Our enemies were not confined to the land only: the crocodiles in the neighbourhood of Gondokoro were exceedingly ferocious. As the natives were so much in the habit of swimming to and fro with their cattle, these wily creatures had been always accustomed to claim a toll in the shape of a cow, calf, or nigger. Two of Abou Saood's sailors were carried off on two consecutive days. One of my soldiers, while engaged with many others in water, only hip deep, was seized by a crocodile. The man, being held by the leg below the knee, made a good fight, and thrust his fingers into the creature's eyes; his comrades at the same time assisted and rescued him from absolute destruction; but the leg-bone was so mashed and splintered in many places that he was obliged to submit to amputation.

One of my sailors had a narrow escape. He and many others were engaged in collecting the leaves of a species of water-convolvulus that make an excellent spinach; this plant is rooted on the muddy bank, but it runs upon the surface of the water, upon which its pink blossoms are very ornamental.

The sailor was stooping from the bank to gather the floating leaves, when he was suddenly seized by the arm at the elbow-joint; his friends immediately caught him round the waist, and their united efforts prevented him from being dragged into the water. The crocodile, having tasted blood, would not quit its hold, but tugged and wrenched the arm completely off at the elbow-joint, and went off with its prize. The unfortunate man, in excruciating agony, was brought to the camp, where it was necessary to amputate another piece slightly above the lacerated joint.

I made a point of carrying a rifle at all times, simply to destroy these terrible reptiles. There never was a better rifle than "the Dutchman," made by Holland, of Bond Street. This little weapon was a double-barrelled breechloader, and carried the Boxer bullet of government calibre, with a charge of three drachms of powder. The accuracy of both barrels was extraordinary; it was only sighted up to 250 yards, but by taking the head very full, it carried with great precision up to 300. I could generally make certain of crocodiles if basking on a sandbank within a hundred yards, as I could put the bullet exactly in the right place, either behind the eye, or right through the centre of the shoulder. This handy rifle weighed 9-3/4 lbs., and throughout the expedition it was almost as much one of my component parts as a bone of my body. I had a large supply of ammunition; thus I never lost an opportunity of shooting at a crocodile's head if I saw one above the surface. On many occasions they never moved from the shot when basking on sand-banks, but were simply extinguished.

One of our women went to the river to wash, but never returned. This was close to our diahbeeah; and the water being shallow, there is no doubt that she was seized by a crocodile.

I was one day returning from head-quarters to my station, a distance of a mile and a half along the river's bank, when I noticed the large head of a crocodile about thirty yards from the shore. I knew every inch of the river, and I was satisfied that the water was shallow. A solitary piece of waving rush that grew upon the bank, exactly opposite the crocodile, would mark the position; thus, stooping down, I quietly retreated inland from the bank, and then running forward, I crept gently towards the rush. Stooping as low as possible, I advanced till very near the bank (upon which grew tufts of grass), until, by slowly raising my head, I could observe the head of the crocodile in the same position, not more than twenty-six or twenty-eight yards from me. At that distance, the Dutchman could hit a half-crown; I therefore made sure of bagging. The bank was about four feet above the water; thus the angle was favourable, and I aimed just behind the eye. Almost as I touched the trigger, the crocodile gave a convulsive start, and turning slowly on its back, it stretched its four legs above the surface, straining every muscle; it then remained motionless in this position in water about two feet deep.

My horse was always furnished with a long halter or tethering-rope: thus I ordered the syce and another man to jump into the river and secure the crocodile by a rope fastened round the body behind the fore-legs. This was quickly accomplished, and the men remained knee-deep hauling upon the rope to prevent the stream from carrying away the body. In the mean time Monsoor had mounted my horse and galloped off for assistance to the camp of the "Forty Thieves."

Crocodiles are very tenacious of life, and although they may be shot through the brain and be actually dead for all practical purposes, they will remain motionless at first, but they will begin instinctively to move the limbs and tail a few minutes after receiving the shot. If lying upon a sand-bank, or in deep water, they would generally disappear unless secured by a rope, as the spasmodic movements of the limbs and tail would set upon the water, and the body would be carried away.

