Author: Samuel White Baker

Chapter IV. The Camp at Tewfikeeyah.

"May 1.—The camp is beginning to look civilized. Already the underwood has been cleared, and the large trees which border the river have their separate proprietors. There is no home like a shady tree in a tropical climate; here we are fortunate in having the finest mimosas, which form a cool screen. I have apportioned the largest trees among the higher officers. The English quarter of the camp is already arranged, and the whole force is under canvas. A few days ago this was a wilderness; now there are some hundred new tents arranged in perfectly straight rows so as to form streets. This extensive plot of white tents, occupying a frontage of four hundred yards, and backed by the bright green forest, looks very imposing from the river.

"The English quarter was swept clean, and as the surface soil on the margin of the river was a hard white sand, the place quickly assumed a neat and homely appearance. I had a sofa, a few chairs, and a carpet arranged beneath a beautiful shady mimosa, where I waited the arrival of the true king of the Shillooks—Quat Kare.

"In a few minutes he was introduced by an aide-de-camp, accompanied by two wives, four daughters, and a large retinue. Like all the Shillooks, he was very tall and thin. As his wardrobe looked scanty and old, I at once gave him a long blue shirt which nearly reached to his ankles, together with an Indian red scarf to wear as a waistband. When thus attired I presented him with a tarboosh (fez); all of which presents he received without a smile or the slightest acknowledgment. When dressed with the assistance of two or three of the soldiers who had volunteered to act as valets, he sat down on the carpet, upon which he invited his family to sit near him. There was a profound silence. The king appeared to have no power of speech; he simply fixed his eyes upon myself and my wife; then slowly turned them upon Lieutenant Baker and the officers in attendance. The crowd was perfectly silent.

"I was obliged to commence the conversation by asking him `whether he was really Quat Kare, the old king of the Shillooks? as I had heard his death reported.’

"Instead of replying, he conferred with one of his wives, a woman of about sixty, who appeared to act as prime minister and adviser. This old lady immediately took up the discourse, and very deliberately related the intrigues of the Koordi governor of Fashoda, which had ended in the ruin of her husband. It appeared that the Koordi did not wish that peace should reign throughout the land. The Shillooks were a powerful tribe, numbering upwards of a million, therefore it was advisable to sow dissension amongst them, and thus destroy their unity. Quat Kare was a powerful king, who had ruled the country for more than fifty years. He was the direct descendant of a long line of kings; therefore he was a man whose influence was to be dreaded. The policy of the Koordi determined that he would overthrow the power of Quat Kare, and after having vainly laid snares for his capture, the old king fled from the governor of Fashoda as David fled from Saul and hid in the cave of Adullam. The Koordi was clever and cunning in intrigue; thus, he wrote to Djiaffer Pacha, the governor-general of the Soudan, and declared that Quat Kare the king of the Shillooks was DEAD; it was therefore necessary to elect the next heir, Jangy for whom he requested the firman of the Khedive. The firman of the Khedive arrived in due course for the pretender Jangy, who was a distant connexion of Quat Kare, and in no way entitled to the succession. This intrigue threw the country into confusion. Jangy was proclaimed king by the Koordi, and was dressed in a scarlet robe with belt and sabre. The pretender got together a large band of adherents who were ready for any adventure that might yield them plunder. These natives, who knew the paths and the places where the vast herds of cattle were concealed, acted as guides to the Koordi; and the faithful adherents of the old king, Quat Kare, were plundered, oppressed, and enslaved without mercy, until the day that I had fortunately arrived in the Shillook country, and caught the Koordi in the very act of kidnapping.

"I had heard this story a few days before, and I was much struck with the clear and forcible manner in which the old wife described the history.

"Here we have an average picture of Soudan rule. In a country blessed with the most productive soil and favourable climate, with a population estimated at above a million, the only step towards improvement, after seven years of possession, is a system of plunder and massacre. Instead of peace, a series of intrigues have thrown the country into hopeless anarchy. With a good government, this fertile land might produce enormous wealth in the cultivation of corn and cotton. I arranged with the king that he should wait patiently, and that I would bring the affair before the proper authority; in the mean time, his people should return to their villages.

"After a feast upon an ox, and the entertainment of the magnetic battery and the wheel of life, I gave Quat Kare, and the various members of his family, an assortment of presents, and sent them back rejoicing in the No. 8 steamer. I had been amused by the stoical countenance of the king while undergoing a severe shock from the battery. Although every muscle of his arms was quivering, he never altered the expression of his features. One of his wives followed his example, and resisted a shock with great determination, and after many attempts she succeeded in extracting a necklace from a basin of water so highly charged, that her hand was completely cramped and paralysed.

"I have thoroughly gained the confidence of the natives, as vast herds of cattle are now fearlessly brought to graze on the large island opposite the camp. The natives assure me that all the male children that may be born this year will be called the `Pacha,’ in commemoration of the release given to the captives.

