CHAPTER XIII. Gondokoro - A mutiny quelled - Arrival of Speke and Grant - The sources of the Nile - Arab duplicity - The boy-slave's story - Saat adopted.

Having landed all my stores, and housed my corn in some granaries belong to Koorshid Aga, I took a receipt from him for the quantity, and gave him an order to deliver one half from my depot to Speke and Grant, should they arrive at Gondokoro during my absence in the interior. I was under an apprehension that they might arrive by some route without my knowledge, while I should be penetrating south.

There were a great number of men at Gondokoro belonging to the various traders, who looked upon me with the greatest suspicion. They could not believe that simple travelling was my object, and they were shortly convinced that I was intent upon espionage in their nefarious ivory business and slave-hunting.

I had heard when at Khartoum that the most advanced trading station was fifteen days' march from Gondokoro. I now understood that the party from that station were expected to arrive at Gondokoro in a few days, and I determined to await them, as their ivory porters returning might carry my baggage and save the backs of my transport animals.

After a few days' detention at Gondokoro I saw unmistakable sign of discontent among my men, who had evidently been tampered with by the different traders' parties. One evening several of the most disaffected came to me with a complaint that they had not enough meat, and that they must be allowed to make a razzia upon the cattle of the natives to procure some oxen. This demand being of course refused, they retired, muttering in an insolent manner their determination of stealing cattle with or without my permission. I said nothing at the time, but early on the following morning I ordered the drum to beat and the men to fall in. I made them a short address, reminding them of the agreement made at Khartoum to follow me faithfully, and of the compact that had been entered into, that they were neither to indulge in slave-hunting nor in cattle-stealing. The only effect of my address was a great outbreak of insolence on the part of the ringleader of the previous evening. This fellow, named Eesur, was an Arab, and his impertinence was so violent that I immediately ordered him twenty-five lashes, as an example to the others.

Upon the vakeel's (Saati) advancing to seize him, there was a general mutiny. Many of the men threw down their guns and seized sticks, and rushed to the rescue of their tall ringleader. Saati was a little man, and was perfectly helpless. Here was an escort! These were the men upon whom I was to depend in hours of difficulty and danger on an expedition into unknown regions! These were the fellows that I had considered to be reduced "from wolves to lambs"!

I was determined not to be balked, but to insist upon the punishment of the ringleader. I accordingly went toward him with the intention of seizing him; but he, being backed by upward of forty men, had the impertinence to attack me, rushing forward with a fury that was ridiculous. To stop his blow and to knock him into the middle of the crowd was not difficult, and after a rapid repetition of the dose I disabled him, and seizing him by the throat I called to my vakeel Saati for a rope to bind him, but in an instant I had a crowd of men upon me to rescue their leader.

How the affair would have ended I cannot say; but as the scene lay within ten yards of my boat, my wife, who was ill with fever in the cabin, witnessed the whole affray, and seeing me surrounded, she rushed out, and in a few moments she was in the middle of the crowd, who at that time were endeavoring to rescue my prisoner. Her sudden appearance had a curious effect, and calling upon several of the least mutinous to assist, she very pluckily made her way up to me. Seizing the opportunity of an indecision that was for the moment evinced by the crowd, I shouted to the drummer boy to beat the drum. In an instant the drum beat, and at the top of my voice I ordered the men to "fall in." It is curious how mechanically an order is obeyed if given at the right moment, even in the midst of mutiny. Two thirds of the men fell in and formed in line, while the remainder retreated with the ringleader, Eesur, whom they led away, declaring that he was badly hurt. The affair ended in my insisting upon all forming in line, and upon the ringleader being brought forward. In this critical moment Mrs. Baker, with great tact, came forward and implored me to forgive him if he kissed my hand and begged for pardon. This compromise completely won the men, who, although a few minutes before in open mutiny, now called upon their ringleader, Eesur, to apologize and all would be right. I made them rather a bitter speech, and dismissed them.

From that moment I felt that my expedition was fated. This outbreak was an example of what was to follow. Previously to leaving Khartoum I had felt convinced that I could not succeed with such villains for escort as these Khartoumers; thus I had applied to the Egyptian authorities for a few troops, but had been refused. I was now in an awkward position. All my men had received five months' wages in advance, according to the custom of the White Nile; thus I had no control over them. There were no Egyptian authorities in Gondokoro. It was a nest of robbers, and my men had just exhibited so pleasantly their attachment to me, and their fidelity! There was no European beyond Gondokoro, thus I should be the only white man among this colony of wolves; and I had in perspective a difficult and uncertain path, where the only chance of success lay in the complete discipline of my escort and the perfect organization of the expedition. After the scene just enacted I felt sure that my escort would give me more cause for anxiety than the acknowledged hostility of the natives.