The crocodile, that had appeared stone dead, now began to move its tail, and my two men who were holding on to the rope cried out that it was still alive. It was in vain that I assured the frightened fellows that it was dead. I was on the bank, and they were in the water within a few feet of the crocodile, which made some difference in our ideas of its vivacity. Presently the creature really began to struggle, and the united efforts of the men could hardly restrain it from getting into deeper water. The monster now began to yawn, which so terrified the men that they would have dropped the rope and fled had they not been afraid of the consequences, as I was addressing them rather forcibly from the bank. I put another shot through the shoulder of the struggling monster, which appeared to act as a narcotic until the arrival of the soldiers with ropes. No sooner was the crocodile well secured than it began to struggle violently; but a great number of men hauled upon the rope, and when it was safely landed, I gave it a blow with a sharp axe on the back of the neck, which killed it by dividing the spine.

It was now dragged along the turf until we reached the camp, where it was carefully measured with a tape, and showed an exact length of 12 feet 3 inches from snout to end of tail.

The stomach contained about five pounds' weight of pebbles, as though it had fed upon flesh resting upon a gravel bank, and had swallowed the pebbles that had adhered. Mixed with the pebbles was a greenish, slimy matter that appeared woolly. In the midst of this were three undeniable witnesses that convicted the crocodile of wilful murder. A necklace and two armlets, such as are worn by the negro girls, were taken from the stomach! The girl had been digested. This was an old malefactor that was a good riddance.

I have frequently seen crocodiles upwards of eighteen feet in length, and there can be little doubt that they sometimes exceed twenty; but a very small creature of this species may carry away a man while swimming. The crocodile does not attempt to swallow an animal at once, but having carried it to a favourite feeding-place, generally in some deep hole, it tears it limb from limb with teeth and claws and devours it at leisure.

The camp of the "Forty Thieves" had been finished some time since: the gardens were flourishing, and I erected a "shadoof," or Egyptian double bucket and lever for irrigation. Two men could lift and throw out 3,600 gallons per hour. I made the calculation as nearly as possible: the iron buckets contained slightly more than four gallons each; thus, two men with the double shadoof lifted eight gallons every eight seconds (or one lift in eight seconds): a gallon per second gave 3,600 per hour.

I never allowed the "Forty Thieves" to work at the general head-quarters, but kept them as my personal escort. When at Tewfikeeyah I had been particular in their drill, and I had endeavoured to teach them to shoot accurately. The Egyptians became better shots than the Soudanis, but I much preferred the latter; by degrees I drafted out all the Egyptians excepting four, and filled their places with well-selected blacks, mostly taken from the grenadier company of the regiment.

At the commencement of the expedition this small body of men had well earned the title of the "Forty THIEVES" by which they were always known among the English party, although publicly in the camp they were only designated as "The Forty."

I had taken great personal care of this little corps, and the result was most satisfactory. The thieves had been got rid of. I never forgave a fault until after punishment had been received; I never allowed the doctor to attend them when ill, but invariably attended to them myself. I had endeavoured to instil a feeling of pride among them, and encouraged them with an idea of their superiority to the other regiments. I actually succeeded in establishing a code of honour throughout the corps, until it was considered a disgrace to "The Forty" that a theft should be committed. "Is he not one of 'The Forty'?" was the usual exclamation if any doubt was thrown on the character of a soldier. The fact of his belonging to "The Forty" was a sufficient certificate.

The regimental arrangements at head-quarters had been sadly neglected, as the men were necessarily so much engaged in other work that they had no time for drill except on Fridays. The "Forty Thieves" were well officered, having the advantage of a lieutenant-colonel and a captain, together with two most active and courageous lieutenants, who had lately received their promotion for good conduct: these were my faithful Monsoor Agha, and Ferritch Agba. The young soldier, who had been condemned to be shot for desertion the previous year, had shown such devotion and activity that he was promised the next vacancy in the rank of corporal. The non-commissioned officers were soldiers who had seen much service, and the corps was in a highly efficient state with the exception of the rifle practice.

While at Tewfikeeyah, having paid much attention to this all-important point, I had instructed the officers and men personally, and I had established prize-shooting to give an additional interest to the work. Both officers and men now took an immense pleasure in rifle practice, but it appeared almost impossible to make them good shots. Out of forty-eight officers and men, I had only fifteen who could be called real hitters; the others were only shooters.

The great difficulty was to instruct them in distances. I frequently took them away from camp and made them guess the distance in paces from some particular object, such as a tree, or white-ant hill. Very few of the men had the slightest idea of this important subject; but at the commencement, even the officers were perfectly ignorant. At length, by constant practice at the target, varying the range from 100 to 300 yards, about a third of the corps became fair shots, and these few were tolerably good judges of distance up to 400 yards. The colonel, Abd-el- Kader, became an excellent shot, as he was an officer who took great interest in his profession. The remainder of the corps shot as well as they could, and took great pains; but although they were considered crack marksmen by the line-regiments, their reputation would have suffered if their deficiencies had been exposed. At any rate, they were very dangerous with such a weapon as the snider, when firing into masses of the enemy.