"A soldier was caught this afternoon in the act of stealing a fowl from a native. I had him flogged and secured in irons for five days. I have determined upon the strictest discipline, in spite of the old prejudice. As the greater portion of the Egyptian regiment is composed of felons, convicted of offences in Cairo, and transported to the White Nile, my task is rather difficult in establishing a reformation. The good taste of the authorities might be questioned for supplying me with a regiment of convicts to carry out an enterprise where a high state of discipline and good conduct are essential to success."

I gave the name Tewfikeeyah [*] to the new station, which rapidly grew into a place of importance. It was totally unlike an Egyptian camp, as all the lines were straight. Deep ditches, cut in every necessary direction, drained the station to the river. I made a quay about 500 yards in length, on the bank of the river, by which the whole fleet could lie, and embark or disembark cargo. A large stable contained the twenty horses, which by great care had kept their condition. It was absolutely necessary to keep them in a dark stable on account of the flies, which attacked all animals in swarms. Even within the darkened building it was necessary to light fires composed of dried horse-dung, to drive away the these persecuting insects. The hair fell completely off the ears and legs of the donkeys (which were allowed to ramble about), owing to the swarms of flies that irritated the skin; but in spite of the comparative comfort of a stable, the donkeys preferred a life of out-door independence, and fell off in condition if confined to a house. The worst flies were the small grey species, with a long proboscis, similar to those that are often seen in houses in England.

[*Footnote: After the Khedive’s eldest son, Mahomed Tewfik Pacha]

In an incredibly short time the station fell into shape. I constructed three magazines of galvanized iron, each eighty feet in length, and the head storekeeper, Mr. Marcopolo, at last completed his arduous task of storing the immense amount of supplies that had been contained in the fleet of vessels.

This introduced us to the White Nile rats, which volunteered their services in thousands, and quickly took possession of the magazines by tunneling beneath, and appearing in the midst of a rat’s paradise, among thousands of bushels of rice, biscuits, lentils, &c. The destruction caused by these animals was frightful. They gnawed holes in the sacks, and the contents poured upon the ground like sand from an hour-glass, to be immediately attacked and destroyed by white ants. There was no lime in the country, nor stone of any kind, thus it was absolutely impossible to stop the ravages of white ants except by the constant labour of turning over the vast masses of boxes and stores, to cleanse them from the earthen galleries which denote their presence.

I had European vegetable seeds of all kinds, and having cleared and grubbed up a portion of forest, we quickly established gardens. The English quarter was particularly neat. The various plots were separated by fences, and the ground was under cultivation for about two acres extending to the margin of the river. I did not build a house for myself, as we preferred our comfortable diahbeeah, which was moored alongside the garden, from the entrance of which, a walk led to a couple of large shady mimosas that formed my public divan, where all visitors were received.

In a short time we had above ground sweet melons, watermelons, pumpkins, cabbages, tomatoes, cauliflowers, beet-root, parsley, lettuce, celery, &c., but all the peas, beans, and a very choice selection of maize that I had received from England, were destroyed during the voyage. Against my express orders, the box had been hermetically sealed, and the vitality of the larger seeds was entirely gone. Seeds should be simply packed in brown paper bags and secured in a basket.

The neighbouring country was, as usual in the White Nile districts, flat and uninteresting. Forest and bush clothed the banks of the river, but this formed a mere fringe for a depth of about half a mile, beyond which all was open prairie.

Although there was a considerable extent of forest, there was a dearth of useful timber for building purposes. The only large trees were a species of mimosa, named by the Arabs "kook." We were very short of small rowing boats, those belonging to the steamers were large and clumsy, and I wished to build a few handy dingies that would be extremely useful for the next voyage up the obstructions of the Bahr Giraffe. I therefore instructed the English shipwrights to take the job in hand, and during a ramble through the forest they selected several trees. These were quickly felled, and the sawyers were soon at work cutting planks, keels, and all the necessary wood for boat-building. It is a pleasure to see English mechanics at work in a wild country; they finish a job while an Egyptian workman is considering how to do it. In a very short time Mr. Jarvis, the head shipwright, had constructed an impromptu workshop, with an iron roof, within the forest; several sets of sawyers were at work, and in a few days the keel of a new boat was laid down.

The chief mechanical engineer, Mr. McWilliam, was engaged in setting up the steam saw-mills, and in a few weeks after our first arrival in this uninhabited wilderness, the change appeared magical. In addition to the long rows of white tents, and the permanent iron magazines, were hundreds of neat huts arranged in exact lines; a large iron workshop containing lathes, drilling machines, and small vertical saw machine; next to this the blacksmith’s bellows roared; and the constant sound of the hammer and anvil betokened a new life in the silent forests of the White Nile. There were several good men who had received a European mechanical education among those I had brought from Egypt; these were now engaged with the English engineers in repairing the engine of the No. 10 steamer, which required a new piston. I ordered a number of very crooked bill-hooks to be prepared for cutting the tangled vegetation during our next voyage. The first boat, about sixteen feet long, was progressing, and the entire station was a field of industry. The gardens were green with vegetables, and everything would have been flourishing had the troops been in good health. Those miserable Egyptians appeared to be in a hopeless condition morally. It was impossible to instil any spirit into them, and if sick, they at once made up their minds to die. It is to be hoped that my regiment of convicts was not a fair sample of the spirit and intelligence of the Egyptian fellah. Some of them DESERTED.