I had been waiting at Gondokoro twelve days, expecting the arrival of Debono's party from the south, with whom I wished to return. Suddenly, on the 15th of February, I heard the rattle of musketry at a great distance and a dropping fire from the south. To give an idea of the moment I must extract verbatim from my journal as written at the time.

"Guns firing in the distance; Debono's ivory porters arriving, for whom I have waited. My men rushed madly to my boat, with the report that two white men were with them who had come from the SEA! Could they be Speke and Grant? Off I ran, and soon met them in reality. Hurrah for old England! They had come from the Victoria N'yanza, from which the Nile springs . . . . The mystery of ages solved! With my pleasure of meeting them is the one disappointment, that I had not met them farther on the road in my search for them; however, the satisfaction is, that my previous arrangements had been such as would have insured my finding them had they been in a fix . . . . My projected route would have brought me vis-a-vis with them, as they had come from the lake by the course I had proposed to take . . . . All my men perfectly mad with excitement. Firing salutes as usual with ball cartridge, they shot one of my donkeys - a melancholy sacrifice as an offering at the completion of this geographical discovery."

When I first met the two explorers they were walking along the bank of the river toward my boats. At a distance of about a hundred yards I recognized my old friend Speke, and with a heart beating with joy I took off my cap and gave a welcome hurrah! as I ran toward him. For the moment he did not recognize me. Ten years' growth of beard and mustache had worked a change; and as I was totally unexpected, my sudden appearance in the centre of Africa appeared to him incredible. I hardly required an introduction to his companion, as we felt already acquainted, and after the transports of this happy meeting we walked together to my diahbiah, my men surrounding us with smoke and noise by keeping up an unremitting fire of musketry the whole way. We were shortly seated on deck under the awning, and such rough fare as could be hastily prepared was set before these two ragged, careworn specimens of African travel, whom I looked upon with feelings of pride as my own countrymen. As a good ship arrives in harbor, battered and torn by a long and stormy voyage, yet sound in her frame and seaworthy to the last, so both these gallant travellers arrived at Gondokoro. Speke appeared the more worn of the two; he was excessively lean, but in reality was in good, tough condition. He had walked the whole way from Zanzibar, never having once ridden during that wearying march. Grant was in honorable rags, his bare knees projecting through the remnants of trousers that were an exhibition of rough industry in tailor's work. He was looking tired and feverish, but both men had a fire in the eye that showed the spirit that had led them through.

They wished to leave Gondokoro as soon as possible, en route for England, but delayed their departure until the moon should be in a position for an observation for determining the longitude. My boats were fortunately engaged by me for five months, thus Speke and Grant could take charge of them to Khartoum.

At the first blush on meeting them, I had considered my expedition as terminated by having met them, and by their having accomplished the discovery of the Nile source; but upon my congratulating them with all my heart upon the honor they had so nobly earned, Speke and Grant with characteristic candor and generosity gave me a map of their route, showing that they had been unable to complete the actual exploration of the Nile, and that a most important portion still remained to be determined. It appeared that in N. lat. 2 "degrees" 17', they had crossed the Nile, which they had tracked from the Victoria Lake; but the river, which from its exit from that lake had a northern course, turned suddenly to the WEST from Karuma Falls (the point at which they crossed it at lat. 2 "degrees" 17'). They did not see the Nile again until they arrived in N. lat. 3 "degrees" 32', which was then flowing from the west-south-west. The natives and the King of Unyoro (Kamrasi) had assured them that the Nile from the Victoria N'yanza, which they had crossed at Karuma, flowed westward for several days' journey, and at length fell into a large lake called the Luta N'zige; that this lake came from the south, and that the Nile on entering the northern extremity almost immediately made its exit, and as a navigable river continued its course to the north, through the Koshi and Madi countries. Both Speke and Grant attached great importance to this lake Luta N'zige, and the former was much annoyed that it had been impossible for them to carry out the exploration. He foresaw that stay-at-home geographers, who, with a comfortable arm-chair to sit in, travel so easily with their fingers on a map, would ask him why he had not gone from such a place to such a place? why he had not followed the Nile to the Luta N'zige lake, and from the lake to Gondokoro? As it happened, it was impossible for Speke and Grant to follow the Nile from Karuma: the tribes were fighting with Kamrasi, and no strangers could have gone through the country. Accordingly they procured their information most carefully, completed their map, and laid down the reported lake in its supposed position, showing the Nile as both influent and effluent precisely as had been explained by the natives.