I distinguished "The Forty" from the line regiment by a scarlet uniform; this was a simple red flannel shirt, worn outside their Zouave trouser, and secured by a belt, with ammunition-pouches, round the waist. This uniform, with linen gaiters, and with a head-dress of the scarlet fez, bound by a turban of cobalt blue, looked remarkably well.

In active service, the officers carried sniders; thus, the corps complete consisted of forty-eight sniders; but together with Lieutenant Baker and myself, it comprised fifty rifles.

The high state of discipline and the fine morale of this little force was a good example of what may be effected, even with a material of so low a reputation as the negro. My men were natives of various tribes scattered over an immense extent of Central Africa. Each had a certain love of the country from which he had been originally stolen by the slave-traders when a boy, before he found his way into government service. I always endeavoured to keep up this feeling, and to create emulation among the men of different tribes; thus, a native of Pongo would assume a superiority over a Dinka, although the Dinka considered himself of a higher class than a Pongo. A Noba regarded himself as superior to all others. But by degrees I established a principle that was generally accepted by them all - that an old soldier with a good reputation should take precedence of all others, without reference to caste or tribe. Thus, the aim of all young privates would be to become old soldiers, and to rise in rank according to their merits. There were several excellent examples of good soldiers in "The Forty," among whom stood first Mohammed-el-Feel, sergeant of the body-guard. The latter comprised ten men, selected from "The Forty" as creme de la creme; these men were exempted from all labour, and they formed the guard of two sentries by night, and one by day.

The discipline of this picked corps - "Abd-el-Kader and the Forty Thieves" - was the commencement of a great moral reform, that resulted in an improved tone throughout the force, which ultimately did the great work of the expedition.

The efficiency of "The Forty" was an established fact of what could be accomplished where officers and men were governed by that peculiar confidence that bound them together as one man. Throughout the expedition, after this confidence had been once established, I never for an instant doubted the fidelity of my men; they would have followed me through fire or water, without the slightest hesitation. In action, "The Forty" were always in advance, and they were watched with eagerness and even pride by the other regiments: when thrown out as skirmishers they climbed rocks, pushed through jungles, and cleared the enemy from the country with irresistible activity. Promotion from the line to "The Forty" was considered as an honour, and so perfect was the esprit de corps, that in the event of a vacancy being caused by sickness, or other cause, the men reported to me the character of the new-comer before he was admitted, and respectfully declined to receive him if he bore a doubtful reputation; virtually he was "black-balled."

A corps of this character was a nucleus for an extension of military morality. The "Forty Thieves" would not admit a thief; and they became generally accepted as a model of what government soldiers should become.

I believe that if it were possible to convert the greater portion of African savages into disciplined soldiers, it would be the most rapid stride towards their future civilization. The fact of obedience being enforced, and the necessity of order, industry, and discipline, together with clothing and cleanliness, is all that is absolutely required to bring a savage within the bounds of good management. A savage who has led a wild and uncontrolled life must first learn to obey authority before any great improvement can be expected. A soldier must obey, and he learns to respect his officers as his superiors; thus, a savage who has learnt all that he knows from his officers, whom he admits as his superiors, will quickly adopt their religion, as he has been obliged to adopt their military rules. My soldiers were all Mohammedans, simply because they had been taught by their officers that good soldiers should be true believers.

As I have already described, my station was a mile and a half distant from head-quarters, and the arrangements under my personal inspection were very different from the lax discipline of the officers at Gondokoro.

The natives of Belinian had disregarded the warning they had received, and now, having leagued themselves with the Baris of Gondokoro, they were constantly on the watch for an opportunity of surprising the cattle guards. Concealing themselves behind thick foliage, they stalked the careless sentries with the adroitness of American Indians, and sometimes succeeded in making a dash and driving off a few head of cattle.

I was obliged to take extra precautions during the night, as my little station was dependent only upon "The Forty," while the camp at head-quarters was occupied by 1,100 men, in addition to about 400 sailors, and the six Englishmen.

The natives disturbed us every night, and were constantly fired at by the sentries. I served out cartridges containing eight-mould shot, each to be rammed down over the ball in the muskets for the night sentries: these would be more likely to hit a thief in the dark than a single bullet. The muskets were given to the sentries in addition to their rifles.

