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THE RIVERS NILE AND ASUA.
a whirling black pool, where reeds, rushes, branches, and logs floated about, making it impossible for any but an adept to attempt fly-fishing The shore was strewed with fish-scales, and remnants of fires showed that the natives had been enjoying dinner at an appropriate spot. Looking across, an island, covered with grass and aquatic vegetation, hid the other branch of the river. For a quarter of a mile at this point no boat could live at any season; it would be dashed to pieces on the bed and sides of sunken rock; and the immense body of water is so strong that no boat could sail up it. Looking down stream, the river ran in a deep one-sided gorge, the left bank being the Jubl Kookoo range, forming a straight barrier of escarped hills, probably two thousand feet in height. They were bleak and barren, diminishing in size and breaking into cones as they receded into the blue distance to the north. At the ninth mile of this march, we suddenly dropped into the bed of the Asua river, and crossed to its right bank. Our first remark was, “Is this the Asua we have heard so much of ?” The fording was fifty yards across, waist deep in the strong middle current over sharp slippery rocks, painful for bare feet. The water was good, though not refreshing nor transparent; it ran through fivefeet-high rushes (Cyperus longus), on the right shore. During December, this river, judging from the appearance of sand lying above its present water-mark, must be a wild torrent, impossible to cross ; but we were disappointed with its small appearance when we came to ford it. Our large cortège amused themselves for two hours in crossing the cattle and laden donkeys, and in bathing. At this place I saw the brutal
THE NILE AT 3° 47' N. LAT.
nature of the ivory-traders. One of them, in getting upon his laden bullock, mounted so awkwardly, that he tilted the load over to one side, and the animal would not start with him. He belaboured it on the head with a loaded life-preserver, till the poor animal sat down. Immediately he dismounted, and in rage put a bullet through its head ; and the men around him cut off the hump and legs to carry with them as food, while the owner sat gloomily apart looking on: anything more revolting I never saw. Having forded the river we encamped in a village, the inhabitants flying at our approach. We had been from sunrise to sunset on the road, having passed several deserted villages and a jungle of thorny wood. The path along which we had travelled was on the top of vertical strata, pointing to the north-west. It was of slaty blue rock, cleaved into loose squares and oblongs, with quartz veins.
One morning I walked, along with three of our Seedees, due west for two hours, to have another look at the Nile. We tried to get guides from the villages, but after promising they generally slunk back into their huts. However, when approaching the river, past the dwellings, I induced a native to give me tobacco, when an escort of about forty men, well armed with bows, spears, and handfuls of arrows, accompanied me to the water's edge. For two miles the calm river ran in a straight reach, unbroken, as far as I remember, by rock or cataract. Its breadth appeared to be about eighty yards, and the current four miles an hour; both banks were dead-level, and of stiff clay. Beyond these, rather barren hills rose abruptly. While sitting on the bank, my feet almost touched the water; and the level ground was dotted
with tamarinds, fig, palm, plum, and jujube trees, the soil itself being then, in parts, lying under cultivation. The people had a ferry-boat—that is, a log of wood scooped out to form a boat; and they tied together large bundles of the jowari straw, and ferried over upon them. I had never seen this before, but further down the Nile it is a common practice. On my way back from this excursion, the villagers at several places invited me to partake of milk, and the guide, on being rewarded with a single string of beads, in a coaxing and familiar manner asked for another. One of the Seedees whom we had picked up in the heart of Africa, was convicted at this encampment of Madi of having stolen a cloth belonging to a Toorkee with whom he lived. The offence was a grave one, bringing dishonour upon our Zanzibar party; he, therefore, was awarded fifty lashes. Bombay administered forty with a whip of buffalo-hide, and Frij the remaining ten. The offender, after receiving the first few lashes, cried, “Kill me! kill me!” meaning that death was preferable to the pain ; but little Bombay, who was flogging him, said, “Are you a woman that you scream in that way?" The fellow was at once silenced; but though his back was scarred, he ate his dinner before us and carried a load the following day. He was a hardened culprit, and deserted from us in Egypt, after being detected in stealing from a comrade.
The sick of this district of Madi were not allowed to reside within the enclosure of the village ; but huts or hospitals were erected outside for all who were diseased. It was curious to find such a civilised precaution taken in Africa. But the huts were also remarkable for neatness and cleanliness ; bamboos were
SHELLS, THE COINAGE OF THE MADI.
numerous, so that they had the material for making themselves comfortable. The floors were of red clay, packed hard, and the thresholds of the doors the same, but paved or macadamised, with fragments of earthenware neatly inlaid. Many of the doorways had gateposts, with bamboos as movable bars, which prevented goats or cattle entering. Upon the grass tops of the huts in Barwudi numbers of large univalve shells lay bleaching; they were the same large, spiral species as those seen five degrees south of the equator. The natives cut them into circles the size of shirt-buttons, and string hundreds of them to be worn as ornamental white girdles round the waist. They formed the ordinary coinage, and if beer or fowls were required they were used in the purchase. The value of labour was estimated in cows. The porters engaged by De Bono's party to carry their ivories were paid one small cow each for a journey of four marches, and they were expected to carry a return load; so that travelling in these parts is a difficult matter, unless you have plenty of camel and donkey carriage: the hire is always paid beforehand. It was amusing to observe the distribution of the cattle, but it presented much the same scene as that witnessed at home in a cattle-market. Here the naked natives, mingling with the welldressed Toorkees, as soon as they received their “onecow hire," chased it away to be tied up in some secure place till their journey was completed. On arrival at one of the villages, I asked the Sheikh what his beer was like; he made no reply, but at midnight he stole into our camp, passing our Seedee sentries, who were fast asleep, tapped Speke on the head, and then shook his hand to awake him. Speke immediately called
CONSEQUENCES OF COERCION.
Frij, to find what the old man meant by coming at such an hour, when it appeared that he had brought us a taste of his beer. It seemed raw and spiritless, but as soon as the sun had risen, the old Sheikh generously brought us a large jar full of the beverage.
The country was populous : but in this month of February, though displaying pretty undulations or downs, dotted with shady tamarind and fig trees, and though the double-coned hills have wooded tops, all had a parched appearance. The brooks were dry. During several of our marches we met with no stream, and what water was obtained was procured by digging holes in the dry and rocky beds. Sometimes wildfruits would refresh us, such as the fig; it was the size of a strawberry pippin, and tasted excellent. The natives gathered quantities of the fruit of a Cucur bitaceæ, the size and shape of a fowl's egg : its yellow rind was dried and eaten by them. Their grain they stored in separate houses from their dwellings, and built or placed them upon a few piles of wood or rough pillars of stone. On arrival in a village the Toorkee always made his way to these stores for the purpose of pillaging. On my desiring one of them to desist, he coolly laughed; but Bombay succeeded better with him. As soon as our caravan arrived at a village for the day, the Turks formed camp outside of it by removing the roofs of the houses, and making their owners carry them for them! If resistance was shown, the buttend of the musket was applied to the poor owner, or the muzzle of the gun was presented to his stomach. One consequence of this system of coercion and plunder was that, whenever the people of Madi or Bari had the opportunity, they retaliated and stole from the Turks freely.