Speke expressed his conviction that the Luta N'zige must be a second source of the Nile, and that geographers would be dissatisfied that he had not explored it. To me this was most gratifying. I had been much disheartened at the idea that the great work was accomplished, and that nothing remained for exploration. I even said to Speke, "Does not one leaf of the laurel remain for me?" I now heard that the field was not only open, but that an additional interest was given to the exploration by the proof that the Nile flowed out of one great lake, the Victoria, but that it evidently must derive an additional supply from an unknown lake, as it entered it at the NORTHERN extremity, while the body of the lake came from the south. The fact of a great body of water such as the Luta N'zige extending in a direct line from south to north, while the general system of drainage of the Nile was from the same direction, showed most conclusively that the Luta N'zige, if it existed in the form assumed, must have an important position in the basin of the Nile.

My expedition had naturally been rather costly, and being in excellent order it would have been heartbreaking to return fruitlessly. I therefore arranged immediately for my departure, and Speke most kindly wrote in my journal such instructions as might be useful.

On the 26th of February Speke and Grant sailed from Gondokoro. Our hearts were too full to say more than a short "God bless you!" They had won their victory; my work lay all before me. I watched their boat until it turned the corner, and wished them in my heart all honor for their great achievement. I trusted to sustain the name they had won for English perseverance, and I looked forward to meeting them again in dear old England, when I should have completed the work we had so warmly planned together.

I now weighed all my baggage, and found that I had fifty-four cantars (100 lbs. each). The beads, copper, and ammunition were the terrible onus. I therefore applied to Mahommed, the vakeel of Andrea Debono, who had escorted Speke and Grant, and I begged his co-operation in the expedition. Mahommed promised to accompany me, not only to his camp at Faloro, but throughout the whole of my expedition, provided that I would assist him in procuring ivory, and that I would give him a handsome present. All was agreed upon, and my own men appeared in high spirits at the prospect of joining so large a party as that of Mahommed, which mustered about two hundred men.

At that time I really placed dependence upon the professions of Mahommed and his people; they had just brought Speke and Grant with them, and had received from them presents of a first-class double-barrelled gun and several valuable rifles. I had promised not only to assist them in their ivory expeditions, but to give them something very handsome in addition, and the fact of my having upward of forty men as escort was also an introduction, as they would be an addition to the force, which is a great advantage in hostile countries. Everything appeared to be in good trim, but I little knew the duplicity of these Arab scoundrels. At the very moment that they were most friendly, they were plotting to deceive me, and to prevent the from entering the country. They knew that, should I penetrate the interior, the IVORY TRADE of the White Nile would be no longer a mystery, and that the atrocities of the slave trade would be exposed, and most likely be terminated by the intervention of European Powers; accordingly they combined to prevent my advance, and to overthrow my expedition completely. All the men belonging to the various traders were determined that no Englishman should penetrate into the country; accordingly they fraternized with my escort, and persuaded them that I was a Christian dog that it was a disgrace for a Mahometan to serve; that they would be starved in my service, as I would not allow them to steal cattle; that they would have no slaves; and that I should lead them - God knew where - to the sea, from whence Speke and Grant had started; that they had left Zanzibar with two hundred men, and had only arrived at Gondokoro with eighteen, thus the remainder must have been killed by the natives on the road; that if they followed me and arrived at Zanzibar, I would find a ship waiting to take me to England, and I would leave them to die in a strange country. Such were the reports circulated to prevent my men from accompanying me, and it was agreed that Mahommed should fix a day for our pretended start IN COMPANY, but that he should in reality start a few days before the time appointed; and that my men should mutiny, and join his party in cattle-stealing and slave-hunting. This was the substance of the plot thus carefully concocted.

My men evinced a sullen demeanor, neglected all orders, and I plainly perceived a settled discontent upon their general expression. The donkeys and camels were allowed to stray, and were daily missing, and recovered with difficulty. The luggage was overrun with white ants, instead of being attended to every morning. The men absented themselves without leave, and were constantly in the camps of the different traders. I was fully prepared for some difficulty, but I trusted that when once on the march I should be able to get them under discipline.

