono, under their respective leaders, Ibrahim and Mahommed Wat-el-Mek, had leagued themselves with contending tribes, and the utter ruin of the country was the consequence. For many miles' circuit from Shooa, the blackened ruins of villages and deserted fields bore witness to the devastation committed; cattle that were formerly in thousands, had been driven off, and the beautiful district that had once been most fertile was reduced to a wilderness. By these wholesale acts of robbery and destruction the Turks had damaged their own interests, as the greater number of the natives had fled to other countries; thus it was most difficult to obtain porters to convey the ivory to Gondokoro. The people of the country had been so spoiled by the payment in cows instead of beads for the most trifling services, that they now refused to serve as porters to Gondokoro under a payment of four cows each; thus, as 1,000 men were required, 4,000 cows were necessary as payment. Accordingly razzia must be made.

Upon several expeditions, the Turks realized about 2,000 cows; the natives had become alert, and had driven off their herds to inaccessible mountains. Debono's people at their camp, about twenty-five miles distant, were even in a worse position than Ibrahim; they had so exasperated the natives by their brutal conduct, that tribes formerly hostile to each other now coalesced and combined to thwart the Turks by declining to act as porters; thus their supply of ivory could not be transported to Gondokoro. This led to extra violence on the part of the Turks, until at last the chief of Faloro (Werdella) declared open war, and suddenly driving off the Turks' cattle, he retired to the mountains, from whence he sent an impertinent message inviting Mahommed to try to rescue them.

This act of insolence united the rival trading parties against Werdella: those of Ibrahim and Mahommed agreed to join in an attack upon his village. They started with a force of about 300 armed men, and arriving at the foot of the mountains at about 4 A.M. they divided their force into two parties of 150 men each, and ascended the rocky hill upon two sides, intending to surprise the village on one side, while the natives and their herds would be intercepted in their flight upon the other.

The chief, Werdella, was well experienced in the affairs of the Turks, as he had been for two or three years engaged with them in many razzias upon the adjoining tribes - he had learnt to shoot while acting as their ally, and having received as presents two muskets, and two brace of pistols from Debono's nephew Amabile, he thought it advisable to supply himself with ammunition; he had therefore employed his people to steal a box of 500 cart ridges and a parcel containing 10,000 percussion caps from Mahommed's camp. Werdella was a remarkably plucky fellow; and thus strengthened by powder and ball, and knowing the character of the Turks, he resolved to fight.

Hardly had the Turks' party of 150 men advanced half way up the mountain path in their stealthy manner of attempting a surprise, when they were assailed by a shower of arrows, and the leader who carried the flag fell dead at the report of a musket fired from behind a rock. Startled at this unexpected attack, the Turks' party recoiled, leaving their flag upon the ground by the dead standard-bearer. Before they had time to recover from their first panic, another shot was fired from the same shelter at a distance of about thirty paces, and the brains of one of the Turks' party were splattered over his comrades, as the ball took the top of his head completely off. Three Bagara Arabs, first-rate elephant hunters, who were with the Turks, now rushed forward and saved the flag and a box of ammunition that the porter had thrown down in his flight. These Arabs, whose courage was of a different class to that of the traders' party, endeavoured to rally the panic-stricken Turks, but just as they were feebly and irresolutely advancing, another shot rang from the same fatal rock, and a man who carried a box of cartridges fell dead. This was far too hot for the traders' people, who usually had it all their own way, being alone possessed of firearms. A disgraceful flight took place, but Werdella was again too much for them. On their arrival at the bottom of the hill, they ran round the base to join the other division of their party; this effected, they were consulting together as to retreat or advance, when close above their heads from an overhanging rock another shot was fired, and a man dropped, shot through the chest. The head of Werdella was distinctly seen grinning in triumph; - the whole party fired at him! "He's down!" was shouted, as the head disappeared; - a puff of smoke from the rock, and a shriek from one of the Turks at the sound of another musket shot from the same spot, settled the question; a man fell mortally wounded. Four men were shot dead, and one was brought home by the crestfallen party to die in two or three days; five shots had been fired, and five killed, by one native armed with two guns against 300 men. "Bravo, Werdella!" I exclaimed, as the beaten party returned to camp and Ibrahim described the fight. He deserved the Victoria Cross. This defeat completely cowed the cowardly Turks; nor would any persuasions on the part of Ibrahim induce them to make another razzia within the territory of the redoubted chief, Werdella.

During the absence of the traders' party upon various expeditions, about fifty men were left in their camp as headquarters. Nothing could exceed the brutality of the people; they had erected stills, and produced a powerful corn spirit from the native merissa; their entire time was passed in gambling, drinking, and fighting, both by night and day. The natives were ill-treated, their female slaves and children brutally ill-used, and the entire camp was a mere slice from the infernal regions. My portion of the camp being a secluded courtyard, we were fortunately independent.