There is an absurd prejudice among the men that the grinding of flour upon the usual flat millstone is an unmanly task that should always be performed by a woman. This is a very ancient prejudice, if we may judge by the symbols found upon the flat millstones of the ancient Egyptians. We also hear in the Testament, "two women shall be grinding together; one shall be taken, the other left." There was a scarcity of women in our station, and the grinding of the corn would have given rise to much discontent had I not experienced this difficulty in a former voyage, and provided myself with steel corn-mills. I had one of these erected for each company of troops, and in addition to the usual labour, I always sentenced men under punishment to so many hours at the mill.

Although this country was exceedingly rich in soil, it was entirely uninhabited on our side (the east) of the river. This had formerly been the Dinka country, but it had been quite depopulated by razzias made for slaves by the former and present governors of Fashoda. These raids had been made on a large scale, with several thousand troops, in addition to the sharp slave-hunters, the Baggara Arabs, as allies. The result was almost the extermination of the Dinka tribe. It seemed incomprehensible to the Shillook natives that a government that had only lately made slave-hunting a profession should suddenly turn against the slave-hunters.

I frequently rode on horseback about the country, and wherever I found a spot slightly raised above the general level, I was sure to discover quantities of broken pottery, the vestiges of villages, which had at a former time been numerous. There was very little game, but now and then ostriches were seen stalking about the yellow plains of withered grass. On one occasion I was riding with Lieutenant Baker, accompanied by a few orderlies, when I distinguished the forms of several ostriches at a great distance. They were feeding on the flat plain where it was hopeless to attempt an approach. I was just replacing my telescope, when I observed an ostrich emerge from behind some bushes, about 400 yards’ distance. This was a male bird, by the black colour, and it appeared to be feeding towards the scattered bush on my left. We were at the moment partially concealed by the green foliage. I immediately dismounted, and leaving the party behind the bushes, I ran quickly forward, always concealed by the thick thorns, until I thought I must be somewhere within shot, unless the bird had discovered me and escaped without my knowledge. I now went cautiously and slowly forward, stooping under the bushes when necessary, and keeping a good look out on all sides, as I expected that the ostrich must be somewhere in the jungle. At length, as I turned round a clump of thick thorns, I sighted the bird racing away with immense speed straight from me at about 130 yards. I raised the 150-yard sight of the Dutchman, and taking him very steadily, as the bird kept a perfectly straight course, I fired. The ostrich at once fell with so great a shock upon the hard, parched ground, that the air was full of feathers. I stepped 130 long paces, and found that the bullet had struck the bird in the centre of the back, killing it instantly. My party came up to my whistle, and I despatched a mounted orderly to camp to bring men and donkeys.

Although I have been many years in Africa, this was the first and the last ostrich that I have ever bagged. It was a very fine male, and the two thighs and legs were a very fair load for a strong donkey.

I have seen erroneous accounts of ostriches designated as two varieties, the black and the grey. The black, with white feathers in the wings and tail, is simply the male, and the grey the female. The feathers of this bird were old and in bad order. The fat is much esteemed by the Arabs as an external application for rheumatism. I found the stomach rich in scorpions, beetles, leaves of trees, and white rounded quartz pebbles. The bird must have come from a considerable distance as there was neither rock nor pebble in the neighbourhood.

On my return to camp I carved an artificial ostrich head from a piece of wood, and made false eyes with the neck of a wine bottle. I intended to stick this head upon a pole, concealed in a linen fishing rod case, and to dress up my cap with thick plumes of ostrich feathers. I have no doubt that it would be possible to approach ostriches in grass by this imitation, as the pole would be carried in the left hand, and all the movements of the ostriches might be easily imitated. The pole in the left hand rested on the ground would make a good rest for the rifle when the moment arrived for the shot.

Heavy rains set in, and the hitherto dry plains became flooded and swampy, thus I never had an opportunity to try my false ostrich.

