Part 12 (1/2)

”Well,” I replied, ”you are the rain-maker; why don't you give your people rain?” ”Give my people rain!” said Katchiba. ”I give them rain if they don't give me goats? You don't know my people. If I am fool enough to give them rain before they give me the goats, they would let me starve! No, no! let them wait. If they don't bring me supplies of corn, goats, fowls, yams, merissa, and all that I require, not one drop of rain shall ever fall again in Obbo! Impudent brutes are my people! Do you know, they have positively threatened to kill me unless I bring the rain?

”They shan't have a drop. I will wither the crops and bring a plague upon their flocks. I'll teach these rascals to insult me!”

With all this bl.u.s.ter, I saw that old Katchiba was in a great dilemma, and that he would give anything for a shower, but that lie did not know how to get out of the sc.r.a.pe. It was a common freak of the tribes to sacrifice the rain-maker should he be unsuccessful. He suddenly altered his tone, and asked, ”Have you any rain in your country?” I replied that we had, every now and then. ”How do you bring it? Are you a rain-maker?”

I told him that no one believed in rain-makers in our country, but that we understood how to bottle lightning (meaning electricity). ”I don't keep mine in bottles, but I have a houseful of thunder and lightning,”

he most coolly replied; ”but if you can bottle lightning, you must understand rain-making. What do you think of the weather to-day?”

I immediately saw the drift of the cunning old Katchiba; he wanted professional advice. I replied that he must know all about it, as he was a regular rain-maker. ”Of course I do,” he answered, ”but I want to know what YOU think of it.” ”Well,” I said, ”I don't think we shall have any steady rain, but I think we may have a heavy shower in about four days.”

I said this as I had observed fleecy clouds gathering daily in the afternoon. ”Just my opinion!” said Katchiba, delighted. ”In four or perhaps in five days I intend to give then one shower--just one shower.

Yes, I'll just step down to them now and tell the rascals that if they will bring me some goats by this evening and some corn to-morrow morning I will give them in four or five days just one shower.” To give effect to his declaration he gave several toots upon his magic whistle. ”Do you use whistles in your country?” inquired Katchiba. I only replied by giving so shrill and deafening a whistle on my fingers that Katchiba stopped his ears, and relapsing into a smile of admiration he took a glance at the sky from the doorway to see if any sudden effect had been produced. ”Whistle again,” he said, and once more I performed like the whistle of a locomotive. ”That will do; we shall have it,” said the cunning old rain-maker, and proud of having so knowingly obtained ”counsel's opinion” on his case, he toddled off to his impatient subjects.

In a few days a sudden storm of rain and violent thunder added to Katchiba's renown, and after the shower horns were blowing and nogaras were beating in honor of their chief. Entre nous, my whistle was considered infallible.

A bad attack of fever laid me up until the 31st of December. On the first day of January, 1864, I was hardly able to stand, and was nearly worn out at the very time that I required my strength, as we were to start south in a few days. Although my quinine had been long since exhausted, I had reserved ten grains to enable me to start in case the fever should attack me at the time of departure. I now swallowed my last dose.

It was difficult to procure porters; therefore I left all my effects at my camp in charge of two of my men, and I determined to travel light, without the tent, and to take little beyond ammunition and cooking utensils. Ibrahim left forty-five men in his zareeba, and on the 5th of January we started.

In four days' march we reached the Asua River, and on January 13th arrived at Shooa, in lat.i.tude 3 degrees 4'.

Two days after our arrival at Shooa all of our Obbo porters absconded.

They had heard that we were bound for Kamrasi's country, and having received exaggerated accounts of his power from the Shooa people, they had determined upon retreat; thus we were at once unable to proceed, unless we could procure porters from Shooa. This was exceedingly difficult, as Kamrasi was well known here, and was not loved. His country was known as ”Quanda,” and I at once recognized the corruption of Speke's ”Uganda.” The slave woman ”Bacheeta,” who had formerly given me in Obbo so much information concerning Kamrasi's country, was to be our interpreter; but we also had the luck to discover a lad who had formerly been employed by Mahommed in Faloro, who also spoke the language of Quanda, and had learned a little Arabic.

I now discovered that the slave woman Bacheeta had formerly been in the service of a chief named Sali, who had been killed by Kamrasi. Sali was a friend of Rionga (Kamrasi's greatest enemy), and I had been warned by Speke not to set foot upon Rionga's territory, or all travelling in Unyoro would be cut off. I plainly saw that Bacheeta was in favor of Rionga, as a friend of the murdered Sali, by whom she had had two children, and that she would most likely tamper with the guide, and that we should be led to Rionga instead of to Kamrasi. There were ”wheels within wheels.”