On one occasion a razzia had been made; and although unsuccessful in cattle, it had been productive in slaves. Among the captives was a pretty young girl of about fifteen; she had been sold by auction in the camp, as usual, the day after the return from the razzia, and had fallen to the lot of one of the men. Some days after her capture, a native from the village that had been plundered confidently arrived at the camp with the intention of offering ivory for her ransom. Hardly had he entered the gateway, when the girl, who was sitting at the door of her owner's hut, caught sight of him, and springing to her feet, she ran as fast as her chained ankles would allow her, and threw herself in his arms, exclaiming, "My father!" It was her father, who had thus risked his life in the enemy's camp to ransom his child.

The men who were witnesses to this scene immediately rushed upon the unfortunate man, tore him from his daughter, and bound him tightly with cords.

While this was enacting, I happened to be in my hut; thus I was not an eye-witness. About an hour later, I called some of my men to assist me in cleaning some rifles. Hardly had we commenced, when three shots were fired within a hundred paces of my hut. My men exclaimed, "They have shot the Abid (native)!" "What native?" I inquired. They then related the story I have just described. Brutal as these bloodthirsty villains were, I could hardly believe in so cold-blooded a murder. I immediately sent my people and the boy Saat to verify it; they returned with the report that the wretched father was sitting on the ground, bound to a tree, dead; shot by three balls.

I must do Ibrahim the justice to explain that he was not in the camp; had he been present, this murder would not have been committed, as he scrupulously avoided any such acts in my vicinity. A few days later, a girl about sixteen, and her mother, who were slaves, were missing; they had escaped. The hue and cry was at once raised. Ibrahimawa, the "Sinbad" of Bornu, who had himself been a slave, was the most indefatigable slave-hunter. He and a party at once started upon the tracks of the fugitives. They did not return until the following day; but where was the runaway who could escape from so true a bloodhound? The young girl and her mother were led into camp tied together by the neck, and were immediately condemned to be hanged. I happened to be present, as, knowing the whole affair, I had been anxiously awaiting the result. I took this opportunity of explaining to the Turks that I would use any force to prevent such an act, and that I would report the names of all those to the Egyptian authorities who should commit any murder that I could prove; neither would I permit the two captives to be flogged - they were accordingly pardoned. [It will be observed that at this period of the expedition I had acquired an extraordinary influence over the people, that enabled me to exert an authority which saved the lives of many unfortunate creatures who would otherwise have been victims.]

There was among the slaves a woman who had been captured in the attack upon Fowooka. This woman I have already mentioned as having a very beautiful boy, who at the time of the capture was a little more than a year old.