The Shillooks were now become our fast friends. The camp was crowded daily with natives who came by water from a considerable distance to traffic with the soldiers. Like all negroes, they were sharp traders, with a Jewish tendency in their bargains. They brought raw cotton and provisions of all kinds in exchange for cotton manufactures and iron. Their country consists simply of rich alluvial soil, therefore all iron must be imported, and it is of great value. The best articles of exchange for this country would be pieces of wrought iron of about four ounces in weight and six inches long, and pieces of eight ounces, and eight inches in length. Also cotton cloth, known as grey calico, together with white calico, and other cheap manufactures. The cotton that is indigenous to the country is short in staple, but it grows perfectly wild. The Shillooks are very industrious, and cultivate large quantities of dhurra and some maize, but the latter is only used to eat in a green state, roasted on the ashes. The grain of maize is too hard to grind on the common flat millstones of the natives, thus it is seldom cultivated in any portion of Central Africa on an extended scale. I gave some good Egyptian cotton-seed to the natives, also the seed of various European vegetables. Tobacco was in great demand by the troops, and I considered the quality supplied by the Shillooks superior to that cultivated in the Soudan.

Although the camp was visited by hundreds of natives, including their women, daily, there were seldom any quarrels over the marketing, and when a disagreement took place it was generally the fault of a soldier, who took something on credit, and pleaded inability to pay. I administered a rough-and-ready justice, and appointed an officer to superintend the bazaar to prevent squabbles.

I was much struck with the honesty of the natives, who appeared thoroughly to appreciate the protection afforded them, and the fair dealing insisted upon on the part of the troops. The river was about 700 yards wide, but the land on the west shore was only a large island, through which several small streams cut deep channels. This island was separated from the main western shore by a branch of the White Nile. The west bank was thickly lined with villages for about 200 miles of river frontage throughout the Shillook country, thus affording admirable opportunities for direct trade with vessels from Khartoum. It was a tedious journey for the natives to visit us daily, as they had to cross first their western branch of the Nile, then to carry their canoes across the island for about a mile, and again to cross the main river to arrive at our camp. The Shillook canoe has often been described. It is formed of long pieces of the ambatch-wood, which is lighter than cork. These curious trees, which grow in the swamps of the White Nile, are thick at the base, and taper to a point, thus a number are lashed securely together, and the points are tied tightly with cord, so as to form a bow. These canoes or rafts generally convey two persons, and they are especially adapted for the marshy navigation of the river, as they can be carried on the head without difficulty, when it may be necessary to cross an island or morass.

Our native traders arrived daily in fleets of ambatch canoes from a considerable distance. The soldiers trusted them with their rations of corn to grind, rather than take the trouble to prepare it themselves. The natives took the corn to their homes, and invariably returned with the honest complement of flour. I never had a complaint brought before me of dishonesty when a Shillook had been trusted. I have great hopes of these people, they simply require all assurance of good faith and protection to become a valuable race.

From the Shillook country to Khartoum the river is superb and can be navigated at all seasons. The northern end of this country is rich in forests of the Acacia Arabica (Soont), a wood that is invaluable as fuel for steamers, and is the only really durable wood for ship-building in the Soudan. The rains begin in May, and are regular throughout four months, thus cotton may be cultivated without the expense of artificial irrigation; at the same time the dry summer offers an inestimable advantage for gathering the crop.

The Dinka country on the east bank would have been of equal value, but, as I have already described, it has been depopulated.

There was an old blind sheik who frequently visited us from the other side, and this poor old fellow came to an untimely end when returning one day with his son from marketing at Tewfikeeyah. I was walking on the quay, when I heard a great commotion, and I saw a splashing in the river, the surface of which was covered with the ambatch fragments of a native canoe. There were many canoes on the river, several of which immediately went to the assistance of two men who were struggling in the water. A hippopotamus had wantonly charged the canoe, and seizing it in his mouth, together with the poor old blind sheik who could not avoid the danger, crunched the frail boat to pieces, and so crushed and lacerated the old man that, although he was rescued by his comrades, he died during the night.

As peace and confidence had been thoroughly established among the Shillooks, I determined to send for the governor of Fashoda, and to introduce him personally to the old king, Quat Kare, whom he had officially reported to be dead. I therefore summoned Quat Kare, and having informed him of my intention, I sent the steamer to Fashoda (sixty-five miles), and invited the Koordi to pay me a visit.

When he arrived, I received him beneath the tree which formed my divan, and after a preliminary pipe and coffee, we proceeded to business. I told him that he must have been in error when he reported the death of the old king, as I had proved him to be still alive. He replied that he did not believe the real Quat Kare was in existence, as he had heard on the best authority that he was dead. I gave an order to an aide-de-camp, and in a few minutes the tall and stately figure of the old king was seen approaching, accompanied by his wives, ministers, and a crowd of most orderly retainers, including several of his sons. The king sat down upon a carpet in a dignified manner, without taking the slightest notice of the Koordi governor. His two wives sat down by him, but his sons stood with his followers a few yards distant.

The Koordi, who was a remarkably handsome old man, with a snow-white beard, sat equally unmoved, smoking the long chibook, without apparently regarding the king or his people. The chibook is a most useful instrument for a diplomat. If the situation is difficult, he can puff, puff, puff, and the incorrigible pipe will not draw; in the mean time, he considers a reply. At length the pipe draws, a cloud of smoke issues from the mouth. "I beg your pardon," says the embarrassed diplomat, evidently relieved by the little unreal difficulty with his pipe, "what were we talking about?" and having considered his reply, he is ready for argument. The pipe then draws leisurely, the smoke ascends in steady clouds, while he listens to the arguments of the other side. There is no necessity for a too sudden reply. Even if the conversation has ceased, the pipe may be calmly smoked, while the facts of the case are arranged in the owner’s mind before he commits himself to an answer.