It was now reported that in the last year, immediately after the departure of Speke and Grant from Gondokoro, Debono's people had marched directly to Rionga, allied themselves to him, crossed the Nile with his people, and had attacked Kamrasi's country, killing about three hundred of his men, and capturing many slaves. I now understood why they had deceived me at Gondokoro: they had obtained information of the country from Speke's people, and had made use of it by immediately attacking Kamrasi in conjunction with Rionga.

This would be a pleasant introduction for me on entering Unyoro, as almost immediately after the departure of Speke and Grant, Kamrasi had been invaded by the very people into whose hands his messengers had delivered them, when they were guided from Unyoro to the Turks' station at Faloro. He would naturally have considered that the Turks had been sent by Speke to attack him; thus the road appeared closed to all exploration, through the atrocities of Debono's people.

Many of Ibrahim's men, at hearing this intelligence, refused to proceed to Unyoro. Fortunately for me, Ibrahim had been extremely unlucky in procuring ivory. The year had almost pa.s.sed away, and he had a mere nothing with which to return to Gondokoro. I impressed upon him how enraged Koors.h.i.+d would be should he return with such a trifle. Already his own men declared that he was neglecting razzias because he was to receive a present from me if we reached Unyoro. This they would report to his master (Koors.h.i.+d), and it would be believed should he fail in securing ivory. I guaranteed him 100 cantars (10,000 pounds) if he would push on at all hazards with me to Kamrasi and secure me porters from Shooa. Ibrahim behaved remarkably well. For some time past I had acquired a great influence over him, and he depended so thoroughly upon my opinion that he declared himself ready to do all that I suggested.

Accordingly I desired him to call his men together, and to leave in Shooa all those who were disinclined to follow us.

At once I arranged for a start, lest some fresh idea should enter the ever-suspicious brains of our followers and mar the expedition. It was difficult to procure porters, and I abandoned all that was not indispensable--our last few pounds of rice and coffee, and even the great sponging-bath, that emblem of civilization that had been clung to even when the tent had been left behind.

On the 18th of January, 1864, we left Shooa. The pure air of that country had invigorated us, and I was so improved in strength that I enjoyed the excitement of the launch into unknown lands. The Turks knew nothing of the route south, and I accordingly took the lead of the entire party. I had come to a distinct understanding with Ibrahim that Kamrasi's country should belong to ME; not an act of felony would be permitted; all were to be under my government, and I would insure him at least 100 cantars of tusks.

Eight miles of agreeable march through the usual park-like country brought us to the village of Fatiko, situated upon a splendid plateau of rock upon elevated ground with beautiful granite cliffs, bordering a level table-land of fine gra.s.s that would have formed a race-course. The high rocks were covered with natives, perched upon the outline like a flock of ravens.

We halted to rest under some fine trees growing among large isolated blocks of granite and gneiss. In a short time the natives a.s.sembled around us. They were wonderfully friendly, and insisted upon a personal introduction to both myself and Mrs. Baker. We were thus compelled to hold a levee--not the pa.s.sive and cold ceremony of Europe, but a most active undertaking, as each native that was introduced performed the salaam of his country by seizing both my hands and raising my arms three times to their full stretch above my head. After about one hundred Fatikos had been thus gratified by our submission to this infliction, and our arms had been subjected to at least three hundred stretches each, I gave the order to saddle the oxen immediately, and we escaped a further proof of Fatiko affection that was already preparing, as ma.s.ses of natives were streaming down the rocks hurrying to be introduced.

Notwithstanding the fatigue of the ceremony, I took a great fancy to these poor people. They had prepared a quant.i.ty of merissa and a sheep for our lunch, which they begged us to remain and enjoy before we started; but the pumping action of half a village not yet gratified by a presentation was too much, and mounting our oxen with aching shoulders we bade adieu to Fatiko.

On the following day our guide lost the road; a large herd of elephants had obscured it by trampling hundreds of paths in all directions. The wind was strong from the north, and I proposed to clear the country to the south by firing the prairies. There were numerous deep swamps in the bottoms between the undulations, and upon arrival at one of these green dells we fired the gra.s.s on the opposite side. In a few minutes it roared before us, and we enjoyed the grand sight of the boundless prairies blazing like infernal regions, and rapidly clearing a path south. Flocks of buzzards and the beautiful varieties of fly-catchers thronged to the dense smoke to prey upon the innumerable insects that endeavored to escape from the approaching fire.

CHAPTER XVIII

Greeting from Kamrasi's people--Suffering for the sins of others--Alone among savages--The free-masonry of Unyoro--Pottery and civilization.

After an exceedingly fatiguing march we reached the Somerset River, or Victoria White Nile, January 22d. I went to the river to see if the other side was inhabited. There were two villages on an island, and the natives came across in a canoe, bringing the BROTHER OF RIONGA.

The guide, as I had feared during the journey, had deceived us, and following the secret instructions of the slave woman Bacheeta, had brought us directly to Rionga's country.