So determined was her character, that she had run away five times with her child, but on every occasion she had been recaptured, after having suffered much by hunger and thirst in endeavouring to find her way back to Unyoro through the uninhabited wilderness between Shooa and Karuma. On the last occasion of her capture, the Turks had decided upon her being incorrigible, therefore she had received 144 blows with the coorbatch (hippopotamus whip), and had been sold separately from her child to the party belonging to Mahommed Wat-el-Mek. Little Abbai had always been a great pet of Mrs. Baker's, and the unfortunate child being now motherless, he was naturally adopted, and led a most happy life. Although much under two years old, he was quite equal in precocity to a European child of three; in form and strength he was a young Hercules, and, although so young, he would frequently follow me out shooting for two or three miles, and return home with a guinea-fowl hanging over his shoulder, or his hands full of pigeons. Abbai became very civilized; he was taught to make a Turkish "salaam" upon receiving a present, and to wash his hands both before and after his meals. He had the greatest objection to eat alone, and he generally invited three or four friends of about his own age to dine with him; on such occasions, a large wooden bowl, about twenty inches in diameter, was filled with soup and porridge, around which steaming dish the young party sat, happier in their slavery than kings in power. There were two lovely girls of three and eight years of age that belonged to Ibrahim; these were not black, but of the same dark brown tint as Kamrasi and many of the Unyoro people. Their mother was also there, and their history being most pitiable, they were always allowed free access to our hut and the dinner bowl. These two girls were the daughters of Owine, one of the great chiefs who were allied with Fowooka against Kamrasi. After the defeat of Fowooka, Owine and many of his people with their families quitted the country, and forming an alliance with Mahommed Wat-el-Mek, they settled in the neighbourhood of his camp at Faloro, and built a village. For some time they were on the best terms, but some cattle of the Turks being missed, suspicion fell upon the new settlers. The men of Mahommed's party desired that they might be expelled, and Mahommed, in a fit of drunken fury, at once ordered them to be MASSACRED. His men, eager for murder and plunder, immediately started upon their bloody errand, and surrounding the unsuspecting colony, they fired the huts and killed EVERY MAN, including the chief, Owine; capturing the women and children as slaves. Ibrahim had received the mother and two girls as presents from Mahommed Wat-el-Mek. As the two rival companies had been forced to fraternize, owing to the now generally hostile attitude of the surrounding tribes, the leaders had become wonderfully polite, exchanging presents, getting drunk together upon raw spirits, and behaving in a brotherly manner - according to their ideas of fraternity. There was a peculiar charm in the association with children in this land of hardened hearts and savage natures: there is a time in the life of the most savage animal when infancy is free from the fierce instincts of race; even the lion's whelp will fondle the hand that it would tear in riper years: thus, separated in this land of horrors from all civilization, and forced by hard necessity into the vicinity of all that was brutal and disgusting, it was an indescribable relief to be surrounded by those who were yet innocent, and who clung in their forsaken state to those who looked upon them with pity. We had now six little dependents, none of whom could ever belong to us, as they were all slaves, but who were well looked after by my wife; fed, amused, and kept clean. The boy Abbai was the greatest favourite, as, having neither father nor mother, he claimed the greatest care: he was well washed every morning, and then to his great delight smeared all over from head to toes with red ochre and grease, with a cock's feather stuck in his woolly pate. He was then a most charming pet savage, and his toilette completed, he invariably sat next to his mistress, drinking a gourd-shell of hot milk, while I smoked my early morning pipe beneath the tree. I made bows and arrows for my boys, and taught them to shoot at a mark, a large pumpkin being carved into a man's head to excite their aim. Thus the days were passed until the evening; at that time a large fire was lighted to create a blaze, drums were collected, and after dinner a grand dance was kept up by the children, until the young Abbai ended regularly by creeping under my wife's chair, and falling sound asleep: from this protected spot he was carried to his mat, wrapped up in a piece of old flannel (the best cloth we had), in which he slept till morning. Poor little Abbai! I often wonder what will be his fate, and whether in his dreams he recalls the few months of happiness that brightened his earliest days of slavery.

Although we were in good health in Shooa, many of the men were ill, suffering generally from headache; also from ulcerated legs; - the latter was a peculiar disease, as the ulcer generally commenced upon the ankle bone and extended to such a degree that the patient was rendered incapable of walking. The treatment for headache among all the savage tribes was a simple cauterization of the forehead in spots burnt with a hot iron close to the roots of the hair. The natives declared that the water was unwholesome from the small stream at the foot of the hill and that all those who drank from the well were in good health. I went down to examine the spring, which I found beautifully clear, while the appearance of the stream was quite sufficient to explain the opposite quality. As I was walking quietly along the bank, I saw a bright ray of light in the grass upon the opposite side; in another moment I perceived the head of a crocodile which was concealed in the grass, the brightness of the sun's reflection upon the eye having attracted my attention. A shot with the little 24 rifle struck just above the eye and killed it; - it was a female, from which we extracted several large eggs, all with hard shells.

The shooting that I had while at Shooa was confined to antelopes; of these there was no variety excepting waterbuck and hartebeest. Whenever I shot an animal the Shooa natives would invariably cut its throat, and drink the hot blood as it gushed from the artery. In this neighbourhood there was a great scarcity of game the natives of Lira described their country as teeming with elephants and rhinoceros; a fine horn of the latter they brought with them to Shooa. There is only one variety of rhinoceros that I have met with in the portions of Africa that I have visited: this is the two-horned, a very exact sketch of which I made of the head of one that I cut off after I had shot it. This two-horned black rhinoceros is extremely vicious. I have remarked that they almost invariably charge any enemy that they smell, but do not see; they generally retreat if they observe the object before obtaining the wind.

In my rambles in search of game, I found two varieties of cotton growing indigenous to the country: one with a yellow blossom was so short in the staple as to be worthless, but the other (a red blossom) produced a fine quality that was detached with extreme ease from the seeds. A sample of this variety I brought to England, and deposited the seed at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. A large quantity was reported to be grown at Lira, some of which was brought me by the chief; this was the inferior kind. I sketched the old chief of Lira, who when in full dress wore a curious ornament of cowrie shells upon his felt wig that gave him a most comical appearance, as he looked like the caricature of an English judge. The Turks had extended their excursions in their search for ivory, and they returned from an expedition sixty miles east of Shooa, bringing with them two donkeys that they had obtained from the natives. This was an interesting event, as for nearly two years I had heard from the natives of Latooka, and from those of Unyoro, that donkeys existed in a country to the east. These animals were the same in appearance as those of the Soudan; the natives never rode, but simply used them to transport wood from the forest to their villages; the people were reported as the same in language and appearance as the Lira tribe.