In the present instance nobody spoke, but the Koordi governor of Fashoda smoked steadily. Presently Quat Kare fixed his eyes upon him with a steady and determined stare, but with his usual immovable features, and he thus silently regarded him during several minutes. "Have I found thee, O mine enemy?" might have been the Shillook king’s idea, but he kept silence.

How long this tableau vivant would have continued it is impossible to say, therefore I proceeded to business by asking the governor if he knew Quat Kare by sight? He only replied "yes."

At this reply, the king, without altering his position or expression, said, "Then who am I?"

The Koordi raised his eyes for the first time, and looked at Quat Kare, but said nothing; he only puffed—the pipe did not seem to draw well. At length a fair volume of smoke was emitted, and the Koordi answered by a question: "If you are Quat Kare, why did you hide yourself? why did you not present yourself before me at Fashoda? then I should have known that you were alive."

Quat Kare regarded him fixedly, and he replied slowly, "Where are all my cattle that you stole? where are the women and children that you kidnapped? I considered that if you took my cattle and captured my people, you might probably take ME, therefore I declined the opportunity."

The Koordi puffed and puffed vigorously, but the long pipe did not draw; something had evidently choked the tube.

It would be tedious to describe the whole dialogue, but there was no question that the old Shillook king had the best of the argument; therefore, after a long discussion, during which the king was continually prompted by his favourite wife, in excited whispers that every one could hear, I examined both the governor and the king upon various points; and came to the conclusion that the governor was a great scoundrel, and the king a very cunning fellow; at the same time he had been shamefully treated. The Koordi had reported him as dead, and obtained a firman conferring the title of Sheik of the Shillooks upon an impostor, who had been a brand enemy of Quat Kare. Since that time the adherents of Quat Kare had been subject to constant raids and pillage, and the old king was a fugitive, who, if caught by the Koordi, would assuredly have been quietly put OUT OF THE WAY.[*]

[*Footnote: Eventually the old king, Quat Kare, was imprisoned at Fashoda, and died in a mysterious manner. There are no coroners’ inquests in Central Africa.)

I decided that the affair must be settled in the following manner:—I explained that I had no jurisdiction in the Shillook country, which was under the government of Ali Bey, the Koordi; but as I held the positive and special orders of the Khedive to suppress the slave trade, I had been compelled to interfere and to release those captives who had been thus shamelessly kidnapped.

With regard to the general pillage of the country instead of direct taxation, the governor would explain his conduct to the Khedive.

With regard to the false report of Quat Kare’s death, there could be no doubt that the firman for his rival Jangy had been obtained from the Khedive under false pretences.

I therefore recommended Quat Kare and his sons to go direct to Khartoum, and plead his cause at the divan of Djiaffer Pacha, who was the governor-general of the Soudan, which included the Shillook country; thus the whole affair was within his jurisdiction. I also explained that I should send an official despatch to the Khedive of Egypt, and also to Djiaffer Pacha, describing the general state of the Shillook country and the special case of Quat Kare, with a direct report upon the kidnapping of slaves by the government’s representative.

At the same time, I assured Quat Kare and his people that the Khedive had only one object in forming a government: this was to protect the natives and to develop the resources of the country. I persuaded the Koordi and Quat Kare to become friends and at once to declare peace; thus, all hostilities having ceased, the responsibility for further disturbance would rest with him who should recommence a breach of the peace.

I advised the Shillook king to forget the past, where there had evidently been a mistake, and he should trust to his application to Djiaffer Pacha, who would speedily give him justice. The Shillook king then replied, without moving a muscle of his features, "If I forget the past, what is to become of all my cattle that the Koordi has stolen from me? Is he going to return them, or keep them himself, and forget the past? I can’t forget my cows."

This practical question was difficult to answer. The Koordi’s pipe was out: he therefore rose from his seat and retired, leaving the stoical Quat Kare master of his position, but not of his cattle. I advised him to say nothing more until he should see Djiaffer Pacha, and he would receive a direct reply from the Khedive.

Quat Kare, with his wives and daughters and general retinue, determined to pass the night in our station.

I therefore ordered an ox to be killed for their entertainment. I gave the king a large Cashmere scarf, also one of red printed cotton, and a dozen small harness bells, which he immediately arranged as anklets. His usually unchangeable countenance relaxed into a smile of satisfaction as he took leave, and the bells tinkled at every footstep as he departed.

Quat Kare never eats or drinks in the presence of his people, but his food is taken to him either within a hut or to a lonely tree.

