« AnteriorContinuar »
the country except by the narrow paths made by the natives. Of the people Mr. Baker gives a rather favourable account. They never asked for presents. The Chief maintained his authority principally by his hold upon the superstition of his subjects. He professed to be a great rain doctor, and pretended to apportion the supply according to the liberality of the people; his maxim being No goats no rain. He had one hundred and sixteen children living, and each of his villages was governed by one of his sons, thus the entire government was quite a family affair. Although devoid even of the conception of a Supreme Being, the whole people were under the dominion of the most abject superstition, Mr. Baker, nevertheless, ventured to leave Mrs. Baker at the capital while he made an excursion to the River Assuva, which he would be obliged to cross on his route to Unyoro. The King pledged himself to watch over her safety, placed a spell upon the door of her hut that nothing evil might enter it during her husband's absence, and ordered his sons to mount guard before it by turns, night and day. :
Having lost all his camels and horses, and the only means of transport left being eight donkeys, Mr. Baker, weakened by repeated attacks of fever, prepared once more for his journey south. He and his wife had both suffered greatly from the climate of Obbo, where they were detained far longer than was pleasant. The last donkey having died, and travelling on foot being impossible in his weak state, Mr. Baker purchased and trained three oxen for riding instead of horses. The Turkish party, over which Mr. Baker had now acquired great influence, consented to accompany him to Unyoro, the country of King Kamrasi, on the promise that he would obtain from him a quantity of ivory that would make his fortune.
In passing through the country of the Shooa, which Mr. Baker describes as a land flowing with milk and honey, fowls, butter, and goats were abundant and cheap. Beads to purchase them were of great value, few having before been seen in the country. The people were gentle in their manners and obliging. The cultivation was superior to any that had been previously seen on our journey. In January, 1864, the party left Shooa, invigorated by the fine air and abundant food of the country, and entered on a wide expanse of prairie country, then a wooded district, but so choked with tall grass that it was impossible to proceed without burning it before them. From an elevated position Mr. Baker saw on the morning of the fourth day after leaving Shooa, at sunrise, a bank of fog hanging over a distant valley, and in the evening he reached the Somerset River' (Speke's Nile), which he found about 150 yards in width, and
running in a succession of falls and rapids between high cliffs clothed with groves of palm and banana. Ascending the right bank of the stream he at length approached the Karuma Falls, the termination of Speke's discoveries and the place at which he quitted the river in his march to Gondokoro. We quote the account of his reception by the people there :
• The heights were crowded with natives, and a canoe was sent across to within parleying distance of our side, as the roar of the rapids prevented our voices from being heard except at a short distance. Bacheeta now explained, that “ Speke's brother had arrived from his country to pay Kamrasi a visit, and had brought him valuable presents.
“Why has he brought so many men with him?” inquired the people from the canoe.
“ There are so many presents for the M’Kamma (king) that he has many men to carry them,” shouted Bacheeta.
“Let us look at him," cried the headman in the boat. Having prepared for the introduction by changing my clothes in a grovo of plantains for my dressing-room, and altering my costume to a tweed suit, something similar to that worn by Speke, I climbed up a high and almost perpendicular rock that formed a natural pinnacle on the face of the cliff, and, waving my cap to the crowd on the opposite side, I looked almost as imposing as Nelson in Trafalgar Square.
• I instructed Bacheeta, who clinbed up the giddy height after me, to shout to the people that an English lady, my wife, had also arrived, and that we wished immediately to be presented to the king and his family, as we had come to thank him for his kind treatment of Speke and Grant, who had arrived safe in their own country. Upon this being explained and repeated several times, the canoe approached the shore.
I ordered all our people to retire, and to conceal themselves among the plantains, that the natives might not be startled by so imposing a force, while Mrs. Baker and I advanced alone to meet Kamrasi's people, who were men of some importance. Upon landing through the high reeds, they immediately recognised the similarity of my beard and general complexion to that of Speke; and their welcome was at once displayed by the most extravagant dancing and gesticulating with lances and shields, as though intending to attack, rushing at me with the points of their lances thrust close to my face, and shouting and singing in great excitement.'
The Karuma Falls are not imposing, being only five feet in height, but descend regularly over a ledge of rock, extending like a wall across the river. The party were ferried across the stream and entered the territory of King Kamrasi. It is remarkable that in proportion as the equatorial region of Africa is approached there is an evident advance in civilisation, as indicated, at least, by the partial adoption of clothing. In the country of the Unyoro
the people prepare goat-skins with great skill, making them up into mantles with a neatness and finish that would not discredit an European tailor. Articles of dress would be taken to any extent in exchange for ivory in Unyoro; beads also are valuable, being extremely scarce.