I placed my men every night, concealed by cover so as to command the various approaches. The station was conveniently situated, as a large and deep lake completely defended the north flank for a distance of about 400 yards. The river defended the east face: thus we were only open on two sides, one of which was commanded by the camp of "The Forty."

On 28th June it rained steadily during the night. The Baris considered that our sentries would be under cover, or would most likely not expect an attack; they therefore resolved to attempt a surprise. Their advanced scouts approached warily in the dark, but long before they had reached the sentries, they passed within a few feet of a party of guards concealed behind a white-ant hill. A shot from a musket stretched one Bari dead. The guards pounced upon another and seized him by the throat. This was a native of Belinian; he was accordingly hanged on the following morning to a tree in the pathway by which the Belinian Baris arrived through the forest to attack the camp. This it was hoped would be a warning that might deter others. (Throughout the expedition this was the only native who was hanged. Neither was any native shot or otherwise executed when taken prisoner, except a spy at Belinian.)

On 5th July the natives made an attempt on the cattle, and shot a sentry with an arrow.

On 7th July the Baris attacked the camp during the night.

On 8th July I sent a company to take possession and to hold the island. They met the natives; and Monsoor and Achmet Bash Choush had a narrow escape from lances. The Baris lost three killed and two prisoners.

On that day the river rose four feet six, which was the highest flood during the wet season.

On 10th July, at mid-day, several hundred Baris, having cautiously approached the grazing cattle unobserved, made a sudden rush from the bushes upon the guards, killing one soldier and wounding another. The soldiers belonged to the line, and must have behaved badly, as the musket and cartouche-box and belt were stolen and carried off from the dead man. The shots from the guard immediately alarmed the camp. The horses were saddled, and, attended by Lieutenant Baker, I rode hard in pursuit. The natives had gained the forest and had scattered, but we rode a red-painted savage to bay, who fought to the last, shooting two arrows at me, which I avoided by dropping quickly on my horse's neck, and a third arrow stuck deeply in Mr. Baker's saddle as he escaped the well-aimed shot by spurring his horse across the line of sight. These arrows were shot at a distance of a very few yards. The native was killed.

On 12th July the Baris attempted to surprise both my station and the camp at head-quarters.

On the 13th the natives repeated the attempt; but one was shot dead by the sentry at Gondokoro; also another met the same fate at my station.

Nearly every night we were subject to attempts at surprise. This was excellent practice for the troops, as it taught them the, necessity of keeping a good look-out; at the same time it was very wearying, as the men had to work hard all day, and they were kept awake at night.

The Baris were irrepressible vermin that gave us no rest. My men were all occupied in building the station, therefore it was impossible for me to take a flying column and give the Baris a severe lesson; but I made up my mind that when the work should be finished, I would take the fight out of them most thoroughly. They now considered us fair game, that they might insult as they thought proper; and I heard from our two faithful allies, Sherroom and Morgian, that they imagined we should become afraid of them, and then return to Khartoum.

They teased us at night like rats, but they lost many men. I rather admired them for their persistence, as the scouts must have been adventurous fellows. Whenever these people were taken prisoners, they confessed that they were the spies of the main body that was concealed at some distance in the rear. The favourite method of a Bari attack is during the night, when the darkness reduces the danger of fire-arms. On such occasions they generally halt either in forest or high grass, according to circumstances, about half a mile from the camp they propose to attack. Scouts are sent forward to ascertain the position and vigilance of sentries before the advance of the main body. The scouts, being quite naked, crawl upon their hands and knees until the darkness permits them to approach within a few yards of the sentries. They then lie flat upon their bellies unobserved until they can retreat to the expectant body in their rear.

The attacking force now advances in perfect silence, and approaching upon hands and knees in the same manner as the scouts, they suddenly spring upon the sentries, and with wild yells make a general rush upon the camp. This sudden attack would be extremely dangerous unless provided against; and in this manner large parties of the slave-hunters have been completely destroyed.

Our passive resistance to the numerous native attempts at surprise had been misconstrued by the Baris into timidity. The news had spread throughout the country that we should not venture far inland: thus a grand alliance had been made among the tribes. The Baris desired to make friends with their powerful enemy, the Loquia: they accordingly invited this tribe to form an alliance and to join in a combined attack upon Gondokoro, by which means they hoped to overpower and destroy our force, and to become possessed of many thousand cattle which were now at head-quarters.