On the following morning both the governor of Fashoda and the old king returned to their respective homes.

On the 10th May, a sail was reported by the sentries in the south. None of the slave-traders had any intelligence of my station at Tewfikeeyah. The people of Kutchuk Ali, on the Bahr Giraffe, were under the impression that we had returned direct to Khartoum. I was rather curious to know whether they would presume to send slaves down the White Nile during this season, knowing that the Khedive had sent me expressly to suppress the trade. I could not believe that the Koordi governor of Fashoda would have the audacity to allow the free passage of slave vessels after the stringent orders that had been given. Although I had heard that this governor had amassed a considerable fortune by the establishment of a toll per head for every slave that passed Fashoda, I imagined that he would this year make up his mind that the rich harvest was over.

If any vessels should attempt to descend with slave cargoes, they must pass my new station, of which they were ignorant, and the fact would prove the complicity of the governor of Fashoda, as it would substantiate all the reports that I had heard concerning his connivance with the slave-traders. The strange sail now reported was rapidly approaching on her route to Khartoum, without the slightest suspicion that a large military station was established within four miles of the Sobat junction. If guilty, she was thus approaching the jaws of the lion.

As she neared the station, she must have discovered the long row of masts and yards of the fleet moored alongside the quay. Of these she appeared to take no notice, and keeping well in the middle of the river, she would have passed the station, and continued on her voyage. This looked very suspicious, and I at once sent a boat to order her to halt.

When she was brought alongside, I sent my trusty aide-de-camp, Colonel Abd-el-Kader, on board to make the necessary inquiries. She was quite innocent. The captain and the vakeel (agent and commander of station) were amazed at my thinking it necessary to search their vessel. She had a quantity of corn on board, stowed in bulk. There was not a person beside the crew and a few soldiers from Kutchuk Ali’s station.

The vakeel was the same whom I had seen at the station at the Bahr Giraffe, to whom I had given advice that he should not attempt to send slaves down the river again. All was in order. The vessel belonged to Kutchuk Ali, who now commanded the government expedition sent by Djiaffer Pacha to the Bahr Gazal. She was laden with ivory beneath the corn, which was for the supply of the crew and soldiers.

Colonel Abd-el-Kader was an excellent officer; he was one of the exceptions who took a great interest in the expedition, and he always served me faithfully. He was a fine powerful man, upwards of six feet high, and not only active, but extremely determined. He was generally called "the Englishman" by his brother officers, as a bitter compliment reflecting on his debased taste for Christian society. This officer was not the man to neglect a search because the agent of Kutchuk Ali protested his innocence, and exhibited the apparently naked character of his vessel. She appeared suspiciously full of corn for a boat homeward bound. There was an awkward smell about the closely-boarded forecastle which resembled that of unwashed negroes. Abd-el-Kader drew a steel ramrod from a soldier’s rifle, and probed sharply through the corn.

A smothered cry from beneath, and a wriggling among the corn, was succeeded by a woolly head, as the strong Abd-el-Kader, having thrust his long arm into the grain, dragged forth by the wrist a negro woman. The corn was at once removed; the planks which boarded up the forecastle and the stern were broken down, and there was a mass of humanity exposed, boys, girls, and women, closely packed like herrings in a barrel; who under the fear of threats had remained perfectly silent until thus discovered. The sail attached to the mainyard of the vessel appeared full and heavy in the lower part; this was examined, and upon unpacking, it yielded a young woman who had thus been sewn up to avoid discovery.

The case was immediately reported to me. I at once ordered the vessel to be unloaded. We discovered one hundred and fifty slaves stowed away in a most inconceivably small area. The stench was horrible when they began to move. Many were in irons; these were quickly released by the blacksmiths, to the astonishment of the captives, who did not appear to understand the proceeding.

I ordered the vakeel, and the reis or captain of the vessel, to be put in irons. The slaves began to comprehend that their captors were now captives. They now began to speak, and many declared that the greater portion of the men of their villages had been killed by the slave-hunters.

Having weighed the ivory and counted the tusks, I had the vessel reloaded; and having placed an officer with a guard on board, I sent her to Khartoum to be confiscated as a slaver.

I ordered the slaves to wash, and issued clothes from the magazine for the naked women.

On the following day I inspected the captives, and I explained to them their exact position. They were free people, and if their homes were at a reasonable distance they should be returned. If not they must make themselves generally useful, in return for which they would be fed and clothed.

If any of the women wished to marry, there were many fine young men in the regiments who would make capital husbands. I gave each person a paper of freedom, signed by myself. This was contained in a hollow reed and suspended round their necks. Their names, approximate age, sex, and country were registered in a book corresponding with the numbers on their papers.

These arrangements occupied the whole morning. In the afternoon I again inspected them. Having asked the officer whether any of the negresses would wish to be married, he replied that all the women wished to marry, and that they had already selected their husbands!

This was wholesale matrimony, that required a church as large as Westminster Abbey, and a whole company of clergy!