The journey in the direction of the great lake of which Mr. Baker was in search now became very exciting ; its position was well known to the natives with whom he communicated, and it was always described as being much larger than the Victoria Nyanza. The capital of Kamrasi is merely a large village of grass-huts. The king's character is described as being a compound of avarice, duplicity, and cowardice. In his abject terror at the arrival of a Turkish party in his dominions he ordered his brother to personate him. The representative was as false and treacherous as his august relative, informing Mr. Baker that the Lake M'wootan N’zigé' was a full six months' journey from the capital. On hearing this all the porters deserted. One of the officers of the court, however, told the truth, under the influence of a bribe, informing Mr. Baker that the lake was only a ten days' journey from the capital, and that he had himself reached it in that time. Arrangements were at length made for the journey to the lake, and a sufficient supply of native porters having been obtained, not, however, until the king by his deputy had extorted everything of value from Mr. Baker but his watch. He had coolly requested that Mrs. Baker might be left behind at court while the party proceeded to the lake, offering Mr. Baker as many wives as he chose to select. In this short journey to the lake Mr. Baker was subject to the greatest trial to which he had yet been exposed. His gentle but heroic wife was struck down by a coup de soleil ; brain fever and delirium ensued, and so hopeless was the prospect of her recovery, that in the crisis of her illness one of the escort put a new handle to his pickaxe and sought for a suitable place to dig her grave. Mrs. Baker nevertheless recovered, after every ray of hope had disappeared, to partake of her husband's triumph, now on the point of being achieved :
'For several days past our guides had told us that we were very near the lake, and we were now assured that we should reach it on the morrow. I had noticed a lofty range of mountains at an immense distance west, and I had imagined that the lake lay on the other side of this chain; but I was now informed that those mountains formed the western frontier of the M'wootan N'zigé, and that the lake was actually within a march of Parkāni. I could not believe it possible that we were so near the object of our search. The guide Rabonga
now appeared, and declared that if we started early on the following morning we should be able to wash in the lake by noon!
* That night I hardly slept. For years I had striven to reach the “ sources of the Nile." In my nightly dreams during that arduous voyage I had always failed, but after so much hard work and perseverance the cup was at my very lips, and I was to drink at the mysterious fountain before another sun should set-at that great reservoir of Nature that ever since creation had baffled all discovery.
'I had hoped, and prayed, and striven through all kinds of difficulties, in sickness, starvation, and fatigue, to reach that hidden source; and when it had appeared impossible, we had both determined to die upon the road rather than return defeated. Was it possible that it was so near, and that to-morrow we could say " the work is accomplished "?
• 14th March. The sun had not risen when I was spurring my ox after the guide, who, having been promised a double handful of beads on arrival at the lake, had caught the enthusiasm of the moment. The day broke beautifully clear, and baving crossed a deep valley between the hills, we toiled up the opposite slope. I hurried to the summit. The glory of our prize burst suddenly upon me! There, like a sea of quicksilver, lay far beneath the grand expanse of water,-a boundless sea horizon on the south and southwest, glittering in the noon-day sun ; and on the west, at fifty or sixty miles' distance, blue mountains rose from the bosom of the lake to a height of about 7000 feet above its level.
"It is impossible to describe the triumph of that moment; here was the reward for all our labour--for the years of tenacity with which we had toiled through Africa. England had won the sources of the Nile! Long before I reached this spot, I had arranged to give three cheers with all our men in English style in honour of the discovery, but now that I looked down upon the great inland sea lying nestled in the very heart of Africa, and thought how vainly mankind had sought these sources throughout so many ages, and reflected that I had been the humble instrument permitted to unravel this portion of the great mystery when so many greater than I had failed, I felt too serious to vent my feelings in vain cheers for victory, and I sincerely thanked God for having guided and supported us through all dangers to the good end. I was about 1500 feet above the lake, and I looked down from the steep granite cliff upon those welcome waters—upon that vast reservoir which nourished Egypt and brought fertility where all was wilderness--upon that great source so long hidden from mankind; that source of bounty and of blessings to millions of human beings; and as one of the greatest objects in nature, I determined to honour it with a great name. As an imperishable memorial of one loved and mourned by our gracious Queen and deplored by every Englishman, I called this great lake the Albert N'yanza." The Victoria and the Albert lakes are the two sources of the Nile.
The zigzag path to descend to the lake was so steep and dangerous that we were forced to leave our oxen with a guide, who was to take them to Magungo and wait for our arrival. We commenced the descent of the steep pass on foot. I led the way, grasping a stout bamboo. My wife in extreme weakness tottered down the pass, supporting herself upon my shoulder, and stopping to rest every twenty paces. After a toilsome descent of about two hours, weak with years of fever, but for the moment strengthened by success, we gained the level plain below the cliff. A walk of about a mile through flat sandy meadows of fine turf interspersed with trees and bush, brought us to the water's edge. The waves were rolling upon a white pebbly beach : I rushed into the lake, and thirsty with heat and fatigue, with a heart full of gratitude, I drank deeply from the Sources of the Nile.'
We have in the number of the Quarterly Review,' to which we have before referred, freely expressed our sense of the importance of this great geographical discovery, together with our view of its bearings on the great problem of the source of the Nile. That much remains yet to be accomplished before the honour of having discovered the sources of the Nile can be unhesitatingly assigned to any explorer is unquestionable. Captain Speke was as positive that he had discovered the source of the Nile' in the Victoria Nyanza as Mr. Baker is that the Albert Nyanza is the fountain head; or rather, to use his own language, “the great basin of the Nile, that receives every drop of water, even from the passing shower to the roaring mountain torrent, that drains from Central Africa towards the North,' 'the one great reservoir into which everything must drain,' and which monopolises the head-waters of the Nile' (vol. ii. pp. 103, 104). He denominates the river which flows into the Albert Nyanza from the Victoria Nyanza the “Somerset River,' and it is so marked on the map of his route which Captain Speke put into the hands of Mr. Baker at Gondokoro, which certainly seems to indicate that Captain Speke did not himself believe that river to be the Nile. He alone, it has been said, discovers who proves; and the proof of the discovery of the source of the Nile is as yet far from complete. We do not know the extent of the Albert Nyanza to the north-west, nor are we in possession of any precise information with respect to its effluent, which, in conformity with physical laws, we should naturally expect to find at one of its extremities rather than at its side. The lake at Magungo, the furthest northerly point reached by Mr. Baker, contracts to about seventeen miles in width, and further north appeared a “tail-like continuation of the water and a valley of high reeds, and through this valley Mr.