The Loquia consented; thus we were exposed to a grand coalition. In the mean time Abou Saood and his people, in their camp on the west side of the river, continued to be most friendly with the enemies of the government, and supplied the Belinian natives with ammunition.

At 1.30. a.m., on July 21, I was awakened by the sound of firing at head-quarters.

I was dressed and armed in a few minutes. The bugle sounded the alarm, and "The Forty" fell into position.

I heard the bugles at head-quarters, together with a confused din of native drums, horns, and yells. The first shots had appeared to proceed from the sentries, but these were shortly succeeded by heavy file-firing from the whole force at the camp. An attack had evidently been made, and a regular fight was going on: it was therefore to be expected that my small force would soon have to act on the defensive. Spare ammunition was quickly in readiness, and we were well prepared.

In the mean time, a general action was growing hotter every moment; the yells of the natives and the din of their horns became louder. I was momentarily expecting to hear the sound of cannon, and I was speculating upon the effect that the fire of ten guns loaded with case shot would have among such a crowd of enemies; but to my astonishment not a gun was fired. Simply the roll of musketry continued.

In about half an hour the native yells grew fainter, the noise of their horns and drums was reduced, and the heavy firing dwindled to dropping shots. I heard the bugles sound "cease firing." I then heard "the advance." Again firing commenced, this time in volleys; then I heard once more "cease firing," and then "the retreat:" the attack was repulsed.

I could not understand why my little station had not been attacked; but I subsequently heard that the natives were more afraid of the "Forty Thieves" than of the entire force. Added to this was the powerful reason that I had only a few cows for milk, while the attraction of many thousand head of cattle induced an attack on the camp at Gondokoro.

On the following morning before sunrise I rode up to camp to hear the news. It appeared that the natives had actually surprised the sentries. We had lost a corporal, killed; and a lieutenant and one soldier were wounded by arrows.

The Baris and the Loquia had attacked in large force with the intention of burning the station, as many were provided with flaming firebrands, with which they had advanced bravely to the edge of the thorn fence. Had the station not been protected by this defence it is probable that the enemy might have succeeded in firing the houses.

As usual, the troops had fired badly. Such a fusilade as I had heard should have covered the plain with dead. The officers and men declared that great numbers of the enemy were killed, but their comrades had carried off the bodies. This was true to a certain extent, as I saw blood in many directions, and we found one Loquia lying dead with two bullet wounds, through the head and thigh.

There can be no doubt that the camp was surprised through the neglect of the patrol and the sleepiness of sentries, and it was only saved by the thorn fence and the fire of so large a force as 1,100 men. The colonel in command of the troops, Raouf Bey, could give no satisfactory explanation for the silence of the artillery, but he subsequently told me they HAD FORGOTTEN ITS EXISTENCE in the excitement of the moment. Another officer told me they had brought up one gun, but could not find the key of the ammunition. I remembered what David said in his haste, and I came to the conclusion that they had been disgracefully surprised.

I determined to lose no time in protecting the station by a ditch and earthwork, so that I could leave a garrison without risk, and I would then attack the country in every direction.

The iron magazines were completed, and all goods and supplies were stored. The camp was so far finished that the men were housed. I therefore drew a plan for the fort, which I intrusted to the care of Mr. Higginbotham, the chief engineer, for execution. I gave orders that all hands, including the sailors, should immediately be employed to dig the fosse. The expedition was well supplied with tools, and the work was commenced with vigour, as the officers and men did not object to have a deep ditch between them and the enemy.

I also planned a triangular fort as a protection to my small herd of about a hundred milch cows at my own station. The "Forty Thieves" did not require a fort, but the cattle might be carried off by a sudden rush that would induce a stampede unless they were well secured.

"The Forty" set to work, assisted daily by thirty men from head-quarters, and we soon had a strong fort, with ditch and rampart, that defied attack.

A short time after the grand surprise of the camp at head-quarters, the last attempt was made upon my little station, which ended as usual in my men being well on the alert, and in the death of one of the scouts, shot by the outlying guard through the thigh. Before he died, he confessed that the Belinian and the Loquia, together with the Baris of Gondokoro, had united in the general attack on the camp on the 21st; but that they had lost many men, who, being badly wounded, had died on the road during the retreat.

My little station from this date went out of fashion, and the Baris declined to attack, as they subsequently declared that my sentries were never asleep like those at head-quarters.

"The Forty" had earned a reputation that increased their self-respect. Not only were they nearly sure to kill the wily scouts, but patrols at night searched out the natives, and generally came upon them with fatal effect.