Fortunately, matters are briefly arrranged in Africa. I saw the loving couples standing hand in hand. Some of the girls were pretty, and my black troops had shown good taste in their selection. Unfortunately, however, for the Egyptian regiment, the black ladies had a strong antipathy to brown men, and the suitors were all refused. This was a very awkward affair. The ladies having received their freedom, at once asserted "woman’s rights."

I was obliged to limit the matrimonial engagements, and those who were for a time condemned to single blessedness were placed in charge of certain officers to perform the cooking for the troops and other domestic work. I divided the boys into classes; some I gave to the English workmen to be instructed in carpenter’s and blacksmith’s work; others were apprenticed to tailors, shoemakers, &c., in the regiment, while the best looking were selected as domestic servants. A nice little girl, of about three years old, without parents, was taken care of by my wife.

When slaves are liberated in large numbers there is always a difficulty in providing for them. We feel this dilemma when our cruisers capture Arab dhows on the east coast of Africa, and our government becomes responsible for an influx of foundlings. It is generally quite impossible to return them to their own homes, therefore all that can be done is to instruct them in some useful work by which they can earn their livelihood. If the boys have their choice, they invariably desire a military life; and I believe it is the best school for any young savage, as he is at once placed under strict discipline, which teaches him habits of order and obedience. The girls, like those of other countries, prefer marriage to regular domestic work; nevertheless, if kindly treated, with a due amount of authority, they make fair servants for any rough employment.

When female children are about five years old they are most esteemed by the slave-dealers, as they can be more easily taught, and they grow up with an attachment to their possessors, and in fact become members of the family.

Little Mostoora, the child taken by my wife, was an exceedingly clever specimen of her race, and although she was certainly not more than three years old, she was quicker than most children of double her age. With an ugly little face, she bad a beautifully shaped figure, and possessed a power of muscle that I have never seen in a white child of that age. Her lot had fallen in pleasant quarters; she was soon dressed in convenient clothes and became the pet of the family.

On June 17, 1 sent the No. 9 steamer to Khartoum with the post, together with three sons of Quat Kare, who were to represent their father at the divan of Djiaffer Pacha. The old man declined the voyage, pleading his age as an excuse. Mr. Wood also returned, as his health required an immediate change to Egypt. On the 25th, four vessels arrived from the south, two belonging to Kutchuk Ali, one to Agad, and one to a trader named Assaballa, from the Bahr Gazal. The latter had thirty-five slaves on board. The others had heard, by some vessels that had gone up from Khartoum, that I had formed a station near the Sobat, and had captured the vessel and slaves of Kutchuk Ali, thus they had landed their slaves at the Bahr Giraffe station. The Bahr Gazal vessel having arrived from a different direction had not received the information. I seized the boat and cargo, and liberated the slaves.

On board the diahbeeah of Kutchuk Ali were four musicians, natives of Pongo, on the river Djoor. Their band consisted of two iron bells, a flageolet and an instrument made of hard wood that was arranged like the musical glasses of Europe. The latter was formed of ten pieces of a metallic sounding-wood suspended above long narrow gourd shells. Each piece of wood produced a separate note, and the instrument was played by four sticks, the ends of which were covered with india-rubber. The general effect, although a savage kind of harmony, was superior to most native attempts at music.

The station of Tewfikeeyah had now assumed an important aspect, and I much regretted that when the time should arrive for our departure to the south it would be abandoned: however, I determined to keep all hands employed, as there is nothing so demoralizing to troops as inaction. At the same time there was a general dislike to the expedition, and all trusted that something might happen that would prevent another attempt to penetrate the marshes of the Bahr Giraffe. There was much allowance to be made for this feeling. The seeds of dangerous disorders, that had been sown by the malaria of the swamps, had now exhibited themselves in fatal attacks of dysentery, that quickly formed a cemetery at Tewfikeeyah.

The Egyptian troops were generally sickly and dispirited, and went to their daily work in a slouching, dogged manner, that showed their passive hatred of the employment.

I arranged that the sailors should cultivate a piece of ground with corn, while the soldiers should be employed in a similar manner in another position. The sailors were all Nubians, or the natives of Dongola, Berber, and the countries bordering the Nile in the Soudan. These people were of the same class as the slave-hunter companies, men who hated work and preferred a life of indolence, lounging sleepily about their vessels. I quickly got these fellows into order by dividing them into gangs, over which I placed separate headmen, the captains of vessels; one superior officer commanded, and was responsible for the whole.

They only worked six hours daily, but by this simple organization I soon had thirty acres of land cleaned. The grass and roots were burnt in piles, the ashes spread, and the entire field was dug over and sown with barley, wheat, and dhurra. There is a civilizing influence in cultivation, and nothing is so cheering in a wild country as the sight of well-arranged green fields that are flourishing in the centre of the neglected wilderness. I had now a promising little farm of about thirty acres belonging to our naval brigade; and a very unpromising farm, that had been managed by my Colonel, Raouf Bey. The soldiers had never even cleared the rough native grass from the surface, but had turned up the soil in small lots at intervals of about a foot, into which they had carelessly dropped a few grains of corn.