Among my people were two blacks: one, "Richarn," already described as having been brought up by the Austrian Mission at Khartoum; the other, a boy of twelve years old, "Saat." As these were the only really faithful members of the expedition, it is my duty to describe them. Richarn was an habitual drunkard, but he had his good points: he was honest, and much attached to both master and mistress. He had been with me for some months, and was a fair sportsman, and being of an entirely different race from the Arabs, he kept himself apart from them, and fraternized with the boy Saat.

Saat was a boy that would do no evil. He was honest to a superlative degree, and a great exception to the natives of this wretched country. He was a native of "Fertit," and was minding his father's goats, when a child of about six years old, at the time of his capture by the Baggara Arabs. He described vividly how men on camels suddenly appeared while he was in the wilderness with his flock, and how he was forcibly seized and thrust into a large gum sack and slung upon the back of a camel. Upon screaming for help, the sack was opened, and an Arab threatened him with a knife should he make the slightest noise. Thus quieted, he was carried hundreds of miles through Kordofan to Dongola on the Nile, at which place he was sold to slave-dealers and taken to Cairo to be sold to the Egyptian government as a drummer-boy. Being too young he was rejected, and while in the dealer's hands he heard from another slave, of the Austrian Mission at Cairo, that would protect him could he only reach their asylum. With extraordinary energy for a child of six years, he escaped from his master and made his way to the Mission, where he was well received, and to a certain extent disciplined and taught as much of the Christian religion as he could understand. In company with a branch establishment of the Mission, he was subsequently located at Khartoum, and from thence was sent up the White Nile to a Mission-station in the Shillook country. The climate of tie White Nile destroyed thirteen missionaries in the short space of six months, and the boy Saat returned with the remnant of the party to Khartoum and was readmitted into the Mission. The establishment was at that time swarming with little black boys from the various White Nile tribes, who repaid the kindness of the missionaries by stealing everything they could lay their hands upon. At length the utter worthlessness of the boys, their moral obtuseness, and the apparent impossibility of improving them determined the chief of the Mission to purge his establishment from such imps, and they were accordingly turned out. Poor little Saat, the one grain of gold amid the mire, shared the same fate.

It was about a week before our departure from Khartoum that Mrs. Baker and I were at tea in the middle of the court-yard, when a miserable boy about twelve years old came uninvited to her side, and knelt down in the dust at her feet. There was something so irresistibly supplicating in the attitude of the child that the first impulse was to give him something from the table. This was declined, and he merely begged to be allowed to live with us and to be our boy. He said that he had been turned out of the Mission, merely because the Bari boys of the establishment were thieves, and thus he suffered for their sins. I could not believe it possible that the child had been actually turned out into the streets, and believing that the fault must lie in the boy, I told him I would inquire. In the mean time he was given in charge of the cook.

It happened that on the following day I was so much occupied that I forgot to inquire at the Mission, and once more the cool hour of evening arrived, when, after the intense heat of the day, we sat at table in the open court-yard. Hardly were we seated when again the boy appeared, kneeling in the dust, with his head lowered at my wife's feet, and imploring to be allowed to follow us. It was in vain that I explained that we had a boy and did not require another; that the journey was long and difficult, and that he might perhaps die. The boy feared nothing, and craved simply that he might belong to us. He had no place of shelter, no food; had been stolen from his parents, and was a helpless outcast.

The next morning, accompanied by Mrs. Baker, I went to the Mission and heard that the boy had borne an excellent character, and that it must have been BY MISTAKE that he had been turned out with the others. This being conclusive, Saat was immediately adopted. Mrs. Baker was shortly at work making him some useful clothes, and in an incredibly short time a great change was effected. As he came from the hands of the cook, after a liberal use of soap and water, and attired in trousers, blouse, and belt, the new boy appeared in a new character.

From that time he considered himself as belonging absolutely to his mistress. He was taught by her to sew. Richarn instructed him in the mysteries of waiting at table, and washing plates, etc., while I taught him to shoot, and gave him a light double-barrelled gun. This was his greatest pride.

Not only was the boy trustworthy, but he had an extraordinary amount of moral in addition to physical courage. If any complaint were made, and Saat was called as a witness, far from the shyness too often evinced when the accuser is brought face to face with the accused, such was Saat's proudest moment; and, no matter who the man might be, the boy would challenge him, regardless of all consequences.

We were very fond of this boy; he was thoroughly good, and in that land of iniquity, thousands of miles away from all except what was evil, there was a comfort in having some one innocent and faithful in whom to trust.