We now found agricultural enemies that were unexpected. Guinea-fowl recognized the importance of cultivation, and created terrible damage. Small birds of the sparrow tribe infested the newly-sown land in clouds, but worse than these enemies were the vast armies of great ants.

These industrious insects, ever providing for the future, discovered the newly sown barley and wheat, and considering that such an opportunity should not be neglected, they literally marched off with the greater portion of the seed that was exposed. I saw them on many occasions returning in countless numbers from a foray, each carrying in its mouth a grain of barley or wheat. I tracked them to their subterranean nests, in one of which I found about a peck of corn which had been conveyed by separate grains; and patches of land had been left nearly barren of seed.

The large crimson-headed goose of the White Nile quickly discovered that barley was a food well adapted for the physical constitution of geese, and great numbers flocked to the new farm. The guinea-fowl were too wild to approach successfully; however, we shot them daily. I set little boys to scream from daylight till sunset to scare the clouds of small birds; but the boys screamed themselves to sleep, and the sparrows quickly discovered the incapacity of the watchers. Wild fowl were so numerous on an island opposite the farm that we not only shot them as we required, but on one occasion Lieutenant Baker and myself bagged in about two hours sixty-eight ducks and geese, most of which were single shots in flight overhead.

I found the necessity of re-sowing the land so thickly that there should be sufficient grain to allow for the depredations of our enemies. I set vermin traps and caught the guinea-fowl. Then the natural enemy appeared in the wild cats, who took the guinea-fowls out of the traps. At first the men were suspected of stealing the birds, but the unmistakable tracks of the wild cats were found close to the traps, and shortly after the wily cats themselves became victims. These were generally of the genus Herpestris.

When the crops, having resisted many enemies, appeared above ground, they were attacked by the mole crickets in formidable numbers. These destructive insects lived beneath the small solid clods of earth, and issuing forth at night, they bit the young shoot clean off close to the parent grain at the point of extreme sweetness. The garden suffered terribly from these insects, which destroyed whole rows of cucumber plants.

I had brought ploughs from Cairo. These were the native implements that are used throughout Egypt. There is always a difficulty in the first commencement of agricultural enterprise in a wild country, and much patience is required.

Some of my Egyptian soldiers were good ploughmen, to which employment they had been formerly accustomed; but the bullocks of the country were pigheaded creatures that for a long time resisted all attempts at conversion to the civilized labour of Egyptian cattle. They steadily refused to draw the ploughs, and they determined upon an "agricultural strike." They had not considered that we could strike also, and tolerably hard, with the hippopotamus hide whips, which were a more forcible appeal to their feelings than a "lock-out." However, this contest ended in the bullocks lying down, and thus offering a passive resistance that could not be overcome. There is nothing like arbitration to obtain pure justice, and as I was the arbitrator, I ordered all refractory bullocks to be eaten as rations by the troops. A few animals at length became fairly tractable; and we had a couple of ploughs at work, but the result was a series of zigzag furrows that more resembled the indiscriminate ploughings of a herd of wild boar than the effect of an agricultural implement. Nothing will ever go straight at the commencement, therefore the ploughs naturally went crooked; but the whole affair forcibly reminded me of my first agricultural enterprise on the mountains of Ceylon twenty-five years earlier. [*]

[*Footnote: See "Eight Years’ Wanderings in Ceylon," published by Longman & Co.]

The mean temperature at the station of Tewfikeeyah had been:

In the month of May, at 6 a.m. 73 degrees Fahrenheit
" at Noon 92 degrees "
" June, at 6 a.m. 72 degrees "
" at Noon 86 degrees "
" July, at 6 a.m. 71 degrees "
" at Noon 81 degrees "

During May we had heavy rain during 3 days.
" " light " " 4 " 7 days.

During June we had heavy rain during 5 days.
" " light " " 6 " 11 days
" July heavy " " 10 "
" " light " " 4 " 14 days

Sickness increased proportionately with the increase of rain, owing to the sudden chills occasioned by the heavy showers. The thermometer would sometimes fall rapidly to 68 degrees Fahr. during a storm of rain, accompanied by a cold rush of air from the cloud. Fortunately I had provided the troops with blankets, which had not been included in their kit by the authorities at Khartoum.


Related Resources

British Non-fiction

Download Options

Title: Ismailia

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Ismailia

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Samuel White Baker, "Chapter IV. The Camp at Tewfikeeyah.," Ismailia in Ismailia Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: Baker, Samuel White. "Chapter IV. The Camp at Tewfikeeyah." Ismailia, in Ismailia, Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Baker, SW, 'Chapter IV. The Camp at Tewfikeeyah.' in Ismailia. cited in , Ismailia. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from